Chapter : The Castine
“You don’t understand,” Tucker pleaded from behind a slippery, grime-covered set of bars. “There must be some mistake. I’m not an orc!”
The beefy, red-haired man, who called himself Captain Garrick before throwing Tucker into the rudimentary cell, pulled an amused look from behind his incredibly hairy face and laughed heartily.
“Not an orc? Well, then, if you’re not an orc, then I’m not an overweight Duvannian! Come on, lad. Enough with the theatrics. The Castine has never been friendly to stowaways, and it’s not about to start now. Why don’t you tell me where you came from, and what you’re doing here on my vessel? Looking to rob us blind, no doubt, and slit our throats.”
“How can I slit your throats when I don’t even have a single weapon on me?” he asked, holding out his bare hands in front of him. “I never did. Your men searched me before they brought me down here!”
This argument didn’t seem to work for Garrick. Tucker noticed that every time he tried to double down on his lack of knowledge, Garrick’s eyes would go all squinty and his lips would press together as if he were experiencing a particularly raunchy smell. That probably wasn’t far from the truth since the lower deck where Tucker had been dragged and detained smelled musty and ripe with an old seaweed aroma that stung his nostrils.
The stink didn’t bother Garrick, however. The man wasn’t exactly clean. His skin appeared dark, but that was because it was covered in a thick layer of dirt and grime. Streaks ran down his ruddy cheeks where he had sweat, and they disappeared into his tangled beard. Whatever his physical appearance, the captain was strong. His hands were meaty and had closed on Tucker’s arms with an iron grip.
Stowaways don’t get away easily, thought Tucker, if they get away at all.
He wished that there was some hint of what he was supposed to be doing. Clearly he wasn’t supposed to remain in this dingy jail cell forever, but how was he going to get out of here when the captain of the vessel wouldn’t leave him alone - not even for a minute? Tucker didn’t even have a chance to take in his surroundings before he was being interrogated by Garrick. The man wasn't alone, either. Down the passageway stood two ship hands who listened intently to every word that was said, though they kept their stares straight forward.
Garrick reached out and rapped his knuckles against one of the iron bars to get Tucker’s attention.
“Eyes on me,” he said, leaning closer to the bars so that he could look Tucker directly in the eye. “What’s your name? You can at least tell me that.”
The question stopped Tucker for a brief moment. What should he tell this man? He still wasn’t sure if the captain was a friend or foe. Considering where he was currently locked up, Tucker swayed more towards the enemy classification than friend. If he gave Captain Garrick his name, then the man might have more power over his fate than Tucker wanted.
Then again, Tucker was also stumped by the fact that the game had given him his own real-life name. There was never an option to add a made-up moniker, even if he had wanted to. How did this game know what his name was when he hadn’t input anything into the system?
Looking around at his cell, which was really just the curved side of the ship, a broken crate with some damp canvas draped over it, and the wall of iron bars, Tucker knew that he had no other choice but to talk his way out of imprisonment. There wasn’t even a window in his cell for him to climb out of.
“My name is Tucker,” he said with his eyes aimed down at the deck.
“Tucker?” Garrick replied. “What kind of a name is that?”
“My own,” Tucker replied.
The captain’s eyes widened.
“Doesn’t sound very much like an orc name, now, does it? Perhaps there’s a little bit of truth to your story. Maybe you aren’t going to go slicing our throats, but then again I don’t know anything about you. Are you sure that you can’t remember anything about where you came from?”
“There’s nothing,” said Tucker, remembering how he had simply fallen out of the sky and landed feet-first into the roaring sea. That story didn’t seem like it would fly with the captain. Tucker was telling the man the truth at any rate. “I woke up on the raft in the middle of the ocean. When I saw your ship coming through the storm, I thought it might be a safe haven. So I came aboard.”
Garrick stroked his beard as he considered this story.
“I didn’t see any remnants of a shipwreck…” he mused. “No fire or smoke from an explosion. Mayhaps you fell overboard, or struck your head. I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on that. But, there’s no denying that you are in fact an orc, my friend. You only need to look at your reflection to see that.” He motioned to a puddle on the floor within Tucker’s cell.
Leaning over it carefully, Tucker’s eyes widened in shock as he gazed upon a face that he didn’t recognize. The hair was jet black and messy, matted against the side of his face, covering skin that was a sickly blue color with the consistency of crushed gravel. His thin lips were a dark purple, and his eyes were bright green. They almost took on the appearance of glowing in the dark like a cat’s eyes would when the light struck them just right.
Tucker’s mouth hung open.
“No…” he muttered, bringing his hands up to his face. “No, no, no - this is all wrong! I’m not supposed to be an orc!”
But, it didn’t matter what he said. His hands, which were equally as rough as his face, reached around, searching for the edge of a mask. They found nothing but his real skin pulled down over a jaw that was square and strong.
