A quick flash paired with a loud crash to wake Gar up in the middle of the night. His eyes shot open and he swung out of his hammock. Damn lightning. It’s been smooth sailing up to this point too. Gar ascended to the main deck to see how the weather faired. “I can’t see anything in this fog and rain.” Gar turned his gaze to the crow’s nest. “What’s it looking like up there?” Gar waited for a response but got none. He made a note that this lookout was likely asleep on the job and would need to be disciplined accordingly. He started climbing the mast as he had many time before in his life. He reached the top to find the crow’s nest was empty. “What the hell? How do we not have a lookout?” Gar was clearly upset at this discovery, but remained as calm as possible. He was a firm believer in having a lookout at all times. This was especially true since they are fugitives who are stuck in a thick fog.
Gar decided they would need a stricter schedule for who would be lookout. He moved to the edge of the nest and lit a torch to burn off some fog. He scanned the fog once again, revealing nothing. It’s because the moon is too bright tonight. Gar looked to the full moon. Oddly enough the moon seemed to glow a ghostly white, as if it was a skull in the sky staring back at him. Gar felt a chill run down his spine. “Ominous, I don’t like that one bit.”
"A light so bright... A fog so think... Evil is in our midst."
Minerva rose from her seat near the wheel, silently watching her First Mate Gar climb to the lookout's nest. There was nothing to be seen in the murky light of the moon, and the rain falling felt cold and clammy. Eerie. It was unnerving and disquieting. The mage shivered, in spite of herself. She'd seen conditions like this before. No reason to be creeped out by some rain and fog. Get a grip, Minerva, really. One would think you were a sniveling noble pup.
Straightening up and steeling herself, Minerva walked forward, calling up to Gar as she lit a fireball in her right hand to keep warm. The bluish flame sizzled in the rain, wavering back and forth on her palm as she spoke.
"Hey, Gar... Anything from up there? Down here it's like we're wrapped in gauze. Fog's thicker than soup. I'd hate to go aground on any shoals in the murk, but I wanted your opinion. Should we keep course, or drop anchor and wait? Hell, I have no idea how far off-course the wind blew us, but I'm hoping it isn't terrible."
Just then, a shriek rang out, carnal and bestial. Minerva froze. It had not come from her ship. Almost on cue, Pat emerged from belowdeck, nocking an arrow in his bow and looking around, his face composed and wary.
"Gar, what in the name of hell itself was that? I'm starting to really get a bad feeling about this."
Minerva was correct. It was far too murky out to keep moving. Gar moved to the ledge where Minerva was calling to him. He leaned over with his reply. " I can't see anything up here Cap'n.We'll drop the anchor and sit tight. We've made good time thus far. There's no reason to risk running aground." Gar was motioning to begin his descent in order to help with the anchor. Suddenly, his movement was frozen by a shriek.What the?
"I've never heard a noise like that in my life." He moved the torch to the direction the noise came from and squinted hard through the fog. After a few moments of concentrated searching he noticed two small green blurs moving slowly through the fog. The longer he looked he saw they were truly ships, or rather they used to be. With slashed sails and broken hulls it was a wonder how they stayed afloat.
" I think I have your answer." Gar held his torch toward the slowly approaching ships. He began to climb down from the nest swiftly. " Must be from some animals that got into those ships over there. They're run down, no crew as I saw it. From the looks of it they got ripped apart in a storm, I say we climb aboard and check their stores." Gar made the suggestion mostly to protect his image. Truly, he wanted nothing to do with the ships, but a true pirate wouldn't shy away from possible treasure. "We'll need to be careful though. Who knows what kind of creatures are on those ships?"
Gar responded, agreeing with the conservative solution. He had good judgement, and sound and quick thinking. Minerva appreciated that.
After the strange call, Gar looked out and managed to spot... Something. He returned to the deck, commenting about ships out in the fog. Minerva followed his gaze, scanning the port side of the ship until she managed to spot two eerie vessels. They looked to be wrecks, somehow still floating as they lurched out of the fog towards them. Moss grew in draping lumps over the sides of the ship, and the sails were shredded to mere tatters that blew somehow even in the still air. There was... Nobody she could see on board. Seawater from tall waves occasionally crashed over the deck, moving loose crates around with the familiar shudder of wood on wood. But that wasn't what she had heard. The sound earlier was almost demonic, as if someone was being cut open alive.
