Hello, Benjamin from Brother’s Campfire here!
Gather Round and I will spin a tale of the Land of La Longi.
Dragging the ship to shore from the rocks was no easy task, and bracing it upright in a makeshift dry dock was no easier. The Netty Northwich was in gross disrepair, a near total loss. Her mast was cracked and in need of splinting or replacement and there was significant fire damage to the hull. Below the water line were massive gouges where she had wrecked among the rocks.
Lulach, the ship’s carpenter, was scarred, cut, marked, and tattooed, and mirrored the broken vessel.
There weren’t too many places where he didn’t have a scar or mark on his body.
He set about with his mates to find timber to make the necessary repairs. Ashton, knowing a bit about the trade, volunteered his services and was rudely shot down by Lulach.
“Nay boy, you’re a sawbones and a surgeon, best keep those fingernails clean and hands soft!”
Ashton felt a little slighted and did not hold his tongue. He rested his hand on his waistband near his axe. “When I cut off your left hand, will you be all right? I’ll not have you address me thus. “
Lulach spat. There was menace in the air.
“Watch who you speak to boy, I have been to Silent Gallows, carved a life in the North, and am one of the 16.”
Ashton pushed the issue. To have soft hands was an insult worthy of holmgang in Pitmerden. It seemed he had better assert himself amongst these men or he might be walked upon or robbed.
Trembling inside, he retorted,
“Are you a timber savage or a swabee?”
“What do you mean, boy?”
“I mean, Is it chopping wood or rolling oars? You have an axe to grind and your oar lock is broken.”
The passengers and crew spoke in hushed tones and shook their heads in disbelief.
Baldwin Mailer, one of the sailors laughed. “Ha ha ha! Lulach, check your oarlock!”
There were a few chuckles and some full out laughed with Baldwin.
Lulach was not so impressed with the wordplay and drew his sword. “I will flay you like a pequin on a spit!”
Lulach closed the distance and Ashton held his ground, axe now in hand.
Nicholas Peralta, known as Old Black Nick to some and Commander to others, was not a man to trifle with and kept his crew in well ordered discipline. They seemed to respect his decisions and froze at his voice.
“ENOUGH!” He shouted. “There is work to be done. This trip has eaten our profit and we will have nothing to show but empty merchant bags. There will be no more bloodshed!”
Ashton was tired of other men protecting him. It seemed a reoccurring part of his life and he resisted the idea.
“Black Nick, this is none of your affair, but I will make it yours if you wish. Your carpenter has said I am soft of the hands, And I will shed your blood or his for it, the choice is yours.”
He eyed Lulach up and down. “You have been wounded many times by the look of you, let me mend your heart after I beat you in felling trees, carpenter. I will show you a thing about your trade.”
The devil gleamed in Lulachs eyes.
“You will have have your wish, boy, and after I win, you will learn to respect the 16.”
There was collective relief that a duel of skill would settle the differences between Lulach and Ashton.
Nicholas’ voice overroad everything. “There will be no contests of strength. Ashton, you will tend the wounded and have my blood later. Lulach, you will repair the ship.
Lulach went off into the forest, and out of obligation to the wounded Ashton returned to the medical tent.
Nicholas came down a while later. “Ashton, the man has no quarrel with you. I spoke with him and it was but a misunderstanding in wordplay, all is good. “
“Good for you Black Nick, but I tire, every step I take, someone standing in the gap for me. I can handle my own problems, whether in work, words, or bloodshed. You should have stepped aside; I work not for you. Your man started the trouble and I sit here helping you.”
Nicholas was stern. “You are a misguided whelp, young Ashton. See the man Theodore resting carefully? You sewed up me best mate and saved these other’s lives. We are in your debt and have no quarrel with you. If you want, you can be one of us. There is coin to be had and good folk to lean on. Think about it. Lulach is no enemy of yours, I assure it. “
Ashton thought it over. Already, he had decided to stay on with the Netty Northwich for a bit, at least to see them off. There were crew members and passengers that needed care, and he possessed the knowledge necessary to help. Perhaps he was petty for wanting to fight over soft hands. They weren’t and he knew it.
“I’ll stay on, Captain Nicholas, where do I sign?”
Nicholas glared with his working eye. He did not always wear a patch and it took some adjustment to look at.
“You have your word and you have your gall, there is no other contract. Let me assure you, the voyage wont be easy. Captain Gryll is a pirate, and a sadistic one at that.
He would feed you to a shark feet first laughing all the while at your screaming and we seek him out for payback. First, we repair the ship, and transport the farmers to La Longi.”
“Are you really in?”
“I am in.” Replied Ashton.
“Good. I expect you to get along and sew us up when we get hurt. “
Abrubtly, Nicholas turned heel.