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“Full stop! Full stop!” Even as I and the other three oarsmen dragged our oars against our own momentum the speaker at the head of the boat shouted “Pans!”

Paul – the cabin boy sitting in the middle of the boat – began banging on the pan between his legs like his life depended on it. The oarsmen gave the deck a few good stomps as well for good measure. Men began to breathe again as the monstrous fin rising off their starboard beam turned away from the racket. As it turned broadside the harpooner at the head – Fink – took the shot he’d been waiting for. He was level 11, an experienced seaman, but with his 17 levels in spears he was the best harpooner on the crew of the Essential.

I only had one level in spears – the results of playing around when we had the time. Fink had explained the benefits he’d accrued though, and I wasn’t disappointed as I saw the harpoon surge forward like it had been launched from a ballista, the water offering minimal resistance to it.  

“24K, bleeding at 60 a minute!” Fink yelled as the cabin boy Paul handed him another harpoon.

“24K,” came the response from the second and third boats. That was their procedure for communicating the health the beast had left and any significant effects. Most people could analyze the basic information on something, but water visibility messed with the best analysts.

“Slow forward,” Fink instructed, his eyes on the barrel being tugged along behind the Hammernose whale.

“Slow forward,” I repeated as us oarsmen leaned into our task again. I turned my head about to watch the barrel as well. It wasn’t doing anything to keep the whale up or hamper its movements one bit – the whale didn’t even have a minor debuff from the thing. Its sole purpose was to help us keep tabs on the vicious beast. Most whales we’d have stuck with a harpoon that had a line running to the Essential and rode along as it dragged us about, letting the line play out when it dove. Not a Hammernose. Tying yourself to one of these was a death sentence. It would have your boat smashed to kindling in a minute.

The name was a bit disingenuous, as it had the lower jaw of an alligator. Its signature move of upsetting boats or ramming holes in them made sailors realize its large blunt nose was the more dangerous of its weapons. Somehow humans had discovered that the Hammernose avoided noise, and that discovery had turned them from the devil of the sea to a game animal, prey for wealth or XP like any other whale. It resembled a sperm whale – or at least a cross between a sperm whale and a shark. Personally, I wasn’t sold on the idea it wasn’t a breed of shark.

We had three different 6-man rafts in a loose cordon around the beast. Our main ship - the whaler Essential – kept a safe distance back. Against a Hammernose it would take crippling damage. Not that our rafts could stand up to it, we were just mobile enough to dodge around and whenever it homed in on one raft, we’d drive it off and bounce it to the other boats.

The noise we kept them at bay with wouldn’t be so effective when they got to their last bit of health. But while the thing was at 75%, we could (theoretically) breathe easy.

“23K, bleed at 75 a minute!” came the call from boat three. That was good, between boat three’s hit and the stacking bleed effect it was down to 23 out of 30 thousand health.

It’d be nice if these things could be one-and-done, but there wasn’t a weapon in existence that could one-shot something with thirty thousand health (if it had existed, it sure wouldn’t be used out here!) The day dragged on, and us oarsmen dragged our oars. The weather was good for our hunt: calm seas and overcast skies that blocked the sun from being too merciless with us.

We got respite after every dodge as the Hammernose turned to the other boats, but since we were pinballing the whale between us, we couldn’t just say “time out”. It was a great way to up a person’s stamina and strength stats. As an incorrigible itinerant worker, I didn’t always join the whaling boats when they headed out to sea. My stats weren’t as impressive as the guys that did this every season. I was a far sight better than the landlubbers the captain had taken on, though, and had to keep getting Hawkins back into the rhythm. After a season at sea, we didn’t truly have any landlubbers anymore. They had all gotten their basic skills under their belt. Of course, what kind of ships crew would we be if we didn’t rag on them about being the new guys?

