Friday, November 30, 2007

Chapter 3 - Escapes & Escapades

For the next three years I toiled aboard the Wavestrider and fought in many engagements and raids. Though not a Varyag myself, I was accepted by the crew and immersed in their language and customs. The bold pirate ship under the command of Savago Polinoy became my home and family, and like most willful children I could not wait to run away and escape.

From that first fateful raid on the Tyrennhian cargo ship, I knew full well that I would need to escape from the Wavestrider. The problem was, how to do that without getting caught by either the pirates or the local law enforcement. While I knew that I would likely need to wait until they were back in a familiar place, I also realized that it was unlikely that we would return to my home any time soon. So it was that I bided my time until the Wavestrider was once again making for port at Dahlon. Unfortunately, life does not care for the machinations and plans of the living, and so fate intervened before the Wavestrider could reach the Merlani Free Cities.

As the Polinoy clan ship sailed quickly towards its destination they did not realize that an enemy lay along their path. When it was too late for the Wavestriderto alter her course, the massive Tyrennhian Quinquereme appeared out of nowhere, her invisibility removed by the stone her forward onager had just lobbed over the Wavestrider's deck.

Unprepared for the surprise attack, Savago had a moment to stare, open-mouthed and in shock, at the massive Imperial warship almost directly ahead of him. A voice boomed over the deck demanding that the Varyag heave to and prepare for boarding. The Wavestriderwas doomed if they tried to resist, so Savago complied with a speed worthy of the Freiji, the Aspect of the Swift Current.

After a few moments Imperial Marines were boarding the smaller pirate ship from the Tyrennhian warship. The Quinquereme was massive for a warship, but not as big as the heavy Septiremes and Decares that the Tyrennhian Imperium was capable of fielding. I noted the difference in size casually and professionally, comparing this ship to the enormous bulk of the Kraken, a Tyrennhian Decares that had come to Dahlon for trade and diplomacy in my youth. Though smaller, this ship seemed as deadly as her larger cousin.

Taking a quick look at the Quinquereme also gained her the ship's name, written in blocky Medarin on the hull beneath the forecastle. This ship was the Proconsul's Writ, a name that immediately filled me with dread. The ship was a patrol and customs ship renown for catching pirates in just the manner in which the Wavestrider had been captured.

While I mused over the inherent unfairness of it all, a young Tyrennhian officer looked quizically at me and cocked an eyebrow. In Galari, the language of my homeland, he asked, "Whatever is a Merlani doing on a Varyag ship?"

"Working her passage," replied Savago tersely in Medarin to show that he had understood the question and was having none of this nonsense. Vigo looked tense, and two more officers joined the boarding party. The oldest of the officers bore the badges of a Quinquerarch, and was obviously the captain of the Writ.

"I suppose, then, that yours is a cargo ship, Master Varyag," asked the Quinquerarch in a somewhat bored tone.

"Aye, she is that, Captain, and dare I ask why you are stopping merchant ships at sea in the middle of nowhere?" replied Savago angrily. Though he was obviously bluffing, he played the angry and affronted merchant with all the skill of a seasoned actor.

"I see. Then you should have no trouble providing me with proper manifests for a complete customs inspection, eh?" was the Tyrennhian's retort.

Fortunately for us, Savago was no fool, and Vigo and Yssa were forgers of great skill. The ship had papers for every piece of cargo in its hold, and the papers would all pass muster as being legitimate bills of lading and transport for the cargo. Also, as luck would have it, while much of the cargo was contraband in the Imperium, it was perfectly legal in our listed port of call, Dahlon.

The inspection took three hours, as the Tyrennhians were convinced, rightly so as it turned out, that we were all pirates. The young officer, whose name was Septimus Arrenus, kept looking at me the whole time. Though I detested the Imperium for what it had done to my homeland, I had to admit that the young naval officer was really rather dashing in an odd sort of way, though the odd hairstyle affected by Tyrennhian soldiers was kind of off-putting.

In the end, the Wavestrider was allowed to continue on to Dahlon under close escort, thus preventing Savago from filling the rest of his hold on the way to Dahlon. It was obvious that the Tyrennhian knew that the Polinoy ship was obviously a real pirate, but without proof, the law-abiding military of the Imperium would not do anything about it. It took ten days to sail to Dahlon with the Proconsul's Writ dogging us every step of the way.

When we reached Dahlon, my first action was to perform my normal duties and assist with the loading and unloading of the cargo. Much of the time we were under observation by Tyrennhian soldiers or sailors, to the obvious annoyance of the stevedores working the docks. As soon as that was done, I looked to one of the stevedores and told him that one of the Tyrennhians had said something about re-conquering the dirty Merlani scum in this crummy little city. The stevedore quickly spread the word, and the next thing you knew there was a massive fight breaking out between the dock workers and the Tyrennhians. Using the fracas as a diversion, I slipped away from the docks and up into the city proper.

I realized first off that I would not be able to go home right away, and that Deroone Verthur's shop would probably be the first place anyone with half a brain would think to look for me. Understanding that my options were severely limited, and that the mix of different coins in my purse would only last for so long, I made my way as quickly as I could to the south end of town.

Assuming nothing had changed, I knew that the current leader of the Dahlon Secretariat, Fendy Brill, could be found there. It was risky, but I knew it was my only chance for survival and escape. I almost made it to Brill's home when those words that every right thinking woman hates to hear: "Guards, arrest that woman!"

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