There’s lots of things that skew a person’s perception of time. We were already experiencing some: the eternal night of the ocean depths, swimming through uniform spaces without references of motion. Add to that the experience of fleeing for our lives from an ocean creature that could have used a ship’s mast as a toothpick, and my body was seriously confused. Was it day or night above? How were the seconds passing so slowly yet minutes seemed to fly by?

I always thought people with a timepiece on a fancy chain dangling from their pockets were dandies incapable of telling the time from the sun or a bell. I wasn’t quite ready to forego that notion, but I suddenly craved having some method of timekeeping with me. Anyone who dared call me a dandy would sleep with the fishes, though.

We were alive. We’d gone until we were exhausted, and while I doubted we were outside of the monster’s territory, it didn’t seem to care about a few humanoids fleeing. There were times in a person’s life when they felt sincere gratitude for their own insignificance.

Our flight was not completely heedless and our fear effects wore off eventually. That left us looking for another spot to rest - all of us agreeing without discussion that we weren’t going any deeper just for some sea floor.

We found a spot and rested, all of us raggedly tired. We’d covered a lot of ground, even if it was slower than I could have moved on my own. I assigned Gerald the initial watch, trusting that the sharp-eyed cook would be able to keep an eye out for threats for a few hours. I took the watch after him, then Travis and Jorgagu. I had no doubt the orc was tough, but the others were simply more familiar with the sea and the creatures within.

Not that any of us were familiar with what was down here, as so aptly proven such a short while ago.

In the ‘morning’ we continued on without complaint. I wasn’t sure why I was so proud none of my companions didn’t voice complaints, but I was. From where we’d abandoned the Isa to the coastline of Bandarn was nearly a hundred miles. If any sailor had been told they had to swim a hundred miles to shore, 9 out of 10 would have given up rather than make the attempt. As I’d discovered early on, however, the game was drastically changed when you could selectively choose how to move through the water and could even recover for a few hours.

For the most part we were ‘mountain hopping’ or marching across the shallowest areas and swimming over the valleys, the mix giving our bodies a respite and allowing us to skip traversing a lot of distance. While we swam I gave pointers to the others – especially Jorgagu. He was overcoming his fear through immersion, and I wanted to give him all the tools I could.

He hadn’t picked up the swimming skill until I started teaching, and while we travelled he had the fastest growth of the skill I’d ever seen, knocking out the first 5 beginner levels through virtue of constantly doing it. It was like the methods you heard about nobles using to train their kids – like giving them a potion of water breathing and swim with a shapeshifter coach over and over. My curse allowed the other three to do more swimming in the last week than they’d ever done in their lives, and their levels showed it. They weren’t just inflated levels, either. I refused to let anyone ingrain bad form into bad habits and had mentored all of them. Even Jorgagu was now a highly competent swimmer, even if he was still eager to be out of the water.

You have advanced to skill level 17 in Swimming. +4% breathing capacity, +4% water movement speed per level.

I’d leveled my own swimming skill too! Prior to my curse, I’d seen that skill slow down in leveling, as even my perk didn’t catapult me beyond my capabilities, only gave me a knack for sea-related things. Since being cursed and spending so much time underwater, partly anchored but often using my swimming skill, I’d leveled it 3 times. I was starting to wonder what the level 20 bonus would be …

It was hard to judge distance with our method of travel as we didn’t set a consistent pace, covered different terrain and made constant detours around the local wildlife. I could swim as fast as man could run when I burned stamina, and over a long distance trip could cover as many miles swimming as a land troop could on a forced march. That was with my now 17 levels in swimming, however. None of the others could match that. So it was when we marched that we covered more distance, even if there were no trails where we went. We could still do a quick switch back to swimming to cover a hurdles that would have exhausted us without that ability.

I explained all this in detail to the others, but they didn’t seem to share my fascination with it.

By our estimations, it took over a week by to see the shoreline we were hunting for when we peaked above the surface to orient ourselves again.

The night sky was clear and the stars were particularly luminous after our latest stint in the depths. I’d considered spending more time swimming near the surface, but the speed increase the others had when marching was a wiser decision.

