Skull and Shackles

Interlude: How the Strife Was Won

Posted by Jennifer

“Run us over starboard a bit! I said starboard! STARBOARD!!!” Pyxes bellowed. Ionni hastily reversed the rudder, but it was too late—the newly-renamed Strife crunched to a halt on the gravel. "Ye silly bitch, don’t ye know what starboard means?!

“I be knowing yer words full well, ye yam-blasted scummat, but wich way be I turnin yon thingy?”

WHAT did you call me?!” the half-orc oarsman demanded. The drekar rocked violently as he struggled to get to her past the other crew. Ionni shrank back at first, but she sensed the disdain from the other remnants of Svard’s crew at her display of weakness. Her eyes narrowed as she sought backup. Pellal was solid, as always, and Kuun could be relied upon not to back down from a fight. The other two former slaves were unknown quantities. Salmonix was temperamentally unstable, a combination of his elvish ancestry and long indenture; he was the only one among them who was born a slave. That left Vrinege, the Mwangi pygmy. Even her facial expressions were indecipherable. She sat in the rigging with the halfling triplets from Svard’s crew, Knotte, Knoose, and Knobbe. Ionni glanced at them and was surprised to see Vrinege grinning widely and the halflings making surreptitious gestures of encouragement. It made sense, though—Pyxes was the largest of the oarsmen and appeared to lack any vestige of a sense of humor.

Heartened, Ionni straightened up and unleashed a torrent of abuse. “I called ye yam-blasted, ye lank-haired, slime-breasted, rot-breathed turd o’ a scurvy rat! E’en the fleas won’t bite yer filthy carcass, ye spindle-shanked, cork-eared, limp-knobbed blighter! Ye . . .”

“I’LL KILL YOU!!!” Pyxes bellowed and charged across the remaining deck. Ionni ducked and Pellal stuck out a foot, tripping the half-orc, who went over the side. Pyxes grabbed Pellal as he went down and they fell overboard together. Ionni jumped on the struggling men and began viciously kicking any part of Pyxes that was available. In seconds the melee became general, with the other oarsmen rushing to Pyxes aid. They never reached him, however; the sail came down and flattened them to the deck.

“What are they doing?” Reiko muttered, taking out the spyglass she’d inherited now that Chopper had a magical one. She watched as the assorted oarsmen of the beached Strife squirmed their way out from under the sail, only to be met at the edge by a halfling and forced to surrender or be skewered. By the look of it, no one was inclined toward the skewering option. Once they were all subdued, the dark-skinned little pygmy hopped up on a rock and addressed the group with a broad grin and a number of expressive gestures. The oarsmen exchanged baffled looks. Vrinege gestured emphatically. One of the oarsmen got to her feet, took two steps, made a grab toward the pygmy and was instantly on the ground, writhing in pain. Vrinege addressed the other oarsmen again. Emphatic head-shaking.

Herding the large, muscular brutes like a cattle-dog, Vrinege got the Strife back into the water, got the sail replaced, and without further incident the patrol around Tidewater Rock resumed. It was a good thing, too—the mast of the Crisis was repaired and it was time for her to set out again. Vrinege would make a good person to leave in charge of defending the island in her absence.

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Jennifer

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