Book II: Rise of the Pirate King

Chapter I
Chapter I

Chapter I

Julius 20, 1665 A.V.

That was six weeks ago. The crew of El Rey del Azul had remained on the island of Kroner’s Folly, in the city of Port King. Kroner’s Folly and Port King have a fairly young history. Roughly a hundred and fifty years ago, the island had been colonized by an Eisen merchant, by the name of Kroner. He had helped to create a fairly prosperous colony, by the name of Port King, but it was attacked and razed by pirates. Determined not to lose their colony, Kroner and the colonists rebuilt, and made it prosperous again. However, when the pirates returned, nearly ten years after their last attack, they came with an entire fleet, and this time, they came to stay. After a prolonged battle, the pirates conquered Port King, and by extension the rest of the island. Kroner was killed in the battle, but his actions in making Port King what it was, would leave his legacy, and his name upon the island. Thusly was the island named Kroner’s Folly, and for nearly one hundred years, it had been an independent port, controlled by the descendants of the original confederation of pirate captains that had conquered it before.

For the most part, the “laws” of Port King were fairly lax. The only major “law” is no fighting in town. If you had a problem with someone, you were best to take it out of town, or more preferably, off the island. The descendants of the original colonists came to enjoy their new rulers. The pirate captain/lords knew how to rule fairly and understood what it was like to be the ruled, the oppressed; the very things that had sent them to sea. Their taxes were lighter than in other nations, as they were a main port of call for all the merchants travelling between the continent and the Midnight Archipelago. In the near hundred years of its control by the pirates, there had been several attempts at usurpation, but each time they were beaten back by the reigning pirate lords. So it was no surprise really, when Blue Cloak arrived nearly three months ago and made declarations that he would become the King of Pirates. It wasn’t the first time that the citizens of Kroner’s Folly had heard it, and it wouldn’t be the last time. But something about Blue Cloak seemed to strike a nerve with one of the Pirate Lords, Giovanni “Bloody Hands” Sforza, or “Bloody-Handed” Sforza. He was descended from one of the original pirate lords, that also, was his only real claim to fame. Though he had a fairly large ship, and plenty of loyal minions, he had never gone out to make a real name for himself. His nickname, “Bloody Hands”, came from the scarlet gloves that he wore no matter what other outfit he was wearing. Local merchants, and those well acquainted with Kroner’s Folly knew to fear him, for he made it a habit to hunt the main trade route from the continent, but he never went any farther than that. He believed that he didn’t need to, never knowing that he was secretly shunned and mocked by his fellow pirate lords.

Giovanni considered himself nobility, and so it vexed and agitated him, that this lowly-looking Castillian, who came from nowhere, and apparently didn’t even have a name worth promoting, and no imagination, would just appear in his port, on his island, and declare that he would be the King of Pirates. He enjoyed chuckling to himself, knowing full well, that should some serious threat come to challenge the power of the pirate lords, they would rise up with their full force and destroy the interloper. Blue Cloak was in for a serious surprise. All in all, Giovanni didn’t consider Blue Cloak a threat to his political power, but he was deadly threat when it came to Brandy.

Ah, Brandy, what could you say about her, that would truly give her credit. Nothing; no poet could truly hit the mark when describing her. No number of stanzas could detail her fully. Not much was known about her, except that she wasn’t a native of Kroner’s Folly, of that, Giovanni, along with most of Port King was sure of. Giovanni, who was familiar with a large portion of all of Port King’s ladies-of-the-evening, knew without a doubt she was a foreigner. Not that she was a prostitute, no, never! She was a bar wench at The One-Eyed Parrot, an upscale tavern located in the docks district. But he would never be caught calling her such, nor would any man who knew of her. The few who had, ended up nursing a black eye, expertly delivered by Brandy herself. She preferred to be called a bar maid. As noted before, not much was known about her. She could speak fluent Avalon, and in the time that she’d been in Port King, had begun to quickly pick up all the other major languages of the sailors, pirates, and merchants passing through. She was an expert knife fighter, though who had trained her, no one knew. The few that had tried to test her, had ended up with bad gashes, or even dead. Everyone knew she carried a knife in her ample bodice, and rumor stated that she had many more knives stored on her body, but their hiding places were left to the imagination of every red-blooded male on the island. Giovanni would gladly have made her his, except for one problem, Blue Cloak. She was enamored with him. What did he have that Giovanni didn’t? Blue Cloak could possibly be considered attractive, if he ever stopped wearing that baggy, poorly made, cloak. And what in Théah was with that purple scarf he wore? Was it supposed to instill fear, or was it proof that he was touched in the head? Whatever the reason, it infuriated him. He could offer Brandy the wonders of a kingdom, but she only had eyes for Blue Cloak. Something had to be done about him.