When Gar suggested moving in to investigate, Minerva gave a brief and nearly unnoticeable shudder. Ugh. Climbing aboard strange boats... Which looked about ready to collapse into splinters... In search of treasure? She had plenty in the hull to make a good chunk of change, but if she declined, she would look both weak and afraid. She couldn't let the men down like that.
"Aye. Caution is the word. My suggestion would be to hold our position. When the boats draw near, we adjust course to avoid a collision but stay near 'em. Then I'd take a crew over in the rowboat. We should keep the ship ready for a quick exit if necessary - we can always dive off and get back faster than any man on there can lower their own boat. Caution is the word, caution... I don't like the looks of that, but any extra coin to be had is coin for you and me both. And I shan't be the one to turn my nose up at coin."
The mage readied herself. Her outfit consisted of a headband, keeping her line of sight clear and ready, a tight, warm jacket and tough pants. She'd forsaken the heavy casting cloak she usually wore - too cumbersome when wet - and her dresses. When she sailed, she liked to be able to work alongside the men.
"I suggest we take no more than one boat full. That's six if we squeeze - me, Gar, Pat, and... Gar, I'll leave the rest up to you. Pat and I will ready the boat - please grab the men and then we'll watch the ships approach. We've got to time this right so we don't get rammed. Careful now, and let's go!"
Gar’s boisterous nature got the better of him as he audibly chuckled at the word of the night. Caution is just another word for fear… But at the same time she has a point. Risk was a welcome part of a pirate’s life, but foolhardiness will cut that life short. Gar moved below deck to rally some more crew members for the boarding party. It was dark and quiet below deck, a peaceful and comfortable change to the eerie atmosphere above.
“Wake up! We caught sight of a couple boats and the captain has decided to board. Fair warning, I have no idea what we’re getting into but if you’re all too scared to volunteer I’ll split the spoils with the captain and Pat.” Gar watched as some crewmates failed to awaken from their sleep while a few others rose to answer the call. Some of the candidates were drunkenly stumbling while others were still half asleep. Gar raised a finger and pointed to the three who appeared the most alert.We’ll want to be on our toes. No need for groggy members. He also pointed out a fourth, the one who seemed to be the most competent member of the crew, aside from himself, the captain and Pat.
“You three with me.” He moved on to the fourth. ”As for you, Elliot right? You are to be the acting captain until our return. Responsibilities are simple; keep the boat stationary and in one piece. On the off chance that we don’t return… Well I don’t really care at that point.” Gar turned to ascend the stairs to the upper deck with three mates at his heels. As his head moved above deck, the air became thick and stale.
“I’m going to need some names. First names, last names, code-names, whatever you want to be called.” “Doug.” ”Kyle.” ”X-Fin.”
“X-Fin? Fair enough.” Gar smirked and motioned for the crew mates to begin lowering the rowboat into the water. Gar checked the axe on his hip. He realized he would need a few more things and quickly moved below deck, returning with throw able boarding ladder. He sighed. It’s been a while since I’ve been a part of a boarding party. He looked toward the boats which were significantly closer than before. To make matters worse, these two are the creepiest boats I’ve ever seen. Gar managed to steel himself and waved to his captain to climb aboard the rowboat.
Minerva and Pat had the boat ready and down to load by the time Gar returned with the three others. Doug, Kyle, and X-Fin. The six descended into the boats, Minerva leaping lightly aboard and sliding near to the bow of the small craft before summoning up fire to act as a lantern. Pat and the others piled in, and the men began rowing, leaving Minerva with a glowing blue ball of flame at the bow and Gar at the stern to steer. The trip was quick and eventless, and soon they pulled beside the closer of the two boats. Pat set the ladder, adhered the boat to the large ship by means of a spike and rope, and then the Yeoman climbed the ladder, cautiously clambering onto the deck and waving for them to follow. Minerva shimmied up, her fire by now out and her eyes squinted against the fog. When she reached the deck, she moved to stand slightly behind and to the left of Pat, ready to cast should anything go sour. But for the life of her, she saw nothing. The deck was empty and quiet.
"Anything? It seems eerily still here. Not a sound, not a murmur..."
Pat shook his head. He saw nothing.
