Royal Guardian
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With the servers down it is a good time to get creative to kill some hours. Sarah's brilliant writing on the book has inspired me to figuratively set pencil to paper and write some background stories for my in-game characters. I'm not a writer by any means, but if I don't dust off the other side of my brain every now and then I fear it will abandon me. I hope you enjoy and please write some of your own tales as well!


Sin is very much influenced by one of my favorite fantasy characters: Captain Kennit from the Liveship Traders series, written by Robin Hobb. If you have not read the Farseer series (around 15 books in length), I highly recommend it. The best world-building I've read to date.

Please note that the characters within each story may be cameos of some of my in-game friends, but their actions and dialogue in no way reflect these individuals. The characters have their own parts to play, I just wanted to have some fun references when selecting their names.

Chapter 1

Sin awoke to the clamor of distributing equipment and the smell of blood. He was already sitting up in his cot when Droc, his first mate, slammed open his door. "We've eyes sir! The Mara vessel is tied up around the bend!" Sin nodded deftly and rose, balancing easily with the familiar rocking of his ship. "Report." he ordered as he began assembling his necessary instruments: Rope, numerous knives concealed within various pockets, and of course his Axe. Sin hefted his arsenal and approached the door, sunlight beaming inside as Droc continued, "They've one scout located upon the nest, the crew is busy unloading the cargo - they don't expect raids this far within Traven territory... but Captain..." Sin tuned him out as he approached the stern. He could feel the anticipation in the air, his crew shuffling throughout their duties, hands twitching and eyes wild. There was a reason the Mara ship was so lax with security. Indeed, raiders would not dare risk attempting such a bold maneuver this close to the capital itself. Sin was tired of competing with two-bit captains aboard their decrepit tubs of wood. The unprotected isles of Vega and Rega were ripe with piracy, and soon there would nothing left to loot. Sin had eye's for larger, more substantial prey - the royal fleet itself. In order to draw them out of their coves however, he would need to claim their attention.

"Attention!" Sin called, interrupting Droc midway through his warning ramble. His crew deftly turned towards him and saluted, although their posture was crisp, nothing could disguise the fear apparent in their eyes. "Today we move beyond the petty skirmishes of the past, and instead seize the treasures we are truly capable of! We've been trailing that vessel for a fortnight, we all know it contains tribute from the various regional tribes for the King. Their escort has sailed off. They believe themselves to be in friendly waters... let us show them that these are OUR waters, and within our waters - nowhere is safe." The crew roared their agreement and Sin winced internally, hoping the sound would not travel towards enemy ears. He maintained a devilish smile as he relayed orders to adjust the mast, charting their course towards their prey while remaining hidden by maintaining close proximity to the mainland. Below, Droc bellowed orders to the rigging teams while the marksmen gathered their quivers and arrows. They needed no guidance, but the familiarity of the routine assuaged their nerves. Sin felt his stomach churn at the cost of failure and instead focused on the task at hand.

The merchant vessel, known as the Triumph lay within one of Traven's private ports. In order to mask its location, the King instructed all guard ships to break away and head towards one of the fleet's nearby outposts. Bonfires upon towers were used to alert them in the case of an emergency, but the King preferred them to remain at a distance regardless of the potential danger it posed upon the Triumph. Was the King truly so confident that pirates would not risk assaulting the cargo or did he trust his own subjects as little as was rumored? Sin suspected something else was at play. What are you hiding aboard that ship? he wondered. Sin managed to obtain these details as well as a map of the Triumph's route during one of their recent raids. He was glad he ordered his crew to keep enemy captains alive long enough for him to interrogate them.

Sin's sleek ship cruised through the waters at an easy pace; wind rolling over his face and sending his braid flapping. For every crew member lost, Sin would attach a ribbon onto his long length of hair. As of now, 4 ribbons adorned it. He prayed that number would not increase today due to his ambitions. Sin turned the rudder sharply as his wandering thoughts had almost resulted in a collision with a thick hanging branch. While the invasive heat and stark sunlight of Traven was enough to drive away the most courageous of humans, Sin was counting on it to shine in his favor today as they approached the bend. Lush foliage provided a barrier for the residents of Traven against unwanted eyes, yet also provided decent cover for any ship foolhardy enough to sail so close to land. Sin squinted up atop the main-mast and vaguely made out the shape of his elite mercenary, Ivy, as she settled within the crow's nest. Her task was to eliminate the opposing scouts before they alerted the crew; an impossible feat unless one was a famed huntress trained within the treetops of Greenhaven itself.

Sin quieted his crew in a harsh whisper which was supplemented by Droc's glare as they suddenly rounded the bend. Ahead, camouflaged by the entanglements of brush was the Triumph. It was in flames.

