2. The Sea Like Slate

Things, Tavis considers, could not be going better. A half-day east of Rousay, his ship, the Fuar Iarann has been following the cog for several hours, always hanging back, sailing under a conjured wind where necessary. His oars are dry, and his men well-rested. For once, there'll be no aching backs and blistered hands when battle is joined. This alone has made the wizard's company worthwhile. And that man... Vance. He's not like the rest. He's trustworthy, for starters, not full of witchery and secrets. Why, it turns out that he lived for years on an island near Tairbert, one that Vance had often considered hiding out on himself, when times were hard and enemies were everywhere.

The cog wallows ahead. It's a big ship, too. Its gunwhales sit well above the level of the Fuar Iarann, though the aft-castle would probably reach them. It must carry a hundred tons or more. Tavis wonders what might have brought such a large ship so far north. After all, he thinks, there can't be that much ivory and whale oil in all the Orkneys... can there?

As he contemplates the wealth hidden within the cog's clinker-built hull, he turns and looks behind him. Westward, the sun is beginning to set. It's perfect - even if the cog's captain did suspect his intentions, Tavis has made himself nearly invisible amongst the glare of sun on water. There is perhaps another half-hour of light left for sailing, and the next island in the chain lies ahead. The cog's captain will surely moor his ship overnight rather than risk the shoals and monsters of these waters. That will mean all hands will be busy, so when he gives the order...

It's time, Tavis decides, to make his move.

Tavis: Vance, Devil take you! Where are you? I need a wind again!

Without waiting for a reply, he almost skips up the stairs to the aft-castle. Looking out across his ship and his men to the prize that awaits, he can't contain himself.

Tavis: Look sharp, boys! We're about to get what we all came out here for!

Vance was in fact really close to Captain Tavis. Looking at the same direction the other did, he jumped with haste and started to control the air around them. His purpose in doing so was to blow it strongly in the sails, giving Captain Tavis enough speed to catch up the ennemy ship while manoeuvring.*

Seeing the winds were blowing the sails, he was now concentrating on the power of the winds: not too much, nor too bit.

[size=85]* die 9+summoning total 27, = 36. I'll do something like the canon Wind at the back but with a stronger wind (normally a "very severe phenomenon").
Concentration rolls (sta): 7, 14 and 10 and the first has no botch for 45' times duration.[/size]

Vance's conjured wind fills the sail with a snapping of rope and cloth, and the timbers of the Fuar Iarann groan like tired cattle as the ship surges forward. Satisfied, Tavis grins at Wodin as the one-eyed warrior leans against the tiller.

Tavis: Any more of your doom-and-gloom prophecies to brighten our day?
Wodin: You can mock me and you can ignore my warning, but I'm telling you that nothing good is waiting for us on that ship.
Tavis: You're right, I can ignore you all I damn well please on my ship. You do realise that in three weeks out at sea that's the only vessel we've seen that might have a cargo worth a stream of piss, don't you? You're a while off the sea, Wodin, but you realise that I can't very well tell those boys down on the deck to turn around and head for home because you had a funny feeling. Besides, (he points to Vance) we have magic on our side, not to mention the fact that we must outnumber them five to one! No, trust me. You're wrong about this one. We'll storm the ship, go through their men like shit through a sick dog and sail home with a hold full of... whatever they've come up here for.

Wodin shrugs, knowing better than most how stubborn pirate captains can be when they have a prize in sight.

Tavis: Bah! Fine. Get your gloomy arse off my tiller and go arm up. A good fight will see you cheered up!

Then, not realising the effort that Vance is putting in to controlling the wind, he slaps the elementalist on the back hard enough to knock him to his knees on the rolling deck, all control of the wind lost for the time being. Oblivious to his attempt at self-sabotage, he laughs.

Tavis: Sorry about that, friend! You'll have to learn to adapt quickly if you're going to be spending much time on the water with us! Now, while we're catching up, is there anything you can do to hurt 'em once we catch 'em? A quick fight's a good fight, I always say!

