The Long Way to Get Lost
Squall snatched the spyglass from Durnst, though he was more than happy to simply hand it over. He leaped on the railing then jumped, catching the mast as Ponitius spun the wheel, swinging the other way. Two explosions hit the water, two watery flowers rose, blossoming on both sides of the ship, raining down such color onto its drenched deck. A third flourished, late, saturating the bow, running down into the grates and galley.
Durnst dropped onto the starboard grate, clanging with his feet, but rolled as Ponitius evaded, pulling open the metal as he did. He slipped in as the ship righted, slamming the grate behind, while Olivier was left wondering what was going on.
Who were the Iron Scythes? He thought, clinging desperately to the railing, waiting for his turn with the spyglass. What did they want?
“I take it you had issues with them before?” Squall said, voicing Olivier’s next, albeit obvious, thought. Of course they did; why would they bear down on somebody once again... if it was the first time.
“You could say that,” Ponitius managed to spit out, returned to cursing and grumbled as the whistling returned again and again. The wheel did not know rest, constantly being turned and groaned.
Olivier spotted the compass just out the side of his eye, and his heart skipped a beat, fresh yellow and even a bit of red touching his vision.
“Are you keeping track of where we’re going?” Olivier exclaimed.
“We’ll make it up... Hopefully.” Fabric ripped; the top sail of the back mast had a huge hole in it, while the ocean at the bow exploded. If Ponitius had been a second later in turning the wheel... he groaned, spinning it back towards the fresh flower. “Hurry up, Durnst...”
Olivier shook his head, and carefully worked his way around the captain to that compass, holding on for dear life as he watched it with every fiber of his being. It’s the least he could do for them, after all.
No, as it turned out.
Squall tapped his shoulder, handing him the spyglass, and he grasped it with shaking hands, both thankful yet wary of looking through it, of seeing the ships behind and the colors they flew.
But he was also rather excited, curious to know. He had never seen pirates before, at least not when they flew their colors. Many a ship may have pulled into Carapai, but you wouldn’t know lest they rose their flag that they were either honest merchants or opportunistic privateers, so he wondered what kind of design these Iron Scythes had, what they rallied behind.
He had to pull away the spyglass twice, though, stomach turned as the world distorted through those lenses. Ponitius didn’t help, either, continuing his dance with the geysers, but on the third he finally got it to focus on the top of one of those ships. It was a drab, gray flag, with a blue and black sickle rising from the bottom left corner. It slowly turned red as it reached the blade, more a hook, and had three crimson droplets ruffling in the breeze, coming from the white Itchyoman head the scythe cleaved towards. On its scalp it had a green bandanna, matching its eyes, and Olivier was about to check what kind of boats flew under it when Ponitius wrenched the spyglass from him.
“Guide!” He boomed. “Get in the captain’s quarters and loose the pipe running through it! You too, lass.”
Olivier was going to question, but Squall reminded him time was of the essence. She dragged him in and around the black desk. As Olivier presumed, it was a match for the coffee table in Ponitius’s home and the desk in Strix’s office. He took it in a second before he turned his attention to the pipe behind it.
Squall shoved the chair aside, pried at the metal clasps holding it in place. There were four in total, more like bear or warg traps, their teeth flat and square instead of jagged and pointed. That didn’t change that they would maim you all the same, each as large as a Terrahn’s torso. She grunted, panted, the metal groaning just as much, wishing to keep shut, but gave as Olivier joined. He grabbed the left as she took to the right, and that maw slowly opened until it popped and clicked open. The other three followed, far easier now they understood how much strength it needed.
“Done!” Squall yelled back at Ponitius, but gasped as Olivier was knocked back into the desk, hit by the pipe before it slithered down into the hole. Durnst popped his head up through the hole, giving them a thumbs up.
“Well done, both of you!” Ponintius boomed, ending with another curse. “Now get over here and open the other grate, then help Durnst bring up the oven.”
“The oven?” Olivier mumbled, still a bit winded from being hit, but followed after Squall regardless. To an extent at least. She jumped over the railing while he chose the steps, almost falling down them as six geysers burst around the ship.
“Really threading the needle, boss,” Squall exclaimed, grunting as she wrenched at Olivier’s arm, leading him to the port grate. It was lighter than it looked but that didn’t make it any less bulky, turned on its end and leaned against the railing, before Squall made sure the starboard grate was, also, against its side’s railing. They both headed downstairs.
Just in time to catch the pipe.
“Thanks again,” Durnst said, panting as he righted. He had the oven under his left arm... and a black sack. It hung, heavy, over his right, digging into his skin enough to lighten it. Another, smaller sack dangled from his neck, and, judging the black smudges, it was powder. Probably of the black variety... probably... He reached behind and helped slide the pipe through. Olivier was at the bottom of the stairs while Squall was at the top, taking it, hand-over-hand, until, at last, it clanged on the timbers above, almost as long as the entire deck in between the bow and stern. “Okay. Your guys’ part is done. I’ll take it from here.”
“With the oven?” Olivier said.
