War of the Gods - The DeclarationMature

It is a world different to that you are used to. The planet has only just recovered from a catastrophic disaster known only as "The Sundering" and everything has been irrevocably changed. Countless inhuman races wander the single land-mass in servitude of enigmatic 'Gods' and are locked in the center of a stalemate in a fierce Cold War. All of that is to change, however, when a young scholar, a towering pirate and a nomadic priest are sent to destroy a relic of unimaginable power; one that could

Humans – The oldest and most common of sentient races. Among the few mammalian survivors of the Great Sundering, this race was long thought to have been created in the Gods’ image yet new theories suggest that they were in fact the progenitors of the other races. The origin of this race is still unknown, however, as the Gods refuse to divulge any information.

The Origin of Species – Morrigan de Bedoine, scholar of Nimia

 

The wind battered the small ship, immense waves lashing and clawing at the hull and the sound of thunder booming in the distance, making the landscape seem like a terrible beast swatting at its prey with icy talons. The tiny craft was a gnat being battered in flight by a hurricane; the only reason it hadn’t capsized or sank was that it was being blown upright by the strong winds. An immense storm cloud loomed in the distance, dark and foreboding, shrouding the horizon.

For most seafarers this would be disastrous weather. Not for Captain Darkmoor; this was perfect hunting weather.

The salt air smelled refreshing to him and the rocking of his ship was comforting like a baby’s cradle. The buffeting wind only served to speed the ship away from the storm and the waves carried the ship towards its quarry. Far ahead the sun was rising; casting a deep red light across the waters and making it seem like the blood of some great leviathan. Blood surrounded this ship; the fake blood of the water, the blood that already stained and had soaked into the wood and the blood that was about to be spilled.

The Captain stood in his quarters, arms folded across his back. Captain Rogan Darkmoor had the look of a typical Fenite Jotun about him; a towering man made mostly of muscle. He had to stoop even in these tall quarters, quarters of his own design. His body was covered in a long tattoo, stretching from his head to his toes but obscured around his face by his long, dreadlocked hair and braided beard. Captain Darkmoor dressed unconventionally for a captain; the black tricorne hat, waistcoat and knee-length breeches were common yet his neon blue socks and ruffled, short-sleeved shirt were more common among the ruling classes of Boran. He wore thick leather boots and a glove of the same material, a necessity on a ship such as this, yet his left hand was missing, replaced with a long scimitar. Apart from this souvenir of his military service and the occasional scar he was relatively intact; a sign of a good captain.

A deafening roar broke the muffled rhythm of the waves in the Captain’s quarters. Captain Darkmoor turned to face the door as a scrawny deckhand burst through. He panted for breath, bathed in sweat, as he paced towards the captain.

‘Cap’n,’ the deckhand wheezed. ‘We got to stop this chase, we’re gonna capsize any minute now. If ye don’t lay anchor now then…’

Darkmoor chuckled quietly and stood stock still, his bladed hand protruding from behind his back. The deckhand fell silent immediately. ‘Tell me mister…?’

‘It’s Blackfoot, sir. Obidiah Blackfoot, I joined yer crew last time ye docked in Boran.’

‘I didn’t ask for your fucking life story you pathetic sack o’ shit,’ Darkmoor hissed, his eyes lighting up. ‘Tell me Blackfoot, what makes you think that you, a deckhand with no previous experience on the seas knows better than your Captain? What makes you think you know better than a man that’s spent a decade on this one ship?’

Blackfoot’s face fell, the expression changing from exhaustion to worry to fear. It always happened. That’s why he made sure the cabin was too short for him. Any upstarts would walk in, full of anger and then they’d spot him. A goliath of a man, a bear in a tricorne hat, with a vicious blade permanently attached to him. He’d even ensured that the acoustics worked in his favour, amplifying even the most hushed of whispers from him to a yell. He ruled this ship with an iron fist. Literally.

‘I-I-I’m sorry Cap’n sir,’ Blackfoot stuttered, unable to meet Darkmoor’s gaze. ‘I’m just a messenger, sir.’

‘Should I get Master Blitzfaust to administer some discipline? Should I get him to keelhaul the bastard that you claim told you to make demands of me?’ Darkmoor’s face twisted into a smirk.

‘B-by no means, there’s n-no need to do that.’

‘Good, now get the fuck out of my sight before I deal with you myself,’ Darkmoor barked as Blackfoot scampered from the cabin. Darkmoor looked at his Nimian clock. Seven thirty in the morning. A perfect time to begin the day’s work.

Darkmoor stooped under the doorway and straightened as he emerged onto the deck. The entire crew scrabbled around the deck like a pack of rats, each pretending to work. The helmsman was the only one actually performing any duty by steering; the other crewmen stumbled around blindly, still half asleep. Darkmoor pulled a pipe from his waistcoat, put it to his lips and lit a match off the rough surface at the join of his blade-hand. He inhaled the pungent, burning smoke of his fireweed and then roared as loud as possible. Almost immediately the crew (excluding the helmsman) stopped what they were doing and lined across the deck in single file.

The eighty men before him were a motley crew of the best and worst the world had to offer. Men and women of each race from each nation gathered under one banner; huge Jotnar and Taurs from Fenus, spry humans and Undying from Nimia, hardy orks and demons from Dant, stocky Elders from Gaer, weather-beaten albinos from Luunus, cunning Shifters from Boran and even a couple of dwarves from the northern wastes. All of them answered to Rogan ‘The Bastard’ Darkmoor, and all of them feared or respected him. The stockiest of the dwarves, Blitzfaust, strode to the Captain’s side and grinned hungrily.

‘What time is it?’ Darkmoor hissed. The crew looked among themselves in confusion. ‘It’s half past bloody seven and you’re all lazing around! It is actions like that what made us lose three days, three fucking days, on our fucking hunt! Now am I going to get some work from you lazy bastards or am I going to have to get Master Blitzfaust here to use the cat on you?’ A resounding no echoed across the deck and Darkmoor sighed, taking another puff of his fireweed. ‘Falcus, how much longer ’til we catch up to our quarry?’

