The Rose of the Sea

Waves lapped lazily against the hull of the large ship, Retribution. The night's breeze was cool against Rat's face. He was currently on watch, though he didn't understand what for; he could see for miles. This particular night was very clear, without a cloud in the sky. The stars shone brightly, like thousands of crystals suspended from strings.

Rat enjoyed nights like these. It allowed him to reflect back on his memories of his family, though they were few. He was orphaned by a sickness that went through his hometown killing many. After that he had learned to sneak and to steal to survive. All the other kids in the orphanage had given him his nickname, Rat, for that reason. It seemed to stick with him as he grew older, even to the present day aboard the Retribution.

His train of thought was abruptly interrupted by a low thud made on the side of the boat. Something had bumped it. He grew slightly nervous as he produced his pistol from his belt. Carefully he walked from the prow to the side and peered over. In the light from the stars and half-moon, Rat could just make out a large chunk of wood. It bobbed with the ebb and flow of the waves, than thudded lightly against the boat again. Rat looked up as he noticed something else bobbing in the water. It was another piece of wood. This made Rat very confused, as he had seen the navigation charts the day before and they were almost dead center in the ocean that separated two continents, Sava and Kilhan. It seemed to him too unreasonable to have two large chunks of drift wood this close together if they had come from either coast.

It was then that he noted more chunks, floating with the tide, varying in size and shape. Rat raised an eyebrow. The next thing to float into view was a large piece of white cloth, which confirmed his suspicion: shipwreck. However, the pieces were too diversified in size and shape for this ship to have simply run aground or sprung a leak and sink. It appeared almost as if they had been blown apart by cannons.

As he continued to look out across the night-black waters and survey what rubble he could see, he noticed a rather large section of planking that appeared to be weighted down by something, the weight causing it to bob differently in the waves than other pieces of rubble. As this particular piece drifted closer he could make out the outline of a huddled figure almost clinging to the plank. Realizing someone was in danger, Rat jumped into action.

"Man overboard!" Rat shouted as he ran up the stairs towards the bell that was near the helm. Grabbing hold of the rope he proceeded to ring the bell as loud as he could. The other sailors on watch came running to where Rat had been standing and looked over the water and, upon seeing the same as Rat had seen, scrambled for ropes; a few went for a longboat. Still other sailors appeared from below deck, still attempting to come to terms with the world after being abruptly awoken

After what seemed like an hour to Rat, but had merely been a few minutes, there was finally a longboat in the water and the sailors were fishing the body from the wreckage. Rat didn't like it when people were in danger like that; which made him an interesting pirate. Somehow he managed to find the perfect balance between being a nasty cut-throat with a kind heart, though often he was chided for being nice by the rest of the crew. Even he was unsure how he did it; perhaps it was the sheer adrenaline of battle.

Finally the longboat had been hauled back on board and the ship's surgeon was attending the survivor. Rat watched from his perch next to the helmsman.

"He has a pulse!" shouted the surgeon. Rat breathed a sigh of relief. As the surgeon continued to look over his patient the hatch flew open and a tall, well-built man strode forward to the crowd of people gathered around the slumped body. As crewmen noticed he was approaching they retreated from the circle.

Chull strode up to the circle closing the buckles to the two leather straps that held the dual elven adventurer knives; almost four feet in blade length, they were hardly knives, but they were light, slender razors and if their operator knew how to use them they were extremely deadly.

As he entered the circle the surgeon didn't even look up, he just continued checking for other injuries. Chull looked at the remaining crowd and, in an impressively low voice, asked "What is going on here?" The surgeon was the one who responded.

"Injured castaway, sir." he replied as he continued to perform his check-ups. Chull nodded as he inspected the man lying there on the deck unconscious.

"And who made the discovery?" he asked.

"That would be me, sir!" Rat said as he was halfway down the stairs. Chull turned around with his hands on his hips and looked at him.

Rat froze in his tracks. He was very unsure why he suddenly felt the need to explain himself. "The driftwood he was on hit the port hull, that's how I knew he was there…"

Chull cut him off with a wave of his hand. "The captain will want to speak with you come daylight," he said coolly. Rat lowered his gaze.

"Yes sir," he said with a slight salute.

Chull looked around to the rest of the crowd, when the surgeon called out from behind him.

"Ok, this man is fine to be moved. I need some help here!" he shouted. Chull motioned to a few of the sailors standing around to help. They lifted the man and began to take him down to the infirmary.

As the last sailor disappeared below deck Chull looked around at the remaining by standing sailors. "Alright, back to your posts!" He shouted as he turned to go below deck. Rat nodded as Chull passed. As the hatch shut, Rat walked back to his position for the last half-hour of his watch.

Chull opened the door to the captain's cabin for a very nervous Rat. Chull already made him nervous, but the captain seemed to double the nervousness and Rat wasn't sure why. As Rat entered he noticed no one was there. He turned and looked at Chull questioningly.

