Wednesday, July 22, 2020

More Curses Than (Then?) Pirates

Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning - the early skies had a lovely sunrise, which set the sailors on edge. And for good reason; by mid-morning, a storm had blown up, gray clouds swirling over the horizon. The Captain ordered a course correction, trying to avoid the worst of the storm, which sent the ship even more off course than it already was. A few of the crew noticed the captain was worried...

Suddenly, snap! One of the mainstays split in half! Zuko managed to quickly fix it, but didn't pay any attention to the damage. Giles, however, spotted the edge seemed cut, not just broken... And not but a few minutes later, Jean Benoit fell, though he managed to grab hold of the rigging in time - a piece of rope falling past him to the ground, the end suspiciously free of fraying. Several of the crew mutter about sabotage, but when Giles tried to bring it before the first mate, he was scoffed at. "Why would someone sabotage ze ship, and strand zemselves, 'ow you say, in ze middle of ze ocean? Bah!"

Just past noon, Simon spotted a few birds on the horizon, then... land? The navigator was in a tizzy; they should be in a well-marked shipping lane, with no islands for miles, and yet, there was an island! He was afraid they were farther off than anticipated. The Captain sent the crew to investigate.

The island itself was low, with grass that grew right to the water's edge. The edge wasn't sandy, but rather rocky, though only a couple feet from the ocean. Zuko dived in, realizing the island was no normal island, but a floating island! As they explored, they realized the whole island undulated with the sea. They found a few blackberry bushes, and after exploring the edge, headed inland. Eventually, they made their way to the center of the island, where a tiny hut say beside a sparkling pool of clear water. The water was salty, but not nearly as salty as the ocean. The hut nearby had a sign out front, scratched into a wooden plank. In Icelandic, it read:

Welkom op het Helse Eiland
Pas op voor iedereen die deze plaats binnenkomt, want de enige ontsnapping is de dood, want de verschuivende scholen volgen en vernietigen alle hoop op ontsnapping

Or, as translated by the Hawkins, resident Dutch speaker:

Welcome to Hell's Island
Beware all who enter this place, as the only escape is death, for the shifting shoals follow and destroy all hope of escape

They found $15 in pieces of eight and a journal in the hut, stored in a wooden box with a stone lid. The journal revealed the truth about the island; it was indeed floating, circling with the seasons, pushed by storms west and north, then by trade winds south and east. The island is followed by sharp rocks; traveling on any side of the island but the "outside" (that is, the side pointing away from the center of the island's path) would cause a ship to be sliced to ribbons. Igneous rocks floated in the water, sharp points upward. If a ship came near the island, it would be punched full of holes.

The survivor spent two years in the circling island, living off sea birds, fish, seaweed, and the few berries that survived. Storms would pile more rocks and wrap the seaweed tighter, knocking things around every three or four months, but somehow the island always avoided the worst of the storms, holding together. Finally, about two months before, the survivor managed to build a raft out of wrecked ships and sailed away.

When they finally returned to the ship, the castaway said it wasn't him, and laughed at the "poor fool's plight" - "And I thought I had it bad! Haha! He didn't even have the mermaids to sing him to sleep! He must have gone mad! Ahahahahaha!"

That night, about 4am, Zuko spotted something on the horizon. He called down, and Jack Crow came up to take a look - realizing that it was a pirate ship! Quickly, Zuko sounded the alarm, and everyone was roused quickly, sprinting to the guns. Luckily, because they were on the lookout for more floating islands, they spotted the ship before it could get close enough. It fired a sounding shot, and the Captain fired back, taking them by surprise! The battle raged, with each ship shooting at the other, shooting well, but not doing much damage. Finally, as the ships closed, they each began taking a heavy toll on the other. Two lucky shots blasted away much of the crew on the other ship, leaving only two guns manned; another shot killed the captain and navigator. Captain Fisher ordered the Horizon to draw along side; soon, the crew were locked in combat with the remaining pirates. It wasn't long before they were dealt with. Zuko tossed over a hook, and attacked one of the pirates; Giles followed, bashing another. Once the fighting was over, they heard cries for help - two men were trapped below deck. Giles let them out, then jumped into the hold... not realizing just how much water it held. Zuko was forced to dive in after him, and managed to not bash himself on any boxes. In fact, after rescuing Giles, he strode around on the boxes like he was taking a stroll on dry land - and in so doing, rescued a man chained to the wall.

Zuko and Giles started moving cargo out of the hold, while Hawking gulped and tried his hand at climbing again... to no success, almost immediately falling into the water. Doughlas, meanwhile, miraculously managed to lower the dingy, though lost an oar trying to get it oriented. Jean Benoit and Jack Crow headed across the rope to the pirate ship... and Jean fell in. He and Hawking were forced to swim to the other side, and joined Doughlas in the dingy.

After some trial and error, Zuko, Giles, and Jack managed to liberate some cargo and climb back over; the pirate ship sank, leaving a few crew stranded in the water. The Captain picked them up, and suggested a trial period, where they would be allowed to remain on board as crew... though for little pay, of course.

When the man Zuko rescued came to, he swore a life debt - he would be Zuko's servant until such a time as he saved Zuko's life. The rescued treasure was distributed to the men (though not the pirates),

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