Our multi-marathon workout brought us stat gains. Gerald and Travis had both gained two points to Endurance. Jorgagu gained 1 point, as his was higher at 23, now 24. After my incredibly painful teleportation across the ocean had netted me 3 endurance points, mine sat above the rest at 26. That proved too high for an extended workout to bump me higher, but I did have to suffer less than my companions.

There was also the problem of my imbalance. I knew quest rewards wouldn’t deliberately imbalance my attributes, but I couldn’t remember whether attributes earned through work would – that was the kind of obscure detail that wasn’t commonly known.

“Anything look familiar?” I asked Jorgagu. I knew the waters, but the land was foreign to me.

He shook his head. “I recognize nothing. There are strategic places in the cliffs orcs would build out of, so if we go either direction we should find something eventually.”

Finding something eventually meant several more days of swimming. The coast of Bandarn here looked a lot like the steep Falai Cliffs by Andros. Whereas that landmark was known for its craggy face and the dangerous rock formations at their base, these cliffs were just … there. The sea floor came up from the darkest depths to meet them, but the sheer face was a solid wall for several hundred feet down before it sloped out into it. It was like the ocean had drawn a line on a map where the boundary would be, and through some oversight that line never got the detail the rest of the world had.

The implications for sailing were numerous, but the residents had limited access from the cliffs down for ships, and no protection in a storm. Any break in the cliffs would naturally become a trade hub as it was the accessible way to move things from ship to shore.

And because it was the orcs we were talking about, it would also be a fortress.

That’s what we finally found, trailing a fishing boat filled with goblins back to its home; a fortress. Sure the break in the cliffs made it a trade hub, and there was a place for smaller boats to be pulled out of the water for safety, but the predominant, defining feature of the place was its defensibility.

“Wow,” Gerald said, sharing my thoughts. “Don’t know that I’ve seen such a place that yelled ‘we’ll outlast you’ without being dramatically threatening about it.”

“That ain’t threatenin’?” Travis said, pointing at the pair of massive, bleached skulls affixed to the cliffs on either side of the fortress. One looked like the open jaws of a megalodon, the other the skull of a roc.

“It is no threat,” Jorgagu muttered. “It is simplistic statement of capability - the place is well protected from sea and air.” The orc seemed almost annoyed about our impressed reaction. At a guess, he didn’t know these orcs and had a bit more local pride, kind of like how professional blue-water sailors and pansy, puddle-jumping sailors would go at it. They all had the same profession and they’d back each other up in a landsman’s tavern, but there was a near-rivalry present.

“You sure we can just swim up?” I asked him, eyeing the fortified crevice in the cliff.

“We are not sea monsters. If for nothing but curiosity, they should let us land and hear us.”

“Should?” I naturally caught the qualifier, not being nearly as anxious to step foot on land as the others.

In response, the orc started swimming. We followed.

We swam on the surface, trying to be obvious in our approach. We were spotted, as there was a reception waiting for us when we climbed from the brine to the dry, sunbaked rocks for the first time in 2 weeks. We were all exhausted, the danger and uncertainty having worn on us nearly as much as the exertions. Yet none of us dropped our guard, however much the other three were relieved to be back on solid ground.

I was worried about hot-headed young orcs. From what I knew and had learned from Jorgagu, orcish blood ran hot in its youths in a manner that put human adolescence to shame. Not to say older orcs stopped feeling it, but it was usually tempered. So, our greatest threat wasn’t the truly dangerous and experienced ones but the amateurs itching for a fight.

Still, it was unnerving seeing a line of old, weathered looking orcs forming a semi-circle around us. I’d let Jorgagu take the lead, and he was now standing proudly in the center, though he didn’t address any of the elders. He passed a critical eye over them and looked over them.

As there was no discernible reaction from our welcoming party, I looked a bit closer, something about them distinctly off. They didn’t analyze us, they didn’t glance about or shift, they just stood there like …

Zombies. These orcs were undead. As soon as I made the connection I noticed the uniform pink glow they all had in their eyes.

“Jorgagu,” I said out of the side of my mouth. “Did we stumble into something we should walk away from?”

He didn’t answer me, instead raising his voice to a near-shout. “Where is the chieftain to whom I give respect? Or are these servants blocking me supposed to be a gift of XP?”

