Stories From Waves of Wealth And War

Games are stories we make ourselves and with our friends.  Here are some stories inspired by the works of Brave Legacy.

 

 

Scholar's Mate: Part 1

By Colin Hanna

 

                The pages flickered in the lantern light.  Captain Samuel Fields scratched the quill across the parchment, pausing to keep the lantern from tipping over.  Even though he had become so accustomed to the easy sway of the sea that he hardly noticed, his cabin continued to be affected by gravity, and the lantern always tilted when the oil ran low in its reservoir.  He grinned – he was getting better at anticipating it.

                Fields stood, and immediately he could feel blood rushing to his right leg, upon which he had been sitting for the last hour.  He sighed and attempted to flex his toes until he could feel them move, then limped over to the cabinet and nearly fell when his leg didn’t support him.  He chuckled.  It seemed he could anticipate one thing, but not two. 

                He retrieved the oil and refilled the lantern’s basin, returning to his letter.  He paused to regain his place, then took up his quill once more.

You wouldn’t believe how much he’s grown.  I know it hasn’t been but a few months since you saw him, but I’m not speaking of that stupendous patch of hair on his chin.  He has a spirit like a dolphin, Sarah, I swear to God, and the men adore him.  I don’t doubt that The Guardian’s crew is twice as happy as ours, and believe me, my men are quite content.  He sings them songs and they sing them back for hours and when there is work to be done, they do it without ever quieting their voices.  It is as if there is no reason in the world for the celebration to stop, and yet, the ship sails like a finely crafted watch ticks. 

I know one day, perhaps even one day soon, Harry will gain my rank.  I’m so proud, and I know you are too.  When this voyage ends, we will be able to afford the Riverton estate at last.  Governor Eliot promised me the rank of Commodore, and I will work at port and watch the ships set sail instead of watching you wave goodbye.  All we have to do now is come home.

I will send this letter on the first passing ship bound for home, and with it, all of my love.  The day I return cannot come too soon. 

                                                                                                                                Love,

                                                                                                                                Samuel

                He read it over once, then folded it twice and sealed it in an envelope with a dab of green wax.  He addressed it and tucked it into his coat, turning to look out the window – they sky was turning a lovely peach color.  He heard a call from without, so he took up his officer’s hat and stepped out the door. 

                “Sail ho!” the men repeated, “Sail ho!” Fields ascended to the deck, sailors bustling all around him.  He felt his heart rise in his chest, scanning the horizon.  He dared to hope it might be a ship bound for the Verdant Isles.  Almost instantly he saw it: a dark spot off the port bow. He felt a metal weight against his lapel and looked down to see a telescope in the hand of his first mate, Rogers.  Fields nodded his thanks and the amiable man grinned between the sparse grey hair of his beard.  The man stood a full head shorter than Fields, but no one had a better pair of lungs for ordering the men around.  Aboard The Ascension, Rogers’ voice was his stature.

                Fields put the lens to his eye and sighted the ship.  It was a brigandine, and at first, he couldn’t tell if the flag was black or blue. 

                “Where’s she from, cap?” Rogers asked.

                “Cerulean Shore,” Fields said, confidently.

                “Sure it ain’t Sable?” Rogers whispered timidly. 

                “Sable wouldn’t send out a brig unless they were going to war, and even then, it wouldn’t be alone.”  He looked again, and his heart sank – they were headed North-East, and would likely miss The Ascension by a longshot.  It seemed he wouldn’t get to send his letter so soon after all.

                Fields closed the scope.  “Stay the course,” he said, returning the scope to Rogers.  “They’re homeward bound.” 

                “But if they’re Cerulean, ain’t that where Akers is headed?”  Fields nodded, eyes widening.  He smiled, the sudden realization ballooning his hopes like a full sail. 

                “By God, you’re right, Rogers!” Captain Akers had split up with them just East of the Verdant Isles, bound for the Cerulean Shore.  That had been just two weeks past.   “Full on, North, we’ll head them off until they see us.” 

                “Aye, cap.”  Rogers saluted.  “NORTH!” Rogers relayed, marching sternward.  “FULL SAIL.”

                Fields looked aft, glancing over the rail to see The Guardian sailing a comfortable distance behind them.  Rogers went to the stern and rustled up Ian, the flag boy, who had been daydreaming straight down at the water.  Ian, sufficiently intimidated by the loud first mate barking “SIGNAL! SIGNAL!” in his ear, immediately grabbed up the orange flags and began to wave his arms in a code that relayed the change in course. 