And then the scream rang out, piercing and bestial like the last one. Minerva, despite herself, stepped back, barely catching herself on the railing of the deck as she looked around, more than a bit shaken up.
What in hell's name was this? Some sort of ghost ship? A demonic presence?
"Pat, do you see anything? Wait, what's that? Everybody, get ready!"
Something was moving over near the stern... And then another motion caught her eye near the bow... And then the sound of rattling and shuffling came from belowdecks. This was not right. Something was wrong. Something was very, very wrong here...
Gar was the last to climb up the ladder onto the deck. He drew his axe from his belt and slowly stepped further into the fog. He saw nothing but he couldn't shake the feeling that something could see him. He turned his head and signaled for Doug to move across the deck with him. Suddenly, a deafening shriek froze Gar to the bone. It was as if he was paralyzed by the noise. Gar's axe fell from his fingers and made a soft rattle on the floor of the ship. He stood still, petrified.
What have we gotten ourselves into?... Doesn't matter. Were here now. Get it together Gar! Gar shook his head and gathered his axe along with his composure. It's probably just some pirates who think they're funny. Either way it's bound to be dangerous. He started to hear movement below deck. Gar had fought in battles similar to this many times before, as long as he positioned himself above the stairs he would be able to hold anything back. Gar moved quickly to find a staircase. After he came across one he peered down it. Nothing but darkness. Plenty of noise but nothing to be seen. Gar got into a fighting stance above the stairs.
The first creature came within view. A decaying body, shambling it's way up the stairs. With flesh falling off it's midsection and an open wound exposing it's skull and rotten brain. The body was human, or at one point was. Currently, it was hard to saw what the creature was. It's yellow eyes stared into Gar's spirit and forced him to take two steps back.
"Wha- What the hell are you?" The creature's response was to roar and charge at Gar with outstretched arms. Gar took note of the flesh-less fingers that resembled talons. Gar ducked under the creature's arms and shoved it to the ground. He then struck it in the abdomen with his axe. Gar grunted as he removed the weapon from the creature's belly. Gar turned his back on the creature to see two more shambling up the stairs. I've heard tales of creatures like this, but... I never thought- Gar's ankle was suddenly grasped by the creature he believed he had defeated. The creature yanked Gar's foot sending him face first into the deck.
Gar hit the deck hard but managed to roll over and swing his axe at the creature's arm, severing it with more ease than he had expected. He shuffled back from the monsters approaching him. "Captain! These.. Things... I'm not sure we can kill them, what are you're orders?" Gar regained his footing and prepared himself for the impending attack.
Damn! They were undead, the revenants she had heard about in the seedy taverns where the mercenaries clustered. The men, made bold by drink, often told of rotten corpses that rose to walk, beasts that were able to feel no pain and fought until their heads were chopped off or blown to bits by magic. The brutes were dull, slow, and strong, she'd heard, except for the green ones. Apparently those were dull, fast, and strong. Just lovely.
"Listen up, everyone! We've got undead on our hands! Revenants! Aim for the head to send them back to the grave, and if you see a green one, yell out!"
Had to keep the message short and sweet. After all, revenants appeared from every side, a good handful shuffling towards the group from all sides. They were slowly being surrounded by about six of the things, and all of their attackers were groaning, moaning, and lurching with claws and jaws bared.
"Let's see how you like a little fire, shall we?"
The mage summoned forth a ball of flame and hurled it at an approaching revenant, watching with satisfaction as the creature erupted into flames and staggered backwards as the bluish fire charred flesh and melted whatever was left in that head of his. As the now-motionless corpse fell, Minerva's eyes widened. Fire and the deck... That was a poor idea, especially if the ships were old enough that they'd catch easily.
But before her fears could be realized, a wave swept over, extinguishing the flames and rolling the body towards her, giving her a good view of eyes that stared dully, no gleam in them anymore. She shivered and looked around for a new target, eyes wide and alert.
Meanwhile, Pat had moved towards the clump of zombies emerging from the fog at the stern of the ship; he had forsaken his bow in favor of his sword, and deftly sliced off the foremost revenant's arm as it swung it at him. Chuckling in a mixture of disbelief and fear, he stabbed the creature through the gut, but as it backhanded him and caused him to stagger backwards, sword sliding out of the abdomen and the creature no worse for the wear, he shook his head. Minerva was right - only the head worked. How was that possible?