Chapter 2

Sin's crew gaped at the scene, bewildered. The Triumph's hull was leaking as the side leaned precariously against the port. There was no sign of life, only the violent crackling of flames as they devoured the ship just as deftly as it sunk into the sea. Recovering from his shock, Sin gave the command to approach the sinking vessel, ensuring that they remained a safe distance, lest wisps of fire latched onto their mast. After gauging the direction of the wind and cautiously creeping forward, Sin and a select company from his crew dropped their row-boat and paddled closer, leaving a skeleton crew remaining aboard their ship.

As they neared, the magnitude of the heat compounded by the glare of the sun quickly became unbearable. Sweat trickled down their faces and dripped uncomfortably down their backs. They shared canteens but few words. They were accustomed to the harsh sound of metal upon metal, the fierce rush of battle and the surge of pride upon victory. This haunted visage before them spoke of something sinister, and otherworldly. Great chunks of debris crashed into the waves as the ship continued deteriorating, paying no mind to the group of ragged beings that drew closer. The sky seemed darker, and felt eerily oppressive though it was likely just the thick smoke that roiled above. "Sir", Wolf, one of his grizzled veterans whispered, "I'm afraid the treasures.. are probably burned or sunken by now." Sin couldn't help but feel amused. Of course they think solely about the plunder, rather than the greater mystery at hand. Sin relayed a different message however, in order to foster hope among those around him, "There may be something yet of worth, waiting for us within. We must simply have the courage to claim it." That seemed to work, as the demeanor of his squad tightened with resolute expressions.

After a few tries, Droc managed to latch a grappling hook onto one of the sections of the ship that was, as of yet, still unharmed. Wolf and Ivy remained behind on the rowboat as Sin, Droc and the ship's lad climbed aboard. The boy was quick on his feet, and would prove useful for scouring the structurally weakened areas of the deck. Not to mention his loss would be of no consequence to the functioning of the crew. Cabin boys were abundant throughout Kingsport - brave and ignorant lads craving adventure and the opportunity to prove themselves. Sin gave the signal with his hand, thumb and little finger splayed in opposite directions, and his companions understood their tasks. The team split up, each heading towards a different part of the ship. Time was limited, and they had to explore and earn whatever riches they could before this monstrosity fell apart completely. Sin left the others to hunt for gems; he went looking for answers instead.

Sin heaved against the think wooden door of the Captain's Cabin. After a few painful attempts, he drew his Axe and chipped away at the hinges. Rubbing soot from his brow, he finally managed to dismantle the door and step inside the quarters. The smoke immediately engulfed him, but he pushed through with watery eyes and burning lungs. He could barely make out a cot, the sheets swiped hastily over the edge. Various instruments and gadgets lay scattered across the ground, due to the unbalanced axis of the ship as it continued to lean backwards inch by inch. Sin rummaged through the letters and charts clipped on a nearby desk and decided to rip them free and stuff them into his pockets rather than spend precious time attempting to decipher their contents here. A sudden lurch sent him tumbling towards a wall which he grasped to regain his footing. Unsatisfied with his progress but unwilling to risk a worse fate than ignorance, Sin dashed back outside just in time to interrupt Droc who was about to enter the cabin himself. "We've got to go Cap'n" Droc, carrying a handful of coins shouted urgently as the creaking and shuddering intensified. There was no sign of the boy as Sin nodded and they made their way back towards the boat.

Sin gripped the rope loosely and slid down until he thumped soundly into the boat. Droc's landing was equally practiced, swaying the boat slightly due to his bulk. "Back home." Sin stated, and Wolf began rowing. They knew better than to ask whether they should wait for the boy. This was not the first, nor the last lad they had lost. Pirating was a dangerous work, and sentimentality was the quickest way to lose your life. Before they made it too far, Sin heard a yelp and turned back to see the boy jump into the ocean. He began swimming towards the boat and Sin called for a halt to allow him to catch up. Maybe the boy has some merit after all, Sin mused. Drenched, the boy clawed his way back upon the boat, shooting Sin an accusing glance. "What did you find?" Sin asked, simply to stave off the boy's glare. The lad grew thoughtful and his expression darkened. Droc patted him lightly on the shoulder and grumbled in a rough voice, "The Cap'ns asked you a question now." The boy looked up and whispered faintly, "Bones.. dozens of them. Charred to a crisp." Sin nodded, "Must've been caught in the fire", but deep down he knew it was not possible for a fire of that scale to destroy the flesh so quickly. He expected the lad had exaggerated for effect, but the haunted look of the boy gave him doubts.

Sin didn't have much time to consider though, as a shout drew his attention towards his ship. The alarm? "There!" Ivy shouted; her keen eyes making out tall masts on the horizon. Sin realized his error and cursed his foolishness. The original plan had been to discretely capture the Triumph, and set up an ambush. Then, light the bonfires once the preparations had been made. The smoke from the ship... Sin groaned. He gazed at the approaching hulls in the distance as Wolf hastily rowed back towards safety. The Royal Fleet was here.

