Knowing they were going to be questioned, The Men took some time to get their story straight while in the cell of the brig. They did so quietly, unsure of how many eyes and ears were on them beyond the guards nearby. It didn't take long before the Men were taken one by one up to the deck of the frigate. Deirik was questioned first about his recent whereabouts, his associates, how he knew the Pirate Princes, what they were doing on the island, where they were going... the list goes on and on. As soon as Deirik was brought down, Ygvard was taken up.
Deirik took that opportunity to relay what he was asked to the others and what his answers were. Unfortunately, Ygvard wasn't given the chance to hear that information, so when he was asked the same questions - they didn't perfectly align with Deirik's answers, and even those slight discrepancies were enough to let doubt remain. Boldulf's and Eirik's answers all aligned to Deirik's, to the surprise of no one.
Kiro, Eirik's hobgoblin companion, was also taken up for questioning. Eirik noticed that Kiro's questioning seemed a bit rougher than the rest of theirs, as he returned to the cell with extra cuts, bruises, and blood coming from his nose and lip - but Kiro brought no attention to it other than to say he answered to the pirates' satisfaction. However, since the first two questioned weren't perfectly in sync, the Men were to remain in the brig for the time being.
After a couple days of being locked up, the Men heard a lot of commotion topside that indicated the frigate was tying up with at least two other ships and throwing its anchor. After the commotion died down and the ships were tied off, the rumbling of footsteps above drastically increased, but the voices were far quieter. Time passed as the men listened intently, trying to discern any additional information.
It wasn't long before the legate in the cell across from the Men was roughly taken from his cell and shoved up the stairs. As the legate reached the deck, jeers and insults resounded through the ship but were silenced shortly thereafter. Only a few more minutes passed before the crowd of pirates erupted in cheers.
Boldulf responded gruffly, "There goes the legate's head, I'm betting."
Ygvard nods, "Yeah, here's hoping we're not next."
As if on cue, a large group of armed pirates comes tromping down the stairs and makes their way for the Mens' cell. The Men are then escorted upstairs to the deck where they find themselves presented before a small pirate council. Three elder men are seated at a small table placed at the center of the poop deck, and around them are dozens of pirates along the rail, or up on the rigging, or anywhere they can get a decent vantage point of the proceedings. The Men are brought forward, each of them stopping just short of a large pool of blood that was hastily cleaned - blood likely belonging to the former legate.
The elder pirate seated in the middle of the three clears his throat, "Good morning, I am Captain Bond. To my left is Captain Thorson, and to my right, Captain Skeln. We have come together as a council to decide your fate as captives of the Pirate Princes. Before we do that, though, we give you this opportunity to speak on your own behalf."
All eyes turn to the Men - whose eyes all turn to Deirik. Deirik nods to his kin, "Alright then, I am Deirik Yakobson. This is my brother Eirik, my cousin Ygvard, and his grandpa, Boldulf. Also, this is Kiro, a hobgoblin who has left behind his life with the shadow army and is following and supporting my brother."
Even Kiro can't entirely hide his facial expression at how impressed he is with Deirik's choice of words such that he's telling the truth, but not the whole truth.
"First, we have answered a number of these questions for your men already. We are traveling South to Baden's Bluff to find my lover and the mother to my unborn child. We're also taking the opportunity to make some contacts should we soon find the opportunity to start up our trade business again. This is the same trade business my father, Yakob, was running when he established a relationship with Captain Duryn of your fleet. We are friends of the Princes and have been for my entire life."
Deirik opens his mouth to continue, but closes it when he sees Captain Bond's hand raised to stop him from continuing, "Yes, Captain Duryn has been with us for some time. He's an old friend of mine, and I've heard of your family, not just of your father Yakob, but of others in your family, like your cousin, Torvald..."
Deirik's eyes thin in anger at the mention of his hated cousin.
"...which is why I can't just take your word for it when you say we're friends. We'll take a few moments to discuss this."
While the council deliberates, the pirates all around them start chiming in with suggestions of their own. "Kill 'em!" "Keelhaul 'em!" "I got a rope, let's hang 'em!" "Yeah, I like when their legs kick all crazy-like!" The Men do their best to ignore the crowd and focus on the council, hoping they'll spare their lives.
The council once again returns their attention to the Men after concluding their discussion. Captain Bond once again speaks up, "We also would find it hard to keep friends if all we do is kill them every time we doubt them. So, Captain Skeln has graciously offered to take you aboard his ram as rowers so you can work for your ride in the direction of Baden's Bluff. We'll let him spend that additional time with you deciding how friendly you actually are."
A few quiet mutterings of disappointment are heard from the pirate crowd, but none dare speak against the decision of the council. With that done, the council members speak to each other a bit longer while the pirates all around get to work in preparing their ships to separate, including escorting the Men over to the ramming ship and below decks there. Boldulf makes sure they take care of Sergei, and the pirates do, they take great care to stay away from the giant wolf's muzzle as they chain him up on their deck.
The next week and a half go quietly. The Men do their job, keep their heads down, and remain respectful of the authority on Skeln's Ram. After that time, the Men's efforts pay off and they're given more free roam of the ship, and are permitted to have their equipment back. They mingle a bit with the crew, trying to win them over to make the environment a bit friendlier, and interact with the captain and his officers to ensure they're remaining on the right side of the law of the ship. Even Sergei is released from his chains and allowed to walk more freely on the deck.
Things are going so well, in fact, that Deirik even has the chance to talk to Skeln about what he knows of Torvald. Skeln reveals that Torvald seems to spend most of his time in Svenor - the town just above the Cave of Mjarn. He's authoritarian, but then what legate isn't? His "apprentice" is a dangerous she-witch, not a legate herself, with fiery red hair. Skeln knows little else about Torvald and Deirik takes his leave, but appreciates the opportunity to bond over the hatred of a legate.
