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Thread: The Free Company and the Spanish Gold

  1. #1
    The Father of AARland Lord Durham's Avatar
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    The Free Company and the Spanish Gold

    Prelude


    July 20, 1928 - Florence


    Madelyn Mary York clasped her hands as she stood before the headstone of her uncle, Sir Jonathon Thomas York. The cemetery was lush and quiet, surrounded by ancient trees and twittering birds. A cool breeze blew across her delicate features, catching the pink ribbons of her bonnet.

    Standing respectfully off to one side was a young man with bookish features, large glasses resting on a large nose. He shuffled his feet with embarrassment. He was not used to playing host.

    Dipping her head in silent prayer, Madelyn finished, crossed herself, and turned. She smiled primly. “Thank you, Carlos. You were most gracious to volunteer your time to allow me to see my uncle.”

    The young man blushed. “No inconvenience, ma’am. My pleasure.”

    She walked up to him and held out her arm. “I would like to see his apartment now, if you please.”

    He took the crooked arm awkwardly, not used to the social graces of the upper class. After a moment he admitted her touch was refreshing. “This way, ma’am, just a short walk along the Arno.”

    #


    Sir Jonathon’s apartment was large and congested, books and magazines scattered with maps and research papers. Still, it held a quaintness that Madelyn found comfortable. And the view from the balcony was spectacular.

    “Tea, Miss York?” Carlos asked from the kitchen.

    “Thank you, yes.” Madelyn replied as she investigated the study. There was the huge fireplace, a log partially spent, the high backed plush chair, well worn, and the end table with glass stains ingrained on its surface. Uncle sure enjoyed his scotch.

    Coming to the kitchen, she stopped to gather a collection of mail. “Oh dear. I thought the lawyers had dealt with his outstanding bills.” She leafed through the stack, noted they were primarily magazines and solicitations. Finally she came to a package. It was postmarked from the University of Florence. She held it up. “Carlos, what would you know of this?”

    The young man entered with a tray of tea, almost dropped it when he saw what she held. “Er, that was from me, ma’am. Your uncle was interested in history, and I was supplying him with certain documents I’d come across from time to time. I found them while rooting through the basement archives. He has a collection in the library. I never paid much attention, but he was always ecstatic when I chanced upon a new one.”

    She eyed the package and ripped it open. “Ecstatic, was he?”

    Carlos quickly set down the tray. “Careful ma’am, the contents are quite delicate.”

    Nodding quietly, she took care extracting a book. It was wrapped in oilskin and bound with lace. “What have we here? It looks... old.”

    “It is, ma’am. I’ll admit that was a lucky find. The previous Books I supplied your uncle covered a period of history dating from early to the mid 1400s. He grew quite despondent when I couldn’t find more. That is, until I came across the one you hold.”

    Madelyn barely heard him as she studied the tome. Setting it on a table, she gently removed the covering. The book itself was remarkably preserved. She smiled. “It’s beautiful. What’s it about?”

    Carlos shrugged. “I’m not entirely sure, ma’am. I think it had something to do with a company of mercenaries. The Books are their private chronicles. Like diaries, I guess.”


    Madelyn opened it and turned the first page. Being somewhat of a scholar herself, she recognized the old English it was penned in. Carefully she sat down, and after a moment asked, “And what year was the last one written?”

    Carlos set a cup of tea beside the woman. “I believe it was around 1442, ma’am.”

    “I see.” After a moment, she read in a clear voice, “Being the Annals of the Free Company: The Book of Stiles. It was the year 1565 when the Free Company was contracted to fight against the Turk, who laid siege to the Knights of St. John on the island of Malta...”
    Last edited by Lord Durham; 18-06-2005 at 00:02.
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  2. #2
    What? The_Hawk's Avatar
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    Malta – 18 May, 1565

    The Turk.

    Like a peal of thunder they had started in the East countless years before, the tiniest rumbling heralding an unprecedented future. Slowly, ever so slowly, the noise had spread from Asia Minor into Europe, building in intensity, and now one could barely hear above the din.

    And now the noise reached its crescendo. Here.

    Such dark thoughts rang in the ears of Jean Parisot de la Valette as he surveyed the horizon from the battlement of Fort St. Elmo. Seventy-one years of life had not bowed the Grandmaster of the Order of the Knights of St. John, or clouded his vision, and what he saw in every direction filled him with dread – and with resolve. Swaddled in his heavy robes of office, a thin sheen of sweat glistened on his otherwise barren pate, and he silently cursed the east wind that now failed to cool him.

    If it had died a day ago, we would have one more day to prepare.

    Valette cast the thought aside as quickly as it came. If God wills that this battle begins now, then let it begin. We shall fight with honor.

    Fight,
    he thought, and die.