A tall, wiry Elder with a matted cloak of hair hiding his elongated ears and a finger missing on his feet coughed loudly. ‘Another hour or so if the wind’s in our favour, Cap’n.’

‘Good! In that case, Falcus get back up in the crows nest and keep an eye out, the rest of you Elder fix the ripped sail, this wind’s just going to make it even worse. The rest of you… I just got word from one of the deckhands that one of you decided that it’d be a good idea if we were to wait out the storm and drop anchor… which one of you fuckers was it who put him up to it?’ A fearful silence gripped the main deck; the only sound now was the wind whistling and the waves breaking on the hull. ‘There’s at least one of you that thought the idea of causing even more fucking delays in this hunt is a good idea, and that we should sit still to wait out a storm that we’re already miles away from! We’re losing tonnes of supplies every day and our bounty is decreasing the longer we fucking take! So who’s the fuckwit!?’

A lone cough came from the crew. It was Blackfoot. Darkmoor charged towards him and picked him up with one huge hand, lifting him above his head. He tossed the deckhand across towards Blitzfaust and he landed with a loud crash.

‘Master Blitzfaust, set the cat on him,’ Darkmoor roared. Blackfoot went pale. Everyone went pale, even the albinos. The cat o’ nine tails was never pleasant but especially not in the hands of Blitzfaust. That mean old bastard thought the ordinary, leather cat wasn’t punishment enough so he fashioned one from heavy chains and convinced the quartermaster to fit it with inch long barbs. It rarely needed to be used, just the threat of it was enough to get men back in line or piss themselves in fear, but on rare occasions it was actually used and the effects were always stomach-churning. After a month on the seas without coming in to port after what should’ve been three weeks, Darkmoor and Blitzfaust were pissed enough to use it.

Blackfoot was stripped of his shirt and tied to the mast in a lightning manoeuvre from Blitzfaust. The crew assembled around them in a ring, whilst Captain Darkmoor sprinted up to the helm. Blitzfaust pulled the cat from his belt and unfolded it. The nine lengths of chain were longer than the dwarf was tall; that only served to improve the menacing image of the weapon. Blackfoot had started crying and the front of his pants was soaked with piss. They all emptied their bladder eventually; it was just a matter of time and pain. The fact he hadn’t even started just made it seem pathetic.

‘Who told you, Blackfoot?’ Darkmoor shouted. No answer from the tied deckhand, just a series of sobs. ‘Begin, Master Blitzfaust!’

According to Blitzfaust, his name meant ‘lightning fist’ in one of the old tongues. The display he presented now showed why he got that name. The chains didn’t even have time to rattle as he whipped Blackfoot, a sickening squelch was the only thing heard as the barbs stuck in the deckhand. He couldn’t even scream in pain, it’d happened so quickly. It was only when the chains were dragged out by a jerk of Blitzfaust’s hand that Blackfoot screeched and wailed in pain. Long gashes and sickly welts appeared on his back and the sea air only served to aggravate them.

‘We can end it now, Blackfoot; just tell us who it was!’ Darkmoor bellowed. Still he didn’t answer; still he sobbed and squealed rather than answer. ‘Again, Master Blitzfaust!’

It went on for seven minutes and by the end of it Blackfoot was thoroughly flayed. His ribs were visible in places and he was bleeding heavily. Finally he spoke. ‘Alright! I-I’ll tell you! It was…’

A shout ran down from the crow’s nest. ‘Cap’n! We’re gettin’ close! Ten minutes at most!’ Falcus screamed down.

‘You heard him men, get ready for a hunt!’ Darkmoor bellowed. ‘Get us up alongside them Mister Cottontongue,’ he barked at the helmsman as he stepped down to the main deck. ‘Get Blackfoot to the Doc, Elders get ready to board, Mister Strom get the weapons ready, Miss Leeta get the gunners organised, the rest of you get ready to let loose some iron rain!’

As everyone scrambled to do as he asked, Captain Darkmoor admired his ship. What the Fenrir’s Maw lacked in size it more than made up for everywhere else. The hull was carved from a single immense everwood tree, making it as strong as iron, and the rest of the wood used for the decks and masts came from the hardy deadpines that bordered Dant. The five immense sails billowing before the ship dragged it along the waves at immense speed; there was no other ship that could match the Fenrir’s Maw when sailing with the wind. The cannons, a new invention courtesy of the Nimian quartermaster Strom, were devastating to enemy ships that could only respond with arrows or shoddily built siege weapons. He’d already improved upon his original design by implementing the common clockwork machinery of Nimia and fitting multiple chambers, meaning rounds could be shot in quick succession. The same could be said of Strom’s latest invention; a miniature version of this cannon that could be held in the hand, making sure every crew member could add to the iron rain.

A deep yawn sounded off to Darkmoor’s left. He turned to see his first mate, the shifter Gibralt Mikkelson, shuffling towards him. A more loyal first mate could never be found; shifters were notoriously treacherous but not this one. Still dressed in an elaborate pale green Boran navy uniform, Gibralt was fiercely loyal and stuck to a strict code of honour. The pale, wiry shifter could be mistaken for human if it wasn’t for his violet eye. Gibralt smacked his lips together as he strode up to the captain and removed his hat.

‘I apologise for my lateness, Rogan,’ Gibralt muttered.

‘That’s Captain Darkmoor to you, I’m not in the mood for informalities today, too much bullshit’s been going on,’ Darkmoor frowned. ‘Where the fuck have you been?’

‘Doc said I needed to rest while he patched this up,’ Gibralt lifted his eyepatch to reveal a sickly brown, empty socket. ‘The salt air’s making it hurt like hell, said it might be infected.’

