Lord_Of_The_LEGO wrote: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.”
Location: nearing Port Shin-Po
Ajaxx Dragonsbane was on the poop deck of the Precious
, near the ship’s bell. His muscular hands gripped the railing in front of him, and his shoulders were hunched. He was willing the Precious
forward. The giant cliff faces that bordered the shores of Ninjaria were now just in sight, slipping in and out of the constant fog like wraiths playing an ethereal blind man’s bluff. And a dangerous bluff it was. The cliffs were not the only rock formations that slipped in and out of the gray mass. Shoals were thick, and jagged rocks the size of rowboats stuck out of the gray frothy water, maliciously seeking hulls to rip out. One needed a detailed map, a chunk of luck and the sense that only comes with a lifetime of sailing to navigate the Ninjarian Coasts.
“Steady…” murmured Dolter, himself gripping the helm, “Be steady a she goes…”
“Rock to port!” cried Togs the lookout, “A point off t’ bow!”
Dolter tweaked the giant wheel a forth of a turn and glanced at the overcast sky.
“Curse this soup of a fog.” he muttered, “I don’t got my bearings without the sun…”
Ajaxx said nothing, but gripped the railing tighter.
“There be whole cluster o’ rocks, two points off starboard bow!” cried Togs. Dolter adjusted the wheel accordingly.
continued deeper in the maze of rocks. The fog thickened. The cliff in front looms higher. For ten minutes the Royal ship carrying the Dragonsbane Brigade crept ahead. Then suddenly there was a shout from Togs.
“There be something ‘head!”
“What?” snapped Ajaxx, “Ifn’t be rocks, shout out!”
“Nay, it be not rocks, sir…it’s…doors!”
The question had barely left the commander-general’s lips when he saw them himself. They were just as Togs described: doors. Giant ones. Twins doors, sunk in the water and covered in seaweed and barnacles. They were hinged the to rock of the cliff itself, and carved into the cliff were small towers. Small dots of yellowish light flickers on top of and within the towers, and murky humanoid shapes could just be discerned moving quickly back and forth.
“Whoa…” murmured Japheth as the aquatic gatehouse became clearing and clearer as the Precious
approached. Captain Dolter, however, didn’t have time to gawk. He had he ship to manage.
“Drop anchor!” he bellowed, “Drop it ‘fore we ram them gates!”
Dragon Masters scurried to obey, and soon with a splash the twin-fluked aft anchor descended into the water and snagged on a reef, pulling the Precious
to a stop about a dozen yards from the gate.
“Royal ship!” boomed a voice obvious Ninjarian and obvious amplified either by magic or a bullhorn, “The aim of fifty bowmen and two ballistae are upon you! Do not attempt to move! Boats will arrive shortly to inspect you!”
Japheth growled, but with a swift motion of his arm Ajaxx silenced his friend.
“I be suspecting something like this. The Ninjas be a secret clan, very suspicious to outsiders. Let us hope their inspection be short.”
From a little dock at the base of one of the towers and to the right of the gate, three sleek but small boats glided forward to the Precious
. A rope was flung up and a little over a dozen cloaked figures appeared on deck. Ajaxx strode forward just as one of the Ninjarians detached himself from the group. Ajaxx noted carefully that all the figures, both male and female, carried short curing kantanas, but that was all. They all wore protective leather armor and some had helmets, while others wore head rags like pirates. None were scruffy, all were straight and strong-looking, though all were a good foot shorter than Ajaxx, who was tall even for a Dragon Master. One thing Ajaxx knew: though not warriors, these guardsmen would battle admiringly if pressed to do so.
The lead Ninjarian brought the palms of his hands together, fingers pointing upward, and bowed. Ajaxx, well-versed in the cultures of other factions, returned the greeting.
“Ronin Fa Mushu.”
“Commander-General Ajaxx Dragonsbane.”
“What business have you at Port Shin-Po?” asked Ronin Fa, looking at Ajaxx in a squint.
“My ship be damaged by a locknest, I be seeking a friendly port to repair her.”
At the mention of a locknest, all of the Ninjarian ronins shuttered and made an obscure gesture, some muttered what sounded like prayers.
Ronin Fa explained, seeing Ajaxx’s confused look, “All who live at Shin-Po fears the Great Devourers. They come often when hungry, and when Shin-Po was unprotected many years ago, they ate all who could not flee. One, Great Green-Back, took Mulan’s whole family.”
A female with black eyes and black hair tied into a hard bun fingered her kantana threateningly.
“That is why we built our gate,” Ronin Fa continued, motioning behind him, “Our only protection from the Devourers. Our only defense. But,” he paused, eying Ajaxx keenly, “I do not understand. This is a Royal ship. You are Dragon Masters.”
“I bought this ship from the Royals while in Borianis Dracis.” Ajaxx lied smoothly.
“Ah.” Ronin Fa paused, “You…do not mind if we search your ship? All ships landing at Ninjaria ports must be searched.”
“Not at all.” smiled Ajaxx, “Us Dragon Masters be employing a similar policy.”
Ronin Fa bowed slightly and murmured a word or two at his companions, who quickly spread throughout the Precious in near-silence. Not many moments passed before most of the ronins were back.
“The cargo hold is flooded.” said the female Mulan, “Completely.”
Ronin Fa nodded slowly. “I see…”
He turned to Ajaxx.
“A very damaged ship, I see.”
Ajaxx nodded. “And she’s getting worse by the minute.”
Ronin Fa heard the hidden message. He thought for a moment.
“If you were smuggling goods, they would be ruined now.”
I was, yes.” said Ajaxx, stressing the first word, “But I be not.”
“Then…” Ronin Fa said, “You are permitted to enter. I will warn the shipwright ahead of your arrival.”
“I be much obliged.” said Ajaxx, and bowed again. Ronin Fa returned the bow, then he and his companions returned to their boat and the small dock.
Minutes passed, and Ajaxx and the some of the other crew of the Precious
could hear muffled shouts between the Ninjarians in the towers. Then, slowly, with much creaking and groaning, the incrusted gates of Shin-Po ground inward. Chains rattled and wood popped, but slowly and surely the gates swung completely inward, allowed the Precious
open passage into a secluded bay and the town of Shin-Po. Captain Dolter ordered the anchor raised and like a fumbling pregnant woman, the Precious
lumbered forward. Once she had cleared the gates, cogs and winches reversed and the gates slowly closed shut, sealing the way. Thus began a week of intense labor for most of the residents of Shin-Po, who were all paid handsomely to either repair the beached Precious
or entertain the Dragons Masters. After those sevens days were complete, the Precious
was floating high in the water with a newly patched and cleaned hull, her cargo hold was full of fresh supplies, and Ajaxx’s chest of gold was substantially lighter. So, in high spirits with full bellies, the Dragonsbane Brigade left Port Shin-Po onboard the refitted Precious
, turning their sights to Port Firetresses.