    The Grandmaster’s hands on the stone crenellation went white-knuckled as he grappled with that bleak reality, wanting desperately to deny it. Dire could not begin to describe the situation they were in. Not even six hundred knights remained, divided into the traditional eight langues of the Order, each responsible for one sliver of the walls. Even now, far below Valette’s perch, this last bulwark of Christendom commanded the fort’s defenses. Each knight had perhaps a dozen men, mercenaries and conscripted civilians, hastily strengthening walls, laying in supplies, cutting bandages, tending to horseflesh. This tiny spit of land between the Marsamxett Harbor on the north and the Grand Harbor on the south was the island’s great prize. At its tip, Fort St. Elmo would be the crux of the Christian defense, with Fort St. Angelo and Fort St. Michael across the harbor to the south. And the world beyond that…

    Valette found his eyes drawn up past the harbors to the sea, and again could only marvel at what he saw there. The Turkish sails had grown so thick that it seemed as if the blue water of the Mediterranean had been replaced with white canvas. Nearly two hundred ships, his lookouts counted. Perhaps forty thousand Turks in all. The largest Turkish army in a generation. Perhaps the largest Turkish fleet ever.

    And all turned toward the death of La Valette and his Order.

    The enemy was known to him. Nearly thirty years ago – long before he had been named Grandmaster – he had held Tripoli against the man they called Dragut, greatest and most terrible of all the Barbary corsairs. Dragut Rais – the Drawn Sword of Islam, the Turks called him. Only extensive preparations had held Tripoli for twenty years, and in the end, these, too, failed.

    So it had always been with the Turks, since they first struck into Europe almost two centuries before. Each victory was followed by another attack; each defeat bought Christendom only a little time before the next assault. So Kosovo had been followed by the conquest of the Balkans; Constantinople had been followed by the invasion of Hungary; the great victory at Belgrade had bought only a few precious decades. And it had not been enough. Rhodes had fallen. The Battle of Mohács had been chased by an attack on Vienna, and failure there had not saved Budapest or Moldavia. The enemy could be delayed, but not stopped.

    And the old knight had lived long enough to understand his enemy. He knew why Suleyman, perhaps rightly dubbed the Magnificent, now struck at Malta. It was no grand religious gesture, no final, glorious battle with an ancient foe; it was far simpler, a matter of exterminating a threat grown too serious to ignore. For five years, Jean’s knights had carried out a war at sea, and every victory added to their fleet of galleys. Every captured corsair freed dozens of Christian galley slaves, and lined the coffers of the Order as Muslim captives were sold in turn. Over fifty galleys had fallen to his forces, some with great riches aboard, and neither Dragut or Suleyman could stomach the thorn in their side any longer. To the younger knights it was glory and honor against the infidels, all in the name of Jesus Christ, but the Grandmaster knew what it looked like to the Turks – the same sort of piracy which had made the corsairs their fortunes.

    But though Valette wisely questioned the honor to be gained through such feats of opportunism, he did not let it stop him from draping his Order in the cloak of the religious defender. Not that it had done him much good, of course. This time, it would not be the Knights that failed Christendom, Valette thought as he watched his men wrestle a heavy mortar into a defensive redoubt. This time, it would be Christendom that would fail the Knights. For, blinded by the rise of the Protestants, the Continent had ignored the Order’s calls for aid – all but Spain. It was Don Garcia de Toledo, Viceroy of Sicily, that had first warned him of the gathering Turkish fleet, had helped him raise Italian mercenaries and Spanish regulars to the cause, had promised a relief army.

    That relief army, their last hope, had not yet arrived, and now the siege was mere hours away.

    The forty-eighth Grandmaster of the Knights of the Order of St. John was not a fearful man; it was not a job for a coward. But his brain screamed the hopelessness of the situation, told him to flee, just as fiercely as his heart told him he could not. A coward’s retreat would be the death of the Order just as readily as a Turkish scimitar. Yet something picked at the back of his mind, a memory that gave him the first feeling of hope in weeks. In a swirl of velvet, Valette left his advisors behind and swept down flights of stairs to his office. He picked through tomes of ancient history. Constantinople. Patras. Belgrade. He hunted his shelves for the rolls of knights, four and a half centuries of fallen heroes. Fifty, a hundred, a hundred and fifty years he went back, until he found what he sought. Sir Robert of Brandon, page, squire, and Knight of the Order, 1397-1410.

    A smile played across the Grandmaster’s lips. It can be done. He pulled open a tome. “Besançon!” he shouted, his voice surprisingly strong for his age. The boy appeared as if by magic. “I need men in the archives.”

    The page looked puzzled. “Sire, the men are all busy preparing the defenses. Are you sure…?”

    The old knight scowled. “Surely we have a few priests who can read and don’t have much to do – yet.” He pointed at the open book and the picture it displayed. “I want to know what happened to them.”

    The boy’s eyes flicked across the text opposite. “Sire, surely…”

    “See to it.” At worst, he thought, the tales will inspire the men. And at best – who knows…?

    As his page scampered off, Jean Parisot de la Valette ran his fingers across the tome once more. The vellum was soft, weathered with age. The illustration it held was lovingly crafted, already ancient, but the Turks it depicted were as real and alive as the ones that assembled below even now. In ink, they came, a howling, gibbering mob, too many to count, too many to even imagine, all trying to crowd through a gash in the wall of the greatest city mankind had ever known. And yet a handful of knights in gleaming armor anchored a ragged line in their way, stopped them, cut them down. And above the raging madness fluttered a tattered banner, itself a survivor, in black, on black. A skull. A rose. Crossed swords. And a phrase too small to read in illustration. His memories stirred, the Grandmaster knew what it said. Death rides with us…
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  3. #3
    The Father of AARland Lord Durham's Avatar
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    Chapter One: Malta


    July 24, 1565 – The Mediterranean: Somewhere East of Malta


    The gulls circled lazily over a fleet that was several days out of Palermo. Hugging the southern Sicilian coast so tightly that the peasants often lined the beaches to wave, the crafty fleet commander – a corsair who had done well by the Knights of St. .John – swung south and wide to avoid the myriad Turkish patrols that littered the waters around the tiny island of Malta.

