The Far Side of Tears, Part Three
In Part Three of this series, the L.M.S. Assault, a warship of Freeport during the Age of War, finally learns the identity of the mysterious twin ship that has been pursuing it.
The ruse was risky, but we all agreed that we could not sail indefinitely if Freeport were blockaded. While the Assault was the finest ship on the seas, it did not have the capacity to provision the crew without re-supplying. The captain ordered us to let the wind out of our sails and allow the twin ship to close upon us. Once the other ship was within range, we would hoist our sails and position ourselves to take the wind from our pursuer's sails.
The ultimate goal, of course, would be to come alongside the twin ship and board her. The Assault had never been taken in battle. Our crew was in fine condition for a little hand-to-hand action. This was another reason the captain wanted the other ship to catch us. If we were unable to re-supply within a reasonable period, the crew might be worse off. By taking charge of the time and place our ships would meet, the captain was putting us in the least amount of danger as he could.
In the dark of the night, lit only by the stars, the Tears takes on a menacing, deceptive calm. The captain ordered us to maintain silence, enabling us to hear the sounds carrying across the water. We could see lights aboard the vessels patrolling Freeport's harbor, though we were much too distant to hear any voices. Waiting is always the worst part of any task. Instead of forgetting oneself in the doing, all that we could do was think about it.
We waited until we saw the shadow of the twin ship against the lights in the harbor. She had slowed her progress but was still moving quickly through the inky water and still following our course. Once she reached a good distance, the captain gave a signal and the crew hoisted the sails. We used our black sails this time, to prevent them from reflecting the starlight and giving away our position too soon.
The other ship glided closer and closer. Now its white sails were clearly visible to us, no longer just a shadow on the sea. We were turned toward her and on course to slip along her side for boarding. Thanks to the skill of the captain and our crew, we were nearly close enough to see the expressions of surprise on the faces of the other ship's crew before they changed their course slightly to avoid us. Now they were the pursued.
They did not flee toward the ships in Freeport's harbor, merely turning aside to make boarding more difficult. We had determination on our side, however, and we corrected and matched the other ship's moves. Closer, closer we drew to each other. "Look at its name," whispered the young lad with seasickness, pausing in his heaving. Her name was the Devastator.
As we drew closer, the Devastator's resemblance to the Assault was increasingly apparent. The shipwright who had build the Assault for its former cloth merchant owner had evidently built a duplicate ship for some other purpose. Whether that purpose was as a warship or whether the Devastator had been converted from a merchant vessel, we did not know. Years of familiarity with the design allowed us to know that in the close quarters fighting to come, we would know our way around their ship quite well.
We threw our grappling hooks and secured them as soon as we were within range. Naturally, they were throwing their hooks toward us as well. Since our seasick lad was already looking downward, he now divided his time between heaving and using his knife to cut their lines. The ships pulled together and at the first bump, dozens of our seasoned crew climbed onto the Devastator.
The orcs manning the Devastator were fierce but not plentiful so our advantage lay in sheer numbers. They did not have the forces to both attempt boarding the Assault and to fight off our crew members who had already crossed to their ship. My role was in defense of the Assault, and from my vantage point I saw our captain fight his way to theirs and engage him.
Our captain is a master at hand-to-hand techniques and he subdued the Devastator's captain in short order. Within minutes, it was over and we hurled the bodies of the orcs into the sea. Now we had two sturdy ships to crew and as the sun rose over the Tears, we still had no idea where we could safely dock. Perhaps in this new day, we would know.