The wind gently hit Isaak as he stepped out on the deck from his small cabin at the stern of the Redemption. It bobbed slightly in the water, but this was home for him and his crew. A swaying deck seemed more natural than hard ground. The first time he had set his foot on a ship had felt natural to the then young boy. He could remember hold his father’s hand and seeing the large cedar masts of the Wrenian merchant ships, some laden with exotic goods like Ismarkian pelts or spices from Southern Sor. His father, Ethain. owned a fleet of shpis, but his favorite had been The Golden God’s Mercy. It could hold a large amount of cargo, but also had some luxury cabins, so Ethain would use it for the few times he saw fit to bring his family along to see far off places like the Eastern Sorian port cities Tanrul and Belail. Isaak remembered his father taking them to Tanrul when they opened a trading post there. “The future of power and peace lies in trade, my son.” Those words had been as close as to his family’s saying. Whenever Isaak had voiced a dream of joining the Wrenian fleet for adventure, his father chided him for having his head in the cloud. “Trade will give you every possibility to see the world and you need not destroy it as you see it.”

The port of Syrenthal were nothing like the Eastern cities. It was dominated by the slave trade and the black firestones from Ismark. It was also a haven for those not wanting the eye of the Sorian authorities on them. Even though it was part of the Empire, the presence of imperial power was nothing like the Eastern cities. Syrenthal was not the crown jewel in the Sorian Empire, more like an interesting boil on the imperial backside. Isaak loved it though. The shadiness of the officials allowed him to move about more freely and no one was surprised when the salvage of a ship sunk only two days earlier by pirates, showed up in storefronts along the promenade. Noble houses on top of the Red Hills were probably filled with a lot of salvaged good formerly belong to members of the ruling class of other cities. One such nobleman had a collection of family crests taken of ships sunk along the Sorian coast. At one point a noblewoman of another family had seen her family’s crest and she became enraged, accusing the man of having sunk her brother’s ship. The woman had been from a family with close connections to the Emperor. A few weeks later a new home was being built on the hill where the nobleman’s house once stood. As long as Isaak kept seeing money, he would continue salvaging ships, but that story always left a chill in his spine. A warning that perhaps he should start thinking of other things to do.

Isaak was ripped from his thought when someone behind him tapped him on the shoulder. Loth stood there with his toolbelt around ever larger gut. “The new sailors are waiting for you.” The captain straightened up and looked at the Dwarf. “Where did you find them?” Isaak held up a hand. “Wait, I do not think I want to know where you found them.” Loth grinned through his braided beard. “You would be surprised what you can find in the gutter in these desperate times.” Isaak shook his head. “As long as they can show good seamanship and stay sober for most of the journay, I am happy.” The engineer still grinned. “I think most of them have enough to drink for a few months.” Isaak shook his head and he walked towards the gangplank. He had a simple rule. No one would be let onboard without his knowledge and approval. Actually, it was Dina’s rule, but Isaak liked the rule and had adopted as his own. It gave him and Dina control over what happened onboard the former cargo ship. The large main hold had now been adopted to crew quarters and Isaak could see the Dwarven twins putting up hammocks through the entrance to the cargo hold as he and Loth passed. The caravel should be able to hold 25 additional sailors. He hated taking on so many unknown people, but he had no other choice. They needed a full complement of sailors to sail the coast of the Icy Waste. He also hated the cold, so he had no idea why he wanted to take this venture on. His purse jingled with coins and he remembered why he had taken it on. A princely sum and all the treasure they could carry apart from the Heart of Barkoth. Why did Rhun want the heart?

He shook the thought from his head and straightened up as he saw the new crewmen. A sad sight if he had ever seen one. Twenty slightly drunk men were trying to stand up straight while two other men were leaning on crutches. One man stood up straight and did not seem to fit in with the others. He had dark hair and seemed to have an aura of authority about him. At the end, Isaak could see a young boy trying to look twice his age.  Isaak leaned towards Loth and whispered. “These were the best you could get?” Loth smiled. “They are a lot more experienced than they may seem.” Isaak looked at the young boy at the end. “That one is barely finished suckling his mother’s tit.” Isaak walked in front of the men and surveyed them. He put on his most confident grin and spoke in booming voice.

“Good day, gentlemen. I am Captain Isaak of The Redemption, the finest ship ever to anchor in this fair harbor. You have already met my engineer and first mate, Loth.” Some of the men grunted out something that resembled words, but Isaak could not be sure what they were. The young boy seemed to have straightened up the second Isaak opened his mouth. Isaak made a note of the boy’s behavior. The man right in front of him was the dark-haired man. He had a scar running over his right eye, but other than that he seemed healthy. Some of the young boy’s vigor and attitude was also present in this man. Isaak stepped up towards him.

“What is your name, sailor?” “Garal, captain.” Garal had a gruff and commanding voice, the kind of voice that would carry well at a battlefield. “Where are you from, Garal?” Isaak straightened up to seem more authoritative. “Gimash, a small fishing village just outside of the imperial city.” Isaak looked at the man. He seemed used to having superiors eyeballing him. Clearly a man of command. “Have you ever served as a man-at-arms?” Garal’s smile showed white teeth. “Of course, captain. My last voyage was as a man-at-arms on a cargo ship going between Syrenthal and Svartrhamn.” Isaak tried to find a crack in the man’s demeanor, but he seemed like he was being truthful. “I might need someone to control the new men. Are you able to control them?” Garal’s smile broadened and showed even more perfectly white teeth. “If you give us permission to come on board, I can show you?” Isaak looked at the Sorian. He was either very aware of his talents or the most boastful man in the harbor, which was not easy in Syrenthal. On every corner, there was at least five men who had personally caught a Leviathan and dragged it ashore on some desert island. “You may come onboard, Garal.” The man’s smile changed quickly into a snarl and he barked at the other men in front of Isaak. “You heard the captain. Move your drunken asses on board that ship.” The men seemed changed from a group of hungover men to rats fleeing a cat. They ran up the gangplank. Loth leaned in and grinned at Isaak. “See, I told you they were good ones.”

JH Lillevik is a writer of sci-fi and fantasy. He writes screenplays, novels and short stories. He also works as a writing consultant for upcoming writers. His specialty is mythology, world building and psychology.

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