Lord_Of_The_LEGO wrote:“Very good, men,” he wheezed, “Japheth, report!”
After a head count, Japheth stated, “Lost sixteen men, sir, at least thirty be wounded.”
“Sixteen good men.” Ajaxx sighed, “Megablock.”
Japheth approached from behind.
“Be it might…a warning?” he asked slowly.
“There be no such thing as signs.” snapped Ajaxx, “This be only a roadblock. One on many more to come, perhaps. But I be ready. Bring it on. Ajaxx Dragonsbane be ready.”
Location: Locknest Strait
Five days and only three leagues north later, the wounded Precious
was gaining water by the day. Slowly but surely, the Royal ship was sinking. The damage from the locknest had been worse than first predicted, and the pumps could not keep ahead of the constantly leaking water. In his cabin, Ajaxx was bent over a detailed map of Dametreos, a polished magnifying glass positioned over the grid-laced Locknest Strait.
“There be no little islets we could run the Precious
onto to patch her?” he asked Captain Dolter.
“Nay, sir. The Locknest be a deep strait, deep indeed. That be why the locknests like it so -- there be plenty of room to swim ‘bout in to mate and feed.”
Ajaxx straightened and looked out the unshuttered but closed pane windows that lined the aft wall of the cabin.
“We be not making to Port Firetresses, then?”
Captain Dolter shook his head.
“Nay. There be not a chance of that, sir. She’d go to the bottom long before.” he said.
“Give me options, Captain.” Ajaxx demanded urgently.
Dolter bent over the map again, a geometry compass in his hand.
“We be having two options. We sail back to Borianis Dracis or Monolinous Dracis…or…we head for Ninjaria.”
“Aye, sir. See, as far I can reckon, we be right near where latitude C crosses longitude 14. Ninjaria be ‘bout the same distance from us as Monolinous Dracis.”
Ajaxx scratched his chin.
“Then we head to Ninjaria. Going back to Monolinous Dracis would be a waste. Ninjaria will be a simple side stop on the way to Port Firetresses.
They both exited the cabin and ascended to the poop deck.
“Mr. Taggard, take her two points to starboard. We be heading to Ninjaria.”
Japheth, who had been nearby, approached Ajaxx.
“A repair stop.” explained Ajaxx, “I don’t intend to sink halfway to Port Firetresses.”
Japheh simply grunted in approval.
Ajaxx looked up sharply.
“Repeat, Mr. Tog!” ordered Dolter.
“Ship ho!” repeated Tog, “Be it to the east!”
“Captain,” Ajaxx beckoned, “Your glass.”
Dolter whipped out his spyglass and handed it over to the commander-general. Ajaxx put it to his eye and swiveled slowly about in place until suddenly stopping, backtracking slightly, then stopping again. He squinted.
“Odd.” he muttered, “Japheth, what be you make of it?”
Japheth took the spyglass and looked for a moment before shrugging.
“A single square sail. Odd indeed.”
“May I?” asked Dolter. Japheth handed back the spyglass. The captain put the glass to his eye, focused on the wraith sail for a moment, then said, “That’s a trireme.”
“A trireme?” repeated Japheth, “One of those multi-level ships that use oars as well as a sail?”
Dolter nodded. “Aye. Fright Knights mostly use them. Prime slaver vessels. The cargo can also power the ship, ‘stead of wallowing in the bilges.”
Japheth took the spyglass again and looked at the sail.
“What?” demanded Ajaxx.
“There be more than one.”
As if to confirm this, Tog the lookout shouted out, “Ship ho! I count ‘nuther sail -- pos’bly two more!”
“Three slaver triremes?” said Dolter skeptically, “Slavers don’t usually travel in packs. Be easier to catch.”
“They might not be slavers.” Ajaxx suggested.
Dolter shrugged. “Possibly. They could be warships. But they have no reason being in the Locknest Strait.”
Ajaxx scratched his chin. “If they get any closer, drop anchor and alert me at once. I be wanting to avoid any chance of contact.”
Dolter nodded and saluted.
Two hours later, Ajaxx was called back up on deck. The three sails could now just barely be seen from the poop deck without Dolter’s glass.
“They be appearing to come right this way -- right up the Strait.” stated Dolter.
“Ah.” Ajaxx stared at the sails, “Run up the Royal flag. Be getting any sign of ‘Dragon Master’ stowed away. Keep the Precious anchored, but leave her sails unfurrowed.”
“That will cause stress on the rigging, sails and anchor chain if the winds be getting gusty.” Dolter warned.
Ajaxx shook his head. “I don’t care. I be not wanting this ship to go anyway -- but appear it to be so.”
Japheth learned near Ajaxx.
“Why this charade?” he asked.
“I be not wanting a risk at exposure,” replied Ajaxx, “I want those triremes to pass us by without a thought. Then we be moving on once they be gone.”
Location: Locknest Strait
Onboard the trireme Centipede
, Caimlin was in his bunk, reading the book Jarvick had given him. He felt pleased. He knew he had been a bit slow in getting to Fright Knight land and to Anka Dolour, but he was certainly making up for the lost time on the return trip. With a strong wind at the backs of the three ships, and holds full of rowing slaves, the Centipede
were fast approaching Potter’s Point, a large stretch of cliff face along the as yet invisible Ninjaria shoreline which signaled the approximate halfway-point between Anka Dolour and Port Firetresses. Another two weeks and Lord Void would have his slaves.
Caimlin looked up. Captain Migal Mordorse was standing over him. A muscle twitched in the Fright Knight’s check.
“The lookout has spotted something. Come.”
Caimlin stood and followed the captain to the bow of the Centipede.
“Look, there.” Migal Mordorse pointed. Caimlin squinted.
“I don’t see anything.” he said.
“That is because you don’t have seamen’s eyes.” sneered Migal Mordorse, “It’s a sail.”
“So, there’s another ship out there.”
“Makes sense. This is an ocean. Ships float on oceans.” quipped Caimlin.
Migal Mordorse sneered again.
“Perhaps you’ve forgotten something. The Centipede
is a slave ship. The Barracuda
and the Piranha
are slave ships. If that is a Classic patroller, or a Crusader galleon --”
Caimlin saw Migal Mordorse’s point.
“I see. Well. Then. Keep me informed.”
Caimlin returned to his book. A few hours later, Migal was back.
“It’s a Royal.”
“That ship. It’s a Royal merchant ship.”
“Let me see.”
They returned to the bow. Caimlin could not see a sail, but that was all.”
“How can you tell?” he asked.
Migal Mordorse handed over a beaten-up spyglass. As Caimlin looked at the ship, the Fright Knight captain explained, “Look at the flag. Also note the colors of her highlights on the railing: red, white and blue with a touch of gold. Lastly, her name and registration.: J.R.R.T. Precious
. Unmistakably Royal. She’s too wide for a warship, and lacks proper armament. Therefore, obviously merchant.”
“Isn’t she a little -- low in the water?” asked Caimlin.
“So you do know something of ships!” snipped Migal Mordorse, “Yes. She is very low. Low even for a merchant ship. And she’s out of place. The Locknest Strait is a dangerous place for a merchant vessel. The captain must not be very smart.”
“Well then, she doesn’t seem to be a threat.” Caimlin concluded, “So let’s just sail around her, then. Give her a wide berth.”
Ajaxx Dragonsbane, Japheth, and Captain Dolter all watched as the three triremes sailed by in the distance. It took them all day and through the night, but by the next morning they were gone.
Ajaxx breathed a sigh.
“That be good. Captain Dolter, set a course for Ninjaria.”