*

As noted earlier, it had been six weeks since the Blue Cloak Pirates successful attack on the Crescent ship. Six weeks, and pirates were starting to go stir-crazy. It wasn’t right for a pirate to remain in port for such a long period of time. One, two weeks at tops was okay, but six made absolutely no sense. There were murmurs of discontent from many of the pirates. Possibly, Blue Cloak had lost his passion for the sea, and should turn over the ship to the others. That’s what was normal, not this Captain-for-Life stuff that Blue Cloak demanded of his men. A Pirate Nation was democratic, taking in the benefit for the whole crew, and not just one man. Not that Blue Cloak had been a bad leader, no, in the midst of battle, he was perfectly capable. Able to keep his head one moment, and then able to become a whirling machine of death the next. It couldn’t be said that he was incompetent. Tyrannical, possibly; though for the most part, he let the crew do whatever they wanted, as long as the ship maintained its course. He could drink with the best of them, and maintained a level of camaraderie that wasn’t known amongst captains, be they pirate, naval, or merchants. But there were times, when he would hunch is shoulders, and seem to withdraw into his cloak (if that were even more possible than he already did), and he would clam up. The enigma that was Blue Cloak would be reborn anew.

Then he had come to Port King, and suddenly, his normal routine had changed. It started by staying a day longer than expected. No big deal, he had even paid for room and board for his crew, not an easy task for a crew of nearly three hundred. Then, the next time he was in port, it was a few more days, then a week, week-and-a-half, two, three, etc. It hadn’t been a problem before, but now there was no stopping the muttering. And it wasn’t as if they didn’t know why. There wasn’t a sailor in all of Port King or Kroner’s Folly that didn’t know of Brandy, the bar maid of The One-Eyed Parrot, and her beau, Blue Cloak. Brandy the buxom beauty of Port King; with eyes as blue as the sea and locks as fiery as her temper. Able to wield a knife like a Cappuntina; many is the time a foolish man put his hand on Brandy, and either pulled away a stump, or fell to the floor dead. Blue Cloak also, seemed enraptured with Brandy, as he spent a lot of time with her. It wasn’t uncommon for the two of them to disappear upstairs for a few hours every day. Brandy, unlike most of the tavern wenches in Port King, wasn’t a prostitute on the side. She had never given herself to any man, until Blue Cloak. That first week, there was no end of chuckling, snickering, and envious glares round all of Port King. Since then, every time El Rey del Azul pulled into port, it was a normal sight to see Brandy standing on the docks awaiting the man in blue.

Another source of agitation amongst the crew members was the library. If Blue Cloak wasn’t spending time with Brandy, or drinking at The One-Eyed Parrot, he spent his free time in the library of Port King. This made no sense. Most pirates could read enough to decipher sea charts, maps, rutters, and logs, but Blue Cloak spent far more time in the library than seemed normal.

The library was a relic of the original colonization by Kroner. It was run by the descendants of a Vaticine scholar/monk, who had arrived on the island along with the original colonists. Local lore had it, that during the original attack by the pirate confederation, the monk kneeled in front of the door to the library, amidst all his books and scrolls, and he prayed that it would all be spared. Amazingly enough, Théus must have heard his prayers, for no pirates entered the library, or attempted to burn it. Then during the second attack, when the pirate lords conquered the isle, the monk’s descendant, a scholar by trade did what his father had done, and prayed for the pirate’s mercy. This time, one pirate lord entered the library, but seeing the figure kneeling before him, not begging for mercy from the pirate, but calmly praying to Théus, he decided to spare him and his books, and once again the library survived a crisis. However, in the time since the pirate lords conquered the island, the Library had fallen into disrepair. Currently, it was staffed by another descendant of the original monk, his great grandson, who was also a scholar by trade. He was old, and had no children to take over after he passed away, so he spent every day watching over his library. His body was too infirm to dust the shelves, and he was nearly blind, but he spent each day, taking up the ancient manuscripts, and copying them down, in hopes of preserving all that his ancestors had sacrificed for. To say that the current librarian was surprised when a pirate, especially one looking like Blue Cloak, had walked into the library would be an understatement. He was utterly flabbergasted. In all the years since the confederation had conquered the island, no pirates had entered the library. It was a place for simple townsfolk, merchants, and the so-called “nobility”. Yet, in his several visits, Blue Cloak and the librarian had become friends, and so it was always pleasant when the man in blue appeared in the library’s doors. His crew knew no reason why their captain spent so much time in the library, but it made no sense, and only added to the muttering.

*

One of the red double doors of The One-Eyed Parrot tavern opened for a few seconds to admit the intimidating figure of Blue Cloak. Once the door had closed, he stood there at the entrance for a minute, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the dim lighting of the common room. The tavern was very busy that day, and there were few open spaces at any of the tables or booths. Looking around, Blue Cloak saw his long-time comrade Khuldas Blackhand sitting at the bar at the back of the common room, his six-foot long zweihander leaning against the bar. Sitting on a bar stool beside him was Roger Bowman, the topsman of the El Rey del Azul. Continuing to scan the room, he finally spied Vigo, the young Vodacce spy sitting in a booth near the stairs leading up to the second floor of the tavern. He was currently entertaining one of the taverns wenches with various stories. Vigo spotted the captain and nodded to him. Blue Cloak smiled beneath his purple scarf and walked over to Vodacce.

Sliding into the other side of the booth, Blue Cloak situated himself with his back against the wall, his legs taking up the entire length of the booth. Once Blue Cloak was comfortable, Vigo raised a tankard in salute toward Blue Cloak. “So, learn anything new?” Vigo asked, while keeping his eyes, and other hand busy with the wench.