“Tame your baboons, runt!” Came an answering shout. A stooped old orc in some sort of fitted bone and leather regalia stumped closer, leaning on a cane and stomping on a wooden prosthetic foot. “Irk me and I will set you to polishing spoons like a toddler after I’ve put you in your place.”

“I’d see them sharpened into broad heads,” Jorgagu boasted. This kind of by-play was something of a warriors greeting, figuring out who was who in the pecking order. I reminded myself that humans did similar things, even if it seemed silly. The old orc seemed to share my feelings and waved off any further response as the undead stepped aside for him.

“I’d ask where you capsized, to come dragging yourself onto shore from the sea, but judging by your party you have a unique tale.” He cast a baleful glare around at us. “A tarish and two humans. Have you forgotten the color of your skin, soggy britches?”

“I know who I am,” Jorgagu said. “As do they. I would … I would speak for them.”

“Oh-ho? Stick your neck out for a handful of racial enemies, will you? Well, go ahead. It’s not like any of them could speak for themselves.”

The two had been carrying on in orcish. Travis and Gerald were naturally lost. I’d been slow on processing what was said, having to get used to hearing orcish from someone besides Jorgagu, but my control over the language was good enough for a simple conversation even if their expressions went over my head. I cleared my throat and inclined my head to the old orc.

“Greetings, chieftain.”

The old fellow zeroed in on me. “Did you learn to regurgitate a greeting phrase or can you actually talk?”

‘Regurgitate’ nearly stumped me in confusion, but I guessed based on context. “My friend has been teaching me to common level.”

“Not common for any human to learn any of our language, I’ll tell you that.” He was still acting cantankerous, but speaking his language seemed to have earned me some points. “So …” he said, turning back to Jorgagu but trailing of as he analyzed him and got more information than he expected.

He muttered under his breath, then quickly analyzed the rest of us, his gaze stopping on me last. I met his hard, pink tinted eyes and felt the undead around us shift for the first time as I got the notification my identity had been exposed.

“Enchanter,” the orc said, standing straighter and keeping his eyes on me. “Explain the company you keep.”

Given the circumstances, I expected Jorgagu to snap off a quick response, maybe throw in a good word for us. Instead, he started with his capture at the hands of the humans and continued through his captivity, my appearance and the fallout that ensued. It wasn’t a report. It was a theatrical story! Yet not once did the old orc show any signs of impatience or boredom. The answers he wanted were in Jorgagu’s story, and he was gleaning them.

When my friend finished, the old orc stumped forward, the undead heeling him and demonstrating his control over them.

“Domenic Seaborn,” he intoned. “Wayward servant of the scourge of the deep, force of destruction and balance, do you come to bring us war?”

“I do not,” I stated firmly.

“Do you swear an oath to do us no harm?”

“No,” I said. “But I will swear that so long as I am not threatened or harmed, I will not harm you in return.”

The old orc jerked his head as if what I’d said was exactly what he meant. Maybe I was paranoid and that kind of care belonged with pixie deals rather than orcs, but I didn’t want a bound oath restraining me without an escape clause. I’d fought too hard for my freedom to give it up like that.

We swore our oath and dismissed the prompts regarding it.

The old orc relaxed and turned his attention back to Jorgagu. “You can speak the tongue of the others? Good. Enchanter, relay my words to them. I am Krohlo Gravehunter. I am the elder of the fortress of Dhezdar; and to you and those of your war party the Chieftain lowers his blade and grants you entry.”

“I give respect to the chieftain, and will kill his enemies when they attack his hospitality.”

I had to admit, as far as cool-sounding ritual phrases went, the orcs were pretty good. I’d half expected a duel to prove we weren’t weaklings … maybe that was the province of the younger crowd.

Jorgagu turned and gave us the summary: “We were welcomed, but be polite and stay on your toes.” Krohlo motioned for us to follow and led us into the town, his dozen zombies falling in behind us.

It was difficult not to gawk at the architecture. I’d been around the ports of the world, I’d seen towers several hundred feet high, I’d seen buildings commissioned by kings for the purpose of impressing foreigners. Yet it was the building of ‘savage orcs’ that had my neck on a swivel.