Vance, surprised by the shock, turns to captain Tavis and answers: Well it depends : what exactly do you want my magic to do? I see we are very close to the lands, and i could try to attract a great numbers of birds to pierce their sails and hit their uncovered heads. But i could surround us or them with a fog, just the time we need to attack them with surprise.
I assume you want the ship intact, but otherwise i could try to destroy their hull with huge waves of water.

He thinks some times in his head. *I have plenty of water to use, but no container, otherwise i could summon and make a water elemental obey to myself... too bad, i'd want to try it once!

My magic is raw, and that's the main problem : i can't really dispose of the men without damaging the goods so only little tricks as hiding ourselves or pushing their boat in our way with gentle waves will be really effective. Sinking their ship is also possible, but we do want a prize from them!

Vance is in a happy mood. He likes being the center of attention, because, hey, he is the only sorcerer really able to do something in Alerock. He recognizes Annaeus talent with little funny tools, and Keythleen ability to block their ennemies, but neither of them is really able to control the great elements of the nature. Besides Morphise is more a beast than a woman, in his eyes, and he feels her shapeshifting really unnatural...

Tavis scowls, clearly not having given any thought to the fact that Vance's magic might have limits to work within.

Taivs: Eh, definitely don't sink the ship, but I like that idea of yours with the birds! That'll distract 'em while we sneak up from sunward. Better yet, you could run the cog aground and then get the birds to attack! Lay enough problems on 'em, and they'll see as as rescuers rather than pirates!

Vance smiles. He really likes Captain Tavis. A practical man with realistic ideas.

Okay. Let me try this. I'll go at the prow. Above all, prevent your men from disturbing me. When I shall have the great sea under my control, a single mistake, and it could be us who will be aground quickly. I need my full attention for this difficult task. If they want to live, they will have to remain distant from me when I work.
* A little dramatic impact, so I'll have more calm than I could otherwise. Besides, this man doesn't need to know all the ins and outs from my magic; misinformation is so good. *

On the prow, the sorcerer Vance is now trying to create a terrific ground-swell which could run the boat ashore. After some times to focus himself, Vance tries and gives his best to it.* He feels the power of the sea. The sea, as the water it's composed by, is a powerful element which can in no time become a furious and raging ennemy. And Vance was using the underlying hidden rage of the sea to target the ennemy boat.

[size=85]* die 6 + controlling 27 = total 33. Normally enough to affect size +9 (+-100 horses).
With our house rule, that could mean a level 15 spell. Given that range and duration are fixed at sight/concentration for free, that mean roughly controlling a size +2 pound of water in a violent way or a size +1 in a extremely violent way. I let you figure out what it does in the game.[/size]

The grey sea surges forth from under Vance's outstretched hands, the wave and chop of the surface drawn together by the almighty drag from below. By the time it reaches the cog, a solid ridge of water rises several yards from the surface, and the Fuar Iarann is dragged along as another wall of water stuggles to push out the sudden airy gap in its facade. Tavis strains at the tiller, all the strength of his body going in to keeping the ship from turning - everyone on board can see that if the wave breaks over them, they'll all be dragged to the bottom.

Tavis: Christ's itchy palm-holes! Hold on to something, men! Anyone overboard is as good as dead!

Half-way through tying on his armoured trews, Wodin is caught off-guard and thrown to the deck. For an instant, the shock fills his eye with whiteness, but in that instant his missing eye glimpses a different vista.

Darkness, still and comforting, then motion, rude and savage. Tumbling, jostled past standing stones and mountains of mud. Motion slowing, stilling. Gazing up a long slope and seeing the bottoms of two tiny, struggling ships...

Then his vision clears, and he's in the familiar birlinn once more. Men to either side of him are heaving on oars, trying, against all probability, to back water and climb up over the crest of the wave. An unfathomable sound resolves itself into Tavis screaming obscenities at his crew as he wrestles the tiller.

At the prow of the ship, Vance has to look up to see his wave smash, unyielding, into the stern of the cog. For a moment the prize is lost behind a wall more even and featureless than any mason could craft, and the terrified screams of her crew are stolen away by the wind. Then her stern-castle appears through the water as the ship is seized in the wave's grasp. The wave effortlessly washes the cog high on to the island's stony beach, and the terrible sound of its breaking is like the roar of an army of giants.