Before Blue Cloak could answer, Brandy, appeared at the booth, a tray in her hand with a single tankard of rum. She winked a beautiful blue eye at him, coyly reaching out and pulling his scarf down from around his face and giving his right cheek a quick caress. She placed the tankard on the table in front of Blue Cloak and as she was about to return to the kitchen, he reached out and pulled her into his lap. She giggled like wind through a set of chimes as he whispered into her ear. But before their flirtation could go any further a loud gruff shout came from the bar, “Brandy!” The voice belonging to the tavern keeper Sergio Conden. “Get back to the kitchen girl! We’ve got dozens o’ thirsty customers need seein’ to! Unless Blue Cloak wants to pay yer wages fer the day, get back there and pour some mugs!” Grimacing in the direction of the small dark-eyed man, she turned to Blue Cloak and gave him a quick peck on the cheek then strutted haughtily back to the kitchen.

Taking up the tankard in his hand, Blue Cloak takes a quick gulp of rum. Blue Cloak looked over at Vigo, picking up the conversation as if it had never been interrupted. “No, nothing yet.” He answers in lightly accented Avalon. He takes another sip before continuing, “I know that somewhere on this island, Kronor left a treasure. I know that it was meant as a means to aid the colonists in the event of hardship being caused by future pirate raids. If only he had known that the pirates would not only stop raiding, but would stay and become permanent citizens of his island, he’d be rolling in his grave.”

“Well, don’t worry about it. I’ve made some inquiries, and nobody has heard of any ancient treasure trove buried on Kronor’s Folly. That kind of thing would be big news if it was discovered. Especially as the Confederation would seek to get their hands on all of it.”

Just as Blue Cloak is about to respond, the double-doors of the tavern burst open, and in walk fifteen men. All of them are easily identifiable as pirates, and all of them are crewmen of the El Rey del Azul. Blue Cloak is oblivious to their appearance as he tilts his head back and drains his tankard. As he sets the cup down on the table he notices that Vigo is no longer paying attention to him and is staring in the direction of the doors. Blue Cloak finally sees them, and quickly loosens his cutlass from its scabbard. He slides forward and stands up from the booth.

The crewmen continue to look around the tavern obviously searching for someone. Blue Cloak knew that this was coming. The crew had been muttering about the excessive amount of time they had spent in port, not knowing that Blue Cloak was researching a lead on Kronor’s treasure. It wouldn’t matter though, there were elements among the crew who had been fomenting dissent for quite some time. Even if they had known about Kronor’s treasure, it wouldn’t likely have made a difference. They had other issues, one of which was Blue Cloak’s stance and title of “Captain-For-Life”. It was completely unheard of among the pirate nations of Théah, taking exception to the Crimson Rogers and the Corsairs. Those two nations were controlled by such captains, but only because they were both monsters in human form. Many is the tale of the bloodlust of Reis of the Crimson Rogers, and the religious fanaticism of Kheired-Din of the Corsairs. But Blue Cloak, as well known as he was, had never shown himself to be anywhere near the league of such legends.

Finally, one of the crewmen spotted Blue Cloak and pointed him out to the others. As they approached, he widened his shoulders slightly to increase his intimidation factor, but more importantly to give Vigo a chance to disappear into the shadows. Many is the time that Vigo had aided Blue Cloak by appearing from out of nowhere with a dagger in the back of an enemy. The leader of the group was a slovenly Avalonian, James, at least that was what Blue Cloak thought his name was; he had never gone out of his way to get to know the names of his Avalonian crew, as they had a natural animosity towards the Castillian. He felt something brush past his cloak and knew that Vigo had made his exit.

James stopped in front of Blue Cloak. “Oy, Blue Cloak, we’ve got something we need to talk to you about.” Blue Cloak made no reply other than to raise an eyebrow in query. “Look, we’ve been in port fer six bloody weeks. We’ve run out of money and the boys are gettin’ antsy. We know why you’ve stayed so long,” he said glancing toward the kitchen. “But the thing is, we need to go to sea. So, we understan’ if you want to stay in port, just give over the ship to us.” Several of the other crewmen, mostly Avalonian, nodded their heads in agreement. Blue Cloak remained silent, giving each man an intense, menacing glare; finally he returned his attention to James. “I’ve made it very clear, that I am the captain of El Rey del Azul, and no other. I am the captain for life. I purchased that ship, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let some limey Avalonian PENDEJO TAKE MY SHIP FROM ME!” Blue Cloak spoke quietly quickly ending in a full roar. At the sound of Blue Cloak’s raised voice, all business within the tavern stopped; Blackhand and Bowman both turned at the all too familiar sound. Blackhand took hold of his zweihander and waited to see what happened.

“Look…captain, you don’t seem to un’erstan’. We’re not askin’ ye, we’re tellin’ ye that we’re taking the ship. This captain-for-life stuff is bollocks! It just doesn’t happen. Pirate nations are about every crewmen getting an equal say in what happens aboard the ship. Being a captain only happens during battle, after that, it’s up to each of us to decide the fate of the ship.” James shrugged his shoulders and snorted in derision at the Castillian. “Besides, you can’t take us all on, yer one man.”

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a dagger caresses James’ throat. Vigo brings his face up to the Avalonian’s ear, “Nobody takes that ship from Blue Cloak,” he whispers. The other crewmen are startled by the Vodacce’s sudden appearance.

