Invasion of Babseth
Prologue: Somewhere, Across the Sea…
The continent of Alenora boasted the most beautiful, elaborate landscape. It was a continent divided into cities and territories but each got along fairly well with the next. Alenora was home to the most advanced and civilized of all cities.
The Ten Cities, as they were known throughout the world, were the civilizations of Man. The cities stretched out from east to west in a snaking line. Here was where the non-magical race of Man made their homes, made their history and made their lives.
But there were other civilizations throughout the world. The Jewel and Ink Islands for starters. Distant shores across the Western Sea from Alenora that boasted their own cultures and their own people. The Western sea was also the barrier between Alenora and the so-called less civilized continent of Dallu. Dallu was a harbour for those who wished to escape the law. The home of pirates and prisoners, anyone caught breaking the law was sent to the smaller continent from all over the world. It was a worse hive of villainy than Tarun of the Ten Cities. It lay in the middle of the Western Sea, directly between Alenora and Khahana. It was in irregular shape for a continent, and legend had it that an army of dragons hailing from Alenora and an army of Sea serpents and Leviathans from Khahana once fought a terrible battle. The rapid cooling of the dragon fire and the heavy losses on both sides were what created the lush, tropical island in the center of the ocean. It was a perilous journey to get to Dallu, and only the bravest Captains dared to go there. It was the most common play place of the pirate factions.
The pirate factions were legendary in the Western Sea and beyond. Everyone knew that they existed and all of the seaport towns and cities feared the raiding parties of each faction. The Factions hailed from all four corners of the globe, each laying claim to their quadrant. The savage men from the North, clad in their furs and leather, the exotic men from the South, their skin bronze and their hair as black as oil, seen usually without their shirts on, clad in the skins of animals never seen above the equator. The Eastern pirates were silent killers, assassins of the sea, they fought with honour above all else. And then there were the Western pirates. They were the worst of all, pillaging and raiding more than the Northmen, killing anyone who got in their way. They were godless barbarians, outcasts from the Ten Cities who showed no mercy to their victims. The Western pirates had no leader. They were, in reality, several smaller factions who would band together under one flag when they needed to, but otherwise they were the most lawless of them all.
Infighting was common among the factions of the pirates. Disputes always arose over claims to territory. If a pirate from the South moved too far over the boundaries for the tastes of the Northmen, they would fight. If the Eastern pirates tried to break it up, or travelled too far past Dallu, someone would be there to stop them. The miniature Western factions always fought amongst themselves, claiming ships and bounties and people for their own ends, captains killed captains and no one claimed to lead them.
Finally, one industrious pirate by the name of Captain Lucius Mercy stepped forward. He was a charismatic man, six foot tall, beautiful pearly white teeth, long black flowing hair. He was the essence of beauty on the high seas. He watched the fighting from a distance. He never saw the need to engage in petty squabbles with the other pirates. He was his own man and if he chose not to fight or take sides, then he would certainly be there without question to pick up the scraps.
One day, Captain Mercy decided to call a Parley of all the pirates. He sent word to all the pirates to meet him in Dallu in Cutthroat Bay on the full moon of the fourth month. He waited patiently, amassing a feast of wines and foods from all over the globe and made sure that he had brought in enough slave women and whores to satisfy the needs of the horde of pirates that he was calling.
As the sun set, the final ships were docking and the Captains of every ship were assembled. Captain Mercy sat at a high table, overlooking the gathering group below him. There were pirates from all over the world amassing there, the ships in Cutthroat Bay ranged from the huge warships from the North, to the tiny little skiffs of the East and everything in between. The ships of the Northern faction were sturdy beasts made of thick oak with hellish depictions of snarling dogs and bears on their prows. The sides of the ships had slots where oars would be lowered for additional speed when the huge red and white sails weren’t enough. They all sailed under the flag of captain Jeran Higg: a red flag with a snow white wolf in the center. The Ships from the South were narrow, built for trading not fighting. They were made of a golden kind of wood and they gleamed like bronze in the sunlight. The Southern pirates were led by Captain Kerne and they sailed under the black flag with the golden sun. The Eastern ships were black and small and quick, made for precision striking at their enemies. They all bore the heads of dragons on their prows, and Captain Tariq took a coiled dragon on a golden flag as his symbol. Comparably, the ships of the West were a mottled, mixed bunch. Everything from trading galleys to massive flagships meant for cargo and crew. No one sailed under a single flag unless they were a part of a fleet, but there were only two fleets in the entire Western Faction; one belonged to Captain Mercy and sailed under the symbol of his seahorse and the other were the broken hearts of Captain Valentine.
