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"We won't be able to outrun them!" A man cried, though not in despair. Clearly he didn't have the inkling of a fear Markus did. The Captain stretched out a hand to his left, signifying Morgan should approach him. As the shape of the sails became visible to even the short sighted among them, he told Morgan to send eight of the men below decks to man the guns. As Morgan to went to give the orders, Markus added an after thought. "Don't open the hatches yet. Open them when we're abreast of them."

The following minutes moved swiftly, Markus stalking around the ship to maintain a semblance of command for any eyes on their decks. His eyes sometimes fell on where Emmaline hid, but she always ducked down at just the last second not to be seen. The woman saw the shirtless, big Norscan, bald and heavily bearded, carrying up a barrel from below decks with ne'er a grunt before moving to the aft castle. The next time she looked back at the approaching Caravel, she saw something that would freeze the blood of any sailor.

Those weren't Brettonians. They were strange beings, with sickly pale skin and ethereal stature. Wearing jagged and spiked pauldrons and bracers and wielding wicked sabers of black metal, their elongated, screaming faces was something out of a nightmare. On the Brettonian sail, a bloodstained symbol of the dark lady was streaked along its once proud fabric. Even Markus felt himself a bit too afraid at what this meant. He had never seen Druchii, but he had heard stories in the backalley taverns and seedy messhalls late in the night. They were slavers and torturers, never leaving any survivors. That last bit had Markus grinning. "Then where do the stories come from, I wonder?" He breathed.

Suddenly, all seemed lost. They dark elves outnumbered them two to one, and each Druchii was likely worth two or more of the Imperial sailors when it came to combat. A nameless fear began to creep along the decks of the Hammer as their ships now slowly approached one another like old lovers rekindling their passions. Mad laughter and jesting in their strange tongue erupted from the Druchii ship, thinking the Hammer fooled by their ploy until it was too late, and hooked were shot from ingenious crossbows that themselves were hooked along the railings of their ship, embedding into the wood of the sloop and slowly pulling the two ships together.

As the wood of the ships audibly complained, Markus held up his sword and shouted. "Underdeck fire!"

Suddenly, realizing too late that half the crew were below decks and not frightened up to, the dark elves watched as the gun doors swiveled open. Eight guns, four six pounders and four four pounders, aimed and ready, poked their barrels out of the hatches. The screams and warcries of the elves reached a crescendo before they were silenced by the deafening roars of the cannons gutting their ship in a cacophony of iron and gunpowder.

Running up the stairs of the aft castle, Markus found Halfdan holding the barrel of gunpowder. They had only one shot at this. The Captain unholstered his pistol, cocking it and giving the Norscan the nod. Once they renounced any allegiences to Chaos, the norscans weren't such bad folk. They lived, breathed, joked, and died like any man of the Old World. Halfdan had proven his strength and loyalty time and again and Markus waited for him to launch the barrel over the short distance to the Druchii vessel. To his surprise and distress, a lance of wood and steel from a javelin thrower was launched across the gap between the boats and pierced Halfdan in the stomach.

The big man cried out and dropped the barrel, Markus feeling a pang of regret and loss at the fallen man now on the ground, writhing in pain. Markus caught the barrel before it hit the ground and busted along the aft castle thankfully, but as hard muscled as he was, he couldn't hope to throw it.

"Go!" the Norscan said, holding the shaft of the weapon stuck in him. At least it was remade Brettonian steel and not Dark Elf steel, or else it would have eaten away at his body like acid. Markus gave him and nod and readjusted the barrel in his grip, holding the heavy thing by the rope entwined around it and finding a rigging rope. As he put a booted foot on the rail, he saw the first dark elves leaping over the abyss of the sea like dancers, swords and spears twirling in an almost mesmerizing way. The first of his men were cut down, and even pistol shots killed them maybe every other time due to their master crafted armor, but soon the men below decks streamed upwards and flanked the dark elves, turning the massacre into an all out brawl.

Markus took in a deep breath, wrapped the rope around his right hand, and let himself swing over to the Brettonian vessel. He lazily floated above them, seeing a few of the dark elves look up and notice him in their strange eyes before he dropped the barrel just atop their deck. One dark elf slashed at the barrel on instinct, but it only helped Markus pick his target as he aimed his pistol at the gunpowder that had spilled from it.

Needless to say, the explosion engulfed half the Brettonian deck, and Markus was lost in the fire and smoke.
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When she eventually reached the sweet hereafter, Emmaline was going to have serious words with Ranald. The Trickster God certainly had alot to answer for. She backpedalled away as quickly as she could trying to escape both screaming pirates and the terrifyingly handsome elves that swarmed onto the deck, swinging cruelly hooked swords in gracefully bloody arcs. A sudden explosion coupled with an inconvenient roll of the deck threw Emmaline off her feet, sending her sprawling over one of the upturned ships boats. An elf, staggered by the blast for all its grace, stumbled out of the reeking cloud of powdersmoke, sword raised. Emmaline shouted in panic but before he could strike the elf sagged sideways, a fist sized concavity dished in his breastplate from a musket ball. From the erzatz Brettonian ship there came the sound of splintering timber and the sharp twangs of cables parting as the mainmast lurched sideways, its step shattered by the blast. It toppled slowly, at first slowed by its lines and stays, but as one rope parted the next had to take double the strain until the whole mass of cables ripped free and the mast began to topple. With an undignified squeak Emmaline threw herself under the upturned boat a moment before a rats nest of cables and torn fabric crashed onto the deck. The jolt and the splintering shock of timber striking timber resounded through her chest.

"Shyalla's bleeding tits," she cursed/prayed. The screams of men and elves, momentarily stunned to a more muted volume by the destruction of the caravel's mainmast, picked up in intensity. Emmaline looked around and found herself face to face with the elf she had seen shot, his, its?, eyes glassy in death. She reached out and plucked a cruel looking dagger with an impractical number of spikes from its belt, trying not to wretch in disgust as her hand brushed the cloak that was made of the hide of some hideous deep sea creature. Arrows thudded into the deck around her as archers in the forecastle peppered the deck with crossbow bolts, either confident enough in their own ability or uncaring of shooting into a melee. A pair of elven boots appeared in the two foot of clearence between teh boats gunnels and the deck, grappling with the bare feet of a pirate. Emmaline slashed out with her stolen knife, driving the point through the tough leather. The elf staggered and then crashed to the deck a moment before the point of a cutlass stabbed down into its throat before the unseen pirate moved on to other opponents.

Whatever her fate would be in the hands of Markus and his pirates it certainly would be preferable to slavery at the hands of the Dark Elves. Unfortunately there wasn't much she could do to effect the outcome of the battle. She glanced down at the knife in her hand. Or could she? Taking a few deep breaths she scrambled out from under the boat before she could change her mind, narrowly missing being decapitated by a cutlass swung in blind panic. She stumbled on the bloody deck and crashed into the back of an elf, knocking him off balance as she caromed past to the companionway all but falling down the stairs onto the Smokey gundeck. The shouts and crashes of the battle were muted in the roiling smoke of the deck, abandoned by the gunners in favor of the melee above. She ran across to where the serving bar guarded the stairs which lead down to the galley. She vaulted over the bar and rushed down the stairs into the kitchen, rifling through the alchemical supplies she had concealed there. Hurriedly she pulled a vial of salt essences she had been working on from the case and poured the viscous mixture into a pot. Glancing around to make sure she was alone, she dropped the elven knife into pot and began to whisper an incantation. Too her magically attuned eyes the Gold Wind swirled around the pot. She continued to chant, building to a cresondo that she ended with a chopping motion of her hand. The knife in the pot rusted and decayed, suddenly appearing as though it had been at the bottom of the sea for a century. On the deck above, every elven weapon made of the same material did the same.