    Malta. A seemingly insignificant speck, barely self sufficient, and yet of such strategic importance that the Turks were compelled to drive the firmly entrenched Christian Knights from its fortifications. If successful, the entire central Mediterranean would be open to Ottoman influence and control.

    And all that protected Christendom from the might of the Infidel was a mere 4,500 men.

    It was not exactly what David Robertson, son of Edward, who traced his lineage back to the legendary Robert of Brandon, had in mind as his first test of leadership.

    His father dead the past year, David found himself suddenly propelled from a competent officer of the Company into its benefactor and leader. And by the ripe age of 25. It made matters no easier when Henri Taylor, his chief Envoy and counsel, casually mentioned that Robert of Brandon was already renowned throughout Italy, France, England and (begrudgingly) the Ottoman Empire as a formidable warrior when he was that age.

    David felt sick to his stomach.

    Jonathan Renault, Sergeant of the famed Rangers, joined the commander by the rail of the galley's aft-castle. He took one look at David’s green-tinged face and chuckled. “The sea not to your liking, sir?”

    David mumbled. “You think I’d be used to it by now, sailing from Ancona to Palermo, then here.”

    “Perhaps you are best suited to land, or maybe other things bother you?”

    “Perhaps.” David studied the man, eyes sweeping across the scar on his face. Renault had foregone his eye-patch this day. “And what about you? What are you best suited for?”

    Renault drew himself up. “I’m at my best crawling through bug infested ditches, hiding in prickly bushes, or quietly ending the life of an Infidel." He chuckled then. "At other times I like my ale.”

    David nodded, and went to stand against the rail overlooking the transport deck. What he saw was a vast collection of Company men, lazing about, enjoying the bright Mediterranean sun. He recognized the confident look of his veterans, and the nervous glances among the recruits.

    As usual, the Company attracted all kinds. That was nothing new. In fact, it was their personal badge of honour. The unwritten rule among the Company was that all religions were welcome, so long as the man could fight or contribute. They were brothers.

    Suddenly, rising from the depths, came the age-old, unofficial motto of the Free Company. David whispered it. “The Company looks after its own.”

    “It always has.”

    David turned in surprise. It was Chen Cai, lieutenant of the light cavalry – 55 years old and as spry as ever. Rumour had it this was his last campaign. Cai was the senior veteran by lieu of his age. He nodded greeting.

    Cai continued. “Those are important words... Captain. Those are words you should never forget. None of these men should ever forget them.”

    They turned at the sounds of an argument. Glorious and Gunshy were locked in a discussion that was fast getting out of hand. David shook his head. The two had been this way as long as he’d known them. If they weren’t so damned professional, he would have had them hanging off the galley by ropes while encouraging the men to piss on them.

    He turned back to Cai. “You called me Captain. I don’t know if I’m comfortable with that.”

    Renault cut in. “Bah. It is an honour. The name has magic. Trust me.”

    “How so?”

    “Henri could explain this better, given his oily tongue. But remember this, whatever happens within the Company means nothing to the aura we represent to the rest of Europe. The mere mention of the Company has the ability to strike fear into her enemies. Opponents have surrendered without a fight when they knew who they faced. Perception is all important, remember that.”

    David allowed a brief smile. ‘Who has the oily tongue?

    Cai grunted. “He speaks the truth. It’s wise to listen.”

    David pondered it. Finally, he turned to face the aft-castle and saw the envoy, Henri, enter. He said to Renault, “Gather the Lieutenants, Sergeant Diego, and yourself, and meet me in there.” He pointed at the structure on the rear deck of the galley.

    With a final look at the men, he turned to enter.

    Cai opened the curtain. “After you, Captain.”
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  4. #4
    StoreytellAAR Storey's Avatar
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    July 24, 1565


    The ship’s cabin was warm and slightly muggy with the dull murmur of several conversations drifting into and out of my consciousness. Mario and Henry were quietly talking in a corner while Glorious and Gunshy traded jokes about something or someone. With the slight rolling of the ship from the small sea swells I shifted my weight trying to ease the dull ache in my back. Sitting for too long always aggravated my old wound and brought disquieting memories of the year of forced bed rest recovering from the bite of that bastard Turk’s blade. The distraction of the Captain entering the cabin brought me back to the present and forced my pain both physical and mental into the background. Sergeants Diego and Renault followed the Captain and nodded to me as they found an empty seat. Not for the first time on seeing Renault’s ugly scar it made me wonder why he didn’t always wear his eye patch. Maybe I should bring him along on the next contract negotiations? His face would scare a little more gold out of any tight fisted nobleman’s hand. Lieutenant Cai was the last to enter and the muted conversations died down as everyone watched the Captain take his seat at the head of the table. A brief nod of his head in my direction and then in a clear voice he simply said.

    “Henri you can start.”