I wasn’t part of the normal crew for the Essential, but I’d sailed with them before. I knew the guys and the captain well. I was one of the best able-bodied seamen on board, so I oversaw the rowers on Fink’s boat. Fink was the first mate on the Essential and the harpooner called the shots anyway, so it wasn’t like I was in charge of anything. Still, I was the one responsible for keeping the other oarsmen in rhythm and getting Fink the shot he wanted.

We would have one boat drop out in turn to restock on harpoons. If one of the oarsmen was flagging, they could swap out with a crewman who’d stayed aboard the Essential, but we didn’t have enough skilled crew to give everyone a rest. Those moments where we restocked were the moments we scarfed down food and water before jamming some jerky into our cheeks to suck on until the next opportunity to eat came. I decided to forgo the jerky since I was repeating calls, and clear communication was more important than something to suck on.

The day passed in a kind of muscle straining monotony underscored by moments of fear when you wondered if the whale wasn’t going to turn this time. If this was the moment you were about to be smashed … we went almost the whole hunt without losing a boat.

It was four in the afternoon and had been seven hours since first blood when the call came out “Rage! 4K!”  

“Atlas!” Fink barked to Paul before echoing “Rage, 4K!”

The animal wasn’t in its death throes yet, but it knew it was going to die. Even if it escaped us now other creatures would descend on it before the night was through. Its rage effect let it ignore the noise technique that kept us safe. The next boat it targeted had a nice chance of becoming splinters.

And it turned towards us.

“Hold,” Fink said as the cabin boy handed him an Atlas harpoon. The Atlases were named after the frigid Atlas Ocean and were enchanted to deal freeze damage and inflict harsh debuffs. Most whaling boats would be equipped with two if the captain wanted his crew to believe he valued their lives. The Essential was equipped with five; Fink had two at his disposal in just this boat. Captain Coe ran a profitable business, and the Essential’s equipment reflected that.

As soon as he had the Atlas ready Fink barked out “Starboard turn! Full speed!”

“Starboard at full!” I echoed, then began singing a shanty:

“Keep it coming, hard and fast,

No respect if you can’t last …”

The other three oarsmen kept pace with me. I glanced at Hawkins and saw he had a terror debuff being downgraded to a fear. Debuffs like that reflected a person’s mental state and their ability to think. At terror he was operating on muscle memory alone, but as he pulled with the rhythm of my shanty, he pulled himself down to fear. Good man. We were all scared, a little indicator like that was nothing unexpected. He was keeping up and should have the stamina to keep going.

We needed to close with the Hammernose. If we let it come at us on its own, it would swim beneath us then shoot up to knock us out of the water. If we were skimming the water towards it, it would climb to just below the surface and rush us. Fink needed it at the surface, so we rushed straight towards the enraged whale. I’d seen grown men piss themselves at this stage.

“Johnny boy will take your place,

If you stop at second base …”

And then Fink launched the Atlas. Immediately he called “Stern all! Stern all!”

“Stern all!” I repeated, digging my oar in. The other three did the same. I left off the raunchy song and started calling out the motions “heave, up, heave, up …” It was a shame I hadn’t made it to the next verse.

Even as we stalled our momentum the Atlas slipped through the surface, gathering a slight coating of ice. A moment later the tip penetrated the Hammernose’s head, just behind the mass that gave it its name. An Atlas shot like that gave a whole new meaning to the term brain-freeze. The beast went into a steep dive and its tail came out of the water as it somersaulted. The splash of it sent a wave of water over us.

“Full stop!” Fink cried – likely for the last time. I echoed him and we dug our oars in as the final madness ensued.

Boats two and three had also been hard charging to cover the distance. Now their harpooners sent Atlas’s into the whale, applying stacking debuffs that restricted movement and caused damage-over-time. The whale was still shaking off the stun effect Fink’s masterful throw had caused while all five of the Essential’s Atlas harpoons buried their points under its skin. It was a race to knock off the last four thousand HP the beast had before it could kill anyone.

