Unfazed by his opponent’s words Zeus moves his Chess piece from its starting point almost to the center. Hades didn’t take too long to think out his counter move but certainly a test move to identify the target. Mercury picks up on his intention and placed a pair of Silver dice into his infernal palm. The dies are cast. The result was mediocre so Hades requested the Decahedron saving die. He throws the die and the result was only another 50% chance of an assassination accomplishment. With a smirk Hades declined to preserve the Assassin’s hand for another time. It’s early in the game.
The soft muffled voice of his Night Watch lieutenant came from behind his cabin door, "Captain, someone needs to talk to you."
An exhausted K sat up from his bunk and gazed through his newly repaired windows to see the rising new moon. It was late. The meticulously installed fresh blue laced window coverings only reminded him to vacate his cabin for their VIP passengers the next day. He didn’t need to deal with another trivial issue. "Tell them to come back after breakfast," he mumbled.
Lady Ravenhill replied, "I believe you must tend to this matter sir, for your eyes and ears only."
K slips on his shirt and opens his cabin door.
Only Lady Ravenhill stood outside the door wearing her usual her trade mark mask and black outfit accentuated and distinctive ivory cameo belt. In her belt hung her personal weapon of choice, the cursed Japanese sword she named 'Fang'.
He looked behind her, "Where?"
She pointed to the aft windows of his cabin. "She's over there."
"She, you mean by the window?"
K rubbed his eyes and steps over to the window. "Here?"
"Outside and down in the water." Lady Ravenhill winked before closing his cabin door.
K leaned over the sill with a lantern and there in the water was a blue eyed girl with golden hair, her disarming smile glistened with the ocean water in the light of the moon and lantern flame. She looked young appearing no more than twelve years old but she is known to be at least a thousand years old if she was who he thinks she is. "Was that you? Our singing mermaid?"
"So I finally meet the Captain of the intrepid Dragon Fire, Yes I am Precious, you've likely heard a few of my favorite songs over the last few voyages hmmm? But I'll have to get the point."
"And what's that."
"Zeus has chosen you and I am to give you this."
It was a bronze coin. Emblazoned on it were the symbols of the sun and the moon suggesting some kind of chronograph device?
"What is it for?" Asked K.
"It’s a gift and an aide. I cannot tell you much as we know you like a mystery but brush up on those charting skills” Her expression darkened, “But be aware that you will be put to the test, your journey will not be an easy one. The Empire will know and will test your Iron and your limits. Sacrifices may be made and decisions difficult. Deliver the Princess and claim your prize.” Then her voice changes into a low growl, “Beware the month of the Starless skies!“
A stiff breeze swelled up rocking the ship gently, his lantern almost blows out. Her normal girl voice returned with a schoolgirl giggle, “I’ll be in touch.” The young looking Mermaid turns and begins to swim off.
“Wait!” cried K, “Well… thank you anyway Precious.”
The little mermaid stops, “Not many Captains have the courtesy to say ‘Thank You’ to me but you are welcome, I will grant you a special little favor during your voyage, later Captain!” With a salute she turns to jackknifes into the water and her tail disappears beneath the gentle waves. K couldn’t sleep after this. He put down the Bronze round on the table next to his silver ship and pondered upon its purpose until the sun came up.
Crates of dry ration, salted pork and fish, hard tack along with barrels of drinking water stack high haphazard along the waterfront. The docks and wharves are a crowded cacophony of noise, activity, urgency and preparation as Atrean and Minoan warships cluttered the already busy commercial ships all demanding moorage priority.
K felt there was a lot of unnecessary work to 'Gussy-up' the Dragon fire to suit the taste and position of a Princess just to be wed off to some older king she's never met. But they were granted top priority just for that as K felt like throwing his hat down in disgust in the impractical exercise of it all. "What a waste in time and energy!"
Doc stomps towards the Captain, "I'm lodging a complaint sir, my surgical office is no place for the Princess's cargo!"
"We’re all a bit pressed for space in fact my quarters are to be given to the Princess, so noted Doc, leave it in the Suggestion Box."
"By golly we're a Pirate ship, not a bluudy cruise ship," he turns and slips back down into the bowels of the ship.
Goldie steps up, "Hate to bother ye Captain but is this really necessary?"
"What is it?" His Dutch navigator shows him a blue frilled glass jar filled with an assortment of dried flower petals and scented herbs. He opened it up into an overwhelming fragrance.
"I found it in the lavatory, err…some of the men was askin’ 'bout it."
"Potpourri." Key Wee strode by with armfuls of shopping. "Tis Potpourri, It's by reques' o'..."