*Thank you water for being this irremovable eternal natural power. *

Now that the sea has given his rage, it's the time for the men to deserve their victory. Vance is now broad grin when he walks towards the Captain Tavis.
Does the result please you? If you want me to carry on our agreed plan, i'd like we come nearer to the beach. Birds are easier to control when i'm within their natural living environment. - Without any pretense, Vance is now in his "i'm in control, don't mess with me"-mode.
But perhaps, the pirate's commonly agreed honor would oblige you to stop here the powerful use of magic against those men and give them a chance to fight for their life with their own remaining strength.... Even if I doubt they are still able to fight, now.

His speech looks like if he wants to give the enemies a - little - chance to fight back against him... but after a little pause, to let Captain Tavis understand his words... But as you said. Those who aren't with us are against us - his sanguine personality surfaces - Some days every man has to die and join with Our Lord in the heaven. It will be soon enough our turn, so for the moment, we will enjoy this life He gave us. - he was really aware that it could have been them who could have been the prey of another hunter, and that there would have been no chance that this hypothetical hunter would have ceased his attack "just because it would have been exaggerated". Yes, the world was cruel. The strong was the winner, and the weak has to surrender to him. He was well aware that today, they could be the strong, and tomorrow the weak. *

While the ship sailed nearer to the beach, Vance walked back to the prow. He was thinking at the sailors on the Fuar Iarann. Those men were brave and skilled. If they could understand he was the truest sorcerer on Alerock, they could become, in the future, a pretty damn useful ally... before they become, without even knowing, dependents on his power. And, with them and this ship, if they could get and collaborate more, they could become so bond that they would be invincible. If Alerock would for any reason, ceases to exist, Vance could still have a chance to live with the rank he deserves as a great man. Besides, if this crew was going to become true allies to him, that would mean his position on Alerock would become better and the magi - alas the only ones rulers ... for now (but he thought that would change, and he could become one of the ruler amongst them! - would accept, little by little, his power and aknowledge his own importance.

When he began to smell the good odors from the lands, he started also to hear the birds, panicked by the sudden events. So, came the time to give his orders to the flying people of the sky**. He gives them the order to harass, and weaken the men: targetting hands, fingers, eyes, sails... in fact, their sole presence in crowd would be enough to hide the coming of the Fuar Iarann.

Then, when the birds started, he said to Captain Tavis: When we will be close enough to attack, staring look at Tavis, eyes on eyes - if you want to spill blood with your own saber and not let the birds do all the work - and this sentence could be percepted to be a question about Tavis crew abilities in fight, their bravery or their fear of the surnatural as well as a try to give them something - a little easy fight - to enjoy the joy of slaughtering... - to avoid our own men to be attacked by the birds, i'll give them the right to go back to their normal activities. I'll stay onboard to have a good point of sight - look on Wodin and other men - I assume my help won't be anymore necessary from that point, does he say while smiling frankly.

[size=85]* a little leadership speech, if needed : total is 11

** first, it's a summoning total, to summon the birds from the forest and the lands, than a controlling total to compel them to attack as possible and above all, disturb the enemies during their confusion. Dies are5 and 4 for totals of 32 and 31. The total size would be +- equal to 100 horses animals. I'll let you create the scenes :wink:.

During the next times, he restaures his freshness :stuck_out_tongue:


Wodin, hearing the warlocks optimistic words, spits over his shoulder into the sea.
So this the happy ending - bah!"

Tavis snarles from the stern-castle as the retreating wave jostles the Fuar Iarann.*

Tavis: Shut up, the pair of you! Some of us are busy!

The pirates heave the ship around until the madly swirling currents no longer swirl it around like a cork in a rolling barrel, then strain on the oars as the prow points reliably towards the shore. In less than a minute, the wind fills with the smell of decaying fish from uncountable years worth of muck and slime stirred up by the great wave and vomited forth on to the beach.

Vance feels the summoning magic in him like a great indrawn breath. From out of the sky come what must be hundreds of terns, gannets and gulls, even puffins and a great, solitary albatross. They flock toward the ship like a feathery whirlwind, drawing looks of considerable concern from Tavis' band of hardened killers, before Vance switches his magic and sends the flock barreling towards the stricken wrack of the cog.

