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A note from captaink-19

I'M BACK!

Now, rep points to anyone from the south who can explain to me Louisiana's fascination with bayou's ...

‘What could possibly go wrong’ Gerald had said. Climbing up to the main deck, every glance sent my way was a reminder of what could go wrong. Thankfully either their fear of me or their desire to be home without any further incident had pushed them to go along with Billing’s promise not to fight.

Not because I was particularly worried about losing. The best fighters on this ship were already dead. No, I didn’t want to risk any more faces in my nightmares than were already there.

The first mate – now Captain – had removed my father’s body from the quarterdeck, wrapping it and placing it in storage below. I walked into the broken remains of my father’s cabin, a dozen sets of eyes following my entry but no one daring to get in my way.

This was the room where my father and had had spent most of our time together. Fitting, I suppose, that it should be broken too. Still, seeing it in the light of the destructive explosion my father had caused was saddening – even if my father had hated this assignment he’d still carried mementos of his career with him here. They were no broken or scattered.

I suppose I would never know what my father had been thinking when he’d thrown that alchemical bomb – I assumed that’s what it was, anyway – did he have a means of protection from it that hadn’t worked as intended, leaving him more damaged than he’d been prepared for? Had he simply thought he could tank the damage, and Dom couldn’t? Had he meant not to survive the blast at all?

That was a sad consideration indeed: that a father would try a murder/suicide on his own son.

Toeing through the broken kindling and nudging the shattered glass aside, I glanced at the remains of my father’s liquor supply. There hadn’t seemed like much was left, but it had certainly made a pungent mess. Looking in the corner of his cabinet, some books I’d seen before caught my eye. I pulled them down and brushed the glass off before reading the covers.

One was a manual on naval tradition. It had the look of a very old, favorite copy. Another was a codified list of regulations and punishments for infractions. I was sure my father knew this one well, however little use it had seen over our voyage.

Two others were skill books: The Principles of Sound as Applied to Air Magic and Unlocking and Refining Efficient Communication Spells. My father’s specialization …

Steps approaching from outside the cabin had me dropping my ruminations on father’s learning even as I dropped the books into my adventurer’s bag, making them disappear. I claimed them as my inheritance.

“Mr. Seaborn,” Billings – Captain Billings – said from the doorway. “Is there something I can do for you?”

As first mate the man had ignored everything he possibly could, and now he chose to butt in? “I was just looking through my father’s effects. No need to trouble yourself.”

“I’m afraid these effects are under my custody until they can be claimed by the late Captain’s house or remanded to the navy.” Billings said, showing the most spine I’d ever seen out of him. “I’ll ask that you leave them be.”

I could push the issue, but I hadn’t really come for any loot. Even the books I’d taken hadn’t been something I’d expected, though now that I had them I wasn’t going to give them up.

“Very well, Captain. I suppose I should mention that I have taken both the Tarish cook and the orc prisoner under my protection.”

“The prisoner is the property of the royal court …”

“Billings,” I said, moving closer to the man. To his credit he didn’t flinch. “His majesty declared war on me after I’d saved his daughter. I’ve since sunken a dozen of his ships, and the only reason the Isa hasn’t been added to that count is because of my mercy. Now, you can tell his majesty in person that I’m the one who took his former prisoner. See what a difference it makes.” Billings looked away. For some reason I had the urge to lighten his burden and attempted a jest. “If you’d like, you can say I told you to pass along all kinds of nasty things. It could be your one chance in your life to cuss out a king!”

By the look he gave me, my attempt at humor hadn’t worked on him. Ah well, I for one wouldn’t pass up the chance to have a few choice words with the man in charge.

Before I exited, Billings asked a question I couldn’t quite hear.

“What was that?”

“I said, was he really your father?”

My face tightened, my unbalanced features turning into something truly unpleasant before I forcibly relaxed. “He disowned me. I don’t expect this to be believed, but I forgave him for everything before the end. The end was at his insistence, not mine.”

