Fallen Comrades Chapter 1
Enter the 'Kingrand'
Richard O'Donnavon stared out across the open sea through the pair of borrowed binoculars that the ships Captain had let him use, and tried to ignore the horrible noises that his best friend, Ian Bradley was making as he leant precariously over the side of the boat and retched. Richard had never experienced sea-sickness himself, and judging by the funny colour that Ian had gone, he never wanted to either, but he felt sorry for his friend all the same.
"Its the constant movement," Ian had explained in a feeble voice after Richard had asked him what it was like, "It churns up everything in your stomach and then, well, blourgh."
"Yeah, blour - oh no, not agai - Blourgh!"
Richard winced, but did not avert his gaze from the distant horizon, where he could just about make out a few tiny specs against the infinitely blue sky that must have been birds, and birds always stayed near land, except when they flew out into the ocean to die. They must be nearing the end of their journey.
"Land ahoy!" a voice cried from the crows nest high above, confirming Richards thoughts, who must have been able to see their destination, Port Aposs, from his elevated position at the top of the mast.
Richard took the binoculars away from his eyes and turned to look at Ian who was staring into the frothy waters below with a wretched expression of self-pity on his green tinged face.
"Not long now," Richard said trying to sound cheerful as the other passengers began to head inside to fetch their luggage from the hold, "We might want to think about getting our stuff ready for when we dock at Aposs, feel up to it?"
"Not really," Ian said getting unsteadily to his feet.
"I'll certainly be glad to get back on dry land," Richard said longingly as he glanced over towards the horizon where the distant birds circled in the sky, "Im starting to get sick of this boat."
Ian just stared at him in disbelief.
Richard was a relatively tall young man, noticably taller than Ian who was actually quite short for his age. He had short, dark hair which had become rather scruffy, and his eyes were a deep chocolate brown. Ian looked almost entirely differant to his friend, as his hair was light blond and his eyes were even more blue than than the ocean on which their ship.
The two of them had been afloat for the best part of two weeks now on the 'Exodus', a small but well made ship which carried travellers back and forth across the expansive Pava Sea, for a price. Twelve days previously in the village of Domingo, both Richard and Ian had parted with fifty gold coins a piece to purchase passage on the 'Exodus' to Port Aposs, which lay a long way to the south-east and would have taken them months to travel to by foot, not to mention the constant risk of monster attacks along the way. There had been no attacks on the 'Exodus' as she slowly rode the wind to her destination, and in a way, that was blessing, but it had also meant that both Richard and Ian had spent two of the most boring weeks in their lives with nothing to do but be sick or watch Ian being sick. Both were trained soldiers who had fought bravely in the Nastra Civil War, which had ended as suddenly as it had begun with the collapse of the Nigran Cathederal, and the deaths of most of Nastra's world leaders, and now as the world slowly began to embrace peace, many soldiers were finding themselves out of a job.
Richard and Ian were no exceptions, and realising the fate that awaited them in Nastra, had headed towards the still turbulent south where the fighting had not yet come to a close. There, a decent soldier who could keep his cool in the midst of battle could make himself a very rich man working for the warring lords as they fought against each other for supremacy and land.
Soldiers were not the only people onboard though, although there was a group of three men who had a battle-hardened look about them that stood together at the other side of the ship talking quietly. Most of the other passengers were either merchants or pilgrims travelling to new lands in search of profit or adventure.
"Where the devil are my binoculars, Mister Marlson?" a voice boomed from the poop deck.
"No idea, sir," a second, more reasonable voice replied, "I asked Mark in the crows nest, but he reckons you had them back off him a few hours ago."
"If I had them off him, Mister Marlson, then would you please explain to me why the devil I dont still have them?"
Ian had heard the commotion and stared at the pair of binoculars in Richard's hand and then up at Richard, then back down to the binoculars, he raised his one eyebrow suspiciously.
"He let me borrow them!" Richard said sharply, irritated by his friends accusing expression, "And im taking them back now."
"Of course you are," Ian said smoothly.