The keel jolts and shudders as hebridean wood meets the sand of the sea floor. Tavis lets go of the tiller, wipes his hands and climbs down to the main deck. He yells at the closest man to bring him his war axe, then turns to Wodin.

Tavis: You fancy going first? Your luck's been good so far, maybe it'll hold and there won't be anyone left...

He is interrupted by a great commotion among the birds attacking the cog. Something iron-grey streaks through the screeching, buffeting cloud and disappears overhead, throwing several birds out of the flock in a perfect parabola. They land, dead, broken and bleeding, in the muck not far from the Fuar Iarann. Tavis looks from the birds back to Wodin.

Tavis: Mary's droopy tits, what was that?

Without waiting for an answer, he leaps over the side of the ship, landing with an anticlimactic wet 'splat' and wading off through the mud towards the cog.

Tavis: Any man who knows which end of his weapon to hold better be following me! Seems there's still some work to be done!

  • [size=85]'Cold Iron' if I haven't given a translation before.[/size]

[i]What the hell? Do those guys have an extreme luck? Aaaah I understand. I must have been subconsciously restaining my power to let the pirates do a little job.

Well. Well. Well... those merchants on the cog must have been lucky today.[/i]

Seeing the pirates and Wodin jumping from the boat to attack their opponents Vance was thinking War is their business. I'm no warrior, only a true sorcerer. I have done my job, so now, let they do their's. Yawn He puts his hand before his mouth in an attempt to hide his fatigue.

In the quickly-fading twilight, the wrack looms up in front of the Islesmen as they slop their way towards it through the sea-muck. Though blackened by tar and scarred by their rough passage over the beach, the cog's timbers seem intact, though the entire ship lists on its side like a great beast passed out from drink. All around it, the sea-birds wheel and dive, pecking and snapping at the salt-stiff canvas of the sail like a host of feathered demons. As the islesmen move closer, they see others hammering their beaks against sealed hatches in the deck, as if the men inside were worms to be drawn out of a misshapen tree. The shrieking and cawing is as loud as a man's full-throated roar, or the crashing of the waves, still trying to recover their rhythm after their forced exertion.

Beholding the scene, Wodin feels a clenching in his guts that is all too familiar. He knows, as he has known similar things all his life, that something on that ship could easily kill him. His list of things it might be seems distressingly long as Tavis lifts his voice to carry above the birds.


Sitting on the deck of the Fuar Iarann, Vance sees Tavis begin to wave his hefty arms above his head. As he does so, a hatch on the deck of the cog cracks open slightly and another iron-grey streak blasts through the avian storm. This time, the object arcs lower, knocking a dozen dead and maimed birds out of its path before landing with a loud crack on the deck. Even at this distance, and in this light, Vance can make it out quite plainly.

It's a dagger, thrown further and harder than any mere man could ever manage.

That explains all! They must have hired bodyguards, no less! Tavis is a brave man, and that will not be a problem for him and his fierce pirates. If I say it to him, he will shut me up, so they will have to play by themselves.

Remember the signal has been given, Vance starts to involve for the last time today, calling the birds to go to their homeland.*

[size=85]die is 7 which would be sufficient given previous number, even with the -1 fatigue from the 3d fatigue level (if needed)[/size]

Quite abruptly, the great flock of birds loses its unnatural coherence. Driven by hundreds of competing instincts and temperaments, they start squabbling with each other, disappear towards the horizon and seek perches away from the stricken cog. Several decide to favour the Fuar Iarann with their presence, and the deck quickly becomes spattered with the scat of confused sea-birds.

As he watches the pirates sort out the touchy business of who will be first to force their way into the wrack, Vance finds himself soothed by the sound of the waves against the birlinn's hull, almost as if the sea itself were rewarding him for his earlier efforts. So it comes as a complete surprise to him when something beneath the surface collides with the hull with an audible 'thunk' before sinking back into the water, as invisible as if it were beneath a slate roof.*

A heartbeat later, a scream breaks out from the raiders at the cog. In the fading light, Vance sees a man fall from the slanting deck, and the raiding party degenerate into bloody confusion.

