Dark Tides II

UP: Drachenfels & Europa

   “Piracy has always been a thorn in the side of Britannia’s traders. We have never been able to devise any sturdy methods of preventing attacks on ocean bound vessels, for we have not the gold to finance the building of as many warships as this task would demand. Yet, my lord, as I’m sure you are aware, in recent months the amount of ships getting safely to their destination has increased remarkably. As a result trade is flourishing throughout the realm.”

The scrawny scholar’s tone dripped with sarcasm.

The man whom he was addressing, Lord Josel Hammersham, scowled through the mound of paperwork, which littered his desk. The scholar’s name was Frall, a bitter and twisted young fellow whose contempt for Lord Hammersham was openly displayed since he was appointed Master of the Guild of Traders ahead of him. There was no doubt that Frall would have been worthy of the accolade, but his scheming and manipulative ways had not earned him many friends within the Guild, and the vote had gone overwhelmingly in Josel’s favour.

“All the facts of which you speak I am, as you suggested, more than aware of. Have you any articles which may be of more use to me?”

Frall smiled at the obvious retort. “Nay sire, and I bid thee a good eve.”

He left the room, gently closing the door behind him, but not before passing a condescending eye over the huge pile of papers, which dwarfed Josel in an obvious sign of disapproval.

Josel muttered incoherently under his breath as he resumed his monotonous work.

There had been a spate of attacks over the last week by a vast fleet of pirate ships. They had all been aimed at towns, and the losses of human life had been catastrophic. Homes had been wrecked, and entire suburbs ransacked. Any survivors of the initial waves of destructive cannon fire had been cut down in the streets as the pirates spilled out of their boats with a murderous fury. The scenes of these invasions had become bloodbaths, and streets were left awash with the blood of the innocent.

This hellish armada had thus far evaded the military vessels, which combed the seas to find their quarry. The best way to defend against such attacks would of course be to know when and where they would occur, Josel mused, as he scribbled down more thoughts. In his line of work, the solicitation of trade patterns throughout Britannia, he had become learned of the ways of the pirate. As a result he had been appointed by higher councils to devise the strategy, which would culminate in the destruction of this pirate hoard, which was plaguing the Realm’s coastal regions. He had been thrown in at the deep end, and would be made a scapegoat should the attacks go on much longer. These dire circumstances were the obvious cause of much delight for Frall, his deputy, a man who revelled in other’s misfortune.

Although Josel suspected only one criminal mastermind capable of commanding these attacks, he could not be sure who was the leader. ‘It must be Grarg Dral’kor’, he told himself, a man whose name alone could weaken the hearts of many men. “And that bloody imp of a side-kick, Varliin!” Josel shouted, before calming himself again. He looked out onto the bustling street below him. Everyone seemed oblivious to the danger that such a dark alliance could invoke, that which had kept Josel from sleep for so many long nights. “Nobody bloody cares!” Josel again shouted aloud. Gathering up a few documents he stormed out of his office, slamming the door shut behind him. He was getting more angry and frustrated, and decided he would take his work home with him yet again.

A week ago he had heard word that a stonemason from Minoc had discovered something beneath a statue he was working on within his own town. This discovery could lead to the disclosure of the whereabouts of Varliin’s personal hideout, it had been suggested, though the details of what was found had been kept even from Josel. ‘It must be of the utmost importance to be cloaked in shadows thus’, Josel thought, and grew impatient to learn more. Yet since a messenger had delivered to him this news, he had not received any further word on the matter.

The claws of evil grip the land tightly, the possibility that the messenger had been found by enemies unknown before reaching Britain darkened his mood yet further, but it was important to remain optimistic in these troubled times.

Lord Josel Hammersham made his way slowly home that night, but not stopping at the Sweet Dreams Inn, his favourite local drinking establishment. The bartender saw Josel walking past, shoulders hunched forward and staring at the ground as he passed the open doorway. “That’s strange,” he thought as he polished the ale barrel hanging above the bar.

Indeed it was unusual, but Josel was a troubled man.

From the Town Cryer - The Journal of Ultima Online