“Grrr…get offa me, ye damn guido!” James growls and then swings his left arm in an attempt to backhand Vigo. Vigo ducks the arm, “That’s it!” He leaps up and buries his dagger into the pirate’s shoulder. James roars in pain, “Argh! Roight! They won’t yield boys, let’s send ‘em to Legion’s bowels!” Grabbing hold of his cutlass in his right hand, he slashes Blue Cloak. The blade cannot damage Blue Cloak’s magical cloak, but it’s edge finds a way to cut into the flesh of the Castillian’s torso.

The Castillian’s cloak explodes outward as a serpentine shape moves in between the captain and the mutineers. Quetzal, Blue Cloak’s loyal companion, an Asprey or flying snake, flutters in front of James and flaps it’s feathered wings in front of the Avalonian. The sudden, chaotic movements confuse him, but he quickly returns his attention to Blue Cloak.

Blue Cloak grasps his cutlass in his right hand, and flicks his left hand, triggering a special sling attached to his wrist, bringing his sailor’s knife quickly into his hand. Shouting loudly enough to be heard throughout the entire tavern, “Is this what you want?” Blue Cloak yells. He slashes downward with his cutlass, his blade biting deeply into James’ right arm. Blue Cloak’s knife comes up and stabs into James’ gut. He twists the knife and quickly pulls it out. The Castillian goes to chop into the Avalonian’s shoulder with his cutlass, but is blocked by James left fist, which is curled around his own sailor’s knife. Before the mutineer can react from the successful block, Blue Cloak’s knife stabs into his side, pulls out quickly and then rockets up into James’ throat. Instead of pulling the blade straight out backwards, Blue Cloak swings his left arm turning the stab, into a slit. Blood spurts forth from James mouth and throat and he drops to his knees and collapses on the floor. Seeing their leader fall dead to the floor, several of the mutineers turn on each other. Those loyal to James (Avalonians all) quickly fight back.

Vigo ducks and dodges about trading blows with another mutineer. But with all of the bodies packed in so tightly (tavern-goer and mutineer alike) he receives a couple of minor cuts from his opponent’s cutlass and knife. A few seconds later Blue Cloak steps up to the side of the mutineer and cuts him down with a combination of cutlass and knife.

Blackhand stands up, lifts the great zweihander onto his shoulder and wades into the melee. With both hands wrapped around the great sword’s handle, he cuts down two mutineers like a farmer threshing wheat. Roger leaps behind the bar and bringing up a crossbow fires a bolt into the shoulder of another mutineer. He ducks beneath the bar, quickly reloads then springs up and fires, again the bolt buries itself into the same mutineer’s shoulder.

Suddenly, a small, squat figure leaps onto one of the tables near the tavern’s stage (the tavern’s bard having quickly hidden himself behind some theatre-style curtains. She pulls four daggers from her belt, two in each hand and skillfully flings them at the mutineer riddled with Roger’s crossbow bolts. The mutineer, who was seeking the source of said bolts, turns his attention to this figure. His gaze falls upon a girl at the exact same height as he. However, he quickly realizes this is an illusion, as she is standing on the table fully in view. She is a dwarf, slightly shorter than a meter in height. He grins maliciously at her and swings his cutlass at her. She leaps up, somersaults through the air, does a quick handstand on his head for all of a second, then completes her somersault and lands on the ground behind him. The mutineer head swings left and right in confusion and panic. She pulls two more daggers from her belt and cheekily jabs him in the arse with her left and hamstrings his right leg with her right. He yells in both pain and humiliation at where he’s been stuck. The shout grabs Blackhand’s attention and he walks over and chops down with his great blade, nearly sundering the man in twain.

As quickly as the fight had begun, it is over, with eight of the mutineers dead, and the survivors begging for mercy and forgiveness from Blue Cloak.

No sooner have things begun to quiet down when the double-doors open once again, and in walks Giovanni “Bloody Hands” Sforza. He is accompanied by ten men, not city militia, but tough looking n’er-do-wells, all of them likely pirates; all of them loyal to Giovanni. "Well, well, well… finally caught you breaking the laws of Port King, haven’t we Blue Cloak? He said with a smirk on his face.

“We didn’t break the law!” Vigo shouted out, one of his hands covering one of the more severe gashes he had received.

“That’s right. It was self defense.” Blackhand adds. He turns and looks at the other people in the tavern, mutineers and other tavern-goers for support. The surviving mutineers agree vocally and enthusiatically. The other tavern-goers (those that haven’t found a way to escape the building during the battle) also nod quietly, many easily cowed by the Giovanni’s presence. Turning back to the pirate lord, Blackhand continues, “It was an attempted mutiny. They wanted to take our ship from us.”

“A mutiny? Ha! If there was a mutiny, I’m sure they had good reason. Everyone knows what a lousy capitano Blue Cloak is. Captain-For-Life indeed.” He chuckles at a joke that is only humorous to himself. “Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. You broke the laws of Port King by fighting within the city limits. Now, I hereby arrest you, Blue Cloak, in the name of the Confederation of Pirate Lords of Port King. Come peaceably and maybe you shall be judged leniently.”

