I always had fondness for the sea, a trait which was shared in the many generations of my family. Such strong was our attachment to the ocean that many years ago our families prosperous passenger transport business had in the modern age expanded into ownership of a fleet of luxury cruise liners.
When I had graduated from education and became a free woman I took it upon myself to become involved in the family business. Only being 18 and with no meaningful education to my name the decision had not been a popular one with the creatures which fed on my families prosperity. These board members who existed simply to draw a salary from my families business were opposed to me entering the business, arguing I was nothing more than some woman using family connections to get paid to enjoy free cruise holidays.
I did not mind the jealousy of these people but I was offended by their belief I was a freeloader in the company. I was not an engineer, navigator or cleaner while aboard but rather a company representative, a true company representative, one who bore the name Hartmann, which was implanted upon the side of each ship in our fleet.
The board hated me but the tourists loved me. When passengers were given a choice between an aging man in a black suit or a young woman in a dress who would fidget with her glasses in an adorable course of habit, the tourists would go with the woman every time.
It had been four years since I had joined the family business and now as a 22 year old woman I was a fixture aboard these ships. I dined with passengers, addressed their concerns, heard their complaints and would entertain the children during the day while their parents were away doing things I did not bother to think about.
That was my life,
It was late into the night, and deciding to take some time out to get fresh air, I had went outside onto the deck and leaned onto the port railings staring off into moonlit ocean. The sound of the sea slamming against the vessel combined with the shouts and music from the events going on inside the ship was all that filled my ears.
Then it happened
I don't know whether it was a mere accident or malicious intent, but a force pushed against my back throwing me over the railings and into the watery depths. My body was heavy and fighting for every inch of my life I desperately kicked with my hands and feet to try and reach the surface only to fail.
Sinking further and further down until the hull of the ship left my vision all which remained was a deep dark abyss.
"MAN IN THE WATER, TO AFT SIR"
I could hear a voice but how could that be when I was under the blanket of the sea?
A figure splashed into the water and with haste swam towards me as it reach my body which no longer was putting up a fight against the cruel sea an arm wrapped around it and dragged me to the surface. Reaching the surface my mind finally gave out as I faded out of consciousness.
I was roused from my sleep by the sound of creaking wood and awoken to find myself in an unfamiliar room lying down on a bed with what appeared to be a fur blanket covering my body.
"Nice to see you have risen from your slumber." An older man's voice greeted me. To my side sitting in a wooden chair was a man in outdated clothing holding a black bottle filled with liquid. He looked like a sailor of an age passed by, he gave little time for me to take in the sights as he thrust the bottle into my arms.
"Drink up girl, Rum will do the body good"
I complied and took a quick mouthful of the Rum and gulped it down. The alcohol was stronger than anything I had drank when dining with holidaymakers, so strong in fact I started to wheeze and gasped for air.
The man gave a heavy chuckle and took the bottle from me. "We all start that way girl, you get the taste for it soon enough."
My body did feel warmer now and I wanted to get up from this bed to stretch my legs but I had realised very immediately that I was naked under this blanket as my drenched dress was hanging by a clothes line connected to a wooden beam and dangling from a window at the back of the room blowing in the wind.
Noticing my predicament the man stood up and opened a nearby cupboard pulling out a brown shirt and trousers. Passing me the clothes the man agreed to turn around as I dressed myself. The outfit was basic but provided me modesty, although the comfort was little to be desired especially with my bra and underwear being missing. Those particular pieces of clothing weren't on the clothing line either leading me to inquire with the man as to their location.
He was blunt in saying by this point I did not really wish to know.
The man did however present my with my glasses which had miraculously somehow survived my plunge into the sea, perhaps by the fortune of them having a chain attached to them out of my fear I might have lost them if the cruise had shook violently in the waves.
"When I was hanging your clothing I noticed the label on your dress, Made in China, you are from Earth then?"
I was puzzled
"What do you mean by I'm from Earth, aren't you too?" I asked confused by the question.