‘Second we get to land we’re sending you to a Nimian doctor,’ Darkmoor clapped a hand on the shorter shifter. ‘They may be intolerably vain bastards but at least they know what they’re fucking doing.’

‘Thanks for the concern, Captain, but I’m sure I’ll cope with Doc Tyrun for now.’ Gibralt strode to Darkmoor’s side as the captain paced across the deck, braking orders. ‘Miss Leeta, get the gunners set on their fucking task! You’re Bosun not some fucking powder monkey or snotty!’

‘Aye Cap’n, I’ll get right on it!’ Leeta, the ork squawked. Even though most of her people were quite stocky, excluding those in Nimia, Leeta was built more like an Undying; very tall and very thin, waif-like in stature.

‘Speaking of snotties, where the fuck is that midshipman?’ Darkmoor sprinted up to the helm and clapped his hand on Cottontongue’s shoulder, Gibralt only barely keeping up with him. He eventually spotted the tiny albino at the very rear of the ship, clutching at some rope. ‘Marcon, what’s our speed?’

The albino midshipman turned suddenly, shocked to hear the bestial roar of the captain. ‘9 and a half knots sir, we’ve been going at a steady pace too sir.’

‘No need for the sir, Marcon, you’re not in fucking school now, lad.’ Darkmoor grinned, his sharp bone-white teeth barely visible behind his beard. ‘It’s Captain or, since you’re an officer but a low-ranking one, Darkmoor, not sir. Got that?’

Marcon nodded and Darkmoor surged back onto the deck, with an expression like a ravenous shark. Gibralt now had to run to keep up. ‘Strom, how are we for cannons and ammunition?’

The titanic, unkempt Undying hobbled towards the captain, propping himself up on his cane-come-rifle and scratching at his bald head and torn ears. ‘We’re all good for this’un Cap’n, only problem is if we get any trouble on the way back t’port,’ Strom groaned.

‘That’s no bother, we still got our blades!’ Darkmoor boomed. ‘Just make sure all our lads are armed to the fucking teeth now, we may not need to use it all anyway knowing what they’re like.’

The captain strode back towards his cabin and Gibralt began panting for breath. ‘Slow down, Captain, not everyone’s as big as you!’ Gibralt sighed in exhaustion. ‘Just tell me what you want me doing and I’ll do it… after I’ve had a breather.’

Darkmoor chuckled loudly and thumped the shifter in the arm playfully. ‘Alright, Gibralt. I want you armed and at my side when it comes time to attack. Same as usual. Anyway, you’re still late; get ready for battle, we’re about five minutes away from our prey.’

Gibralt nodded and ran through the cockpit to the armoury as Darkmoor wandered back into his cabin. He removed his waistcoat and shirt, knowing that the sight of a half naked, tattooed and battle scarred Fenite would be an intimidating sight. He slung his black bandolier around his shoulders and placed all his hand-cannons, modelled after ancient pistols he’d heard from stories, into it. He picked a whetstone from his desk and began sharpening his sword-arm. A muffled shout from Falcus told Captain Darkmoor that they were closer.

Darkmoor burst through the door and let loose a battle cry. The entire crew was armed to the teeth now, Elders carrying scimitars and rapiers, gunners manning the dozens of cannons on each deck and the rest carrying long hand-cannons. The only ones not armed were the helmsman Cottontongue, Blackfoot and the doctor. Hell, even the ship’s cook was helping with ammunition.

Everyone began roaring and cheering, baying for blood. Darkmoor raised one meaty fist and signalled at Falcus. Immediately the flag, their own Jolly Roger, was raised; a skull pierced by a scythe on a black background. Everyone went silent as Darkmoor raised his hand and stared at him.

‘Alright, I’m not going to give you some clichéd fucking speech about how we’re doing something honourable or epic, we’re not all fucking naïve here,’ laughter thundered across the decks. ‘I will tell you this, my bastard brothers and sisters; there’s blood going to get shed here and we’re the one’s going to do it. Kill anyone you need to but leave our bounty!’ Another loud roar came from the crew as one last huge wave brought the ship near to its quarry; an immense Nimian warship.

The Nimian ship, The Osiris, was one of their newest warships; a towering behemoth that loomed over the Fenrir’s Maw. Their weapons were still inferior yet they had far more trained seamen onboard. Cottontongue brought the ship alongside, the leviathan craft appearing over their port side. It was then that the Fenrir’s Maw deployed its most clever device; something Strom called a ‘hydrofoil’. Another improvement upon one of his previous designs, the hydrofoil was a pair of wings that dipped into the water and once required the ship to be travelling at speed for it to lift the craft out of the water. Now, with Strom’s improvements, a pair of collapsible wings, each with a secondary hull, descended from the port and starboard sides and lifted the ship up to the same height as the Osiris.

Now the Nimians would know fear as they saw Darkmoor’s ship. They would see the cannons, the heavily armed and haggard crew, the impenetrable everwood hull and then, finally, the captain. With his huge stature, muscular frame and bladed hand he must have looked like Tyr himself. He strode out to the portside and grinned hungrily at the Nimians.

They were all wearing the typical crimson uniform of the Nimian navy; waistcoat, breeches, shirt and bandanas. The only differences between them were additions based on ranks; officers wore tricorne hats, first mate wore a jacket, captain wore a trenchcoat and goggles. Darkmoor never approved of those kinds of uniforms; uniformity ruined individuality, and on a crew such as his it was easier for everyone if they were distinguishable. Hell, even Gibralt only wore his uniform so he’d stand out.

Gibralt took up position beside the captain as the rest of the crew bellowed at the Nimians. ‘Finally,’ Gibralt muttered. ‘Took them long enough to show up. Fortunus smiles on us; we’ll certainly get plenty from these shits.’ Darkmoor grinned and turned to face Gibralt for a second. As expected, the shifter had attempted to make himself appear as menacing as possible by bulking up. He now towered over the rest of the crew, reaching eye-level with Darkmoor and his ‘muscles’ were of matching size. Thankfully for him, Borani uniforms were elasticised and so stretched to cover his larger form.