“We can’t choose where we come from,” said Garrick with a slight hint of sympathy in his voice this time. “But, we can choose the road we travel on. Why don’t you tell me a bit more about yourself? Take your mind off of that reflection?” He pulled a barrel over and sat down on it.
Tucker didn’t speak right off. He was too traumatized by his reflection.
What kind of joke was this? He escaped one harsh reality only to be stuck in the body of an orc? Nobody liked orcs! He was beginning to think that the man in black had played a prank on him after all.
What are you talking about? He thought after a few moments of his heart pounding in his chest. Being an orc is nothing compared to living under Vinny’s roof. Snap out of it.
Garrick raised his eyebrows.
“Well?” he said. “We’ve got plenty of time on our hands. That storm outside isn’t going anywhere in a hurry.”
Tucker went to open his mouth and reply when his vision went blurry. It was as if someone had suddenly materialized a frosted pane of glass in front of him, keeping the light, but softening all the details.
For a moment Tucker thought he was going to pass out, but something he recognized appeared, floating in front of him, and he realized what was happening.
It was a skill tree. Starting with a single entry at the bottom, which was lined up with Tucker’s eyeline, was something that resembled a family tree, branching up and up like a pyramid with various spells, enchantments, and other supernatural abilities. At the moment, all those higher skills were grayed out. The only thing that was glowing was the first entry - Mage, Level 01.
He was starting out at the ground level, which wasn’t very powerful, judging by what was available to him. Tucker saw in the upper right corner of his vision was a numerical marker that kept track of how many Skill Points he had saved up. Right now he only had a single point, which was good enough to choose from one of three basic abilities that were unlockable.
“Let’s take a look at these…” he muttered and reached out to touch the first ability with his fingers. The item glowed and an expanded description of the ability appeared beside the swirling icon which represented the skill.
Whirlwind - This spell conjures a powerful funnel of wind that repels enemies away from you, knocking them into nearby objects to cause damage to their health. Useful against hordes, and also for moving through shallow waterways.
“Interesting,” said Tucker. He moved onto the second option, which was a collection of variegated snowflakes.
Frostbite - Cool things down considerably with this spell. Direct a freezing blast at your enemies and slow them down while zapping their health. The longer the spell, the stronger the freeze will last. May also be used to freeze and shatter weak barriers.
The last option was represented by a pillar of fire.
Flamethrower - Make your enemies face the heat by shooting a blast of fire in their direction. The sight of this spell often causes groups of enemies to disband and flee. Burns inflicted on enemies will leach health points over time, depending on how long the spell is held. Also useful against flammable items and materials.
Tucker folded his arms. These were all good options, and each had their strengths and weaknesses, depending on how Tucker wanted to start out his playing style.
This part of the process was very important, but also very exciting. Maybe he could earn his way out of this cell by doing some sort of amazing act for Garrick. Each of the magical attacks were useful, but what would be most effective right then and there?
After considering for a few minutes, Tucker decided upon Frostbite.
With a touch of his fingers to the emblem, the ability lit up with a sound like metal striking stone. The ability was locked in now and the other two options became grayed out...at least for now.
Selection Complete, the ability display informed him, and within a few seconds, the text along with the hazy overlay faded away and Tucker’s vision returned to its normal crisp self. Garrick remained where he had been seated, and he watched Tucker expectantly.
There were no conversation prompts, so Tucker just went for it with his own intuition.
“I’m a mage,” he said simply.
The reaction from Garrick was what he expected. More laughter, though it wasn’t mean-spirited. More like a belly laugh, like Garrick hadn’t heard a joke like that in a long time. His eyes squinted shut as he leaned back and slapped a meaty hand on his thigh.
“Where do you come up with these answers?” he asked, wiping a tear from one of his eyes. “Do they have great storytellers up in Frostweith? I’d gladly pay them to spin a yarn as fantastical as the ones you’re aspiring to!”
Tucker frowned and gritted his teeth a moment.
“I’m not spinning a tale,” he replied. “I’m telling you the truth. If you aren’t going to believe me, then I’ll do a demonstration for you.”
Even with the offer, Garrick still didn’t believe Tucker.
“That would be grand!” he said. “Do a demonstration. That I would love to see! It will be a heck of a lot better than the ruddy faces of my crew that I suffer day in and day out, I’ll tell you that!”
Behind him, the two crewmen broke their stern poses to glance at Garrick with unappreciative looks in their eyes.
“Fine,” said Tucker, sitting up straighter on his makeshift seat. “I will give you a demonstration…”
There were no instructions on how to use Frostbite. All that Tucker had was the description of the ability which he had read on the abilities menu. He wondered how in the world he was supposed to enable the ability - but, as the thought crossed his mind, a kind of second nature kicked in and he found his hands rising up of their own accord, turning from palms-down until his wrists were taught and his hands were aimed in front of him.