"Oh right you don't know yet, you aren't in Kansas anymore, this here is a new world entirely. Something ripped straight out of a fantasy novel. Personally I've been here about 30 years now."
What the hall was this, Chronicles of Narnia? That sort of thing doesn't happen in reality and having enough with the company of an insane man I barged out of the cabin door and was greeted with the sight of a sailing ships deck surrounded by bright a blue ocean which glittered under the sun.
Above my head the sound of a shriek gave way to a creature resembling an Eastern dragon soaring through the sky before crashing down into the with a huge splash only to moments later burst from the water and glide through the sky once more repeating the process over and over until it vanished on the horizon.
"Oh God it actually is another world," I expressed in disbelief.
A hand patted me on the shoulder and the man who I had spoken to stood to my side.
"It takes some getting used to, I was the same." He attempted to assured me not that it did much good. How was a person meant to react to getting told they are suddenly in another world and seeing a dragon flying around.
The shock of what I had seen was too much and for nearly an hour after seeing the flying creature ripped from mythology I had sat down resting my back against the mast of the ship. The man, who I now knew to be the Captain of this ship, went by the name Landry. He claimed to be originally from Canada before being transported to this world. Spending years living in this new world he had worked hard for a trading company eventually rising to be a Captain of his own goods transport.
Our good Captain here was kind enough to assure me that when the ship reached port he would help me get settled in. It seemed after I had explained what I did for a living on Earth he confidently stated that he could speak with associates of his to find me work within the company he worked for doing a role similar to what I did on Earth. Landry joked that there would be little difference between dining with and entertaining tourists, and keeping business investors satisfied so I was hardly going to complain. I would naturally need a source of income after all, or at the very least being guaranteed food on the table.
"A SAIL TO PORT CAPTAIN," someone yelled sending the Captain and who I presumed to be his first mate scrambling to the port side of the ship with telescopes in their hand.
"I can't make out the flag Captain." The first mate spoke as Landry drew his own telescope up to his eye.
"She's not Altrean or Varian for certain." Landry replied
"Perhaps a Xion vessel, they've been known to sail this far out."
Landry shook his head. "No Mt Edwards, she's a privateer. Meaning to take what we have as recompense for not paying them for their protection." He spat over the side of the ship, "I thought our departure from Varia was too easy. The port master must be in collusion with them informing them who we are and what we carry"
"Should I give order to unfold sail and make to outrun them?
"Sadly Mr Edwards I feel that would do is little benefit. Their ship had speed over ours well before our hold was filled. I feel that the best option now is to barter with them, if we comply with them they may even allow us to keep half our goods."
With his decision made Captain Landry order the ship to decrease speed but hold its heading to avoid making the other ship believe our own was preparing for battle. The Captain rushed back to the cabin and upon reappearing he was holding a white cloth which was handed to a crew member who hurried to attach it to the mast expressing our desire to surrender.
"Miss Hartmann was it, I would recommend you stay in the cabin until this business is sorted. I can afford to lose goods but my conscience would be heavy if they desired you as a prize."
Heeding his advice I headed back to the cabin and secured the door waiting until this affair was over. There was a dead silence in the air until a sound of something heavy impacting on the deck of the ship outside echoed. A sound of feet banging on wood was followed by shouts and yells.
It appeared that the ship had been boarded.
"Captain Landry of the merchant vessel Assam, in service to Black Castle Trading Company of the Alturis Emp…" his voice was stopped before it had chance to finish and in its place I heard a thump against the deck immediately followed by shouts and screams.
"It's a cruel thing to be done boys but the money was for the ship, not the crew." Someone joked to the laughter and applause of the others present outside.
"Hey, this one has ladies underwear on him," another person informed them.
"Well it isn't for us to judge how a man lives his life"
"He wasn't wearing the bloomin' things Captain." The man shot back.
That appeared to have got everyone's attention and I could only draw the same conclusion that those on the other side of this door had made.