The crevice was a natural fissure in the cliffs, allowing for a sloped access from the plains above to sea level. That didn’t allow for much room at the bottom to build a town. So they hadn’t: they’d built into the walls on each side! Not just carving out a few caves, either. From where we stood to the lip of the canyon far above was honeycombed with windows and patios for the structures within the walls. Statues and engravings had been made out of support columns, denoting fierce warriors and a wide variety of monsters.

We passed by orcs of different statures and skin tones, as well as a number of goblins. Goblins were typically considered second class citizens, but they had something of a symbiotic relationship with their larger cousins. The goblins had an even larger range of features than the orcs did, probably due to the degree of orc blood in their heritage. Some I couldn’t have said whether they were more orc or goblin, but most were diminutive. I even saw a particularly small goblin riding on the back of a baboon! Maybe that phrase Krohlo had said earlier was more realistic than metaphorical. The baboon was leashed, the handler being a powerfully built orc in some type of uniform like a town guard or constable. I wondered if the orcs did to baboons what humans did to dogs?

We also passed more zombies with the same pink glow in their eyes doing menial work: sweeping the street, carrying out refuse and the like. I knew undead were used for such tasks in other areas, but they were typically relegated to less savory areas and monitored. Seeing so many of them here - and all being accepted by the crowds without question- was odd. Most of the zombies were elderly, presumably those of the population who had died of old age. I guess the orcs thought if you died in your bed, you could sweep the streets.

The distance we were moving from the sea and the number of people being interposed between me and it made me nervous. “Jorgagu,” I said in human speech. “Where are we going, and would it be offensive to ask to stay closer to the sea?”

My friend didn’t directly answer me, instead directly translating to Krohlo. The old orc turned and considered me. If I wasn’t used to Jorgagu’s way of assessing me for weakness, I’d have felt threatened.

Maybe, given the zombies behind me and everything we’d passed, I felt a little threatened anyway.

“I was taking you to meet with the chieftain as a position of respect for a worthy garbad.”

Garbad was the term used for someone who had potential, either as a powerful friend or a strong enemy. Whether you were fighting with or against a garbad wasn’t part of the definition, the only thing that mattered was that they were good in a fight. It was what Jorgagu had been assessing in me while he taught me the language.

Being considered one by a powerful necromancer was a compliment.

I nodded to him. “I have seen the power of your profession and your people. From one garbad to another, I would prefer to stay nearer the sea.”

He didn’t say anything, just turned and stepped into an entrance in the cliff. I was right that what could be seen from the crevice was merely scratching the surface of the town - actually, I had no idea what level of settlement this was, and for all I knew it was a full city!

The stone-hewn hallways were lit by glow-stones in woven iron baskets. We were led to what looked like a circular pit arena, but when zombies carried out a table and chairs I recognized it was the orcish version of a meeting hall. I didn’t doubt that fights and duels occurred here, but they were prepared for more diplomatic endeavors.

“Before we begin, a few matters.” Krohlo said. A door opposite the entrance we’d used opened and a hulking mass squeezed through the door. Gerald, Travis and I were instantly on the defensive, while Jorgagu merely cocked his head in interest.

Krohlo motioned for us to calm down, though the old shaman had a toothy grin on his face. “That is one of mine. He’s just going to be hanging out.”

“Why?” I said. “And … what is it?”

“It was a troll - though a very unfortunate one.” He explained as the mass slumped down the stairs, dragging one of its legs. Cancerous masses covered the thing and its misshapen face looked like another troll had smashed it in. “I raised it not because it has any functionality of its own, but because it has the highest HP of any servant I can afford to keep. You see,” the orc leveled his eyes at me. “I have a professional skill that allows me to transfer damage to one of my servants at an exchange rate. Given this troll’s situation, I could survive nearly any initial attack. This is my insurance, Seaborn.”

The troll indeed had thousands of health and its natural regeneration. Even if the creature took ten damage for every point inflicted on Krohlo, the necromancer was tougher than any damage we could inflict.

Since I didn’t have any harmful intentions, I didn’t mind. The troll was too slow to be anything more than a protective measure. I would be more worried about the potential of him flooding the hallways outside with his servants.

“Now,” Krohlo said, seeing that we didn’t have any objections despite the looks Travis and Gerald were throwing at the troll, him, and everything else. “What’s happened that brings Domenic Seaborn to our seagate?”

