-The Crimson Corsair-
Cold dark water writhed for as far as the eye could see, wrapping the world in spray and froth, giving life to some and taking it from others. The moon shone gently on the almost calm sea, turning the seascape into a twist of changing black and white, whirling and leaping, then imploding upon itself. A large wooden ship cut through the film of water, rending the surface in two, pushed by the power of the plains; the wind. It was almost a contest between gods and mortals, the sea resisting, the wind struggling, and man and beast along for the ride.
Up and across the splintery hull of the wooden marvel slumbered a misunderstood marvel of itself: a sentient being. Half human, Half elf, it had grown from a minuscule size, expanding, learning, repairing and improving. Of all the humanoids on this world, none were the same, yet all so alike.
A stray wave met up with the hull, and breaking upon the surface, dashed its remnant on the boy’s face...
“Gaah!” I cried, stumbling backwards, shaking the salty water from my eyes and hacking the salty slimy substance out of my throat. I looked around with wet eyes, and found myself near the rail of the ship; The Fogrunner. I recognized my situation; I was on lookout duty, and I’d fallen asleep. I was lucky nobody had noticed me doing so, for I would have been beaten for being so careless. It must have been a few minutes, as I noticed a once close rock far out in the distance.
It was a great night to be sailing, the air warm, the spray chill, the skies clear and the stars gleaming, ever constant. Of course, anyone with half of a sheep’s brain could tell that there would be a great storm soon, and we were heading at all speed for land. Storms didn’t bother me, I in fact enjoyed them. But the other men hated them. They said that it showed the wrath of the gods, and any caught attempting to defy the gods by weathering their storms, in turn earned the wrath of the gods. I knew it was all superstition, there was too much of it among them, and I viewed them as chains that restricted your mental freedom.
A storm pushes you to your limits; making you feel totally hopeless, and fighting to survive. You cannot possibly contest against that kind of power, that of the sea, the air, and of the light from above. I had once seen a spectacle, a great tornado, which sucked up all before it, spewing it into the air, then dashing it to pieces. It had sunk into the water, creating a maelstrom, one that we narrowly escaped. Out captain was brilliant, but dysfunctional. He would never help on board, or steer the vessel. He issued orders, and then retreated to his quarters.
As I stood barefoot on the rough deck, I gazed out upon the moon. I had always been captivated by it. What was that which shone when the sun didn’t? And why was it always changing, but ever the same. When it was at it’s fullest, I couldn’t help but stare at it. It enslaved my mind, and as I slept I would dream of it, standing still in the dark sky.
I could see better than the other men, climb better, think harder, and move quieter; and I was quicker too. In most cases, the captain would order me to do most things when I was not already enslaved in some task, and I was only just a man. I definitely had the upper hand over the rest of the other men, and boys for that matter, and for that, I was hated. The other men envied me, and one not too bright man had tried to kill me at one point. The captain didn’t like me, neither the first mate. There was no preference, only the mentality of who could do the most work.
“Oi you worthless sea scum! Wha’d dur ya see?” Shouted a gravely voice from above. It was one of the men; he had long black hair, and an eyepatch, as did we all. We swapped the patches from eye to eye to increase our vision in the night, although I didn’t need it so much. His name was Kaeb, a somewhat common name.
“No’ much!” I responded gruffly, “Noth’n s’as far as I ‘kin see! Lady wind’s pick’n up though.” I could speak well, like the refined men in cities, but I sharply avoided doing so in front of the other sailors, in front of the other Pirates. Yes, pirates. Fear is invoked with that one word. The strange ship that pulls into your harbor, pirates pouring over the sides, pillaging and burning, killing an wounding on our way. But for all that terror, we mainly struck against the Empire, the main wealth in the world. We had some cities and villages paying us tribute to avoid raiding, but we never accepted those offers from Imperial cities.