                Fields went to the fore, crossing the deck and heading up to the prow.  He locked his leg between the rails and leaned forward, grabbing a rope for support.  The sea sprayed up at him as the carrack turned in the water, bearing them northward.  The wind on his face was brisk and refreshing.

                The Ascension sailed for the distant ship, the gusting wind driving them nearer.  Fields knew that they would surely cross in front of the brig if the wind kept up.  As they came closer to the dim ship, he could see it turning toward them.  He peered at the flags rippling atop the masts, suddenly uncertain.  If he had made a mistake, he could be provoking a Sable ship that might have been trying to escape notice.  He took in a deep breath, considering whether or not to order the men to their guns. 

                A white flag appeared atop the central mast of the brigandine.  Fields breathed out, then turned to address the crew.  “Bring her to!” He called, laughing at his good fortune.  Rogers relayed the order, and the sails were struck as the Cerulean ship drew close.  Boards were let down, and several officers came over from the brig while the crews of both ships gathered anxiously around.  Fields noticed uniforms on many of the sailors aboard the other ship and deduced that they were soldiers rather than simple deckhands.  Some sailors kept their places in the rigging, seeking a better vantage on the meeting. 

                Fields recognized the uniforms immediately – they wore coats the color of a deep, clear night, and their buttons glinted like crystalline stars in the dawn.  From the sash of the man at the front, Fields could tell he was a captain in the Cerulean Fleet.  He had a distinguished service star on his left breast and a white heart with a gold ribbon, indicating that he was wounded in battle.  Fields looked him over, but was puzzled.  The captain seemed extremely clean and well-postured.  His left hand hung at his side and his right rested on the pommel of a rapier.  He stood straight and tall, giving no sign of any real wound.  Fields thought that perhaps it was superficial then – some scar beneath his clothing.

                The captain’s expression was all warmth, however.  He briefly scanned the arrayed crew of The Ascension as he stepped across the plank, and as his gaze fell on Fields it was clear that he immediately knew who the commanding officer was, despite the fact that Fields wore none of his uniform to indicate his rank.  They locked eyes and Fields’ hand was extended as the captain strode aboard.  The captain took it firmly.

                “I am Captain Fields, welcome aboard The Ascension.

                “Captain Sykes,” the captain shook Fields’ hand once, then straightened.  “It’s always good to see vessels of the Verdant Isles.  Where are you bound?”

                “Crimson Coast, on a trade mission.” Fields answered.  “We saw you headed North-East; are you bound for home?”

                “No.”  Sykes replied, glancing about to the sailors suspended in the rigging above them with a look so quick that Fields barely caught it.  The single word was hesitant, cold.  Fields’ heart sank, but his interest was piqued – there was something hidden in Sykes’ word.

                “Well, we were wondering if you’d be willing to carry some mail for us, but I suppose there’s no point now.  We know of another ship – The Peridot – which is bound for the Cerulean Shore as we speak.”

                “Ah, I am sorry.” Sykes said.  “Might we speak a moment in your cabin while our men break their fast?”

                “An excellent idea.”  The orders were given and the men set about their work, mingling crews and trading stories and news.  Sykes followed Fields into the cabin, where Fields offered a comfortable cushioned seat across from his desk. Sykes thanked him and took it.

                “So what’s the nature of your venture to the Crimson Coast?” Sykes asked, sitting tall in his seat. 

                “I’m hauling silk and linen for Governor Eliot to a merchant in the Red Port.  The Guardian is our escort – we have to be increasingly cautious on long ventures like this.” Fields was completely honest, and it felt splendid to be so.  He had to lie his way out of so many scrapes in the past that he always savored the chance not to.

                “Is there any urgency in the letters you wish to send?” Sykes asked.  Fields raised an eyebrow.  He wanted to say that there was nothing as urgent as letting one’s wife know that her husband and son are safe and well, but he knew Sykes’ meaning.

                “No, I don’t believe so.” Fields answered hesitantly.

                “Good,” Sykes let out a sigh.  “I am sorry, Captain Fields, but I cannot be as honest with you as I wish.  You seem to be a good man.” His voice lowered, softened, becoming somber.  “I trust you have been honest with me, and yet I will say no more than this: I have been given a charge that is particular and dangerous, and I may not inform you of the errand I pursue.  I am, in truth, bound for home, and that being said, I will carry any letters you send.  However, I must advise that you write additional copies.”

                “Why would I make more copies?” Fields asked, concerned. 

                Sykes narrowed his eyes at Fields.  “Because the ones you send by me may not ever reach the Cerulean Shore.”  Fields eyes widened.  They sat in silence, eyeing one another. 