Vance tries to reassert his own position. The water was not too profound here: so if the boat has collided with a reef... He was thinking about the possibility of the hull damaged. So, as his presence on the desk or in ship's hold was of no importance for the now assounding battle on the beach... he decided to go look what had happened. If the water was gushing inside the hull, he had to do something to stop it down before this ship sank.

Going down, he look for damages in the hull*.

When he has an overview of the troubles, if the hull is pierced and water is gushing, he will use his magical control of it to freeze it enough to maintain the excess outside the hull.**

After his check, he goes back to the bridge. He tries to locate any men, his side's or not... Because if enemy were trying to take a boat, the only one useful was... the one on which he was standing. And he doesn't want to stay trapped on this little island without any mean to leave.


  • roll is 5+1 = 6
    ** if needed, controlling water total: base 27 + die 9 = 36. That could mean a level 15 ReAq (something as individual target of water, maybe part if you think it's more appropriate. The base to transform water in ice is 3. I'd say it's unnatural, so +1 magnitude. Of course, if there is no breach, no need to freeze a non-existing water :slight_smile:.[/size]

A quick check of the hold shows it to be intact, though the worse for being some weeks at sea. Certainly there is no need for a magical patch. On the other hand, there was no reef or shoal when the rowers beached the ship some minutes ago, and it has been stationary since then. The only possible conclusion is that the disturbance of the sea has brought something large into contact with the bottom of the ship.

Pondering this, Vance returns to the stern-castle in time to see the Islesmen withdrawing from the ship in heated conference.

In the close darkness of the hold, the mail-clad bowman closes the hatch with a look of satisfaction on his face and turns to Bereleyn the Redcap and Pavel, the captain of the East Wind. He says the first words Bereleyn has heard from his mouth that have not been magical.

Johan: They're pulling back. Don't know if they'll attack again, but there's two less of 'em now. Tell the captain - he won't speak a word of Latin.

"Not a problem," she grunts in reply.

Addressing the captain is what seems to be a heavy infantryman: a huge hulking figure approximately six and a half feet tall and built like an ox, clad in heavy mail and wearing an enormous, viciously-spiked poleaxe strapped across the back. One would assume the figure is male, until they notice the grim but distinctly feminine face beneath an incongruously jaunty red Judenhut.

"Captain Pavel?" she inquires gruffly, seemingly in his native tongue (whatever that might be!). "The archer says they're retreating. He's eliminated two of them."

Seeing Tavis retreating was not a good thing.
Yet what!? What is it this time??? It can't be Owen's omen were true... This man is always complaining about everything...

The woman warrior ducks into the hold, and out of sight. There, she carefully removes the hat that marks both her faith and her station, folding it carefully and stowing it away. Over her coiled braids, she pulls on a great helm, and unslings the poleaxe, giving it a good heft. "I'd thought you'd have more of a rest before I bloodied you again," she murmurs in Yiddish. Kneeling, she voices a quick prayer for strength and valour in the pursuit of G-d's will.

[size=85]Bereleyn enacts Aura of Divine Presence, which is just a Divine power version of Aura of Ennobled Presence. :slight_smile:[/size]

The warrior rises and emerges from the hold. "Shall we give pursuit while they're disorganised and ill-prepared?" she asks Johan. "I have heard tales of your martial prowess, and would be honoured to fight beside you." She gives the poleaxe a twirl-- not flashy or gaudy, but enough to demonstrate that despite her gender, she wields the vicious-looking weapon with exceptional skill. The shaggy tri-color hound that accompanies her lies down in the sand, raised hackles the only sign that he is prepared for battle.

Johan looks at Berelyn and says in a good latin: Those must have a ship. Ours is destroyed but we are still able to take their ship over.

He sheathes his bow. What bothers me is the potentiel presence of a magus who may have caused this sudden storm and the weird bird's attack. He looks at the ennemy ship, letting the enemy flee in it direction. I won't breach the Code knowing that, so I'd suggest: could you try to negotiate with their captain? Neither of us would gain something at continuing this fight, as it's possible we fight in the same category