Another piece of fiction today. It’s the first of four vignettes leading into a piece of serial fiction set in a world of my own creation but using the 5th Edition D&D races and classes.
My aim is to release a piece of fiction related to this project once a month.
The wind tore viciously at Pearl’s cloak, the salt-stiff fabric snapping audibly as she crossed the deck. The stars above reflected off of the brass telescope she carried in numb fingers. It was the third day of the storm and even she, with her heritage and magic, was beginning to feel the effects.
She passed the bosun and nodded in respect, her shoulder smarting from where the belaying pin had hit it earlier. She knew she’d deserved the blow, but that didn’t lessen the pain. The man gave her a stern look before nodding as he passed her, heading for the relative shelter below the deck.
She glanced around and then sighed quietly, stowing the telescope in the case hanging from her belt.
“Your turn in the nest?” A voice from the air next to her hip caused her to jump. She glanced down, noticing the gnome sitting in the pool of darkness cast by the hull.
“Yes, Briar. It’s my turn in the nest.” She said, eyeing the little woman carefully. Out of all the crew, it was Briar Lightfinger that was reprimanded more than her for ‘finding’ personal items. She liked the little gnome, enjoying her irrepressible optimism and near constant chatter, but she’d learned to hold her hands close to her pouches.
“Need any company? I can’t sleep on nights like this. It’s not that I’m scared, it’s just downright uncomfortable.”
“I’d appreciate it, but I don’t think Davak would. He drew the short straw for tonight’s watch.” Ever since the incident with the bird last week, the captain had insisted that the night watch be stood by a pair of crew members in the crow’s nest. Most of the crew were able to choose who they stood watch with, but Pearl wasn’t so lucky.
She’d signed up for service on board the Industrious Mermaid without declaring her magic, only for it to manifest during a nightmare. Since then, none of the crew trusted her, with the exception of Briar and the captain, and she had been reduced to handing out a collection of lengths of string to the crewmembers not already scheduled for watch.
Davak, the first mate, was a quiet, studious man with a quick tongue. Their few conversations usually ended in an awkward silence as Pearl made a joke that the dragonborn didn’t understand. Having grown up in Shearmouth, she was used to far more down to earth people and didn’t quite understand his quiet nobility, or his aversion to crude jokes.
The gnome nodded and flashed Pearl a grin.
“Enjoy your watch then. I’m off to see what’s cooking in the galley.” Pearl watched her leave for a moment and then turned to the rigging next to her, reluctantly grabbing the frosted rope with stiff fingers.
The climb itself was a relatively easy one, the sea was calm and the only real danger was the strong wind threatening to throw her off at any moment. She paused halfway up before dropping onto the spar that would take her to the ladder secured to the mast.
From this vantage point she could see the entire ship and the starlit ocean around it for miles. She would often come up here alone and hang from the ropes in the dead of night. It made her feel like she had come home, like she was closer to the father that had abandoned her long ago. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, relishing the bitingly cold sea air.
This is where I am meant to be. She thought, opening her eyes. Not on land. She turned back to the mast and crossed the spar swiftly, her feet sure on the slippery surface. The ladder was no more difficult to climb than the rigging and, in minutes, she was pulling herself into the crow’s nest.
“You’re late.” Davak rumbled, glancing at her momentarily. She shrugged and crossed the nest to stand opposite him, her back to the mast. “What’s your excuse this time?”
“I was busy entertaining Gunthar and his cronies. Like you asked me too.” Davak had approached her a few days prior, worried about mutiny among certain elements of the crew. Knowing about Gunthar’s gambling problem, she had been only too happy to help the first mate.
“Nothing. They were as close lipped as usual.’ She paused. “Save for the insults, of course.” She’d heard worse, but she was willing to put up with insults for the few days it would take them to reach Scour. “If there is a mutiny brewing, Gunthar isn’t leading it. He’s not smart enough, for one thing.” She paused and shrugged. “There was this though. It…. fell out of his pocket when he stormed from the cabin.” She reached backwards, a slip of parchment in her fingers.
Davak grunted as he took it. She heard the surprised inhalation of breath as he read the message.
“The capt-“ Pearl cut him off with a gasp of her own. “What is it?” Behind her, she heard the nest creak as the dragonborn turned around.
Her hands flashed to the case at her belt and she pulled the telescope out, extending it with a practiced flick of her wrist. The metal was icy cold as she pressed it one eye, scanning for the flicker of movement she had seen.
“Sail to starboard.” She said quietly, handing the telescope to Davak and pointing. He glanced through it quickly and grunted, cursing in harsh draconic.
“Sound the alarm,” he said, handing her the telescope, “and prepare for boarders.”