I didn’t know if he just didn’t believe me or if my Patricide title was at play, but I didn’t like the look in Billings’ eye when I turned away. I resolved not to underestimate him the way I had Lockwood.

It would be a tricky thing, getting near enough to Antarus to get a ship I needed without letting the Isa sail straight to the nearest port and spreading the alert about me. I didn’t intend to just let the ship do that, but if I left them to their own devices I had to assume they’d be clever enough to get the word out faster than I wanted them to. I could renege on our agreement, but my reasons for not killing everyone still stood, and I would feel even worse about doing it after having made a bargain with them.

The moons were high, and close to touching each other in the night sky. Uropa would start eclipsing Callis soon. As I often did when things were on my mind, I pondered the heavenly bodies while musing over my own thoughts.

Callis and Uropa – each pushing and pulling the tides their own way. Like my father and I. Like Jones and I.

Jones and I weren’t quite through. I had broken away from him, but I wasn’t entirely free. That would be something that would have to be rectified. First though, I had obligations and promises to keep.

The first being to Hali. She’d offered me hope when I was at my lowest, I couldn’t refuse helping her when she was the one in need.

My crew was still out there too. Apparently they were going undetected from any pursuit, but they were still cursed and tied to the Death’s Consort. I’d promised them freedom, once, and I intended to learn how to give it back to them. Even though they had all turned on me, I owed that to them.

Burdette … now for at least one of my mutinous crew freedom wouldn’t mean much. I intended to make that conniving, subversive eel pay for his role in the ship’s downfall.

“Mr. Seaborn?” said one of the crew from a respectful distance behind me. I turned to find Travis, the sailor with such a heavy accent. The man knuckled his brow. “Beggin’ yer pardon, sir. I was picked to talk with ya. See, a few things come up in awkward spaces like this; an’ we need to know iffin there’s any rules you have or spaces ya want set all off-limits like, see?”

“I understand, Travis. I will be moving with the orc to the forward artillery deck. I do not expect anyone to need to use the ballistae, and that should open up the other spaces to be used. I think it best that the crew doesn’t try to interact with the three of us, wouldn’t you say?”

“Yessir, that does sound like a good idea. We all kinda figured that; and as I was picked fer it, I’ll be the bloke acting as a middle-man for ya.”

“I’m sure that will do, pass along our arrangement to the Captain. Please note that he understands if anything of importance occurs, I will be going to him. You understand me?”

“Eh … yessir. I think I follow where yer towing. If you’ll, uh … excuse me …”

The man scampered off directly to Billing’s cabin, apparently to give his report immediately. I took one last look at the stars before going below and helping Jorgagu move the items he was enchanting to the artillery deck. The orc was taking advantage of his semi-free position to enchant things that he wanted to enchant, and as much as I wanted to ask him about it I instead fell asleep while Gerald stood watch.

 

We made it three days without trouble. For three days I kept a tab on what was happening in the ship through my domain, and if there were any sneaky things going on I couldn’t sense them that way.

What tipped my hat to trouble wasn’t any clandestine meetings or stealthily arming the crew, it was the lack of response to something new. Through my domain, I sensed the lookout in the crows nest from where I reclined in a nest near the prow on the artillery deck. The lookout was waving, and once he got the attention he was looking for began signaling.

They were avoiding making any shouts. They had spotted ships on the horizon, and rather than call out that information or running to me about the protection I’d promised them from the Madu, they were trying to keep it under wraps.

“Gerald,” I said, nudging the dozing Tarish. Jorgagu had deliberately worked while I slept and slept while I kept watch, but the Tarish it seemed had a previously undiscovered skill – the ability to lightly doze nearly around the clock when he had nothing better to do. (I’d forbidden him from working in the kitchen because it was too easy to be cornered, and he hadn’t objected – likely because of what had happened when he was last in there.)

“Hmm?” He asked, awake nearly instantly.

“Get him up,” I said, nodding my head to the orc. “Expect trouble.”

Gerald didn’t second guess me. I cast my movement buffs and checked the blades I still had concealed on me, but didn’t draw a weapon or make any other overt move. I took a deep breath and stolled onto the main deck.