We almost made it unscathed too. The boats were stationary around the beast while the harpooners threw their weapons as fast as they could. Since we had been up next to restock, Fink had the fewest harpoons to work with and took an extra moment to make his aim count. I watched the struggle with adrenaline pumping and a close eye on the debuffs and HP – the whale’s stamina was low, but rage kept it from falling below 10%. It had just dipped below a thousand HP when it twisted and rolled. Then next thing I knew, the tail appeared below us and batted us into the air like a flyswatter.

I remember feeling panic over dropping my oar – I wasn’t a petty officer on the Essential, but I was one of the most respected seamen. What would the boys say about me dropping my oar in the water?

Then I realized I was in the air and falling. I don’t know from how high, it’s kinda hard to gauge that thing in the moment. I just knew that the frothing, bloody ocean was coming closer a lot faster than I wanted it to. At the last moment, effects from some of the skills I’d acquired kicked in and I turned my flailing belly-flop into something resembling a dive.

I was immediately aware of the thrashing in the water around me. I was trying to move away from it when something caught me in the stomach. It drove the air from my body in a spew of bubbles, making the 2:00 of air I had before I started drowning drop to 0:00. Then I was pulled from the water, pushed by whatever had sucker-punched me. Before I could take a breath, I was dragged under again. The impact with the water hurt a lot more than falling from the sky had. The first impact had knocked nearly a quarter of my health off. The second impact had knocked even more off – in addition to hurting like bloody stars! With those and other injuries I’d have to remember later, I was sitting at 1/3 of my health. That was terrifying enough, add to that a steady drain on my HP from the drowning effect and I was about to shake hands with Davy Jones.

It was one of the Atlas harpoons that had caught me in the middle. As the whale rolled it had lifted me out of the water and down again on the other side. Now I was clinging to it with the same desperation a man clings to an opponent’s knife in a barroom brawl. You bet I didn’t let go of that harpoon – no matter that I couldn’t breathe. I let go and I wouldn’t make it two strokes before I was hit by another harpoon, the tail, the nose, or have a bite taken out of me.

I was able to take a breath when the whale next brought me above the surface, removing the drowning effect. I had time to see the eyes of boat two’s harpooner, Po, go even wider before I was again immersed in the bloody, frothing miasma the Hammernose was churning. The roll didn’t smash me into the water so hard this time, which was a blessing to my low health. After the water I’d ingested, I was sitting below 20%. I hadn’t been that low in a long time!

I had the crazy idea of finishing off the beast by driving the Atlas further into it. I tried, wrenching on the harpoon and trying to push it in but I had no leverage. I’d probably done more damage to it by hanging on to the spear as it rolled about.

An abrupt writhing motion by the whale suddenly changed the direction of the spear and it smacked me a second time. This time I wasn’t wrapped bodily around it, and I found myself launched out of the water and through the air again. I saw the flotsam of my boat below me and had time to think ‘I am so dead’ before the sea claimed me again.

It didn’t claim my soul. Not yet, though my health was a measly fraction of my whole. I was farther from the whale this time. I blew bubbles and tracked as they floated towards the surface. I reoriented myself and started to swim up when something caught my eye. As I was moving up, something off to my right was moving down. It was a person. My air was sitting at 0:32, but I diverted anyway. The shadows of sharks waiting for the fight to end were visible as I wrapped an arm around the drowning man’s chest and crawled to the surface. I took 3% more drowning damage before I broke surface. Fishguts! I needed to get somewhere safe!

I sculled along on my back, propping whomever I had along above the surface. I realized it was Hawkins. He was concussed, and still had an active drowning debuff.

I swore as I shifted him in my arms. He wasn’t dead yet, but he was going to be fast. I wrapped both arms around his middle and then squeezed like I was trying to push his lungs up his throat. Water poured from his mouth even as I slipped beneath the surface and had to remember to keep afloat. I kicked with my legs and heaved again with my arms. It was very awkward, and I didn’t know how effective it was, but I wasn’t on land and didn’t know any other technique. The third motion had less water come from his mouth. On the fourth, he jerked, coughed up another mouthful, gasped a breath, then vomited into the air.