"The captain went to check on your rescue, but will be back shortly. My orders were to have you here before the captain's return," Chull said.

Rat nodded and turned back to the empty cabin as the door shut behind him.

"Surgeon! He is awake, sir!" Jamerson shouted. The small gnome surgeon's mate stood on his stool next to where their new patient slept. Due to his size, Jamerson couldn't perform normal surgeon's duties like performing surgery, etcetera, but he was very good at performing bed side assistance and keeping watchful eyes on any patient in the infirmary. His current patient, the man found drifting through the waves the night before, was finally coming to.

Johnston, the surgeon (though everyone called him Billy) came over to the other side of the bed and dabbed a damp cloth across the man's forehead. The man groaned and shifted uncomfortably as his eyes fluttered open. As the man regained consciousness he almost panicked. Unsure of his surroundings he tried to get up, but a combination of Billy holding him down and his entire body being stiff, he decided to just lie back down. Billy looked at Jamerson.

"Send for master Chull, would you please?" He requested. Jamerson nodded and bounded off his stool and out the door. "Lie still. You still need rest," Billy told the man.

The man raised a stiff arm to his head and rubbed his forehead. "Where… where am I?" He asked quietly.

"The infirmary of…" Billy was cut short by Chull who had just entered.

"The pirate ship Retribution," Chull said

The man raised his head to see who was speaking, then laid it back again. Chull strode over to the bedside so the man could see him without exerting himself. The man looked at him with tired eyes. "What is your name, sir?" Chull asked.

"My name…" he started, and then swallowed hard, "is Joseph Climmber," he managed to say. Jamerson slid past Chull and hopped back onto his stool.

"What happened to your ship?" Chull asked.

Joseph shook his head. "I was a passenger aboard a merchant vessel en route to Kilhan. We were attacked by pirates." He stopped as realization sank in. His eyes widened. "This is a pirate ship?" He half asked, half exclaimed.

"Yes, but don't worry. We are your rescuers, not your assailants." Billy said with a chuckle. Joseph seemed to relax at this. He then looked at Chull.

"Sir, are you the captain?" he asked Chull. Chull opened his mouth to reply but before he could someone cut in.

"No, Master Climmber, I am," a cool voice said. Chull, Billy and Jamerson looked towards the door as the captain entered the room. The three of them raised their hands in salutes. Joseph raised his head to see the captain as she walked in.

Tall and slender, she didn't look much like a pirate at all. Straight shoulder length hair covered one ear, but was tucked behind the other ear letting it show. Joseph could tell from it that she was an elf. She wore a single silver earring with a loose chain that went from the stub in her ear lobe to the top part of her ear. Two sliver leaf pendants hung from chains of different lengths from the stud. She was very pretty. She stopped next to Chull and looked down at Joseph. "How are you feeling this morning?" she asked.

Joseph chuckled. "I am just lucky to be alive," he replied.

"Indeed," she responded. She looked up at Billy questioningly.

"He should be ok to walk ma'am." He said. She smiled at Joseph.

"Master Climmber, your rescuer is currently waiting in my cabin, would you care to meet him?" She asked.

Joseph propped himself up on his elbows. He was still stiff, but it didn't hurt. "Well, I had better at least thank him, huh?" He said jokingly. You know, he thought to himself, for being pirates these people aren't that bad. Billy helped him from his bed to the door. Chull looked at the captain. As Joseph was being helped out; Chull, who was about a head taller than the captain, leaned over.

"He said he was a paid passenger on a merchant ship." He said in a quiet voice. She looked at Chull then out the still open door.

"I understand. I hope Rat does too. He has always been the caring kind." She said as she played slightly with the pistol she had tucked into her belt. She looked back at Chull. "Send some longboats out to the rest of the wreckage. Now that it's light it will be easier to spot other survivors and safer to navigate. We sail at noon," she told him.

Chull nodded. "Yes captain," He said as he walked out the door. The captain thought for a brief moment then walked out the door and turned towards her cabin. It didn't take much time for her to catch up with Billy and Joseph.

"Captain?" Joseph asked.

"Yes, Master Climmber?" She replied.

"What is your name, if you don't mind me asking?" he asked her.

She smiled, but he couldn't tell because she had been walking behind him. "My name is Rose, Master Climmber," she replied.

"Ah, well that's a nice name," he said as Billy opened the door for him. Upon entering Rat stood up sharply and saluted Rose.

"Thank you; you may relax a bit, Rat," she said. "This," she said motioning to Joseph while she walked around the large table in the middle of the room "is your castaway, Rat. Mister Joseph Climmber," Rat smiled slightly at the site of the man standing in front of him. Joseph smiled back as he stepped forward to shake his hand.

"It seems some great thanks are in order, Mister Rat. I don't think I would be in half as good a condition if it weren't for you," he said grasping Rat's hand firmly. Joseph was surprised that someone so skinny could have such a strong grip. Rat's smile grew visibly.

"It was nothing, sir, merely doing my duty," he replied.