The pirates began to mingle, crews dining together under the rules of Parley and the Captains began to approach Captain Mercy’s place of honour as serving women milled about, filling goblets and serving food as they saw fit. A pirate’s feast was never without entertainment and some men had appetites for more than wine and meat and fruit. Captain Mercy had anticipated this and had made sure that there would be something for everyone. Cheers arose from amongst the crews as they supped together, helping themselves to whatever they wanted and setting aside grudges that would be brought to fresh light as soon as they were away from the island.
“Hey, Mercy!” The only female Captain called out. “How come you never bring any servant men for me? A woman has her needs too you know!”
A hearty laugh at Captain Mercy’s expense rippled through the group of equals and Mercy jumped down from his place of self-proclaimed honour. There were only a few Captains in the factions who were worth talking to, most of them were lesser captains, members of the two Western fleet who served on one of the ships, or the Captains of smaller ships who would sail under one of the two fleet’s flags if they were called for.
All but one of the assembled captains were men and Captain Mercy could name each one and the name of his ship, but they were all men. They were rowdy and bawdy and wouldn’t know the lap of luxury had they been born into it. They were rough, ill mannered and unimpressive to Captain Mercy. They would remember the slight to Captain Mercy for ages, pointing out that the Captain didn’t know how to please a woman. It was a scathing comment but Captain Mercy would endure. The Lady Captain had her own reputation, after all.
He ignored the other captains and their jest. Captain Mercy walked right up to the only woman captain and bowed, lifting her hand to his mouth to kiss it.
“Why Lady Chiara.” Captain Mercy said sensually. “I had thought that a woman of such unequalled beauty would only want the finest man on the seven seas.” He stood up with a twinkle in his clear blue eyes. “I’ve saved myself for you.”
His jest caused the Lady Captain to blush furiously and the other men laughed at her expense. It was a fierce rivalry known to all the pirate factions that went on between Captains Mercy and Valentine. No one knew better what a well-placed comment could do to ones reputation. The only lucky thing that stayed Valentine’s cutlass was the fact that they were there under invitation by Captain Mercy and that they rules of Parley dictated that it be a violence-free evening.
Captain Mercy leaned in close to Chiara and whispered. “I say it in jest, but you know that you find me irresistible. I have only had eyes for you, Chiara, and I would do anything to make you mine.”
Chiara backed away from him and said nothing. She was nearly as tall as he was, but with hair the colour of summer wheat and unsettling amber eyes. Chiara Valentine was lithe and graceful, the rumours said that she had the blood of the Elves in her, but no one ever confirmed it, Chiara least of all. She was from the West, like Lucius, and had grown up as a captive on a ship. She eventually learned her way around a sword and a blunderbuss and overthrew the former Captain. She commanded the fastest ship in the West, aptly named The Lady’s Tears.
The huge Northman, Jeran Higg stepped up beside the lady captain and offered her his arm. She took it hesitantly, she would do anything to avoid looking like a weak and helpless woman. The tall, strange Northman escorted her to a seat at the table of honour set half a step below Captain Mercy’s high seat. He sat down next to her and the other captains and faction leaders followed suit. When everyone was seated, Captain Mercy took his seat once again. And the servants brought the captains there meals.
Food and wine was passed around and the Captains ate together, sharing stories of victory and defeat amongst themselves. When food was being cleared away and many of the pirates were beginning to get rowdy, Lucius Mercy smiled at Captain Valentine and clapped his hands, causing an instant silence amongst the chattering, laughing pirate horde before him. “My friends, my esteemed enemies.” He called out. “For too long we have fought amongst ourselves. For too long the bounties and splendours of the realm have been divided unfairly amongst us. We are poorer alone then we could be together. What I am proposing tonight is not for the faint of heart. No, what I am proposing is unheard of in all the history of our world.” Lucius cast his glimmering blue eyes over the assembled crowd, drinking in their silence, their anticipation.
“I am proposing that we unite, under one flag, under one name to take the greatest plunder that the entire world has to offer?”
“Really?” Captain Jeran Higg retorted. He was a burly man, the leader of the Northern faction, and his voice boomed and echoed across the open expanse of the island. “And what, pray tell, is your great plunder?”
Captain Mercy smiled his attractive, perfect smile and let the suspense build amongst the pirates for just long enough to make them truly curious.
“I propose that we take an entire city.”