Liseu, TQC, AL 1344, Sometime in Autumn
“Are you serious?” I rolled to the side, barely dodging a throwing dagger aimed at my head.
“Sorry Seyari, but the money was just too good.” Thyrin gave a fake smile and a shrug. The wiry Lupael’s missing ear looked jagged in the flickering light of the large room’s only oil lamp.
I glanced around. Figures moved in the shadows all around the upper level of the dockside warehouse.
“Bastard,” I muttered. I tossed a blade of wind at Thyrin’s stupid smiling face, but my shot went wide as I was forced to twist away from another dagger.
“Guilty as,” Thyrin turned away, gingerly holding the idol we’d stolen.
I needed to get out of here. I shouldered a shelf, ducking under the falling structure. Hoping for as much cover as I could get, I weaved through the collapsing cargo. The stupid idol wasn’t worth all this.
Fucking Thyrin. Backstabber.
Plates, vases, and pottery supplies crashed around me. The shelf I tipped knocked into another, tipping it over as well. I darted for the back door, around and past my now-former partner. Maybe I’d get one more shot at the double-crossing, good-for-nothing sack of seagull shit.
The chaos gave me cover and I heard shouts erupt from the ambushers. Didn’t think I’d trash my employer’s warehouse, did you? A ball of fire exploded near me and singed my hair. Of course, someone else’s goons wouldn’t care about this place either, would they.
“Now, about my payment?” a snide, deep voice cut through the chaos.
I glanced toward the voice’s source. Between a tipping box of fancy glass cups and a falling statuette of a naked woman I caught a glimpse of Thyrin handing the idol to a familiar fat human man. Inzio. I turned and ran faster, crashing into another set of shelves.
Shit. If he’s here, that idol must really be something big. I need to get out of here and lay low.
If I can even live that long. Around me, the other shelves on this half of the warehouse were all collapsing into each other like dominoes. I could hear racing footsteps and shouted curses. A knife pinged off something nearby. A spell exploded around on some expensive junk, showering me with ceramic fragments.
“Wonderful! Of course,” Inzio said with disgustingly saccharine fake friendliness. His voice didn’t seem to care for the chaos around him. Maybe I was just focused on the bastard.
There was an odd moment of silence. I listened into it.
“Wha—” Thyrin’s reply cut off into a gurgle. Crashing sound blocked me from hearing anything else.
Another glimpse between cargo and I saw a partial glimpse of the lupael, falling with a knife sticking out of his throat. What the ever-loving fuck did Thyrin think was going to happen if he went to fucking Inzio? Bastard was one of the meanest crime bosses in a city stuffed full of them. And we’d been stealing out from under him going on a year now.
Liseu. What a fucking awful city. Sure, the Church didn’t look here, but I sometimes wondered if freedom here was any better than hiding elsewhere. Maybe I could try Navanaea?
I rolled under the last falling shelf. I’d almost reached the door when a dagger sunk to the hilt into my right shoulder. I bit my tongue and clenched my teeth to avoid screaming. I knew the door would be locked, so I pulled hard on my crippled magic and drove a wind blade straight through the lock. Behind me, chaos in the warehouse was dying down. I only had a few moments.
One kick with a boot later, and I was free into the night. Inzio’s men would be on high alert though. This place was watched, and I’d be lucky to survive long enough to even go into hiding. My crapass flat was a total loss, including the year’s-worth of money I’d saved up doing jobs with Thyrin.
Fuck. Never trust another murderer.
“Well, what do we have here?” I spun at the sound of the voice and launched a weak wind blade at the speaker.
The well-dressed man dodged my attack with ease. I got a look at him and went pale. Tall, lean, with slightly pointed ears and a razor smile full of filed teeth. Sharp. Inzio’s top hitman, and someone I had really, really hoped never to meet.
“You have the idol,” I tried to keep the fear out of my voice. I reached up and felt the handle of the blade stuck in my shoulder.
Sharp didn’t speak. He just smiled wider and took a step toward me.
I took a step back. The water of the harbor was behind me. The smell wasn’t too bad, so it had to be high tide. Maybe I’d be fast enough to jump? What was Sharp capable of?
Sharp’s smiling face exploded into a bloody shower of brain and bone fragments.
I reacted before I realized he was dead, jerking the blade out of my shoulder and throwing it home. The tip scored the stump of his neck and the knife tumbled off into the night.
What the fuck just happened?
I felt a hand around my neck. I looked down and saw nothing, then was jerked up into the air. I took a deep breath before the force magic holding me clamped down over my airway.
“Elnie. Drop her.” I heard a deep voice boom across the yard.