Durnst chuckled, climbing the stairs, and grabbed the pipe when he reached the top. He jogged up the steps to the wheel then climbed on top of the captain’s quarters where he let the pipe fall, pointed towards the ships behind. The oven squeaked as it was pried open, and Durnst pulled a metal dongle at the back of it. A black iron plate slid free, locking in place over the grating and where the wood would go. It was slightly rounded, going with the true curve of the oven, and Durnst pulled open the sack around his neck.
Filled with blasting packets.
Each one was as big as a matured gourd, with a single bit of twine left out of its end. He put one in, and pulled a second, black iron plate over, the rope just stuck out. He did not completely shut it yet, though, as he slung the heavy sack over his shoulder, taking out a cannonball. It rang down in the pipe, the barrel, as he set it in then finally pulled the second plate shut, gripping the fuse between his fingers.
And gave it a snap.
The fuse hissed, alight, and it quickly burned towards the blasting pack. The oven boomed, and the pipe glowed a touch, burning red hot as ball after ball was lobbed. The return fire slowed, scattered further from the ship, but others were still getting close, just missing, scraping against.
“Would you mind hitting them, Durnst?” Ponitius cried out. His hands slipped on the wheel, slick with water and sweat as he panted.
“Sure. If you sat still long enough.” He yelled back. “Something has to give. We never restocked for this.”
“Don’t remind me! It was the one thought that ran through my mind this entire time. ‘Did I forget to stock the stove?’”
“Well, Pony Boy, for once your mind was right. Should have listened to it.”
“What if they catch us?” Olivier said, and only realized he had followed Durnst up to the captain’s quarters before stopping and backing into the compass. Squall was to his right, her hand tight on her blade, teeth slowly squelching out.
“We don’t stand a chance if they do,” Ponitius said. “No worries, though. They can’t keep up with the Falchion- as long as I still have my masts! Durnst!”
“Down to two shots. Want me to make them count, or keep them just in case?”
“For f... I got an idea.” He creaked the wheel to the left, to the foreboding horizon that Olivier spotted yesterday. Lightning flashed in its sky, the only light that dared to disturb the darkness that had settled. Cannonballs returned in great number, splashing behind or to the left and right, possibly thinking- no, hoping he would not be foolish to go straight.
“Are you sure?” Durnst said.
“They won’t follow us in there!” Ponitius said. “They’d be mad to.”
“You’re mad for even thinking it.”
“Madness and stupidity and bravery and genius often go hand-in-hand. It all depends if it actually works.”
Ponitius uttered a hearty, throaty laugh, undaunted by Durnst’s slap as he climbed off the captain’s quarters. It was a resounding sound, probably a bit too well heard against the back of his head, but, as it stands, any port in a storm. Olivier and Squall aided him with the pipe, helped him carry it back downstairs before rushing to the captain’s quarters, doused in the first wash of rain from the dark sky before they entered. Wind howled, shrieked at the planks, raining through the hole the pipe would slide in, instead pattering on the waiting jaws. Thunder boomed and cracked as the darkness of the captain’s quarters was lit.
The pipe finally made its way through.
Olivier and Squall locked it in place, careful to watch their hands, and not a moment too soon as lightning struck the metal, making it spark and hum.
“Durnst!” Squall called through the timbers. “You okay?”
“... Yeah.” He said, though sounded a touch annoyed. “Are you guys?”
“Fine,” Olivier muttered, wanting to shrink into a ball, but Squall wrenched at his arm again.
“Come on! We aren’t done yet. We have to put the grates into place then cover them under with the tarps.”
She forced him to his feet. He held on to her arm for dear life as the wind swept across the deck. The sails roared with the gales, every drop of rain like a dagger against Olivier’s back, face, hands, and neck, pulling the grates into place. It was a close call on the starboard grate, letting go just before lightning struck it. It glowed blue, buzzing, crackling through along its bars and frame... but Olivier couldn’t simply stand and gawk.
Squall dragged him to the port side, and they carried it over their heads, lowering it in place as they made their way down the stairs. She pointed to a long, leather skin against the galley wall, one for each side, and she left him to deal with the port side, nailing it into place with the box of nails and hammer that were underneath it.
With one last crack of thunder, one last nail sunk into the wood, it was done... Olivier heaved a heavy sigh- and jumped, crying out as Durnst gripped his shoulder. A bit of static leaped from the Itchyoman’s hand, coursing down his arm a touch, but it seemed pulled into the purple flesh, attracted to the power.
“You did good, lad,” he said.
“Thanks,” he mumbled, heart still racing. “So... the oven?”
“It’s never a good idea to keep a tool in the kitchen that only has one use.” He smiled, and patted Olivier’s shoulder. “Come on. Let’s get you some stew. You look like a drowned rat.”
“What about the captain?” Squall said, lumbering over.
“There’s a hatch in the captain’s quarters. Under the cot. When he’s nice and ready, he’ll jump down and get himself something hot to eat. One thing’s for certain, though: this trip just got a lot longer. We’ll have to find a way that doesn’t show it to the Iron Scythes.”
“S... so who are they, anyways?” Olivier said, and his heart, after getting a jumpstart, went cold, hearing his answer.
“They used to be our crew. Now they are lead by the traitorous Bethilius Barolei. Pony Boy’s ex.”