“Before I share, I’d like to point out that you seem remarkably well informed about me. I’d like to know where your information comes from.”

“The orc nations are part of an alliance- our snake-brethren shared what they know of you.” He chuckled. “Your displeasure with them made them frantic! They were not ready to accept a garbad as an enemy.”

Implied in his words was that the orcs were willing. He might be treating me with respect and courtesy, but I couldn’t afford to forget that he’d enjoy a contest for my head.

“I am still considering my relationship with the Madu,” I used the human word for Madu because the orcs literally referred to them as “snake people” so apparently the humans weren’t the only ones who saw the resemblance. “My only meaningful words with the orcs have been with my friend Jorgagu, and I’m not anxious to make another enemy.” Yet what would one more group be on the list?

Krohlo seemed to understand me, so I returned to his initial question with the best orcish I could muster. “Jorgagu has shared of his journey here. What he did not share was how I came to be there. I’m sure you heard of my work in Broken Isles?” At his nod I went on, aware that I was butchering the theatrical tale style of report that Jorgagu did. I was also butchering a lot of the orcish words and syntax, but they were following along with me.

“My role there was at Davy Jones’ orders. I was not acting as any sort of counterbalance to his activities. If anything, what I did there forced more humans into joining the war. I suspect that was my master’s plan.

“The commands Jones gave me conflicted with what I believe and eventually what I was doing was … too much for me. I defied Davy Jones. Only before he could kill or enslave me, the ocean stole me away and deposited me on the other side of the sea.”

Krohlo interrupted me for the first time to clarify with Jorgagu’s help the words I was using. Did I really mean that the ocean itself intervened for me?

I didn’t have the best read on orc facial expressions, but Krohlo seemed to have adopted a poker face.

I explained how I came to be part of the human crew and eventually on board the ship Jorgagu was on. I ended my story there, only adding that my goal here was to source a ship that I could use and be out of the orcs’ business.

Krohlo looked between Jorgagu and I like he couldn’t figure out who he wanted to speak to first. He landed back on me. “You did not have the title of patricide when you spoke with our snake-brethren. Before we do any business, I would hear of how you got it.”

My chest tightened. I didn’t want to discuss this. Jorgagu’s reaction earlier had made it clear they disapproved of the title. Krohlo was making a determination on whether I was going to be an enemy or an ally, however, and refusing to discuss it or even vacillating on my reasons for it would be negatively perceived.

“My father was the Captain of the ship I was taking. He made himself my enemy, and I struck him down in revenge.”

Krohlo looked between me and Jorgagu, confusion blooming on his face. “You know orcs dislike father-killers, so why did you just lie?”

I opened my mouth in denial before my own confusion stole my words. Lie? Krohlo was clearly using some skill or item to detect the veracity of my words. Where was the lie, though? Wasn’t I telling the truth?

“I …” My voice seemed to speak of its own accord. “I hated my father. I killed him for abandoning me. I felt satisfaction at his death!”

Krohlo only looked at me with growing concern. Jorgagu studiously avoided looking at me, trying to let me save face.

I waited for the verdict.

“Lies,” Krohlo muttered. “And … broken? Hmm.”

I felt a blooming heat from my chest suffuse my body as relief flooded me. Relief over an affliction I hadn’t even comprehended. There were many ghosts that haunted me, the faces of the people I’d killed, but for some reason I was having more trouble over killing my father than my other victims. Was it a natural thing, or a side-effect of the patricide title?

Krohlo suddenly pounded one bony fist into the palm of his other hands and continued, all with the same air that a human might clap their hands together and say ‘well then’.

“Enchanter, child of magic, you are to be commended to your tribe for inserting yourself into the personal guard of such a garbad.”

Jorgagu shifted, suddenly uncomfortable. “Joining Seaborn was not my first choice. I only did so out of duty to survive and return to my tribe.”

Krohlo’s face once again changed expression. Facing me he’d shown confusion and curiosity. Towards Jorgagu his features became incredulous before twisting into something much uglier.


