CHAPTER 2: There Be Pirrrates!
Craig sat on the bench anxiously awaiting the arrival of the locomotive. The bells of the nearby city centre tolled, and Craig counted silently; six. Standing up he moved toward the edge of the platform, expecting the train to arrive exactly on the hour. Pacing back and forth, several minutes passed with still no sign of the train. “It’s late… of course it’s bloody late.” thought Craig frowning in annoyance. Eventually the sound of a horn sounded in the distance, and the train pulled into the station. There came a loud hiss and the doors in the side of the carriage slowly opened. Climbing inside with the handful of other passengers, Craig found a seat by himself and sat down, satchel sitting beside him as he gazed out the window, nerves at his impending departure eating away at him. After a few minutes, the sound of steam whistling sounded and the carriage began to rumble as the train slowly left the station, picking up speed as it headed towards the city limits and sped Craig out into the world.
Craig removed his spell book and placed it upon the table before him, and began reading. After a few seconds, he glanced out the window at the fields outside the city rushing rapidly passed. Several times he looked back at his book, but his mind kept wandering to the unknown future, and his eyes kept wandering from the page to the scenes flooding by. With a sigh, Craig closed his book and resumed staring aimlessly out the window until Lyttletown swam into view. Startled from his reverie, Craig could not believe the hour long journey had passed already. Butterflies in his stomach, he returned his book to his satchel and stood as the train pulled into the station. Taking a deep breath as the doors hissed open, Craig stepped out onto the platform. Looking around, Craig began heading towards the port where he could find a ride on a ship to Oakland far to the north. Slowly making his way down towards the waterfront, Craig’s attention was suddenly drawn by a large crowd forming in the town square. Curious, Craig wandered over to see why everyone was gathering together. As he approached, he noticed a stage before the crowd, an older gentleman standing atop it.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please, calm down! I know what an inconvenience it is, but there is nothing that can be done at this stage. It’s too dangerous. Please understand. I have requested assistance from Cantabria, once they respond we can resume our transport ships. Until then I ask you to please be patient and take up a room at an inn. Please accept my apologies.” with a small, nervous bow, the man disappeared from sight. As the crowd began to slowly disperse, grumbling, Craig nervously approached one of the people wandering off.
“Um… excuse me? Hi. What’s going on? Did I hear something about the ships being unable to leave?”
“Yeah, the mayor just said that due to a recent string of pirate attacks, he’s preventing all ships from leaving port. It’s a port town! Now I’m stuck in this stupid town until somebody puts a stop to this. Excuse me, now I have to find somewhere to stay.” grumbled the man, wandering off leaving a disappointed Craig standing alone, shoulders slumped.
“What am I supposed to do now?” sighed Craig, exasperated. “I knew this was a bad idea…”
Walking aimlessly amid the small stone buildings of Lyttletown, Craig contemplated his options. He could turn back and return to Cantabria, but that would involve giving up at the first hurdle, and Emma would never let him live it down. He could stay here until the pirate situation was dealt with, but that could be days and the adrenalin of leaving home was pumping through his veins, filling him with a fiery energy that took over. His budget would last him for a while, but not forever. Did a port town even have use for a mage?
Craig wandered across the centre towards the town hall situated on the far side. Losing his nerve, he continued right past and turned the corner walking along the side. As he approached the back of the building, he heard the sound of raised voices coming from a window that was slightly ajar. Nervous, but curiosity getting the better of him, he slowly approached and peered inside.
“You heard what the survivor said; there’s only around two dozen of them. If we mobilize our city guards we can take care of this pirate infestation once and for all!” demanded a tall muscular man with cropped black hair and a goatee.
“I understand. Believe me, I do. We only have so many guards stationed here though; I can not justify sending the majority of our men on a wild goose chase. Perhaps the pirate’s are indeed situated in the cove up the coast as we suspected, but to launch an assault on that would be dangerous. I will not risk the lives of our townsmen on such a risk. I have requested reinforcements from Cantabria, once they arrive we will take care of the pirates.” Sighed the balding older man seated at the desk. Craig moved slightly, and caught a glimpse of the side of the face. It was the same man who’d addressed the citizens from the podium; the mayor.
“You know what the bureaucracy is like. It’ll take days, if not weeks to organise anything on their end. By the time the soldiers reach us… we can’t keep the port closed that long. It’s our key shipping route for southern Zealandia.”