"I am, and you can make yourself useful by going down to the hold and getting our stuff"
Grumbling quietly, Ian dissapeared into the bowels of the ship in search of their gear. Richard watched him go, then turned smartly on one heel and headed off in the opposite direction towards the two voices that they had heard earlier arguing about the missing binoculars. The Captain was still deeply engrossed in his conversation with the First Mate as Richard reached the poop deck and headed over to them, neither man took any notice of his approach, and he stood there for a moment listening to their wrangling until he cleared his throat pointedly, hoping to get their attention. Annoyed at the interruption, the Captain turned and began to give Richard a piece of his mind, when the First Mate suddenly caught site of the binoculars in his hand.
"Your binoculars, sir!" the First Mate told the Captain, pointing at them.
The Captain blinked and stared at them for a moment.
"How the devil did you get those?" he demanded angrily, probably thinking this man to be a thief.
"You let me borrow them," Richard said slowly and deliberately, why did everyone think he had stolen the binoculars?
"Oh, yes..........." the Captain said slowly as though he were only just remembering what had happened, "Of course I did, y'see Mister Marlson, no need to worry, this chappy had them all along!"
Mister Marlson flashed the Captain a dirty look, then accepted the binoculars and turned to face out to sea.
"Is she still out there?" the Captain asked nervously, peering over the First Mate's shoulder.
The First Mate didn't answer for a moment. He stood stock-still, staring out at the horizon through the binoculars and whistled softly.
"She's still there," he said, "And she's gaining. The wind must be on their side today."
Richard, who had overheard, also looked out at the sea where the First Mate had been staring. Without the binoculars to aid him, he had little chance of seeing anything that the First Mate was able to spot in the distance, but he was sure he could see something outlined against the sky directly to their right.
"It might be the 'Marlinspike' couldn't it?" the Captain sounded hopeful, "She sometimes sails these waters on the way to Yuggor."
"No sir, its her," the First Mate replied, "The 'Kingrand', I can see the name."
The Captain made a grab for the binoculars and the First Mate gently directed his gaze to where this 'Kingrand' was.
"Blast!" the Captain swore after staring out to sea, dropping the binoculars to the deck and spun on his heel to face his First Mate, "Get every sail we've got up in the rigging, Mister Marlson, we might still be able to outrun her."
"Aye, aye, sir!" the First Mate sounded doubtful, "Should we jettison the cargo, sir?"
The Captain nodded and headed off after the First Mate to help organise the rest of the crew.
Richard, who had been ignored as though he were invisible throughout their worried conversation, bent down to pick up the discarded binoculars from the deck. One of the lenses had cracked when it fell, but through the remaining lens he could clearly see what had caused the Captain and his First Mate such distress. The 'Kingrand' was another ship, but not a small passanger carrying one like the 'Exodus', but a warship, made for battle across the seven sea's. Richard had never seen the ship before, but he had heard stories about its strength from other soldiers whilst he had been serving in the East Nastra Army, and what he had heard had impressed him. The 'Kingrand' was said to be one of the five greatest ships ever to sail, and had never once lost a battle under the command of the fine Admiral Nelson who had taken her into the fray of many fights that had to be fought on the open sea instead of on land. He had heard that Nelson had been killed towards the end of the war, torn clean in half by a lucky cannonball shot, and he wandered who was now in charge of the 'Kingrand', the Overlord of the Ocean. His question was answered for him.
"Pirates?" someone screeched.
Richard dropped the binoculars in suprise and swore as he heard the other lense shatter as it impacted with the deck. Their commander killed, the crew of the 'Kingrand' must have surrendered their ship to the enemy!
"Yes, pirates, but their is no need for concern," he could see the First Mate, Mister Marlson, clearly from where he stood, and he could also see the twenty or so other sailors who were swinging like monkeys high in the rigging, desperately trying to get all of the ships sails up, before the 'Kingrand' could catch up with them any more than it had done already. The huge ship was now visible without needing to use binoculars as it raced to head them off.
"As long as we jettison our cargo, we will easily outrun them to the safety of Port Aposs," the First Mate continued nervously, as though he knew what he was about to say would not make him very popular, "But we will need to jettison ALL of our cargo....."
Some of the passengers, realising the implications of what had just been said, nervously glanced at their luggage. Their heavy luggage.
"Which is worth more, your luggage or your lives?"