Chapter 3

"How long?" Sin queried. Ivy squinted as she scanned the oncoming fleet. "At their current pace, it looks like we have just under an hour before they're within firing range." Sin resisted the curse that sprang to his lips. It wouldn't do any good to instill fear within the crew. They could attempt to flee, but Sin didn't want to miss the opportunity that they had worked so hard to achieve. The crew stood around him in a semi-circle, awaiting orders. Their lives, his to risk. Were they worth the prize he sought? Sin scanned the area. The nearby cargo vessel continued to burn, sparks of fire mingled with the coiling smoke above. The shoreline was a mess of charred foliage and splintered wood. Once more he spared a glance at the encroaching line of ships. The lead schooner came into view. Known as the King's Wake, the legendary ship was said to have no rival. Sleek and powerful, it was built to hunt down and eliminate any prey. The captain, Admiral Zao, was a renowned military strategist and battle-hardened veteran from the civil war which erupted within Traven a decade ago. He stomped out the rebellions through brutal force and tactical might. Zao had assembled a hand picked crew of the best sailors and warriors among the isles to decorate his ship. Without a proper plan of attack - even with a plan - Sin had little chance of defeating this foe and securing the King's Wake. He looked once more at his crew, and sighed.

"It seems they have retreated, Admiral." Zao nodded in approval as his lookout clambered back up the netting. "Continue course." He instructed his helmsman. Zao inspected his troops and ensured all was within order. It was, of course. He ran a tight ship, where everyone had a purpose. Whatever fool that dared raid the King's port would face the wrath of his fleet this day. Zao did not intend to let them escape. As they narrowed in on the port, he noticed the remains of the Triumph. Maybe now the King would learn it was best to keep a convoy with his merchants at all times, regardless of the cost to secrecy. He glared as the pirate ship rounded the bend and slipped out of sight. It was no matter, none could outrun the King's Wake, especially a group of putrid pirates on a filthy tub. For a moment, as the waves fell, he believed he saw a small object floundering in the sea - but it was likely just a heap of driftwood floating with the currents.

Still, it was best to be cautious in these cases. He sent both of his sloops forward, and followed at a distance. The duo of smaller ships consisted of a competent sailing team as well as a garrison of archers. These were born and bred on the sea, and were familiar with the ebb and flow of a ship as their arrows shot true. The sloops soared through the waters, cutting across the wind as they neared the bend, when suddenly, the wretched pirate ship burst through the corner at full speed. Zao gawked and leaned across the railing for a better look. The mad fools had set their own ship aflame!

Sin risked it all. As soon as they had rounded the bend of the island and escaped sight, he ordered his crew to turn the ship around and prepare for an assault. As they waited in silence for the fleet to turn the corner, Sin briefly explained his idea. The only way to defeat an enemy who outnumbers you, outguns you, as well as out-thinks you, is to surprise them. It was difficult to catch a man like Zao off-guard. He anticipated any strategy his opponent could attempt. Sin knew he would have to do something completely unexpected; something no captain in their right mind would do. He ordered his crew to pour oil over the hull of the ship, and then he set it on fire.

Sin found the faith of his crew to be quite remarkable. In their position, where he given the order to douse the ship with oil, he likely would have cut the captain's throat and thrown him overboard. He was prepared for such a mutiny, yet instead, they obeyed - albeit with hesitation and shared glances. As the flames began to spread, they set sail once more - this time at full speed, back towards the bend from which they came. He expected the enemy to appear any minute now, and they did not disappoint. Two sloops came into view around the bend, and Sin met them head on. He laughed merrily at the shocked expressions on the opposing vessels and ordered his archers to launch arrows at the nearest of them. They were able to decimate the majority of the crew within a few barrages, as well as set their ship aflame using flame-tipped arrows. His own ship was beginning to break down, and Sin knew he had to make his final play now or risk ending up stranded in the waters.

As they neared the second sloop, which was heading towards their starboard, he rapidly changed course. Now, rather than sailing parallel to each other, Sin was heading straight towards them. It only took a few moments for the sloop's captain to realize Sin's plan, but it was already too late. "BRACE!" Sin belatedly shouted as their ship rammed directly into the smaller sloop. Their bow ripped straight through the sloop's mast and he heard a satisfying crunch as the two ships collided. Deep down Sin was horrified at destruction he brought upon his own ship, which had carried them well all these years. Yet he knew, that in order to claim the prize he sought, he needed to put all of his cards on the table. Sin spun his Axe and charged across the deck, now thoroughly on fire. He leapt into the air, followed by his crew, and landed with a thump upon the sloop's deck. The enemy crew stared at him, aghast. Sin assumed his combat stance and met their eyes.