Immediately, the man in the crow’s nest stopped his signaling and went back to scanning the horizon – quickly turning about so he was scanning the opposite horizon instead. Everyone on deck was on their toes and watching me, for all that they acted casual. Ignoring them, I strolled to the prow.

Far in the distance were sails. With my theory confirmed, I paid close attention to what the crew was doing. They were all looking at me, apart from the one who went to Billings’ cabin to pass the news.

Something was happening, and I knew about it.

This charade couldn’t last. I strolled to the hatch I’d come from and called for my companions to come up. They did, just as Billings appeared on deck.

On one hand I was glad the man was coming out himself. I wanted to hear from him what he had to say. On the other hand, I wished he’d remained the spineless man he’d been the first few weeks. We might have avoided trouble that way.

“Captain,” I said diplomatically. “Would you are to explain the situation?”

“We’ve spotted a ship on the horizon, Mr. Seaborn.”

I exploded with curses, none of which made the man even blink. “What have you done, Billings? I’m trying to turn over a new chapter and be merciful but you seem intent on reinforcing my life lesson that mercy only brings me trouble!”

“The late Captain Darius had secretly learned of your identity,” Billings said calmly. “He had reached out to the fleet days before you confronted him. You demanded we sail for Antarus … I simply said nothing when I discovered there were ships heading our way looking for you.”

I growled, but the man hadn’t broken the terms of our agreement – technically. “Captain, you will take the crew below decks and stay there until you are released.”

“Mr. Seaborn, now is the time I think …”

“GET BELOW, STORMS TAKE YOU!” I bellowed, making the man finally flinch. He hesitated, glancing at the ship on the horizon, before looking defiantly at me once more and ordering his men below. For their part, they didn’t hesitate more than a moment. They knew that even if I didn’t target them, a battle was brewing with the incoming ship and they wanted to be inside the skin of the ship. I oversaw their descent with my domain, and didn’t do more than grumble when I saw Billings order the ballistae loaded and turned towards the entrances. I guess I wasn’t the only one to have thought of that before.

All the crew scurried below except one. One remained hidden, and not through any stealth abilities either. I quickly marched towards the ruins of the Captain’s cabin where he’d ducked into and found Travis there. “Didn’t you hear me say get below?” I asked in a menacing voice.

“I want to go with you!” He replied, stopping my next ready intimidating phrase on my tongue and making my mouth fall open.

“Go with …” I started to argue, then threw up my hands. “I don’t have time for this!” Storming out of the cabin, I pulled a spyglass out of my bag even as I directed Gerald and Jorgagu to make sure all the hatches below were well secured so no one could surprise us from below.

My spyglass found not one but two ships on the horizon. They were distant to each other – apparently spread out in a wide net. You could see for miles on a flat ocean, and while that let me see the incoming ships long in advance, it also let them cast a wide net.

“What are we doing?” Gerald called, shifting a heavy crate to cover a hatch.

“Something I was going to wind up doing anyway,” I said. I went into my list of professional abilities and picked the one I knew I’d have to get sooner or later.

Summon crew

50,000

Spend mana to create a temporary magical construct to fill crew positions.

 

 

 

From the very beginning I’d avoided spending the XP on the ability because the constructs I could summon would be inferior to a skilled crew. When I had a ship to manage, however, without a single able-bodied seaman besides myself, at least I had my profession to make up the difference. 50,000 points wasn’t cheap, but between my quest rewards and those I’d killed aboard the Isa, Justice, Mockingjay, and those ships before … well, I could afford the second-cheapest professional ability on my list without fretting.

I purchased the ability and the knowledge to summon my crew came to me like my ability to raise ships had come to me.

I held out my hand and magic flared. Seawater poured from me like when I conjured freshwater, except this water filled into a humanoid shaped. It took only seconds for my creation to form, and soon I was looking at a watery reflection of myself. I couldn’t quite see through the construct, and its details were unrefined, but it did match my own build.