    It was time to tell the rest of the Company what I’d already shared with the Captain. I cleared my throat and placed my hands on the table. It was an old habit that I used when negotiating a possible contract. Always keeping my hands in plain view as if I had nothing to hide. What better way to put my opposite at ease and still hide something? I mentally smiled but stopped my thoughts from drifting and focused on my report. I looked around the room and found all eyes on me. Except for Gunshy who was for some reason grinning at Glorious. Something was always going on between those two. I cleared my throat and looked around the room again and finally everyone was quiet.

    “I have just concluded the negotiations for our next contract. As some of you have guessed our next employer is...”

    I couldn’t help myself and paused for dramatic effect. It was seldom that I exercised any control over these men so I enjoyed the moment. A fly buzzed above the table in lazy circles creating the only sound in the room.

    “His majesty King Philipp II of Spain.”

    The room swelled with voices and movement as soon as the words were out of my mouth. I inwardly smiled as I saw Glorious grin at Gunshy. Unless I was losing my touch it appeared that Glorious had just won a bet.

    “We have reached an agreement with Philipp II representatives, Viceroy Don Garcia de Toledo of Sicily and the Duke of Alva.”

    Again I paused catching an amused expression on the Captain’s face. He appreciated the fact that we’d been able to keep these negotiations secret from the Company’s veterans. Just another indication that he was adjusting to his position of command.

    “And our destination is... Malta."

    The first disruption was mild compared to the raised voices at this news. Glorious' grin widened as he obviously won another bet with Gunshy."

    Captain called for quiet and nodded for me to continue.

    “We are to go to Malta and put ourselves at the service of the Grand Master de Valette.”

    “And our terms of service?”

    I looked at Glorious and pulled on my ear in irritation at being interrupted.

    “We are committed to stay until the end of the siege or six months, whichever comes first.”

    This time it was Gunshy who asked.

    “Six months? A rather short contract wouldn’t you say?”

    I wiped my hand across my forehead in agitation. I wanted to tell them that if they’d just stop interrupting me I’d tell them what they want to know. I took a deep breath and continued.

    “Yes but I’ve been assured by Don Garcia that he is raising a relief force at this moment. Naturally I’ve checked with my sources and it appears that the Spanish are indeed moving at urgent speed putting together a large force to send to Malta. We are a gesture or maybe guaranty would be a better description to Grand Master de Valette that help is on the way.”

    This time Renault was the one to interrupt.

    “What is the situation on Malta?”

    I pulled on my nose in annoyance. Negotiations were more formal with each side knowing when to ask and when to not ask questions but I knew I shouldn’t expect the same propriety from the Free Company. I mentally sighed and got control of my temper before answering.

    “The Grand Master de Valette has only eight war galleys and four maybe five thousand men at his command. Five hundred are Knights and the rest are Maltese militia or mercenaries. Fortunately the Grand Master hasn’t been idle. The fortifications on Malta have been upgraded and he has stored a great deal of supplies in anticipation of the siege. The Turks have approximately thirty five thousand men and over 200 hundred ships.”

    Mario was the next to ask and as he usually did he went right to the point.

    “What is our reward for this task?”

    I ran my hand across my face in exasperation at the continual interruptions and sighed in resignation. So much for me thinking I could exercise any control over these men. I glanced at the Captain but he just nodded for me to go on. I swatted at the fly that buzzed by my face. I couldn’t help but think that his father wouldn’t run a meeting like this. Still there was nothing to do but continue.

    “It’s not a secret that King Philipp has at times, shall we say, had difficulty in paying off his obligations. So I naturally asked the Viceroy to pay the first half now and the rest when the siege is lifted or six months have passed.”

    I turned and looked, drawing everyone’s eyes to the moderately sized chest that sat innocently in the corner. All dark wood and iron metal bands encompassing enough gold and silver to buy a man’s dream or possibly a nightmare if he wasn’t careful. Suddenly the Captain slapped his hand down on the table a grin on his face.

    “Well gentlemen we have our next contract. Any more questions?”

    The questions came from all quarters, and every detail of the operation was hashed out over the next hour. Finally, the officers spilled back onto the deck.

    Gunshy and Glorious were elbow to elbow. "Malta, eh," Gunshy began. "What do you think?"

    Glorious surveyed the deck, squinting after his long spell in darkness. He shrugged. "We'll go, we'll fight, we'll win. It's what the Company always does."

    The stocky artillery master shook his head. "You're not worried about the Turks? They eat only men's hearts, you know."

    Glorious rolled his eyes. "You yokel. I didn't just come in from the fields. You think your fairy tales are going to scare me?" He harrumphed. A moment's silence descended, and the reiter lieutenant stretched. "You want to know what I think about Malta?"

    "What's that?"

    "I think you owe me ten soldi." The horseman grinned.

    Another silence fell as the two took in the deck and the groups of soldiers scattered here and there. Finally they tracked back and eyed one another.

    "You're going to leak the news to your men," Gunshy said. Not a question.

    "Right now," affirmed Glorious.

    "Not if I do first!" The gunman started toward his subordinates.

    "You damn gargoyle!"

    "Schweinritter!"
    Last edited by Storey; 12-04-2005 at 01:20.
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  5. #5
    Unusually Foolish Rath Jones's Avatar

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    July 24, 1565 – The Mediterranean: Somewhere East of Malta

    "Schweinritter!" Gunshy shot back, smirking. "Ill make those ten soldi back if I beat you!" The two began moving a bit faster, boots thudding into sun warmed wood as they pretended not to be hurrying away from each other.

