“Cheer up, men! Be it a hangman’s noose, or a knife to our throats, we'll be the best dressed dead men this side of Splendour!”
Hurrahs and laughter filled the deck of the Fancy Lass, a twenty oar galley that skimmed through the water like a shark’s fin. Standing at the bow, Captain Lino stood proudly wearing a red cape made from the finest Cloutshire silk. “I tell you I’m ready for anything, but not as ready as Kasper. Look at him! He has on his red shirt and his brown pants!”
Another round of cheers filled the Captain’s ears. It had been a good day, a good haul. The largest cache of red-dyed Cloutshire silk finery they had ever seen, two barrels of honey-ginger, and a crate of horse brass. The whole crew got in on the action by picking out garments to wear while making their escape. A lanky fellow named Pilp chose a fetching ladies dress and declared himself the Fancy Lass mascot.
It was honest mirth. Fleeting, but honest. The crew anxiously fingered the hilts of their weapons and shot nervous glances behind them. Another ship was running them down, privateers from the look of their colors. The chief point of Lino’s preoccupation wasn’t the other ship, however, it was the sails. The mainsail flapped and sputtered against a failing wind before finally falling limp and still. “Quick! To the oars, men! This might be our only chance!”
Captain Lino bolted towards the stern. The pursuing ship was larger by at least a deck, its sails wider, and though it had oars of its own they were not yet in use. Privateers stood at the bow nocking arrows at the behest of a giant man whose orders were audible all the way from the Fancy Lass’s poop deck. With a scowl on his face, Captain Lino dropped his britches, swept his cape to the side, and spun around to expose his buttocks.
With his pale arse proudly bared, the Captain clenched his teeth tightly enough to cut through wood. Arrow shafts peppered the stern, spurring him to drop low and huddle himself against the poop deck railing. Arms covering his head, he waited for what felt like an eternity for the deadly rain to stop. When the last arrow found its mark just inches from his hiding spot, the Captain sprang right back to his feet and gave a shout.
“Be sure to tell your mothers I’ll miss them, you cross-eyed bastards!”
Turning his backside, he gave them another great view of his arse as they prepared another volley. Inspired by his captain’s courage, a reckless crewman ran to join him, dropping his britches along the way. It was a clumsy charge that sent him tripping over his feet and sprawling on the deck just as more arrows fell upon them. Curling low against the railing, Captain Lino cracked his eyes open just enough to witness an arrow piercing the foolish man in the back.
When the volley was over Captain Lino hitched his pants back up, set his hands on the railing, and stared down the men on the boat behind him with a toothy smile. “Come on, you stupid bastards. One more time.”
The privateers readied another shot. All except that barrel-chested giant, whose bald head glinted in the sun. That one stared a hateful glare right back, while the rest drew their bows. Another flurry of arrows shot high up into the sky, arcing over the water. This time Captain Lino held his ground.
The arrows dove straight into the ocean behind the Fancy Lass.
Chaos erupted on the bow of the pursuing vessel, a chaos punctuated by loud shouts as the privateers collided with each other to get to the oars while the bald-headed shipmaster gesticulated obscenely. “We caught ourselves a break, men! Keep those oars moving and we’ll make it to Tyven yet!” Captain Lino yelled as he rushed back towards the stern.
Sinewy muscle strained with every stroke of the oars as the crew fought for every inch of distance between them and the hungry vessel giving chase. Though they fought well, a sudden billowing of sails betrayed them. It was only a matter of time before they were caught. “Loose those oars and ready your weapons, men! They want our ship, but they’ll get bellies full of steel instead! Kasper, ten degrees port. You four! Get on those lines and prepare to drop the mainsail.”
“Aye Captain!” shouted the men. The Fancy Lass angled off to the side, allowing their pursuers a route parallel to the starboard side. “Kasper! Ten degrees starboard. Straighten us out. Steady on those lines. That’s it! Now! Drop the mainsail!”
The sail furled, and where the vessel behind them had only been gaining at a snail’s pace, it now rushed to come alongside. The deck bucked and shuddered violently as the two ships touched sides. Momentarily deafened by the shrieking cacophony of hull grinding against hull, the crewmen ducked as the ship’s rails cracked and blew apart under the tension. The other ship was still working to lower their sails when Captain Lino drew his sword and led his screaming men over the sides.
Though outnumbered two to one, Lino’s crew swarmed the deck like ants on a corpse. It was a furious charge that stunned the privateers who, until this moment, had been the predators in this little game. All save for one, the raging bald-headed giant Lino had spotted earlier. His hands gripped a deadly-looking falchion that glinted silver in the sun, and when he swung that massive curved blade it severed one of Lino’s men nearly in two.
Four men stood between the captains, and four men were cut down like wheat. A death for every swing of that sword which swept aside every parry with no resistance at all. Never one to shrink from death, Captain Lino charged to meet his fate straight on. Feeling his feet slipping on the blood-drenched deck, he allowed the momentum to send him sprawling in front of the shipmaster just as the massive blade whirled overhead.
Captain Lino’s sword was not a fancy blade, but it was sharp and true, and when its tip found the giant man’s gut it sank halfway to the hilt. Undeterred by a mortal blow the shipmaster raised his blade for a final chop only to be toppled over when Lino grabbed hold of his legs and pushed.
The giant man’s head bounced on the deck with an ugly crack. Without wasting a second Lino took the falchion for himself and lopped that ugly bald head from its body. Even bloody the sword was beautiful to behold. Brass hilted with a long leather-wrapped grip, and so much lighter than it appeared. Why, one could almost wield it with a single hand.
Springing to his feet, Captain Lino rejoined the battle with his new blade singing through the air. A fair swordsman in his own right, with such a blade battle was effortless. And when it met flesh… Oh! It simply ripped clean through sinew and bone like they were nothing. It was as though the sword had a life of its own, batting aside all attempts to parry in search of sweet marrow to rend.
By the time it was over it hardly felt like a battle at all. The privateers were as strawmen used to teach children how to wield a weapon. A chance to test the new sword, to see what it was capable of. And it was capable of so very much. Severed limbs and heads covered the deck, and when the last of the Privateers fell Captain Lino turned to face his men.
The crew of the Fancy Lass stood in awe of their blood-soaked captain. Still wearing that ridiculous lady dress, Pilp ran up and kissed him on the cheek. Hang on? When did Pilp have time to shave his chin whiskers? His crew cried out, “Huzzah!”
“This ship will make a fine prize, won’t she, boys? And here we thought we were getting nothing more than fancy clothes! Prepare to tow her! We make for Tyven! And when we get there, be sure to tell everyone about Captain Lino’s mighty curved sword!”