                “Thank you for being willing to bear our mail,” Fields said finally, “I will tell the men to write extra –”

                “No,” Sykes spoke.  “Your men must not know.”

                “That’s absurd, their letters are no less important than mine, why must I –”

                “No one can know.  The risk I run by telling you is already too great.  They must all believe that we are headed elsewhere.  Anywhere BUT home.  Tell them I’m bound for Saffron.”

                “Why…” Fields wanted to reiterate his frustration.  He wanted to plead for his men and ensure Sykes that none of his men would ever spread rumors about his whereabouts.  But he knew before asking that when the brew started flowing, some of them would be likely to speak about things they shouldn’t.  “Why are you agreeing to take my letter at all, then?”

                “Because I know the ache of missing one’s family.”  Sykes allowed a smile.  “And I also want to warn you.”

                “Of what?”

                “The Crimson Coast is… unstable.  I know their relations with the Verdant Isles have been good up until now.  But I want you to be careful in the Red Port.” Fields was taken aback.

                “This is seeming more and more absurd.  First you ask me to keep secrets from my men, then you suggest that our longtime trading partner is hostile to us.”  Fields shook his head.  “I can’t help but feel like you’re trying to undermine my trust.”  Sykes massaged his brow with his right hand, and Fields noticed that he reached all the way across his face to press on the left side of his forehead with his right hand.  Sykes’ left hand remained motionless at his side.  Fields was curious, and he was on the verge of saying something when Sykes spoke.

                “I think you’re missing the point.”  Sykes looked straight at him.  “I know it reflects poorly coming from someone you don’t know, warning you about your nation’s erstwhile ally.  But I swear to you, I truly fear for your safety if you go to the Red Port now.  You might fare well, or you might fall victim to the wrath of a governor whose alliances are disintegrating around him.  It’s true, Cerulean and Crimson have not always seen eye to eye, but…”

                “It sounds to me like you’ve been seeing gun to gun lately.” Fields frowned.  They eyed one another in silence.  Fields felt a space growing between them, though Sykes made no motion to leave.  Suddenly, a cold seeped into Fields’ spine as he contemplated the crew above him.  The men of Sykes's ship were mingling on deck, all around, many of them uniformed soldiers.  They were battle-hardened and armed, and Fields became very aware of the fact that if Sykes felt threatened, it would take little more than a word or even a cry of distress to set the Cerulean soldiers into action.  It would be a slaughter.  And when The Ascension was taken, The Guardian would be able to do nothing to stop them. 

                Fields had had enough of lying in his time.  And he knew that Sykes was demanding his silence, asking to make a promise to him and lie to others.  He hated that.  But he knew he had to, all the same.

                “Well Captain Sykes,” Fields sighed, resigned, though his brow was furrowed in resentment. “I will take your advice.  You said before you thought me an honest man – I promise to give no word that I have seen you, except to tell my crew you are headed to Saffron.”

                Sykes nodded, standing.  He held out his right hand to shake Fields’s.  Fields looked at it, then picked up his letter from his desk and placed it in Sykes's hand.  “Thank you,” Fields said, gesturing toward the door. “I’m glad we could find each other in this vast sea; it’s not often that you find a friend out here.”

                “It certainly isn’t.” Sykes spoke, locking eyes with him.  Then, with the turn of a soldier in a color guard, Sykes spun on his heel and left.

                The men were cheery at the company, and sad to see the blue soldiers go.  Fields was anxious as the men boarded their respective ships once more, whispering a silent prayer that the soldiers didn’t sprint to their stations and roll out their guns as soon as they returned to the brigandine.  But they didn’t.  Wind filled the sails of The Ascension once more, and as he watched the Cerulean ship disappear, Fields felt a nausea develop in the pit of his stomach.  He hoped there was no cause for concern – he told himself there would be no problems in the Red Port.  The trade agreement between Verdant and Crimson would hold them together.  The more he thought on it, the more sure he became; if war had broken out between Crimson and Cerulean, there was no reason for hostility between Verdant and Crimson.  In fact, the loss of trade with Cerulean would increase the value of his own cargo to the people of the Red Port. 

                “Everything alright, cap?” Rogers asked, standing beside him as they watched the Cerulean brig tack the wind to the North-East.  Fields smiled and eyed his own sails, full of the West wind that would bear them swiftly to their destination. 

                “Yes, Rogers.”  Fields looked to the East, knowing that within days they would make landfall even though all he could see was rolling blue.  “I just have to write another letter.”