‘Deceptive bastard,’ Darkmoor coughed. He leapt on top of the largest cannon and raised his blade-arm. ‘Nimians! On behalf of our employers, the Fortune Trade Consortium, we demand you lay down your weapons and hand over your officers!’

The captain of the Osiris yelled back, his voice quivering slightly, ‘We don’t give in to the demands of common pirates!’

‘Pirates? Us, pirates?’ Gibralt howled with laughter. ‘We prefer the term privateers or corsairs, we do have some standards! Now hand us the following people and your supplies and you’ll all be spared; Captain Erdun d’Amun, First Mate Josel de Renoit, Bosun Aric de Londum, Master Doren de Rostand and Coxswain Samuet de Barcel. We won’t ask again!’

All was silent on the Osiris until the captain plucked up some courage and responded. ‘Who the hell do you think we are, you mercenary scum?! We’re Nimians! That may not mean anything to you but we’re a proud people! We refuse to surrender to a bunch of barbarians like you!’ A loud cheer rippled across the Osiris and Darkmoor smiled slightly. This was all the excuse he needed.

‘I know how “proud” you Nimians are! A bunch of egotistical vain cunts, you mean!’ The few crewmen that understood the word ‘egotistical’ roared with laughter, while the rest merely smirked at the captains swearing. ‘Who the hell do you think we are? I’m Captain Rogan Darkmoor of the Fenrir’s Maw. I’ve given you a chance to meet our demands and I won’t ask again, give up those officers and your supplies or you’ll get no mercy from us!’

The Nimian captain, Erdun d’Amun went pale. They always did. Just the mention of Rogan Darkmoor’s name was enough to make most men crap their pants like children. Stories had been going around before he’d even set foot on a ship. When he was in the Fenite army he’d apparently laid waste to an entire Danten province singlehandedly. When he first joined a Fenite ship he mutinied against the entire crew, survived being keelhauled and slaughtered them in his sleep. When he became a privateer he destroyed an entire Borani fleet before they’d even spotted him and turned an entire Nimian town to ash. That’s what the stories said about him, whether or not they were based on any truth had yet to be seen.

Before Captain Erdun could utter a single syllable the first mate, whether through idiocy or bravery, screamed furiously at the heavily armed Fenite. ‘Your name means nothing to us, you miserable barbarian! You can’t do a thing to us! We still outnumber you!’

‘Do we really need the first mate?’ Gibralt muttered.

Darkmoor sighed. ‘Unfortunately, yes even though he’s a complete idiot.’ He turned to face the Nimians once more. ‘You brought this upon yourself! Drop anchor! Fire cannons! Attack pattern two! Prepare to board!’

The crew let loose a deafening battle cry. The anchor plummeted into the red waters and the ship stopped twenty feet from the Osiris. The cannons were loaded immediately, the immense clockwork triggers being pulled by the gunners. Falcus and the Elders on the crew grabbed at free ropes and swung onto the deck of the Nimian ship. As if by some unheard signal Darkmoor and the bloated Gibralt ran to the starboard side of the ship and charged at full speed, leaping off the port side of the craft and landing with a dull thud on the Osiris. No sooner had Darkmoor straightened up then the attack began.

An almighty crunch followed by seven more as cannon fire tore the Nimian craft. First the masts fell by chain-shot and crushed several crewmen, the wheel was torn from the ship and the Nimian’s ballistae and catapults were smashed and burnt by carcass shells. The Elders and a number of orks had come aboard the Osiris, using the ship’s mast as a bridge, and were now fighting the crew while Darkmoor’s gunners picked them off. The bosun and first mate had already been taken aboard the Fenrir’s Maw, the bosun missing an arm while the first mate was unconscious.

Gibralt let forth a horrifying screech as he began firing upon the Nimians, taking out the master-at-arms’ legs and killing three deckhands. Darkmoor laughed viciously and leapt at the Nimian captain, knocking him to the floor instantly. He threw the man at the mast-bridge into the arms of a waiting Taur and decapitated a young seaman. An Undying snotty charged at him with a rapier and Darkmoor smirked as he spun and cut the blade in half. The young man quivered in fear and Darkmoor raised his arm, close to gutting the boy.

‘Behind you!’ the snotty yelled. Darkmoor parried an axe-blow from the coxswain and kicked him into the path of Gibralt. Another screech came from Gibralt as he threw the coxswain across to the Fenrir’s Maw with ease. Darkmoor turned to the snotty and tried his warmest smile possible. He must have been no older than twelve, he still lacked the long ears of an Undying teen, and had his black, wavy hair tied in a loose ponytail. His face was developing hawk-like features and a couple of thick dark hairs were sprouting from his chin.

‘Do you want to live, lad?’ Darkmoor asked. The boy nodded, still pale from the imminent blow of the Fenite, and tossed aside his ruined rapier. ‘Then get behind me and try not to get in my way.’ A flurry of blows came from the captain as he carved a bloody swath through the Nimians. It wasn’t long before he was stained a deep red; the same as the sun reflecting in the waters, the same as the uniforms of the Nimians, the same as the veins now visible in his eyes.

‘What’s your name, boy?’ Darkmoor grunted as he gutted a Nimian archer. A pattern was emerging in his attacks. Stab, slash, parry. Stab, slash, parry. Stab, slash, parry.

‘It’s Jonah, sir. Jonah de Bedoine,’ the boy replied.

A deep growl escaped Darkmoor. Stab, slash, parry. ‘One thing you need to know about me, lad.’ Stab, slash, parry. ‘I never let any officer, regardless of rank or allegiance, call me sir!’

‘Right you are… err, Captain Darkmoor.’ Stab slash parry.

‘Better!’ Stab slash parry. An arrow struck Darkmoor in the shoulder, a trickle of blood seeping from the wound. ‘You’ll have to do better than that, arsehole! You call that a shot? This…!’ He pulled out his hand-cannon and fired at the archer. ‘…is a fucking shot!’

