The Far Side of Tears, Part One
Part One of this series, we meet a young sailor aboard the L.M.S. Assault, a warship of Freeport during the Age of War.
Freeport has always been a center of commerce and learning for Antonica. There are regularly available transports, the power of the Freeport Navy to keep the seas surrounding us clear and all the amenities of a large city. The Commonlands are to the west, providing overland access to the interior, while to the Desert of Ro stretches southward. The FreeportHarbor leads to the Ocean of Tears. We sailors will often simply call it "Tears."
The Freeport Militia does not have a massive sea-going navy. We have no need to travel vast distances; our situation brings goods and services to us. Still, with the uncertainty in the world, with orcs and ogres amassing large armies inland, Freeport's navy needed a quick increase in size. To that end, the Admiral authorized the forcible conscription of the city's youth. While I was at first an unwilling participant, I am now rather proud of my work with the navy.
An active navy has been crucial to Freeport, with many of our normal land routes blocked by the Rallosian Army. When one trade route after another was closed, our ability to take charge on the seas has been vital to preventing a siege. Our ships, often conscripted merchant vessels, have a variety of attributes. The L.M.S. Assault, upon which I serve, has been fitted as a warship, but previously served as a cloth merchant's transport.
One reason the Assault is proving to be an excellent warship is its size. It is narrow in its hull, giving it speed, and it features three masts. After all, it belonged to a cloth merchant who was well-equipped to supply it with sails. The mass of sails adds to the ship's speed as it cuts through the water. We kept on most of the cloth merchant's crew, who understand how to raise and lower the complex multitude of sails.
Below deck, the ship is as cramped as any other vessel. Hammocks for the sailors are slung between every available post. Those who sleep closest to the galley sleep on hammocks hung between casks of wine, sacks of grain and cured meats. Our task is not to be at sea for months on end, but to patrol the Tears. It is a vast sea and we are often away from shore for many days.
Of late ships are reporting that an increase in activity at the farthest end of the Tears, where its waters flow into the Timorous Deep. Our mission is to investigate and report back to the Overlord what we observe. If we happen to encounter any orcish ships, we will send them to Prexus' Hold and intensely question any survivors. Were I an orc, I would flee upon seeing the Assault approach.
Twice in the past few days we have seen another ship on the horizon that looks remarkably like the Assault. Three masts are not particularly common as they are unwieldy. The cloth merchant from whom we procured the Assault (which was originally called "Bixie Girl" before its commissioning into the service) insisted it is the only ship of its make. The captain is curious and has been attempting to catch up to the mysterious vessel.
In years past we would dock near Kaladim, the dwarven city on Faydwer, take on new supplies, then return to Freeport. This time, however, its approach was heavily patrolled by orcish ships. We had never seen this many before and warily kept our distance. The captain growled furiously at us to turn about and keep our weapons at the ready. We sensed his frustration and anger, all the more so when we saw it: the ship that looked like the Assault.
"There she is," breathed the captain, his eyes taking in the other vessel greedily. We could see her three masts clearly amongst the other ships. "I wonder what her name is," he continued, squinting to cut the glare. There was only one way to find out, but the captain would never send the Assault into an apparent assembly of the orc navy. "At least we know she exists," he said, ordering us to trim our sails and head back to Freeport.
Suddenly the boatswain yelled a curse, pointing back toward Kaladim. The twin of our ship was hoisting her sails and moving away from the harbor. "I've never seen that emblem before," said one of the young conscripts staring at the other ship in awe. "Get used to it," replied the captain sourly, "By the looks of things, the Deathfist Empire is taking to the sea."