“Sunrise & Blood”

 

 

“Sunrise and Blood – A Rohrlands Tale”

 


Prependix

Dear Fortunate Traveler,

Philanthis, my home, is a dark and dangerous land that despises strangers and objects to those who will not abide by our harsh rules. I have been cursed and my countrymen have forbidden me to stay any longer. I will soon be unable to speak a language that I have come to love for its beauty as well as its intricacy. We Philanthians despise the improper use of our language almost as much as we do the weak. Please use this information to survive and escape should you ever find yourself in their lands unwillingly.

For the purposes of pronunciation of Philanthian names or phrases, the accent apostrophe (‘) denotes that it is spoken with the “ah” sound, unless it is preceded with the vowel “a”, then the “ah” sound is simply extended to a longer version, “ahhh”.

        Example: “A’daz” is pronounced “ahhhh-daaz” not “Aaay-daz”

If any other vowel precedes the accent apostrophe, (‘), the letter is pronounced.

        Example: “Iny’o” is pronounced “In-why-ah-oh” not “Any-ah-oh”.

If the accent apostrophe, (‘), is preceded by a consonant then the consonant sound is extended.

        Example: K’met would be “Kah-met” not “Kay-met”.

Other examples are as follows for the proper word pronunciation.

                       Onrisa =’s “On-ah-re-sa”

                       Chedyn =’s “Shey-ah-din”

                       Dzir =s “Dah-zeer”

                       Rayouset =’s “Ray-ous-ah-et”

                       Agita =’s “Ag-ah-ita”

                       Itil =’s “Eye-ah-till”

                       Ydet =’s “Why-ah-det”

 

Please keep in mind that should you choose to ignore these suggested guidelines, those Philanthians to whom you speak or who happen to hear you referring to them without pronouncing their language properly WILL become upset. You have been warned!

 

                                                                                                                        Pokmok Lighteyes

Chapter One

** The Agita **

Onrisa hated having to come to this place. The stench, debauchery, and lack of discipline of these lowlifes disgusted her. The smell of stale drink and the aftereffects of too much consumption – assailed her senses, even through the fatwee mask she wore, which was necessary for someone of her stature. She earned every bit of that stature, rising from one of the “unwanted” and serving her Philanthian masters to that of a ship’s captain in the Philanthian Royal Fleet. Nothing was going to interfere with the meeting she was traveling to. The fact that she now resembled those she had not long ago murdered somehow escaped her judgmental thoughts.

“Well, look here, me boy’os! A grand black falcon or some such shite!” a drunk shouted out in the dim torchlight of the streets as he pointed toward Onrisa and her two escorts.

Onrisa quickly assessed those he was preening for and saw that the drunks outnumbered them by more than three to one. Even if they were drunks, swords from an unsteady hand were still as deadly if the wielder became lucky.

“Loudmouth,” as she would come to call him, made his way toward her while stumbling the fifteen paces in the early evening darkness. Regardless of their condition, his friends stayed where they were, issuing each other that sickly, frightened grin that always accompanied the foolish drunk and stupidly brave. With the hand signals they learned under her guidance, she silently signaled her two guards to stand down but remain ready. Maintaining the element of surprise offered the difference between life and death. As Whit Darby and Aleenyi readied themselves for whatever was about to come, they gave one another a wry grin, knowing Onrisa would find some sort of entertainment in the dangerous. Whit tilted his feathered hat back to ensure that his old, green eyes could see everything, while casually crossing his arms across his chest.

Aleenyi placed her hands onto each of her ryndsai daggers, a pair of long, curved blades designed to cause as much pain as possible as they cut though flesh. She too wore a fatwee, but hers displayed the fearsome head of a lion with two sets of horns. The face was shaped in red leather. The first set of horns rose from just above her ears that were hidden under her fatwee, and they made her appear much taller than she actually was. Another pair of horns began at the back of her head and wrapped forward, ending in front of her face, giving her additional protection during combat. The horns were surrounded by long, full, black fur that was combed back over her head and flowed down onto the middle of her back.

“Are you a mister or a missus under that bird mask?” he slurred at her with a sarcasm that would have otherwise earned him a quick death.

Falk Isle was now Onrisa’s only home, there was no other place she could go—which caused her to keep her silence, for the moment. She stared at him from beneath her fa’twee. She readied herself as he reached for his belt; instead of the sword he should have drawn, he untied a coin purse from his wide leather belt that held up his ragged red-and-white striped canvas pants. He poured several copper coins into the palm of his hand while she watched his actions calmly, wondering what foolish choice he would make with them.