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Two bloody minutes later the officers of the Osiris were aboard the Fenrir’s Maw and in chains. Darkmoor’s crew were still looting the Nimian ship while he and his officers were in his quarters with the young midshipman Darkmoor had spared.

A more unusual group of officers had never been seen before. The man-bear of a captain and the loyal shifter as first mate were unusual enough, but the rest were stranger still. All clad in various mismatched items of leather and calico clothing they all shared a somewhat rough appearance but that was where the similarities end. The ginger stocky dwarf Blitzfaust lacked the typical beard of his race but more than made up for it with his immense ponytail. The tall and thin ork Leeta seemed more like an Undying, save for her olive green skin colour and fangs. Strom was far more muscular than most Undying and, due to his mutilated body, missed the pointed ears, along with his left leg which was replaced with a crude wooden stump. Falcus seemed like most Elders, save for his penchant for footwear, lack of body hair and dark skin. Cottontongue was a half-breed, half human and Taur, and as such was weighed down by long, overly muscled arms and sported a pair of short horns from his head.

‘What the hell’s this kid doing here?’ Blitzfaust croaked, his voice ruined by his constant screaming during battle. ‘We’ve got no need for more snotties!’

‘He’s right Cap’n, we already have Marcon, no need for any more,’ Strom nodded.

‘This kid, directly or indirectly, saved my life, I’m not going to cast him away like a rotten turd,’ Darkmoor spat. ‘I may be an evil bastard, but I still have some honour.’

‘Then what do we do with him?’ Gibralt asked, now having shrunk back to his natural state.

‘We lost one man in our attack. One man. I’d say we can afford to replace him.’ Darkmoor growled. Leeta and Cottontongue nodded in agreement.

‘What were the dead guy’s duties?’ Strom asked. ‘Leeta?’

‘He was just a powder monkey, got the idea he was a fencer and went onboard the Osiris to prove his worth. Guess he was wrong,’ Leeta shrugged.

Darkmoor began stroking his beard. ‘Alright, here’s what we’ll do… you up for some hard work Jonah?’

‘Of course sir, I mean Captain,’ Jonah nodded enthusiastically.

‘Okay then, you’re going to be a general dogsbody here; swabbing the deck, manning the cannons and so on. Until then, for the first week, you’re going to be the liar here, you know what that means?’

Jonah looked at the captain in confusion and slowly shook his head. ‘I don’t know, Captain, what does that mean?’

‘It means you’ll be cleaning the crappers here, lad,’ Leeta smirked. Jonah’s face fell.

‘Don’t worry kid, it’s just for a week. Everyone’s done it at one point,’ Strom smiled his crooked, toothy grin. ‘Besides, it’ll teach ye not to lie to the Cap’n when you’re working on here.’

‘Everyone agreed to this then?’ Darkmoor asked. Leeta and Cottontongue nodded, Strom gave a thumbs up, Falcus and Gibralt gave a quiet ‘Aye’ and Blitzfaust gave a non-committal grunt. ‘Then it’s settled. Leeta take the young lad to get a bucket and swabs.’

Leeta nodded and escorted the boy outside as Darkmoor sighed and placed his bandoleer on his cabinet. ‘Where the fuck is Doc Tyrun?’ he barked suddenly.

‘He’s still tending to that arsehole Blackfoot,’ Gibralt muttered. ‘Blitzfaust did quite a number on him.’

Blitzfaust let out a sudden snort. ‘You’re damn right I did, I wouldn’t be doin’ me job if I didn’t!’

‘If he’s still busy then let’s go scare the prisoners a bit without him,’ Darkmoor grinned his sharp, menacing smile. A quick chuckle from the officers rippled like a friendly applause as Darkmoor emerged from the cabin, the crew flanking the decks and jeering at the remainder of the Osiris’ crew tied up in front of the mast. Darkmoor strode confidently to them, their wounds crudely cauterised by Doc Tyrun in the time he had. He stopped right in front of the first mate.

‘We couldn’t do a thing to you, eh?’ Darkmoor spat in the first mate’s face. ‘You think my name didn’t mean anything? You arrogant little fuck! There’s a reason I’m called ‘The Bastard” and it’s not my fucking parentage!’ A slight snigger from the delirious bosun ended in a firm punch to his stomach from Blitzfaust. ‘All those rumours about me, wiping out towns and ships singlehanded? All fucking true. All of them! I even survived a fucking keelhaul virtually unscathed! What the fuck did you think you’d do to me, you measly little wankstain!?’

‘My name is Josel de Renoit. I advise you use it, brute,’ the first mate groaned. Another lightning fast punch from Blitzfaust, this time to the bollocks, warranted some silence from him.

Darkmoor leaned forward, mere inches from Josel’s face, and smirked. ‘If I had my way I would’ve strung you up from the crow’s nest the second you spoke out. However, my employer wants you alive for some unfathomable reason.’ He turned on the spot and strode over to the heavily bruised Captain. ‘Erdun d’Amun. So glad we could finally meet; I’d heard so much about you.’

Captain d’Amun raised his head proudly. ‘I hope you heard good words about me.’

A raucous laughter thundered across the deck. ‘On the contrary,’ Gibralt edged forwards from Darkmoor’s side as he spoke. ‘We’ve been hearing how much of a traitorous coward you are; abandoning your crew, fleeing Nimia on numerous occasions and stealing from your superiors. I must say, I find it ironic your first mate called us barbarians.’

‘Although I’m lovin’ this chit-chat Cap’n,’ Blitzfaust snorted and spat at the first mate once more. ‘I reckon we should put ’em in the brig.’

Darkmoor turned his back on the captives and began pacing towards his cabin. ‘Right you are, Blitzfaust. Take them to the brig… and feel free to have some fun with them while they’re there.’ Darkmoor turned as he reached the door of his quarters. ‘Just remember to keep them all alive.’