    "For shame, runt." Glory yelled at him, vaulting a rail to get to one of his own seageants. There was an indignant outburst as he almost landed on Andrew, one of Renault's rangers.

    The squat gunner hurried down the stairs, almost tripping over Erik Von Stark, who recieved a blistered ear and rancid denunciations of his parentage for his attempt to avoid Gunshy's stumbling descent down a short flight of rough wooden stairs.

    "Hah, damn fool. Easy money." Gunshy muttered as he spotted a couple of his men lounging by the rail, avoiding work. "Llywarch, Nikola! Get your useless asses over here!" The short Free Company veteran cast another look over to where his nemesis was making his way down the other side of the ship.

    Heads turned as he passed yelling, outbursts were not uncommon from the short artillery lieutenant, but they were also worth paying attention to for sheer entertainment value. He saw a couple faces he knew from the infantry, Hui something or other, and the scandinavian with the unpronouncable name...started with a Gjer or something. There was no stopping him though, Gunshy had a mission.

    As he almost crashed into the two men by the railing, Llywarch, shot him a look over his shoulder. "You sit on another splinter Gunshy?" The sergeant didn't bother to move from his spot, and Nikola, one of his gun men just chuckled. "I haven't seen you this excited since we got aboard, what with your love of sea travel." Llywarch finished with snicker.

    Gunshy reached them, casting a glance across to the other side of the ship to track his opponent even as he responded. "Shut up you idiots, I got news." He grinned in a rather unsavory fashion. The two straightened, and their eyes got sharp. "Were headed to Malta. Gonna kill us some Turk."

    "God have mercy us." Nikola said softly, Llywarch just muttered something in welsh.

    "God have mercy on them." Gunshy spat, and then grabbed the railing. He really, really didn't like boats. "Because we won't."

    "Malta? Really?" A couple men had been close enough to hear Gunshy's not so quiet revalation. Rather quickly, it began to pass from person to person.

    "Thats what I said, isn't it?" Gunshy sneered at the infantryman, Sigismund something, a pikeman. "Now get to work you two! Were not on a pleasure jaunt. Check the powder casks and see if those useless sailors plugged that leak we found yesterday." Grumbling, the two artillerymen headed off.

    A second later Gunshy was hopping up, trying to see the crowd at the othe side of the ship. "Did I beat the bastard?" He muttered, then he almost fell over again. "Gott im himmel." He cursed. "I hate boats."
    Last edited by Rath Jones; 12-04-2005 at 02:15.
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  6. #6
    Lt. General redwolf's Avatar
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    July 24, 1565 – The Mediterranean: Somewhere East of Malta

    20 year old Chen YaoHui sat on the deck of the ship, cleaning his weapons and armour for the first time in a long while. Having not touched his weapons for a bit of time, some of them were starting to show a bit of rust and now he was trying his hardest to get rid of them before someone noticed it.

    Earlier on, YaoHui had boarded the ship with great excitement and looking forward to a great adventure. However, within hours of the ship lifting anchors, he regretted getting on board ship. His face had turned green and had vomited out his food a couple of times. Most of the beginning of the voyage was spent in the bunk being sick and thinking he was going to die.

    But one can only be sick that long and slowly YaoHui finally gained his sea legs, at least to the point that he didn’t felt like he would be going to join his ancestors anytime soon. As he scrubbed away at a spot of rust on his sword, he thought back to half a year back when his father decided he was finally old enough to join the Free Company. It was a day he had been waiting for for a long time. Ever since he was old enough to walk, he had heard many stories of the Free Company, of the great heroes and famous battles that the Company had fought in. Most of all, he heard the stories and adventures of his ancestors, Chen Hui, RongCai, his father, Chen Cai, and more recently, his brother, WeiBao and cousin Mario and he was determined to follow in their footsteps.

    His father, Chen Cai was often away on campaign, but there were always many veterans in his village and from these veterans, he learnt the skills he needed to learn at a very young age. When his family members returned from campaign, they would impart whatever they could to him as well and finally at the age of 20, his father had decided he was ready to join the Company and told him to report for training the next day. He smiled at that memory of that happy day.

    A moment later, that smile disappeared as he recalled the first day of training. Rather than going to the Light Cavalry as he thought he would, his father had assigned him to the infantry instead. Now that was too much! All his life he wanted to ride a war horse, sword aloft and charging into battle with a great war cry. Instead, he was given a pike and the last position he wanted to be in, a grunt. That was not the position a great would be hero should be in. He wants to be the hero of a famous battle, killing enemies by the dozen from atop his great warhorse, not one of the many faceless soldiers in the infantry which no one will remember in history and he had complained bitterly, but his father had issued him a ultimatum, the infantry or he can try his hand at being a merchant like his uncles. That silenced him immediately. A grunt at least would still be able to fight in battles. A merchant’s life was totally unthinkable. He shuddered at the thought. Thus reluctantly, he had reported to his instructor for duty, which coincidently happened to be his cousin Mario. He could still remember the evil smirk on Mario’s face when he reported to him.

