One Last Voyage
This is the story of the merchant ship 'Katya' and her owner's last voyage to Faydwer.
Supplies were running low everywhere. There were lines at the dock of noblemen and their stewards, tavern owners, hostesses, merchants and servants, all ready to pounce on whatever was coming off each ship. Merced nodded his head and rubbed his hands gleefully. The prices were shooting upwards as well and with one more crossing, he would be able to retire comfortably at last.
Merced had not always been a ship owner. His family had gone underground at the end of the Wars, emerging only when the chaos had subsided. His father had obtained a small ship at a modest price and so began their shipping enterprise. They mostly ferried passengers between Butcherblock and Freeport, but if the price was right, sometimes took trips through the Timorous Deep.
Now he was captain of the 'Katya' and of an age and mind to retire. Merced supervised the loading of the ship's hold himself. There had to be room for the contraband shipment of ale, after all, and it behooved him to know exactly where it would be stowed. A small tremor shook the port while they were still loading, loosening the plank leading to the pier and several precious boxes tumbled into the water.
"It's been that way this week," grumbled Virgil, the first mate. "I'll send someone to get them boxes." Merced nodded and said, "The sooner we sail the better. I don't like how the land's been groaning and moaning lately." As soon as the last box was packed aboard and the final bribes had passed hands, the 'Katya' was underway.
The winds picked up as they left the harbor. Merced retreated to the small office and spent time on his favorite task -- determining how much he would have at the end of the journey and what he could buy with his gains. Some days, it was a fleet of ships to sail while he stayed ashore, other days it was a villa with servants galore and his pick of the eligible daughters of Freeport. He was thinking about one particularly eligible lady when the waves came.
Being used to shipboard life, Merced knew that the swells were felt more deeply on the open sea, but these waves seemed unnatural. The ship rolled to the side then rolled back like a bell tolling. Merced could barely keep to his feet as he staggered across the small room to its door. When he opened it, he was surprised to see the sky still pale blue. The 'Katya' tossed about so fiercely, he was certain they'd run into a storm.
"No storm, sir," said Virgil grimly, gripping the wheel with both hands, assisted by the ship's boy to keep it turned. "Prexus ate something wrong, it seems; his belly's all a'churning." Merced looked across the water and all he could see were massive swells, one after the other. Then the 'Katya' moved into a trough and the waves towered above their heads, tipped with white foam.
"Damn it," cried Merced, pulling himself along a rail to reach the wheel himself. "Whatever's disagreeing with Prexus, I won't have the 'Katya' added to it. Take down the sail! This wind'll flip her over!" The crew scrambled to react to Merced's orders. The thrashing of the waves made movement difficult, even for these seasoned sailors. The 'Katya' was positioned, as best they could, so that she could slip sideways in the water without getting caught.
The 'Katya' was knocked over by a large wave, but she slowly righted. The crew remained below, listening to the groaning of the ship as the waves pushed the wooden ship from side to side. "We've ridden out storms before," Merced shouted to hearten them. And so they had, but nothing like these mysterious, enormous waves that came from nowhere.
Though the waves were fierce, the 'Katya' held together for a long time. Swept along with its torn sails aloft, a second ship rose over the waves, apparently without its crew. The seas drove it directly into the 'Katya,' punching a hole in her hull. The skies were still clear and blue as Merced fortified himself with the contraband ale before the 'Katya' broke completely apart.