The city flows as the ocean gives its tides.
Each day and evenings they move through streets.
We meet at the wharves, riding the handshake of the great Pacific.
It runs in, green with welcome.
Head and heart move high in a gull’s updraught. All light is yellow.
Behind us, the city absorbs everything, harder than foam.
The glossy surface waits for a touch of spray,
the sight of some forgotten rigging,
and the belly of homecoming sail.
Things were not going well. The battle with the mermaid and her fleet hard started well, but ended quite poorly for the crew of the The Doomplum. Two of their leaders were dead — one had been brought back and promptly committed suicide, the other had been brought back contentedly. Likewise nearly four-hundred of their boarding crew were dead, and the commander of those forces was curled up in the hold in a state of shock. Three of the four prize ships were sunk, the last crippled, and they did not have sufficient crew for the three ships they had.
Captain Caddis looked over the situation and gave the order for the Damned Jewel and the Bridgewater to be stripped and scuttled. The Dümplom set down and the crews immediately went to work transferring all of the weapons, ammunition, and food-stores from the two ships and consolidated everything on the Dümplom and the Red Vengeance. Deathshead Dryden was given control of the Vengeance, as, with the Doña incapacitated, only she could keep the now both undead and demonic sheeple under control.
Within a few hours the two remaining vessels were underway. Leo laid in a wide, roundabout course towards Moonplum, steering far to the east to avoid coming too close to the southern coast of Nova Britannia and the Imperial fleet at Port Montague.
After a few days of sailing, the crew reported to Caddis that Doña Teresa had been laying belowdecks, unresponsive, curled in a fetal position and alternately weeping or passed out since the battle. Given the importance of her connection to the sheeple, Caddis rounded up the officers and spellcasters from the crew and went below to check on her. For four days, they administered to her, trying spell after spell to break her condition or right her broken psyche.
Addidale Crone, an old witch they’d picked up in Puerto Soledad, stepped in and suggested that they might over-write her mental state by simultaneously bombarding her with conflicting emotions. They did just that. Caddis sewed thoughts to instill a general desire to live. Thaduk invoked joyful rapture. Leo contributed an unnatural lust for life (or perhaps himself). The Crone used a geas to instill a desire for vengeance against the empire’s sub-aquatic soldiers for killing the sheeple. And, lastly, Sandara invoked pure unbridled rage.
Jolted awake by the coordinated assault on her mind, Teresa bolted upright, screamed, and charged strait for the rail, determined to seek out and kill her underwater foes. The Crone hocked a mystical loogie to entangle her feet before she could go overboard, and the others dismissed their various enchantments, leaving Teresa awake, but confused. A warm blanket, a cup of tea, and several long talks with Adriana soon had her functional again (if not quite the same Teresa they’d dealt with before).
After a week and a half of sailing, swinging far to the east, and then north-west around Nova Britannia, the cry came from Henrye in the crow’s nest. “Moonplum ho! We’re home!”
The officers handed the glass back and forth, having a look at their home town. It had grown in the year since they’d left, more than triple in size, and the wharfs had been built up and extended. Right now they hosted two ships, small coastal merchant vessels, and on the shore was a large garrison of Imperial troops, likely requisitioned after the raid that had taken them to fend off pirates.
Pirates like they were now. The nature of their ships — one iron-clad and armed to the teeth, and the other covered over with the bones of some fantasic beast — could not be hidden and would quickly give away their intent. Then there was the crew — Spanish convicts, demons, and fae creatures out of men’s dreams. Caddis ordered the Red Vengeance, obviously the more militant (if less terrifying) of the two ships, to wait out at sea. The most egregiously frightening of their crew — Teresa and her sheeple, Ellie and her skeletons, Leo’s Manekineko parade, and Fishguts and his worshippers, would be left with the Vengeance.
They rounded up most of the misfits, then went belowdecks to find Fishguts. There was obvious concern, given the loss of Rummy, that Fishguts might be beyond their control now. Climbing down into the bilges, Caddis found them to be remarkably clean — save for Fishgut’s ever-present urine smell. The water had been pumped out, the crates stacked neatly, and the walls rubbed smooth. Collected human skulls ringed the entire length of the ship, hung where the sweep of the wall met the mid-deck floor, and an altar had been erected at the aft end, made up of the remaining pieces of their giant golden turtle, and a collection of demonic icons carved from driftwood or collected from the places they’d visited.
Fishgut’s gelatinous form sprawled atop the altar, and Sandara and Adrien were bowed before it, the former reading passages from the Demonologia Sexualis she’d taken off of Rummy. Caddis waited for the reading to finish before informing Sandara that they needed to move Fishguts to the other ship. The pair of demon-worshippers quickly complied. Adrien gathered all the accouterments of their make-shift temple while Sandara coaxed Fishguts up out of the bilges and onto a cargo-crane to be lifted across.
