Had a character die in a fairly high level Dungeons and Dragons game, so I’m back to the drawing board. That’s what happens when your party sells you out to dark, demonic forces to save their own bacon! Good news is, I get to write another back story. I hope you enjoy.
Zilyana barked orders even though they weren’t necessary. Her sailors knew their jobs and they were good at it. They wouldn’t be working for her if they weren’t good. The shipment of medical supplies she had … liberated … from its rightful owners needed to be delivered to this minor settlement. The outbreak of pox here might be fatal if the cure and vaccine weren’t given after the outbreak that had happened in the last month. She realized that this was the year anniversary of her splitting from the life of a normal merchant and slipping into the Privateering business.
Some people called her a Pirate, but Deep Sashelas frowned on piracy. She kissed the pendant of a dolphin riding a cresting wave that hung around her neck. Not pirates, she and her crew were freedom fighters. The noble elite had been withdrawing from the public eye before they made this decision. Punishments, even for minor infractions, had been harsh. The common folk had begun to feel the effects of the ambivalence of the wealthy and powerful who were oathsworn to protect and provide for them.
It was when she heard a group of Lords speaking casually about ‘redistributing’ a shipment of food and supplies that was destined for an outer Holding that was suffering from drought that threatened to become a famine to an area that would pay handsomely for it instead of taking it as their due that Zilyana had made her decision. That night, she sat with the crew she trusted and they made a blood pact. They would undermine the oathbreakers by any and all means necessary.
They passed the light house and she tipped her tricorn hat to the Harbormaster. She had known Forcythe for years and they had always had an amicable relationship. He had a fondness for Klandran rum, and she had a contact who knew how to obtain the illegal rum laced with narcotic spices from the desert. Her ship Wavebreaker rolled slightly as her crew furled the sails. The bow wave rebounded off the wharf and she spun the wheel with the practice of decades, bringing him to gently nudge the pier.
“Every time I see you do that I just can’t believe you’re a girl.” Forcythe said with a villainous grin. It was a long standing joke between them.
“If you didn’t have children with that same ugly nose, I wouldn’t believe you’re a man.” She retorted, tipping her hat at a jaunty angle. “Coming onboard for the inspection?”
“You know the drill better than I do.” He responded and clomped down the gangplank and she led him to her cabin. Pouring them each a measure of rum they sat and chatted about the trip for a few minutes. She almost thought she caught him slipping something into her wooden mug when she had turned to take her ship’s manifest from her desk, but she trusted him. After all, they had been doing business for years and the bribes and drink she provided would be difficult to replace.
She sat again, feeling a tad unsteady. This wasn’t unusual, with the ship tightly moored to the pier and barely rocking in the swell it took a bit of time to adjust to the lack of motion. Forcythe looked over the manifest, nodding and smiling. The list of legitimate goods was lengthy and would make for good trading in the city. As Harbormaster he would be granted five percent of the value of the cargo for the honor of having him inspect and clear said cargo. Zilyana frowned at him, his face was shifting or maybe it was just her eyes playing tricks on her.
“You rich whelps.” He muttered, “You think we’ll do anything for money. Does it demean you to lower yourself to being a merchant because you’ve got noble family? Yeah, I know all about your supposed lineage.”
Forcythe spat to one side, the glob of phlegm splattering onto the polished wood floor. “Elves. Dealing with you for the last ten years, I know when something’s not right. I’m gonna just stroll below and check your cargo.”
Zilyana knew she should get up and follow him, that she should stop him, but her mind was hazy. She found herself dreaming of decades past.
“You must be taught to control that temper Zil.” Her grandmother chided, “You will do someone grave injury elsewise.”
“I am NOT angry!” She shouted stamping her foot. Several delicately carved wooden figures fell off nearby shelves. “Korikk won’t stop calling me Zilly and I HATE it!”
“Darling, I want you to take a deep breath and let it out slowly.”
“I don’t wanna breathe slowly, I want him to STOP!” All the candles in the room went out. Zilyana blinked. “Grandma, why did you put out the candles?”
A perfect sphere of light illuminated the room, her grandmother’s crystal pendant glowing with the brilliance of the desert sun. “That was you child. The temper of a child of power like yourself is a dangerous thing. You must leash it. You must bind it to your will. If you do not, you will hurt people and possibly yourself.”
Zilyana shivered. “What if I do? Won’t magic give me the power to hurt people too?”
“It will.” Her grandmother replied softly, “But if you control it you will have the choice of whether or not to hurt people. Do nothing and that choice will be denied you. It is not only violence child, the dance is subtle and wonderful, full of beauty and life. I know you will come to love it.”
She stood on the deck of Wavebreaker next to her older brother. Korikk had mellowed out over the years, at least as far as his treatment of her was concerned, and she had realized that his teasing was his way of showing affection. That affection did not run very deep into his character however; she was suspicious as to why he had requested that she be his first mate.
Being here was a dream come true though. She had always loved the sea and her family’s holdings included stake in a shipping company. Now, her brother was designated to be captain of the ship and she was going to sea for the first time. Zilyana had spent years training, first with the sword and then adding her strange arcane gifts into the martial discipline. The result was a dizzying mixture of sword and wizardry that was as deadly as it was beautiful.
She idly patted the tiger carved hilt of the scimitar thrush through her sash. It was the only artifact her grandmother had passed on to her specifically when she had died and therefore was Zilyana’s only keepsake from her. The secret of the sword’s ability to split into a pair of identical blades was another reason she treasured it.
“You’ve studied boats right?” Korikk asked, breaking her reverie.
“Well, yes. Of course Captain.” She said, although internally she wondered if he was testing her somehow. Boats? This was a ship, only the least knowledgeable land bound fool would call it a boat.
“Good. I hate these damn things Zilly and I don’t have any interest in learning. Your job is to use that old magic trick of yours to tell me what in the hells I’m supposed to be doing.”
She bristled at her hated childhood nickname, but nobody else was within earshot. Either he was truly using it as a term of endearment or else he was smart enough to know she’d skin him by inches if he used it around other people. Maybe both.
“You still remember that do you?” She had always been able to send messages into other’s minds. It was a bit of the Wild that all Elves had, although their gifts varied. Her parents said she had nearly driven them mad with her silent crying; she had learned to mind speak long before she had learned to vocalize.
“I never forget anything that could be useful.” Korikk said, not seeming to notice or care that he had more or less just called her a fancy tool. “Now get on it.”
“What’s in it for me? If I let you make an ass of yourself, maybe they’ll give me command of Wavebreaker and I won’t have to put up with your foolishness.”
“Do this for me for a year and then I’ll come clean.” He said, “I’ll tell mother and father that you have really been running the show. If you do well by me, they won’t have a choice but to give you command because I’ll tell the crew too.”
Zilyana’s mouth dropped open before she could stop it. “You’ll what?”
“I know you have always loved the sea.” He said, “I hate it. I hate the salt, I hate the stink of dead fish and unwashed sailors, I hate the spray, I hate the sunburn and most of all I hate the boredom. It’ll be a perfect victory. I’ll get to shove a thumb in father’s pompous eye with all his claims that captaincy is a man’s job and a woman would just get in the way and I’ll get out of this dreadfully boring task at the same time.”
“Deal.” She said, holding out her hand for him to shake. “We might want to make it two or three years though. I don’t know how good I’ll be at it in the beginning.”
“You’d better learn fast little sister. I think I’ll hurl myself off a cliff if I’m forced to do this for more than a year.”