So this short is about the final act that made Edward desert the Grand Navy. I always was curious which town he was referring to when he told the player he was a part of a blockade that resulted in the destruction of a town (because you’d think we’d get to see this town or have it be mentioned by npcs if it was one of the currently existing towns). I originally theorized it to be Palo Town, but then that begs the question: how did it get rebuilt so quickly? And why are no npcs unhappy with the Grand Navy? Redwake isn’t in an optimal position to open fire on, Frostmill and Shell Island are under Ravenna’s rule and appear to have no Grand Navy presence on them, and none of the Ravennan cities have any evidence of destruction in them. So I continued to think about it, and then I remembered that Wind-Row not only had stone ruins on it, but their houses are severely damaged and looked like they’d been intentionally destroyed. Now, I’m not entirely happy with how this short story turned out as I don’t think I did a particularly good job with the writing, but I do like the premise so I wanted to at least share the finished product with the forum.
The Bronze Sea was smooth as glass south of Tiberia, Ravenna. Captain Edward Kenton breathed in the salty air, his eyes skittering from the perfect reflection of the setting sun, to his crew shuffling around the caravel, and then to the rocky mass in the distance.
Wind-Row Island. Lieutenant Callahan had been sent to investigate a reported Assassin Syndicate hideout, but he hadn’t reported back to Silverhold in two weeks. No messenger, no letter, no indication that he was even still alive. Edward was being sent to rotate shifts with another ship. The investigation had been going on for a few days, and during that time he’d sailed from Silverhold to Rubica. Now he sailed southeast to Wind-Row. To do what, he had no idea.
The mission log he and many others received burned a hole in his pocket. Greetings, Captain. You are being sent on this mission because the Grand Navy trusts you’ll do a good job. Conduct yourself professionally and don’t be afraid to make the tough call. Signed, Commodore Kai
Such a cryptic message. Edward chewed the inside of his cheek. The tough call? He had no idea what Kai was talking about. He didn’t even know why the Navy was sending so many ships to deal with a missing Lieutenant. The locals were troublesome, sure, but the existence of this so-called “hideout” was speculation at best. The only reason they were dealing with it was because Lord Ulricus had told them Tiberian locals had seen Syndicate ships in the distance.
His lieutenant hadn’t been helpful either. Every time he asked him what all the trouble was for, the most he’d get was an aloof “Lieutenant Callahan is an integral member of the Grand Navy, and his family deserves to see him returned home safely.” Which, of course, he couldn’t argue with.
But thinking about it hadn’t gotten him any closer to answers. Neither has investigating, he thought bitterly. Edward glanced over his shoulder at the marine pouring wind into the sails. “How are you holding up, Cody?”
The wind mage’s face was set in concentration, but he broke his gaze from the sails to look at Edward. “Good, Captain.”
Edward nodded, turning his eyes to the distance. A ring of ships wrapped around the northern edge of the island, no more than a click from the shore. A blockade of mostly ketches for a lieutenant? His stomach churned. And so close to the shore, too.
Edward steered the ship to the northern end of the ravine that gouged through the center of the island. Should he tell his men to expect anything? Or be on the lookout for anything? But for what? Edward’s eyes scanned over his crew. They were only marines, blissfully unaware of the suspicious activity Edward had noticed from Kai and from the other higher-ups of the Navy.
He shook the thoughts from his mind as he dismissed Cody from his position so he could help the others. The ship lurched from the lack of wind, but it approached seamlessly towards The Silver Manta, the notorious ketch of his mentor, Lieutenant Moore. Edward ordered his men to raise the sails, and The Turning Tide coasted smoothly to a stop. Lieutenant Moore turned towards him, breaking his conversation with a Vice Captain.
Edward plastered a professional smile on his face as he crossed over to the Manta and shook Moore’s hand. He hoped his anxiety wasn’t obvious. The older man peered at him curiously, but Edward nearly sighed in relief when he said, “Impressive helm-work, Captain.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant. What’s the situation?”
Moore took a scroll from the Vice Captain, who rushed to speak to the quartermaster. “We’ve experienced some resistance from the Wolves, naturally. Those savages have disrupted any of our attempts to camp on the island.”
Edward’s eyes drifted to the towering northwestern cliffside, where he could see the remnants of a Wolf lookout post. But other than the singular cabin, there was no sign of any inhabitation.
Moore followed his gaze. “It might not seem like they’re there, but they are. They ambush us every time we try to set foot on dry land. We managed to capture the ‘Alpha,’ as they so call him. That doesn’t stop their attacks, though.”