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The elves faces marred in confusion as their swords and spears either rusted or dissolved on the spot. The men were equally as flumoxed, but considering that they would expect anything when it came to Dark Elves, they continued their butchery without so much as a second's hesitation. Only Markus really had any thought to how something happened when he stepped out of the smoke and cinders of the Brettonian vessel, for all intents and purposes looking like a summoned demon. He wasn't a strong magician at all. In fact he could barely do three incantations, but he saw the winds of magic sweeping past the suddenly diminished dark elves to his own ship!

"That bitch!" He said, both in a strange concoction of amusement and anger. He would deal with her later, but he wouldn't let this opportunity go to waste. A dark elf shot his crossbow at Markus, but due to the smoke and flame the bolt went wide. Markus suddenly charged out of the cloaking darkness and ran a Druchii through. The elf fell without a sound, the other two melee druchii looking for any weapon to fight this strange human with. Markus leaped at the left one, the elf dodging his first swipe with preternatural speed. It attempted to tackle Markus, only for its face to get a hidden knife embedded in its eye socket.

Markus spun, sword leading as he sensed the other dark elf behind him. It held up an oar to brain him, and when its surprise was gone it hefted the implement to block the next blow. Its face was a permanent mask of surprise as Markus' blade burst into flame midstrike, cleaving through the oar and chopping the elf's neck off. As the dark elf fell, he looked about for the crossbowman, but couldn't find any sign. The captain lifted a bit of cloth to his mouth and waded into the smoke again to enter the ship, seeking the other captain to end this once and for all. The caravel wasn't built much differently than the sloop, just a bit clunkier and more rustic in design.

His first pass through the halls, he saw a door blown open by a cannon ball.

"A manling!? Get us the fuck out of this den of elves and I'll be indebted to you!" A voice called with a thick accent. Blinking, he saw a strange Dwarf. A slayer if he could believe it, shackled by his left arm and dangling along the wall. His right arm was merely a stump of bronze. Beside him was another man, a Brettonian by the looks of him, with a courtly mustache and a tabard. As Markus was to step into the room, a voice halted him in his tracks.

"Your skull will be a fine drinking cup." He heard, the voice sophisticated. Down the hall, a resplendent Dark Elf stood there. He wore ridged armor, with black eyes and a feral grin. But what Markus noticed most was his backsword; in perfect condition, made of black metal and coursing with deadened red runes that looked like veins. "Prepare to die, whelp!"

Minutes later

On deck, the crew finished off the last of the invaders. The Druchii had leaped into the sea or been killed on the spot. The crew didn't think to take survivors seeing as none could speak their tongue. Curious as ever, Emmaline poked her head out of the stairwell to the decks, pleased with her desperate gambit that had saved the crew. A few crewmembers had already patched up Halfdan, though they had to carry him down the stairs in a stretcher. The pirate dead were being placed near the prow, and it seemed all conflict was done. As she made her way onto the deck, smiling like the cat that got the cream, the oddest couple of prisoners suddenly leaped on deck, with the crew not suffering battle-shock taking out their cutlasses and pistols, only to see Markus step down beside them, holding them off with a raised hand.

"Von Morganstern!" Markus called, stalking towards her. It was hard to tell if he was going to run her through or kiss her with his fierce eyes, but instead he took to continuing his wanton intimidation. He grabbed her arm and leaned in close, boring his eyes into hers. "You're going to tell me every little secret in that tiny brain of yours-" He started to remark, but he only finished half of the sentence. Call it intuition or the winds of magic heightening his senses, but the world seemed to slow and his eyes looked past her golden mane to the aft castle.

Just as he looked, the Druchii that had shot at him before, now the last of his crew alive, hefted its crossbow. It was clear the elf knew a thing or two about magic as well, and Markus could guess it wanted vengeance on the defeat of its kin. Suddenly he pushed Emmaline to the side, for all the gods not knowing why. Time slowed as the dark elf launched its dart, the bolt sailing through the air before it struck Markus in the side as he stepped in the way of the projectile. He gasped in pain, feeling the strange bolt in him and the poison seeping into his blood stream.

The crew watched in horror, seeing their captain fall to a knee. Markus struck his backsword into the deck to keep himself upright, but he could feel a terrible sensation flooding him. His eyes began to cloud and his throat tightened. If he could see it, he would have laughed at the entirety of the crew turning and aiming their guns at the last druchii. A dozen iron balls cut it to ribbons and sent its body hurtling into the sea, but Markus didn't see. He felt his heart was slowing, and soon oblivion took him.
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A strange hush fell over both ships, broken only by the rhythmic knocking as the two hulls were driven together by the swell beneath the tumblehome. Both ships were lashed together by grappling lines and further tangled by the ruin that Markus had made of the caravel's sails. A moment later there was a great bloodthirsty cheer and the crew surged over onto the caravel to begin looting their new prize. A few stayed behind, carrying for wounded mates as best they could, though without a surgeon aboard there was little they could do other than bandage wounds and hope for the best.

"Markus, stay with us lad," Morgan said, kneeling beside the fallen captain. To Emmaline's eyes he looked like he had jumped from a light wound to advanced stages of supperation. She had seen men in similar states after being stabbed in the guts during bar fights and laying screaming for several days. Black lines traced his veins from where the bolt sank into his flesh and his skin was growing pale and clammy.

"Mannan help us I think he is dying," the old privateer cursed. Emmaline shrugged her shoulders indifferently.

"Live by the sword, ex cetera," she replied airly. Morgan turned to glare at her.

"He jumped infront of crossbow bolt for you!" he snarled, concern for Markus transmuting itself into anger. Emmaline arched an eyebrow at Morgan, clearly unimpressed.

"I wouldn't have been here at if you and your band of cut throats hadn't abducted me," she pointed out reasonably, he eyes flicking over Morgan's shoulder to the bizarre looking dwarf and the Brettonian who appeared to have come from the elves caravel. Morgan caught he wrist as she turned to leave.

"What was he talking about when he said you were going to tell him your secrets?" the pirate demanded. Emmaline attempted to pull her arm free but Morgan's work toughened hands were like iron.

"How should I know, and why should I care, he is dead and damned and good riddance," she snapped. Morgan bared his teeth in frustration, his eye flicking between Markus, the caravel and the tangle of sails and rigging.

"Perkins, Tomlon, get the captain into his cabin, then start rounding up a party to clear this rats nest away. Sea will be rising once it gets dark and we will knock ourselves to pieces if we are still tangled with this bitch," he snapped.

"Hey," Emmaline protested. Morgan waved an arm at the caravel.

"That bitch," he clarified, "not you bitch." Emmaline rolled her eyes. The two sailors who had been busily pillaging some dead elves trotted over and lifted Markus by his arms and legs, carrying him towards the captains cabin. He dragged Emmaline along behind having not released her wrist. Tomlon and Perkin's laid Markus who by now was shivering and muttering to his cot and set him down before all but running out of the cabin, either to follow Morgan's orders, or more likely, to join in the plunder. Morgan gave Emmaline a shove over towards the stricken captain.

"Even if I wanted to help, which, I emphasise, I dont, I'm not a surgeon," Emmaline protested.

"Do what you can for him," Morgan grated. Emmaline's derisive snort cut of as Morgan grabbed her around the throat his eyes flaming with genuine anger.

"You better hope he gets better, because whoever takes over if he dies will have you on your back before his corpse is cold. Save him and he will be in your debt," the old salt all but yelled. Emmaline hadn't imagined that Morgan was so attached to Markus, but evidently she had misjudged him. Morgan shoved her at Markus again and then strode from the cabin, bellowing orders that cut of abruptly as he slammed the door closed. Emmaline made a rude guesture at his back and then slumped into one of the mahogany chairs, snatching a bottle of rum from the sideboard and pulling the cork with her teeth. She sat back for a moment.