It didn’t take long. He grinned as he leaned her, exhaling his foul breath from between his missing, rotted, and broken teeth. The stench of his breath permeated through Onrisa’s fa’twee, filling her with disgust.

Loudmouth tipped his palm, letting the coins fall to the cobblestones while he cupped his ear with his other hand and tilted his head toward the ground, listening as several coins hit the ground and rang out in the darkness.

“Sounds to me like your name be jingle-jang, ting-tang!” he said toward his friends with an insulting laugh.

“It’s actually Onrisa,” she said in perfect common with a glare that he was unable to see.

“Oh, you’d be sayin’ I should ‘ave dropped me some wooden coins, eh?” he laughed.

“It’s very simple. Can you say ‘on,’ or is that beyond your abilities?” she asked.

Proud of the fact that he could pronounce a word in the Philanthian tongue, he shouted out his response. “On!” he said with some degree of self-satisfaction.

“Nice,” Onrisa cooed. “Now, when you hear a Philanthian name, the syllables are of utmost importance. If you say them wrong, we could become offended. We break them up like this. Can you say ‘ah’ as well, I wonder?”

“Arrrr…me mateys! Ain’t that what she asked?” he asked his friends with a foolish grin and turned to see their reactions.

Onrisa, too, saw their grins as she listened to their laughter, watching Loudmouth closely as he returned his attention to her. Onrisa stepped forward and drove her short, whisper-thin sleeve dagger into his throat. With snakelike speed, she reached out and took hold of his hair at the back of his head, ensuring that he would not fall. A pitched rush of pain escaped his lips as he began grabbing her wrist, struggling to extract her blade from his throat.

With a coldness that few on Falk Isle ever experienced, Onrisa wondered why he didn’t simply pull himself away from her dagger rather than trying to force her to extract it.

“Nooooo…you’re short on the pitch, actually,” Onrisa said as she twisted his head to her left, away from her blade, while increasing his pain as she toyed with him.

She wriggled her blade within his throat, and another quick gasp of pain accompanied by a brief but high-pitched vowel sound escaped his lips as she did. Onrisa tilted her mask toward his lips as if listening while she looked over his shoulder to see what his friends were going to do.

“Nooo…still not quite correct,” she whispered. She tilted his head back further over his shoulders. “That is followed with what sounds like ‘ree-suh’…but that is close enough for a Dainch,” she spat.

She glared at his friends as she sliced his throat open. Crimson sprayed across her black armor.

Onrisa’s escorts drew their weapons as Loudmouth’s friends reached for theirs; they quickly changed their minds, scattering into the darkness. Onrisa cleaned her blade on Loudmouth’s shoulder and stepped around him. She left him to die kneeling on the street, trying to close the fatal wound with his hands.

“Remember this, me boy’os, the next time you see me coming down the street!” she yelled threateningly to the men who were quickly scurrying away.

Her two escorts sheathed their weapons and bowed toward her as she looked back at them, ensuring that they were ready to proceed toward her meeting.

** The Black Moon **

Mykal woke to flashes of sunlight reflecting off the water and into the cabin of his ship. Pushing back his long blonde locks, he let his green eyes adjust to the flickering sunlight that bounced across the bed. Ever cautious, he glanced about the room. He relaxed, seeing only his desk, which was covered with charts; his small bookshelf that held several books describing the cultures and beasts of the other continents; and the comforting planks that shaped the inside of his quarters. He saw no movement nor heard any sound other than the sea slapping at the timbers of the ship as it rocked on the tide. He noticed that the blue sheets of the bed were mussed and gathered down by their feet, again. He reached down and pulled the sheet back up to cover Indira and himself, and settled softly back onto his pillows, not wanting to wake her.

Mykal turned his attention to the windows of his captain’s quarters while nestling himself deeper in his feather bed. The bed, suspended with ropes that stretched from the ceiling to the floor, swayed gently in the slow, early morning swells of the harbor. He lifted his arm behind his head, resting it in the muscular crook and looking through the glass out into the harbor. As he looked out, he saw the Agita and the Crimson Crescent, their masts sitting empty and their anchors dropped. They must have also arrived sometime during the dark hours, answering the call. It was a simple thing, the request. “Return to Falk Isle. Our safe haven is at risk.”

