Agent of the Sway: Restoration - Part Five
Hopesmeade departed for the docks with the Duchess. Clayton didn't want to think what strange magical concoction he was going to have to ingest to survive in Maraqua. Clayton meanwhile made his way further into town - if there was one place he would find information on the Black Pawkeet, it was the Rusty Dubloon.
It was a rowdy pirate establishment known for its lack of rules and lack of hygiene. The owner, Toothless Bob, was a Techo with the finest set of pearly whites on the island. He rarely moved from behind the bar, polishing tankards with a cloth that had been in use for so long that it had developed its own ecosystem.
Clayton took a tankard of grog off one of the barmaids, a young white Ixi, and sat down near the loneliest looking pirate. The Chomby took a few moments before he even realised Clayton was there.
"What do you want?" he managed to get out.
"I'm looking for a ship," Clayton said.
"There's plenty in the port," the Chomby replied. "Mine, the Irritating Pawkeet, ain't setting sail for a few days."
"I'm looking for a specific ship," Clayton clarified. "It is known as the Black Pawkeet."
"Captain Bloodhook's old ship?"
"I understood it was Captained by a pirate named Garin," Clayton said.
"Oh, it is, now," the Chomby said. "Old Bloodhook's dead, buried in the Pirate Caves by Hannah a few years ago - Garin took the ship after he died."
"Where might I find it now?" Clayton asked.
"Probably on the far side of the island for now," the Chomby said. "They got a big haul by the sounds of it, came back to the island to celebrate."
"Thank you, Mr...?"
"They call me Thimbles, Freddy Thimbles," he said.
"Thank you, Captain Thimbles," Clayton said with a small nod.
He left the tankard of grog untouched, he didn't want to think about what illnesses lay inside. When Clayton was gone, Freddy leaned forwards and scooped up the grog, downing it in one swift glug.
Clayton trekked over to the other side of the island. As Freddy had indicated, the Black Pawkeet was anchored in a small, hidden bay away from the main docks. They clearly weren't wanting to gain any attention. There was no doubting it was the right ship - the black sails matched the description perfectly.
From the activity on the ship, they seemed to be preparing to set sail again. The party had ended, and it was a return to business. Quickly, Clayton swam across, keeping low and quiet in the water to avoid detection. He climbed up the anchor rope just as it was raised, hiding himself within the garish skeletal figurehead at the front of the ship, out of the crew's eyeline.
Hopesmeade was not comfortable with travelling to New Maraqua. He was, by and large, a city man. A surface city man. He didn't like having his fur and clothes drenched. He didn't like having to wear a seaweed necklace simply to breathe. He didn't even particularly like the look of New Maraqua, if he was being honest.
Credit where credit was due, it was an impressive place. King Kelpbeard had pulled out all the stops in designing and building the city for the survivors. Structures of kelp and coral appeared to have been carved into new, outlandish forms. The great gates themselves were made of Maractite, a substance unique to Maraqua, which was stronger than steel but travelled through water as if it was air.
It just wasn't to Hopesmeade's tastes, that was all. Still, he had a task to perform, and perform it he would. King Kelpbeard had been a loyal servant of the Sway over the years, so Hopesmeade was welcomed into the palace like a noble guest, at least.
"She intends for a war?" Kelpbeard gasped. "My years of collaboration, and she would send it all into disarray?"
"We will ensure that Maraqua suffers minimal casualties," Hopesmeade assured him. "Scarblade, however, will have his supporters thrown to the mercy of the tides. I have been sent to ensure this. The Maraquan army must begin stockpiling arms. Civilians must either be enlisted or instructed to remain indoors during the fighting."
"I will call Master Talek to the palace immediately to discuss preparations," Kelpbeard agreed. "Maractite production must also be scaled upwards. Though that may prove difficult - production has stalled lately, our supplies are running out in the mining territory we currently have. We have avoided expansion of the mines in case it drew attention. I suppose that does not matter any longer if the plan is to be discovered regardless. Though I would not worry too much, with Isca on our side, we cannot fail."
"Isca?" Hopesmeade asked.
"A young Aisha I took in after finding her wandering the ruins of Old Maraqua," Kelpbeard said. "She is something of a good luck charm, a seeress who is gifted with dreams that have steered us away from many disasters in the past."
"Interesting," Hopesmeade commented. "You neglected to mention her in your reports."