"Just let him die," she told herself reasonably, taking a sip of the rum, "it isn't like he doesn't deserve it." Markus moaned in his delirium, his back arching. Emmaline raised the bottle to his lips again but paused before taking another drink.

"Oh for Ranald's sake," she sighed.

__________

Emmaline shoved the leather wrapped stick between Markus' lips. As Morgan had predicted the sea had risen in the hours since the attack. Although she hadn't left the cabin, Emmaline could deduce by the fact that they were underway by the fact that the sound of axes had ceased, and the familiar roll of the deck. Morgan had returned once to make sure she was actually attempting to help Markus and the relief on his face when he found her stripping him out of his shirt and examining the wound had been palpable, as had been his surprise when he asked her if she needed anything. The supplies she had asked for from the kitchen had raised his eyebrows, but he was so eager for any chance to save Markus that he had complied without complaint. Once had withdrawn she had locked the cabin door with the heavy iron key Markus used and gotten to work.

Emmaline dipped a rag into the pungent smelling clear fluid that she had distilled from the rum. It wasn't quite pure, but as alchemical base went it was many times more potent than a simple distilled spirit.

"This will hurt," she told the feverish captain, "but don't worry, you totally deserve it." She gripped the base of the quarrel and whispered an incantation, reaching out to the cruel barbs that lodged in Markus' flesh. The metal sagged and softened for a moment and she yanked hard. Markus let out a strangled cry muted by the gag as the bolt pulled free, releasing a gush of blackish unhealthy looking blood. Picking up her rag she thrust it into the wound and was rewarded with another incoherent scream. Squeezing the cloth to get as much of the base into the wound as possible Emmaline withdrew it and began to swab the surrounding flesh clean. Whispering again she began another incantation, tiny fragments of cloth and other foreign material within Markus' body burst burned away with an audible sizzle that was quenched instantly by the distilled alcohol she had introduced. That accomplished she stood and crossed to the chest at the foot of his bed and opened it, digging through the contents till she found the dress he had stolen from her. She sighed morosely and then plucked at the hem until one of the strands of silk came free. carefully she drew on the strand until she had a yard or so of silk which she dropped into her remaining alchemical base along with a steel sewing needle which Morgan had fetched for her. After a moment she withdrew the needle and thread, threaded them together and began to none to gently sew the wound closed.

"For Ranald's sake," she repeated as she tied off the suture.

+Events of Healing+
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Markus was just glad Morgan showed up when he was still under the covers. Not that he had anything stiff to show, after two times on the cot. The captain took the sheet covering him and wrapped it around his waist like a kilt, or the bottom half of a robe.

"That's enough." Markus said, his face now once again the mask of determination that brooked no argument.

"But-" Morgan started, eyeing the woman and switching his eyes back to Markus, unsure of what was transpiring. Emmaline crossed her arms over her chest and gave Morgan a look that she likely thought was befitting a captain's woman. It almost made Markus snort. Oddly, he found her strange personality kind of cute, after her 'healing.' Of course, he still needed to get out of her who she really was, but at the moment she was on his good side and bed mate.

"I said 'enough'" Markus replied. "She saved my life and the crew's lives, and she's been a a fair prisoner all things considered. I don't care what happened earlier, she's to be shown at least some respect, as long as she gives it back." The last remark was said with a smirk, though it was that moment he almost fell back over. The healing and the...rest of it had him positively exhausted. Morgan looked worried, but Markus knew he'd feel right as rain tomorrow. "How's the storm, Morgan?"

"Just a light summer storm, lad." He said, sobering up. "First of the season, nothing to worry about."

"How many days until Sartosa?"

"It would have been three. But now five with the repairs." He replied, scratching his beard. Markus fell his ass down on the bed time on purpose, now. He reached for a jug of water and impressively downed the entire contents in a matter of seconds. He also felt positively famished.

"Make it four."
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Morgan nodded obediently, responding to Markus' tone as much as what the captain was saying. He gave Emmaline a suspicious look, then turned back to the younger man.

"I'll have the men rig the main course with Estalian reefs, we wont be able to shake our our royals..." he paused, remembering that Markus had been struck down at or shortly before the time the the caravels mainmast had come down.

"But that wont matter much with the winds coming out of the northwest, not as far west as we've run," Morgan mused, pausing to allow Markus a chance to contradict his decision. Markus made a gesture which, if not assent, wasn't flat contradiction. The old privateer nodded, gave Emmaline a final suspicious look and withdrew, closing the door behind him.

"That is gratitude for you," Emmaline said tartly, wincing slightly as she crossed the room to the side table on which she had stored the cooking and alchemical supplies she had used for her ritual. The poured a little of her alchemical base into a cup and then added a few herbs, stirring it with a wooden spoon before topping the mix off with water from a pitcher. She crossed over to Markus and put the cup into his hands.

"Drink this," she directed, "It will help." Markus watched her suspiciously for a minute and then drank, wincing at the taste.

"What is it?" Markus asked.

"A mix of herbs and alchemical base, alcohol really, in a few minutes you will feel a pain in your side, like a stitch, and you will start sweating."

"If your plan is to poison me..." Markus began, though his voice was amused rather than angry made a dismissive gesture.

"If you show up on deck looking like Shyalla has come down from her heaven, the men will throw me into the sea some dark night regardless of what you say."
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Four days later...

The murky waters sloshed along the barnacle covered rocks that made Sartosa's southern shore so perilous. The land beneath the waves waxed and waned like waves themselves, running aground careless ships and halting any attempts by foreign navies to make it to shore, at least in one piece. Luckily, Markus had been here before, but only once, on his first outing as a sailor. Morgan had been here half a dozen times, and so he was navigator as they slowly made their way through the current; a 'sweet spot' only pirates knew of. How this ship was able to make it there without representation would surely be spoken of later, but as for now, Markus simply wished to make it to shore.

The last four days, he had gotten acquainted with Sir Beauchamp, a disgraced gentleman turned sailor of Lyonesse, as well as Sketti Hammerhand, an eccentric Dwarf slayer. The two had not been traveling together until both of their vessels were attacked by Druchii, but they had become friends since their captivity and Markus welcomed them aboard with open arms. He needed someone who spoke fluent Brettonian and Sketti was apparently a good gunsmith and engineer, if his claim of being the 'best in Barak Varr" was to be believed. He'd let them prove their worth.

What was more difficult was proving Emmaline's worth to the crew. True, they had been fine with her as the cook's assistant, but the fact she was a sorceress wasn't entirely well received, even with Markus' approval. Not to say all of them were of such a mind. The lookout named Ostand, along with Hafdan (who she healed with more traditional means) and Frankfurt had no quarrel with her. Even Morgan was warming up to her, though he did poke fun at her every now and then. An old dog having fun with someone who was clearly a greenhorn, bumbling about the ship as the waves shifted the floors oddly in rougher weather.

But the wind had been with them, and with Sketti happily aiding in their repairs, Morgan and Reeve and the rest of the crew got the Hammer underway in the matter of a day and they saw Sartosa's ramshackle spires in the distance just on time, right as the sun set on the fourth night.

Suddenly, the night lit up in flames. The sky exploded in incandescent colors as loud 'pops' and 'poofs' filled the air. Markus' crew screamed at one another and ran to and fro, grabbing weapons or hiding below decks for fear of a bombardment, only to realize they were fireworks. Markus had stepped out onto the deck, watching the apparent festivities curiously. No wonder no ships had halted their approach.

"Guess they're celebrating something." Morgan said behind him, raising his head so he could see past the wide brimmed hat atop his head.
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Emmaline gazed up in wonder at the bursting lights. She had seen a firework display once before, a celebration of Karl Franz’ birthday, though that seemed a tame and orderly thing compared to the exuberant pyrotechnics she was witnessing now.

