The first slap sets me cheek on fire. I sense movement and intercept the second slap by grabbing me assailant’s wrist.
“What the bloody h-” Me words are drowned in something viscous and sour.
I wince, gurgle, cough, and then sit bolt upright. Me eyes are filled with tears and now me belly feels like its full of lead shot. I try to get up but a wave of pain washes me back down to the floor.
“Now for the rest of it, captain, or we’ll have to carry you out of here on a stretcher. Not the best look for our daring leader.”
Even in me befuddled state, I recognize the hoarfrost in that thin voice. Doc the Croc. Knowing it to be good for me, no matter the foulness of the flavor, I push meself up on one elbow, take the proffered bottle, and gulp the goop down as fast as I can.
Once the vessel is empty, Croc takes it from me hand, and replaces it with a bottle of warmly familiar shape. Rum. This time there be no hesitation as I put it to me lips and glug it down. It be a blessed relief as the nasty medicinal aftertaste be washed away in a few sweet draughts.
A few moments later, I be sitting up and sipping at me rum, eyes bright and clear. Every breath still makes me wince though. I ain’t even half healed yet.
Captain Grace “Deadeye” Cortez
But I can feel Croc’s brew working within, fixing me up real nice, so I takes me time and survey the carnage of our now quiet battlefield.
Landing Party: 24
Lamprey Cultists :0/39
The place absolutely reeks of blood, offal and excrement. That be the true smell of war. Nothing sweet about victory. Not when people, and lamprey-headed freaks, have a habit of emptying their bowels after death. Really? Couldn’t everyone have gone before the battle?
The Zealot Sanctuary XP pool is as follows:
Thirty-nine Level 4 Lamprey Cultists = 15600 XP
Clearing the Sanctuary = 2000 XP
Penalties for losing twelve party members = -1200 XP
Total to be divided between surviving party members = 16400XP
As Leader of the party, you receive a double share of XP rounded up to the closest 10.
Your personal XP reward total = 1320 XP
Progress to Pirate Captain Level 8 = 33540/40000
Not a lot of XP to be almost dying for, but then it’s me own daft fault for sticking me neck out to save Maggie, Rumguts and co.
For your Act of Heroism in when protecting your crewmates, your personal XP reward = 1000 XP.
Progress to Pirate Captain Level 8 = 34540/40000
Sometimes the otherwords send the heebies right up me. It’s like whatever writes them, be it Bathala, Jehova, Gaia or Neptune, be reading the very thoughts out of me head. Still, just as me mother taught me, I offer a quick prayer to Bathala, thanking him for the XP and me rather miraculous survival this time. Then I struggle to me feet and pick Inkman out from me resting and recovering pirates.
He looks up and flashes me a relieved grin. “Thought you were a goner for a bit there, captain. Was bracing meself to shoulder the burden of leadership.”
“Oh, you poor bugger. I’m touched that you was all cut up over the loss of an old and dear friend.”
His grin widens, crinkling his tattoos like the pattern on a lady’s fan when she closes it. “Nah, pulling your leg, Deadeye. I knew you’d make it. You’re like a nettle in a kumara patch.”
I see where this be going, but I play along with Inkman nonetheless. Me crew needs a bit of comic relief after what they just been through.
“What? I give people a rash when I touch them?” That gets me a smattering of chuckles, but we ain’t done yet.
“Nay, captain,” continues Inkman, deadpan, “no matter how many times you get trampled or torn out, you just seem to keep bloody growing back.”
The punchline gets a right old laugh from me assembled crew. This ain’t exactly a Shakespearean comedy, but then me crew ain’t the most refined lot. They’re happy to find humor wherever they can find it.
Your landing party’s morale had dropped to 65% due to the heavy losses sustained in this battle. It has now risen to 75% due to your survival and subsequent normalization of the conflict’s aftermath through humorous banter.
I be glad no-one else can read me otherwords. Nothing like an explanation to ruin a perfectly good joke.
A loud scrape of metal on stone brings me attention to Black and White Russian. The sisters be dragging a hefty metal chest out of an alcove. The fair-haired twin kneels by the lock and has it picked and open before I can say “Pilfering in Saint Petersburg”. The lid swings wide on well-oiled hinges and the sisters’ faces light up at what they see inside.
“Captain? This you should see,” says Black Russian with her customary abruptness.
I’m already on me way, stepping carefully over the bodies of cultists and pirates alike. When I gets there, I peers into the chest, and I too feel a smile tug at the corners of me mouth.
“I think we’ve just found this creepy church’s collection box,” I announce to me crewmates.
Each of the survivors takes a gander while I do a quick tally up. At me best guess, there be close to 50,000 crowns in this here chest. Quite the wee haul indeed! When Sandwich sees it, he nods, a knowing smirk on his face. I decide to have him up about it.
“Oi, Lord Smugness. You knew this would be here?”
“Yes, captain. I have read that many Atlanteans would make offerings to the Bloodwyrm in return for blessings of health and vitality.”
“What sort of ‘blessings’?”
He gestures at a dead cultist. “As we saw firsthand, these creatures were able to metabolize blood and harness that energy for rapid and extensive healing. Although my readings didn’t stipulate this exactly, I would infer that the blood of a cultist retains much of that potency.”
“One step ahead of you there, Sandwich,” says Doc the Croc from the other side of a pile of cultist corpses.
He’s got a syringeful of what looks to be blood in his hand, and he be kneeling over one of me sailors what has lost his leg below the knee. The rest of me landing party seem to be healing up nicely, thanks to Croc’s concoctions. Tis poor fella, a lanky Egyptian lad known fondly as “Camel”, be looking at a pegleg for his troubles here.
“Be that lamprey blood you’re about to squeeze into Camel’s veins?”
“Aye, captain. I’ve diluted the solution with alcohol in order to destroy any bloodborne pathogens.”
“I mean, I seen one of them cultists start growing its arm back after sucking most of me own juice out of me neck, but… You certain you’re alright with this, Camel?”
The lad’s big, dark eyes a wide and glistening with fear, but he nods his head nonetheless. Doc looks at me and I shiver at the cold excitement I see in them gleaming orbs. You’d not think Croc and Camel were even of the same species.
“Do I have your permission to proceed, captain?”
I motion for three of the closest pirates to hold the sorry blighter down while Croc completes his experiment. They pinion his remaining limbs while Croc injects his solution into the boy’s thigh, above where his leg has been sliced away. No Bloodforged Dagger could’ve done that, but then I spot one of our boarding axes still clutched in a lamprey’s dead hand. That would explain it.
Me further musings be shattered by a scream, and by Neptune’s weedy balls, what a scream it be!
- Edwin McRae
Edwin is a Gamelit / LitRPG author, a genre that beautifully combines his twin passions of video games and science-fiction. He and writer/editor Rachel Rees are "Fiction Engine", an Indie writing team who have just released their second LitRPG novel, Executioner: Reign of Blood, now available on Amazon.
Edwin has been a screenwriter and narrative designer for over 13 years now. After four years of writing for television, he switched over to narrative design for video games in 2010. He has since worked on the stories for many Indie video games, including RPG titles like Path of Exile, Ashen, Rune and Bloodgate.
The next book he's working on is...
"Skulls of Atlantis: A LitRPG Pirate Adventure"