“Which is exactly why it will hurry Cantabria into action. Your guardsmen are skilled, but they are no true soldiers. These pirates have proven themselves fearsome. I will not allow you to sail your men into danger. I am sorry.” Sighed the mayor.
“What if I handpick a dozen of my finest guardsmen, and lead a surprise attack upon the cove from the land. If we catch them unawares, we can defeat them while they’re in disarray and end the threat by the week’s end.”
“Outnumbered two to one? I don’t like those odds. I’m sorry but-“
“What if we take Ole Joe along with us? He’s a mage, and a veteran. With his help we could easily claim a victory.”
“If he would agree to it… then perhaps I could allow the risk. He has grown old and infirm though. I’m not sure he is able to help. If you bring him here, I will at least discuss options with him. Is this satisfactory Captain?”
“Yes sir. I shall return within the hour.”
Craig moved away from the window and returned to the town centre to see the Guard Captain disappear off along a side street. Finding an empty fence nearby, he leaned back against it and watched the people wandering about town, waiting for the Captain to return with this veteran mage, “Ole Joe”.
Craig was rapidly growing bored, when he noticed the captain return nearly an hour later. The man headed into the town hall, an old man in robes hobbling close behind. Curious upon seeing his first fellow mage outside of Cantabria, Craig leapt from the fence and made his way back towards the mayor’s office window. Peering cautiously inside, Craig saw the Captain standing in position once again, the old mage seated across from the mayor.
“I trust the Captain has informed you of his plan, Master Joseph?” the mayor asked.
“He has indeed. I would love to assist you in this matter, but alas I am not the spritely young adventurer I once was. My vision is all but gone, my bones ache constantly and I fear I have forgotten much of the magic I once knew. I fear I would be more of a hindrance than help.” Sighed the old wizard, shaking his head with regret.
“Then that’s the end of the matter. Without magical support, I can not support a strike force assault on the pirate’s cove.”
“Perhaps Cantabria could send a mage to assist you… though it would likely be no quicker than requesting soldiers from the city.” Joseph sighed.
“You’re not wrong there…” Craig muttered to himself.
“You! What’re you doing there?” Came a voice from behind Craig, causing him to spin in surprise. Heart hammering its way up into his throat, Craig’s mouth opened and closed a few times.
“I… uh… I was just enjoying the morning air, sir.” Craig stuttered, noticing the guard uniform.
“What’s all the commotion out here?” came the deep voice of the Guard Captain as he appeared in the window through which Craig had been eavesdropping.
“Sir!” saluted this guard. “I caught this lad loitering around the window, I was just about to move him along.”
With a nod, the Captain began closing the window.
“I can help you with the pirates.” Came a voice which it took Craig a few seconds to recognize as his own.
“What did you say boy?” asked the Captain with a frown.
“I… I couldn’t help but hear your conversation as I was wandering past. Sir. I’m a mage on my way to Oakland… perhaps I can help with the pirate situation, so that the ships to the capital can resume.” Craig stood there nervously, not sure what on earth he was thinking volunteering to be part of a strike force.
“You’re a mage you say…” the Captain mused, looking Craig up and down.
“Tsukue Ni Nare!” grinned Craig as the small blue gem in wooden ring on his right hand shimmered, and the ring uncurled from his finger forming a long wooden staff with the blue crystal embedded in the top.
“It never gets old.” Chuckled Joseph, appearing behind the Captain. “Bring the boy in, and let’s see what he can do.”
Craig stood nervously before the mayor’s desk, both Joseph and the Captain standing behind the mayor observing.
“Well lad… what battle magic have you got at your disposal? In my day we had an entire compulsory course dedicated to it at the academy, I hear it’s a lot less of a focus these days. More’s the pity.”
“I don’t know a huge amount of battle magic, truth be told…” Craig felt his cheeks redden slightly embarrassed. “I can throw the odd fireball or lightning bolt though, and I was told I have an impeccable shield spell!”
“What about spells of concealment? Support?” asked Joseph, aged eyes staring at Craig intently.
“I can throw a decent sleep spell… I don’t know any concealment spells. I’ve only recently graduated from the academy, and I’ve never actually left Cantabria before…”
“Well… it is a risk. However, even a journeyman mage can turn the tide of a battle with a few well placed spells. When would this assault take place Captain Thomas?” Joseph asked the Captain.