Footsteps grew lounder heading for the cabin door leading me to give up my secrecy in order to brace against the cabin door as a force smashed against it over and over each time damaging the lock on the door until it gave way sending me flying across the room and hard into the floor.
A man dressed in a fur trench coast carrying a feathered hat under his arm walked into the room scraping a cutlass across the floor cutting into the wood as he advanced closer to me.
"I knew this ship was a bounty but this is just a divine blessing, stand girl" He ordered and with little choice I complied.
"That dress is yours I assume" He pointed his blade at my previous clothing drying on the line. "I would very much like you to change into that, those old things don't suit you much girl"
What other choice did I even have here, he had a weapon and I did not. I wasn't trained in any sort of self-defence so even trying to fight him would cause this situation to become worse than it was. I took off the shirt and trousers I had been gifted by Landry and changed back into my blue dress feeling disgusted as the lecherous eyes of this Captain and the men peering through the door upon me.
"The breasts are average but that slender body has its charm, and I know of some paying types who have a fetish for women of the bespectacled nature." The Captain threw his hat on his head so as to grab me by the arm dragging me out of the cabin.
"The girl has a name so speak it." He ordered
"Hartmann, Miss Seraphine Hartmann"
I saw him smirk as he pulled me towards a gangplank and manhandled me over to the other ship.
"Well Miss Hartmann you will naturally be accompanying us to our home, your fate when we reach there will be decided but until then at the least I assure you that you will not be…used"
His assurances fell on flat ears given his barbaric massacring of a crew which had surrendered peacefully to him.
The trading one cabin for another I found myself now a prisoner of this Captain and watched from the window as the bodies of the crew which had rescued me and shown me kindness were cast overboard into the cold sea to never be found again.
With the only connection to Earth at the bottom of the ocean I was now alone in this world, a prisoner of pirates.
I had been a captive for four weeks now
These vermin had taken me to their home base, a small shanty port town, in some place godforsaken place I imagined no sane person would ever willingly travel to.
The towns harbour housed numerous large ships which departed as often as they arrived each time bringing home new plunder, and from time to time, slaves like me.
For a town of pirates the streets were lively with men, women and children all going about their business as though this was a respectable settlement and all under the watchful guard of a large castle whose walls were lined with cannons pointing out across the bay.
In these four weeks here I had been taken on as a servant to the self-styled pirate nobility. In perhaps a twisted and sick sense of irony I was very much doing the same work I did on Earth, only this time my guests were less than pleasant company, and "No" to requests made by them was dependent on the level of alcohol they had consumed.
I had been lucky so far as to be spared being forced into some horrific act but I knew that it was always a possibility as some of the others girls, who any man could call beauties, had been dragged away against their will only to return bruised or in a near catatonic state, and those were the ones who returned. In my first week here I had made friends with a young Elven girl.
She was a girl of kind heart and tried to keep the spirits up of the other girls who have been held prisoner. It was thanks to her that my understanding of this world had increased as she gladly taught me all she could teach and it helped take my mind off the reality of the situation I was in.
But then one day she was taken away by a man who took a fancy to her and never returned. He has not even managed to leave the room which we were all held in before his hands had made it clear what her fate had become.
Each day was the exact same for me. I woke up and washed myself as best I could, followed by a generous breakfast of bread and on days the guards felt generous, soup. From there I was taken by one of my charges personal bodyguards to their manor to wait on every whim of the pirate noble until the sun set when I would be dragged back to the slaves prison and locked up with my room mates once more. The daily round trip was painful on my feet and degrading but I understood that being kept in a prison overnight was sadly a way to keep me safe as should I have been kept in the pirates own home at night then he might have forced himself upon me in my sleep.
The metal door of the room slammed shut and the ever familiar sound of a metal padlock click together I once more had returned to my home unharmed. I gave a headcount of the girls in the room and confirmed that a girl was missing. A dark skinned woman who looked to be in her early thirties had not returned yet. The woman, Cassandra, had only just arrived to the prison as well, after having been abducted from a neighbouring seaside village in the Kingdom of Varia.