A few more days pass before Boldulf realizes there's a real problem and mentions it to the others when they have a moment away from others, "So, I notice we're not yet at Baden's Bluff, or anywhere near land, and... the full moon is coming."
The others' eyes widen as they realize what Boldulf is actually saying: he's likely about to turn into a werewolf on a ship at sea amongst a crew that is just now starting to accept them as allies. Their minds race as they think of how to handle this.
Eirik breaks the silence first, "Has anyone noticed any small islands or rocky outcroppings lately? Anything we could use to get Boldulf off the ship?"
The others shake their heads sullenly.
Deirik chimes in, "We're still several days out from Baden's Bluff, last I heard. So we'll need to deal with this. If we can't come up with anything now, I'll need to tell Captain Skeln what we're in for."
He looks around for a few more moments before grudgingly rising to his feet and heading for the Captain's quarters. The others rise and follow him, steeling themselves for the awkward conversation to come.
As they knock and are permitted to enter Captain Skeln's quarters, he looks up from his desk and squints his eyes at the Men, "Ah, it's you. In two days time we'll load you off onto a barge bound for Baden's Bluff. The gnome who runs 'er owes us a favor and will take you in the rest of the way and drop you where's needed."
Deirik internally curses the timing of it all before responding, "Uh, thank you, Captain. We're glad to hear we'll be out of your hair before too long. Before we do offload to the barge though, we'll need your permission to remain onboard through the full moon tomorrow and the next two nights."
Skeln looks confused, "And why's that?"
Deirik reaches back and brings Boldulf forward, "Our Grandpa here has a situation that uhh... requires some additional facilities like those your ship offers. He's a... werewolf, sir."
"A what now? What does that mean?", replies Skeln.
Boldulf clears his throat before responding, "It means I'm part wolf, and over the full moon that wolf fights and often wins to take control of me - and it's no friend to anyone, even my kin."
Skeln's jaw steels, his fists clench, he stands so swiftly that his chair flies backwards and slams against the wall. "AND YOU THOUGHT TO JUST TELL ME NOW?! YOU BEST GIVE ME A DAMN GOOD REASON NOT TO JUST THROW YOU OVERBOARD!"
Boldulf opens his mouth, but Deirik darts in front of him and places his hands forward to placate the irate Captain, "Sir, we realize this is a hardship for you and your crew, but my brother and cousin and I are adept at handling this situation. We'll chain him up, and keep him in an enclosed space - like the closet below decks, and we'll make sure he doesn't hurt anyone or anything. To you and your crew, it'll only be a delay of a couple days as I'm sure you'd prefer not to inflict this on your gnomish friend on a much more enclosed space like a barge."
Skeln squints his eyes again, "If there are any injuries to my crew..."
Deirik responds, "We'll jump overboard ourselves."
The others turn their heads to Deirik in surprise before realizing that he disarmed the Captain by offering exactly what he was about to say and nodding in agreement.
Skeln responds, "Fine. You're off my ship come four days from now, and you'll never re-board it." He then looks down which the Men assume means their dismissal; the Captain obviously still upset at the situation in which he's been placed.
The Men make their preparations over the next day, and word has traveled fast as those members of the crew with whom they'd become friendly are now more stand-off-ish. As the evening comes, the Men take their chains they've held on to for just such an occasion and chain Boldulf up tightly, then lock him in the closet below decks. As the full moon rises, they all hear the sounds of struggle as Boldulf fights against the werewolf for control... and loses. A howl resounds from the closet as the chains rattle and shuffle against the floor.
With little warning, Sergei comes below decks and charges toward the closet - obviously responding to his companion, and Prime Hunter's, call! The crew dodges angrily out of the way as Sergei rolls through. Only the Men remain between him and the closet. Eirik draws his greatsword and spins it to the flat of the blade, readying for Sergei's approach. As Sergei comes within reach, Eirik swings his greatsword and slams the flat of the blade against Sergei's head - knocking the great wolf out.
Deirik steps between Sergei and the rest of the crew, who were slowly approaching, "No no, no one was hurt, we're fine here. The situation is handled. We'll go chain him up now." Turning his back to the crew to imply the conflict is indeed over, Deirik, Eirik, and Kiro all drag Sergei above deck and chain him up while Ygvard remains outside the closet that contains Boldulf the werewolf.
The next two nights go similarly, with the exception of the charging Sergei who remains chained for the final two days and nights. The day of departure arrives with the crew seeming to have been changed by the experience. They're used to fighting orcs and goblins; even the occasional legate with its weird magic; but to have a supposed ally become a supernatural monster? It's not something they or their Captain are soon to forget. There's no fondness in the farewell as the men are instructed to jump off the ship. The Men panic for a moment before looking out to see a barge floating nearby, at which point they each dive off and are swiftly retrieved by the barge.
Aboard the barge is a lone gnome, who seems more than capable of deftly maneuvering the vessel. She takes her hands off the rudder to greet the Men. She introduces herself as Fislet and notes the unceremonious method by which the Men were handed off to her. The Men shrug it off, not wanting to try to explain, and offer their assistance in operating the barge. With their help, the barge is quickly underway. By the evening of the following day, the Men can hear the sounds of a city echoing off the water. Fislet tells the men she'll let them off in the quarry on the Western side of the small peninsula once the coast is clear.
They float out at sea until nightfall, then use the cover of darkness to make their final approach to the city of Baden's Bluff...
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