Everyone knew that without keeping Falk Isle secure, there would be no refuge for any of them. Raiders were outlawed and hunted by everyone; capture had only one outcome – a “hemp halter.” I’ll take a sword to the chest before being hung by a rope! Mykal grinned. It isn’t easy being both predator and prey!

He smiled and looked at his partner Indira as she slid her hand across his chest and one of her long, shapely legs across both of his as she woke. It was a ritual with her, as though she wanted to make sure he was still hers. He never hid the fact from her that he always would be. He was a man of passions; he understood that about himself. It might be his downfall someday, but it would not be today, he thought.

Today would be about finding out what was going on. There were going to be seventeen ships in this harbor. If the Equiosans, Rohrlanders, or—gods forbid—the Philanthian fleet showed up, it could be trouble. Sindkus felt that the threat was too great to ignore, for any length of time, else he would not have called for the moot.

Mykal hoped that the Gauntlet was doing its job; he liked that scurrilous dog, Capt. Swett. He managed to get his ship restored and found a way to get the rest of the raiders to pay him to guard their coastlines! One has to admire that kind of savvy! He thought about the sheer power of the Gauntlet. It was a rammer, designed to punch holes through the hull of any opposing ship. No wonder the Gauntlet lost so much booty to the bottom of the sea! Swett seemed to sink ships faster than he could retrieve the treasures from it! he thought with a grin.

“Who’s made it in so far?” Indira asked him with her rough, sultry morning voice.

“I can see the Agita and the Crescent. We’ll have to get up to see if the rest have made it in yet. The others you already know about.”

“We’ve been here nearly a fortnight. How long do we have to wait?”

“As long as is necessary. The moot only takes place once all the captains are present. You know that. But I heard the rest would be here today.”

“I hate these things! I get so bored!” she said with mock petulance.

Mykal laughed aloud. “The day you get bored with walking the booths and spending coin is the day that we scuttle this ship!”

Indira grinned mischievously and reached up and pinched his nipple as she sat up, the sheet falling away from her body as she did. She quickly and lovingly traced one of the many scars on his chest, and with a grin she twisted around and straddled her lover. She wrapped her arms behind his head as she leaned forward and kissed him deeply.

Mykal returned her kiss and embrace, gently caressing the small of her back, realizing how lucky he was.

** The Bloody Eddies **

Jaeger sat across from Kutter Kane in the galley, eating their morning rations in the dim light that emanated from a porthole above the side table. The odor of aged wooden planks and the smells of salt air and ham filled the small room. Taking a drink of his hot dark bean brew, Jaeger stared at him, noticing that the man ate with more gusto than even dwarves. Kutter’s yellow-and-blue kerchief was wrapped around his head to cover his missing eye. His brown leather tri-cornered hat was pulled tightly down to his eyebrows to help hold his bandana in place.

“We’ve got plenty of stores, ya know,” Jaeger pointed out to him.

“I know,” Kutter said through mouthfuls of biscuits and ham.

“Then why ye be shovin’ it in likes we’s facin’ the hemp halter?”

“Busy day, Cap’n! We got to be takin’ on freshwater, and, well, you know the gonna be wantin’ to get to the taverns and such. We’s also got to move this treasure we took from that Equiosan trader, and then we got the moot…” Kutter said in his deep, aged voice, but Jaeger cut him off.

“But what’s that got to do with throwin’ that grub down like it’s my dwarven ale?”

“I’m nervous, Cap’n. We ain’t had no moot in a couple of years. Makin’ me nervous, what with Sindkus callin’ us all home!”

“You ain’t goin’ to be doin’ no one no good if you make yourself sick. And I ain’t pickin’ up yer slack, so slow the hells down.”

“Yes’n, Cap’n,” he replied, still not slowing down.

Shoving the rest of his breakfast into his mouth and swigging down the remainder of his morning cup of rum, he said, “If’n the Cap’n be givin’ me pardon, I’ll be goin’ to take care of them things I told him about.”

“Go ahead,” Jaeger said, smiling at his first mate. “Be gone with ye. Best be makin’ sure old Teresa gives us what that booty’s worth, else I’ll be havin’ serious words with her and her boys!”

“Yes, Cap’n,” Kutter said as he slipped out of the galley.