Suddenly, from out of the dimly-lit corner of the tavern, a voice sounding much like the creaking of an old tree branch in a strong wind pipes up. “Now, now. That’s enough of that. I think you and your friends ought to be going back the way you came in.” Its an old stooped man, with wild gray hair, and a long unkempt mustache and beard. He wears a faded, somewhat stained white shirt, with several large patches over what must have been large holes and tears. The shirt is tucked into the waist of a pair of dark blue, trousers, held up by a pair of bright red suspenders. The trousers appear to be part of a matching set, that includes a dark blue vest. Both trousers and vest appear to have probably been at the height of fashion some thirty years past. Now, however, they are so faded, and covered in patches, it would be difficult to picture even the most wretched of street urchins willingly wearing them.

“Now, now. I suggest you and yer fellers leave. I’ve seen enough death today. This feller and his friends just fought off a bunch o’ bullies. And they’re barely scratched for it. I doubt you’ll fair any better.” The old man gestured toward Blue Cloak and Vigo while speaking. It was hard to make out much of what he was saying, since he was missing a great deal of teeth. Giovanni pulled a pistol from inside his purple frock coat and pointed it at the old man. “Keep your nose out of other’s affairs old man.” The old man simply put his hands up and returned to the booth he had been sitting at. A couple of the “redeemed” mutineers recognized the old man as a local surgeon, and walked over to him.

“Oy! Doctor. We need yer ‘elp. We’ve been wounded.” One of the mutineers said. The surgeon looked up from his quickly cooling plate of food and grimaced at the two wounded pirates. “Argh. Fine, but I didn’t bring me tools with me.” He rummages around in one of his vest pockets and pulls forth a key. “Now, one of you will have to go to me shop and get me bag o’ tools and supplies.” He hands the key to the least injured of the two.

Meanwhile, Giovanni had returned his attention to Blue Cloak, and his pistol to the inside of his coat. “Now, are you going to surrender, or do we pass judgement and punishment on you here?” Giovanni asked, a smirk on his face.

“Look around you, Giovanni. You know me better than that. We just killed several men who were not only committing mutiny, but trying to steal what is my property. I’m not about to let some…GUIDO…boss me around.” Blue Cloak replied. Then he turned to look at Vigo. “Sorry Vigo.” Vigo simply smirked at Blue Cloak, then turned to look at Giovanni. “Meh. He is a guido.”

Giovanni’s face reddened in anger. “You dare to compare me with this,” he gestured at Vigo, “this whelp of a Dionese whore?!” Vigo simply smiled at the pirate lord. “I’ll have you know some of the best people I know are whores. They’re a far better class of people then say…pirate lords.”

ENOUGH OF THIS!” Giovanni roared, and pulling two daggers from inside his cloak, he ran up to Vigo, and stabbed him three times. The first two stabs were shallow and did little damage, but the third was deep, and forced Vigo backwards, behind Blue Cloak. Vigo grabbed at his chest where he was stabbed, trying to staunch the flow of blood from the third wound and fell to his knees. Suddenly, a young woman with long, wavy brown locks, in a long red and gold colored dress runs across the common room over to where Vigo is kneeling. She kneels beside him, and from a small belt pouch hanging from her hip she pulls forth a small vial of reddish liquid and pops the cork stoppering it. She hands it to Vigo saying, “Here, take this, it’ll slow down the bleeding.” Vigo looks warily at the strange woman, but downs the vial’s contents without question. Strangely enough, he feels an immediate change in his condition. Pulling away his hand, he looks down at the stab wound, and though still bleeding, it’s flow has lessened to a bare trickle. He looks up at the woman, “Grazie.” He says.

Blue Cloak looks over his shoulder just long enough to make sure Vigo is okay, then he immediately turns his full attention to Giovanni. “Damn you Sforza! I’ll make you pay for that!” He draws his cutlass and sailor’s knife and advances on the pirate lord. Before he can get to him however, two of Giovanni’s men leap onto a nearby table preparing to pounce on the Castillian. A third man, circles around the table in an attempt to close Blue Cloak in a pincer maneuver. As the third passes between the table occupied by his fellows and a vacated table next to it, the dwarf woman leaps up onto the empty table than leaps onto the third man piggy back. The pulls a dagger from her belt and quickly slits his throat , and somersaults backwards, landing on the empty table right as the man collapses on the floor.

Seeing their comrade dying causes the two on the table to hesitate, giving Blue Cloak all the time he needs. He steps up to Giovanni and slashes down with his cutlass, the blade biting deeply from the pirate lords left shoulder down across his torso to his right hip. With Blue Cloak’s strength, it should’ve cut the pirate lord in two, but Giovanni’s reflexes kick in quickly enough for him to leap backwards, but not before taking the brunt of the attack. The purple fabric of Sforza’s outfit, stains black as his blood seeps forth. “Argh! Damn you Blue Cloak! You haven’t seen the last of me!” Giovanni, reaches into his frock coat, and pulls forth a glass vial, and throws it upon the tavern floor. As it shatters, it releases an pungent, sulphur-like smells and billows forth a dense cloud of dark green smoke. Blue Cloak brings his cloak up to cover his mouth and nose, as the smoke wafts toward the back of the tavern. Giovanni, quickly runs from the tavern. When the smoke has mostly cleared, the remaining pirates realize their fearless leader has made a hasty retreat. Seeing the forces arrayed against them, they decide to take the better part of valor and exit as well.

Blue Cloak turns to Vigo. “Are you alright?”