The philosophy was for another day. He quickly gave a thrust to the thing's head and watched in disappointment as it crumpled. It wasn't even thrilling. There was nothing about this battle that excited the blood and got the battle-rush going. It was simply obscene and dangerous.
Ahh the head of course… I do recall hearing something along those lines before. Gar twisted and struck the floored zombie with impressive force. The creature’s remaining, outstretched arm fell to the deck. It looks like that did the trick. I guess the captain was right once again. Reinvigorated with his new information Gar moved toward the closest enemy he could spot. With a strong horizontal cut aimed for the neck, he managed to decapitate the zombie, sending its head flying over the ledge and into the water below. Gar readied himself as the next zombie slowly approached. Surprisingly the zombie took a spear through the back of its head and it slumped to the floor. Gar looked past the corpse to find Doug smiling at him.
Gar laughed, “Well done, Doug” He then moved to the staircase where the undead continued to pour from. With a few more boisterous hacks, Gar dropped two more of the disturbing monsters. He flicked his wrist to shake the gore off his axe and peered down the stairs into the darkness. The noise coming from below deck had seemed to settle. “Hey Doug, go help the captain and make sure they have everything under control. If you need anything come grab me, I’m going below deck.”
With that Gar descended the steps and allowed for his eyes to adjust to the diminished light. With his axe in hand he moved through the dark until his stumbled across a coin on the ground with a note attached. The coin had a square hole in it, through which a string connected it to the parchment. Gar broke the string, pocketed the coin and read the note.
Do not forget this ship has a pair, If you are here your crew must beware.
What? My crew? crap, they must be planning on boarding our ship. Gar rushed up the stairs. ”Does anyone have eyes on the second ship? I think they’re planning on going after ours.”
The mage hurled a blast of ice at an oncoming Revenant, spearing its head with the frozen spike and watching as it felled the advancing undead with grace and style. X-Fin was hacking away with a sword beside her, and Pat was reloading, having feathered two of the fiends. It looked pretty much over by now; all but one had been defeated, and X-Fin triumphantly destroyed it with a nice slash that sent gore splattering as if the head were merely a crushed watermelon. Were there any more hiding out?
But the mage's crowing was cut short as Gar bounded up and let forth a warning that froze Minerva. No, she hadn't thought of that...
"Damn. Let's get back to the ship! I can't see ours from here, and no sign of the other ship... This blasted fog, dammit!"
Minerva backed to the rail, preparing for a hasty exit. This wasn't good - if there ship got damaged, it would mean more sitting in the fog while they fixed it, and it would give the fiends a chance to board.
"Hurry! I'll torch this hunk of driftwood!"
She had not worked this hard to buy a ship legitimately, had not outfitted it to smuggle, and had not evaded guard ships and outrun patrols just to have her ship wrecked by a hunk of moldy old wood. No sir. And certainly not one piloted by undead bastards. No, now she was angry. She'd show those Revenant scum. Just let them cower. She was coming!
All of Gar's feelings of fear and apprehension were replaced with a seething anger.I can't believe I was outsmarted by a bunch of brainless corpses. The enemy's plan was far too well thought out. This clearly wasn't the first time they have pulled this trick.Damn it, they could have slaugtered our whole crew by now. Gar tightened his grip on his axe before placing it back onto his sash. Gar lifted his head and moved quickly and surefooted over the blood and viscera. With a grim countenance and a clear disdain for his enemy he claimed. " Agreed let's return, I need to get some payback. They'll regret making a fool of me."
Gar was relieved that Minerva had the capability to send the wreck of a ship up in flames. They won't be pulling a trick like this again. As Gar descended back into the boarding vessel he considered the possibilities of who orchestrated this attack. Clearly underhanded and cowardly... Using zombies to distract the warriors while they take the goods of their ship. Are they pirates? Mages? Or are these corpses organized enough to employ such a tactic? Whoever they are I'll teach them a lesson.
Gar took his position at the stern of the boat looked to his captain who seemed as nonplussed by the situation as he was himself. " When you light this piece of junk aflame, could you make a show of it? I want them to know whats coming." With that Gar returned to his mental task of preparing himself for the next phase of the sea battle.