    Over the next few months, he gritted his teeth and endured the tortures and suffering as he underwent infantry training. Training was tough and Mario almost seem to take great delight in pushing his cousin as far as he could to his limits. Suddenly, life in the Free Company didn’t seem like a great adventure anymore. One day, YaoHui thought, he would get some of his own back on his cousin.

    A sudden gust of wind blew the cloth YaoHui was holding out of his hand. He made a futile grab for it and could only curse as the cloth decided at that moment the life of being a kite was more interesting than that of a cleaning cloth.

    Muttering curses under his breath, he started digging through his clothes to see if he had brought along another cloth. His right hand felt something and he pulled it out. It was a crumpled envelope. YaoHui frowned. What was an envelope doing on him? He turned the envelope over and saw the words “Mario Chen” written on it.

    A letter addressed to his cousin on him? Suddenly it hit him. Mei Feng! His sister had passed the envelope to him on the day of their departure, asking him to pass the letter to Mario. But in all the excitement and then the sea sickness, he had forgotten all about the letter.

    A grin came to YaoHui’s face. His sister has fallen head over heels in love with Mario when he last visited their home. Mario who apparently did not share the same feelings with Mei Feng, had tried to avoid her when he first heard about it in the hope that it was a crush and would be gotten over with.

    Unfortunately, Mei Feng had different ideas and in the time he was at the village, she had stalked Mario like a lioness hunting her prey. YaoHui and his older brother WeiBao had a wonderful time teasing their cousin about it.

    The grin on YaoHui’s face became wider. Here was a good chance to have some fun at his cousin’s expanse again. Chen sighed, a pity that his brother injured himself just a couple days prior to their departure and hence was forced to sit out this campaign. However, the sigh quickly vanished at the thought of getting one back on his older cousin.

    The officers appeared on the deck. Apparently, they were finished with whatever meeting they had. It looked like something was up. Some of the officers looked excited beyond words while others like his father had grim somber looks on their faces. Looking at the letter in his hands, YaoHui decided to go ask Mario what the meeting was about, and get in a bit of fun as well.

    Putting his sword away, he moved to the bow of the ship where he knew Mario was with envelope in hand, smirk getting wider with every passing second….
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  7. #7
    GunslingAAR coz1's Avatar
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    July 24, 1565 – The Mediterranean: Somewhere East of Malta

    The man stood at the edge of the railing watching the sea rage below, long dark hair blowing freely in the wind. He had never had issue with sea travel, but this time he was feeling an illness rise in him. Was it seasickness? No. It was uncertainty.

    How long ago was it that he had gone to meet this Captain Robertson with word that if there was one group that would allow him to ply his trade, it was he? Less than a year, and he admitted, the man seemed green for his command. But there was a certain something…sureness. He was not afraid to take charge and Cosimo admired that. What he admired more, however, was the task at hand. A battle – any battle would do.

    Too long had he spent fighting other’s battles with no sense of personal achievement, of personal satisfaction. His time in England had proved to him that others would use his services for their own gain leaving him so obviously to lose his head if the chance came up. He absentmindedly moved his hand to feel his cheeks, a ready reminder if he ever forgot.

    And his time in Germany proved that any Prince, of either religion, was willing to question God’s will. If they even pretended to suggest what that was. There, he had tired of the political nature of the fight so wrapped in religious pretense. No, better to fight where the reasoning was true and the reward, his own.

    As the dark brown of his eyes glazed over, a spittle of water rolled up over the rail and stung his eye. Rubbing it to get the salt out, he stopped his ruminations and turned to find his man.

    “King!” he shouted and could not help but chuckle. His retainer was one Leroy FitzThomas, called King as a joke. Picked up in England years ago, the boy had been with him ever since. Now approaching his 15th birthday, he was becoming a strong young man. He may wish to fight on his own someday. But not now.

    “Bring me the sack.”

    King swiftly was by his side, dodging the many other men who had obviously come do the same as Cosimo. Handing his master the bag, King looked up with a wild eye.

    “Do ya know where we is headed?”

    “No…not at the moment. To kill the Turk is my only objective and this Captain promises I’ll have my day. Until then, you keep low, capisco? I’ll not have you thrown overboard for messing with someone else. If anyone gives you issue…you come to me.”

    “Aye, sir. Looks as though the officers are leavin’ a meeting. D’ya think they’ll give us some word?”

    “Boy…just go below and stay out of harms way. I’ll tell you all you need know in good time.”

    Cosimo de Perugia, the last member of that name, so long away from home and so burdened with reward and trouble, looked to the officers as they emerged on deck. Would this be the time the Captain’s words rang true? He waited to find out.
    Last edited by coz1; 12-04-2005 at 00:46.
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  8. #8
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    July 24, 1565 – The Mediterranean: Somewhere East of Malta

    Andrew sits with his back comfortable against a rail. He has never lost his appreciation for how much sunnier the Mediterranean is compared to his own cloud-girt home. Just for a moment it was possible to silence out the creaking of the hull, the complaints of the sailors, and the incessant farting of the soldiers. Out here, sparkling blue all around, the sun in the sky burning down, it is almost possible to lose yourself. On the other hand it is incredibly hot, and bright. Strange that the sun could be brighter here than in Scotland, but Andrew is not the sort to question that sort of Divine Mystery. He cracks open an eye…

    … to see the vaulting mass that is Glory hurtling over him in an ungainly tangle of arms and legs. He pulls himself close, and the knight lands heavily where his leg had been only a moment before.