Jaeger leaned back and finished his breakfast, ignoring the crumbs of food that fell into his long beard as he contemplated what was expected of him at this moot. As captain of a raider—even a dwarvish captain—he and the other captains would have to take a vote on what to do about whatever it was that Sindkus needed to tell them. Being captain of this ship less than a year and having killed its previous captain, forced him to think this situation through. He was aware that although Captain Haw’s remaining friends still lived on Falk Isle, he didn’t have many who would stand with him. What worried him was that even though the man wasn’t well liked, there were many that had followed, and crewed with him. Jaeger figured that the only thing most of the raiders did with any conviction was go where they got paid to chase their own perceptions of freedom. If Haw hadn’t tried to kill him, he’d still be captain of the Bloody Eddies. Fate decided that Haw weren’t that good of a captain after all. He’d have to make sure he was better than that.

Jaeger leaned back and pulled out an ornate pipe that one of the crew gave him out of his own share of his booty. Accompanied by a smile, he told Jaeger that crews couldn’t respect a man who didn’t have any bad habits. After showing him how to smoke a pipe, Jaeger found that he rather enjoyed the process of it. Still, he limited himself to smoking one bowl after each meal, and sometimes he puffed on it when trying to keep up the morale of his crew.

Jaeger liked his crew, and some even liked him back. Yet he knew that it was still all about the treasures they captured. Jaeger’s policy of doling out equal shares of the spoils, whether dead or alive, is what made him a popular captain. He wanted his men to know that even if they were killed, their wives and kids would be getting what he promised. It was the dwarven thing to do. His men loved him for that, and they rarely jumped from his ship to another. If they did, it was usually because they brought the wrath of his crew upon themselves. Sometimes they convinced themselves that the gold was greater in another tunnel. Either way, Kutter approved of the way he was running the ship and that meant a lot to Jaeger. Good first mates could always find another ship and Kutter stayed aboard his.

A knock on the galley way interrupted his thoughts. He looked up through the cloud of ‘baccer smoke and saw that his friend, Flatforge, approaching, his expression suggesting a need to discuss something.

“Sit down, lad,” Jaeger told him.

“Thank ya, Cap’n.”

“I told you boys, ya ain’t gotta be callin’ me that.”

“Yeah, we do, Cap’n. It’s who you be now, and we all knows that. It’s also ‘cause we respect ya, sir. ‘Sides, I just came to tell ya the name I finally picked out.”

“Really? I thought ya was sticking with Flatforge.”

“Oh…no, sir; I seen you changed your name and the others did too, so I finally figured on what I like cause of that. ‘Sides, if I don’t change it, Silverbeard might get wind of that and I don’t want to be no reason he comes after ya,” Flatforge said, grabbing his long, white beard.

“How’s that?” Jaeger asked.

“Well, you changed your name from Thriftrock to Seaforge so’s King Silverbeard won’t be trackin’ ya down. And that pup Blackanvil changed his to Anchorbeard, and then I was told to call Threefinger, Bluebeard, but his beard ain’t even blue!”

“What have ye chose, lad?” Jaeger asked, masking his growing frustration at the old dwarf.

“Well, since we be wanted outlaws and now we be on the seas and such, and I’m tellin’ ye I kind of like it, to be honest, Cap’n. I picked it based on the color of me old beard. You and the others can call me Saltbeard, cause my beard be all white and such.”

“It fits ye, old man. It be a good choice. But now I need ya to be goin’ and findin’ Kutter. Help him get all that booty to Missus Teresa, so’s we can get the crew paid before we let them hit Divitown. Them boys got families to see.”

“Yes, Cap’n,” Saltbeard said.

** The Sisters **

Sharlotte stood on the sterncastle of her ship as it entered the harbor of Divitown. She loved the rise and fall of the ship and the mists of salt air that covered her as they sailed. The wind was blowing onshore, bringing them in on the morning tide. She watched as her crew scurried about, securing lines and ensuring the deck was clear while preparing to drop the rest of their sails.

“Get someone up those ratlines and check on that pulley before we drop sail! I don’t want it binding up like it did when we captured that Rohrland trader a few days ago!” she shouted, knowing that she would see someone climbing the lines in moments. Between her brilliant red hair and fierce green eyes, her demeanor, and the four thin Kaloriadoran blades she wore, her crew ensured that they sprang into action at her every order. Running a tight ship doesn’t require friends; it requires obedience.