What ensued … well, I could have handled it better.   In my defense, I was sitting at 5% health and wasn’t used to having vomit fall on my face. I pushed Hawkins away as I wiped and splashed at my face. Hawkins, having revived in the same situation that had just led to him drowning, panicked. I was the only thing at hand, so he naturally tried to climb all over me to stay above the surface.

“Hey …” I started to say before I was eating bubbles again. I twisted and pulled away from him – I had a swimming skill at level 14 and movement buffs that let me slip around him easily enough. “Hey! Take it easy! Calm down!” I commanded when I surfaced again. Sadly, I didn’t have any skills or buffs that would make a panicked man listen to me. In a moment he was clawing his way towards me – not paddling, clawing – and I wasn’t going to let him put us both at risk any longer. I was at 5% health. He wasn’t much better at 19%. He had enough of a buffer that I didn’t feel guilty about what I did.

When he got close enough, I popped my fist into his nose. I broke it and one of my knuckles – ouch, 4% - and inflicted a stunned effect on him. I grabbed him and began towing him behind me. “You stay docile, and you’ll be fine. Don’t screw us both over. You’re breathing, you’re alive, you’re not drowning …”

I kept muttering to him between strokes. I finally saw a safe haven – the whale was dead, and boat two was heading for us. I propped Hawkins up into their reaching hands and they drug him aboard. I grabbed the gunwale and pulled myself far enough out of the water to see they’d already picked up Fink and another oarsman before I got dizzy and blacked out. The water’s suspension welcomed my body one last time.

 

I jerked awake with a burn in my nostrils. Captain Coe pulled back the smelling salts.

“There’s a good man! Breathe easy there, Domenic. Breathe easy!” I laid back on the deck and listened to the ringing in my ears and my thundering heart. The ringing went away quickly, but it would be a long time before my heart settled down. My body felt like I’d been pummeled by a whale. Accurate.

“Aye, Cap’n.” I croaked. I glanced at my health bar – I’d recovered to 13%. Scary that a number that low was on my way up! “Cap’n, could I request an advance on my salary? Say … a health potion?”

Captain Coe chuckled. “For what you did, it’s on me.” He pulled out a pinkish red bottle from his medical kit. It was a diluted potion but had been of moderate strength. It would bring me over 30% in the next few minutes.

“Thank you Cap,” I said as I downed the fruity-flavored liquid.

“Move out of the way when you can, but you’re not to start work until you pass 70%, understood?”

“Yes Cap’n.”

“Good. Hop in with whatever shift is on then. And congratulations.” The captain left me to go supervise the next operation – stripping off the resources from their kill.

With the time it would take me to recover to 70% naturally, the captain was essentially giving me the day off. It wasn’t pure kindness. You could get hurt processing whales and there’d be dozens of sharks around if you fell into the water. A captain that worked his crew at low health risked their lives and would get a reputation. It was still a kindness, if a practical one. A lot of work needed to be done in the next two days – assuming we finished in the usual timeframe.

Captain Coe already had a reputation. He owned the Essential outright, as well as a smaller whaler he had a partner captaining. He worked his crews hard, but there wasn’t a captain who did otherwise in the whaling business. He treated his crews fairly. He’d reward those who worked hard with greater rewards and would kill anyone trying to mutiny. I heard he’d done that once, when he was getting started. Now his leadership skill was so high he could quell surly men with a glare and had his pick of a crew before he ever left port.

I moved to the fresh-water bucket before I became a nuisance laying on the deck, and there discovered and quenched a hidden dehydrated debuff. Having a hidden debuff prompted me to pay attention to myself, and all the messages I’d ignored throughout the day. There was nothing else I could help my body with – sleep being something I’d take advantage of soon and a bath being out of my reach. We would all need a bath anyway after the debuffs the whale’s stench and viscera would unleash on us in revenge.

My personal growth surprised me.

