At the last moment, Captain Ecks made another hard turn. Smashing into the galley, portside to starboard, the higher gunwales of the Mare proved an advantage. For the attackers it was as if they were attacking over a castle wall. One of our fellow passengers cast Bane *on our attackers, and *Blessed all of us. Both sides stationed archers as high as they could and kept up what ballistae fire was possible. However, the attackers were professional soldiers and sailors, whereas, the crew of the Mare were not. The quality difference began to tell, and the attackers began to make progress onto our decks. It was at this time that the Party, along with several other passengers leapt from the Mare onto the foredeck of the galley, flanking the attackers. After clearing out the ballistae crew at the bow, we began pushing aft, Bigulf, Theo, and one or two of the other passengers carving swaths through the attackers. Bern and Hans had joined a trio of Dwarves from the crew (a father and his two sons, the Mare has a strangely mixed crew.) at the forefront of the main fight, while Lassidil, Vindle, and Ardadan fought with bows from the raised stern of the Mare.
In a tangle of spars, lines, limbs and arrows, the fight began to swing our way. Eventually the crew began to push the attackers further back onto their own vessel. Lassidil moved to join the melee and cast a swarm of rats into the midst of the pirates. Not long after, the turn was irreversible and the defeat of our attackers was certain. Still they fought on for a while longer, until, one, then another, two more, and then the rest threw down their arms.
Of those aboard the galley, now identified as the Shrike, 13 are dead, six are wounded, and the rest are made prisoner. Thirty rowers below decks took no active part of the fight, and bring the prisoner total to 40. Aboard the Golden Mare, there are seven casualties: three dead, Orin Logarsson, Isfin Summerlight, and Rogan Harper. Four are wounded: Logar Garulfsson (Orin’s father), Celebdin, Reiner and Grimbor, all crewmen. There are minor injuries amongst the survivors of both crews.
Under the pale gray sky, the scene is one of drab, exhausted chaos. As so often happens, it now seems quiet. Sounds begin to creep through to the survivors; horses neigh below deck on the Mare, the hulls creak and grind against each other while the sea laps against them. A loose block on a severed line clatters in a slow rhythm against a mast. Abruptly, Captain Ecks gives a series of quick orders to the Mate, who takes a small party below the Shrike’s main deck. Many crew-members stand about, momentarily unsure, now that the fight is over, what to do with themselves. Groans and cries from the wounded rise from the decks. The Captain and ‘bosun rouse the crew to begin tending the wounded and clearing the mess. At the gunwale, several crew-members crouch over the fallen. Some wracked with grief. A Dwarf cradles his wounded father, while both weep over the body of the other son. Bern and the other Dwarves gather round and cover their heads and faces. (Hans stands nearby, uncomfortable with all this traditional Dwarven grief, yet unable to completely ignore its effect.) An elf gazes sadly at his fallen friend. Grievous as this all is, the ships and the wounded still require tending, and the officers see to it that the necessities are seen to.
The bodies of the dead Shrike crew are tossed overboard, and stock is taken of the damage to both vessels. Discussion begins about how Sea Law applies in a situation like this. Despite having turned to piracy, the Shrike crew confirms that they are officially part of the Kunac navy, though this crew (and many others) is made up almost entirely of recently hired mercenaries. So taking the Shrike to Buecopolis may prove difficult. Would they be believed? If not, what would happen to the Golden Mare and her crew and passengers? Should they instead head for one of the Mycaean States? Perhaps Pelpos or Ithac and take our chances with the Prize Courts?
Eventually Captain Ecks ends the discussion, reminding all that once they lowered the Kunac flag, and unlawfully attacked a merchant vessel, the law no longer protected the Shrike. According to Sea Law, in the case of piracy, especially outside territorial waters, a captain is the law, and can pass judgment and sentence. Action can be taken against pirates without objection from the flag State of the pirate vessel (In theory at least.). Once this is established, the Captain then begins to question the prisoners.
Though battered, the captain of the Shrike survived the fight and has now regained consciousness. It is he the Captain Ecks spends most of his time questioning. Through him it is learned that for some time now the Shrike (and several other vessels of the Kunac Navy) has been without orders and without pay. After several weeks of this, the captain decided to go into business for himself. In fact, attacking the Mare was their first attempt…
After some time, enough progress has been made aboard the ships for attention to be paid to the fallen. The bodies are prepared in weighted shrouds, ready to be placed into the sea. The crews (the Shrike crew is made to stand with bowed heads) are gathered and fall silent as Captain Ecks stands to address the crew and passengers of the Mare,“ Friends; for we are all friends now, we are faced with the sad duty owed our dead. We must honor and remember their sacrifice, though, this morning none imagined we would have need to. At sea, all are far from home shores and their own ways. Sailors have ever known this, so our traditions are for all. We now send our friends, our brothers, our son (here he nods to Logar) to the sea. We ask that Great Ocean take and hold them, that he honor and care for them until that day arrives that we join with them once again.”
“Hands, bury the dead.”
Their friends and family members lift the three bodies. Bern assists the dwarves. Gently, the bodies are tipped into the water and sink immediately.
After a few moments, Captain Ecks gives orders for both vessels to make way. A prize crew under command of the First Mate is assigned to the Shrike. For two hours both ships sail north. Meanwhile repairs continue to be made, while Ecks has a small detail of men work on a particular project. At the end of the two hours, he orders the Mare and Shrike to be hove-to and laid alongside one another. Once this is done, he once again orders all to assemble. After a brief and private discussion with the First Mate, the prisoners are brought topside. The Shrike’s rowers remain aboard her, while the others are brought over to the Golden Mare.
Captain Ecks stares at the assembled prisoners. He holds them under his gaze for an uncomfortably long time, his face set, but his eyes troubled. Some of the prisoners shuffle their feet, increasingly uncomfortable under the Captains wordless stare. Only their captain seems untroubled, instead he seems distracted, with a far-away look.
Eventually the Captain clears his throat, and gives his head a slight shake. “You took to the sea, and so, you must abide by her rules, and her laws. Those laws are simple. I have no wish to be an executioner…your executioner, but you made that choice for me. This morning you were sailors, this afternoon, you’re pirates. This morning my crew was only thinking of getting to where we’re going. This afternoon they’re mourning their crewmates, their friends, and their family.” Here, he pauses as if he were planning to say more. Instead, he gestures to the bo’sun. A party of men spring into action, and quickly, eight nooses are run up along the main-yard.
Captain Ecks steps back a pace, and his voice hardens, “At sea, a captain is judge and jury. You stand convicted of piracy and murder and will pay the price. Bo’sun, execute sentence!” At this, several deckhands place the nooses over the necks of eight of the prisoners. Immediately other hands run the lines, and the prisoners rise into the air. As they reach the yardarm, by design, knots come undone and drop the prisoners several feet, breaking their necks for a quick death.
The bodies are lowered immediately and checked. All are dead. The bodies are simply tipped over the side. Captain Ecks gives orders to get under way, then he turns toward the ashen-faced pirate captain; his voice dry slate, “They were just pirates. An execution was called for and it was carried out. You though, you made the decisions. Because of your decisions, all these people are dead.”
“Men, throw him over the side.”
The Shrike’s captain is grabbed and thrown overboard amongst the bodies of his crew. The Mare and Shrike pull away as he splashes and splutters, thrashing to keep his head above water.