Blitzfaust cackled as he dragged the row of pale and shrieking prisoners below deck. ‘Raise anchor!’ Darkmoor yelled over the rising laughter of the crew. ‘Cottontongue, set a course for Delgatti, we’re cashing in our bounty !’

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Three weeks of sailing on the most turbulent of waters brought the Fenrir’s Maw back to port in Delgatti, a sanctuary port in Boran. The Mediterranean weather was always dry and scorching, a refreshing change from the cold, damp, salty air of the Great Sea. It the sun was permanently at mid-day, regardless of the time, and so the locals were tanned and usually in various stages of undress. The docks were visibly ancient, the wooden planks used were coated in moss, barnacles and seaweed. Poor fishermen were gathered around the sea, casting nets and fishing lines into the waters and waiting for hours, even days at a time for a catch.

The Fenrir’s Maw looked alien to this place. It appeared more like some form of deep-sea monstrosity draped in ropes and sails than a privateer ship. Darkmoor and his officers stepped off the ship casually, all dressed in their best clothing. Each of them was wearing a similar colour scheme to Darkmoor’s neon-blue and black clothes, yet in an extremely mismatched uniform. They had all gathered outside; Gibralt in his Borani uniform, Leeta in a dress that made her look like a serving wench, Blitzfaust dressed like a Fenite guard, Cottontongue in a Nimian scholar’s uniform, Strom wearing a Luunite preacher’s garb and Marcon and Jonah the snotties, dressed in street performer’s clothing. Even Doc Tyrun, the overweight and bearded demon, had turned up in a Borani doctor’s uniform, heavily coated in face-paint to mask his heritage.

Darkmoor put his calico jacket on and smiled back at his crew. ‘You know the drill lads, I know I say this every time but I’m going to say it now too. If I don’t return with the reward for the bounty in two hours I want you all to go your separate ways and go into hiding.’

‘You’re right, you do say it every time,’ Leeta hissed. ‘And every time you come back straight away, there’s no need for it, Cap’n.’

‘Trust me Leeta, there’ll come a time when you’ll be glad when I told you to do that,’ Darkmoor scratched at his blade-arm, a phantom itch tingling across the steel. ‘These Borani trade lords are treacherous bastards.’

‘Aye, they are,’ Gibralt nodded and tapped at his eye-patch. ‘I should know.’

Darkmoor ceased scratching his blade and smiled once more. ‘Well, if that’s everything, I’ll be on my way. Remember how we’re splitting the bounty, lads; four shares to each of us, then Leeta and Strom give out two shares to the rest of the crew.’

‘Hang on, Captain,’ Gibralt raised his hands. ‘I’m coming with.’

‘And why’s that?’

‘I want to see this trade lord of yours, I was in good favour with a few of them before I got court-martialed,’ Gibralt coughed. ‘I could get us a higher bounty.’

The captain nodded slowly. ‘Good thinking Gibralt. Alright, you can come with me then.’

‘Marcon said he wants to come too, reckons it could be his only chance to see the whole trade process,’ Gibralt added.

‘Fine, he can come with, but the rest of you need to remember what I said,’ Darkmoor looked grim and then walked down the docks towards the town. The prisoners were escorted by a pair of demons that followed directly behind the captain. Gibralt and Marcon both flanked him on either side and a quiet gasp escaped the midshipman as they came to the outskirts of Delgatti.

The sanctuary town was one of contrast. The docks and outskirts of town were in a state of disrepair and full of poverty. Every one of the buildings were made of mud-bricks and shoddy terracotta tiles, there were no windows on the houses and the doors were broken. Beggars and paupers dressed in patched rags hobbled across the streets, heading towards the markets that sprawled across the docks and encroached on the local’s homes. Further down the street, however, grand and extravagant townhouses loomed over the poorer districts.

Elegantly dressed guards, clad in the finest gold and silver breastplates, were stationed along a no-man’s land separating the two parts of town. Darkmoor nodded at one he recognised and they stood aside for the captain and his companions. An old woman took this opportunity to run through to the richer district and was immediately knocked off her feet by the shield of a guard. Marcon turned and stepped towards them but was stopped by the scimitar of his captain.

‘Leave her lad,’ Darkmoor whispered. ‘It may not be fair but life isn’t. Right now our main concern is making sure we get our pay, lest we end up like that wretch.’

The next district was populated by the middle-classes. The houses were far larger and well kept; the plain terracotta tiles of the poorer houses replaced by coloured mosaic tiles, forming intricate patterns across the streets. The doors were made of sturdy everwood and stained-panel windows completed the pretension. The men and women strolling through were dressed in faux-silk suits, dresses and various uniforms designed for beauty rather than utility.

Another checkpoint ended in their entrance to the central district. The buildings were more like palaces and castles than houses. Marcon was silent in awe, Gibralt smiled in nostalgia and Darkmoor remained grim as they continued their journey. The buildings were all bleach white, covered in domes and spires and lacked doors. Guards patrolled the streets in even more intricate armour than their colleagues in the at the checkpoints and the local men and women to this district bustling around wore extravagant silk clothing, golden thread woven into the seams and their faces caked in makeup regardless of gender. Tall wigs were perched on their heads and the men carried carved canes, despite their use of both legs.

‘Wankers,’ Gibralt grunted. ‘What kind of man dresses like that?’

Darkmoor smirked at his first mate. ‘I seem to recall you used to be one of these, Gibralt.’

‘Aye, but a few days on a ship taught me you can’t go looking like that anywhere outside Boran.’

‘Why’s that Mister Mikkelson?’ Marcon piped up.

Gibralt scratched at his neck and grumbled. ‘You can’t put makeup on when there’s waves.’

Darkmoor cackled loudly. A few of the fops around them nearly jumped out of their skins. They stared at the trio and began tutting and gossiping.