“Cast the line you scutts!” Morgan snapped, drawing his eyes back to the leadsman standing on the prow. The gawping sailor cast his leaded line into the water, allowing the knots to run through his hands.

“Four fathom! Four fathom to this this line!” Morgan grunted and peered up at one of the towers, before backing them a point away from the eye of the breeze. The leadsman repeated his task with a splash.

“Five fathoms, five fathoms to his line!” Morgan breathed a sigh of relief and then glared at Emmaline for witnessing it. Most of the crew seemed to share his feelings. Despite her attempts to obscure the fact, it seemed that the crew had decided, rightly as it turned out that she was a woman. Carrying a woman, and a witch was a double offense against the gods of fortune which were never far from a sailor’s mind. Welkins, a squirrely runt of a man who seemed to have come from Marienburg originally, was making a small fortune selling scrimshawed talismans that he claim protected the wearer against ‘witch craft’. So far as Emmaline could tell they had no effect whatever, but it didn’t prevent her from respecting a good hustle when she saw one. The best she could expect was suspicious looks and it was a good thing her sleep quarters had moved aft or she might have found herself over the side some dark night.

“Three fathoms!” Three fathoms and yellow sand!” the leadsman squeaked. Morgan made another small adjustment to the wheel, baring his teeth. Sartosa, famous as a den of pirates and cut throats survived for a trio of reasons. One was topographical, as Markus and Morgan were demonstrating the approach was extremely perilous, a labyrinth of razor sharp reefs and shoal that made any approaching ship extremely cautious. The channel was not marked and it was an offense punishable by blinding for any man to act as a pilot. The channel could easily be blocked with wrecks or guns could be laid to cover the approaches, raining heated shot down from the heights on enemy vessels. The second reason was political, Tliea, Estalia and Araby were too fractious to unite to destroy the nest, the Brettonians were incapable, and since Marienburg purchased its independence it was too far from any Imperial harbor to be worth crushing. The final reason was economic. A scourge they might be, but pirates provided slaves and resold goods the captured, there would always be merchants who would trade for the spoils of bucaneering and so even if Sartosa were to be burned to the ground, which had happened several times, the lure of gold would always resurrect it.

“Ten fathoms! Ten fathoms to this line!” the leadsman yelled, the relief evident in his face and the face of every sailor on deck. Before them opened up a deep lagoon with high walls of black basalt. Emmaline though it must have once been the caldera of a volcano before the sea battered its way inside. The flooded caldera provided a remarkable natural harbor deep and calm. On the far side the passage of ages had worn down the steep slopes to a sandy strand from which protruded dozens of warfs and jetties. A score of ships lay at anchor, tied up to pilings or moored out in the deeper water. Water taxis simple rafts of green timber, ferried booze, fresh food and prostitutes out to ships. All were drapped in garish fabrics and held torches at bow and stern giving the whole scene a garish magnificence. The settlement itself climbed the gentle slopes into a tropical forest, the city had no plan that Emmaline could determine, some of the buildings were rather grand but for the most part they seemed a wild tangle of many disparate construction techniques and architectural styles, as diverse as the ships which littered the harbor.
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Once they docked, Markus eyed the wharf with suspicion despite the apparent revelry. Drunk men stumbled about on the docks while hawk eyed men stood in direct contrast, seemingly looking for anyone they could steal from or extort. In order to get their 'letter of marque' from the Brethren of the Coast, he needed to make it to the court of Pirate Lords. After he called for his men to stay on the ship, he approached Emmaline. Morgan barked for the men to stay sharp and keep their weapons polished.

The golden woman watched the dock, looking so much like a lost maiden at sea. He draped a cloak around her shoulders, one hand gliding down her back to her waist as he said. "Cloak your form. The less eyes on you the better. And yes, you're coming with me." For a moment, Emmaline felt his hand sliding past her belt, but rather than anything lewd, she felt a pistol placed in her belt loop. "Don't shoot unless I tell you to."

He looked her dead in the eye, before a smirk appeared on his face. "Morgan! Stay with the ship. Once we come back, we can haul this shit off and sell what we got. I'm sure dark elf hides and weapons sell a high price." He remarked. They would keep a few of their superb crossbows, and the armor was useful, but the men were too superstitious to ever accept wearing anything of druchii made. Markus, on the other hand...

"Oi! I'm comin' with ye." A thick accented voice rose above the clamor of men speaking. The one handed slayer walked out of the crowd, thick muscled and covered in tattoos of khazalid. He smiled like a jackal. Markus saw six pistols stripped on baldrics across his meaty chest. "I've been here 'afore. Sketti Hammerhand'll see ye through."

Markus shrugged, not truly minding. The Dwarf might prove useful. The bridge to the dock was laid down, and Markus and Emmaline stepped off together, Markus holding her hand to keep her steady as the ship bobbed up and down. A dockmaster stood awaiting them, though he looked more like a renegade tax collector. Pock marks marred his face, and he had a smile full of ivory teeth. His wide brimmed hat looked worn and perpetually realigned so it flopped around him.

"Whats yer business here, fella? And..." He looked at Emmaline up and down, unable to gauge her thanks to the cloak. "Lady?"

"Why are they celebrating?" Markus asked him, not even deigning to look the man's way. He snorted, unused to the casual treatment except by men who knew him, like as not.

"Celebrating the founding of the republic." He said, ostentatiously trying to sound learned in history. Markus nearly laughed, forgetting Sartosa pirates claimed to be a nation in and of themselves. It made sense they would try and appear more official than a collection of thieves and murderers on a godforsaken island. "And I need to know who you are, and fifty golden crowns for docking. A lack of payment will-"

Markus held out a bag for the man, who's jaw dropped at the sight of such gold. Emmaline snickered when Markus dropped the bag into his awaiting hands. It was wet in his palms, and he opened the bag to see the severed head of a Dark Elf. He yelped, dropping the head and letting it roll fully out of the bag. Markus kicked it into the water. "There's more where that one came from, so we can afford to let a few go. We're here to join the Brethren. Now where do we go to see the lords?"

"Y-You uh uhm, you go through Market Street, a-and go past crown's row. Then the festival will be held on Sartosa keep!"
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Sartosa was a riot of color and noise. Construction could best be described as ramshackle, largely from light tropical wood which time and salt air turned gray. Architectural style, to the extend the term could be applies, varied dramatically from building to building with roofs of thatch, tile and wood shingle competing to channel the frequent rains into the indifferently maintained streets. Rickety chandleries sprawled onto patios with coils of ropes and greased blocks. Pawnshops were stacked with cutlasses, pistols and cast of fineries. Here and there a cartographer protected rolled maps and charts behind dirty glass panels. Most of the stores appeared to be serving beer or rum from casks though the purpose of this seemed to be to attract a few men to dissuade would be thieves rather than a serious attempt at commerce. Taverns were much more violent affairs in which drunken revelers shouted and cheered beneath brightly painted signs. As Emmaline and Markus walked past one such bar, a pair of men crashed out over the wooden railing striking and kicking at each other. The brawl spread like a rhyme of ice over a window as onlookers were struck by flying fists and feet or otherwise jostled. Chop houses sizzled joints of meat on open fire pits, or boiled thick fish stews in iron cauldrons on beds of gleaming coals. Grinning chefs slapped food onto wooden bowls or platters in exchange for a few coins without even seeming to count them, indeed given the dozens of different nationality of coinage that were exchanged it was unlikely anyone could have kept track. Bawdy houses were almost as prevalent as pubs, usually two story buildings which gave the prostitutes a raised platform to wave bare breasts are call lewd suggestions and insults down to the street. Once Emmaline saw a man throw an earthenware bottle up at a particularly buxom girl, snarling an insult. The prostitute caught the bottle, drained the dregs from it and then hurled it back at the fellow, striking him across the back of the head and sending him sprawling to the street to the delighted cheers of onlookers.

