Voyage of the Hildegard

Chapter Three

As the Hildegard approached the harbour of Onyx, the crew noticed the change in surrounds, as the ship passed into the Shadowlands. The water became dark and sticky, with no living creatures dwelling there. Soon, the ship approached the port itself, and saw piers made out of bone, covered in something resembling leather. Local plant life was sickly and malformed, and shambling corpses made their way along the dockside. As the Hildegard pulled into a pier, Kas and the crewmen were assigned to stay below deck, once the cargo had been moved to the deck. Once docked, a man with black hair, an off-white shirt and a black woollen cloak approached the ship and, in a deep and mournful voice, enquired of their business. With pleasantries and formalities briefly exchanged, a gang of corpses were rounded up and instructed to unload the wood from the deck of the ship, to which Cid required clarification, lest the zombies begin dismantling his ship in an overenthusiastic effort at following orders. Periodically, the ships crew appeared above deck, bringing further loads up from the cargo hold, thereby keeping the dead to, at most, the deck of the ship. Though entertaining the dockmaster's efforts at promoting options for enjoyment in the necropolis, Cid politely declined and ordered that the crew set sail immediately, for the northern shores of Wavecrest.

During the travels, the crew were reassured by Cid's dedicated analysis of navigational charts, and Kas' novel approach to archery, which began with firing at a target at 50cm, and then increased in equal increments, until he worked his way along the deck. While a few arrows were lost overboard, the number was remarkably low, given the perils of archery on the waves. More surprising for many, however, was the sudden increases in knowledge experienced by Cid, Kiss and Haven, all of whom seemed to increase their ability to fight significantly after a mere day of meditation.

In the two weeks in took to travel from Onyx to their desired destination, the Hildegard noticed several other ships. While none were hostile, one food carrier was in for quite a fright when Kiss decided that they were inadequately defended, and needed to be taught a lesson in the value of strength. Approaching the ship in her totem form, the attack started with gusto when she transformed into her hulking warform mid-leap, pounding down into the deck of the ship, and devouring two crew members before everyone else's jaws had even reached the deck of the ship. Without any competent resistance, she made her way to the captain of the ship, and prepared for the ultimate expression of her dominance over the sea, by eating the captain, when Kas placed his blade between them, seeking to stay her hand. To the nervous wreck of a captain, surrender was then offered, and eagerly accepted. Unwilling to cause further inconvenience for the ship which was carrying salted fish and fresh fruit from Abalone to Greystone, Kiss and Kas departed, while Kiss expressed her disgust for what she perceived as weakness in one she had thought to be her mate.

Once aboard they returned to the Hildegard, discussions took place about the appropriateness of random attacks on unarmed vessels. Cid seemed to believe that it was a waste of time, and should be avoided purely on grounds of efficiency. Haven however, pointed out that they had the Letter of Marque from Coral, and that "If you got it, flaunt it." Kas was opposed to harming those who were unable to defend themselves, and further supported Cid's stand on efficiency. Tadaal was oddly quiet, while Kiss defended her actions as being the first step in encouraging people to take greater responsibility for their own protection. By making such vicious attacks on undefended ships, it would encourage the survivors to take greater care for their own protection, and may mean that, next time, they will actually try to defend themselves. This position was not adopted by the rest of the crew. Further, Cid expressed concern several times about such actions bringing the attention of the Realm's Water Fleet, and the risk that it would become lodged in various anatomical locations on Kiss which would be consisted with the fleet outrunning her as shed tried to escape.

In due course, the ship arrived at the northern beaches of Wavecrest, were it found a small fishing village, serviced by a road leading inland. The shellfish were easily collected, and stored in a net which was trailed out behind the ship in order to keep them fresh, as they made their way back to Coral.

In Coral, Cavas Sidar was pleased with the delivery, and handed over information on five slave ships which the Coral Bureau of Intelligent Shipping (BIS) had collected. The parties controlling the various ships were a band of Coral pirates, the Guild, the Realm, the Lintha family and a free trader. Based on considerations of distance, timing and potential political side-effects, the Guild was chosen as a viable target. Meanwhile, Tadaal searched for more legitimate business, finding a plethora of boring cargo hauling, and a bounty on the captain of the Wealth's Price, Storm-fern III, for violation of Coral licensing procedures. His ship seemed to operate mainly between Azure and Onyx, and all attacks so far had been on cargo haulers. Further, Haven found some private business gave him some fond memories of home. With their target chosen, and a safe week to prepare, the group settled into considerable discussions about a plan of attack again the Guild transport Chains of Jade V.