‘One of the things I don’t miss about central districts,’ Gibralt began, loud enough for everyone to hear, ‘is the nosy, chattering cunts. If I heard one of them talking about me you know what I’d do, Captain Darkmoor?’

Darkmoor smiled once more and replied. ‘I don’t know, what’d you do Gibralt Mikkelson?’

‘I’d gut every last one of ’em of course!’ Gibralt smirked.

‘Aye, I’d probably join you too,’ Darkmoor laughed, raising his blade-arm enough for it to seem casual but so everyone could see it. Within an instant the locals that lined the street scampered away.

‘Mister Mikkelson? Captain Darkmoor?’ Marcon began. ‘Was there really any need for that?’

Darkmoor stopped and knelt down to eye level with the snotty and clapped a hand to his cheek. ‘First thing you need to learn lad; fear is power. The more you can terrify a person the more you can predict and control him. Second thing is this; if you have power then display it. Power can always be increased just by showing how much you already have. Got that?’ As the young albino nodded Darkmoor slapped his cheek gently and stood up, resuming on his course.

Eventually they reached the entrance to the trade lord’s palace. A throng of guards were stationed outside. It only took a gesture in their direction from Darkmoor for several of them to escort him and his companions inside. The corridors were cavernous and the walls covered in portraits, all of them depicting the same man. The ceiling was covered in a long mural depicting the countless gods of the world all filing to give praise to the trade lord and the marble floor had a runed transcript naming them all. Heavy footfalls and the clanging of chains echoed down the empty corridor. This was a palace of vanity. Everything here was intended to feed the ego of the bastard in charge.

After passing through the towering main hall, with its marble and gold staircase, the guards opened the doors to the trade lord’s throne room. Lord Malquiss was certainly egocentric; his portraits created an image of a strong, defiant and cunning gentleman. In reality the lord was another fop. He may have had broad shoulders, yet those were the only muscles he had. His face was painted bone-white, a fake mole placed above his lips and a small gold and crimson crown sat on his head. The most ridiculously frilly and embroidered golden suit hang off him, and even his shoes had gold woven into the soles. He was perched in the centre of the room on an overtly regal throne surrounded by portraits, mirrors and guards. As Darkmoor and his group walked through the doorway Lord Malquiss rose to his feet and clapped excitedly.

‘Oh, Rogan, you have returned,’ he squeaked. ‘I was beginning to think you’d been bested by the Nimians!’

‘No Malquiss, I think you’ll find I’m difficult to kill,’ Darkmoor faked a smile and bowed as little as possible. ‘I still don’t see any women around here, Malquiss. You intend to stay a bachelor your whole life?’

Malquiss sighed and tossed his hand back casually. ‘Alas there are no women in this great nation that are worthy of myself, I find it a curse to be as I am.’

Darkmoor coughed and attempted to restrain a sickened giggle. ‘I’ve brought back the men you told me to, but whatever you’d need them for I’ve no idea.’

Malquiss almost squealed in delight. ‘Good, good. Let me speak to Captain d’Amun, bring him here.’ One of the demons escorting the prisoners unchained the Nimian captain and kicked him to his knees in front of the trade lord. ‘Ah, Erdun! I do believe you’ve ran out of luck. You see, the rest of your remaining crew may live but you, you have to be removed.’

‘What do you mean?’ Captain d’Amun whimpered.

Malquiss gave a sharp cackle and snatched a rapier from one of his guards. ‘I mean you’re going to die, Captain. You’re going to die by my hand for mistreating my step-brother.’ A quick jerk of his hand severed the Nimian’s head from his shoulders. Blood poured from his neck as the head rolled towards Darkmoor’s feet, spattering the polished marble floor with crimson. ‘Send someone to remove the body and clean the floors, I can’t stand blood,’ Malquiss stated, pulling a laced handkerchief from his pocket and pressing it to his mouth. ‘Release the other prisoners.’

The two demons unshackled each of the prisoners and pushed them to Malquiss, expecting a harsh treatment for each of them. ‘Why did you want the rest of the crew, Malquiss?’ Darkmoor asked.

‘That’s Lord Malquiss to you,’ Malquiss sneered. ‘My step-brother tells me that you tortured him, Darkmoor; that has me rather upset with you.’

‘Your step-brother? Rogan’s tortured many people in my time; you’ll have to be a bit more specific,’ Gibralt grunted.

Malquiss’ face twisted into a mask of disgust. ‘Know your place, peasant. Do not address me directly unless I speak to you.’

‘Peasant?!’ Gibralt howled with laughter. ‘I’m Gibralt Mikkelson; I was heir to Lord Tinwun of Terroc’s fortune. I’m no fucking peasant you prick!’

Guards appeared on all sides and restrained the demons, Gibralt and Marcon yet failed to lay a hand on Darkmoor. He strode forwards, pointing his blade-arm at Malquiss. ‘Let my men go and tell me who the fuck I tortured to piss you off and what you need that crew for.’

‘It was me, Cap’n.’ Darkmoor spun around to see a ruined Blackfoot standing in the doorway. His face now covered in a thick stubble, still dressed in the tattered vest he wore when he was being flogged. He paced to the side of Malquiss and smiled slyly. ‘I should’ve told you, my name’s actually Obidiah Malquiss. If you’d given me a chance to tell you when you had me flogged, I would’ve told you that my brother here told me to stop you before we reached the Osiris.’

Darkmoor’s mouth fell. ‘What? Why?!’

‘Good lord, your poor back!’ Malquiss interrupted, running his hand over Blackfoot’s heavily scarred back.

‘Thanks for your concern Julio, but Fortunus smiled on me and it’s not too serious.’ Blackfoot smiled at Darkmoor evilly. ‘Why, my brother was looking for any excuse to have you killed, Captain. Whether by failing your bounty or committing overkill, you would’ve been executed. It just so happens that you not only gave him an excuse to finish you off but also a crew to replace you!’ Blackfoot and Malquiss cackled, quietly.