The force hesitated then dropped me onto my knees. I exhaled then inhaled deeply, looking for the source of the magic. Around the corner of the warehouse walked a lithe elven woman with the nastiest scowl I’d seen in a week. And in my line of work, that meant something.
Behind her, holding what can only be described as a hand-held cannon, was an absolutely immense human man. Black hair cascaded down his shoulders and over a ridiculous outfit of bright clashing colors.
“Captain?” The elven woman turned to the man. Her accent was lilting and unfamiliar.
“She’s not working for Inzio, bitch.” A voice with a typical Turquoiser accent spoke from the shadows near me. I hadn’t even noticed him.
“Watch your tone, cat.” The elven woman, Elnie probably, spat.
“Hiss.” The Kazzel who materialized out of the shadows spoke the word and made a pawing motion with one of his hands.
“You.” The tall man boomed at me.
“Yeah?” I spoke as calmly as I could.
The man stepped over Sharp’s corpse. “You with Inzio?”
“Fuck no,” I spat.
“You steal from him?” The man eyed me seriously.
I thought about my response. Elnie sneered at me, and the Kazzel frowned.
“Fuck yes,” I replied with the hardest edge I could muster.
“Welcome aboard.” The man walked over and clapped me on the back on the side opposite my wound. I stumbled.
The elven woman gaped. “Captain, you can’t—"
“I just did.” The mountain of a man looked down at me with a smile. “Name’s Torrez. The elf’s Elnie, and the Kazzel’s Aarsh.”
“I’m Seyari,” I replied as calmly as I could. I thought about asking why he wanted me to join and if I had a say in it. The hard edge behind his friendly gaze made me hold my tongue. It was a safe bet my home was already gone, and I wanted out of this fucking city anyway.
So instead of asking a question, I stuck out my hand and gave him my name.
Torrez, or Captain Torrez for me now, shook it.
“Captain,” Aarsh spoke up. “Shouldn’t we stop Inzio from escaping?”
“I’m sure the others out front can manage,” Torrez replied with a smile. “ ’Sides.” He took a small paper ball with a fuse out of his pocket, lit it and threw it up into the sky. “That buildin’s hazardous right about now.”
I followed the small ball up into the sky, where it detonated with a sharp bang into a cloud of orange sparks. A series of booms rocked the night. I saw smoke from the large ship moored across from the warehouse.
Then, I looked back at the warehouse, now sporting holes through several support beams. Shouts came from inside. The building groaned ominously. As it collapsed, figures spilled outside and the fight started in earnest.
What followed was a one-sided battle between Torrez’s crew and the rest of Inzio’s goons. Inzio himself was no pushover, but Torrez’s crew made short work of the surprised crime boss. I got to see Elnie’s impressive force magic at work when she pulled the idol from his hands, and Aarsh’s agility when he put two knives in the large man’s throat.
I was nearing mana exhaustion for my crippled magic, and I was hurt and tired, so I stayed out of the fight. The crew didn’t seem to mind.
Did I really want to join them?
I looked out over the city of Liseu, sprawled under the starry night sky. It looked like a diseased scab. I thought back to the smell I could never get out of my flat and the horrid jobs I’d let myself do these past years. The only good thing this place gave me was my new name.
Yeah, fuck Liseu. I’ll take my chances with the crazy pirates.
They had to pirates, right?
At the end of it all, I followed Captain Torrez onto the huge ship and tried to keep my head held high. The prow sported an immense figure of a human woman who seemed to be flying forward on a cloud. The large man carried the idol with reverence.
I’d taken the job to steal the idol because of the symbol it bore. The demonic symbol matched one I’d seen during my life as Yothariel with the Inquisition. When I’d seen the sketch, I knew I had to know more. Etanza’s symbol had been a warped version of it. The captain didn’t seem to care about the vortex-like symbol adorning the solid gold idol’s back. I wasn’t sure if he wanted the ancient piece just for the gold, but I assumed as much.
When we reached the deck, Torrez turned to me. “Welcome to the Lady of Liseu, Seyari. Your new home.”
Aarsh nodded as he walked past us, but Elnie turned her chin up at me. I didn’t recognize any of the other crewmembers filing on.
“Why take me on?” I asked the Captain quickly. “You don’t know anything about me.”
“I’ve heard a bit through the grapevine.” Torrez smiled. “Mysterious master of many weapons, wind magic adept, and thief extraordinaire, with eyes of silver and hair of gold.”
I fingered one of my bleached blond braids. The dye in my eyes almost seemed to itch.
“Do people really talk about me?” I thought back to my now-former employer. A discrete and shrewd woman who took in the worst of the worst and gave them a purpose. Thievery and assassination, but a purpose. Still hated her.
