Orithia- Skull & Shackles
Tit0 Serverus (Titus Stern)
(A letter found floating in a bottle)
I hope this letter finds you well, please give my love to Mother and my brothers. I have had an exciting week here in Darkfell. You recall that in my last letter I explained how I intended on drinking and brawling myself into an early grave in this rats nest called Port Blacksand?
Well you will be pleased to hear that Fate is not yet finished with your obedient and loving son. I have been ‘press-ganged’ into the crew of a pirate ship, it is a filthy tub called the Wormy Wood or some nonsense. These Salamon’s are truly awful at naming things and they all speak Ealdine like Valonian cattle herders! A handful of other layabouts were ‘ganged’ at the same time and, although they are a sorry bunch, they are a damn sight better than this boat’s crew. Still, I have been raised to make the most of any opportunity so I set about trying to ingratiate myself with the crew and my fellow new arrivals, first we had to climb the mast for some reason. I did my best to encourage the others and not outshine them too much but they mistook my frank and boisterous encouragement for abuse! I am now a ‘rigger’ and have to spend much time up the mast doing frankly incomprehensible things with ropes, the crew seem to appreciate my clumsy efforts though and I find I enjoy being away from the bustle and stink of the main deck.
Of the other new arrivals only a few show any mettle. We were attacked by some of the crew, bullying thugs, and only a single member of our little group stayed to help me fight them! An Alarisian fellow named Kaleed or Kaheed or something like that, he’s pretty good in a scrap despite not using any weapons (one of these mystical monk sorts) and helped me overcome three of our assailants. I am trying to befriend him but he has an odd sort of temper, peaceful and ‘at one with the cosmos’ one minute and beating members of the crew to bloody mess the next. He even through my pipe over the side of the boat! I apologise father, I am smoking again; I know you and mother disapprove. Otherwise, our group consists of two women who I have not yet had chance to speak to very much, a Valonian fellow who seems a good sort despite that and a native Salamon half-orc. I’ve not spent much time around half-orcs but it seems the sterotypes are quite inaccurate. He is well spoken and almost effeminate in his affectations; he’s friendly enough and might make a fine comrade. He is a warlock though so I shall keep my distance for now.
Of the crew of the Wormy Wood I have not made many friends, my being Kondaran places a barrier between myself and many of the crew due to the animosity between these freedom loving Salamons and our noble legions. One would think that such a decadent and feckless nation would be less inclined to national profiling but it seems that they can be as close-minded and judgemental as a Dasharan when then choose to be! I have managed to befriend some of my riggers though; a girl in particular seems smitten with me though I am not sure how to handle her advances. A decade in the legions is hardly good preparation for a shipboard romance! I suspect I am making all sorts of mistakes with her but one can only hope she sees my inexperience as endearing!
I hope the business flourishes and my brothers and sister are well. Please give my love to any nephews or nieces I have acquired by now,
All my love and obedience, Tito
(Charred letter found in galley stove)
I hope this letter finds you in good health and prosperity, I’m happy to report another eventful week aboard the Wormword.
My progress with the crew seems to moving ahead well, despite a handful of altercations over misunderstandings and over-reactions. Many of the crew are extremely superstitious and take offence easily; I find it difficult to avoid insulting them to the point of violence. I nearly came to blows with a fellow simply because the wind dropped during the morning and they thought Jasper, my half-orc companion, was to blame for some reason. You will be glad to hear I am holding my own in these fights, despite often being attacked dishonourably. I have more bruises now than I ever earned during my Legion training!
During this lull in the weather the Captain assigned me a task, perhaps he has noticed my obvious superiority to the usual dross that make up his crew. I was to lead my fellow new crewmembers on a shore party to a nearby island from which the Captain had spotted a plume of smoke. Thanks to my training and experience this task was easy to achieve and proved no real obstacle. It did give me a chance to assess my fellows however. It goes without saying that none of them are the equals of a trained Kondaran legionnaire but, for foreigners, they performed better than I expected. Whilst they did rely on me to defend them from our attackers they were able to follow my lead in destroying some kind of spellcasting abomination after I was overcome by her fell magicks.
Despite these new challenges I find my humours extremely out of balance, Kondaran men have always struggled with their choleric temperaments and I often find my temper out of my control. I shall need to find a way to focus my inner-self or I will bring disaster down upon myself and my companions. I have seen the raw berserker rages of the Northlanders and the power they can call upon; whilst I will not degrade myself to that animalistic state there must be a way to focus my choleric passions in a similar manner…
To my shame I must also report that my gladius, a true Kondaran blade, was destroyed by some creature’s treacherous magic so I am now forced to rely on lesser weapons. I may, however, use this forced opportunity to experiment with alternate weapon styles. I, of course, received training in numerous fighting styles during my officer’s induction but I have not before had chance to actually practice them in true combat.