A dark wispy cloud blocked the moon for an instant, and as I looked away, I caught movement in my peripheral vision. A figure was creeping along by the poop deck. I stared at him in the corner of my eye, and discerned his nature. He was a mutinous pirate escaped from the brig. He, being called Jaelif, had been planning to turn on the Captain, and I can’t say I would have been sorry, but he was reported by one of the men he shared this plan with. He was obviously trying to get away, and He hadn’t seen me yet. He was staring at the helm; where I should have been. He began slinking down the stairway to the main deck; starboard side, when he spotted me. I whipped my spear off from around my back, and stared him down. I heard him chuckle, and saw him pull two scimitars off his back, ones that belonged to the brig keeper. I assumed he killed him, and I advanced, menacing his frame with my weapon. He had been malnourished while in the brig, and not too skilled to begin with, so I reasoned that I could take him.
‘Wha…? Ye ain’t gonna fight me, eh? Stupid kid, ye should ‘ave-“ His sentence was cut short. A huge beastman dropped from the main mast, embedding a heavy axe into Jaelif’s back, flooring the body and making a dull thud, accompanied by a splintering sound as bones broke. Kashij, the beastman, was the only one on board who could exist without my knowing. He was completely black, with thick fur covering his entire body. Blood was seeping from what used to be Jaelif, who was now a crumpled heap. The Kashij snorted, pulling his axe out of the body, and out of the deck. Not only was he the only beastman on board, but he was also the closest thing to a friend I had. He watched my back for me, and as much as he didn’t need it, I his. He was very knowledgeable, and the only one I would ask answers from.
“H’ve been watch’n yew…” Kashij commented, not even addressing the body or the not long past event.
“Yer like that moon, eh?” He continued, cocking his head at me, clicking his tongue and squinting.
“Ar, mate. It be very appeal’n. Puts me in mighty savvy a state.” I replied lightly.
“Does it now? Yer best be watch’n the horizon ‘stead of that there moon mate, storm’ll be comin’ soon.” Kashij said, turning as he finished the lecture, and lifted the body from the deck. He spat in the mangled face and threw it over the railing of the ship, disappearing forever.
Kashij lifted a grate on the deck, and sinking a handful of claws into the wood, dropped down into the heart of the ship, silent as the shadow he did not cast.
A torrent of rain whipped into my face, it almost being a wall of water. I was soaked to the bone, and waves were constantly crashing down on our vessel.
“We be ‘most there!” Screamed the captain, who was fastened at the wheel. “Ye mainland be com’n!” Men were scrambling back and forth, trying to get the ship past the last league. I was holding down a rope that had snapped free, and as it was attached to a sail corner, it was whipping me around the deck. A great gust of wind blasted me over, and a giant wave slammed me down, pressing me into the deck like I thought I could not stand; yet I held onto the rope with a death grip. I had just righted myself when a wave came from behind, throwing a man at me. I just had time to duck before he flew spinning over my head, dashing his brains out on the railing behind me. Not a soul seemed to notice the body as it was swept overboard. I scooted up to the railing, grabbing hold to the edge with one hand, the rope in the other. The deliverance of this ship to shore depended on this rope being held. I shook the water that was blinding me out of my eyes, just in time to see another wave towering above me. I took a deep breath, half of it water, and curled into a ball at the edge of the ship. I was blown over the rail with the sheer impact of the wave, but remained holding the rope. I was hanging over the side, the barnacles gouging deep into my legs. I slowly pulled myself up, being beaten down with wind and water. I looked down to see a frothing mass of black liquid, and a drowning man spluttering and thrashing. I continued upward, and as I put my arm on the top rail, a furry clawed one gabbed hold. It was Kashij. He yanked me aboard with one tug, and then left me, breathless, on my back. I turned over onto my stomach, and was stepped on by a careless pirate. He was swept off of me by a wave and thrown over by the stern. He rose, only to be blasted in two by the runaway boom. I looked over the wheel, to see the captain and two other men struggling to brace it.
“’Most there!” The captain cried over the storm triumphantly. I looked at the mainland from the corner of my eye and found that it was indeed getting closer.
