THIRTEEN OFFERINGS - STORIES OF ITHIRIA

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MARITIME

The shadowy sails of a ship were just visible on the horizon. Jonathan Maritime sighed in relief; days had passed and not once had he seen another craft. Not so much as a fishing boat had drifted by— hell, not so much as a fish.

The crew of the Scurvy Wretch had managed well enough on supplies, but they had only set out with a week’s worth of rations. Fourteen days they had been afloat and they’d just consumed the last of their bread.

This small cargo ship was the first vessel Jonathan had been elected to navigate, and fortune—the finicky minx—refused to smile upon him. A bad wind had come. They had suffered nothing but dull weather, choppy waters, and a malfunctioning rudder.

The situation was made even worse by the captain—a gluttonous sloth of a man who consumed double his rations every night. In a drunken rage over the storm-damaged rudder responsible for setting them off course, the captain had blamed Jonathan and thrown his maps and compass overboard, calling them useless trinkets. Jonathan’s skills were such that he could have gotten them home by the stars, but the heavy clouds overhead refused to subside. Even the sun’s positioning could not be read thanks to the damnable weather.

Jonathan stared up dismally at the distress flag flapping limply in the lifeless wind. He’d been ready to give up all hope when the dark vessel had appeared in the distance. The oncoming ship appeared to have the trappings of the Royal Armada, same hull style, same mast and rigging. Jonathan almost laughed in relief: help was on the way. It would be the first bit of luck they’d encountered thus far.

He squinted at the oncoming ship through the quickly diminishing light, dreaming of a cozy bed back at port; however, as their rescuers came closer, his hope died with the lowering of its Royal Armada flag. In its place now flew a flag with black swords crossed against a white background.

Pirates.

Jonathan ran below to the captain who lolled about in a rum-addled daze. He warned the mate and other crew members of the coming threat, but they paid him no mind. Panicked, he hurried to the bell and rang it, calling all men to arms. The captain, snapped out of his coma by the alarm bell, stormed onto the deck after him.

“What’s all this?” the captain hollered, hauling Jonathan away from the bell by his shirt collar.

Jonathan merely pointed to the grappling hooks flying from the enemy boat onto their own decks. The crew set to cutting the ropes tethering their dead ship to the attacking vessel, but it was no use. The Scurvy Wretch was quickly overrun.

Shots rang out and steel clashed as the crew attempted to fight off the raiders. The Scurvy Wretch’s men numbered only fifteen, most of them malcontent sailors, but there were a few worth their salt. Regardless, they were no match for the skilled miscreants of the great dark ship.

The battle was short-lived, and Jonathan quickly found himself kneeling with a sword point pressing into his back. He was disgusted to think he would end his days upon this wretched boat. Even in starvation there had been hope of a favorable wind to blow them back to shore, but now, even that small hope was naught but a fading memory.

Jonathan watched as a great plank slammed onto the railing of the Wretch, spanning the gap between the two. More pirates strolled onto deck, searching every corner for valuables.

“Who’s in charge here?” a wiry blond man demanded. All turned to the captain, who swayed drunkenly on his knees. “You’re joking. No wonder youʹre out to drift. This man couldn’t captain a dinghy.”

“Knox, don’t play with the captives,” came a strong voice. The voice had a strange resonance to it, somewhat scratchy, but not the usual baritone of a man at sea.

“Yes, Captain,” the blond replied, straightening up and quickly directing a few men to check the cargo hold.

Jonathan kept his head low hoping to encourage the scum to leave him his life. Then his shipmates froze. They knelt, staring straight ahead with jaws agape. Confused, he followed their gaze to a tall figure wearing a red sash and a wide-brimmed hat, a scarlet feather waving from its band. Slim and sharp as a dagger, the figure was topped by a massive tangle of auburn hair that flowed in the wind. The captain of the invading ship cut the oddest figure Jonathan had ever seen on water. The realization slowly dawned on him: the figure was no man. Only once had Jonathan seen a woman don clothing in this manner, but the memory was a painful one on which he did not want to dwell.

“Since your captain is...indisposed, I wish someone to explain your plight,” the lady announced.

“I answer to no woman,” called a surly old snaggletooth.