“I will be.” Vigo replies. He looks over to where the mutineers are talking to the strange old man. He walks over. “Are you a doctor?” He asks.

The old man looks over at Vigo. He then looks down at the Vodacce’s torso, and reaches out moving his coat out of the way, to look at the blood soaked tunic underneath. “How are you still alive?” The old man asks as he begins to poke and prod at the wounds. Its at that exact moment, that Vigo notices that the old man’s hands have spots of what appear to be gravy on them. He knocks the old man’s hands out of the way, “Stop it! Are you a doctor or not?”

“Aye, I am. You could use some help.” He replied.

“I know that. Several of us could use some help.” Vigo looks at the old man, waiting for some sort of response. After about half a minute, when the old man says nothing, Vigo finally says, “Well?”

“Oh! You meant me?” The old man starts, seeming to return to the real world. Vigo simply brings the one hand not staunching his wound to his face, and nods quietly. The old man nods and then seems to stops and frowns looking at Vigo. “Well, I’d like to help, but I don’t have me tools and supplies with me.”

Vigo lowers his hand and looks at the old man. “Where are they? I’ll get ’em for you.”

“In me shop.” The old man replies.

Vigo rolls his eyes, and appears to generally be struggling to not start strangling the dense old man. “…And where is your shop?” He asks.

“Just down the road. It’s a small shop. Sign outside says ‘Saw Bones Apothecary’.” The old man looks down at his vest and begins rooting around in his pockets, while muttering. “…Now let me give you the key…hmmm…where’d I put it?” One of the injured mutineers holds it out to the old man. The old man raises his head and sees the key. “A-ha!” He pulls the old key from the mutineer’s hand and looks around for Vigo, only to find the young man gone. “Now where’d he run off to?”

*

About fifteen minutes later, Vigo returns carrying a black surgeon’s bag. He brings the bag over to the old man. The old man looks at the bag in surprise, then back at Vigo. “How’d you get this? I didn’t give you me key to me shop?”

Vigo, looking a little pale in the face, simply shrugs his shoulders. “I hate to tell you this, but your door was unlocked when I got there. I looked around, saw the bag resting on a table in a side room, grabbed it, and came back here. It took me longer than I thought, cause I’m getting tired from, oh, I don’t know…the blood loss!”

“Hmm…strange…I could’ve sworn I locked the door…” The old man mutters, but seems to go into a complete business mode and opens his bag and begins pulling our supplies and tools. Finally he looks at a nearby table and says, “Clear off that table.” A couple of mutineers quickly clear the table of tankards and platters. The old man looks at Vigo and says, “Alright. Whose first?”

Vigo, looking nervously at some of the old man’s tools, turns to where Blue Cloak is sitting in the same booth they had been in when the mutineers had entered the tavern. “Blue Cloak. You go. We need our captain to be hale and hearty.” Blue Cloak simply raises an eyebrow in query, then shakes his head and slides out of the booth. Brandy, who had been sitting with him, places his left arm over her shoulder, and “helps” him to the table. He takes off his cloak and tunic, handing them to Brandy, then lays down on the table. The old man, walks over to the table and turns to Brandy. “Miss, bring him some rum or whiskey.” Brandy simply nods, and then laying Blue Cloak’s belongings on another vacant table runs to the bar and returns a minute later with a tankard of rum. She supports his head with her hand as he quickly drains the tankard.

The old man steps up and looks down at Blue Cloak. “You want some ether? Put you to sleep till I’m done.” Blue Cloak simply nods. The old man picks up a wad of cloth and a small bottle with a strange metal spigot on it, filled with a clear liquid. He returns to the Castillian and places the cloth over Blue Cloak’s mouth and nose. He then tips the bottle, allowing the liquid to slowly drip out and saturate the cloth. Blue Cloak’s eyes slowly close as he instinctly struggles to fight against the ether’s sedative effects. However, his eyes finally close after about fifteen seconds.

The old man takes another cloth, and splashes some whiskey into it, and begins to wipe at the gash in Blue Cloak’s torso, cleaning the wound and clearing the dried and fresh blood away. He turns and looks around the room, then stops when his gaze falls upon Blackhand. “You there, big fella. Come over ’ere.”

Blackhand looks up, surprised, then silently walks over to the table. The old man looks at him then gestures to the head of the table. “I want you to stand over there and hold down his shoulders.” Blackhand moves into position and rests his hands on the Castillian’s shoulders. Vigo looks at the old man questioningly, “Why does he have to do that? Blue Cloak’s asleep.”

The old man simply nods as he replies, “Aye, but sometimes they wake up. I need you to hold down his legs, youngster.”

Vigo’s jaw drops. “WAKES UP?! HE COULD WAKE UP?!”

“It’s rare, but it happens. And when it happens I need you two to keep him weighted down. Last thing we need his a big, bad Castillian thrashing about partly sewn up with his guts flappin’ about in the breeze.” He says while he expertly threads a needle.

Vigo simply shakes his head in disbelief, then resignedly walks to the foot of the table and rest his hands on Blue Cloak’s shins. Without further conversation, the old man begins to sew up the wounds. About ten minutes into the procedure, Blue Cloak’s eyes flutter open, and then the pain hits him. He begins to struggle and growl. Blackhand put his weight down on the Castillian’s shoulders while Vigo tries to do the same on Blue Cloak’s legs. The Castillian’s pain-fueled strength rushes into his legs and he lifts his legs sending Vigo flying halfway across the tavern’s common room. He lands hard on the stone floor, and shouts in pain.