“Victory gents!” He raved on madly. Then the unexpected happened. A stray lightning bolt hit our main mast, blasting it into a thousand pieces. I was relatively close to it, so I was only temporarily blinded, but I later saw maimed bodies covered in splinter littering the deck. Pieces of the cross masts fell to the deck, destroying the rails and part of the deck, as well as squashing one unlucky man. The charred corpse of the lookout in the crow’s nest fell at my feet. The flames were extinguished quickly by the tsunami and gale force winds. I dropped my now slack rope, bracing for another wave.
“Nooooo!” The captain screamed, and he swore a continuous stream of oathes.
“Curse the Gods! Curse the-“ There was another blinding flash of lightning, and a deafening roar, and when it all cleared, the captain was gone. I stood numb for a moment. This was the first time throughout the entire storm that I felt anything near fear. What would we do now? Who would guide the ship? The first mate was nowhere in sight, probably dead. We were losing manpower at the blink of an eye, and those who lingered were fatiguing. I couldn’t see Kashij, but that was typical. With his long claws and heavy fur, I had no doubt that he was still on board. But who would lead? A stray wave knocked the last man off the wheel, and then without thinking, I took it.
I raced up the stairs, and catching the spinning wheel, began turning it. The clouds broke in a patch, and the moon shone on me in its fullness. I was illuminated by it, and then an insane rage gripped me. I forced the wheel to right, the boom to come into place. I shouted orders to the remaining men, and they followed me. My once faint limbs grew solid and immovable, and my gaze unchangeable. The mainland was too close to be lost now. Suddenly the situation inverted. Now the water pushed to the mainland and the air to the sea.
“Slash those sails!” I ordered indisputably. Men rushed at the forward and rear masts, risking life and limb unquestioningly. They skillfully scaled the nets, reaching the midpoints and tips of the cross masts, and slashing the ropes from their anchoring. The only men left now were the most elite, the best, the most weathered. We would hold out as long as out strength lasted. I had the feeling that my strength would last forever. I saw Kashij’s elegant silhouette drop from a cross mast, landing on the deck as the last sail flew away, landing in the sea. We streaked toward the mainland, and I struggled to angle The Fogrunner toward a harbor. The ship wouldn’t turn as fast as needs be, and the land came on too quick. A strip of land sprung up out of the sea, blocking out entrance to the harbor. It came all to quickly to be avoided.
“Brace!” I shouted as I did so myself. All I remember is hitting the strip, and the wheel snapping off it’s anchor and I sailed overboard from the inertia…
I saw the moon, bright and full. No matter where I looked, I saw the same moon. I was admiring it, gazing at it’s white light, brilliance the sun did not own. I sighed. I was at peace. I saw dark outlines of strange creatures all around me, but I didn’t mind. I was unarmed, and did not see what I stood on. All was dimly lit. It was at this time I discerned a forest, and a clearing not far in it, upon which the moon shone greatly. I walked without effort to it, somewhat gliding. I entered the clearing to see the moon larger and closer than I’d ever seen it, bright and pure. And then another moon appeared, just the same, side by side. I mildly thought of it as odd, and as I did the world stared fading away, but the moons stayed the same. Soon all but the moons were dark, and then I felt weight on my back, and pain in many places of my body…
I inhaled sharply, and opened my eyes. I saw the two moons again, only to my gradual discernment; I found that they were not moons. They were the gleaming eyes of a white Werewolf.
