Friday, June 5

Wind and water to blood and wine… Original Fiction by Xan

"Cap'n on the deck!" The call came from the deck of the Red Dryad, a 21-gun sloop as it approached the port city of Ba'Frie.

"Curse you dogs, we were supposed to be docked and unloaded by yesterdee!" Captain Blackbirch barked across orders to his men.

"Father!" Jenny piped up as she swung down from one of the riggings holding the mizzen sail to the mizzenmast. She landed on the deck, planting both bare feet firmly underneath her as she stood sternly in front of her towering father. She walked over to him and patted him on his enlarged barrel chest. “You aught to be a bit kinder to the men, after all they would die for you.”

Blackbirch smiled at his beautiful red haired daughter. “Aye lass, but if I don’t be stern with the men…”

“There may be a mutiny on board.” A breathy female voice came like on the wind behind Captain Blackbirch. A woman with dark red hair and a slender body walked up from behind the wheel of the ship and stood next to the Captain.

“Too true, my Rose, too true.” Captain Blackbirch took the two women in his arms and hugged them tightly. “My Rose and my dear sweet Jennifer. What a joy it is to have my daughter and my first mate as such a beautiful pair at my left and right side.” Captain Blackbirch messed up his daughter’s hair and then turned to Rose and gave her a soft kiss. “If there be a mutiny,” He continued, looking back at Jenny. “I could lose the Dryad and more importantly, some harm could come to you.” He bent over and kissed his daughter on her forehead, his black whiskers tickling her face.

Jenny looked to Rose and shot her a look of disdain. After Jenny’s mother died it seemed all too convenient that Rose Noir had come into the picture. Jenny tried to get moments alone with her father to explain her womanly intuition to him, but it seemed every chance she got she was stifled by Rose appearing from nowhere.

“I will get my turn to tell him.” Jenny mumbled under her breath at the exotic red headed elf. “I will let him know what I think of you, and he will find a new first mate for his Dryad.”

They made their way into port later on that afternoon. The crew eagerly departed with their share of a healthy plunder from a good month or so of piracy. Captain Blackbirch made his fortune as a privateer on the high seas, under the flag of the Ashtaroth nation he was able to pillage and plunder any ship under the Rowindar colors. The two nations being at a somewhat rivalry when it came to trade on the high seas. The men could come into any town in the Ashtaroth nation and spend their fill from booty taken from Rowindian ships, but they always had to be wary of those same people stabbing them in the back. It was a hard life to live, but for the Blackbirch’s it had been a way of life for centuries.

“Father!” Jenny burst into the captain’s quarters hoping to catch him alone. She was not as lucky as Captain Blackbirch and Rose were enjoying a bit of red wine together.

“Ah, Jennifer.” Rose stood up, the wine flute still in her hand. “Care to join us in a toast?”

“Only my father calls me Jennifer.” Jenny spoke through her gritted teeth. “I suppose I could join you for a drink.” Jenny sat down on the desk in the corner. “What are we celebrating?”

“Your father has just proposed marriage to me, Jennifer.” Rose said with an evil grin on her face. “We are to be partners on the Dryad.

“WHAT!” Jenny jumped to her feet. “This ship has stayed in the family for centuries father.”

“I know, my dear, which is why I proposed marriage.” Captain Blackbirch was already showing signs of being drunk.

“Father,” Jenny smoothed her knickers and straightened her shirt. “Perhaps you should tell Ms. Noir about the Blackbirch Curse.”

“Oh!” Rose leaned back in her chair. “There is a curse on the family?”

“Rubbish!” Captain Blackbirch hopped to his feet. “It only be a story of our family.” He flopped drunkenly back into his chair.

“Let’s hear it then,” Rose leaned towards the captain and placed a hand on his knee. “I love a good story.”

Captain Blackbirch cleared his throat and almost sobered up immediately as he began to weave the tale of their family history.

“I have been a cabin boy to me grandfather, Saflorn Blackbirch, ever since I could swim.” Captain Blackbirch winked at Jenny. “And that be before I could ne’ery walk. I followed in me grandfather’s footsteps as me father couldn’t swim and chose to pursue the life of a tailor.” His face twisted almost in disgust at the thought of there being a black sheep in the Blackbirch family. But he continued weaving his tale.

“‘Pappy’ Blackbirch was a sailor who learned from his father and so on. But ‘Pappy’ was the first to take on a wife an’ keep ‘er aboard. Minerva Stormleaf…” He sighed for a moment, remembering his grandmother. “She was an elf from the Ashtaroth forest of Burnoak. She had lived the druidic lifestyle but had yearned to leave the forest and travel on the blue horizon for much of her life.” Captain Blackbirch began to tear up at the mention of his elven grandmother, whom he thought of as his own mother.

He cleared his throat and wiped the tear forming on his eye and continued. “When she met the human Captain, my ’Pappy,’ Saflorn Blackbirch it was a match made of star crossed lovers. The Stormleaf clan was not too happy about Minerva falling in love with a human, let alone a sailor.” He chuckled at the thought of anyone having any distaste for a sailor.

“But as the Stormleaf clan was an open clan and let the family do what they wished. The druid clans’ head shaman married Minerva and Saflorn at the next harvest moon. But a curse was put upon the Blackbirch‘s ship, any that serve, as first mate will meet an unfortunate end. The thought of a druid leaving dry land for the life at sea was like a fish sprouting legs and living in the forest. It was unnatural to the clan.” Blackbirch stood up and waved his hands as though weaving the plotted course of the ship.

“They sailed off together, not knowing of the curse placed on his ship, Saflorn made Minerva his first mate that fateful first evening at sea. They enjoyed many years sailing together as a merchant ship, trading supplies between Ashtaroth and Rowindar. But life would not be that way for long.” Blackbirch turned to the hooded lantern close by and held it beneath his bristly black beard.

“One fateful evening, on their tenth year anniversary, a ship approached bearing the black flag of the pirates… The Jolly Roger! Only this ship be different than the normal pirate ship, this ship was manned by an orcish captain and crewed by orcs, ogres, gobbos, and other fowl green skinned creatures.” Blackbirch covered his heart with his tri-pointed hat as he continued.

“The crew fought back valiantly, but most of the finest sailors were still just merchantmen and found themselves on the ends of the orcish axes. The orcs boarded the ship and took no prisoners; they slaughtered nearly half the men on board. Despite her best efforts and spell casting, even Minerva was killed; crushed by an ogre’s mace.” Blackbirch spoke in hushed tones as he continued.

“Only a handful of officers, my ’Pappy’ and me were left alive. We had been pushed overboard by a loose mast. When we came back aboard our ship had been looted and our crew, slaughtered. ‘Pappy’ found Minerva at the helm, her chest collapsed. Her last words were mention of a dream she had and about the curse. She also asked that we Blackbirch’s not take revenge on her clan, but to seek revenge on those who attacked our ship. That is why whenever we encounter an orcish ship we don’t even plunder it, but we send it down to the depths where it belongs.” Blackbirch sat down and hung his head, sobbing.

“You sure you want to be the first mate, married to my father?” Jenny looked to Rose with loathing in her voice. “You know my mother fell during a storm, she was first mate before you.”

Rose just smiled at Jenny, and took another sip of her wine.

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