"Has Cassandra not returned?" I rhetorically asked knowing the answer.
"She got taken with me to a bar being visited by a crew which just got in, the men there said that I wasn't their type so they sent me to the kitchen to wash up." The short girl who could not be more than a child bent over hiding her head between her legs and covering it with her hands. "When they sent me home I could hear it, she was screaming."
I sat down beside the girl on her bed and wrapped an arm around her frail body to comfort her. "it's okay" I gently spoke and she rest against my leg as if I was her mother.
"Okay? What the hell is okay about this? If we obey them they rape us, if we complain they beat us, if we try to flee they kill us. There's nothing okay about this." A woman I took to be in her twenties hysterically yelled.
"What they've done to me, what's they've made me do, even if I got away from this place I could never face my husband again" She cried with tears dripping from her face.
"It has been a tough day und we all need to keep our strength up, get as much sleep as you can." I tried to go to my own bed but the little girl wrapped her arms around me and refused to release them. Understanding the situation I chose to sleep in her bed and watch over her as her soft whimpering went on into the late hours of the night.
The next morning came and opening my eyes I rose from the bed I had shared the night with.
"Hey it's time to get up miss" I instructed the girl but she did not rouse from her sleep.
"Wakey, wakey" I playfully muttered rocking her body until she rolled over revealing to me a gruesome sight.
Her throat had been slit open with the opposite side of the bed drenched red in blood.
I let out a shriek only to then notice the other girls in the room had similarly had their own throats slip open. Slumped against the door was the body of the woman who had cried over her husband last night. A girl with red hair matching the carnage unleashed on the room was crouched over her body repeatedly stabbing a knife in and out of her body as a faint voice begging her to stop slowly went quiet.
"Why?" Was all I could make my lips say
The red head looked at me with a sinister smile and put the knife to her mouth to lick the blade clean.
"This is mercy," she started to step towards me. "The Lady Falminette herself spoke to me in the night. She told me to end the suffering of these girls so I did. I tried to make sure it didn't hurt, but that one woke up and ran, so I had to make certain I had seen her on to be with our Lady."
"Look put the knife down und we can figure this out"
She stopped only a few feet away from me and laughed. "No need for you to worry, you don't get the right to be with our Lady. You tried to prolong the suffering of these children of our Lady with your false hope. And while they experienced the worst people have to offer you whored yourself out to this accursed places rulers to be spared the misery shared by your sisters."
The girl put the knife to her own throat, before I could even utter a word to stop her she pulled the knife over her skin creating a waterfall of red which ran down her body and into the ground.
"Hope you go to the underworld you pirate slut." She muttered in a broken voice before the life left her body.
For a second time I was now all alone, and surrounded by death
When the guards had come to collect the slaves for their daily duties they had stumbled onto a room of corpses with a single living soul inside. Even on Earth the same conclusions would be drawn by the most professional of law enforcement.
My explanation of the events which transpired fell on deaf ears. The pirates made their minds up and decided that most logical explanation was that I had killed everyone in the room and sought to frame an innocent party for it.
The girls were slaves whose lives had been declared to be of no value and yet, by that same fact, as the girls were slaves, they did in fact have a value the pirates could accuse me of stealing.
The pirate judges if they could even be called that, had bickered over whether my alleged crime was murder when a slave was not a person. It had not taken them long to decide that my charge should be destruction of property. Not that this mattered as both carried the same penalty of death. Any crime carried out by a slave was one which would result in death no matter how big or small. This was simply because to enforce different levels of punishment for crimes would acknowledge a slaves right to be treated fairly and proportionately thus undermine the purpose of degrading the person's life.
Maybe I'm just ranting, seeing as they planned to strap me to the front of a canon.