Weirdly, I extended my arm to shake its hand, and the construct did. It didn’t say anything – it couldn’t – but it somehow knew that I wanted to shake hands and did so. It’s grip was cold but didn’t leave my hand wet. I estimated its strength to be about 10 … why was I guesstimating that?

 

 

Summoned Construct

 

Level

1

Health

10

Mana

0

Stamina

N/A

 

 

Strength

10

Agility

10

Dexterity

10

Constitution

1

Endurance

N/A

Intelligence

N/A

Wisdom

N/A

Charisma

N/A

Luck

N/A

 

I’d never seen so many not applicable stats, and it seemed like a stiff breeze would knock their health down. It hadn’t seemed weak, though, and while its Intelligence and such being not applicable meant it had no capability for it, not having any stamina or Endurance spoke to not having a limit on those …

In essence, I’d summoned a creature with the strength and mobility of an average man, and which would work until it disappeared or took minor damage. How well they could function, however, was limited by my ability. If I could have them all function at my own level of seamanship, I would have gotten them rather than train a crew. There had never existed an entire crew with 19 levels in seamanship, and it would have been worth it.

However, my constructs were limited to a proficiency grade, putting them at around level 10 of seamanship. That was a solidly knowledgeable seaman, but I could train a crew to be better. I could also invest in the ability, but it would take a long time and a whole lot of XP to raise their proficiency by much – the next upgrade only dealt with the duration and health of the summons.

20 points of mana was the cost for a single construct, and they would work tirelessly for 8 hours – the length of their summons. I gave the construct in front of me an order, and it immediately complied, heading to the line I’d directed. Satisfied with its performance, I began summoning as many as I needed to man the ship.

Only after a dozen watery figures had appeared and rushed off did I realize Gerald and Jorgagu were both staring at me.

“What?”

Gerald closed his mouth and Jorgagu simply shook his head.

“Oh come on, you believe stories about ‘the terrible Domenic Seaborn’ destroying ships left and right but this surprises you?”

“I’ve never seen a construct like that before,” Gerald said.

“Weak,” Jorgagu interjected, demonstrating by taking a quick step towards one and swinging a pair of hard punches through it. The construct collapsed in a puddle.

“Jorgagu!” I snapped and lectured him in orcish. “These are the things that are sailing us. You just cost me mana, and I do not have extra. Do not warm me by wasting more.”

He glared at me, but eventually relented. “You meant ‘insult’ not ‘warm’.”

I replayed the words in my head and muttered an orcish curse under my breath. That made him smirk.

“So, you have a crew of water now.” Gerald said.

“I do, we’re going to avoid those ships.”

“What about getting back to Antarus and rescuing Hali?”

“I intend to, but I have no idea how many ships are converging on us and I don’t trust my abilities to take on whatever they throw at me. They know I’m here, remember.”

“But they were hoping to take you by surprise, right?”

“Presumably. Billings doesn’t understand that this is less of a trap than an inconvenience, but my father would have. He’d have prepared them with strategies to attack me if I wasn’t caught by surprise, though. He was thorough in that regard.”

Jorgagu grunted, and I didn’t know what he meant by it.

“So,” Gerald said. “We’re hoping to slip around them?”

“We can’t,” I said in frustration. “If I claimed the ship I could just go under them, but I’m not even sure they don’t have a counter for that. Instead, we’re changing course.”

“Bandarn,” Jorgagu said, tasting the word like it was a delicacy.

“Bandarn,” I confirmed. “I don’t think I can outrun them either, but I think I can get us to the coast of Bandarn. You two can go ashore, I can reevaluate, maybe give them some unpleasant surprises. We’ll see.”

“You’re sure?”

“I don’t have many choices. Sure I could fight the ships and try to take one over but even if I succeed what then? They just reorient on that ship. I’m in the same position, and like I said I don’t trust that I can take whatever they throw at me.”

“So we’re in,” Gerald said. “Bandarn it is, we’ll do whatever we need to afterwards. My father passed on a lot of stories of the place from my grandfather, I’m curious to see how accurate they were.”

“Your family been there?” Jorgagu asked in surprise.