She looked back at the harbor as soon as she saw Kazine beginning to climb the ratlines to check that pulley. She counted and saw that the rest of the raider ships were anchored in the harbor, each of them were flying their Blood and Blade flags.

The bright yellow flag showed a segmented sword of blue with the tip colored in red. In the center of the sword, sewn atop the crossguard, was a red circle—the “eye of the raider.” When she had first seen the flag, she learned that the yellow background was telling all who saw it that the vessel sailed everywhere the sun shone over the high seas. The eye was there to tell everyone that the raiders watched for its victims and were ever vigilant. The bloody tip of the sword—well, that was to send a clear meaning to any who saw the flag. Stand in our way and you die.

She grinned, remembering the many traders who had soiled themselves as her ship had drawn near them, her mages prepared to sink them if they didn’t cooperate. She also realized that the royal navies would also adopt mages onto their ships, eventually. The only navy that currently carried mages was y Philanthis; they were a cruel and bloody lot. The rest of them hadn’t and that gave them an advantage, even against heavily manned ships of war. Those leaders in Noli Deron had spent centuries alienating the mages, and because of that they were now unable to convince the Master of Towers to support their need for mages. She heard rumors that he would not force any mage to serve a king, even forbidding it it within some of the realms that the guild still had influence in. For the Master of Towers, the thought that mages could become beholden to governments was tantamount to self-destruction.

It was one thing to rain arrows down upon one another while trying to grapple and board a ship. It was a completely different melody when a mage could rain down fire from the skies, combust timbers, or shred their sails to slow them down. Mages could do any number of other horrible things while those on the ill-fated ships were limited to only a few places of safety. They were all growing rich with this new tactic of theirs.

She wasn’t sure about others, but she began seeing how Rohrland traders would sail from their harbors in packs with only one or two of the ships carrying any cargo of value. Upon seeing their yellow flag, they would diverge, forcing raiders to pick a ship to chase down. She chose unwisely, on occasion and had gone away empty-handed. It was one thing to risk hanging for coin; another for empty pockets.

Sharlotte wondered if this was what Sindkus had called the moot for?

“Incredible, isn’t it?” Twyla remarked to her captain as she neared.

“It could be, given the right circumstances.”

“What do you mean?” the first mate asked.

“Take a look…seventeen raiders with crews who know how to fight and enjoy doing it. The smallest royal fleet, Equiosas, has only six warships. Their traders stay close to the shores and travel little outside their own. The elves limit their sails to ? The elves get to live in safety while letting the humans shield them from the orcs and ogres. Then who? Kaloriador? No, they couldn’t threaten us. That leaves only the Philanthians or Rohrland.”

“We currently rule the seas. That’s a good thing,” Twyla replied.

“For now. Never forget that. Sindkus sent out the call, but I am unaware of any fleet coming after us. They’re not going to open their own harbors to invasion by coming after us. Noli Deron’s shipyards haven’t increased their shipbuilding; they keep plodding along building merchant ships.”

“You think that Philanthis is threatening us?”

“It’s the only thing that makes sense,” Sharlotte said.

“Not really. What if your cousin raised the bounty on you even higher?”

“King Deron? He hasn’t got the balls to do something himself. I doubt his treasurer would allow it. He’s already offering five thousand crowns for my head. That alone would buy him two fast ships.”

“He does hate you.”

“Well, he can get behind the others who feel the same,” Sharlotte said, crossing her arms.

“If it’s a war the Philanthians want, who are we to stand against them? The Empress’ navy is massive.”

“Compared to that,” Sharlotte said, pointing toward the other raiders, “yes…but against a real navy, I don’t think so. Besides, their ships are slow and lumbering. They pack them full of troops thinking that’s somehow going to give them an edge. I’ll keep this one, thank you.” Sharlotte paused, then added, “Everyone knows the Empress wants to expand her kingdom. She’s only biding her time to go after Kaloriador. She’s nowhere close to being ready to challenge my cousin, the elves, and the dwarves. It’ll never happen. That leaves us or Kaloriador, I think.”

“Sounds reasonable,” Twyla said, supporting her captain.

“We’ll see. I’m sure we’ll get the word on the moot’s time as soon as we drop anchor. Whatever you do, drop anchor away from the Drake and the Blue Sails. I don’t trust that cannibal and his witch—or that orc,” Sharlotte commanded as she turned to go to her cabin.

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