The Devil of Amaranth
By Deuce Traveler
Deuce Traveler was disoriented
as he stepped from the firegate and onto the schooner. The sun
shone down from a partially cloudy sky. The SS Vesper rocked
gently in the still water, its sails slack from the lack of wind.
"Are you alright, son," a gruff voice asked above him by the ship's wheel. It's owner, Captain Yor, was a tall, bearded man who wore a gentleman's suit around his stout body, and a sea captain's hat on top of his middle-aged head. He quickly left the wheel and waddled down, putting a monocle over his right eye and squinting. "I sure didn't expect you to attempt to walk through a firegate. Hmmm... not a mark on you. A firegate can be harmful to living beings. How do you feel? Does your soul burn?"
Deuce blinked at the odd question. "No, I feel fine. I had no choice but to come through. I ran into a bit of trouble after I stopped communicating with you." He put down the skeletal corpse of the mercenary onto the deck. "I'm sorry about your friend."
Yor kneeled next to the remains, and examined its possessions for some time. His face suddenly grew older as he sat down next to the fallen mercenary and put his captain's hat to his breast. His hand rested on the corpse as he said a brief prayer to the sea gods. Finally, he looked up at Deuce tear-faced and sobbed, "This was Garen, a young elf we left behind when I took the SS Vesper from Elwyn some years ago. What happened to him?"
The rogue quickly recounted to Yor what had brought him to the fortress of Doom and how he came across the remains. Deuce made sure that he added if it wasn't for Garen's cutlass and cloak clasp he would be dead.
"I'm sorry, lad. I was so caught up with the dead I have forgotten my living guest." Yor frowned at his new shipmate's wounds and torn clothes. "La'riona! Come out here please," the captain yelled. A few minutes later an exotic, slim woman wearing a sailor's tunic and pantaloons climbed some stairs from the ship's depths and onto the deck. She had olive skin, deep brown eyes, and dark hair with a tint of red in it. She wrapped her arms around the waist of Yor and smiled sweetly at Deuce. For the hundredth time in his life the rogue wished he could be a captain or a king. Yor said, "La'riona, Deuce. Deuce, La'riona. Dear, this gentleman just dropped in," the captain winked at Deuce, "and needs to be drawn a bath and given a wardrobe change."
"I see what I con do, capden, bud you no give me moch to work with," La'riona said teasingly as she twirled the hair of Yor's beard in her fingers.
La'riona had an interesting device used for bathing. It was a tripod that held two pans suspended above the deck and spaced a foot from each other. She gathered seawater up in two buckets and poured their contents into the top pan. In the bottom pan she laid thin strips of firewood and lit it using tinder and flint. When the contents of the top pan reached a boiling point it either left a thin layer of salt crusted on the bottom of the pan or caused the salt to evaporate. The water was then tipped into a clean bucket using prongs so not to burn her. A second bucket of usable water was then filled. While the water cooled, La'riona went and got Deuce a loincloth, soap, and a sponge. She instructed him to just toss his tattered clothes off the side of the ship. One bucket of water was used with the soap to lather himself up, while the other he used with the sponge to clean himself of the blood and dirt that had dried on him.
When he was done, he put on the loincloth and the galley girl came back with a tunic, pantaloons, cleaned boots, bandages, and a dish of grounded herbs. She began to apply the herbs to Deuce's many cuts first, causing him to wince often. Then she gently applied the bandages to him. She worked mechanically, but the presence of the exotic woman still aroused the rogue, who was embarrassed to realize he was only wearing a loincloth. She looked down at his loin cloth and then back up, smiled flirtatiously at him and said, "I dink you should get dressed now." Sighing at her departure, Deuce finished wrapping the bandages over his wounds, got dressed in the snug clothes she picked for him, and had to admit he was beginning to feel like himself again. He joined Captain Yor near the ship wheel. The older man was wrapping his former comrade in a burial shroud with an expertise that spoke of practice.
"Yor, I was wondering, where's the rest of your crew?"
"I guess you can say this isn't the only shroud I've had to wrap. We left Elwyn with a crew of twenty-five. All that's left now are old Bringe, Tomas the cook, La'riona who we picked up recently from a small island, and myself."
"I need to get back to Riversy. Can you make another firegate so I can get back?"
"My firegates only work to send things to me. Making a firegate that actually opens up at a caster's own location is a dangerous spell and even if I knew how to cast the spell, I would never dare do it on a wooden ship. Also, it's not made for living things. You got lucky going through once, but how long do you think your luck will hold?"
"And where are we? Are we close to land?"
"That I don't know. The large amount of seaweed is encouraging and may indicate land nearby. We are sailing west as I've been sailing for the last ten years, with some long term stops along the way. You've come at a bad time, my friend. We've little food to share and our water is running low. It's strange, but we haven't had a wind to move us for some time and we've just started rationing our supplies. There is no way we can make it back east to port, we would never make it. Our only chance is to keep sailing west and pray, but without wind you might as well pray for snow. Who knows, maybe you'll be our lucky charm and something will change."