A flicker of surprise sparked through him, and he brought his gaze back down to Moore. “You have their leader in custody?”
“Yes, but it hasn’t made much of a difference in their zeal.” Moore sighed. “All they ever say is that it’s ‘their territory’ and that we’re trespassing on it.”
“No luck with Lieutenant Callahan?”
Moore shook his head. “Absolutely none. Either the Wolves got him, the Syndicate did, or he and his men sailed off into the Nimbus Sea. There’s not a single trace of them, nor is his ship here.”
Edward’s brow furrowed. The question of why so much manpower was required to retrieve him burned on the tip of his tongue, but he resorted to clenching his jaw in frustration. None of it made any sense. He’d sooner go insane trying to unravel the mystery than sailing into the Dark Sea.
So he resorted for the safe comment. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“It doesn’t,” Moore agreed.
“Is Lord Ulricus sure he didn’t stop in Tiberia? Or anywhere else in Ravenna?”
Moore displayed the scroll in his hand. It was a letter from Ulricus confirming that Callahan hadn’t even stopped in Ravenna on his way to Wind-Row.
What if he’s lying? Edward wanted to say. Ravenna’s always been steely towards us and our influence. What if this was their way of taking a stand against us?
Moore was studying him. “I know what you’re thinking, kid.” He sighed again. “It’s no use. I already sent in my concerns to Commodore Kai, but you probably already know how that went.”
Frustration burned through him, but he didn’t comment. Edward glanced around at the men shuffling around, moving cargo and checking equipment. He took in a deep breath to try and steady his heart. He looked towards Wind-Row, at the towering cliffside, the stone wall sealing the ravine from outsiders. For the first time since he’d arrived, a violent wind tore through the ravine, howling its fury as it ruffled his hair and flung his cape around him.
No boots on the ground, and no investigations. He had to wonder why so much manpower was needed if no progress had been made. “What are your plans for the evening, Lieutenant?”
Moore’s grin was strained. “Hunker down and wait for them to break.” He glanced over his shoulder, in the direction of another ship. “Besides, even if we could set up camps, we wouldn’t be allowed to. As soon as the Major arrived, she forbade anyone from stepping on the island.”
That’s suspicious, he couldn’t help but think. Why wouldn’t they be allowed to scour Wind-Row for this incredibly important Lieutenant? “Has the Alpha been compliant?”
Moore turned back to Edward and scratched the back of his head. “From what I’ve heard, he has. Or really, as compliant as a Wolf can be. Only the Major and a few other Lieutenants have been permitted to speak with him. She’s the only one who’s even managed to step foot on the island for longer than five minutes.”
Strange. But if he asked why the Major was allowed on Wind-Row, he’d bet money that the response he’d get would be because they had the Alpha. “What information have they received?”
“I already asked that question, but the only answer I got was that the information they’d received was confidential. I highly doubt the Wolves know anything anyway.” Moore seemed to look right through him. He was quiet for a moment, and Edward tried and failed to maintain a blank expression. “Look, kid. I can already see the wheels in your brain turning. I don’t want to have to report you, so don’t do anything stupid. I’m sure there’s a good reason for all the secrecy. For now, we’re all just going to have to keep our ears on the ground and wait for orders.”
Edward refrained from snorting. “Yes, sir,” he said instead of pressing the matter.
“It’ll be awhile before we get any more information.” Moore’s eyes burned through him. “I suggest you stay on the ship until an update arrives. Am I clear?”
A muscle in his jaw feathered. Being reported and court martialed was not an option, not if he wanted to see if there really was a good reason for all the suspicious activity going on. But for the past two years, all he’d been able to think about was how much more he was exposed to as a captain than as a marine, and that he didn’t know if he wanted to be a part of an organization that continued to give out questionable orders. Or maybe he was able to recognize the faults now that they were in his face. “Yes, sir.”
Moore smiled, though it didn’t reach his eyes. He clapped a hand on Edward’s shoulder and jostled him affectionately. “Good man. You’re dismissed, Captain.”
Waiting around wasn’t good enough. He couldn’t sit around and keep his head buried in the sand when he knew something wasn’t right. So he decided he’d wait until nightfall, when the ships would rotate shifts. And when nighttime finally arrived, he was ready.
He’d abandoned his Grand Navy uniform for dark, simple attire and a cloak. Edward leaned against the rail of The Turning Tide and watched ships come and go. Some left their positions to head for Ravenna to get supplies and rest their crew. Others came from Rubica to fill in the gaps left from departing ships. That ever-present howling wind Wind-Row was known for carved through the ravine with a vengeance, stirring the waters surrounding the island. Other than that, the sea was a glittering canvas of a clear sky full of stars.