Liseu was a city of bridges, but I’d burn all of my own tonight.
“If you know where ta listen.” Torrez winked.
“So, you want me for my skills?” I narrowed my eyes.
Torrez gave a booming laugh. “No, Seyari. I want you for your passion.”
To my disappointment, Torrez sold the idol to yet another Turquoiser ‘merchant’. Over the years I’d spent in the city, I’d learned to doubt the legitimacy of any trader who was even remotely successful.
The Lady of Liseu, Torrez’s ship, was a modified Turquoiser galleon. I hadn’t quite realized how immense it was until we’d changed docks.
Elnie and I roomed together. I don’t know if it was Torrez having twisted fun, or if he really thought we could get along. The elf woman acted like a spoiled princess, and resented me being in her space. The fact she was a competent mage gave me the only sliver of respect I held for her.
The Lady left Liseu shortly after Torrez sold the statue.
Several Years Later
“What’re their biggest threats?” I asked Captain Torrez.
“A couple of mages; fire and water. Besides that, just a big ship with a lot of cannons.” Torrez leaned back in his chair.
“They won’t land a shot,” Elnie proclaimed.
“We’re boarding, right?” Aarsh asked, spinning a dagger in his grip.
“I fuckin’ hope so. Can’t let ‘Yari and knife-ears have all the fun.” Nessa shot me a sideways smile.
I blew Nessa a kiss. Elnnie glared daggers at the tall lupael woman.
“We’ll shred their sails and board. Boardin’ crew’ll have ta be patient, though. Can’t risk a broadside. Cavenish ships are big and slow, but those people make good fucking cannons.”
“That why we use Cavenish cannons, boss?” Nessa asked.
“Sure is!” Torrez gave a booming chuckle. “Gotta thank the Cavenish navy for their kind donation sometime.”
“If you’re done playing nice with the new bitch, can we go over the rest of the plan, Captain?” Elnie asked, one of her perfectly-trimmed eyebrows twitching visibly.
Nessa flipped the elf off. I scooched closer to the lupael and gave her a quick peck on the cheek.
“You two can fuck later.” Aarsh rolled his eyes.
“You’re just mad Yari got to me first.” Nessa stuck her tongue out at Aarsh.
The kazzel hissed.
Torrez clapped loudly. “Alright, stow it! Save the barbs for stickin’ the bastards on that ship.” We all turned sharply and nodded, so Torrez continued. “We’re lookin’ for Navanaean spices, Alorian silks, and whatever fancy gold shit their bastard captain has, clear? Shit’s fragile, so don’t go blowing everything up. Spices get wet and they’re fucked. Silks get cut and they’re fucked. You got me?”
“Good. Now get out o’ here the lot of ya! We’re doin’ this right and we’re doin’ this quick.”
We retreated from the Captain’s office and took our positions. Nessa stumbled when something knocked into her from behind. A quick breeze gave some of the boys a good look up Elnie’s skirt. Such a shame she wore loose outfits on a ship.
I took my position near the prow, behind cover. Our cannon shot would put holes in their sails and damage the ship. My job was to put holes in the crew. Most of the time, we wrecked a sail or two, showed off a bit, and took what we could get. This time, we were out for blood. The captain of this ship had double-crossed the Lady five years ago, shortly before I’d joined on.
Now they’d get their due, paid back full in blood. With interest.
The Lady of Liseu moved silently in the night, rounding the cliff edge of the island and heading for the Cavenish galleon sailing lazily toward home. I was glad to get out of the bay into the ocean again. Didn’t have to deal with all those bugs out on the open water.
We were outside of normal shipping lanes, somewhere between Port Princely and the colony’s suzerain, Cavenze. A route like this was faster, but risked pirates. Unless, of course, they were paid off. But that didn’t matter if the business was personal. Especially if the pirates in question weren’t the ones paid off.
We kept low and between islets, but the other ship sighted us anyway. We knew they would. The Lady gave chase, her sleek Turquoiser design easily allowing her to catch up with the slow, overladen Cavenish behemoth.
Realizing they couldn’t run; the other ship began to turn. The Lady twisted and began to circle, just ahead of where the galleon could face. We were still well outside of cannon range, and Torrez had a plan.
The currents here were vicious things, twisting between the islands like immense water snakes chasing their own tails. Robbed of momentum, the big ship in front of us slowed to a stop and struggled to turn. The direction Torrez had picked to circle ran opposite to the current.
The Lady straightened and made a sprint for the other ship while it was drifting. The other captain reversed the turn to go with the current, but it was too late. The larger ship turned just in time to see the Lady’s own broadside.