"Be careful what you wish for. They say I have the luck of the devil."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"I always end up getting extremely lucky and unlucky at the same time. If something good happens to me its usually followed by something extremely bad. I don't think you want that kind of luck."
"Deuce, we're dead in the water with no land in sight and low on supplies. It can't get worse," Yor said as he finished wrapping the shroud. "Here, carry Garen to the side of the ship with me." The rogue helped the ship captain move the wrapped remains the side of the ship. Yor began to recite a prayer in Garen's elven language. Although Deuce only knew several words of the language that Caitlyn chose to teach him, the words were still poetry to his ears. Yor finished the prayer and nodded to Deuce, who allowed the body to slip from his hands and disappear into the ocean water. The captain of the SS Vesper sniffled and walked stiffly towards the wheel. "It is done. Good-bye old friend."
Food and water were rationed
and the crew took to chewing leather to keep the stomach from
constantly growling. Deuce passed out his modest amounts beef
strips, peaches, and bread he had traveled with. The rogue
learned what he could with his shipmates during the day. At night
old Bringe took over the wheel of the ship and Yor and Deuce
retired to play chess and discuss current events in the region of
Amaranth. On the third night, Yor finally was able to pull from
Deuce what the rogue was trying to avoid telling. He told Yor all
he knew about the Evening Star Mercenaries being hunted down and
exterminated by their various enemies. After the telling Yor felt
into a deep state of depression and asked Deuce to leave and go
to his guest room, the chess game unfinished. The rogue was tired
of losing anyway. He went to bed and dreamed of a dead Rothor who
had an empty vial of green flow in his hand.
Old Bringe awaked him from his restless sleep in the morning, "You've got to go to the wheel lad."
"That's the captain's job, Bringe. Go away and let me lie."
"Captain Yor is in no mood and asked you to do it. All you have to do is go up and hold the wheel straight. I need to go right to bed for my night shift."
Deuce groaned and climbed out of bed. If he had known that learning about the ship would mean doing twelve hours of manual labor he probably would have checked his curiosity. Getting dressed he climbed up to the deck and squinted from the sun. He took his position by the wheel and brooded. It was now four days and the rogue was late getting into Riversy. He knew Rothor, if he was still alive, would soon be heading back to Rockby in shame. The rogue's anger built and he cursed the fates, the gods, and the weather for not once working in his favor.
The rogue was so deep in his foul mood; he failed to grasp the significance of the darkening clouds above him. One moment the sea was still and the sky was dark, the next the sun was entirely blocked out and a gale started to rock the ship on choppy waters. Lightning crashed above, illuminating the deck. Yor and the rest of the crew came out from the galley of the ship and started taking positions on the ship. The captain rushed to the wheel and took over yelling over the howling wind, "You idiot! Why didn't you call us when you saw this storm coming? I got the wheel, go help Tomas with bringing in the sail."
The rogue sprinted to the main deck to aid Tomas, who was fighting desperately with the ropes to the sail. La'riona and Bringe were able to already take down the smaller sails, but as Tomas and Deuce got the right ropes in hand, a gale caught hold of the main sail and pitched the ship starboard. The cook and the rogue slid uncontrollably on the deck. The starboard railing to the ship was submerged in seawater and Deuce watched in horror as Tomas went over and into the ocean. The rogue wasn't far behind, and he reached out instinctively in the darkness, one hand grasping for the rail and the other where he thought Tomas to be. Taking a deep breath, he caught the cook by the back collar of his tunic as he entered the sea; his left hand grasped the rail.
Deuce was strong, but he couldn't drag himself and Tomas back onto the ship one-handed from the raging sea. His lungs burned from want of air and a small voice in his head whispered, "Let him go. You don't know this man. Let him go and live." He gritted his teeth and hung on. Although Deuce didn't know what it was, he could hear the main mast begin to groan from the stress the gale was putting on the sail. Finally, the main mast snapped, flinging itself over the rogue and into the sea. The schooner righted itself so forcefully, that the cook and rogue were tossed back onto the deck, coughing up seawater. They held onto the inside of the rail, cold, wet and miserable. Deuce looked up at the wheel and was amazed to see Yor still at the wheel of the ship. His captain's hat had been blown off and the grizzled man was shouting something at the sky. Lightning struck behind Yor, brightening his bearded face. Water flowed like a river from his beard and his eyes shone. His head snapped back in what looked to be a cackle of glee. Deuce closed his eyes and wished for the madness to end.
A few hours later he got his wish. As the crew untangled themselves from their various places of refuge, La'riona looked at something in the distance and pointed. "What is that," the galley girl asked.
Deuce looked up at a small, coastal town that was surrounded by only sand. His heart swelled as he spoke, "That's the desert city of Radaan."
"By Hauk's left nut," Yor shouted from the wheel, "we've returned to Arainor after all this time. Put out the remaining sails and Bringe, take over the wheel, my arms are tired and I need to make arrangements for our docking."
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