I truly miss Kondar City and my family but this ship is at least becoming more bearable. My companions are becoming easier to relate to and I seem to be making the rigger girl from my last letter, Sammy, happy. The work is satisfying, the weather is generally fine and it feels good to have some discipline, even if it is brutal and repressive. It is hardly noble service in the Legions, serving the good of Kondar but at least I have some goals in life again.
As always, you and Mother are never far from my thoughts.
(Charred letter found in galley stove)
As always, please pass my love and respect to Mother and my brothers. I hope this letter finds you in health and prosperity; I endeavour to continue to bring pride to you and our honoured family.
This last week aboard the Wormwood has been the most eventful yet although not without its frustrations. It seems that the ship’s Master-at-Arms, a foul man named Scourge, has taken a dislike to me and my other companions and has been attempting to poison the crew against us. I wish I had realised this duplicity earlier but my weakness with the Ealdine language means I miss such subtleties. Nevertheless I now know why certain members of the crew have been so hostile over the last few weeks. There are now two distinct camps aboard ship and it seems that a violent confrontation is inevitable, I find myself looking forward to it. Scourge’s underhanded tactics are despicable and I chafe under his unjust command, a sentiment that is shared by many of the crew.
Luckily, before any violence could occur we sighted an Alarisian ship well outside of their national waters. As one would expect, our Captain gave chase and we rapidly overhauled them. During the boarding action I was given the critical task of securing the enemy’s ship’s wheel, thus preventing them from breaking off and fleeing again. The fighting was fierce and the Alarisians, though individually unskilled and lacking in discipline, outnumbered us some two to one. They fought like cornered rats to reclaim the wheel in order to escape. My companions and I fought bravely and managed to secure the wheel and also to draw many of the Alarisian warriors away from the wider battle aboard the main deck. Our stubborn defence allowed the crew of the Wormwood to emerge victorious and with gratifyingly few casualties.
I know I have mentioned my companions a few times now without ever really describing them to you and I intend now to correct that. There are six of us in our little group, not even a contubernium, but we are all highly individual and, I believe, have the potential to be quite proficient. Mameha is from Kepik and possesses divine magic, though I cannot determine what god she worships. She is reliable and generally good natured so I find I trust her a great deal despite her strange beliefs and heathen traditions. Edward is also fairly dependable though he is; of course, self centred and arrogant like all Valonians. Gian and Jasper are both Salamons and display the casual disregard for order that is to be expected of such a hodgepodge town. Despite her squeamish temperament and lack of experience Gian has proved to be surprisingly reliable and capable. Jasper is an excellent fellow, both entertaining and outgoing. He is however, a bit of a liability in combat. He seems to possess none of the magical powers I associate with battle casters and also appears to be something of a show off, possibly he is more talk than walk, if you excuse the old saying. Kaheed, an Alarisian monk, is our sixth member. He is difficult to read. As a monk, he has trained to use his body and mind as a living weapon and while I admit he has some grit for an Alarisian I had expected him to be a far more formidable combatant than he has so far shown himself to be. That said; he might yet surprise me.
I shall write again soon, I suspect important events are in motion.
All my love, Tito
(Crumpled letter found on Bonewrack Island)
I have had little time for writing and reflection in the last week; as I predicted in my last letter our confrontation with Scourge and Plugg has come to pass. Following our successful seizure of the Alarisian ship we were seconded to her as a skeleton crew under Plugg who was made acting Captain. Before the Wormwood had even disappeared over the horizon Plugg was making his intentions plain. Needless to say we rose up in due course, overthrew him and promoted our own captains; Edward and Mameha will now share command with Mameha taking charge initially as Edward was sorely wounded in the mutiny. I have been promoted to Master Gunner based on my military experience, if I am honest the role seems to carry little responsibility at present but I am happy to take a step back from the politics of the ship.
We also had to explore a nearby island in an attempt to rescue two members of our crew who had been taken hostage by some foul goblinoid creatures. Attacking their lair was difficult and was probably the greatest physical challenge I have ever faced. I am forced to admit that fighting monsters is outside of my experience and I have made several mistakes which did not cost me dear only through the vagaries of Fate. My legion training is actually a disadvantage in the kind of combat I face now, I have no reliable soldiers backing me up and so I find myself out-manoeuvred and over-powered. I feel I need to break with my training and upbringing. Perhaps the unconventional tactics I used whilst fighting Liel around Tor Acarne would be more suitable than those used by our noble legions. I shall have to see.