Realising that they would be expected to throw their possessions into the choppy waters, some passengers huddled around their luggage protectively, forming a barrier between it and the sailors who had been ordered to hurl it overboard wether the passengers gave their consent or not. Some people had brought nothing or very little with them, but a couple had brought huge, heavy chests filled with gold, precious gems or rare silks to trade with when they arrived at Port Aposs, and these were the ones most reluctant to yieled their luggage to the sea. Richard and Ian had brought very little with them on the voyage, a little food, some wine, and their weapons of course.
Where was Ian? He wasn't on deck with the other passengers, so he must still be in the hold fetching their luggage. He'd probably be annoyed he'd brought all their stuff up on deck only to have to chuck it over the side. Unless he was being sick again, and he probably was.
"Im sure this precious silk will hardly slow us down?" a fat merchant was shouting his defiance at the First Mate as he tried to prevent a large wooden chest from being dragged away from him by a group of sailors.
"And im sure it will, now let go, god damn it!" the First Mate booted the merchant in the side and sent him rolling away like a huge, pudgy football as the sailors bodily lifted the heavy chest over the side and let it fall away. It vanished into the dark water with a splash, and then it was gone. The merchant had started to cry.
The three men who looked like soldiers cast a disgusted glance at the blubbering merchant then turned away from the sight. None of them seemed to have any luggage to speak off, although Richard suddenly noticed that all three were fully armed. They looked like they were waiting for something.
Startled, Richard looked around to see who had shouted. Ian was the only person on the ship to know his name, but he was nowhere in sight.
Richard looked up, and used his one hand to shade his eyes from the sun. There were still sailors up in the rigging, but none semed to be paying him any heed. Then he spotted Ian sitting calmly on a narrow platform about halfway up the mast staring down at him and grinning.
"Looks like there's gonna be a fight!" he yelled down from his vantage point.
"Captain reckons we'll get away!" Richard argued, wondering how Ian had got up there so quickly and not fallen.
Ian shook his head, "Lads up here say we dont have a chance, the 'Kingrand' is a lot faster than us anyway, and she's got the wind behind her. She'll be level with us in less than a half hour."
Richard swore. There was going to be a fight after all, not that he was worried at the prospect. He had made quite a name for himself in the Army, and had been widely considered to be a swordsman worthy of the great King Nicola himslf. He had been out of practise for a few weeks, and his sword arm felt a little rusty, but other than that he welcomed the possibility of battle, for battle meant loot, and his pouch was dangerously empty.
"You want your sword?" Ian called.
"Sure, where'd you put it?"
His sword whistled through the air and slammed into the wooden deck where it stuck upright between two planks. Richard, who had only just dived to safety as the blade fell towards him, cursed up at Ian, who laughed out loud in reply. He seemed to have gotten over his sea-sickness, which was a suprise, for he had been at its mercy for the past two weeks. Richard presumed it was the promise of battle, exciting Ian as much as it did him, and causing him to ignore the unrest in his stomach as he waited patiently for an enemy to come into his range.
And come they did, despite reluctantly abandoning the ships cargo, the 'Kingrand' was still obviously gaing on them. The Captain stood by the wheel and watched their approach. He was suprised to realise that he was drenched in a cold sweat and jumped with fright when someone stepped up behind him.
"Sorry, sir," it was Mister Marlson, the First Mate, who spoke quietly, so that the passengers would not overhear him "I think they're going to catch us, sir, we're just not fast enough."
"We could jettison the passengers?" the Captain suggested grimly.
"Very humerous, sir," the First Mate replied, amazed his Captain was so calm.
"Was I joking?"
The three other soldiers Richard had seen onboard were also readying themselves for a fight. The first, a huge, muscular man with a shiny bald head was making practise sweeps with an enormous double-bladed battle axe which was almost as large as the man himself. The blades alone were at least as long as the entire length of Richards own sword. The two other men both wore swords, but only one was wielding his, he blade hissed through the air as the man, tall and tanned with dark hair, cut at empty space in preparation for the enemy onslaught. The final man sat silently in meditation, his blade hanging untouched by his side, it looked as though it had never been used. He was shrouded in long scarlet robes despite the warth of the day.
The sailors too, were getting ready to fight, making crude weapons out of anything they could get their hands on. Some wielded oars and boathooks, while Richard was certain he spotted one run past holding what had appeared to be an anchor.
The pirates were coming, expecting an easy victory over a group of frightened passengers and untrained sailors. And Richard O'Donnavon was ready to meet them.