“We’d be leaving before dawn tomorrow. If the mayor will permit it..?” Thomas said glancing at the mayor, who nodded gravely in ascent.
“Very well. That gives us the rest of the day to prepare lad; you’ll come with me and we’ll see if we can’t teach you a trick or two.”
“Yes Master Joseph.” Craig said with a little bow, lump forming in his throat.
“I’ll bring him back before dawn.”
Craig knelt behind the rocky outcrop alongside Captain Thomas and his men while one of the soldiers sent ahead to scout out the defences returned.
“There’s two pirates up on the ledges keeping lookout; they both appear half asleep, possibly drunk. Once the fog clears up a little more, we won’t be able to get close enough without them seeing us and raising the alarm.” Whispered the scout.
“Leave that to me. Master Joseph taught me a spell to help us there.” Whispered Craig. “I’ll summon more mist to cover our approach, you just need to take them out quickly.”
“You heard him boys; get ready to move out.” Nodded Thomas.
The soldiers formed into two ranks, with Craig and the Captain at the lead. Quietly, they began making their way around towards the pirate’s cavern. Once they reached the end of the rocky outcrop, the Captain signalled the men to stop. He nodded to Craig, who swallowed nervously, but nodded in return, staff tight in his grasp. Closing his eyes, he twirled his staff in his hands and whispered. “Kirigakure Oide”. The mist surrounding the group slowly thickened until the pirates and soldiers could no longer see more than a hand’s breadth in front of them. Craig, who was able to see through the mist owing to it being his own spell, lead soldiers quickly and quietly towards the ledges. Once they were in position, Craig tapped two of them men on the shoulders, and they carefully scaled up the small ledge. A gentle whistle and two thuds later, it was over. Craig released the spell, and the mist lightened until it was almost completely cleared. With a smile, the Captain saluted Craig and gestured for the other soldiers to scale the ledges and join their companions outside the cavern.
Craig quietly followed the soldiers along the cavern corridor, staying at the back so as to avoid the fighting that was about to take place. After a minute, they reach a small side cavern. Captain Thomas peered surreptitiously around the corner, before signalling something to his men. Craig missed most of it, but was sure he recognized the number twelve. With a nod, the captain and the men disappeared one by one into the cavern. Craig very slowly and quietly followed after. Roughly a dozen pirates lay sleeping on makeshift mattresses on the cavern floor; the guards began stabbing them indiscriminately, slaying them before they could even wake. The gurgled cries soon woke the few survivors up, and disorientated two more of them fell before they even realised what was happening. The few survivors grabbed their weapons from the floor, and one turned throwing a rock at an old bell in the corner. There was a loud DONG, drowning out the sound of Thomas swearing; the alarm had been raised, the remaining pirates would soon be upon them.
Thomas and his charged the few survivors, backed into a corners and began cutting them down as shouts began to echo down the corridor outside. Craig retreated fully into the cavern, backing himself into the opposite corner to the two surviving pirates as another half a dozen appeared into the chamber, charging forth with their weapons drawn. Craig tried to melt into the wall as the pirates and guards began to fight, swords flashing, steel clashing against steel, men grunting in pain and falling. Within minutes, it was over. The pirates were dead, and the guards all standing… albeit it several nasty looking cuts spread amongst them.
“This can’t be all of them… their captain must be around here somewhere. After me. Injured to the rear.” Ordered Thomas, heading back into the corridor.
Craig raced along behind the captain and his men as they entered a large chamber, massive braziers lighting the cavern. Standing directly across from the entrance in front of what could only be described as a large beachwood throne stood a man; every bit the stereotypical pirate. His bare tan chest glistening with sweat, his jet black hair pulled back into a topknot, his left eye missing, closed by a jagged scar. With a sneer the man waved forth the handful of pirates in the cavern to create a wall between and the approaching guards.
“By order of the Lyttletown Guard: lay down your weapons and surrender.”
“You have no power here; I’m the captain of these waters!” laughed the lead pirate, drawing his scimitar and pointing it towards the guards. “Take no prisoners.”
