Astelbania: Blood Ties

"What is the story, midships? How is my ship!?" The captain shouted over the screaming winds.
"She's a fine vessel, Cap'n - and she's holding well. We've flooded the ballists, she should stablize well enough so long as we stay bow to the waves," shouted Midshipman Cyril, an old sailer, but a strong one.
"Very well! HELM!"
"Aye, Cap"
"Turn her starboard, keep the bow pointed at the center of the sea.. we don't want to be broadsided by a blasted wave.."
"I'll do my best, Cap.. she's turning like a fat whale!"
"Do what you can, lad..."
"Aye.. "

Captain Tiberus Karok gripped the side-rail on the bridge of his ship, The Harbinger. The Harbinger was the largest Galleon in the Devensheerian Fleet, commissioned by King Goldenbane, and christened by Prince Eylan Goldenbane himself. This great storm was the first true test of her meddle.
The storm had hit the oceans 3 days ago, as if by some dark magic, the skies blackened and opened up to let a torrential downpour down upon Southern Astelbania. Karok had been ordered to travel West to Marrokville, to take on a passenger; to pick up an old friend. Now, three days overdue, it was all the good captain could do to keep The Harbinger away from the eye of the storm. The winds were gale-force monsoons, tossing the boat to and fro. The waves accompanying the torrent threatened maelstroms as Fingers of the Gods cracked the lightning filled skies. He'd not seen a storm like this in all the years he'd been a sailor; and for that time, nearly 30 years had passed.

For a 40 year old man, Captain Tiberus Karok was a fit man. He was barrel-chested, with feet almost too wide for a man. His hands could encompass a man's head, with leathery skin callusing the palms. His jaw was square, and clean-shaven, unlike many of his sailing brethren. Karok preferred the feel of smooth skin. HIs hair was blonde, hardly touched by age, but perpetually wind-tossed, in loose, often unkept curls. His eyes were a sharp sky-blue; intelligent and seemingly wise beyond their years.  His ageless face belied his hidden elvish ancestry.

Men and even some women in Devensheer clamored at the chance to sail with him. Those that travelled under the sails of the Harbinger became wealthy. Karok's unique brand of politicking and ambassadorship led many leaders in foreign lands to trust him.  And because of this trust, they invited him into profitable trade. Karok was fair with his shares of the lays. The captain of the Harbinger was known for offering as much as 300th LAY to a green midshipman.. but never less that 500, and only then would it go to a young cook's hand or deck sweeper... He was known for working his crew hard, but he paid them in kind. He was renowned as one of the only Captains in any fleet sailing the oceans to allow women to work as deck mates on his ships. In fact, his first-mate on the Harbinger was a woman, Alyssa Stormcloud. A young, ambitious Kezian who left the life of a cleric for the calling of the seas. She had the Windbringer's gift!
For these qualities and his affinity for justice and fairness at sea, the Prince of Devensheer had handpicked Tiberus Karok to skipper the Harbinger, amid much controversy.

The Harbinger lurched left and back, as a wave struck the Starboard bow, and Karok spied his First coming up from below. Her blue eyes were cool, and her face was set in a grimace as she hauled herself up and shut the hatch before any more water found itself below. She was not a large woman. To those that did not know her, she seemed a waif of a girl. Her face was well chiseled with high cheeks, full pouted lips that seemed be to perpetually glazed with rose wax. She was a beautiful woman that most men wished to protect - only to their chagrin did they find out she was one woman who needed no protection.

She was quick with a saber, light on her feet, and had a sharp eye. There were none on board the Harbinger that would challenge her... Midshipman Oric was one man that sported a blackened eye on the Harbinger's maiden voyage for suggesting a woman shouldn't helm a boat... He later expressed regret by giving the First his share of rum for the night!

"How fairs bellows?" the captain asked.
"As can be expected. The men are pumping as fast as they can, and only now have they managed to keep the water from rising." she nodded, "She'll stay afloat."
"Of that, I've no doubt, Lyssa!" nodded Karok, "You look tired. Mayhap you should find a bed and rest. The storm is letting up - we'll see the end of it by morning. Perhaps then, we can finally make our Rendezvous at Marrokville."
"And miss all this fun, captain? With due respect, Cap, you must be out of your mind if you'd think I’d miss this!"

The Harbinger crested the wave, and rode it down like a careening toboggan in the water.

Captain Karok smiled, "I know what you mean." He eyed the waves in the distance.. "I will order two forward sails up within the hour.. With the wave swells going down, you can order some of the men to their bunks. We will need them full of vigor by mid-morning. We are 3 days late, and do not wish to make it 4."

"Aye aye, Cap'n"

The End

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