Skull and Shackles
Captain's Log 6
Been aboard this tub fer a couple of weeks now, I guess. The monotony of daily life aboard a ship often causes days to blur together. I guess it don’t matter too much, so long as I don’t wake up with a gray beard wonderin’ where my life went. I’m pretty sure things’ll come to a head and the situation’ll change well before that, though.
Anyway, Plugg assigned us to a task he called ‘boarding school’, which was wordplay doubly amusing comin’ from the surly first mate. Then again, mebbe he didn’t get the joke. Sense of humor ain’t the first trait that comes to mind when I think of ol’ Plugg.
Krine was in charge of the lesson, which was pretty simple: two of us would try to board the ship from the longboat several dozen yards from the boat while the others would try to repel us. The defenders were provided with refuse – rotten vegetables from the stores, empty bottles, and the like – to use as missiles against the boarders.
Reiko and I were the first to make the attempt, and I’ve got to hand it to the little Tien woman – she’s much stronger than she looks. We each stuck our grapples on the first attempt and began the crossing while Ruse, Mister Hands, and a couple of other sailors whose names I forget pelted us with detritus. It was annoying, but hardly detrimental to the attempt. We finished the climb and mantled over the rail onto the deck. Then it was our turn to defend.
Mine was an unorthodox method for the exercise. Instead of lobbing garbage at the boarders, I simply took hold of Feruzi’s grapple and dislodged it from the rail by main strength – I figured I’d get the lash again if I simply cut the line; damage to ship property or some such. Feruzi fell from the line before I could even get the grapple loose, so I moved to help Reiko shake Mister Hands from his line. He damn near made it, but at the last moment we heaved his hook over the side and he fell with it.
Feruzi had climbed back aboard the Wormwood despite Krine’s shouted orders for her to return to the boat. Mister Hands started his second approach but I couldn’t help repel him a second time, ‘cos I could see in the Mwangi’s eyes that she meant to take me down into the water, even if it meant she was going back in. The day was hot, and the thought was funny, so I did nothing to resist and soon we were free-falling off the side of the ship. Damn, but the water was refreshing!
Plugg sentenced Ruse to six bashes with the rope for “not completing the exercise”, but she made a shamed Scourge in front of the crew. In a rage he pulled the cat and striped her across the back once before the captain cut it short. Feruzi was subdued, like she expected to be dressed down for her foolishness. Like I’m qualified to do such a thing. I tended her back as best I could, then wondered after Sandara who could’ve done a much better job of it anyway.
Found her below in a hammock sick with fever, which didn’t seem to diminish her fire overmuch. She asked fer a song, and when I tried to beg off for “lack of talent”, she taunted me about it. I was windin’ up to belt out somethin’ loud and off-key, but I noticed her fadin’, and let her be for the night.
* * *
Several days passed, and we started gettin’ odd assignments that seemed designed to keep us apart. I got the bilges with a mean sod called Maheem and that fat bastard Fipps – both Plugg’s men. Noticed they had blades at their belts, but wasn’t too worried ‘cos I had the little handaxe we’d found in these very waters on my hip as well.
Shoulda worried more.
Maheem commented to Fipps that I was slackin’, as big a tell of imminent violence as I ever heard. They drew their blades and advanced. I was standin’ near the ladder, so I shouted as I tried to fend ‘em off, hopin’ someone (friendly) would hear and maybe come help. Managed to take down Fipps before I found Maheem’s dagger in my belly, and then things got murky for a time.
I woke up in Sandara’s arms, feelin’ the tingles of Besmara’s blessing. The rest of my companions were there, too, as well as more of the crew and a couple of officers. Plugg was shouting and Reiko muttered something about telling anyone who asked that Maheem killed Fipps. I’ve no talent for lying, so I only made factual – if misleading – statements to Plugg’s questions.
Somehow, Reiko steered the conversation toward Maheem getting keelhauled – per ship’s rules, and she’d played the crowd so masterfully, that Plugg had no choice but to pass sentence, confining his own man to the sweatbox to await execution.
* * *
The bastard got a stay of execution on account of we finally spotted a ship to practice piracy on the next day. Many hours later, we caught our prey and prepared to board.