It didn’t seem to Emmaline like there was much in the way of housing in the city, though many a shopkeeper probably slept in his shop or on the second story above it. She supposed that most of the inhabitants of the city at any given time were sailors who slept aboard ship. The variety of humanity was staggering, Emmaline who had grown up in the slums of Altdorf thought of herself as cosmopolitan, but here were Arabyians in silk turbans, Norscans in furs despite the warmth of the night. There were Tilean’s in striped pantaloons and Estilian bravos with long pointed shoes. Brettonian sailors staggered drunkenly in their cheap wool smocks, jostling Imperials with their carefully tended mustaches. There were even dark skinned men from the Southlands and stranger features yet from Kush or perhaps Cathay. Emmaline even thought she saw a few hooded and cloaked elves slipping quietly through the milling throngs.

Everywhere there was noise and confusion. Men shouted and cursed in a dozen languages. Hoarse throated sailors bawled drunken shanties and stamped their feet to the music of fiddles and the pounding of improvised drums. Hawkers cried their wares, standing on barrels or crates to lift themselves above the crowd. The latter was a dangerous choice as bored sailors would occasionally target the shouting salesmen with bottles or fruit, though the criers appeared to accept this as the price of doing business and dodged adroitly. Whores cried from their balconies, though a few could be seen playing their trade on the floors of shops or in alleys, there was even an ambitious dark haired Brettonian who appeared to be getting a group rate.

Over everything hung a dizzying miasma of scents. Sweat and stale beer, salt and tar, cooking meat and boiling soup. Perfumes of dozen of styles cloyed the nostrils and there was an aftertaste of sulphur from burnt gunpowder from the fireworks or the more or less constant pop of exuberant pirates firing into the air. Smoke from a thousand guttering torches mingled with that from the cook fires, all overlaid with the ever present scent of the bay below. Surprisingly the smell of human effluvium, a constant in most cities seemed to be completely absent, perhaps owing to the proximity of the bay and the strong pull of outgoing tides which made the city so difficult to reach.

Emmaline and Markus climbed upwards, seeming to emerge out of the slight haze of smoke to what was clearly the ‘keep’. The structure had clearly begun life as a coliseum during the golden age of Tilea. The decay of years had tumbled down sections which had been replaced with a hodgepodge of wooden construction, most of which had been shaped to look like parts of ships, complete with jutting bow sprits and masts from which lines draped with brightly colored pennons depended. Fallen stones had been gathered up and repurposed to add extensions, crude looking by comparison to the original masonry, which formed low walled paths to various outbuildings including what must have began life as a villa built around a volcanic spring. Cunning use of stone had converted it into a series of baths from which steam rose in soft trails. Some of the baths were covered by simple roofs of layered palm leaves. Overflowing water had been channeled into a culvert of grey rock which vanished below ground.

“Dawi work,” Sketti grunted in approval, “nice to see manlings not living in their own shit for once.” Emmaline found that she couldn’t disagree with the sentiment. The sewers of the city below were swept by the overflow of the spring, presumably out into the bay where the tide disposed of it.

As the approached the ‘keep’ the concentration of drunken pirates increased. There was a flat area off to one side in which soot covered men were thrusting lit fireworks into the ground, moments before they screamed skyward to burst overhead. The acrid taste of gunpowder on the air, perversely, made Emmaline feel at home, putting her in mind of the alchemical labs of the Gold College. A group of pirates armed with long boarding axes stood around a stone gatehouse which gave entry to the keep. They didn’t seem to be interested in keeping people out, though they kept the drunken idlers moving with more or less good natured blows with the butts of their weapons. In truth Emmaline doubted that the keep could be defended from anything more than a drunken mob despite several rusted cannons that seemed to be more or less decorative.

“The Brethern Court is in session!” one of the guards bawled through a trumpet of rolled brass.

“If you don’t have business bugger off!” he added, though the final statement was all but drowned out by a particularly loud series of bursting fireworks.

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The noises of yelling behind the iron studded doors gave Markus the indication of just how close he was to being verified. Anyone in ten paces could see the murder in Captain Flintbrook's eyes, but the last man to speak was a bit too into his own authority for him to actually notice. It was not going to do for Markus to kill or be killed in order to enter the room, so Emmaline thought fast. Chamon was the wind of gold and metal, but metallic chemicals took all kinds of forms. She reach into the sack of coins at Markus' waist and snatched it, causing him to turn around, confusion on his face. She placed her finger to her full lips and began to incant a spell with the seven coins in her palms.

"Oi you! We're talking to you lout! Keep moving and take that cloaked figure with you." The guard threatened.

With a flourished of her hands that seemed akin to a strange faux pas in any other circumstance, the coins disappeared. Behind Emmaline, Markus saw...Emmaline? Seven of them! Uncloaked and wearing the duchess's dress, sashaying across the street and giving the guards suggestive looks, their breasts thrust out on display. Markus understood immediately, taking the true Emmaline by the hand and pulling her forward with him as the guards watched dumbly. They might have been sentries, but they were pirates first and foremost. And a pirate never passes up a good thing, some chasing after them and others still enchanted for another few brief moments. Sketti laughed at their idiocy, striding past them with his shaking beard.

"Good job," Markus told her, unlatching the huge oaken door handle. "Don't let it get to your head though. We need to stay alert."

"'Get to my head? You look at me just the same wa-'" She said, yanking on the door handle like a dog with a toy. Markus snatched her hand in his strong grip and drew her gaze, whispering to her. "That is not what I meant, and tonight we can stroke more than our egos. But as of now, we're about to step into the court of the Pirate Lords. Keep your mouth shut unless they ask you a direct question, understood? And do not tell them you can do magic. Pirates are superstitious enough as is."

His dark eyes bore into her until he saw her nod, and he opened the door; far too loudly for his liking. The door, more like a small gate, swung open with an ominous moan that drowned out most of the yelling and bickering within the atrium. He glimpsed through the crack in the door, but once he saw many pirates already looking he way, he knew there was no going back. Markus Flintbrook pushed the door open fully, warm light pouring onto his face. It encompassed Emmaline as well, and even so cloaked, it showed her curves in a way that betrayed the fact she was a shapely woman. Sketti stepped between them, chest out and surveying the room.

The room was tall, reaching at least two dozen paces skyward. Kraken bones and Dragonscales hung limply upon the ceiling next to extravagant chandeliers. Framing the room were two halves of a wrecked ship, hollowed out with seats carved into it for the lordly retainers to sit and give second hand votes, whilst the pirate lords themselves sat on a great table of ivory and seabeast bone at the center of the room. The noises of the pirates ceasing, Markus saw every eye in the room turn his way. To his credit he merely stared back, not batting an eye at the sudden change of mood.

He did not know much about the pirate lords individually. There looked to be nine members. Two Tileans, an Arabyan, a Norscan, a Brettonian, Two men of the Empire, a Dwarf slayer who was missing one more limb than Sketti, and what looked to be an Estalian Bravo. Behind them all was someone even Markus recognized. In a sweeping red coat with gold filigree and a matching hat, three large exotic bird feathers standing atop his admiral hat, and a white beard that could make even Dwarfs jealous, sat Jaego Roth. The leader of the Grand Alliance and High Lord of Sartosa.

"Who dares enter this sacred meeting?" A lanky corsair asked, hanging over the railing of his seat just above Markus. He looked bald across his entire body, and it seemed he had been raddled with plague. Yellow eyes and only half his teeth were visible from where Markus could see. "Have ye a spot on the council?"