Brandy, seeing her beau in pain turns away, when the old man shouts out, “Strop! Hand me the strop!” She turns back to the old man and sees him reaching out with his hand toward the table where his bag is resting. He then looks at her and shouts, “STROP! GET ME THE STROP WOMAN!” She races over to the table, looks around and spots a common leather strop. She grabs it and hands it him. The old man, with incredible speed and dexterity, drops the needle, grabs the strop, folds it over and then pinches Blue Cloak’s nose forcing his mouth open to breath; shove the strop between the pirate’s jaws, and while holding the strop in place, climbs onto the table and kneels on top of Blue Cloak, grabs the needle and quickly returns to sewing up the wound. “Easy there, lad, almost finished.” He mutters while he sews.

Finally, after another five minutes, the wound is sewn shut. The old man takes a pair of scissors from his vest and snips the remaining thread. “There we are. All done.” Blackhand releases Blue Cloak’s shoulders, and the old man, with unexpected agility for one his age, hops off the Castillian and lands on his feet on the floor beside the table. Blue Cloak quickly sits up and looks at the old man. The whites of his eyes are tinged red, and his orange irises seem to glow with an inner fire. The old man takes a step back nervously preparing himself for a physical rebuke from an ungrateful patient. Then, Blue Cloak closes his eyes, let’s out deep breath, opens his eyes and says, “Gracias, doctor.” The old man relaxes wearily.

Blue Cloak stands up; Brandy comes over and he places his left arm over her shoulders. With his other hand, he reaches down into a leather pouch hanging from his belt, and pulls out a handful of gold coins and hands them to the old man. The old man takes them, bites one to check it’s authenticity, and shoves them into one of his vest pockets. With Brandy guiding him, Blue Cloak walks towards the stairs next to the stage of the common room. He stops, unties the pouch and throws it on the stage. “Sergio!” He shouts, “…For any damages!” Then he and Brandy walk up the stairs.

The old man’s eyes simply follow Blue Cloak and Brandy until they disappear upstairs. Then he turns to look at the assembled crowd and says, “Alright. Who’s next?” He looks over toward Vigo, who is still sitting on the ground although propped up on his hands. The Vodacce looks at the old man, let’s out a long, drawn-out sigh, then lies back down.

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Prologue
Prologue

Prologue

Behold the vast, infinite blue! The sea is silent this day, only the sounds of the wind and the waves are audible. Its absolute peace is disturbed only by a great, grey cloud that sits heavily upon the water. As you approach, a strange acrid smell odor assaults your nostrils; the smell of smoke. As you slowly make your way into the cloud of smoke your ears take in the sounds of yelling, of clashing steel, and of those dying in agony. Before your eyes sits two ships of wood and tar, their sails billowing in the breeze.

The first is a small cog; it is crawling with dozens of humanoid figures. Most of them are the dark-skinned citizens of the Empire of the Crescent Moon, a fact only enforced by the flag flying a crescent shape flapping at the top of the mast. Beside it, sits a dark giant, smoke rising from several small openings in its great side, revealing that its cannons have been recently fired. It has three great masts, atop the tallest flutters, the mark of the Blue Cloak Pirates. The name on the side of the ship read El Rey del Azul, the King of the Blue.

One by one, the dark-skinned Crescents are killed. There are only about twenty of them aboard the ship, and they are quickly overwhelmed by the lighter skinned pirates. As the last Crescent falls to the deck dead, a cry of celebration reverberates through both ships. The captain of the pirates walks up to the railing of his ship. He is a giant of a man, his facial features (what few that are revealed) along with his tanned skin reveals him to be a Castillian. He wears a great blue cloak that flows all the way down to his boots, the collar set high and starched to hide the sides of his head. Over his nose and mouth he wears a scarf of purple, its effect, to hide any sign of emotion. All topped with a black tri-corn hat, the overall effect to create the image of a great blue shadow, still at one moment, and quick to explode into action.
He leaps over to the Crescent ship. Upon landing, he crouches for a few moments, quickly looking around to make sure all of the Crescents are dead. When all meets with his satisfaction, he quickly gives the orders to begin looting the ship. Behind him comes a young man, closer to being a boy than being an adult man. His olive complexion gives away his Vodacce heritage. The giant blue-cloaked man turns to him and in an accented Avalon says, “Vigo, head to the Captain’s Quarters and take any maps and charts you can find. Also, I want the captain’s log. I want to know every place this ship has been.” Vigo quickly nods and heads for the ship’s aft. Looking up, the giant shouts, “Alright you scabrous dogs! Hurry up with the loot! As soon as she’s clean, leave a keg of powder with a long fuse, we’re sending her into the deep!”

A few minutes later, Vigo returns, several rolled up pieces of parchment, and small book. “This is all of it Blue Cloak.” Blue Cloak merely shrugs, indicating that Vigo return to their ship. Blue Cloak turns and heads back to his ship, but before he leaps over, he catches some movement out of the corner of his right eye. He turns to take in the sight of a pale white man, with eyes of blue and long red hair. Though shorter than Blue Cloak by only a few inches, his body bulges with well-toned muscle. His clothing, mostly furs and leather, marks him as a member of the Vestenmannavnjar, or more commonly known as the Vesten, the brutal barbarians of the Trade Sea. He picks up the body of a Crescent, rifles through the pockets, then rips the weapons belt from it, and tosses the body into the sea. Quickly inspecting the weapons, he snorts in annoyance. “Bah! Nothing even worth throwing lots over.” He says in a thickly accented Avalon.

