Chapter 1: Episode 1- "Captain of The Lady Brilliant"
“Is this the way it ends…?” Hercule Savoor stared at the knife splitting the sky to end his short life as he lay on his back on the ship’s deck. He’d finally been caught off guard. The notorious sea wolf had ravaged the Imperials for the last time. Hercule’s life flashed through his eyes.
“Oh, get up on your feet, Captain. So you lost your grip on your cutlass, it happens.” Kareve, Hercule’s first mate on The Lady Brilliant, extended a gloved hand to help his captain to his feet. Hercule knew he had been beaten fairly and squarely: he didn’t take defeat easily. Hercule knocked his mate’s hand away.
“No. I don’t want to get up.” Hercule said sorely, he was the sorest of losers, the whole crew knew this. “I’d just as soon die right here.” Hercule closed his eyes accepting death.
“What? Starve to death? It could take a while, sir.” Kareve played along with his captain’s drama, this was more or less a daily occurrence for him. Being first mate on The Lady Brilliant wasn’t too different from being a babysitter or maid on land: both looked after and cleaned up the messes of a child and kept them from trouble.
Hercule opened his eyes at the statement from Kareve and lifted his head as he laid on his back to look his mate in the eyes. “But at least I’d outlive you. Out of the two, Fuzzy’s cooking will kill a man faster than starvation.” Hercule smiled at his own joke.
“I heard that!” The portly, bearded cook screeched angrily from the kitchen: the room beneath the deck where Hercule and Kareve were.
Kareve rolled his eyes impatiently. “Alright. You’ve had your fun, now get up and let’s get to work.”
“Why should I?” Hercule folded his arms where he lay and stuck out his lip to pout.
“Because I don’t get paid half enough to babysit a captain.” Kareve said forcefully, extending a hand back down to Hercule again, hoping for better results this time. Hercule ignored the gesture.
“The half of what I pay you is twice as much as you deserve for the half of the work you do around this ship.” Hercule fired back.
“Only half of my work is actually ship related, cap. The other half is putting up with you.” Kareve said as he had said one hundred times before. “And frankly there’s not enough money in the world to make that part of the job worth it.” The mate sighed, a fringe of a smile lighting his face.
“Fair enough.” The captain remarked. “You win. I’ll get up.” Hercule accepted the hand offered him and was soon on his feet dusting off his captain’s coat with his hands. “Right then! Let’s crack on!” The transformation was so sudden it would’ve taken anyone else by shock, but Kareve had been on this ship for three years, ample time to adjust to his captain’s frequent mood swings.
“You’re completely insane, sir. You know that, right?” Kareve sheathed his knife and took off to the main deck to give orders, grabbing the hand rail and vaulting past the steps on his way down.
“Look lively now, lads!” Hercule shouted orders as he strode behind the massive ship wheel and took charge of the steering of his beloved barge. This way his ship, captained four years under his own flag; ever since he had first set eyes upon The Lady Brilliant in harbor at Vens Bay, he knew he would be the captain of her someday. It was destiny. The Imperial Fleet had never allowed an officer to command a ship that was not constructed by their own craftsmen, but for this captain they made an exception.
Hercule still remembered the day when everything changed between him and the Imperials. Red lines streaked through his eyes as he stood at the wheel, salty wind kissing his strong cheeks as it swept long brown tresses from his face: the dirty braid into which bound much of his unruly hair slid down his back as he lifted his face to the sky. Hercule embraced the moment, he lived for the freedom of feeling the wind across his face, breathing the salty richness, hearing the crash of waves against the hull; the swelling of the billows; the furling of the sails.
This was what drew him to the sea. What drew him to the Imperial Fleet was a bit of a different story he didn’t often tell. The divide between the Imperials and Hercule Savoor was so polarizing that one could hardly believe he had ever worn the red and white of the Imperial Fleet, or sailed under the Golden Cross.
It was years, many years since he had joined the navy. He thought back to the days after the great destruction of Jong Kabur, as they called it. A time of great chaos when a force of evil threatened the very existence of mankind, causing such destruction that it leveled half of the city and left much of the rest in shambles. His memory ended there. Everything from before the great destruction was gone, as if nothing had ever filled that space in his mind. He memory was a blank canvas of erased experiences of his past life. Had he ever lived before that time or did he enter time and reality as a twenty-five year old Imperial Soldier and mariner?
Hercule was aroused from his thoughts by a sudden commotion on the main deck. Throwing a cable over the wheel to lock their course, the captain rushed to the banister at the edge of the quarter deck to see what was the cause of the clamor. Before he could discern the source of the chaos, or the reason for the gathering crowd of crewmen standing aft of the mainmast, Kareve spoke up.
“Cap! Found a stowaway in one of the barrels down below.” Kareve stepped from the group of men on deck, a woman struggling in his grip. “You’ll never guess who it is.” There was a hint of amusement in Kareve’s tone, the man never showed an excess of emotion, a hint of amusement was about as close to outright thrill that Kareve ever showed. Hercule was a distance away from the stowaway, but could clearly make out the face and form of a young woman he knew rather well but never expected to see here on his ship.
“Kodia not big enough for you, Loris?” The captain addressed the daughter of the wife of Elias Grishnalt, the leader of the rebellious Southern State of Kodia. The crew members gasped, many of them knowing Loris Grishnalt by name, but never having seen her in person before. Hercule, however, had much experience with Loris Grishnalt. On a previous venture she had posed as a Imperial Sailor and spied for the rebels on one of Hercule’s own ships: back when he was an Imperial Captain. The deception alone was enough for bad blood between the two, but there was more to the story between Hercule Savoor and Loris Grishnalt; more that only Kareve knew about.
The captain had reason aplenty to despise the mention of her name. Now, here he was in the unique position of having her at his mercy: a stowaway on his ship, many leagues out to sea, far away from any friendly faces. She had no allies here.
“It’s been a while, Hercule. Did you miss me?” Loris said seductively, but with a mouthful of spite. She looked like a chained tigress, waiting to be set free so that she could pounce on Hercule and rip him to shreds. He believed she would do it.
“As much as a foot misses a thorn, Loris. I’ve been wondering why my life was allowed to be as pleasant and peaceful all of the sudden after all the evil I’ve done. Then! Then like God in heaven all of the sudden remembers I’m an evil man he sends down a punishment for to endure. Your face.” Hercule shouted, throwing his arms about like a madman, evoking some chuckles from his crew. “Oh no, Lord! It’s too much! It’s just too much to bear!”
Loris snarled. Hercule was at least her match in ferocity. Kareve personally thought the two were perfect for each other, they would go at it like cats over a ball of yarn until they were both bloody and tired: what a perfect happily ever after.
“Oh, just kill me and spare me from hearing the sound of your whiny voice.” Loris said, fronting confidence in diffidence. She rolled her eyes at the antics of Hercule.
“That, my dear stowaway, would be far more generous than you deserve.” Hercule leaned over the banister and his tone grew suddenly sharp and serious. “What kind of a man do you think I am?” An evil smile split Hercule’s face.