"Not yet." Markus said, eyeing the Lords as he spoke. The room erupted in laughter, leading with the rasping cackle of the weak limbed pirate above them. Only Jaego Roth and three of the more conservative lords did not share in the ridiculous mirth. Markus shared a look with Sketti, who only grinned. The Captain decided to take control of the situation, reached into his coat and pulled out a pistol. The deafening shot that blew the head off the lout that interrupted him caused the laughter to cease, and the headless corpse of the lanky corsair slid off the railing and hit the ground before Markus' feet in a heap.

Guns and cutlasses were drawn, and Markus took no time in retrieving his other Druchii head, holding it by its black hair, unbagged for all to see. It hung like some grisly lantern that emitted a foul odor rather than light, and for the moment no one attacked him as he strode forward. "I seek a letter of Marque for me and my crew!" He called aloud, echoing across the room. "Will you hear my claim and grant my crew membership, or did we go to the wrong den of sea thieves?"
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Emmaline sidestepped to avoid the spray of blood and brain, struggling mightily to avoid sneezing in the cloud of powder smoke. Though dozens of pistols and blunderbuss were pointed at them the pirates seemed not particularly upset by the murder. Either they had a very cavalier attitude toward slaughter or they took a dim view of their underlings attempting to speak for them. Or both of course. For a moment there was relative silence, broken only by the dull roar of festivities outside and the sycopating booms of fireworks. All eyes were drawn to the severed head. The dark elves were a scourge upon the sea, a peril to pirates as well as to merchants and costal communities. Their cruelty was legendary, but so was their seamanship and skill at arms.

It was unlikely that Emmaline would be able to get out of here alive if the pirates decided just to shoot the interlopers, though there was a good deal of metal in the room. There was a murmur among the assembled lords as they considered the situation. One of the Imperial captains stood up, pipesmoke jetting from his nostrils like a dragon preparing to breathe fire.

“Will we hear this claim brethren?” he demanded with drunken solemnity. One of the Arabyians gazed at the severed head for a moment then made a gesture to ward off evil and spat on the floor.

“Timar the Red will hear the claim,” he spoke in heavily accented Tilean. Riekspiel appeared to be the exception rather than the rule in these parts where Tilean cultural influence ran deep.

“And who will second this?” the Imperial demanded. There was a stony silence from the remaining captains. All eyes were on Markus and his grisly trophy save for one of the Brettonian captains who was eyeing Emmaline speculatively. She gave him a lascivious wink and cocked her head slightly the direction of Markus. The Brettonian stroked his long musache, twirling the end of it around a finger tip and then stood.

“Gaston L’Favrre will hear the claim!” the Brettonian declared theatrically. All eyes left Markus and settled on Jaego Roth, who gave an almost imperceptible nod.

“Make your claim then,” the Imperial demanded, “and bring the implements!” A small frail looking man scampered forward carrying a leather bag. He was naked save for a loin cloth and a turban of rich cloth of gold that was long soiled and stained. Emmaline vaguely recalled that the sultan of one of the Araybian principalities had sworn to destroy the pirates and set out with a great expedition which had been destroyed by storms and the pirates attacks. The sultan himself had been captured and had been allowed to live as a slave of the pirates. The slave drew a black and white bead from a leather bag and set them before each captain.

“Speak your claim and then we will vote,” the Imperial declared, “white for life, black for death.”
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Markus was taken aback for a moment, though he did well to hide it. He had expected a quick vote or to be shot down immediately, not some strange pirate ritual. Morgan likely knew nothing of this either, else he would have said something. The room had grown quieter, now only with a few vague whispers reaching anyone's ears. Markus could even hear the creaks of the aisles and chairs, and the breathing of the cutthroats surrounding him. The slayer captain barked out something in a strange language. If memory served, the Dwarf tongue was called Khazalid. Sketti fired back a retort like a whip, and Markus couldn't tell if they were arguing or if they were old friends.

"Well?" The Brettonian Captain asked impatiently.

Markus wasn't certain what they were expecting really, so he would wing it. He did that a lot more than people expected, though he wouldn't remain Captain long if word got out. Hopefully his decision to make Emmaline his woman wouldn't haunt him in such a manner, but there was no worrying over it now.

"Most of you were born of the sea." He began, his voice cutting into the silence. "I wasn't. My father wasn't a sailor. His father wasn't. I was a bastard, born in the border country. By the sea yes, but...it was only a few years ago when I left the battlefields of the Old World to sail, and it was only a fortnight ago that I became a pirate." Even before his words left his mouth, there was a sudden burst of shouts and general mumbling. Only when Jaego Roth glared at those that surrounded him did it subside.

"Move along, boy." He said, gesticulating with his pipe.

"My crew was underfed. Underpaid. We worked through storms and waves, raiders and serpents! And our captain took the lion-share for his'self. Yet I was loyal, until the day he told me to keelhaul a friend. I refused, and he threw me in the brig. It was that night when another crew member busted me out of my cage, only for me to find out my friend had been killed during my captivity. I went up on deck, walked into the captain's cabin, and strangled him to death. No one questioned my authority that night, and no one has since. We've gotten a sweet haul on our first week, and merely three days later we were waylaid by treacherous elves!" Sketti and the other Slayer thumped their arms.

"We were fighting a two to one odds, and we cast them down into the depths! I come here to show my worth and the worth of my crew. To break bread with you and make berth here. To give ten percent of my booty to the Republic, and to trade the rest for gold and whores for my crew! I ask only to be apart of the court, as a Captain myself. If you accept me, we have an accord. If not, then you can suck my cock!"
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"Vote," the dwarf captain spat with a voice like rocks grinding.

"Vote," another captain, who hadn't yet spoken, concurred. The chant took hold through the group and they began to pound their fists on the table in time.

"Vote! Vote! Vote!" The first captain took the leather sack which had held the tokens and slipped a bead inside before passing it to the next pirate. It made its way down the line, each pirate slipping a token into the leather bag until it reached Jaego who held up his fist. He didn't cast a stone himself but instead upended the purse and poured the contents into his fist. One by one he placed them on the table top, slapping each down with a theatrically crack.

Six black stones and five white.

"Your claim is denied!" Jaego called. The pirates tensed preparing to execute the interlopers but the pirate chief held his hand up to forestall any action. Emmaline had edged back towards the door, though it was unlikely that she would be able to escape before she was cut down.

Jaego lifted a hand and opened it, displaying a white token on his calloused palm. Six and six.

"This is a special day," Jaego called turning slowly to address the entire hall, hands spread.

"The anniversary of our great Republic," he added with a snicker that was taken up by the remaining pirates, all aware of the fiction that Sartosa was anything more than a den of thieves.

"This whelp is bold, perhaps a fool, but what say you to a test?" he demanded of the assembled captains.
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"Test! Test! Test!" They each cried in their strange dialects, hands slamming on the table. Each of these Captains was a character in their own eccentric right, yet here they found themselves united as a community like any citizen of a greater nation. He guessed everyone needed a group to identify with, even if they like as not backstabbed one another when outside of this very room. Sketti and the other slayer were whispering to each other, now side by side as every Captain turned to regard Markus. Jaego needed but raise his hand, and a hush fell over the room like a cascading wave.

All watched in silence. A gap toothed woman sat beside a man of ebony skin with earrings of bones, and they both sat next to a strange Arabyan with a bloated throat like some odd toad. The defeaning quiet lasted too long, by Markus estimation. The seal only broken when Jaego reached into his resplendent jacket and drew forth a well kept map, colored by the fine, flowing ink of a Tilean artist. Sprawling it across the ivory table, Jaego beckoned Markus to step forward with a gesture.

Slowly, the Captain stepped forward. It was a map of the entirety of the world, though whether it was accurate or not was something he couldn't begin to guess. He blinked, watching Jaego slide his bejeweled fingers across thousands upon thousands of leagues before pointing at a landmass. It was derelict in shape, below the fabled lands of Cathay. It took a moment for Markus to understand.