Its huge, lean legs were spread out on either side of me, trapping me on my back. It snarled, sending spittle into my face, and then sunk it’s dripping teeth into my shoulder. Immediately an intense pain shot along my body, as if my blood had turned to thousands of sharp wooden splinters that tore me open from the inside. I screamed, for the pain was more than I thought I could bear. A cool burning sensation was slowly traveling from my shoulder along my body, and as I looked up at the moon, my eyes burned. I shut them, but I could see the moon beneath my eyelids. The Whitewolf had stepped away from me, and now watched me intently, showing no compassion. I writhed around in the gritty sand, inhaling, and inducing violent coughing. I couldn’t breath the pain was so bad. I made a pitiful attempt at grabbing my dagger, and ending the pain, but my fingers would not grasp the blade. The Whitewolf, upon seeing this roared, and raced to me, pinning my arms down with its front paws, holding me in place. His left paw was on my right shoulder, the one that had been bitten. I roared out in pain, struggling to get its razor paws off of my bleeding wound. I kicked at the beast’s belly in pain, but it had no impact. It roared at me again, and I roared back, but there was something different. By now the cold fire sensation had traveled to my head, and was spreading towards my legs. My voice had become deeper, and was steadily growing so. The Whitewolf roared back at me, and I to it, but it sounded more and more like the Whitewolf’s roar. I broke eye contact with the Whitewolf and looked down at his front paws, although something else distracted me. I saw my arms and chest expanding rapidly, as if they were swelling. The clothing around my chest and arms ripped in two, and long black fur burst forth. If I had the air in my lungs I would have screamed, but the air was gone. I was becoming a monster before my very eyes. The Whitewolf stepped off of me with a snort, and stood watching. My legs swelled to four times their size, and that long black fur replaced the need for clothing.
For a long while I was not conscious of what happened, but when the pain finally subsided, I stood on four feet, staring with rage at the Whitewolf. I was completely jet black, with long sharp teeth and claws. My hide was tough, my body lean. I was a Blackwolf.
“Why doth thou loath this new power I’ve given to thee?” The Whitewolf asked, his eyes flashing with a strange light that revealed a great amount of wisdom. I stood shocked, staring at him. It was true; I felt the power course through my veins, my muscles huge, and my mind clear.
“Why am I worthy of this power?” As I spoke, I noticed that I was not speaking audibly, but through a kind of telepathy, like that which greatly skilled wizards do. “What do you want from me in return?” I continued, somewhat angry.
“I ask thee to use this new power wisely, and follow mine direction.” She replied with an unheard air of dignity.
“And what do you ask of me?” I inquired hostilely. The Whitewolf seemed to grin, the spittle dripping from its teeth.
The moon shone brightly as I snuck up on a small group of people crowded around a campfire. They were travelers, lightly armed and wore next to no armor. I surveyed the four men, and at once noticed a tall lean man with blonde hair. It was him. I suddenly felt my mind split in two. The new half of me was a Werewolf, seeking to infect and spread this power, hungering after more numbers, feeding off of success. For now, the new half of me had control, and the old was along for the ride. I stalked up to the group silent as my shadow, and stared at them. My man’s back was towards me, and he had a sword across his back. I wasn’t going to let him escape my grasp. I was almost jumping distance away from him, but the cover of the forest ended in a brightly lit clearing. If I went any further, they’d see me. It was then that I felt a strange feeling inside of me. I would let them see me. They would feel terror. They would witness my power.
I sprung from the forest, and into the clearing. I was two lengths away from the men around the fire. The men whipped their heads around to me, and my man stood, whipping his sword off his back. His full height matched that of my back. I was enormous, as big as three of them.
“By the Gods!” Screamed one of the men in pure horror. He tried to back up, but tripped over a log. My man ran at me with his sword raised, but I sprung at him, knocking him over with my front paws. A man swore as he ran up to me holding a flaming log. I knocked the sword from my man’s hand, and slamming my huge paw down on him, turned to destroy his friend. Upon seeing my approach, he threw the flaming brand at me and ran. I dove on him, ripping him to pieces, and turned back to my victim. He was on his stomach, crawling away when I dove on top of him and bit him on the leg. I shook him around a little bit, and laid him on his back in on the cold dry grass. I turned to look for the last companion, but saw no one. I turned to the fire and smote it out, spreading it out in the dirt clearing, extinguishing it. After I did so, the Whitewolf entered the clearing.