Kelpbeard backtracked quickly.
"I don't detail my citizens to you in a list," he said. "Besides, it is the army that is the main force of Maraqua, they will be the key to victory in any battle."
It did not take long for the Revenge to locate the Black Pawkeet. The sun was just setting over the horizon when dark clouds began to gather. Clayton knew what to expect, in his years since taking over operations from Captain Dread, Scarblade had amassed a few interesting spells for use amongst his crew. One was stolen from the chambers of Morguss on the Darigan Citadel, and shrouded the Revenge in storm clouds permanently. It allowed her to sneak up on unwary ships, and pick them off before they had time to prepare their defence.
Garin and his crew clearly did not expect anything of the sort. They began preparing for a bad storm as soon as they spotted the clouds. Clayton was making his own preparations, attacking a rope to the end of a crossbow bolt - he would use it to swing across to the Revenge as they attacked.
Sure enough, the Revenge was upon them in minutes. She emerged through the storm like a horrible black beast, her hull dwarfing the Black Pawkeet - she was at least twice the size.
Twenty one cannons were primed and ready on either side, hopelessly outmatching the Black Pawkeet's four.
"What is that?" Garin gasped from the deck.
The Revenge was quickly moving into position to broadside them, which even at long range would cripple such a relatively small ship.
"To arms!" Garin yelled. "Protect the ship!"
Despite being caught off guard, the crew of the Black Pawkeet were skilled sailors. Cannons were rolled out and primed, crew armed, and the ship readied for battle by the time the Revenge had come alongside.
The ships fired at the same time, the Black Pawkeet's cannon impacting in the lower reaches of the Revenge's hull. The larger ship's cannon's should have destroyed the smaller's in a single volley, but the cannons instead caused minor damage, many cannonballs missing entirely. Clayton knew better than to say Scarblade was a lousy shot - he was missing on purpose. He wanted the Black Pawkeet captured, not destroyed.
Boarding parties came next, swinging across to the Black Pawkeet in large numbers. Here, Scarblade proved his advantage both in numbers and skill. Garin's crew were quickly forced back.
Clayton meanwhile was busy preparing his means of escape. He lined up the shot to the Revenge. She lacked a figurehead to latch onto, so Clayton instead aimed for the prow. From there, he would be able to gain access to the lower decks in the chaos of battle and stow away.
He fired off his crossbow bolt, and tested the rope before swinging across. On the deck of the Black Pawkeet, Jacques, Garin's first mate, was signalling to abandon ship. It seemed unlikely that any of the crew would be able to, however, as the Revenge's invaders had swiftly surrounded them.
Jacques was lowering himself into a row boat as above, Garin was struck on the head with a blow from a member of Scarblade's crew. Garin fell, the Usul quickly sinking into the water. Jacques attempted to row over, but a stray cannonball hit his rowboat, sinking it. Treading water, Jacques found he had company.
Three water Faeries had emerged from the depths, surrounding him.
"Who are you?" Jacques demanded, the Kyrii trying to swim away from the rapidly approaching Faeries. "Stay away from me! Help!"
The Faeries reached Jacques, grabbing hold of him and forcing him down.
Onboard the Revenge, Clayton swallowed hard. He recognised those Faeries - the Drenched. Evil water Faeries. They may not have been allies for Fyora, but any Faerie was potentially an enemy of the Sway. They must have been following the Revenge, hoping to pick up any stragglers - and if the Revenge had Faeries tailing it, things had just become a touch more difficult.
Scanning for Garin, Clayton caught sight of the Usul disappearing beneath the waves. There was someone with him, as well. Not a Faerie, but a Maraquan Aisha - Garin appeared to be being rescued by a local.
As Scarblade made a speech about the survivors joining his crew or walking the plank, Clayton made his way into the Revenge through one of the portholes. He found a quiet cargo hold in the depths, and stowed himself away. He'd have to send a message to Hopesmeade to inform him of the developments, but otherwise, he'd remain hidden until the Revenge made port.
How to contact Hopesmeade provided a problem - the Crokabeks the Sway usually used would be unable to reach Maraqua. Instead, Clayton would have to rely on the method of communication the Duchess normally used for King Kelpbeard, a legion of trained Goldies. Hopefully, the Duchess had seen fit to dispatch one to the Revenge for Clayton's use.
To be continued...