“I have an obligation to my people …”

“You have an obligation to your race! Even the runts of your country village would know what their blood sings for and follow the wisdom of warlords across the land. Never has an enemy kept a foothold in our nation! Always when our people have been truly pushed it has been on the coasts, from the pointy-ears in their boats to the humans in theirs, our weakness faces the sea. Yet I find a child of magic in the company of one who might become the great equalizer on the sea, and you want to leave him? You tribe less, weak-willed …”

Jorgagu didn’t take the tirade sitting down. He argued back and they got into each other’s faces, their argument quickly becoming a shouting match of curses that tempted me to pull some writing utensils out of my inventory so I could take notes.

Travis and Gerald looked at the unintelligible but very angry orcs gesticulating and fingered their weapons, but I gave them a subtle wave to relax. The anger wasn’t at us, and this looked like an example of natural orcish discourse when the civility was removed.

I would have placed money on Jorgagu digging his heels in and stubbornly holding his ground, but after a few minutes of browbeating and some concepts that went over my head he began to quiet down. Krohlo didn’t, striking out while the winds were favorable to him and pounding his lesson home, a lesson I hadn’t expected on the agenda but was secretly pleased with: Jorgagu’s talents would better serve the orcs by supporting me than enchanting for his tribe.

I wanted Jorgagu on my team, and it looked like Krohlo was going to convince him for me.

When Jorgagu lowered his head in submission, his elder didn’t show mercy or pity. Based on what I’d been able to interpret, the old orc was well-versed in the art of haranguing, and I counted myself lucky I hadn’t been subjected to such treatment. I felt humans were more likely to turn silent, sullen and bitter in the face of something like that, so maybe the necromancer was handling me with kid gloves. Or maybe being a garbad counted for something.

Until now, Krohlo had shown an ability to switch temperaments as needed. Having truly gotten his blood up, however, he seemed to need to blow off some steam and stumped to the top of the stairs and shouted some instructions to waiting goblins. Returning, he gave a snarl at Jorgagu before turning his attention to me once again.

“You would take orcs into your crew?”

“Yes,” I said, not looking at Jorgagu to show him the same respect of saving face he’d shown me earlier.

“Good!” Krohlo said. “Then we will discuss your crew later. You wanted a warship?”

I felt like I’d been tricked into something. “Wait … my crew?”

The old orc tried to wave my question away. “We’ll come to that later. Warships …”

“My crew,” I interrupted, steel in my voice. “Is a matter I take very seriously, having paid for lapses in judgement. This will be a conversation we have now, elder!”

Seemingly annoyed at my interruption, Krohlo’s expression turned to amusement and maybe even … satisfaction? “Very well. You said you will take orcs into your crew. You have none but these weak ones,” he gestured at Gerald and Travis. “We will give you warriors.”

“I’ll not have any warriors aboard my ship that do not answer to me, and I will not force men – or orcs – into my service because you give them orders.”

Krohlo growled, the sound more like a rattling in his throat than when Jorgagu did it. “We can work with your conditions, Seaborn. Are you trying to exclude orcs now? Would you only accept enchanters?”

I leaned back and crossed my arms, considering what was happening here. I disliked spreading my curse, not having a way to release people from it. I wasn’t wholly opposed to it, however, Travis being an example of that. My biggest concern was with freedom: my crew was essentially surrendering their freedom to me for the rest of their lives. Voluntarily making that choice only went so far with me, as I’d come to resent my own voluntary choice to serve Jones.

But I’d heard of the savage ferocity of orc warriors. Even if humans played up the ‘savage’ part, there was no denying orcs were always strong. I needed fighters.

“I am not trying to exclude orcs from my crew, and will consider accepting others. It will have to involve much more discussion, though.”

“Then we’ll have more talk later.” He said, a hint of exasperation in his voice. “Now, warships. We have none here, but we have sunk many at our doorstep over the years. The ocean by our seagate is a graveyard, and we will let you claim one.”

We were starting to get into trading territory. The orcs were going to ‘let me’ claim one of the sunken wrecks as a gift. They truly had no use for the wrecks below and couldn’t have stopped me if I’d decided to claim one.

“No,” I said. However tempting the brief thoughts of plundering shipwrecks were, I’d already made up my mind on this. “I have my reasons for not attempting to claim a ship. The most relevant one? There must not be a person or creature with a higher claim to the ship than I. I have passed over ships before because some creature had made it their home. Your waters here are particularly dangerous, and I have no desire to fight some ancient creature that’s made your ship graveyard its playground … not over some broken hulls I have no connection to.”