"I know..." K shoves the jar back to Goldie, "Put it back."
“Yes Sair!” Goldie shakes his head as he turns and shoulders past their Watchman.
NoName stops in his tracks and takes a curious whiff, "Don't tell me that's you Goldie... nice smell."
K nods to his Watchman, "What do you got for us NoName?"
"The manifest checks out, we got the dozen new good flintlock rifles and twenty extra new pistols, two hundred pounds of top grade powder with another three hundred rounds, just waiting for the two loads of cannon ball Captain, we expecting a big fight?"
"I hope not but I'm betting the Emperor Ikona won't pass this opportunity up,” K tips his hat, “as you were."
"Captain," he nodded.
K turns to the Arch Mage, "Key Wee, did you get what you needed?"
"Gath'rd moost o' it in th' fores' wit Tessie 'ere wha' we kinnae fine we ha' t' spen a quid or two fer. I’d be warth it."
Quid is a 17th century British slang term for a Pound sterling.
Key Wee and Tessaria's duffle bags were packed with a variety of herbs, roots, and a few things unidentifiable as their pharmaceutical skills proved indispensable to the crew in past voyages.
K tips his hat again to acknowledge their good work, "Good, ladies carry on."
Another voice squeaked by K's feet, "Bentley reporting Captain!"
K knelt down to his trusty scout, "Report Sir Bentley."
The warrior hare saluted, "Pest threat is zero Captain, two filthy rats were found and were eliminated before any damage was done."
"Thank you Sir Bentley, you may continue your patrols."
Cornelius directed a crate just hoisted aboard, "Careful wit tha' some importent equipment in tha"!"
"Mr. Doggshire, I thought you said you just needed just a ‘few’ things from the Gamelon Smiths and Metal workers."
"I do Master K, but I was inspired into a better project that can revolutionize our combat efficiency."
"What's your ideal?"
Cornelius grasped his lapels of his coat and looked upward like a dreamer, "Steam will be be the future, it will revolutionize everything. Imagine a horseless carriage, mills operate without water flow, and ships may not even need sails anymore!"
K studied the crate's volume for a moment, “We're a bit tight on stowage so whatever you absolutely need you have to do stow in your workspace otherwise it may become ballast."
His mechanical arm made a few whines and clicks as he tipped his hat in a gentleman’s manner, "I'll sleep on it if have to sir," Then tips his hat again to the approaching Dark Lady before stepping away, “My Lady.”
“Sir Doggshire.” Lady Ravenhill acknowledges the Crafter with before turning to the Captain, "My shift is done Sir, nothing further to report other than lord Slak-Tor and Tarakona will be a bit late getting back. How was your meeting with Precious?”
K Smiled and flips the coin into her hand, “Other than the lack of solid sleep Precious gave me this, any clue what it does?”
Lady Ravenhill cradles the coin in her gloved hand, hidden in the rim was a letter ‘H’ with a tiny ‘V’ inside the H. “Appears like the handy work of Hephaestus. No mistake about it. I don’t know how it works and like everything we’ve learned of Hephaestus it always reveals itself later.” She flips the coin back to K, “We’re in for it now, once the gods are in on this we’re gonna be in for a rough ride so get your sleep when you can. Speaking of sleep, permission to retire from duty Sir?”
“Permission granted Lady Ravenhill.”
Everything is proceeding well. The sails and rigging were brand new. Brass and iron fixtures were polished and lubricated, floorboards refinished and with some new paint around the exterior. And despite the un-natural demands placed upon the crew, the condition and readiness of the Dragon Fire hasn't been any better than the day she first launched. K felt proud of his ship and crew.
A royal procession approached the wharf and came to a stop with a lot of fanfare resonating all around the inner harbor. The guard snapped to attention as King Atrea also came to see his daughter off and led her off the large impressive royal carriage. In the last moments, three of the Dragon Fire gun crews hastily tucked in their new shirts, straightened hats and quickly lined up by the gangplank as part of the formal reception.
Magnificent in a dainty Ice blue court ball gown the Princess Atrea seemed hesitant to even step on the gangplank. After stepping aboard, her face cringed and did not restrain her comment, "Oh what a dreary looking ship. Father, I would rather be on the better Tantamon Ambassador’s ship! "
As the king was preoccupied with the Princess Doc removed his hat and quickly hands it to his Captain.
K wisely held his tongue but his face said, "@#&!" and threw Doc’s hat down in an act of frustration.
“Et lux in tenebris to serve laboro, sum sicarius” “I work in the shadows to serve the Light, I am an Assassin”