Life under this ship’s new leadership is infinitely better than life under Scourge and Plugg but I am starting to question my place here. It seems fighting ability and military experience are not too highly valued aboard ship so I face two options, I can simply become a weapon brought out grudgingly until eventually the weapon breaks and maims its wielder. Alternatively I can adapt, find myself a role that is valued and start to build genuine friendships here. Though that might be difficult as my companions and fellow officers are mostly a duplicitous and manipulative lot and I am proud to admit that in the games of lies and shadows I am nothing but an amateur.
How I wish we could sit together in the piazza Father and talk as we once did, your wise advice and noble example drove me on and helped me banish my own demons to become the man you always believed I could be. I feel your absence keenly and I know if you were to see what I have become it would destroy me. I must muddle on as best I can but I have no God, no family, no Nation, no ideals. How can a man guide his actions in a vacuum? How can he determine his morals with no compass to point North? I suspect this sojourn on the waves will either make me into the man I am truly capable of being or will break me altogether. Then again, who can predict Fate and her capricious nature?
As always, please pass my love and respect to Mother and my siblings. I hope you are well yourself and do not mourn the loss of your obedient son out here in Darkfell.
I hope to write again soon,
(Waterlogged letter found among flotsam)
This last week has proved the most enjoyable since I first woke up aboard the Wormwood. Having rescued our shipmates from the Grindylow lair we set sail with plenty of food and water aboard, heading for a small dock called Rickity Squibb. Samms explained to me that a man there named Rickity is able to alter the outward appearance of a ship to disguise its true nature. I found this process intriguing and I had hoped to have a closer look at the process but unfortunately Rickity and his men guard their secrets jealously and quickly shooed me from their workshops. I have also been gratified to see a dramatic increase in the ship’s armoury under my personal command, perhaps my talents have not gone as unnoticed as I had feared.
Whilst Squibbs is only a tiny port it is still the first taste of civilisation we have encountered in five weeks and I feel the rest and relaxation has done the crew much good. Even those who wished us ill only a few days ago have now started to integrate into the crew, our ship, renamed the ‘Magnificent Bastard’ is starting to feel like home. I find myself hoping to be able to start a new page in my life, I have a home of sorts and perhaps the beginnings of some true friends and even a flowering romance in Samms. I will admit to seducing her only for my own gratification at first but I find her innocence and optimism refreshing even if I cannot share it myself.
Our sojourn at Squibbs was not without some excitement, we were attacked by huge, tropical insects which we fought off without heavy injury, Mameha and Gian in particular impressed me with their fighting spirit. I feel Gian in particular shows great potential, had she been born in Kondar she might have found her way into the Avocati or Prefects! She shows a rare combination of guile, ability and intelligence and her age and slight size allows her to be underestimated by her enemies. I hope to be able to spend some time tempering her raw talent into something quite special.
Whilst I am happier than I have been for several years the stinging wounds inflicted on me by Salamon still burn, we encountered a group of rival pirates from Salamon at Squibbs and I was forced to leave the town to avoid a confrontation. My hatred for Salamons runs deep and although I sublimate my feelings most of the time I still struggle with my choler. My frustration and rage emerges at unhelpful times and often causes me to act self-destructively. My fellow officers give me little leeway as is only proper for my commanders but they can never truly understand what I have lost. Even sitting here, on a peaceful cliff, Samms sleeping by my side and full of decent ale and food my heart smoulders in resentment for what was taken from me. I may never rid myself of the need for retribution, to inflict on others a taste of what was inflicted on me so I must attempt to focus my rage into constructive channels. I can fight in defence of this ship, to aid my fellows and to achieve what I can in my painfully reduced circumstances.
I hope that, in time, I can learn to live with the life I am now forced to lead.
As always, you and Mother are rarely far from my thoughts. While I can still remember your lessons and your example I shall never be truly lost.
All my love,
Your obedient son, Tito.
(Letter found floating in a bottle)
This will be my last letter now. I find the act of writing these letters painful, a reminder of how much I have lost and how far I have fallen from the man you knew.
In many ways I hope you believe me dead, you would be ashamed of who I am now and the life I lead. Since entering the dungeons of Salamonis my life has taken on the aspect of a dream or nightmare from which I cannot wake. Many times I have considered simply ending my life, there seems so little point to it now, but something in me stays my hand, perhaps it is a spark of my old honour? More likely it seems to simply be my rage and resentment for the world that has treated me so very cruelly, I carry my anger like a hot coal lodged in my breast, only in battle can I release it and gain some temporary respite.
Just as my life seems pointless, so too does attempting to be something I am not. The honourable soldier you knew is dead, Tito Severus is dead. I am now Titus Stern, pirate, murderer and wretch. I have no nation, no code, no god, no family, no allies. I have my strong sword arm, a keen eye and my ever-burning rage at the world. If my heart must burn then, by the honour that was stolen from me I shall see the world burn with me!!
Should anyone find this letter, pray to your fickle gods that you never cross swords with Titus Stern for I have nothing left to be taken from me.