That would come later however, as for now the pirate noble who I had been in service to had requested some special rite before I would be killed. Despite my best efforts to avoid this outcome he was to be allowed to have his way with me before I was to be executed.
The trip to his manor this time was one in shackles with a man poised behind me with a blade ready to kill me if I dared stop for a moment. I could feel the eyes of every person in the street looking upon me in disgust as I was a criminal to them.
I could ignore those people though. What I struggled to ignore though were the glances of other slaves. They had heard the pirates twisted version of events by now and even to slaves who had been cast to be the lowest of society I was seen as beneath them. A murderer of their own kin.
"Well you certainly have gone and done it." The pirate noble snorted while he fidgeted with the buttons on his shirt.
"Go ahead and undress" He ordered in an authoritative tone.
"No," I responded standing my ground.
"If you refuse to do it then I'll simply tear that dress from your body and afterwards you can go to the afterlife naked"
"Does this face look afraid of you?" I lowered my eyebrows sending him into a blind rage.
The man grabbed me by the head and smashed my face into a table as the sound of a belt rustling followed.
"And to think I had thought you down as the reserved type, good. The tough ones are usually screamers"
I felt a hand on my back preparing to move its way down,
But then it stopped,
The sound of bells rang out across the town and the pirate noble lost interest in me as he ran into my view to observe out of the window.
"What in the hell?" He yelled in fury
From my limited view I could make out the faint shape of five ships. They were breaking through the fog close to the town and were now almost upon it.
"Why the hell are they here?" He continued to yell to himself
It was now or never for me and seizing my chance I ran up behind the pirate noble and pulled the dagger that he kept at his hip free. With as much strength as I could muster I forced the tip of the blade down into his back as he shrieked out in agony.
He dropped to the ground and started to drag himself along the floor begging me to have mercy as I followed him slowly matching my steps with each crawl of his. When he stopped moving anymore I kicked his body over and sat down on his lower body.
"Was this the type of position you wanted me in?" I asked in a mockingly seductive voice
"I have money," he begged. "Please give me mercy."
"Mercy? You want mercy? How much mercy did your kind give to the others?"
He moved his lips meaning to utter something else,
But I was faster,
"JUST DIE GODDAMN IT"
I stabbed repeatedly at where I assumed whatever heart he pretended to have was located until his body was no longer twitching. My hands, arms, chest, every part of me was now stained red. The sight of his body in this manner led to me throwing up and struggling for breath while outside the building the bells continued to sound.
What on earth was going on out there?
"The Enduring is requesting permission to commence firing Admiral."
Looking out across the deck of my flagship and towards the port town which had been infested by this band of criminals I gave a nod to the officer who had approached.
"Please relay to the Enduring that she may commence her fire and that the Wanderer may do so too if it is not too much of an inconvenience to our guests."
"When a cannon fires half of them think the Goddess is angry." The officer joked
I gave a smile at the joke and the officer rushed to relay the instructions to the other two ships in our fleet using flag signals.
Our guests in question were composed of soldiers from the Varian Army. The Army did not use cannon in their composition as magic made the slow and heavy cannons a novelty for combat on land. What this translated to were trained soldiers cowering in fear the moment a ships guns opened up as they had never experienced such things before.
The Varian Army was attached to this mission because of the simple fact that this was Varian territory and as such any invasion of this land even to remove pirates would need to be carried out by the kingdoms respected armed forces.
I could only sigh at this type of arrangement each and every time it arose. Our own forces were in polite terms privateers, a privately funded blue water navy that acted of its own accord but usually got roped into helping out nations who simply lacked their own navies, or in Varia's case, too uninterested to send expensive ships off to fight pirates.
This pirate town on the sea side could be called impressive due to its size but the truth was this had belonged to others prior to being taken over for its new purpose. Had this been a genuine pirate settlement then I certainly wouldn't have only been sent with three ships to confront it, nor would the Varians have even dared send soldiers with us to capture it.