He sighed to himself. This was what he loved about being a part of the Grand Navy. The Bronze Sea was his home. He wanted to help its people and be a part of something bigger than himself. But he had a feeling that after tonight, something would change. He just hoped it’d all be worth it.
Edward straightened and adjusted the pack on his back. He checked his supplies one last time: a canteen, tent, some dried meat, extra ammunition, a hunting knife. It was all there, and it was time to go.
He made his way carefully to the starboard side of the ship, where an emergency rowboat was suspended on the side of the caravel. He loosed the ropes and cringed as the suspension creaked. But not one sleeping man on the deck stirred. Slowly, he lowered the rowboat to the water.
He rowed as silently as he could. From what he knew about Wind-Row, most of the Wolves lived on the northern clifface. It was highly unlikely Callahan or his men were with them, so he’d start on the opposite side. There would be few, if any, Navy ships, and a lower chance of encountering anyone at all. And if for some reason the Major decided to land on Wind-Row at an ungodly hour, he wouldn’t run into her.
His anxiety spiked. He was risking everything. If he got caught, he’d be tried for disobeying orders, or desertion, if he got unlucky. And desertion was punishable by death in the Grand Navy. A cold sweat ran down his back, but he ignored the nervous turmoil in his gut.
The bow of his rowboat thudded into the island. His arms felt molten, and his breathing turned ragged, but he hoisted the pack over his shoulder and climbed onto the lowest ledge. Edward secured the boat by setting a fairly sized rock on the end of the rope. It wasn’t reliable, but it’d have to do.
He continued climbing. Reaching the top of the southern cliffside revealed that there were no Navy ships, to his eternal relief. All there was was the Bronze Sea, and the mirror like water that perfectly reflected the sky.
He braced against the trunk of a pine tree to catch his breath and rest his muscles. Straightening, he headed southwest, and Edward kept his steps as light as possible. The brush was thinned out, either because of the climate or because someone had tended to it. He prayed it was the former.
A chilly breeze sent goosebumps down his arms. He could hear the responding roar of wind through the ravine all the way from the edge. At least any noise he made would be covered. The only thing he’d have to worry about is being spotted by a patrol or reported missing from his ship. Please don’t let anyone wake up and notice I’m gone.
Edward took in a few deep breaths to calm the nervous stirring in his gut. Now was not the time to let his fear control him. What he needed to do was find out what all the fuss was about and then get back to The Turning Tide before dawn.
He kept a close eye on the moon’s position as he walked. No more than an hour had passed, and there’d been no evidence of the Grand Navy anywhere. Edward habitually glanced towards the sky again, only this time he spotted a large shadow blotting out the stars. He quickened his pace.
Edward came across a mossy, stone ruin. It was clearly decades old, at the very least, and run down and in disrepair. He squinted in the darkness, spotting old, shattered pottery and moldy rugs. The floorboards had nearly completely decayed. Half the building had collapsed, leaving its insides open to the elements. He wondered why the Wolves hadn’t tried to rebuild them into their homes. But for now, all he wanted to focus on was how lucky he was they hadn’t, lest he be caught. Even so, he somehow doubted that anything the Wolves could do to him would be worse than the Navy.
Anxiousness fluttered in his gut as he inspected the ruins further, half expecting a Navy member or Wolf to jump out at him any second. But the only company he seemed to be in, to his relief, was an owl.
There was nothing. Maybe it was the darkness or his hurriedness, but he found no evidence of the presence of a Syndicate hideout. There was one building left. Edward hopped down a level, avoiding walking underneath a rotting, wooden bridge. He circled around the crumpled wall and found more floorboards and more pottery. He sighed.
Wait. There was one rug that looked less degraded than the others. Crouching down, he picked it up and inspected it. It was relatively new. It was ripped on the edges in some places and had a few holes in it, but there was no mold or mildew on it. He flipped it over. It wasn’t a rug, but a banner. He could just make out the symbol of the Assassin Syndicate in the darkness. His palms began sweating and his gut turned.
There was a hideout here after all. Edward swallowed thickly as he looked around for any more evidence they’d been here. Or if Lieutenant Callahan had been. His search became frenzied as he turned over rotten planks and went through every vase he could find for something, anything. But the only indication they’d been here was a ragged banner. Panic squeezed his chest. The Syndicate had a presence on this island recently. That meant there was a possibility they’d done something to Callahan. But again, that begged the question of why no one was allowed on the island.