“Well done.” He ‘spoke’ approvingly. He motioned for me to leave, and I did so, rushing away into the night, leaving my victim to be tortured by his transformation. I knew my purpose now; I would pass this power on to those called ‘the Spawn of the Five’, of which I was one. I would help the Werewolves ascend to their glory.
I woke on my back in a dark room, made of stones with thick grout on them. There were bars in the heavy wooden doors, no windows, and worst of all; I was chained to a wall. There were other men chained up too. I groaned. I was in prison.
“Heheh! Feel’n sick blighter?” cackled an old man with next to no teeth. His breath reeked of rotten fish. I spat at him, but it fell short. I leaned my head back, trying to remember…
In a second the night before came to me, but dismissed the Werewolf episode as a dream. I began thinking of how I got in this cell after being thrown from the ship. I guessed that the Imperials had taken me off the beach of the Harbor, and thrown me in here. After all, I did have a telltale Eastsail brand. I looked down at the place on my forearm where it should have been branded, but found a different garb on my body. I was in a sackcloth robe. “Why would the Imperials go through the trouble to undress me?” I asked myself quizzically. The sackcloth didn’t itch very badly, so I moved the cloth away from my neck with my chin to see if I still had my pirate garb underneath. There was none, but I did find something that made my blood freeze: Bite marks. Big ones, deep into my shoulder. Suddenly a vision of the moon and of the Whitewolf flashed past my eyes, and a quick intense stab of pain splintered through my body, originating at the shoulder.
“No…” I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t remember anything far past the moment when the White Wolf bit me, and then… nothing. Regardless, it appeared I was infected, and now a Werewolf.
The old man laughed again, rather cackled, spit flying from his mouth.
“What time is it?” I asked him sharply, demanding he answer.
“Near’n sundown I’d say! You’ll hang ‘afore tomarr’a, dn’ont worry!” He crowed feebily.
“What is this town called?” I continued impatiently.
“Town?” He asked somewhat seriously, “This ain’t no town seascum! This’ Gildoen! little city, dirty pirat’ trash!” His sentence was ended with a maniacal laugh. I knew he was crazed, probably in here for that reason.
“Gildoen…” I muttered. My thoughts hearkened back several years, when I was but 54 seasons old. I was in this town for some time, with the love of my life. Her musical laugh echoed through my mind. She had been ‘accidentally’ killed when her father was arrested for treasonous affairs including a beastman tribe. My heart ached at the remembrance of this tragedy in my life, and I shed a bitter tear. This was a memory I kept buried, and it had rose from the dead to scourge my soul. I yelled at the top of my lungs, beating my fists on the stone floor. I hated the Imperials for what they had done. It was not the order of some Monarch, not the will of some general, but the lust of a common soldier, the one’s that walked the street, kept the ‘peace’. I hated them all, but the hate went only so far up the line of command. I knew that those ‘I charge’ could not be responsible, although I tried to convince myself that they were so I could hate them all equally, and kill anyone on sight.
I began trembling involuntarily, from rage and grief. At times like this, Kashij would always let me go at him as hard as I could; I could never lay a blow on him, and I would become too exhausted to move when I was done. The memory of Kashij started a new kind of anger in my heart, and I screamed aloud again, with a different tone to it.
“Everything is gone! Everything!” I screamed from the bottom of my soul. I raked my hands across my head, and down my neck, but accidentally touched the injured part of my shoulder, ensuing another kind of pain. I writhed on the stone floor in pure agony. There was nothing left for me. My love: dead. My Friends: gone. My ship: wrecked. My freedom: stolen.
The old man was quiet, going as far from me as his chains would allow. I stared at my hands, tears clouding my vision, and with the sound of boots clanking, my heartache ceased. All of the passion and emotion I had just felt had turned towards one horizon; Revenge. My fists involuntarily curled into a fist. The boots were getting closer. I stared at the door, and a poem from a scroll my love had read to me came back:
…His en’my neared, so didst the night,
His reas’n didst flee, forth came the fight,
His will was strong, his eyes were bright,
Yet shown with strange, unearthly light,
The time had come, take heed, and take flight.
