It was a cold morning with a strong wind, while the air was cool and damp. I had just closed the door to my captain’s quarters on board our ship, The Dashing Stag. I had spent the last hour, since dawn, working with our crew on defensive combat tactics to fend off boarding attacks. The drills mostly went well, as I had been relentlessly training our crew ever sense we were first assembled back at the Reach. The crew ended the drills sweaty, in spite of the cold, many were sporting new bruises and everyone was exhausted. A new day had begun.
Luckily, most of our crewmen were adepts, or at least battle-seasoned airmen. Yet, some of our new crewmen, specifically those we recently rescued from slavery off of the destroyed Theran vessel, Thera’s Pride, showed a lot of promise as airmen, but were liabilities in combat. I would have to whip them into shape soon enough, for although we had a couple of weeks before our departure for Haven… I knew that time would go quickly, and they had to be ready to defend our ship if necessary. They had a lot to learn about combat, and it was up to me to facilitate their learning. Hopefully I would succeed in keep them, and the rest of us, alive.
I took my iron helmet and leather armor off, each smelling of old sweat and cleaning oil. I then hung them up with the dented wooden sword I used during our drills. The armor would later need to be dried and oiled. I turned and glanced at my squire, Wheeler, who was diligently polishing my real suit of plate armor. As always, he was doing an outstanding job, and was nearly finished. The plates were shining and the chain glimmered with a high shine and fresh oil.
My woman, Quorra, was reading at the small desk by our bed, her fiery red hair was tied back this morning as she studied her illusionist spell book. I stood there for a moment, looking at her beauty, and I felt like a lucky man. The large window that made up the back wall of our cabin allowed plenty of light in, even on a day like today. She was wearing a white tunic that was open at the neck, and her favorite leather pants. I crossed the room without a word, and settled down across from her at the table, flipped open the captain’s log, and began reading my notes on the edge of the page, which was how I kept track of the things to do for the day. As I read, I wiped the sweat off of my brow with a wet rag.
Quorra glanced up at me and smiled softly. “How did they do?”
I looked into her eyes and couldn’t help but smile. She was just too smart and too beautiful to fall in love with the beaten, bloodied and bruised slave she met those many months ago. Bad madly in love we both fell anyway.
“They did fine. " I replied.
Then with a frown, I added; “The new ones need a lot of training. One of the T’Skrang, Kang Kouth Khan, dropped his shield today and let Hakka take a shot to the head. Lucky for Kang that Hakka is as tough as a Thundra, but that kind of failure will get someone killed in a real fight. “ I shook my head. “The maddening part is that Kang is well liked, and is a great sailor, but in this world being a great sailor alone isn’t good enough to be an airmen… you have to be a good fighter too.” I sighed. “Only one of the four new crewmen, Womax, seems to be combat worthy. The rest need work.”
I shook my head as I thought about the problem, and how to fix it. Ever sense Tago informed me that I would be leading this crew, and was tasked with critical quests, my mind had been charging along at a full gallop. The crew issues, the ship, supply problems, the damn Therans, my knowledge of the tie between my destiny and that of the men who call themselves ‘The Unchained’, Konigsberg, the quests, all of it, had been weighing heavily upon my thoughts at every moment. I was staying awake at nights, thinking about the Therans next move, how to improve the crew, train myself, train my men, help Wheeler become a warrior, get the Unchained to accept me as one of their own, the spirits chasing Vridich, ect, ect. Honestly, I was sure that Quorra was the only reason I slept at all in those days. She could be so intoxicating that I could forget about all about those stresses with just the touch of her hand upon my face. Now, to top it off, tomorrow I would meet the King of Throal. That meeting, needless to say, was of extreme importance… or so I thought.
As if reading my mind, she put down her quill, and smiled. “You need some time to relax.”
She was about to say more when we heard the clanking as Wheeler picked up my now immaculately polished armor, and began to set it onto the mount. I crossed the room and helped him. After it was finally settled, he nodded, as if approving his own work.
“It looks great lord, the king should be impressed.” He glanced up with me as if seeking confirmation of his statement.