Congratulations! You have advanced to Lifesaver III.

+15% movement speed in water, +45 seconds breath underwater

Was Hawkins my tenth rescue? The bonus with the first Lifesaver was neat, but 5% movement speed underwater was nothing to write home about, and 15 seconds extra breath was nice whenever you were down to the wire, but you could get way more than that with practice. After I’d advanced to Lifesaver II and seen that the next step came after saving ten souls, I’d assumed I wouldn’t get it for years – if ever. Well, it had been three years ago, but still! Here I was at 23 years old with a Lifesaver achievement outstripping old salts who’d been at sea their whole lives! Not that all sailors could even swim. That still seemed like a paradox to me.

Between my swimming skill and the bonus to movement speed, I’d been able to handle Hawkins easily enough. Now I’d be able to handle the next victims even easier, but the next achievement didn’t come until 25 souls. Calling rescues “easy” was also a dangerous game. The sea didn’t like people disrespecting her. I’d once met a lifesaver by the name of Joshua with over 500 rescues to his name. I hadn’t believed it at first, not until I’d met him. He was a steely-eyed man with a beard that put sea-captains to shame. He lived by one of the most dangerous passes in the world for the purpose of saving the fools who risked it at the wrong times. I’d just been a boy then and had asked why he didn’t make a name for himself with his achievements. He’d just glared like that had been the stupidest question I could have asked. In hindsight, it was.

Congratulations! Level up! You have reached level 8.

I hadn’t expected to level up this voyage! I’d thought it wishful thinking it would happen on my next! A quick inspection showed why:

4,287 XP gained for slaying Hammernose Whale

1,300 XP gained for completing quest: Whale Hunt

XP was gained by any who inflicted damage on a creature – though it wasn’t an exact equivalent to the amount of damage you inflicted; you got more XP for causing more damage. Various factors like level difference also played a role. I hadn’t really done any notable damage to it, but apparently hanging on to one of the harpoons that was killing it did something. Add to that the level difference – the whale had been a level 27 – and I had gotten thousands more XP than anticipated. Enough that I could hope for level 9 on my next voyage!

Because the harpooners were the ones to inflict damage and not the rest of the crew, the captain generated a quest that participation counted for. Captain Coe’s well-developed Leadership skill also meant that he could give high XP rewards for something like a Hammernose. If things were quiet enough, everyone would get the chance to inflict some damage on the prey. The cabin boy Paul had earned level 4 that way, and he didn’t even have hair on his chest.

I’d also made gains in my strength and stamina, as expected, and made significant progress in my Swimming ability. Apparently hanging onto a harpooned whale for dear life improved that sort of thing. I had also improved my Rowing ability. The buffs to rowing speed and stamina were nice, but only applied when rowing. Rowing was nobody’s favorite chore. Give me a day of hauling line and swabbing decks any time. Surprisingly, I’d also advanced to First Aid II. So, my technique with Hawkins in the water counted. The difficulty of the procedure in the water is probably what made such a simple technique advance me.

Looking over my damage log made me wince. It had scarcely been a minute from the time the whale upset our boat to rescuing Hawkins, but the whale had put me through the wringer. Of course, my paltry 230 health hadn’t been able to take much, not compared to such a creature. It hadn’t even been trying, I was just absorbing secondary damage! One minute from feeling good to hanging onto life. It was better than being one-shotted. If the whale’s tail had come down instead of up, we would have been flattened.

I winced harder when I realized that my punch that broke Hawkins’ nose counted as a critical hit for my Dirty Fighting. He’d dropped to 13% because of that. If I’d passed out in the water just a little earlier, it’d only take a baby shark a single bite to finish us off. My busted finger would have to be penance for that. I found some string and hard scraps to make a splint, binding my ring and middle fingers together. First Aid II was already coming in handy.