Craig stood half frozen in fear as the pirates and the guards surged forward to meet each other in a clash of steel and incoherent yells of rage. Craig watched in awe as the Captain Thomas cut down one pirate with a single well aimed slash to the neck, before charging through the others to attack the lead pirate head on, the two captains soon duelling in a blur of steel and sparks as their swords clashed. An enraged yell and movement in the corner of his eye drew Craig’s attention; one of the pirates had downed the guard he was fighting and began charging towards him at the cavern mouth. Eyes wide with panic, the pirate was almost upon him by the time he pulled himself together. Focusing his energy through his staff, Craig thrust it forward crying: “Mahoutsukai no Osu!” The air rippled as the shockwave flew from the staff and slammed into the pirate with enough force to break his charge and send him stumbling back several paces. Knowing he couldn’t stop there, Craig took a deep breath and silently prayed to the gods for forgiveness before aiming at the pirate as he recovered, and casting:
“Hi no Dama!” There came a whoosh as a ball of fire congealed around the tip of the staff and hurtled forth, slamming into the pirate with a small explosion. Agonized screams rent the air as the man staggered, flames clinging to him, burning him. Charging forth with an agonized howl, the man swung his blade in a desperate attempt to his Craig, who caught off guard stumbled backwards, narrowly avoiding the blade. Swinging his staff, Craig caught the pirate with a lucky blow to the temple, knocking the pirate to the ground in a smouldering heap. Looking up and surveying the battle raging on, Craig noticed that the guards were taking the advantage and pressing the pirates back, albeit slowly. Seeing Thomas suddenly fall to the ground after being slammed by the pirate captain made Craig’s jaw drop. The pirate captain advanced and raised his sword to stab the fallen Guard Captain. Instinct kicking in, Craig level his staff and shouted once more:
“Mahoutskai no Osu!” releasing another shockwave hurtling through the cavern, slamming into the Pirate Captain at the last second, sending him staggering, knocking his stab off target. Dragging himself to his feet, the Thomas advanced on his adversary and the two began to duel again in earnest. Craig began running around the edge of the cavern, avoiding the duelling pairs of guards and pirates scattered about. Finally stopping, Craig took aim with his staff and began gathering the required mana in his staff as he waited for an opening. Brow furrowed in concentration he held the spell for nearly a minute until the pirate captain was sent staggering back from a shield bash from Captain Thomas who was now panting heavily, the fight taking its toll on him. With a clear shot now lined up, Craig unleashed the spell in a large brilliant bolt of lightning as he shouted the incantation:
“Kaminari no Kougeki!” The bolt struck the Pirate Captain square in the side, sending him slamming into his beachwood throne, knocking it over, smoke trailing from the small crater it had left where his ribs were. Seeing this, the guards rallied and the pirates faltered; within moments the battle was over. All the pirates were scattered about the cavern, slain. In amongst them were three guards who had fallen during the battle. Craig dropped to his knees, barely able to stand now that the rush of adrenalin that had driven him in battle was fading fast. Captain Thomas approached Craig, offering him a hand, pulling Craig back to his feet.
“You did well kid. I owe you my life.” He grasped Craig’s shoulder gratefully, and turned back to his men. “Gather our fallen, and their loot and we’ll make our way back to town.”
Craig sat nervously outside the Mayor’s office, while Thomas gave his report. After several long, quiet minutes, the door opened and Thomas waved Craig in. Entering, he moved to stand before the Mayor’s desk, the captain and Joseph standing behind the Mayor.
“I understand our town owes you a great deal of thanks. While we mourn the loss of the three guards who have fallen, thanks to your efforts that number is much smaller than it otherwise would have been. You will always be welcome in Lyttletown.”
“Thank you, sir. I just did what I had to.” Craig mumbled, suddenly feeling rather awkward.
“Nonetheless, we owe you. Here, take this as payment for your services. The life of a journeyman wizard is not easy… or so I’m told.” The mayor said with a small smile, handing Craig a handful of coins.
“Thank you. I will put this to good use.”
“You are free to enjoy the rest of your afternoon exploring the town, your room for at the inn has already been paid for, and your ticket north to Oakland tomorrow has been arranged. It’s been a pleasure.” The Mayor offered his hand which Craig promptly shook, followed by both Captain Thomas and Master Joseph who were eager to offer their thanks as well. Politely excusing himself, Craig wandered back to the inn, so exhausted from the day that his he was asleep by the time his head hit the pillow, and when he woke with the sun the following morning, he had absolutely no recollection of the dreams he’d had. Filled with curiosity as to what Oakland, and indeed the future itself held for him, Craig gathered himself, and made his way to the waterfront.
Chapter 3: Of Shadows & Alleys: http://craigsimagination.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/the-mini-yet-fantastical-adventures-of-craig-co-chapter-3/