    “Watch it!” he yells as the lieutenant stumbles a moment before regaining his stride, mindless. “Damn cavalry,” he mutters to himself, and then notices that a fit of whispering has already broken out among men in small groups. From the cabin an officer walks out. Clearly news, of some sort, was out. He debates a moment whether to investigate further, but finds himself settling back down. To keep himself busy he lays his crossbow across his lap, and begins a meticulous inspection, a ritual he undertakes several times a day. The news would reach him when it would.
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  9. #9
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    July 24, 1565 – At Sea

    Llywarch ap Rhys coughed and spat something black over the side of the ship. He smiled to himself. Gunshy had missed, as usual, the crude double joke about the lieutenant's excitement after sitting on splinters. He started below decks, to check on the powder, but mostly to look at his love.

    "Nikola," he said with that odd Welsh lilt to the assistant, "check on the powder. Make sure it's tidy. Tell the damn sailors that if it gets wet, it'll catch fire, and we'll all be food for the fishies."

    The gunner was a small man, and he maneuvered the cramped quarters below deck with the confidence of a man who had crawled deep into dark holes beneath the earth in search of coal. The sea, he had long ago decided, had no fears worse than the depths of the world. At least here, he could die clean, not buried under the black.

    There she is, he thought with a lightness in his heart. Dai the Death was carved in rough script on the side of the dismounted half-culvern. Llywarch pulled out a dirty cloth, spat on it, and started to rub her down. She gleamed in the guttering light from the cracks in the deck. "Aye, my dear," he whispered to her, "looks like you'll get the chance to kiss a Turk. Got to make sure you're pretty for the bastards."
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  10. #10
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    July 24, 1565 – The Mediterranean: Somewhere East of Malta

    This was not the first time Frederick had been on a ship nor was it his first time sailing the Mediterranean. Yet after six years of running around Italy with nothing better to do then play his lute and sing songs he had heard from his childhood. Even after joining The Free Company out of financial desperation[as he had acquired a considerable debt from failed business ventures], he still felt the need and urge to play the strings and sing the notes of the wonderful sounds of his past.

    Although he had failed to hear the announcement made by one of the captain's top officers, the news made its way to his ears an hour later. Frederick being one not to reveal any surprise or emotion when hearing any news couldnt help but be shocked by the sheer numbers involved. Unfortunately he joked, most were made of Turks and other peoples from the Orient. He knew like his father from their travels along the Arabian coast and through Constantinople that the "heathen scourge" was a myth that provided a false confort.

    However, Frederick, was not too worried as he knew the language of Arabia and in turn which meant he knew the language of the most powerful empire in the world. He devised how everything would come to pass, he would fight well enough to earn his coin[something his father had drilled into him which was that everything must be earned some way or another] and if they were on the verge of defeat, he would simply cross over the lines and make a deal to save himself.

    With these thoughts came maybe the same confort that the average villager or king felt when he cursed the "heathen scourge" in they're prayers and maybe he felt the same surpressed fear that they had in their minds. That dreaded fear was not of the Turk but of the almighty and the drive to repent for one's sins to avoid eternal damnation. Personally, Frederick, thought such things were nonsense as he felt that if God was all merciful then even the worse sinners were destined to have a seat in heaven. At the same time however, he realized that it could be reversed and that maybe he and the rest of humanity was overseen by a sadistic maker. To him, this didnt seemed so farfetched, what other reason could explain the evils of his fellow man?

    So as he sat at the bow, playing his lute, he felt the sudden urge to sing a German song he had memorized. Sometimes he seemed to forget that he was German which wasnt too hard to do. Frederick's skin had long been tanned under the Mediterranean sun and his accent was an unusual mix of German and Italian. He rarely spoke his mother tongue as he felt that Italy had been more of a home to him then the icy people of Brandenburg, maybe he thought that Germany didnt deserve him. Nonetheless, he began playing and singing the notes to his German song and in a brief moment he felt almost content with the setting sun to his front and amazingly he felt life inside his bones for the first time since he was very young.

  11. #11
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    July 24, 1565 - Mediterranean Sea

    Arpad. "The Wanderer." The lanky man leaned against a railing looking out over the sea, lost in thought, the warm breezes off the water blowing his cloak around his ankles and his long dark hair loosely around his shoulders. Arpad. How long had he used that name now? The last few weeks felt like a blur...his arrival in Palermo, his joining the Free Company, and in between...in between was that bloody night. He felt something rising within him as he recalled the night before they had left port, the night before he had joined, and he felt sick again.

    The Hungarian ran a hand to the bandage over his left eye for what felt like the thousandth time since he had come on board, and pulled it away warm and wet. The thing was soaking through with blood again, must have been the blasted heat and seawater. He rummaged around in a rucksack looking for a replacement bandage, and after locating a suitable strip of cloth, began to untie the one he currently wore. Arpad pulled the blood-stained strip away from his face and looked down into it with his one remaining eye, the red empty socket where his left eye had been only a week or so ago leering out into the deep sea waters. Wiping his face with the bandage, he sighed and dropped the spent strip of cloth to the deck before tying on the new one. His hand subconciously reached out to touch the empty socket, and recoiled involuntarily when he felt it under his fingers. It had stopped even hurting by now, but the feel of such a wound was ghastly.