I took advantage of the Captain’s orders and made myself scarce – climbing into my rack in the forward hold. It was a small space. I had barely an inch of space between my toes and head and if I rolled on my side my shoulder brushed the rack above mine (that was partly my fault – my shoulders were broad.) I could only think of how safe the tight quarters felt. I was out seconds after I laid my head back.

 

I woke in the early morning as people were changing shifts, having slept all evening and night. I pretended that I didn’t see Po change his skivvies in front of my rack. Why change skivvies though? He was just going to have to crawl around a dead whale later. In keeping with my feigned unconsciousness, I didn’t joke with him about it.

My health was at a comfortable 54%. Again, it was weird that having half my health could be considered positive, but that’s the kind of day I’d had. A bit of introspection revealed the hidden debuff I’d expected: Hungry. My regen rates were lowered. If I’d thought to eat before I slept, I probably could have been close to 70%. Oh well, I didn’t receive any of the stink-eyes or glowers I expected when I made my way above decks. In fact, they were excited to see me.

“Domenic!” Po shouted, then made his way to me after he placed a “leaf” of blubber where it should go. “Dom, that was amazing!”

“What?” I asked, still trying not to remember what I’d seen when I’d woken up.

“The whale launched your boat into the air. You dove under the surface as smooth as if you’d jump from the ship – Harmon saw that – then you come out of the water clinging to that Atlas like you were going to repay it for every blow – I saw that! And after its death throes threw you, you saved Hawkins from drowning! We all saw that! Bloody stars, man. You’re a hero!”

“That mean you’ll take my spot on the job?” I joked, not knowing what to do with the awe in his voice.

Po laughed, a sound I was thankful to hear. “We’ve already been picking up your slack. You get some more HP’s back and we’ll throw you into the blubber with the rest of us.”

“Bah, I knew there’s a reason I never became a hero. Speaking of which, who pulled me up when I passed out?”

Po nodded to another man hauling blubber to the tryworks. “Marsh did.”

“Thanks Po.” I made my way over to Marsh and caught his eye. After he unburdened himself, I stuck out my hand to shake his – greasy and all.

“Thanks Marshal. I hear you’re the man who pulled me out.”

“No more than what you were trying to do.” Marsh replied, though I could tell he took pride in what he’d done and appreciated my thanks. “Just reached over the side and grabbed ya’. You looked like that thing had chewed you up and spit you out. How’s the, uh …” he motioned across his own face.

“What?” I asked, feeling my face. I was tender and bruised, but so was the rest of me.

“Well, let’s just say that color suits you.” He chuckled and turned to.

I snorted and winced. I didn’t have a mirror, but I could believe my face was just as colorful as my other bruises. My HP’s might regenerate, but that last 10% or so would come slow if I was healing naturally. Even then I’d be hurting.

The cook was the only non-human on the ship. He wasn’t an aquatic race, but an avian one. Humanoid avian, don’t get me wrong, we didn’t have a bird ladling up our food. But he had a bony crest instead of hair that swept back and hung behind his head. He didn’t have any sort of beak either, but a slightly projected mouth and jaw. He had small feathers growing on him the same way humans had body hair. All in all, there wasn’t anything particularly unusual or unsettling about him. Except maybe his eyes. His eyes didn’t move in their sockets much, so he moved his whole head more. When you pay attention, humans move their head around a lot too. It’s just they don’t … you know, swivel and zero in on you. Get the Cook’s attention, and you have his attention. He is looking at you. Not in an unnatural way or like something mechanical just … not human. Between human and avian.

I’d heard the cook’s name, but he went by ‘cook’ and that’s what he’d been to me since we left harbor. He took a lot of pride in the position, and he was good at it. He got along with everyone on the crew just fine. The scallywags who might make trouble for non-humans back in port knew dusted thinking like that around Captain Coe was liable to get them keel-hauled, so they buttoned it up whenever they wanted to sign on with him.

Cook was a friendly guy who got along with everybody but who was vaguely unsettling in a way I just wanted to get over. I felt really bad about not remembering his name.

