It took me a few days to realize that something was not quite right on the Polinoy clan ship that I had become crew on. Although I had never been to sea before and had no direct experience with sailing, I had seen enough ships in the harbor to know that something was a bit off. Little things that I should have noticed but that my excitement over my new career as a sailor over-rode.
The first thing I should have noticed was that although we were off-loading a great deal of cargo, it seemed that very little cargo was being taken on. It is rather odd for a merchant to go about with an empty hold, but I supposed that maybe the Polinoys were waiting for goods or a transhipment or even taking on new cargo at sea by transferring items. Piracy should have leapt right to mind, but I was too full of the idea of adventure to think clearly.
The second thing that I should have noticed were the number of weapons aboard the ship. Everyone was armed, and there were a nummber of weapons secreted about the ship as well. I assumed at the time that this had to do with the perils of the seas, unfortunately I failed to consider the fact that the Wavestrider was in fact one of those perils.
In the end we sailed from the harbor at Dahlon and made way for Tunde, another of the Free Cities and our next stated destination. After about 4 hours of sailing in the correct direction we began changing course and heading further West, out of the Merlani regions and into the open sea. When I asked Vigo what was going on, he cagily replied that we were positioning themselves to get the best hunting. I naturally assumed that he was referring to the bounty on Slillikul or that they might be hunting a Tojanida or even a Narwhale, but of course I was mistaken.
I learned the depth of my error when the heavily laden Tyrennhian merchantman hove into sight on the horizon three days later. Suddenly the deck was alive with activity and I found a cutlass thrust into my hands.
"Put it in your sash and get in the rigging, Arissa," said Vigo excitedly, "It is time to earn our keep."
"What... what do you mean?" I asked with a sinking feeling that I really knewn what he had meant all along and just did not want to believe it.
"Oh come off it Arissa, you know full well what I mean. At dinner the other day you talked about how awful the Tyrennhians are, and how you wished you could pay them back for what they did to Dahlon during the occupation. Well, here is your chance for revenge. Ok, so we also make some money at this, but beggars cannot be choosers," laughed Vigo heartily.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Savago watching us intently. Obviously this was to be my test. If I agreed and took part in the piracy, then I would become an outlaw, like them, and would be forced to help them and work with them for the rest of my days. If I refused, then I would likely be tossed overboard after having been tied to something heavy. Neither proposition appealed to me, however I had little choice in the matter. Better to live as a pirate than die as a moralist.
I gave a brusque nod and began to climb the rigging. The glance that passed between Savago and Vigo did not escape my notice, but I am sure that they intended it that way. Suddenly I realized that I was going to have to be very careful and plan my future without trusting anybody on this ship.
Meanwhile, the fat merchantman had seen us lying doggo on the horizon and was frantically trying to turn away from us. As heavy in the water as the big merchant was, she could not outmaneuver the Wavestrider which had been built for speed and maneuverability by the finest Varyag craftsmen. The merchant valiantly tried to warn us off by firing its stern chase armaments, a pair of light mareballistae, but the crew of the Wavestrider knew full well what they were doing and fired off a chain shot from the forward onager which took out the Tyrennhian's primary mast.
Her speed cut to almost nothing, the merchantman became desperate and the banked oars began feverishly cutting into the water, trying to turn the behemoth. Vigo laughed uproariously at the pitiful display of the Tyrennhian captain frantically barking orders as crewmen injured in the fall of the primary mast attempted to rally. They were really no match for the Varyag pirate, and they knew it, but they were trying valiantly to stave off the inevitible.
The Wavestrider closed quickly, and the next thing I knew we were boarding the Tyrennhian ship, whose name was apparently the Jewel of Vrendisium. I found myself fighting crewmen on the deck for what seemed an eternity, giving and receiving blows with equanimity, my qualms about being in this position quashed by the needs of survival. Soon enough, though, the Tyrennhian ship was subdued with only minimal loss of life on both sides.
Under the direction of Savago's wife, Alainda, we loaded some of the most valuable goods from the merchant's hold into our own, leaving most of the rest in the hold. The Tyrennhians were amazed at this and Savago replied calmly, "Do you think we are fools? If we take all of your treasure and goods you will be bankrupt and unable to sail and bring me more trade! Soon there would be no ships for us to plunder were we to take that route. In fact if you are ever assaulted in that way we will be the first to come to your aid. There is an old Varyag saying, my stiff necked friend: When the storm comes only a fool as no hat. If I make you all too angry you will hunt me down and kill me and my family. This way I am a nuisance, but one that is not so bad that you cannot live with it."
With that said Savago untied two members of the Tyrennhian's crew and we helped them repair the crippled mast. I have to say that at that moment I rather admired the Polinoy crew. Unfortunately for them I was still going to get off of this damned pirate ship as soon as I could and even my admiration was not going to stop me. All I needed was a plan.