Voyage of the Hildegard

Chapter Four

With plan decided, the Hildegard IV set off to intercept the Chains of Jade V. In the middle of the day, they pulled up alongside the ship, offering some choice shellfish from their hold, still having ample supplies after feeding Cavas Sidar. Negotiations ensued, and the agreed medium of exchange would be slaves for food. Both sides aware of the importance of inspecting the merchandise, the Guild Purser tasted the food, and Cid, along with the apparent owner of the ship, Tadaal, boarded the Chains of Jade to select appropriate slaves.

They were first shown a batch of slaves purchased in the South. Malnourished and sickly, their life expectancy ranged from months to a few years at best. Next, were the barbarians, strong and healthy, yet defiant, respecting only strength, and forever searching for the opportunity to regain their freedom. Finally, the Ravaged, soul-drained victims of the Fair Folk. The perfect slave, it is said, for they are obedient and agreeable. Their complete lack of imagination may make for needing careful supervision, but when kept under a watchful eye and firm hand, they will give a master no grief. And even after all that, perhaps their highest selling point, is that, should the worst happen, you know that death is a kindness, compared to the perpetual void in which they live, their sleep devoid of dreams. With masterful negotiation, four ravaged were purchased, in exchange for two barrels. Smuggled on board with the barrels was Haven, with the aid of Tudali's veil. Then, the Hildegard IV sailed away, for a time.

On the Chains of Jade V, Haven set to work, preparing to dispose of various inconveniences in the crew, such as the Trierarch, Kubernetes, Proreus, Arms Master and Master of the Bow. But first, sequested away inside the Trierarch's cabin, he inspected the ship's wealth, and regretted poetically the efficiency of the Guild, relying on letters of credit, rather than hard jade. As time passed, darkness fell, and through a combination of stealth and cunning, and not a little bit of luck, he managed, while maintaining the guise of a sailor, to dispatch most of those on his list. Several were fed to Kiss, lurking beneath the waves, eager to dispose of anything (and more importantly, anyone) thrown overboard. Others were hidden away in their cabins, safely presuming that, short of an emergency, they would not be disturbed while sleeping, and once their was an emergency, it would be too late. However, for all his efforts, the Arms Master managed to avoid an unfortunate end, even as midnight approached, and with it, the Hildegard IV.

In response to a mutilated head, Kiss rose up out of the water on Ripfin's nose, leaping nimbly onto the deck in her battle form, and quickly dispatching one of the Ballista crews. Soldiers patrolling the deck quickly responded, surrounding her and fighting defensively. Yet, their efforts were to no avail, as her spear slid around shields and blades desperately thrown to intercept. However, her goal of quickly dispatching all who oppose her brought her undone, as, just after killing three with her spear, she flung out with a further two unarmed attacks. The essence coursing around first her elbow, then her teeth, her exuberance led her astray, as the first attack saw her slipping onto the ground, and the second landed her teeth around the wooden shield, opening her up for retaliatory strikes, and damaging her pride. However, quick to recover, she dispatched the remaining two soldiers simultaneously, grabbing both and leaping overboard, crushing their necks as she sank beneath the waves.

Meanwhile, Haven's weapons drew the attention of two soldiers, who fought him back down the stairs he had been ascending. As the battle switched between him attacking or defending, he sorely regretted the trust he placed in his sword-arm, with the knives he still felt at his belt.

At the prow of the Hildegard IV, Kas and Tadaal stood ready to leap across. Waiting for the distance to close, Kas picked off two of the topsmen, pinning one of their bodies to the rear mast, and sending the other pounding into the deck. Before summoning all his strength for the jump across, Kas reached into his chest, drawning Heartsblade. Then, with both of them slamming onto the rear of the ship, they engaged soldiers who charged towards them, eager to defend their ship against intruders, not realising, in the dim of the night, until it was too late, that one was wielding a Daiklave, and the other a Smashfish. Their deaths came quick.

All the while, a cluster of five archers sent their deadly missiles towards various targets, frequently thudding arrows into their armour, the impact sending waves of pain through the recipient's body. With his immediate opponents dead at his feet, Kas slid across the deck of the ship, plunging Heartsblade back into his chest, drawning his bow, and firing at the Arms Master, who had just ascended from below deck, in response to the clamour. As arrows continued to streak towards him, Tadaal having jumped overboard to escape the barrage, Kas sought to bring his bow up to defend. Unfortunately, he realised too late that a bow is poorly designed for intercepting missile fire, especially when the string catches on your arm. Regretting his poor choice of defence, he redrew his blade, and planted his feet solidly on the deck, as essence coursed around him, showing lines of interception along which his blade would soon travel, as arrows continued to be launched against him. There, standing strong and ready against all enemies, the arms master continued to advance, his expression unknown in the dark of the night.