"You want me to go to Ind?" He asked slowly, and he suddenly realized he was the only one to make a sound.

"Yes. You are to go to Ind, to retrieve something for us." Jaego Roth replied. Markus could guess he had a wild streak to him, else he wouldn't be leader here. But at the moment, he had the manner of a learned scholar. The man knew of the land in his travels, perhaps? "There is an artifact there, called the Orb of Winds. An item that can change the course of any sea battle fought on ships, and could speed your way across the open ocean twice as fast as one might normally. You and your crew are to go to Ind, to the Temple of Kardesh where it resides, upon the south eastern coast of the land."

He had to fight to not turn and look at Emmaline, who was the only real member of his crew here, save maybe Sketti. "If I get this for you...I will be in the court?"

Jaego Roth stared at him, before he laughed. A low chuckle at first, but soon it was a full belly laugh that sent everyone else around him into an uproar. Had he been anywhere else, Markus would have shot someone again. He was not one to be taken lightly, but here he waited patiently before their mirth subsided.

"My boy, if you give us this. You can become a high captain. The 11th of the brethren."
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"Ind?" Emmaline breathed as they marched out of the hall. Few people in the Old World had ever even heard of the distant land and for those that had it existed only in tales and legends. It was the kind of place that came up from time to time around the Colleges of Magic. Mostly in oblique references in arcane texts and strange stories told late at night while deep in the cups.

The sound and fury of the celebration washed over them as they left the hall. A few of the guards shot Emmaline hard looks, clearly having not forgotten about the trick she had pulled when she entered. Clearly the fact that they had emerged alive from the council chamber meant that they had some measure of favor from the pirate lords and that was enough to stave of physical attack.

"Do you even know how to get to Ind?" she asked as they decended back into the riotous streets.

"I suppose I can learn," Markus allowed.

"We are going to need food and maps and ... ship stuff!"
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"Yes, we'll need plenty of 'ship stuff'" He replied, deep in thought as they walked along the partied and debris-strewn streets of Sartosa. The night wasn't young, but nor was it anywhere close to being done. Crowds of revelry erupted or were in full swing down every corner Markus, Emmaline, and Sketti turned in. The Dwarf walked stolidly with them, though he often laughed uproariously when he saw some manner of drunken violence being displayed. Markus knew there was no way they could get the supplies tonight with the celebration in full swing, but maybe he could swing a deal with someone if he got lucky. In all due reality, he and his two crew members should likely make straight for the boat.

"We'll stay here for a day or so." He said, thinking aloud. "The men need some rest and relaxation, and I need some time to think. Tomorrow we can go and sell what wares we have." Luckily they had quite the haul, but it still wouldn't be enough to travel halfway around the world. As the three passed an alleyway where a sailor and a debauched whore were in the very middle of exploring one another's anatomy on a pile of discarded cushions, Markus noticed they were being followed.

Four men of questionable intentions and unquestionable hygeine had taken an interest in them. Having noticed them two streets back, he wasn't confirmed in if they were truly following until they had traversed another large crowd of revelers outside of the unfortunately named 'Rancid Prick' Pub. Markus said not a word until they were well and truly at the next street, halting without a sound. Sketti nearly walked right into him, his face like a confused, ugly bulldog.

"What're ye on about, Captain? Y- Oooh, we got some company, aye?" His mood changed in a flash, laughing darkly. It was then Markus decided to turn back and acknowledge the strangers. The four men behind them tensed, hands hidden beneath oft-sodden cloaks. The shapes poking out from their hips showed they were at least armed with swords.

"Speak your business." Markus ordered. "I'm in no mood for tricks tonight."

"We're here on behalf of our Captain." One of them said. Simultaneously they uncloaked their heads dramatically as if it was to reveal some great secret. They looked ordinary men to Markus, maybe a little suntanned and worn. "Captain Von Roberts."

"Never heard of him." Sketti pipped in.

"We're simply here to give some friendly advice." The tallest one said. He had a narrow chin and a hooked nose, making the shadows on his face appear sinister. "That seat as a High Captain has been sought by our Captain for years now, and you can't just waltz into Sartosa and take what's his. He wants to tell you that he respects you, and he doesn't wish to come to fighting. Just leave, and we'll give you a chest of ten sthousand silver schillings as a good faith payment."

Markus narrowed his eyes, and answered after a moment. "Tell him I appreciate the offer. But no deal. I can waltz into Sartosa and take what's someone elses. I'm a pirate. Is he?"
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One of the pirates growled a curse and reached for a pistol at his belt but was frozen by a bone chilling chuckle from Sketti. The dwarfs laughter sounded like timbers cracking during a cave in. Emmaline reached behind her and patted her rump trying to get a her own pistol, which fortunately was inept enough not to look threatening. The remaining pirates froze their faces an agony of uncertainty before the one who had spoken, obviously the leader, dropped his hand to his side.

"Don't say we didn't warn ye," he snarled and then turned and tried to stalk away. It was obviously meant to be dramatic but they fact they had to force their way through the crowd ruined the effect utterly.

"Friendly types," Sketti said, his face drooping in disappointment at missing the chance for a fight.

"Don't take it too hard, sounds like we might meet them again before long," Markus consoled the Dwarf. Sketti grunted.

"Hey, where did your bimbo go?"

Emmaline trailed along behind the four sailors, even with the hood of a stolen cloaked pulled up her gender ensured she recived frequent propositions and pinches. She ignored the latter and rebuffed the former with a giggle and a few 'maybe laters'. Fortunately the four pirates, angry now they were no longer afraid, bulled a path through the crowds and Emmaline could follow in their wake without too much difficulty. The group headed, predictabley, towards the harbor though the oppisite end to where the Hammer was docked. The piers here extened further out into the bay, allowing heavier draught ships to dock. A pair of massively built Estalian Galleons flanked what looked to have started its life as a heavy merchantman from Marienburg. It was bigger than the hammer and much more heavily armed, with guns on the main deck as well as below on the gundeck. The name Sea Drake was picked out in gilt below the windows of the captains great cabins which faced the city. One of the pirates turned abruptly and Emmaline pivoted and walked up the gangplank to one of the galleons as though she had always been headed their. Judging by the lack of outcry the ruse was successful.

"Senoritta, what are you doing here," A disconsolate looking Estallian with a drooping mustache and an odd looking helmet demanded as she stepped onto the deck. He was the only man visible although from laughter below he wasn't alone on the ship. Doubtless the anchor watches were less than pleased about missing out on the festivities. Or, in the case of a man vomiting over the railing of the other galleon, had already enjoyed them too much. Emmaline through back her cloak to reveal her golden hair.

"I thought I might find a couple of sailors sad to be missing the fun," she said poutily. That got the Estilean's attention in more ways than one. He straightened and sucked in his gut.

"Well you have come to the right place," he said, slipping his arm around her waist. She giggled and pushed him away gently.

"Why don't you get us something to drink<" she cajoled, making playful nipping motions. The sentry nodded his head enthusiastically and then all but bolted for the companion way. As soon as he was out of site Emmaline hurried up to the quaterdeck of the galleon, which was high enough that she could look down on the Sea Drake across the pier. As she had hoped there were few crew aboard, the four pirates were exchanging angry words with a man in a dark cloak and a broad brimmed hat amidships where the boarding ramp emptied and there were a couple of idlers in the forecastle who seemed to be absorbed in the bursting fireworks. Emmaline pondered for a moment and then crossed to the spanker boom which ordinarily projected out behind the galleon. She gripped the timber and pushed it, pleased to find that it rotated freely, then gripped it and ran, leaping up onto the boom as it swung out over the peer. She hadn't fully accounted for the fact that the timber was oiled and her grip slipped. She let out an indelicate squeak as she grabbed for better leverage but she was already falling. Something brushed her fingers and she grabbed with both arms, feeling fabric between her fingers. It was the black flag that hung from the stern of the Sea Drake. She scrabbled for purchase as she slid down the flag, her weight swinging her inward so she slamed against the gilt work above the captains cabin a second before she ran out of flag and she fell again, landing on her ass on the small viewing platform intended as the captains retreat. She scrambled to her feet but judging by the lack of an alarm no one had scene her embarass herself. Most of her decsent had been masked by the rise of the Sea Drake's quarter deck and her shout had been just one more in a noisy night. Letting out a breath she stood and tried the door to the Captain's cabin. It was latched from the inside but a whispered spell swung the door open.