‘Why the fuck did you want me dead?!’ Darkmoor’s eyes widened as guards flanked him.

‘Nothing personal of course, Captain,’ Malquiss strode back over to his throne with Blackfoot at his side. ‘I just want your ship for myself.’

Darkmoor drew his hand-cannon and pointed it at the trade lord. ‘Of all the reasons people have come up with for wanting me dead; revenge, notoriety, racial fucking cleansing, that is the single most fucking stupid reason I’ve ever heard.’

‘Sure you can shoot me, but you’ll all be dead before you could fire another shot,’ Malquiss sneered. ‘Kill the boy.’

One of the guards pulled out a heavy mace and crushed Marcon’s skull. The two demons pulled free of their captors and went to slay that guard only to be gutted by two more. Darkmoor turned and screamed in rage as three guards grabbed him from behind. The guard that slew Marcon slammed his mace into his jaw. Darkmoor groaned loudly as he felt his jaw break, a pain shooting right up to his temples, making his eyes water and his vision fade to a darkened tunnel-vision. Fighting for consciousness he kicked the mace-wielder away and dragged the three guards that clung to him around as he faced Malquiss again.

‘You’d better hope you kill me right away or I swear I’ll end you for that,’ Darkmoor groaned, his words barely legible.

‘Don’t worry, we’re going to have some fun with you first,’ Blackfoot cackled. In anger Darkmoor raised his hand-cannon once more, pulling the guard on his arm to his knees, and aimed at Malquiss’ face. Another blow from the mace to his back knocked him of his feet and he pulled the trigger, a shot of iron rain landing in the trade lord’s knee. Darkmoor moaned in pain as he allowed unconsciousness to take him away from the intense pain in his face and spine.

 ------------------------------------------

Darkness grasped the captain. A blinding light pierced his closed eyelids and the sound of waves crashed around him. The familiar smell of the salt air burnt at his nostrils and a creeping ache spread through his jaw. A roaring built up in front of him, the sound of a crowd approaching. He tried to move but found it impossible. The roaring grew louder, turned to jeering. The jeering continued to grow louder, separate calls audible now. A rocking motion juddered Darkmoor and a horrifying notion gripped him.

He prized his eyes open to find himself tied up and onboard the Fenrir’s Maw. The crew was entirely different; now comprised of Borani sailors and former guards dressed in a pale green uniform. The officers from the Osiris were at the front of the crowd and, directly in front of him, Blackfoot was there, cleanly shaved and wearing an admiral’s suit.

‘Rise and shine, Darkmoor,’ Blackfoot grinned.

Darkmoor went to speak but found it extremely difficult, his jaw still broken and his beard matted with blood. He looked down at his hand to see the blade had been removed; only a misshapen stump remained. He’d been tied up too, a large stone attached to the end of the rope. ‘What the hell are you doing here, Blackfoot? Don’t you know who I am? I’m Captain Rogan Darkmoor of the Fenrir’s Maw!’

‘I know that, but you’re addressing Admiral Obidiah Malquiss of the Delgatti Navy, and this is my flagship the Malquiss’ Might, not the Fenrir’s Maw,’ Blackfoot sneered, his speaking habits awfully similar to those of his step-brother. A groan to Darkmoor’s left showed Gibralt had woken. Darkmoor looked over his shoulder to see Gibralt in a better state than him, despite his missing eye-patch and burnt socket.

‘I’m glad to see my first mate’s alive at least,’ Darkmoor mumbled.

‘Oh yes, we’ve been keeping him alive to get a ransom from Lord Tinwun of Terroc,’ Blackfoot paced towards Gibralt. ‘Now that he’s paid the ransom, however, we have no need to keep him alive.’

‘What do you think you’re going to do to me? Keelhaul me?’ Darkmoor scoffed. ‘You know I survived it unharmed.’

Blackfoot scowled at the captain and moved his face to within an inch of him. ‘I heard that speech you made to the snotty in Delgatti, that one about power. You were right about one thing; fear is power. But you got the second part wrong. It’s far greater to hide your power; the revelation of hidden power instils far more fear than an ever-present one. As you have found out. You’re now powerless before me; your weapons gone, your crew fled or killed, your ship under my command. I would reward you with the same cruelty you showed me, but I’m not an evil man. So I’m casting you off the ship.’

‘You’re throwing me off my own ship?!’ Darkmoor laughed callously. It was only then that he realised exactly where he was. There was no sign of land or life for hundreds of miles, from horizon to horizon. If he was in the water here there’d be little chance of his survival.

Blackfoot drew a dagger and pressed it to Darkmoor’s nose. ‘Don’t take me for an idiot, I know your reputation. I’m going to make sure there’s no possible escape. For either of you. But don’t worry; this is going to be as slow and painful for you as possible.’ He slashed Darkmoor and Gibralt across the chest and the crew roared in jubilation. The wounds seeped dark blood slowly down their shirts. The first mate, Josel de Renoit from the Osiris, nailed down a plank of wood behind Darkmoor and joined the horde that jeered at the former captain.

‘Don’t worry Captain,’ the barely conscious Gibralt whispered. ‘I have a plan.’

A sharp push from Blackfoot made Darkmoor step back. ‘Get walking, both of you.’ Darkmoor complied, shuffling onto the plank, Gibralt inches behind him. The throng of Borani sailors inched forwards with them, weapons drawn in an attempt to ensure they took the plunge.

‘I’ll be back Blackfoot, I guarantee that!’ Darkmoor roared. ‘Even if I get dragged kicking and screaming to hell, I’m taking you with me!’

‘Goodbye Captain,’ Blackfoot sighed as he kicked Gibralt in the back, forcing both he and Darkmoor off the plank and into the icy waters below. Darkmoor’s final thoughts before the plunge weren’t his life flashing before his eyes, they were one single sentence; ‘Gibralt had better have a fucking genius plan.’

The End

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