Thunderous booms rang out as the first volley was exchanged. The Lady rocked back from the force of her own assault. I had already gripped the deck in preparation. Torrez’s obsession with big cannons meant our sleeker ship had at least as much firepower as the monster ahead of us.
Several of their shots bounced off Elnie’s force walls. She was damn good, but I knew that tactic would only work once before she exhausted herself. Sometimes, seeing their first volley do nothing was enough to make the other side surrender. This wouldn’t be one of those times.
Our cannons roared tore into the deck and sails of the opposing ship. Several of our cannons were loaded with shot that ripped through their sails. The other solid balls slammed into and through the sides of the enemy ship, opening up some useful holes. Useful for my sight lines, anyway.
I focused downward. I could see flashes of movement around the other ship’s cannons. Wind magic was powerful at sea for many reasons. The ability to be a silent, precise long-range killer was one of them. Few wind mages could produce enough force over a long distance to do that kind of thing. Crippled as I was, I was still one of those few.
My first volley of wind blades took more than half my strength, but time was of the essence. I couldn’t be sure, but flashes of motion told me I scored several hits. Hurriedly, hatches closed and cannons were withdrawn to hide and reload. No one living strayed near the holes our cannons had made.
The Lady of Liseu maneuvered closer, attempting to slide alongside the larger ship. The one disadvantage size gave us was that their deck was above ours. Bad for boarding, but we needed their shit.
Right as we got in range, a rogue wave slammed into the Lady, knocking us off-course and back toward broadside range. The Lady twisted around dangerously, our prow turning toward the enemy.
“Seyari!” Torrez boomed.
“Aye!” I yelled back. I poured most of my remaining magic into a gust on our sails. They twisted and whipped about, straining at their ropes. Aarsh and the others up in the rigging scrambled to shift them. I drained myself shy of the point of exhaustion, but I’d be flinging no more magic today.
Before we were fully righted, a ball of fire flew toward our mainmast. At the last moment, a concave shield of force blocked it and I felt the heat wash back just over the deck.
Shit. Elnie would be tapped out after something like that. Damnably efficient caster or not, something like that improvised on the fly had to cost her.
Thankfully, our trick worked and the Lady jerked back onto course. A little too hard, in fact.
“Brace!” Torrez yelled.
I grabbed the railing as tight as I could. We bounced off the larger ship, stern to stern. Not hard, but enough to rattle my bones. I heard a yell from our rigging and turned to look. One of the riggers fell, but managed to catch a lucky rope on the way down. The crossbow bolt from the other ship that caught him through the chest wasn’t so lucky.
Above us, the enemy crew lined up to fire. We had to move fast. Elnie had to be out of mana and we had no cover from this angle.
The next moments were a blur. Grappling hooks were thrown from our ship to theirs. One large one was fired from a contraption Torrez built himself and had mounted to the deck. That big metal bastard was half the size of an anchor and took a chunk of the top deck out before embedding itself deep in the other ship. Several crossbow users were sent flying, whole or in bits.
With a cry, our boarding crew charged up the ropes onto the larger ship. Several fell to crossbow bolts, but others blocked with small bucklers or danced out of the way. I followed them up, daring to use a bit more of my mana to bend the wind in my favor. Since I wasn’t totally mana exhausted, I got to join in for the boarding.
I scampered up the rope and flipped onto the deck, drawing my sword in a sweeping motion before putting it through the chest of the man in front of me who struggled to draw his own blade. Those closer to the ropes had gotten aboard first. The result was immediate chaos and an all-out brawl that stretched across the whole maindeck.
I had other targets. I looked toward the prow, and found them. The fire mage was slinging fireballs into the fight. The water mage next to him threw balls of water around my crew’s feet. I only barely didn’t slip myself as I dove for some cover by the stairs up to the foredeck.
I took the bow off my back with quick familiarity nocked an arrow. Few people carried old-fashioned bows on a ship. Difficult to learn, and difficult to use on a rocking platform. The galleon under me was steady compared to being in flight, and I was a master of my craft. I fired two arrows in rapid succession. The water mage dodged, but I hit the fire mage in the neck and he went down in a spray of blood.
Now, I had the other mage’s full attention. She turned to me, but before she could attack or I could dodge, the top half of her body disintegrated into red mist ahead of a thunderous boom. I turned and saw that Torrez had climbed aboard beside me. I hoped he remembered to lock the wheel. His hand cannon smoked menacingly before he set it down and drew his axe.
Some people would say a bigass axe is a terrible weapon for fighting in small spaces. Torrez would tell them to ignore the walls. Together, we turned and rejoined the melee on deck.
