Aged sea-rat, long in the whisker and bearing the scars of a lifetime on the winds. Never without his weathered but immaculate flintlock pistol. Garbed in silk robes over armor of interlocking metal shards, each shard resembling a shark's tooth.
He stood on the deck, even the new soarwood timbers feeling as familiar to him as his own nose. It was his 36th season aboard the Salty Pigeon, the ship itself only younger than Captain Argot by the virtue of all the repairs and modifications over the years, no bolt or lanyard left untouched by the rigors of years of non-stop operation.
Things weren’t going as smoothly as they should. Just as the crone predicted, downward pressure owing to the weather had pushed the ship down, its keel dragging along the water and the sails barely filled with the lessened wind down at sea level. They would be a week from Sharn under ideal conditions, but at this rate it would take them the better part of a month. Everyone was thankful that the dried spices and fine silks they carried would not be worse for the trip.
That longship that had been following them the last quarter hour was some cause for concern as well. It got close by dint of a fogbank, which Argot knew could be no coincidence. He could hear the caustic shouts of the row master, calling out a fast cadence that would see the Salty Pigeon intercepted within the minute.
The barbarous ship was armed he was sure, and that’s why the Pigeon flew a white flag. No pirate captain worth their salt would risk damaging potential slaves, hostages, cargo and a prize vessel itself if they did not have to. The Captain of the Pigeon, in turn, would not needlessly risk the dozens of his kin huddled silently in the decks below. The merchant captain cursed these pirates, his heart filling with righteous fury.
As the lawless ship drew near within forty yards of the aft of the merchant vessel and its rear cabin, atop which Argot stood, the cutthroats were well in the trap. Three taps of his scabbard on the deck were heard plainly below, as well as atop the mast where the once-white flag was unfurled to crimson red. In the same instant there was the cacophonous blast and bright light of the First Mate’s cannon-rifle from a narrow port below. Within that same second there arose a chaotic storm of smoke and noise as more musket shots bore down on the pirates.
The first shot burst among the readied berserkers that now crammed the deck of the longship, a bright hot light that exploded halfway through a frenzied buccaneer. His expression barely changed as he hit the deck in two pieces amidst shouts from all around by half-blind warriors, many of them also fallen from well-aimed musket shot.
Finally the merchant captain had his say, his flintlock thundering and blasting a massive chunk out of the opposing captain. Though the pirate captain was Warforged, his ‘flesh’ sizzled and popped from the bullet meant just for him. A second shot tore through him barely a second later, the man of war falling to the deck before he even knew the battle had begun.
Captain Argot spun in place, pressing his teeth to the flash pan of his pistol and blowing a swift measured breath through, clearing embers and unburnt coal from his gun, while at the same time his left hand pulled a cartridge from his vest and crammed it down the neck of his weapon. A split second later another of his bullets tore through the massed boarding party, and then another blast from below as his brother shot a quick-loading alchemical rocket from his rifle, the trained musketrats continuing to put down the fury of the barbarians as well.
The Salty Pigeon had stopped and weighed anchor at the same time the white flag went up, and this freed up the sailors aboard. They were scaling the sides of the longship, with kukri, cutlass or rapier clasped in their teeth as the sea water dripped off them. As the firing went on, the merchant captain’s own swashbucklers and honorable pirates nonetheless took their deadly toll, lopping off heads, limbs and piercing vital organs before the barbarians even knew there were enemies among them.
So it was the battle was loud, vicious, and short. The ratpriests tended to the wounded, some of them the victims of friendly grazings while others caught an axe, club or javelin aboard the enemy ship. One had the sniffles from the chill water and was put to bed. Captain Argot, his First Mate, the Quartermaster and the rest of the boarding party were aboard the longship, ensuring everything was secure especially the lucre the sea-bandits had thus far stolen.
Precious metal coins and trinkets were being counted out by the Quartermaster, the “good” pirates looking on and taking their own counts, the better to make sure the officers didn’t get more than their two-shares apiece when the spoils were later divided. Meanwhile, Argot and First Mate Erget were checking the food stores. They seemed fairly sufficient, now what to do about the galley slaves?
More food was brought aboard, fresh vegetables, dried meats and clean water offered to the rowers as the rodent shamans saw to their wounds and unbound their chains. Behind them, chests and sacks of gold and trinkets were being transferred to the Pigeon, now pulled alongside and grappled to the sleeker ship.
Argot would finally speak minutes later, after his people had made off back to his ship with all the shinies, the Salty Pigeon drifting away as soon as the binding ropes were unfastened and brought up. One of the galley slaves approached him, standing protectively between Argot and the others, a fire burning in her eyes.. the old rat smiled, “Nay we won’t be burnin yer ship now. Ye’ve got this ship this far, only right it be yours now. Be good ta them, get them to their families or new ones..”
His speech finished, he vanished from the longboat, appearing back atop the aftcastle of his own ship. The shocked rowers looked to eachother, thinking about what to do next.. the oppressive air seemed to lift both figuratively and literally, as the victorious vessel they had just done battle with began to sail off towards the clouds, picking up speed as sails filled with air and odd bamboo-and-cloth paddles extended from the sides and pushed against the air.
Captain Argot was pleased. If anyone asked, he said it was because the weather had cleared and they would be making good time now.