Garrick stopped laughing in an instant and straightened up.
“Here, now, I was only kidding!” he said. “You can’t really expect me to believe that you have the skill sets of a mage. You’re an orc, for Eomeyr’s sake. Everyone knows that an orc is only good for one thing, and that’s open warfare. They might have left you out of the training process, considering how small you are, but trust me. Orcs don’t let one of their own get very far. You can drop the a-”
Before Garrick could finish his sentence the ship gave a sudden shudder as if it had struck something. Both he and Tucker were nearly knocked from their seats, and down the hall both shipmen lost their balance and stumbled to the side.
Garrick got to his feet at once.
“What in the ten hells was that?” he said.
The sentence was no sooner off his tongue when a second jarring slam tilted the ship sideways forty-five degrees. It was as if a rogue wave had struck the starboard side of the Castine. Tucker reached out and steadied himself against one of the bars.
Garrick turned and hurried towards the two men.
“You two!” he ordered. “Up on deck immediately! Gather every hand you find. We’re under attack!”
“By what?” called out Tucker, but Garrick turned as the two shipmen hurried off to the ladder and growled.
“You stay there,” he said, adding as he turned and headed for the upper deck, “Not that you have much choice.”
Then he was gone.
The ship continued to be rocked back and forth. Wood creaked and the timbers groaned under an immense force.
Tucker yelled out between the bars of his cell.
“You can’t leave me down here! Come back and let me out!”
His pleas were futile, however, because nobody came.
For a few moments Tucker listened. There were heavy footfalls up on the deck above, followed by a few screams of men in utter terror. It sounded like a massacre, but what could be causing it?
Tucker wasn’t going to sit around and wait for the crew to be slaughtered. Once whatever it was made it through the men, it would come below deck and take him out. He would much rather challenge the attacker head-on instead of simpering in a cell.
He looked down at the barred doorway before him. It was held closed on the outside by a single padlock. The keys were on Garrick’s belt, so there was no chance of unlocking it traditionally. There had to be another way.
As he racked his brain,Tucker felt his hands rising of their own accord once more. Then it snapped in his mind.
“Of course!” he said, reaching around the bars until his hands gripped the padlock, covering nearly every inch of it. He felt the muscles in his palms tense up and suddenly an incantation flew from his lips.
The space within his hands turned a brilliant sky-blue and became instantly freezing cold. A force like dry ice attacked the padlock, pummeling its surface continually. After a few moments of intense arctic blasts, a sound like that of a block of ice being squeezed under immense pressure met Tucker’s ears and he closed his fingers tightly around the padlock. It shattered into a million tiny pieces which clattered to the damp floor and the cell door swung open.
“Alright!” he said. “Now we’re making progress.”
A prompt appeared in front of him.
Help the crew.
That was a no-brainer, but he dismissed the prompt with a wave of his hand and rushed down the corridor and up the ladder that Garrick had used. He was actually excited to get into his first in-game skirmish with whatever the attacker was. He hoped it was something fun, like a group of pirates. Something he could take down with his fists. After being pent up in his room in the real world, he was eager to let out some steam.
He was soon up on deck, and the storm raged on. Crew men hurried this way and that, most brandishing daggers and small iron swords that had been heavily used. These were no warriors, but men caught in a situation where they were forced to defend themselves. They were traders.
It’s a good thing I’m here, thought Tucker. I’ll fight for them. Let me see what we’re up against!
He went to take a step out of the doorway and into the open, but before his foot even landed, a small man came running across his path from the right. Fear was in is wide eyes and he held his arms out to keep his balance against the rocking ship. Suddenly he caught sight of Tucker and rushed over to him.
“What are you doing up here, prisoner?” he said. “It’s not safe! Get back down until we deal with this -”
He never finished his thought, let alone his sentence because a giant object came flying out of the dark sky above him.
Tucker’s mouth dropped open as a giant purple tentacle as thick as a city bus came sweeping down, breaking the top of the mainmast, and slammed down atop the sailor. Great saucer-like suction cups gripped the man by his back and lifted him up along with the tentacle while he screamed and gurgled. His ribcage had to have been broken by the blunt force.
“It’s got us!” yelled another sailor across the deck. “We will never escape! This is the end!”
Tucker looked out along the edges of the ship and realized with a sinking feeling in his gut that the sailor might be right. There wasn’t just one tentacle, but rather six tentacles wrapped over the sides of the ship.
Whatever was beneath the hull was breaking them apart and pulling them to the bottom of the ocean.
Bio: I have been a writer pretty much from the time I could hold a pencil and scribble letters. I am looking to develop my craft and better my storytelling. I am a huge fan of fantasy and horror in all their incarnations. When I'm not reading, I'm usually hunting for Legos. You can find me trying to decipher the mini-figure blind bags at the local big-box store.