The fire mage had done some serious damage, and most of it to our side. Several of our crew were dead, and many others were injured. I ran over to Nessa who was being pushed back by several enemies. Her twin swords were red with blood and flashed under the starlight.
Aarsh was probably fine somewhere. One of the enemies screamed in the back. Aarsh was definitely fine.
Together with Torrez and bolstered by the deaths of the enemy mages, we scythed through the defending crew. Many surrendered. Those we tied up to deal with later. Our grudge was with the captain and their second, not the rank and file.
Torrez had the others go clear belowdecks. He, along with myself, Aarsh, and Elnie turned toward the captain’s chambers under the aft deck. The elf mage had somehow managed to climb aboard, but looked half a step away from mana exhaustion. Like me, she carried a proper bow.
The door we faced was heavy and ornate. Torrez put his axe through it. Three swings and he was in. Immediately, a loud bang echoed and Torrez rocked back. Blood oozed from his shoulder.
“You missed,” the captain laughed darkly.
Before the other captain could reload his small firearm, half a dozen of us swarmed the room, pointing weapons at them. The other captain was a well-dressed, slim individual. Human, and Cavenish if their features were any indication.
“Torrez! Friend! We can talk about this!” They pleaded.
“Start talkin’,” Torrez replied.
The other captain opened their mouth. Torrez put the axe in it, blade first. I watched the top half of their head sail across the room, shattering a pane on one of the windows on its way out.
“Good talk.” Torrez kicked the corpse, then turned to us. “Loot the ship, then burn it. We’re sending this disgrace to the bottom.”
I raised my eyebrows. Torrez had a merchant’s heart. This ship was worth a fortune, even in its current state. This really must have been personal, but I wasn’t on the crew when the slight happened. I looked to Elnie and Aarsh.
Both of them smiled wickedly. “Aye captain!” They both exclaimed.
If those two were on the same page…
Well, it wasn’t my call and I didn’t give a shit about the money. “What about the crew?” I asked.
“We’ll drop ‘em off in the next port. If any of ‘em talk back, throw ‘em overboard.” Torrez replied, while in the middle of taking an axe to an expensive-looking oil painting.
“Aye Captain,” I replied, and headed back out to the deck.
Outside, my lupael fling was leaning on the wall, weapons sheathed. Her short-cropped hair and tall pointed ears were spattered in blood. So was her usual piecemeal armor. She turned to look and her brown eyes lit up when she saw me.
“What a rush!” Nessa ran up and kissed me, still covered in blood.
I wasn’t feeling it, but I leaned into the kiss anyway.
“Want to find a quiet spot real quick?” Nessa asked in a breathy voice with lidded eyes.
I thought a moment. “Not now, Nessa. Sorry.”
“You’re no fun! Come on! Just a quickie?” She had a manic gleam in her eyes.
I sighed and caved. “Sure, I guess. But just a fast one.”
She smiled and dragged me away. Really, it did make me feel better. More than anything, it was a distraction, and a welcome one. After we finished, we helped loot the ship. By the time the ruined Cavenish galleon was drifting off, ablaze and listing into the afternoon heat, we’d finished getting all our loot stored.
Torrez had destroyed anything even remotely personal to the old captain. I made yet another reminder to never cross the vindictive man. He was kind to his crew: almost fatherly in some ways, but the man had a vicious streak. Still, we ended up a good deal richer for what we took.
I had no doubt some of the older crew would retire off the haul. I had nowhere else to go, so I’d stay aboard. We dropped the few remaining people from the galleon’s crew off at a small nearby colonial town, then set off for Liseu. We needed a market to sell our ill-gotten gains, and there was no place better than a city where ‘stolen’ was more or less implied.
Celebrations lasted the whole voyage back. Nessa and I spent the time in a drunken haze of sex. Once we got to Liseu, about a third of the crew retired. We’d need fresh blood to replace the veterans we’d lost, so we ended up hanging around the city for a few weeks.
While in the city, I caught wind of rumors pertaining to Lost Era ruins in the northern isles. Other artifacts like the idol that helped me meet Torrez might be found! More than that, there might be something else I could learn about that symbol. Something more about demons and what it was the Inquisition was trying to do.
I had wanted to let all that stuff go with the rest of my past. I couldn’t. I needed answers and, at the promise of riches, was able to get Torrez to consider the idea. Maybe then, I’d finally be able to put the past to rest.
If you want to read more, my Patreon has up to 17 advance chapters right now! There are also side stories (canon & non-canon), some of which will stay Patreon exclusive.
If you want to chat about the story or just hang out, my discord is open to all!