The door opened. A short fat Imperial with a dirty face and fat arms stomped into my cell, eyeing me haughtily.
“Wha’re you doing, ye want me to beat you good? Yeh disturbin’ the peace.” He asked, revealing a mangled set of teeth, not really asking for an answer.
“The Captain wants to know why you’s show up naked at our walls at night, pirat’. Wanna tell?” I didn’t answer; my tongue was incapable of speaking a legible word. My whole frame was shaking in pure rage, my eyes fixed on my antagonizer.
“Wha? You wanna fight? C’mere you piece of trash!” The Imperial spat, walking up to me while pulling a long, cracked leather strap off his belt.
“I’ll show you what!” he laughed mercilessly, bringing the strap down on my back. I didn’t feel the pain, neither did I flinch when he whipped me across the face, or when he kicked me in the gut with his heavy boot. My eyes were fixed on the open doorway, the only place I’d see a moonbeam.
As I endured his torture, I waited for an opening, and to my great satisfaction, I found one. His foot came too close to me, and his one mistake would be the end of him. It was like I had become the Werewolf, but the moon had not yet risen.
I launched off the floor, grabbing his foot and twisting it as hard as I could. I had been in many skirmishes and fights, so I knew how to kill a man. He came tumbling down while uttering oaths, and landed on his back. He pulled a dagger out of his belt and tried to stab me, but I wrapped my chains around his arm and pressed his own weapon into his leg. He wriggled from my grasp and rolled onto his stomach, but I dove towards him, grabbing his head and biting down on his throat. Blood spurted from the open wound, and I stifled his screaming by jamming my blood-covered arm in his mouth, hyper-extending is jaw. After a few minutes he finally stopped struggling, yielding dead. I located the prison keys, freeing myself from the chains. I stood up straight, my eyes on the door, and the guard’s dagger in my hand. I walked towards it slowly, and passed through the narrow doorway, walking towards a set of stairs leading to the dimness of twilight, and I ascended to atop the battlements just in time to see the sun die.
Anyone listening that night would hear the howling, and the screaming. Anyone listening would have felt terror. And by the time the night was through, almost anyone who could have listened was lying dead.
Swirls of white and yellow broke through my dreams, forcing me awake. Like so many times in my life, the sunlight pierced my eyelids. I was on my back, lying in a thorny bush of some kind. The thorns broke and bent on my tough sun baked skin, few puncturing me. I sat up, and looked around. I tried to remember what had happened, how I had gotten here, but I couldn’t. I then remembered my brief time in the jail cell, and then gasped. I got to my feet, orienting myself with the sun, and a far off mountain. I ran southeast, towards Gildoen…
“No…” I started to chuckle, a strange, disturbing laugh; the laugh of the madman. I shook my head. The town was in ruins, the whole place demolished. Part of the city was burned, and most of the houses were missing walls and roofs, and livestock lay mangled, torn and mauled all around. The city was decimated, and I only saw one stray peasant in the streets, moping around with no purpose. I turned and ran, nowhere in particular, I just ran. I had to get away, I had to save everyone, and myself, from my own power. I had to run somewhere where I could learn to control whatever power had destroyed an entire city… A full moon wouldn’t come for some time, but I’d heard of Werewolves changing every night… I’d locate a Eastsail ship, and come aboard, and have them strand me somewhere, somewhere offshore, maybe get my own ship, and just live on it myself, away from everything…
As I ran, the sun burned on my bare back… the sun. I loved the moon, I waited its arrival, but now, I looked with despair as the sunlight fleeted, and I dreaded the approach of moonlight. Mine was a life destroyed; I had no home, and would never have one. I must continue onward, onward to anything, or nothing at all. But no matter what, I would not give up. I would flow as blood does; it’s scarlet drops staining the earth, the memory scarring the sky. It would be hit and run, I would always be drifting… I would write a record, that maybe someone would learn a secret that I may find... These are those, my writings, and the record of my life… the life of the Crimson Corsair.