“I told you, it was only a few decades back the Tarish and orcs were having a war of their own. What do you think my grandfather was doing during that?”

Jorgagu smiled. “And I thought you come from weak family! Is good to know you have potential beyond what you are.”

Gerald glared at him. “I wanted to be a cook, thank you very much. Insult my family or my profession and we’ll see how many debuffs you find yourself with after your next meal!”

I left them to squabble, not thinking they’d get too rough with it, and directed my crew of constructs to adjust the spars. We were changing course!

 

After 8 hours, my summons collapsed. I staggered out their summoning into shifts so they didn’t all turn into puddles at once, and so that re-summoning didn’t impact my mana pool so heavily. With my Wisdom I regenerated enough mana between shifts not to need any of my limited mana potions.

Billings had armed his men below and tested each of the hatches, but hadn’t forced anything. The ships had honed in on us and a third joined the first two, but we were still ahead of them even as they closed the gap.

We maintained that gap for two more days. Two days of taking watches between the three of us and summoning constructs to keep the ship moving.

Travis stayed up top, and while I didn’t trust him to take a shift with us, I didn’t send him below either. I had a long discussion with him and discovered the man came from a colony that was looked down upon and found himself at sea in the place of someone richer. He expected to be a basic deckhand until he died in some engagement or else was indentured after the war ended. He had never given any thought to fighting for a different side or escaping until I came along. Somehow he liked me despite my charisma issues, and rather than change his opinion when he found out who I was decided that Seaborn must not be such a bad fellow.

I didn’t immediately pull him into my crew, but with the story he’d given me I didn’t actually object to him joining with his eyes wide open. I told him to think about it some more, as well as consider whether he thought he’d be doing any better safety-wise by joining a man being hunted by half the nations on the ocean.

While I’d wanted to reach the coast, even run the ship aground somewhere, the Isa with my constructs was not fast enough to outpace the fully staffed ships behind us. We were in range of one ship, and the second was coming up while I cursed at the chart I was hovering over, myself and my companions. I was upset, they were scared.

“How long …” Gerald started.

“Too long,” I said. “We have just under 100 miles until we hit the coast, and it’s deep water the whole way. There’s no shoals or anything I can use. The terrain is the open ocean, and unfortunately good weather.”

“So how’d you escape situations like this before?”

“A magic ship. Even then it wasn’t always unscathed.”

Jorgagu growled and thumped his fist on the deck.

“Could you do what you did to the Justice? I mean, you single-handedly took on them …”

“I’m going to have to try! But they’re going to be ready for me and focused on me. Those are things that don’t exactly push the odds in my favor. All they need is a few professional warriors buffed up by a mage and I’m overwhelmed.”

“Ho, the Isa!” Cried an amplified voice from our pursuit. Lacking any similar spell, I grabbed the horn and used the power of my lungs to shout back.

“Ahoy there!”

“Cut speed and prepare to be boarded!”

“We cannot!”

“Let us speak with Captain Darius!”

“He cannot speak with you.”

“Let us speak with the officer in command!”

It seemed obvious to me that this ship was not under naval command, no matter that I’d left the flag flying. The constructs of water so obviously about the deck and rigging were not standard aboard the Isa, and Captain Darius had dropped out of communications with them days ago. When they sighted us we ran. I didn’t understand what they were hoping to accomplish, it was obvious I’d taken over. Still, I could be grateful they made the attempt rather than just opening fire.

“The crew of the Isa is below decks. They will remain there for ransom, and be ransomed peacefully, but only with one ship! Have the others drop back!” Maybe I could buy some more time, which equaled more distance. Worst case, I might convince them to put one of their ships out of position.

There was a pause while they considered what I’d said. In my domain, I saw one of those crewmen below stick their arms out the artillery holes and begin signaling. I marched to the side and shouted at him, and he ducked back in. Both ships were now in range.

“Are we speaking with Captain Seaborn?” Came the reply.

“You are,” I declared.

We did not get another reply from them, only a bombardment.