Bangs sounded as the combined broadside of three warships opened up on the town specifically aiming for the fortifications which would pose a threat to us. The fire was inaccurate thanks to the ship rocking on the waves but this inaccuracy was in itself accurate fire. This place would be filled with slaves and even the pirates among them had civilians who served no part in their crimes, for this reason I had spelled out prior to the fleets arrival that no fire was to be directed upon the main body of the town itself to avoid the collateral damage.
Splashes appeared around the fleet, as a result of the pirates retaliatory cannon fire. In engagements involving land fortifications the side on flat earth held the advantage as their cannons were stabalised and could be given accurate adjustments based on figuring out where you previous shot had landed. The only things in our favour right now were that our ships were moving and that the enemy had too many cannons for their crews to establish whose shot landed where.
Still the number of enemy guns and rate of fire did give way to the possibility that they could get a lucky hit in and when our fleet was composed of floating wood on sea getting a single hit could be the end of 1/3 of our force in an instant.
Glancing up at the fortifications which had received light damage it was easy to see attrition was not going to be in our favour. The guns would need to be taken out by land forces and that meant it was time to put the Varian Army into the battle.
"Order to the fleet, troops to be put ashore, Twilight will provide covering fire." I barked at my officers who were standing idly as their gunners went about their work of bombarding the pirates.
As the officer tasked with the flags started relaying the message a thought crossed my mind,
"Remind our guests that the pirate ships are to be taken intact as the Freicompany's due reward"
The following battle was entirely one sided. When the Varian troops landed in rowing boats the men clad in armour stormed the streets in formation wiping out all opposition effortlessly. To trained soldiers the pirates style of fighting was pitiful and subsequently all who dared to fight the soldiers were shown the error of their way very quickly.
True to my orders the pirates fleet in port had been captured intact. Those ships were arguably the most valuable possible plunder from this place, worth more than Gold and fine jewelry combined. To build a ship from new took time, and by the time the ship would be built it could no longer be needed. To build a cannon, and to strap that to an existing ship, took no time at all. By taking ships as spoils in lieu of monetary rewards from those who contracted our services, the Freicompany had in a short period gone from being a couple ships of poor quality to one of the major naval powers in the world.
With the settlement secure it was now safe to bring the fleet into port to begin the final part of our mission. This place held slaves, not all of whom would be Varian. The Freicompany was now tasked with transporting slaves back to their respected homelands. I stood on the bridge watching as men, women and children were brought onto the ship and seen to their temporary living quarters. Tragically the cold and uncomfortable hold of this ship would be considered a luxury for many of these slaves.
Each ship of the fleet out of convenience would load freed slaves of specific nations and depart individually for those lands rather than prolong these peoples detention any further by sailing together. My ship was to be loaded with Mitamians, people from a Kingdom South of Varia known for its skilled magic users. Although it was unlikely that any of these slaves would be considered skilled mages otherwise they would never have been enslaved to begin with.
A Varian soldier walked up the gangplank of the Twilight, his Chainmail clattering in sync to his steps, with a young woman in tow. She was well dressed for a slave and even had spectacles covering her eyes which I could see were focused purely on me.
Of concern to me was that despite the quality of her dress it was clearly stained red in blood, and obviously not hers.
"Who is this woman?" I curiously asked
The soldier shrugged, "Lads thought she was some rich pirate, 'till we found the body of a gutted ugly slob and realised she's a slave.
"Well if she's a slave where would she like to go?" I inquired
"Sort of the problem, she doesn't exactly know where to go"
Walking down the steps onto the deck I stood in front of the pair, "Where do you come from miss, your homeland, are you perhaps nobility?"
"I am not a noble and I have nowhere I could call home," The girl confidently spoke in a sweet voice
I smirked as nearby crew members who had heard the woman speak all had paused their work to show smiles across their faces, it was a scenario which many here were familiar with.
Putting a hand on the girls shoulder I repeated the words that had been spoken to most of the men here.
"In that case, welcome to the Freicompany."