gridlore: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
[personal profile] gridlore
This is the background story for my latest Dungeons & Dragons character. He is a Warlock, which is a magic-using character who gets his powers from a pact with a powerful eldritch entity that isn’t a god: A powerful fairy, a Lord of Hell, or something from a far plane of reality. All places are fictional, and taken from the Forgotten Realms setting.

It's also a bit of an experiment in writing style, going from 3rd to 1st person in telling the story.


Contracts Under Pressure

The storm had blown up seemingly out of nowhere. It was risky, making passage from the Korinn Archipelago this late in the fall, but the cargo of whale oil and ambergris was needed in Waterdeep. Now the galley was tossed by the waves as rain and sleet came nearly horizontally. The crew struggled to bring the ship around to where it could run before the wind, riding the storm out to calmer waters. If they lasted that long.

“Be nice to have a wizard aboard!” Porte shouted over the wind roaring through the sail.

“Are you mad?” the man they knew only as Dog shouted back. “They’re bad luck!”

Porte laughed as he hauled on the thick line, straining to bring the spar just a few degrees to the south. “Bad luck? What would you call this then? A wizard could at least calm the waves a bit!”

Any reply from Dog was drowned by the wave that crashed over the rail, smashing the crew working the thick hawser to the deck. With the stunned crew unable to hold it, the line flew free, and the spar snapped in two, leaving half the sail fluttering uselessly.

--

I don’t really remember much about my family. I was only a small boy when the horsemen came. I do remember my father being killed for holding a spear as they rode up, and the fire and screams as our village was looted. Then the long march to a city and its slave market. I was bought by a man who grew grapes for wine.

It wasn’t a terrible existence. We slaves had food and shelter, and at harvest time we were allowed a few indulgences in good years. But I chafed in my slave collar and bristled at the fact that my work was never going to get me into the villa to live the easy life. I lay awake at night plotting and dreaming of my freedom.

My undoing was time and nature. I grew into a young man, and my master had a lovely daughter, who had an eye - and more - for me. When I learned that the master had discovered our secret, and was planning on pruning me the same way we’d prune a vine, I gathered what few belongings I had and ran.

--

Porte shook his head groggily, his long black hair dripping a mixture of seawater and rain. He could swear someone was shouting his name. Suddenly, a hand grabbed his shoulder.

“Can you hear me? We need to batten the cargo hatch! Porte, wake up!” It was Diero, the dark-skinned bosun. Even his ferocious facial tattoos couldn’t hide the terror in his eyes. Wincing with pain, Porte came to his knees on the pitching deck and looked up. The broken spar was long gone, and the loose half of the sail was wrapping around the mast. Across the deck, several sailors were struggling to reset the heavy cargo hatch as the deck heaved under them. Diero boomed "Unless we get that closed, we're all bound for Umberlee's depths!"

Without a word, Porte scrambled to his hands and knees and began scuttling across the deck, grabbing on for dear life as wave after wave rushed over the gunnels. Behind him the sail, useless for moving the ship, caught the gale and bent the soaked wood of the mast until it broke with a splintering crack and toppled into the sea off the port rail.

After quick glances to make sure that the falling timber wasn’t going to hit them the drenched crew managed to tie down the hatch. Diero grabbed Porte and pulled him close, yelling to be heard over the ever-increasing winds. “Tie yourself down! We’ve lost the steering oar and don’t dare open the rowing ports. See you on the other side!” The big man managed to get to his feet and staggered towards the aft deck where the ship’s master huddled with the other two ship's officers. Porte untied his rope belt and began crawling towards the railing. He barely heard someone screaming “Wave!” before the deck came up and hit him.

--

Being a runaway slave is not the most agreeable of professions. For the first week I ran as fast as I could, sleeping only when I could no longer keep my feet moving. A hedge witch was able to remove my collar in return for gathering some plants for her. I watched amazed as she put the collar on a bear she had called from the forest. “Let’s see the slave hunters contend with that little trick!” she cackled.

I lived on what I could find or steal until I made it to Waterdeep. I don’t know what I had been expecting, but it soon became clear that the city had no time for an escaped slave with no money. Stealing got me a beating from the thieves’ guild. Begging got me in trouble with the Beggar King. I slept and ate in temple courtyards for over a year, learning my letters from the priests of a dozen different gods. When I wasn’t there, I was charming my way into the good graces - and beds - of serving girls in the estates of the rich. Here my habit of pocketing anything shiny or useful (frequently both) got me in deep trouble. Time to run.

I made my way to the docks and signed aboard the first ship that would have me. We sailed on the morning tide. Being a sailor was hard work, but it was much more. It was freedom. Freedom from kings and lords, freedom from oaths and laws. Just your bond with the ship and your crew.

--

Porte barely had a moment to realize that the ship was capsizing before he was dumped into the icy salt water. He cried out when he realized he had landed in the middle of the downed sail. The heavy wet canvas began twisting around him in the surging seas. His attempts to free himself only made things worse, it seemed. The cold water quickly leached away his strength as Porte began to slip under the surface.

Not like this, he thought, still clawing for the air just beyond his grasp. Anything, I’d give anything to breathe free again!

Anything? The voice was in the water and also inside Porte’s head. The voice was the water. You would surrender all to be saved? The voice almost sounded amused. Yes! Porte screamed noiselessly.

Very well. You will be my Eyes and Ears. You will be my Hand. I grant many gifts, but require many tasks. The first gift is life. Do you accept this pact?

Porte couldn’t see the surface anymore. The ocean was black around him and pressing from every side. His last breath of air was almost exhausted. Yes! Dear Gods, I accept!

Oh, I am not a god, little one. As you shall learn. But that is for later, when you learn what you have become. The world faded out, and the last thing Porte experienced was the deep booming laughter of his savior. It sounded like waves crashing.

He awoke on a smooth beach, with the last rush of the waves playing around him. In his hand was a leather purse. From the weight, it was filled with gold. Another wave crashed; in the rumble and hiss of the waters, Porte heard go north as the surf nudged him in the right direction. Picking up his purse, Porte began walking.

--

“And that’s the story, my lovelies!” I took another drink of wine as my crowd of admirers applauded. “A tale of heart-stopping daring, narrow escapes, and dangers on the treacherous seas!” I had already picked out the innkeeper’s oldest daughter as a likely bedwarmer. Assuming Galan the Prude, Knight-Paladin of No Fun At All, didn’t demand we leave and sleep on the road. He had his uses, though. Like being the biggest target in every battle.

I lifted my cup for another drink. The lantern light in the dark red wine created shimmering ripples. In my head, my master spoke in the voice of a river flowing over stones. You travel to Myth Drannor. I will have a task for you there. Do not fail.

Without another thought I drained the cup, making a mental toast to my freedom.

And since I'm addicted to in-jokes, the characters full name is Porte u'Marinaio. Which is Corsican for Popeye the Sailor.

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gridlore

August 2017

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