Ballista bolts flashed with professional skills enhancing them. Enchanted munitions rained down, and siege spells from mage teams reached out across the distance to slap us like a spurned lover.

I ducked next to Gerald and cast a water shield around the two of us. I wasn’t able to make it any larger, but Jorgagu stepped in front of us and held up an item in each hand. A pearlescent shield sprang up around us, and then another two layered above it. Explosive bolts landing about the deck proved only a minor wear, but direct hits sapped more energy. A beam of light struck the shield and was reflected, but the damage still ate through the first line of defense. An arrow of all things struck the next layer, and while just the arrowhead penetrated, the pearlescent color of the shield darkened and then flickered, the entire layer of the shield disappearing. A fireball nearly the size of a jib sail hit the last shield and exploded in liquid fire that adhered to everything it touched, including the shield.

The orc gave a shout of rage and defiance even as I sensed the fire eating through the last shield his enchantments could supply.

I dropped my own water shield and blasted upwards with air even as the last shield failed. My air push did not dissipate the unnatural flames, but they did push them away to land outside of the sphere of safety the orc had created for us.

I cursed as the heat from the burning ship washed over us, along with the screams of men below. “Can you do that again?” I shouted to Jorgagu.

“No!”

I cursed again. Looking up, I had some constructs still in the rigging, but all on deck had been destroyed. I set them to try and turn the ship to collide with our starboard pursuers. A glance showed that the pursuit wasn’t done, just reloading and reorienting. With only one significant patch of the main deck not in flames, I could expect the next bombardment to focus specifically on this spot.

“Bloody magical opening strikes,” I muttered as I summoned water whips to grab everyone and four more to grab one of the spars and jerk the combined weight of everyone through the air and over the side of the ship. We’d scarcely crossed over the gunwale when the next bombardment of strikes landed where we just were, the force and heat of them pushing us away even as is scalded us.

I lost control over my flight with that force and started tumbling, so the sea engulfed me while I was staring at the sky. I was home again, even if it was with enemies on my doorstep.

I quickly oriented on the orc scrambling madly for the surface. Jorgagu had no skill with swimming, and while he probably could have held his breath for several minutes with his stats he panicked and was in danger of drowning. I came up behind the large guy and grabbed him, dragging him to the surface.

Gerald was there, thankfully, already treading water. He wasn’t a particularly skilled swimmer, but he could tread water for a few minutes at least. Travis, too, seemed to be able to hold his own.

The Isa had been set on a collision course with the starboard ship, though with the last of my constructs destroyed the vessel avoided it easily enough, coming alongside. I didn’t know what they intended to do to it next or if they planned to try and save any of their men, but I didn’t consider that my concern. The ship that had been coming up on the port side had seen us escape, and now that it saw us bobbing in the water was redirecting their next barrage.

“Jorgagu,” I said, sputtering as I used my ability to make the other three an offer. “You have to join my crew!”

“Never!” The orc said, declining my invitation. Travis immediately accepted, and while Gerald hesitated he accepted as well.

“Jorgagu!” I snapped. “They’re going to kill you! You have to accept! I’ll do what I can to release you later but WE’VE GOT TO GO!”

“Argh … curse you human!” He shouted, but accepted.

“Dive!” I shouted, even as I anchored myself and dropped like a stone downwards, grabbing onto the orc by the leg and dragging him down as well, flailing in panic as he didn’t know he could breathe.

We descended, the water getting colder. I set myself adrift again and released Jorgagu, bleeding off my downward momentum as I looked for Gerald and Travis.

A moment later a wave of sonic bolts screeched through the surface like a hive creature, each causing damage in a broad area of effect. Right behind it was an explosion of light and fire that boiled the surface and coated the water in golden flames.

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A note from captaink-19

If any eagle-eyed people are going to be comparing the cost of Domenic's profession abilities to what I posted in earlier chapters ... don't.  I'll be retroactively changing prices to what works. :P

Patreon is currently at chapter 71.  That being said, waiting until the new month to join up is the fiscally logical decision.

Happy Halloween!  Hopefully the cliff isn't too scary...


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captaink-19

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