I asked him for permission before grabbing anything from his larder that would up my regen rate. He directed me to where he had sacks of various dried fruits. I pillaged with discretion, upping my regen rate was a legitimate boon to the ship and the crew, so I didn’t hesitate to try each and find what boosted me the most. Being the only one eating right now still made me feel like I was stealing, so I didn’t go overboard.

Before long I’d be going overboard literally.

 

I didn’t join the rotation until my HPs were at exactly 70%. Being gung-ho was admirable, but if the captain spotted me with less than he’d demanded, I didn’t want to explain why I thought my judgement was better than his. When I did join the six-hour shift, they didn’t send me over the side to cut and peel like I’d expected. They were getting to the better alchemical resources below the fat that made up most our spoils, and I didn’t have any knack for identifying or harvesting that stuff. Nor did they need any help cutting up what we had on deck before it went into the pot, as there was already a stack waiting.

Instead, I helped the cooper with barrels. First with putting them together, then with rolling them below filled with rendered oil. I’d say it was “rinse and repeat” but we didn’t get much chance to rinse off and not much point if we did. It was warm enough that we had Paul stow all the bedding before we fouled it beyond recovery. Beds that were a bit less comfortable now would be worth it later.

Guys shared their stats and perspectives of the hunt. After a few hours of working I knew who’d leveled and what skills people had developed. After a day I’d heard every possible rendition of my own story: from Po’s version that made me out to a greater and greater hero, to those who took it upon themselves to keep me humble and told me I’d looked like a squawking chicken getting pinballed about. If I was honest, the latter stories were more accurate.

It took us just over two days to finish. We’d started three men down: me, Hawkins, and Joel – the boat header on our demised craft. Hawkins was out cold for nearly a whole day while his concussion wore off. Joel had a broken leg that made him near useless in the heavy labor.

All told, we got the beast harvested quickly enough and all the unique resources that made the Hammernose worth the trouble stowed away, though the sharks got their share of the plunder. Fink had killed a few just to give the other predators something else to eat but trying to kill all of them was a futile effort. And dangerous. Too much carrion in the sea was a bad idea. Two and a half days was our Captain’s cutoff. If we didn’t have everything harvested by then, we’d cut loose and leave the rest. Maybe it’d be another Hammernose that came calling. Maybe it’d be one of the ocean’s larger denizens. Most would snap the food away from us and ignore us, so long as we weren’t stupid enough to fight it. Others – like the krakens – would go for our ship first and only then sort through their plunder.

Having made the cutoff, stored the barrels and the bones, we celebrated – or at least, we were happy. We got underway again and away from the scene of the slaughter and commenced scrubbing the whole ship down. It wasn’t as tough as the first half of the operation, so it was an improvement. On the way, we kept a lookout for squalls. We saw one when we were nearly finished with the ship’s cleaning, so it became time for our cleaning.

Everyone on board had their knacks. I thought my most notable one was my Lifesaving, but the captain seemed to value my perk Adaptable more than anything. He knew all our skills and knacks and used us efficiently. That’s why morale could be so great after near-deadly encounters and months at sea.

For example, Joel had a knack for crafting and was able to rig spare sailcloth to catch as much rainwater as possible and run it into buckets. Marshal had a knack – of all things – for soapmaking and had brought a small store with him on the captain’s request. So, I not only got to enjoy the cleansing rain but got a turn with water that had been heated and good-smelling soap that didn’t even dry your skin out. It didn’t matter that we were only ten days out from our port – we didn’t have to wait to be clean, and I’ve no doubt our morale boost showed on the captain’s ship interface.

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A note from captaink-19

Minor edits have been made to this chapter - thanks to all the people that helped identify errors!  

Thanks to Lorcogoth who made this map out of my desktop paint notes!  Another collaborative effort is being made to make it look more colorful, but I couldn't wait to share.  

BTW, you should look up Joshua James (lifesaver) for a cool story!  Domenic references a character based upon the guy, and I think he's cool enough to deserve a fictionalized cameo.


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