The interior of Captain Von Roberts' cabin was far grander than Markus' own. Woven rugs covered the floor and fine furniture had been nailed to the deck. Paintings, mostly of Aryabian Harems hung on the walls and an expensive looking cabinet against one wall held several dozen bottles of wine and spirits. Judging by the stamped rune on the base of one bottle he even had dwarven ale. What interested Emmaline most however was a chest of brass bound teak which sat on the central table. She crossed quickly and pulled it open. Silver glittered inside in sparkling profusion. She began grabbing handfuls of coins and, lacking more suitable pockets or pouches, shoving them into the bosom of her garment. As she pulled away her fourth or fifth handful of coin however she felt the greasy feeling of lead rather than silver. Pausing to examine the contents of the chest more closely she saw that the silver coins had been layered over musket balls. Frowning she rumaged deeper, finding what appeared to be a charge of gunpowder.

"Not quite the treasure you, or that puppy Flintbrook was expecting aye?" came a voice from the door of the cabin. Emmaline world, sending a handful of silver schillings scattering across the floor. Captain Von Roberts stood in the door way with an amused look in his single good eye.
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"Should'a kept a leash on 'er." The Slayer remarked after the two had picked apart every face in the the crowd the four men had walked through. Markus had nearly gotten into three fist fights, and indeed he had to put a knife to a man's throat at one point. He saw more than a few blondes, a few shapely women, and a lot of bumbling idiots. But he was looking for the woman with all three. Looking for her within the bar was just as fruitless, and he felt an anger welling up from within his chest that brought strength to his limbs. Anyone who got in his way he would kill.

Markus shot Sketti a black look at his remark. "Keep at it and I'll put a muzzle on you." he warned, cocking the flintlock pistol within his grasp in a single motion and turning to stalk down the connecting alley. The Dwarf shrugged and held his stump and hand up to ease the Captain before following, waddling after him with his stumpy legs. The Captain felt the men had gone back to the docks, but he wasn't entirely certain she had followed them. Perhaps they should go back anyway. Like a lost dog she might turn back up at his front doorstep.

Sartosa was a large island, its very breadth filled with throngs of people. He even saw a few nonhumans stalking about. Strange elves congregated in small groups in higher class taverns as diminutive, cloaked figures he knew to be halflings waded through crowds, their small hands gripping muffins or other foodstuffs. He had heard there was even a Dwarf Karak on the island, but Sartosa and the Dawi were ever secret. He hadn't had the chance to hear of it on the island itself, and he truly wasn't curious enough to look just at the moment.

"Let's just head back to the ship, Captain." Sketti grumbled with his signature, gravely timbre. The Dwarf scratched his mangy beard with his one good hand, clearly bored. They had only made it a few miles, but it was like finding a single woman in Altdorf. Without knowledge of their whereabouts, you could look for a decade and not find hide nor hair of anyone. "We can find ye a less troublesome woman, eh?"

"That's a high bar." Markus remarked, the sarcasm thick in his voice. He knew the Dwarf was right. There were plenty of beautiful women and he hadn't known her that long. He could even find another sorceress if he looked hard enough. But something about Emmaline's entitled buffoonery was refreshing, and she was an excellent lover. He had never struck a woman before, but when or if he found her, he might make a bloody exception. With a growl, he acquiesced. "Fine, let's get back to the Hammer. She might turn up tonight anyway. We won't leave for another day, after all."
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Von Roberts was a fearsome looking man, perhaps forty years of age, the sea had etched craggy lines into his parched skin. He wore a beared of scraggly black and his left eye was covered by a black patch. He grinned at her with slightly yellowed teeth as he stepped inside and closed the door, sliding a heavy bolt home as he did so.

"You'd think Flintbrook would have better sense than to send a woman to spy," Von Roberts said as he advanced towards Emmaline. The golden haired sorceress backed up, hastily stuffing the last few handfuls of silver into her bodice.

"He didn't send me, I followed your idiot sailors back," she snapped as her rump bumped into the liquor cabinet with a clink of shifting glasses. Von Robert's grinned wickedly.

"Perhaps if he won't give up the quest for silver, he will give up the quest for you?" Von Roberts said raising an eyebrow, he was moving around the central table towards her clearly in no hurry. Emmaline snickered, causing the pirate to pause.

"He cares more about being a pirate than he does about me," she assured Von Roberts. The pirate gave her a questioning look and then his eyes grew harder and colder.

"Well I suppose at least I can sell you at the slave market, you will fetch at least ten thousand silver shcillings," he told her before making a guesture at the chest.

"A real ten thousand schillings that is," he grinned, he stepped towards her reaching out with a caloused hand. Emmaline pulled the pistol Markus had given her from the waistband of her shirt and pointed it at Von Roberts. The pirate captain smirked.

"Please woman, we both know you don't have the..."

Emmaline pulled the trigger, the hammer snapped forward and the powder hissed and sparked for a second, then subsided without discharging the gun. Von Roberts' single eye widened with shock and anger before growing cold and deadly.

"Well it seems like the God's favor me more than you whore," he declared, "looks like you are out of options."

Emmaline hit him across the face with the pistol, the heavy barrel splitting Von Robert's lips in a spray of blood. The pirate staggered backwards with a shout that was half cry and half curse, his thighs hitting the central table and jouncing the chest before lurching forward to grab at her. Emmaline ducked under his arms and darted to the rear of the cabin, crashing through one of the glass windows with a jump. She got one foot down on the narrow balcony before her momentum carried her into the railing at thigh height, toppling her over the side in a graceless cartwheel that ended with a splash in the harbor twenty feet below.

Two Hours Later

Rodrigo, one of the Estilian sailors who had been left aboard the Hammer as an anchor watch, stared disconsolately out towards the town, it was only an hour or so before dawn now and the party wasn't so much ending, as collapsing under the weight of alcohol poisoning. The fireworks had ended some time ago, but a cloud of powdersmoke from the celebrations still gave the air a faintly acrid tinge. A handful of sailors had returned, mostly staggering drunk, to collapse in their hammocks, but the majority were still sporting ashore. A sudden disturbance by the bow caught the sailors attention as a pale silvery light swelled beneath the water, resovled a moment later into Emmaline as the womans golden hair broke the water like a whale breaching for air. A silver halo around her head flickered for a moment and then vanished, transforming her from strange and exotic to bedraggled in a moment. Sea weed was tangled in her hair and around her body, and she seemed to be working very hard to tread water.

"Well don't just stand there throw me a line!" she snapped irritably.

A minute or so later Emmaline had been hauled onto the deck. She was soaked to the skin, her hair matted with sea weed and other pieces of refuse. A small fish had become trapped in her tangled hair which she pulled free and tossed over the side. Her loose fitting sailors clothing was plastered to her body, save around her bosom where it sagged in lumpy bags which clinked metallically when she moved. Rodrigo arched an eyebrow and Emmaline reached in and withdrew a silver shilling, which she flicked to Rodrigo.

"Here," she said, plucking a strand of seaweed out of her hair.

"I'm going to find a bath," she added as shew walked wearily aft towards Markus' cabin, clinking metallically and leaving a trail of sea water with every step.
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