He had to leave. If he stayed and continued to mess around, the Major would know someone disobeyed orders. Moore would have no choice but to report him and then he’d be discharged from service, or worse, if there really was more to this disappearance.
Voices. A female and two male. Curses. If they found him, he was a dead man. Edward stuffed the banner back under the floor and ran as quietly as he could to the largest bush he could find and slid behind it, hoping he was out of sight. The wind in the ravine might’ve been good cover for him, but it was also good cover for anyone who wanted to sneak up on him. He was lucky they hadn’t seen him.
“—to Tiberia. Some High Lord told us the Bronze Hound has been sniffing around them too closely and nearly caught them transferring locations,” a female voice said. The Major, no doubt.
“It’s any wonder they managed to sneak off the island. The Wolves are too primitive to know how to make ships so any ship coming from Wind-Row would be suspicious,” said one man.
“The Alpha swore no one ever lived here, and that the ruins were the remains of some old kingdom’s fort. He’s not telling the truth, though,” the woman went on.
“How are we going to deal with him?” asked the second man.
“We can discuss it on The Golden Pearl. Commander Jackson explicitly requested we open fire on their village should there be any resistance. If the only language these savages understand is violence, then that’s how we’re going to communicate,” she replied.
Edward felt sick. Leave. Please leave. Leaveleaveleaveleaveleave—
“Well, this area looks untouched, at least. We got everything that idiot assassin left behind back on The Golden Pearl. Come on, Lieutenants. As soon as we bomb this place, we leave back for Silverhold.”
Edward listened for their footsteps to disappear and gave thanks to the Creator they seemed to be headed in the opposite direction he needed to go in. He wasted no time. Adrenaline poured through his veins as he sprinted north, stumbled down a few considerably high drops, and nearly face planted in his rowboat. He rowed and rowed back to The Turning Tide. He gave thanks again when no man stirred as he raised the boat out of the water and donned his captain’s attire again. Though now he felt gross wearing it.
His heart was hammering as he laid on the deck and stared at the sky. There was no way he was getting any sleep, not when he knew that Navy members were in collusion with the Assassin Syndicate and were actively covering for them. And what happened to Callahan? Was he disposed of by the Syndicate? The Navy? Killed by the Wolves? Did he end up going to the Nimbus Sea after all?
He was done. He was done with it all. The lies, the secrets, the conspiracies. Not to mention the fact that he was almost completely sure he was going to be a part of an act of terrorism in the morning. Edward was going to be sick. But he managed to quench the churning in his stomach long enough for the sun to finally rise.
Moore greeted him sourly, though his disdain was turned towards the letter in his hand from the Major, who had told everyone the Alpha had assaulted members of the Navy last night with his wind magic. And as a consequence for not only his rebellion, but also his unhelpfulness, the Navy blockade would be retaliating with one round of cannonfire from each ship. And there were over fifty ships. While Edward was grateful Moore seemed unaware of his escapade last night, he wasn’t sure he was too happy he’d finally found some answers.
“It’s unusual how no one heard the Alpha attacking the Major last night,” Moore commented with knitted brows. If Edward so much as opened his mouth he’d throw up, so he only grunted in response.
The Golden Pearl strode along the still water so that the Major herself could give the firing command. His stomach rolled over as the ketch clawed its way towards him. He grew lightheaded when he spotted the Alpha chained to the deck, wailing as he was forced to watch the Grand Navy obliterate his home.
He couldn’t order his men to stop loading a cannonball into each cannon. The Major overshadowed any order he gave by a longshot. So he kept his face as stoic as he possibly could as the cannonballs sailed over the sea and hit a home, splintering the wood into thousands of pieces.
He couldn’t take it anymore. Leaning over the starboard rail, he vomited every last bit of what was left in his stomach. A hand gripped his shoulder.
“Captain, are you all right?” Moore.
Edward nodded weakly. “Just a little seasick.”
The Lieutenant didn’t look convinced. “You haven’t been seasick since when you first became a marine.”
“I guess today was just an unlucky day.”
Moore stared at him for a long moment with narrowed eyes, but he kept his mouth shut and turned to board his own ship. Later that day, each Captain and Lieutenant received a letter thanking them for their cooperation and that their service would be rewarded as soon as they returned to Silverhold.
But Captain Edward Kenton decided that he’d leave before he ever got rewarded for participating in an act of terrorism. So as soon as he got back to Silverhold, he left the first night he got back.