"Well, thank you," Joseph said, stepping back to where he was. During this conversation Rose had taken the pistol from her belt and had set it on the table, which she was now leaning on with both arms. Upon Mister Climmber finishing his remarks she spoke.

"Right, well, you had best be getting back on deck. Chull has some work for you to do, I'm sure. I need to speak with Master Climmber."

Rat saluted, and then looked at the pistol on the table. He looked back at her with wide eyes.

"Look sharp, now. Run along." She said before he had a chance to say anything. Quietly he turned and left, passing Billy, who was still holding the door.

Rose nodded to Billy. "Best run along as well, they may require your services up there," she said.

"Yes ma'am," Billy said with a nod, closing the door behind him.

Assured there was no one standing outside the door; Rose turned her attention to Joseph.

"Mister Climmber, my first mate, Master Chull tells me that you were a paid passenger aboard the vessel which was sunk. Is that true?" she asked.

"Yes ma'am. I was traveling, well, more precisely running from the governments in Sava," Joseph responded.

"Oh? Why was it necessary for you to flee?" Rose asked him. She didn't really care, as she had already made up her mind.

"I am a writer; both a novelist and a journalist. Due to some political unrest my job got me into some slight trouble. See, I had been working for a news press that had political views…contrary to that of the current government. Other presses like mine had already been shut down; their operators killed in the process or imprisoned, tried for treason and hanged. I fled, only to end up the target of a pirate attack," he finished.

Rose was only half listening. "So really, you have no sailing skills?" she asked, picking up her pistol and moving around the table, studying her pistol.

Joseph was confused, and his face showed it. "Well, no, but I don't understand what…" he was cut short.

"Mister Climmber. Here aboard my ship we have certain things that have to happen, certain rules and guidelines that need to be met, certain protocols. As to not carry any extra weight we have enough rations to sail with the crew we currently have happily for another month. We cannot afford anyone on this ship who cannot work for and with the crew. With no sailing experience another mouth aboard this ship is a burden. One that is not light," she said pointing her pistol at his head, pulling the hammer back as she leveled it. "So, mister Climmber, I present you with a choice. You can try your luck swimming to shore or I can end the problem here and now."

The look on Joseph's face went from confusion to fear as quickly as Rose had pointed the pistol at him. He began to stutter and stammer as he tried to plead for his life.

"Master Climmber, you really must speak up. I can't understand a word you are saying," Rose said with a slight grin.

Finally Joseph managed to get a hold on a word. "Wait!" He almost shouted. The smile faded from Rose's lips.

"I may not have sailing experience but I can serve other purposes! I can write your story; the story of the pirate ship Retribution and its captain, the Rose of the Sea! I can document your greatest victory!" he `pled.

It was the last part that caught her attention. "My greatest victory? What would that be?" She asked pulling her pistol up a bit.

Joseph looked at her in surprise. "You mean you haven't heard? This ship is being hunted," he said.

"Hunted? Sir, this is a pirate ship! We are always being hunted!" She said pointing the gun back at his head.

"No! You are being specifically hunted! It was in the papers before I left! The royal navy ship Constance, under the command of Captain Dirk J. Rutherford, has received special orders to hunt down and destroy this ship, taking as many crewmen as reasonable captive, including and especially the captain. Now that you are aware of this you can be ready for him! I can document it all!"

Rose thought for a moment. One thing she had learned a long time ago was never trust a man begging for his life. However, at the same time, if he were telling the truth, it was good information to have, and such a victory, if properly documented, could bring her more fame than any other pirate had ever brought upon themselves.

Raising her pistol she looked at him intently. "How can I be sure you are telling the truth?" she asked.

Joseph ran a shaking hand down his chest feeling his pockets. Excitedly, he looked up at her and stuck his hand inside his jacket. Trembling, he produced a still very damp newspaper. As carefully as he could he opened the folded paper. Part of it tore, but it was still legible. He handed the sheet to Rose.

She took it from him and read the headline. Sure enough, Joseph had been telling the truth. The headline read 'The United Republic of Sava sends best ship and crew on pirate hunt!' A brief scan of the article revealed that, though several other pirate ships were named, the pirate ship Retribution was indeed on the target list. She noticed the date it had been printed; the paper was about three weeks old.

She quickly did some calculations in her head. Assuming the orders were received the day the paper was printed, Rutherford had three days to supply his ship, though with a decent crew it would have taken less than two, even for a military vessel of that size. This meant that he had already close to two and a half weeks of sailing. Thinking of their current position, she knew her ship was nearly four weeks away from Sava, even in the fastest craft anyone could find. She laid the paper on her desk and pulled the hammer on her gun back while pulling gently on the trigger, letting the hammer fall controlled to the disarmed position. Sticking the pistol back into her belt she walked over to one of the many bookshelves that lined the walls. Digging through the many volumes she finally fished out a blank notebook. Locating a pencil, she tossed them both at Joseph with a grin.

"Well, Mister Climmber, it appears as though you are of some use after all," she said.