Once the faerie, demonic, and undead crewmen were offloaded to the Vengeance, the Doomplum ran up a white flag and the Imperial flag and set sail for Moonplum’s harbor. Caddis, Adriana, Thaduk (in human form), Leo (wearing Caddis’ hat to appear human), Henrye, Jessica, and Thaduk the Sot rode in the fo’castle, waving cheerily to the people they saw on shore.
At first the people on shore panicked, ringing alarm bells, running for cover, and loading guns. Then Caddis’ younger sister Deborah recognized her brother and sister waving from the front of the ship and ran down the shore to meet them, waving back and cheering. This brought others of the old Moonplummers coming, surprised and overjoyed to see so many of their own returning after so long.
The Doomplum was allowed to dock and the former-locals quickly joined their kin on the shore, regaling them with (highly edited) accounts of their daring exploits, from their defeat of Captain Herrera and stealing of the ship, to being swept by a hurricane into the Fae realms, to their rescue of some “innocent political dissidents” from a Hapsburg prison island, to their long voyage home and second showdown with Herrera.
As Caddis and Thaduk regaled the crowds, the last few cases of plum wine remaining were unloaded from the ship and the crew allowed to come ashore to join in the rapidly expanding celebration. Food was hastily prepared, wine bottles were opened, bonfires built up on the shore, music was made, and everyone had a generally pleasant time.
Amidst the celebration, Adriana found her mother and brother, still around, and still quite dead. Lady Lorraine informed her daughter that, when Henrye and the guardsmen did not return after her abduction, her father, Lord Wyndham, was distraught and killed himself in a most undignifiedly dry manner. With no living heir, the title of Earl of Lovelace had passed to her brother, but he was, perpetually too young to manage the lands, and so, her father’s title and lands rightfully belonged to Adriana.
Of course, with the rest of the family dead or drowned, the question of Adriana finding a suitable husband and getting started on producing an heir was raised. Thinking fast, Adriana grabbed Caddis and pulled him in, attesting that she and Captain Caddis were engaged. The Captain’s title, and Caddis’ good looks, and perhaps the unusual desperation of the situation were apparently enough for the Lady Lovelace to overlook his low birth and the fact that he was dressed in women’s clothing.
Soon Caddis’ adoptive mother, Bethany, joined the discussion, overjoyed that her son had made such a favorable match — especially now that Adriana effectively owned most of the colony. Other ladies from the village soon gathered around as well, talking about the match and all the necessary plans for what amounted to a state wedding for the small colony. Caddis and Adriana, meanwhile, used the ensuing chaos to extricate themselves from their mothers (though not from the skeletal two-year-old still clinging to Adriana’s leg).
The pleasant reunions and celebrations were soon broken by the sound of heated shouting from one corner of the beach. Henrye, it seemed, had found his wife, Margaret and (aided by an earlier touch of idiocy from the Crone) immediately confessed his infidelity to her, only to learn that, presuming him to be dead, she had already been remarried to one of the officers of the new Imperial garrison. The shouting match drew quite the crowd, and grew only more heated when it was revealed that Margaret was three-months pregnant.
Margaret’s young officer, seeing his wife being accosted by a stranger, quickly arrived, only to be met with Henrye’s fist. Luckily Caddis had ordered all weapons to be left aboard the Doomplum, or the man would likely have been run through. Instead the two were soon rolling on the ground, trading blows.
From the side, the Crone used her magic to try to subdue the two combatants before they could seriously injure one another. Her first attempt to instill fatigue caught the officer only, and ended with Henrye on top, ruthlessly pummeling the man’s head. A ray of enfeeblement aimed at Henrye reversed the situation. The turn did not last long, and Henrye soon beat the man into unconsciousness and showed no signs of stopping, until finally Caddis was forced to knock him out with a deep slumber spell.
While fighting, especially for a lady’s honor, was by no means illegal, the disruption was certainly unwelcome. Caddis loudly ordered Henrye to be hauled back to the ship and put in the brig — with whispered orders for the Crone to turn him over to Sandara and Fishguts — while the young officer was helped home by his wife and some of the other soldiers.
The fight brought an abrupt end to all of the pleasantries and the people began dispersing back to their homes. Adriana went back to her manor with her mother and brother. Caddis ordered the crew, those that weren’t passed out drunk at least, back to the ship, then returned to his own home. Finding his home completely dilapidated and his mother and sister nearly destitute, he handed his mother 100£ (easily enough to keep her comfortable for the rest of her natural life).
Thaduk, meanwhile, had gone out patrolling the village, taking the measure of the new barracks, the troops, and the much more readily accessible weaponry than when they’d left more than a year ago. Finding the old watch-tower where he and Henrye used to spend so much time in good repair, he scaled it, then reverted to his equine form and settled down to sleep for the night…
…someone would be in for quite the surprise when the shift changed.
To be continued…
Experience and Rewards: See The Doomplum for updated totals.
- Adriana has inherited her father’s title, lands, and peerage (pending some paperwork)
- Lots of food, ammunition, repair supplies, and 20 cannons offloaded from the sinking ships
- +5 Infamy and fully restored Disrepute for telling your tales of piracy in your home-town