Blue Cloak seems to smile under his scarf and chuckles. “As if you need any more weapons Amero.” Referring to the fact that Amero is a member of the warrior class known as Bearsarkers or Berserkers. In battle, Amero can quickly put himself into a bloody thirsty rage, and cut swaths through entire regiments of enemies. Amero merely grins at the comment then returns to searching the bodies. Blue Cloak leaps onto his ship.

Another Castillian of slight build approaches him. He wears bright red robes, and completely looks out of place aboard the ship. His black hair is streaked with red. “Anything magical aboard?” He asks in their native Castillian.

“How the hell should I know?”

“Come now, Blue Cloak. You are like me, an El Fuego Adentro. You should be able to sense it as easily as I.” He clicks his tongue like a disappointed teacher.

Blue Cloak glares at the Castillian, his orange eyes locking with him. “Nothing but some enchanted weapons, Carlito.” Carlito de Juan, an El Fuego Adentro mage, manipulator of the element of fire. In the last six months, since learning of Blue Cloak’s abilities, he had tried hard to teach the pirate. But Blue Cloak, like most men of the Vaticine religion, was bothered by sorcery. The fact that it now flowed in his own veins, only further vexed him. Six months ago, Blue Cloak had lain upon the floor of the Duahmel estate, dead. They had all been helping their friend, Periwinkle von Fontlebottom, a nobleman from Avalon, who had travelled to Montaigne, to claim his ancient birthright, the Duahmel estate. Through several misadventures, they had learned of a plot that would’ve ended in Periwinkle’s, or as he was better known, Peri’s death. When they discovered who the mastermind was behind the plot, they raced to the estate, only to be met by a regiment of Eisen mercenaries. While Peri and Carlito went after the mastermind, Tartuffe; Blue Cloak, along with Vigo and Amero had fought against the mercenaries. But a lucky shot by one of the mercenaries had ended up killing Blue Cloak.

Later, when Tartuffe had been slain, Peri and Carlito had returned to the estate’s great hall. Even with Blue Cloak dead, Amero, Vigo, and the Duahmel house guard had defeated the Eisens. They mourned the loss of a good friend, and brave warrior, and decided to deal quickly with the bodies. And so, only an hour later, the corpses of the slain dragged out into the front yard of the estate, they built a great pyre and began to burn the bodies. They finally arrived at Blue Cloak’s body and placed it atop the already burning pyre with as much reverence as their exhausted bodies could muster. They sat in silence, each remembering in their own way the Castillian pirate. Suddenly, they heard a great “whoosh” and Blue Cloak’s body no longer lay upon the pyre. It stood, the flames licking at him, but not burning. Even his great blue cloak and tri-corn hat seemed impervious to the flame’s touch. The bright orange flames could not hide his now glowing red eyes. He stepped down from the pyre, his body smoking, but his flesh untouched. He stared at his arms and hands for several minutes, searching for any damage. Even the wounds caused by the Eisen mercenaries’ giant zweihanders had closed completely, leaving no scars or marks. It was Carlito who was first to recognize what had happened. Somewhere in Blue Cloak’s bloodline, one of his ancestors had made a pact with the Bargainers. This pact had created the El Fuego Adentro bloodline, as well as every other sorcerous bloodline now inhabiting Théah today. Thankfully, Blue Cloak had not needed to dwell upon it, as thanks to Vigo, he had other things to concentrate on. Tartuffe had not worked alone, and his plots had included the aid of Ezekiel Blight, Blue Cloak’s former captain.

All these events had led to the founding of the Blue Cloak Pirates. Though it wasn’t an official name for their group, it was what they all called themselves, in an attempt to compare themselves to the other famous pirate nations, such as The Sea Dogs and Crimson Rogers. But now, even six months after discovering his hidden powers, Blue Cloak never practiced his magic. It was a part of him that was anathema, forbidden. But when angry, it seemed to come to him naturally, several times, he had nearly burned his ship to the timbers by losing his temper. Though there was a danger, it had never caused many problems, other than panic, but with Carlito onboard, he could quickly use his own powers to extinguish the flames. Blue Cloak’s temper had come in handy on several occasions, when they had been outgunned and outmanned, his temper had saved a dire situation, going so far as to destroy a ship by focusing his power on an enemy’s powder room.

Blue Cloak gave Carlito one final withering stare, before finally turning and heading towards the ship’s helm. That was Blue Cloak for you, whenever he was confronted with a personal problem; he was more likely to hide behind his own self-created enigma, than discuss it with others. Finally, after all the valuable loot had been removed from the Crescent ship, and all of the pirates back aboard the El Rey, they sailed away, leaving only the abandoned ship. When they were roughly half-a-knot away, the Crescent ship exploded from the primed powder keg that had been left in her powder room. The concussion wave from the explosion was enough to fill the sails and help propel the ship onwards to their destination of Kroner’s Folly.

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