I nodded, and smiled, Wheeler had done a great job. The armor looked worthy of a king. “He should be impressed, you’ve done an outstanding job Wheeler. But I doubt he will appreciate it as much as I do, if at all.”
Wheeler looked confused and blurted out; “Why?”
He was a smart boy, most his age would not have asked such a question. I responded with a sigh. “Because he sees fancy nobles every day, and in Throal, few of them are soldiers but many try to look the part. They wear ceremonial armor that’s covered with jewels and has lots of decorative edges and gaps that can catch blades. It’s expensive crap, but to a man who has never seen a battlefield, it’s more impressive than anything I would ever wear.”
He frowned at that, clearly not understanding why a man who was a rich noble would want to buy expensive armor that is crap. Then he suddenly brightened. “If I may take my leave Lord, I told Suulin I would help her in the galley today.” He looked at me with a hopeful expression.
I smiled. “Yes, you’ve done well Wheeler. Thank you. Now go help Suulin… and Hannah.” I added that last part with a wink.
Wheeler looked startled at first, then gave me an embarrassed grin. “Thank you Lord.” He stammered out. Then he turned on his heel and left the room smartly.I watched him go. I knew better than to think that Suulin asked him to help in the galley, he had no interest in such things. I guessed he had been volunteering to help in the galley so that he and Hannah could more spend time together. Around everyone else, Hannah was a stoic, mysterious and quiet youth, with piercing eyes. But over the last few weeks, whenever she’d been around Wheeler, she acted more like the dreamy boy-crazy girl you’d expect a girl her age to be. I had seen them together a few times when they thought I wasn’t paying attention. Her transformation around Wheeler was remarkable. Her flat expressionless face changed into a beautiful smile. When she let her guard down, she really was a beautiful young girl, and I knew that in a couple of years, she would become a beautiful woman. They both tried to hide their romance when they thought someone was paying attention, but on a small ship, such a thing is difficult to hide. Still, I did not know they were romantically involved back then, as they both seemed so young. Yet, as I thought about it, I realized that she was maybe thirteen, and a pretty, blossoming young girl. Yet, her clam, almost innoccent appearing manner had us all just treating her as though she were half her age. Wheeler on the other hand, was a handsome lad, and tall even at fourteen. My suspicions about them were finally confirmed one afternoon when Kerick dutifully mentioned to me in private, that he had spied the two kissing in the dark below decks. So there it was. Wheeler and Hannah. Who would have thought it? Long ago, when we were all at The Reach, I had indicated to Dremnin that I thought the two should get acquainted… but that certainly isn’t what I had in mind! Yet, I could not help but think that I should have seen it coming. I remembered my fumbling experiences with girls when I was his age. By the Passions, a couple of them were far more passionate and aggressive than as I was! I grinned at those memories, but only for a moment.
I then remember thinking about what it me what their romance meant. I doubted Dremnin knew. I saw the two in his presence just the day before, and it was like they did not exist to one another. Hannah likely didn’t want Dremnin to know, and I was damn sure that Wheeler didn’t want him to know either. I guessed that Suulin knew, or at least suspected. She was a perceptive woman, and the two of them had been spending a lot of time around her in the galley lately. So that meant Kerick, Suulin and I at least knew. Plus Quorra, for I kept little from her and had told her as we lay in bed the evening after Kerick told me about the kissing. I asked Quorra what she thought. She felt that it was none of my business. Perhaps so, but as the captain of this ship I had to decide if Wheeler and Hannah’s romance would have any kind of negative impact. After some debate, I decided not to tell Dremnin, as it was up to Hannah to do that if she wanted to. I also decided not to try to discourage Wheeler. Even if I did, I fear the two may have tried to do it behind my back. That would have a negative impact, and one I wouldn’t want to put them in position to do. Besides, as my father always said, a boy is a father’s pride, while a girl is a father’s burden. I didn’t not understand what he meant when he said that, but I did now.
All I had to do now was not make any decisions that would cause their love to end tragically. My father also once said that being a leader is hard. He was right.