“As you wish,” she replied, her voice indifferent. ʺString him up.”

In an instant snaggletooth was trussed and carried away.

The woman looked to the next man, who only sneered. “I suppose you have a similar answer for me.”

The man would not speak, but quickly found his voice when her crewman pulled him out of line and stuffed him—headfirst—into an empty barrel. Panicked screams split the air and Jonathan turned in time to see snaggletooth fall from the crow’s nest. He cringed, waiting to hear the crunching of bones on the deck. Instead, there was a loud twang as a rope around snaggletooth'ʹs leg went taught, a mere foot before his face connected with the deck.

Cheering sounded in the crow’s nest. “Look, Captain!” one of the men shouted. “I finally got the rope right!”

The captain did not smile. She simply motioned for them to return, and looked back to the man next to Jonathan, waiting for a reply.

“Ship don’t move,” the man told her shakily. He was a simpleton who could hardly form sentences, but he was proud, so proud that Jonathan knew he too would end up dangling from his boot straps were he to continue speaking.

“The rudder was damaged in the storm,” Jonathan called, hoping to save the stubborn man from sharing the fates of snaggletooth and the silent man.

The fearsome woman turned, looking at him for the first time. She would have been a beauty, if not for the thin scar running the length of her face.

“You will speak for the ship then,” she announced, and the man holding Jonathan hauled him to his feet before her. The woman’s eyes were impossibly green— and familiar.

“There is no wind, the rudder is broken, and we have no compass or map.”

“Seems you are having a run of bad luck.” She gave a slight nod and three of her men scrambled to verify the truth of Jonathan’s claims.

“As I said, the ship was damaged in the storm,” Jonathan continued. ʺWe have been afloat for days and have no food. I am just the navigator. Take what you want, but please let it not come to bloodshed.”

The woman glared at him as her men returned to confirm the status of the ship. She nodded to them in dismissal. “You carry weapons and medicine,” the woman told Jonathan. “Cure and cause in one shipment.”

“Bit ironic, isn’t it.” Jonathan laughed nervously.

There was something in her eye he recognized. For a second it seemed she recognized him too, but she turned before he could be sure.

“Take the weapons. Leave the medicine,” she commanded to his surprise and her men quickly carried a dozen crates onto their ship. “Your rudder will be mended, roughly. It will hold until you make port. The weather should clear soon,” she told Jonathan and headed back to the railing, and her ship.

“Do you need a navigator?” He had no idea where the question sprang from, it was an inexplicable outburst, but the thought of going back to port with the pitiful crew of the Wretch was too pathetic.

“You wish to lead us into a storm as well?” she asked coldly.

Jonathan hung his head in shame as she continued up the plank.

Her men followed until only Knox remained. “Come on, then,” the blond man called to Jonathan. ʺCaptain McBane doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”

In a flash, Jonathan was on his feet and hurrying toward the plank where Knox handed him a spare compass and nodded at the slovenly captain of the Scurvy Wretch.

Jonathan checked the instrument and tossed it to the lush. “Port is northwest,” he told the wretched man and headed across the gangplank to the massive hull of the sinister ship.

The great dark vessel took off like a shot and Jonathan with it. Turned out the bad winds were merely those of change.


“Not bad, no?” Banon beamed at his brothers, as what was left of the old compass flaked away in tiny wood and metal chips.

“It’s not a competition, Banon,” Angus replied. “Yours is a simple story, yet well told. It’s been accepted.”

“Don’t worry; I have plenty more where that came from.”

“I hold my breath in anticipation,” Angus scoffed and turned to his brothers. "Now that you’ve shared, I suppose it’s my turn."

“Since you apparently think you can do better,” Banon muttered.

“Go on, Brother,” Patrick encouraged Angus. ʺGive your offering.”


Angus pulled an ancient coin from his pocket and placed it upon the table. This simple gesture was all the brothers needed to look to the heart of the table yet again. Angus’s eyes clouded.

“I offer this ancient story of a being who has seen much in his infinite life. This coin—possessing his likeness—was printed at the height of his power. This tale is his account of both his origin and his fall.”

The ancient coin began to tarnish and wear, losing contour and definition—as though passing through countless hands over many, many centuries.


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