Droc rowed with all his strength in the small boat that he, Ivy, Wolf and Rolf - the ship's lad - occupied. They had slipped from their ship, as tasked by Sin, in the small rowboat and carefully paddled their way in the opposite direction under the cover of the thick smoke and crashing waves. They had remained hidden among the wreckage of the Triumph until the battle had begun. Droc watched in amazement as one of the smaller ships sunk due to the flames spreading across its deck and abundance of lifeless bodies unable to assist in dousing the fire. The remainder of the crew jumped overboard, no longer a threat. As soon as Sin and the remaining sloop clashed he and the others began rowing towards the scene of the conflict. The enemy's attention was focused towards Sin and their frenzy aboard the sloop. None aboard the King's Wake noticed Droc and his small team approach from behind. Quietly, the threw a grappling hook over the end, praying that the crew would be too occupied by the battle to notice, and slowly climbed aboard.

As Sin had promised, none were facing his direction, and the squadron quickly dispatched the nearby soldiers - ensuring to lay their bodies carefully upon the deck as in a labor of love. Ivy remained near the rope, and shot arrows towards any crew member who began to take notice of the bloodshed which took place beneath their noses. Rolf, silent of step, stabbed a dagger into the backs of his foes as Droc and Wolf slowly choked the life out of them. Steadily, they began working their way towards the helm. Towards Zao.

Chapter 4

Sin battered and slashed with unrelenting fury. He saw only red, and felt the rush of adrenaline coursing throughout his veins as each blow bolstered him with renewed energy. His axe, an extension of himself, parried blows and struck flesh with a brutal accuracy. His kind were known for their battle rage - berserkers they were called. They would feel no pain and grant no mercy once they were in this state. Only the fear in his enemy's eyes fed him now. Only the thick scent of sweat and clamor of weapons satiated his lust. Sin deflected a blade as it swung for his shoulder, and countered with a sharp jab of his haft. The disoriented sailor stumbled and fell, where Sin made quick work of him. Without a second to spare he swung around and met another sword head on with his axe. They struggled against each other for a mere moment before Sin growled and shoved through his opponent's guard, smashing a fist into his side before burying the axe in his chest.

Around him, his crew continued to fight the remainder of the sloop's forces. The majority of the enemy crew consisted of archers, who had little to no close combat training. Sin's crew on the other hand, had years of experience boarding and capturing vessels. This was what they were born to do. Sin felt a sharp pain in his side and glanced down to see a dagger protruding from his rib. He snarled and hacked away at the archer who had snuck up from behind. Her eyes wide, she had likely expected the dagger to slow, or even kill Sin - yet the pierce was merely a discomfort. Sin continued his rampage throughout the ship, eliminating sailors and archers who dared impede his path. His crew knew well to allow him his space, otherwise they too risked their lives by proximity.

Panting, Sin pulled his axe from the back of a foe. Blood pattering on the deck, he glanced around as the final scenes of battle played out. The wounded groaned and cried for mercy as they were thrown overboard. Sin tallied his own losses at 4 deaths, and many more wounded - some with only minor scrapes while others bore life threatening injuries. "A commendable spectacle captain!" Zao, leaning across the fore-deck of the King's Wake shouted. Sin and his crew gathered close as the larger ship loomed closer. He could barely discern the face of Zao, observing them from above. "You are brave, I grant you that. Yet you will die a fool's death nonetheless." Zao continued. Sin cupped his hands around his mouth and replied, "Zao, let us discuss the terms of surrender." Zao sneered at them and guffawed. "Truly brave indeed! Your life is mine captain, and that of your crew. However, bring to me whatever it was you stole from the Triumph, and I will grant you a merciful death. Continue to resist, and we shall string you up from our masts and parade you throughout the isles. Your choice captain." Sin looked around at his crew and nodded, "We are coming." With that, he and his crew jumped over the edge of the ship and into the cold salty sea. Zao's archers trained upon them as they swam with the current towards the King's Wake.

The tide was not as rough this near the mainland, yet the swim was not easy after their recent excursions. They eventually waded near the side of the schooner, where a rope had been thrown down. Gratefully, Sin grabbed it and began his ascent. He was exhausted now, yet also brimming with anticipation. Soaking wet he climbed over the side of the ship to find Zao, on his knees, a knife at this throat with archers dead at his side. Droc saluted Sin and grinned a toothy smile. Ivy, Wolf and Rolf laughed at the welcoming cheer of the crew as they too climbed aboard. He had sent his elite to sneak aboard the King's Wake during the distraction of the battle, and they had successfully taken the ship as the battle raged on. Sin knelt and looked into Zao's eyes. "As I said, admiral, let us discuss the terms of surrender."

To be continued...


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