"Steady that topsail!"
A young man slowly climbed the rigging, rain stinging his face. All around him the wind was howling and ropes were lashing about fiercely. A strong gust pushed and the young sailor nearly lost his grip on the mast.
He continued the arduous climb, one he had made many times before, but never in such conditions. Eventually, he reached the top of the mast and found the wind and rain even more fierce. He reached for the rigging and began to lash the sail down.
Another strong gust came and pushed the young man off the mast. A strange sense of calm came over him as the world seemed to slow. As quick as he had been pushed off, the calm was replaced by a sense of terror.
Just then, a hand shot through the wind and rain, firmly grasping the young man's arm. The young man looked up to see a man, who was hardly older than himself, firmly grasping onto the rigging and pulling him in. The young sailor was slammed into the mast. Together, they climbed back to the top and secured the sail.
Just as they finished tying the sail, the ship broke through the clouds, into calmer skies. Below them, the sharp peaks of The Hoganmaar could be seen piercing the storm clouds.
The two made their way down to the main deck. They were greeted by the first mate, Owen Carlisle.
"Good job on that sail, boys."
"Thank Boric. He saved me when I was pushed off", said the young man.
"Well, I am glad our newest crewman knows how to handle himself in a storm."
"Yes sir, that storm was calm compared to the waters northeast of Manenlande. And there's no sailing up above those", replied Boric.
"Too true, lad. But you had better hope we don't hit a sandstorm on our approach to White Haven. That would make this look like a pleasant, summer rain."
Boric had spent most of his youth aboard a cargo ship making runs between Titania and Kuu. He was descended from many generations of sailors on his father’s side, and his father felt that the tradition should continue. Now, he was 27. He decided to sign up on the cargo ship Valr, which was making runs between Hjem and Antiford.
Most of the crew were Yeti or Human. This meant that Boric stood out a little. He was tall and muscular, like a Yeti, but his ears had a light point to them and his hair was a very light blonde, almost white. His father, a Yeti from Hjem had met his mother, a Nakalo who worked at a small bakery, while on a trip to Gearford. He was taken with her and even resigned as bosun from his ship, purchased a small vessel, and began to make small cargo runs between Hjem and Gearford, just so he could see her more often. Eventually, he asked for her hand, and they settled in a small house in Klippebror.
Three years passed and Boric had proven his worth time and again. He quickly gained responsibility and was now the Valr’s quartermaster and second officer.
They set out from Klippebror on a delivery to White Haven. Having crossed the mountains, they began the long flight over the desert landscape of Antiford.
“Mr. Derrin,” Boric shouted up to the look out. “The wind seems to have changed on us. Do you see anything?”
“Except for the clouds on the edge of the horizon, the skies are clear,” replied the look out.
“What news, Boric?” asked the captain.
“The wind has changed, but no weather to explain it.”
“Keep an eye on it and let me know if there is any change”
An hour passed. Boric walked to the front of the ship and looked towards the horizon. The clouds reported earlier seemed to have moved in much more quickly than they should have.
“Derrin!” shouted Boric running underneath the lookout’s post. “What of those clouds?”
The lookout quickly ascended the mast and scanned the sky.
“Hard to port!” Mr. Derrin cried out. “Hard to port and bring us up!”
The ship lurched in response to the order. They rose above a series of large buttes they were sailing through and were hit head on by a sand storm. The ship seemed to stand still in the intensity of the wind.
“Turn us to the south and bring us above it!” barked the captain.
It was the worst sandstorm Captain Carlisle had ever been in. Within moments the sails were being torn through. On deck, the men scrambled to secure the balloon and remaining sails. Goggles were fixed in place and rags covered their mouths. The sand whipped in the air around them and ripped at their exposed flesh.
SNAP! SNAP! SNAP!
Ropes started to break. One of the sails came loose on the starboard side and was batting furiously in the storm. The crew rushed to secure it as more ropes broke around them.
A bolt of lightning streaked alongside the ship.
“Get us above this storm!” shouted the captain.
The ship continued to rise slowly. The crew still running about, pulling ropes tight and securing the sails and balloon.
The ship pitched forward as they entered a quicker air stream above them. The strain snapped the top of the mainsail. It fell and tore through the rest of the mainsail and stabbed into the balloon. The ship began to fall.
Another burst of lightning erupted from the storm and landed on the side of the ship. It began to burn but was quickly extinguished by the torrents of air.
The ship quickly gained speed as it hurtled towards the ground. It grazed the side of one of the buttes, tearing off most of the port side. The ship listed and slammed into the ground, splintering.
As the sun rose above the buttes, Boric slowly pulled himself up out of the now deflated envelope. Hitting the balloon had saved his life. Looking up, he could see the buzzards circling high above. All around him, the splintered and burning wreckage of the Valr was strewn.
His head was pounding and the bright light hurt his eyes. He felt sick.. Staggering, he stood and searched through the wreck. No one had survived. He wanted to give his crewmates a proper burial, but he did not have the strength or the tools. He would just have to leave them open to the elements. He collapsed to the ground, holding his head. Slowly, he dragged himself into a shaded area and lost consciousness.
He awoke as the sun passed noon, and resolved to leave and find his way back to a town. First, however, he still felt he had to give everyone a proper burial. Some of his strength had returned. He wrapped the crew in the remnants of the sails and piled the broken pieces of hull into a pyre. He stood and watched over the funeral until the fire died down.
The next morning came with some cloud cover. The heat was not as intense as the previous days. Boric left the crash site and headed south. He walked the entire day until the sun began to sink passed the horizon. Lighting a small fire, he set camp for the night and tried to get some sleep.
Late during the night, he woke to the sound of screaming in the distance. He also heard the hooting and clamouring of goblins. He had heard of goblins raids and was desperately hoping that they would not come towards him.
When morning came, Boric decided to head in the direction he had heard the screaming. There he might find people to help him, or at least a road or trail he could follow. He was thirsty. Three days in the desert left him parched. If there was a town, there would be water.
It did not take long before he came upon the devastation caused by the goblins. It looked to be a small village or large camp. Perhaps tinkers or traders. Whatever it was, it appeared to be decimated. There were no bodies, but blood littered the dusty ground. Then, he saw it. A well.
Stumbling, he ran toward it and pulled off the cover. Looking inside, he was shocked to see a man. The man looked up at him. His bloodied face showed a mixture of fear and joy. Boric helped the man out of the well. He shielded his eyes from the sun and looked around at the destruction.
“Thank you,” said the man.
“Did you live here?” Boric asked.
“Yes..in a way,” the man responded. “This was Perdition.”
“Perdition..the prison town? Why were you here?”
“Obviously I am a criminal.”
“What did you do?”
“Treason,” the man replied. “Though, technically I refused to turn my research over to the military. They called me a traitor for it and sent me here.”
“Oh.” Boric eyed the man suspiciously.
“What are you doing here?”
“The ship I was on crashed during a sandstorm north of here. I am trying to find my way back to civilization.”
“Well, I can’t stay here and neither can you. If we head south we will eventually come across the railway. We can follow that to town. What’s your name?”
“Phin Cromwell,” said the man holding out his hand. “Pleasure to meet you, Boric.”