Krohlo raised his hands in a helpless gesture. “We have no warships of our own for your use.”

“I don’t need a galleon or brigandine. A simple, small ship will suffice. A fishing vessel showed us where your fortress was, but I did not see it afterwards.”

“Hmm,” Krohlo considered me for nearly a minute before repeating his fist-into-palm smack. “Follow me.”

We all got up and filed after him back into the street and towards the seagate before delving into the cliffs once more. This time he led us into a small cavern where glow-stones played their light on the water, and wooden bridges spanned gaps between carved stone pathways.

“We are not a people of the sea, but we know the wisdom of having some resources at hand for those with the desire to go out. Mostly … we order goblins to do it.”

The pathways were indeed more convenient here for goblin stature, but still I was impressed at what they’d created. They didn’t have a safe port, so they made this work. An opening in the cavern led to the sea but would only be able to accommodate small ships at low tide. At high tide it would be nearly underwater. I hadn’t seen the opening when we approached, so it was likely covered by some type of illusion as well.

Once a ship was inside the small cavern, they had a ramp of rolling logs angled into a V to fit the bow of a boat, and a pulley system to drag it out of the water and use some type of rolling cart to wheel it into a cave that had been expanded for exactly that purpose. There were flaws to the system; such as only being able to pull out the last boat from the narrow cave at a time, but for a people with no real inclination to venture the seas or advantages in the water, it was more than I’d expected.

Krohlo waved at the cave where they stored their boats. “Take a look at our grand fleet.”

He was being facetious, but I was eager. There were glow-stone lanterns in that cave far deeper than I would have expected. They could have a dozen boats to choose from!

Though, I passed on the first half-dozen with hardly a glance. I needed more than a 15-20 foot, banged up fishing boat. They had a 40 foot fishing vessel that I went over thoroughly and was amenable to – if not excited about – taking.

There were still more ships in this long narrow cave, however.

“The lantern stones up ahead are dead: what lies further up?”

“Old ships we never pull out.” He pulled a good lantern from the wall. “If you must see everything, let us.”

We squeezed by the beam of the 40 foot fishing boat and passed two more ships that looked as though they’d been stuffed back here after seeing combat before I found the prize: an 80 foot cutter. I expected that she must have some grievous injury to have been stuck back here, but after a thorough inspection I found that she was seaworthy, only lacking some durability points.

“Why is this gem hidden back here?”

Krohlo eyed it skeptically. “What use would we have for it? We’d have to get all the useful boats out of the way to get at it. I doubt anyone even remembered it was back here.”

Like I’d thought: a disadvantage of their stick-it-in-a-long-cave strategy.

“You sure it is what you want?” Krohlo asked, eyeing the backlog of ships trapping it back here.

“Trust me, my seamanship levels do not lie. She is a good ship.” Seeing he was still skeptical, I added “I would consider myself in your debt, Krohlo Gravehunter.”

That seemed to please the old orc. Really, getting a cutter any way short of piracy would normally incur a hefty sum, but Krohlo seemed to think that getting the other boats out of the way was the real chore.

“I will see to it the chieftain agrees. Now, come select your new crew!”

As we followed the elder out, I pulled Jorgagu aside. “There’s no chance of running into trouble with the chieftain, is there?” I asked hopefully.

Jorgagu snorted. “The elder wouldn’t let a little thing like the chieftain being in charge stop him when he’s decided something should be done. Don’t worry, I think they’ve decided you’re making friends with Krohlo and don’t even want you to meet the chieftain.”

A note from captaink-19

If you're enjoying Seaborn, please let me know!  Positive feedback always tickles my ears.

If you want to see if Domenic actually doesn't meet the orc chieftain, or 

any young and violent orcs

or when he

FINALLY has a clear route to undoing his crew's curse!

then check out my Patreon page!


Shout out to Kobold Patrol for spotting the error in Domenic's stats!  (Recalling a message from a dozen chapters ago, no less!)  Domenic may not have gotten the workout bonus this chapter I'd originally put in there, but his Endurance is back where it should be (higher!)

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