    "Why am I even here..." he muttered to himself, thinking of his sign-on with the company. With his wound, he probably would have been turned away had they not been planning some sort of massive expedition...and had he not snuck up on the recruiting officers. The thought of that still made him laugh. But deep down inside, he honestly had no idea what had driven him to this place...was it because he was running and this had been the fastest way out of town, or was it because his life no longer had a true purpose?

    He had been assigned to a Sergeant Renault, and placed in the Rangers. Arpad had not yet really met the man, nor had he tried to introduce himself either to this Sergeant or any of the other Rangers. But he was in no rush. "Ava and Julia waited what, 13 years? Surely a few introductions can wait a couple days" he thought to himself. With that thought, he returned what was left of his vision to the sea, to watch the rolling water and feel the spray and wind in his face. It was good to be back on the water again...it was good to be free.

    It was good to have slaked his thirst for vengeance.
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  12. #12
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    July 24, 1565 - At Sea

    Sean O'Floinn stood quietly, leaning on the railing that lined the ship's side. Well adapted to the rocking of ships, he felt quite at ease on the large galley. Every time he saw a man get that certain look on his face and dash for the side, he couldn’t help but grin. He had been in far more turbulent waters. Sean had seen a number of men thrown overboard by storms, and he’d thrown more than a few men overboard for insubordination.

    Those were the types of events that made up his life. Many would call him a pirate. His looks neither confirmed nor denied this fact. A rather normal looking man, O’Floinn possessed mildly good looks. His eyes were green, as was characteristic of his family, and his hair was dark brown, and on most occasions, today included, was rather tousled.

    Being rather new to the company, O'Floinn hadn't yet had the chance to meet many of the other members, though he’d had some interaction with others, mainly other rangers. Glancing across to the far side of the ship, he noticed the officers had adjourned their meeting, and wondered quietly about the stout form of Gunshy barreling across the ship. Sean, not one to miss the comedy of life, let out a slight chuckle.

    Hearing the dull pounding of quickly approaching footsteps, Sean looked sharply to his side, spotting a man bent over the railing. As he straightened up, Sean took a step closer. Though he had likely seen the stranger in the past few days, Sean couldn’t recognize him. Glancing at the water swirling below them, O’Floinn said with a grin,

    “Sea doesn’t agree with you so well, does it?”

  13. #13
    Hurricane Sergeant of Arms Amric's Avatar
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    July 24, 1565 - At Sea

    After the meeting Mario Chen stood at the bow of the galley looking out at the dolphins leaping about playfully as they paced the vessel on its journey. A good omen for those who believed in such things. A light step behind him caused him to turn around. His younger cousin, YaoHui stood there with a smirk on his face. He had a somewhat crumpled envelope in his left hand.

    “What is so amusing?” Mario looked pointed at the envelope.

    YaoHui handed the older man the envelope,” I had forgotten this letter my sister wanted me to give you.”

    Mario sighed,” Mei Feng. I should have known.”

    Another man stepped up, an older version of YaoHui and glared at him,” You’ve had that for weeks and you are just now giving him your sister’s letter?”

    Looking somewhat abashed,” To be honest I had forgotten I had it, father. What with the journey and embarking on this galley…”

    Chen Cai frowned,” That is no excuse.”

    “But she was being such a pest while I was getting ready,” YaoHui protested,” Following me to the armorers. Everywhere I went, there she was!”

    “She wanted to spend time with you before you left on your first campaign,” his father smiled gently.

    “Hardly,” YaoHui sniffed,” All she wanted to do is talk about Mario!”

    Cai’s eyebrows rose in comprehension,’ Ah! So because she was pestering you about him you thought to wait a while to deliver it?”

    “Well, yes,” YaoHui noticed the dangerous glint in his father’s eyes,” Well, no. Not entirely! I did at first, but then I did completely forget about it. Honest!”

    Cai shook his head,” Siblings. You should have given it to Mario at the very first opportunity. It is for him, regardless of the fact that your sister irritated you.”

    YaoHui hung his head in shame,” I am sorry, father. I apologize to you as well Mario. I did have a bit of trouble getting my sea legs, though.”

    Mario chuckled,” I accept your apology. I’m just glad I am the youngest. All of my brothers and sisters are already married. Having children of their own as well.”

    “Something you should be doing as well,” Cai looked at him expectantly.

    “Not you too!” Mario exclaimed,” I thought you of all people would understand! I’m a free company man!”

    “So am I,’ Cai reminded him,” For longer than you have been alive, I might add. It didn’t stop me from getting married and having children.”

    “But…”Mario started to say.

    “Mother gave you instructions, didn’t she?” YaoHui chortled.

    Cai gave his son a gimlet eyed stare that shut him up briefly,” We are not talking about your mother. Yes, we both would like Mei Feng to marry. But I will not try and force Mario to do so.”

    “Even if Serena wants me to do so,” he muttered very softly to himself.

    Mario blinked,” Excuse me?”

    “You didn’t hear that,” Cai remarked, breaking off as a gaily dressed man sat down relatively near by to sharpen his weapons.”

    “Hear what?” YaoHui inquired.

    Mario’s eyes drifted the same way as Cai’s. His lips tightened. YaoHui looked as well but didn’t understand.

    “Something wrong?” he inquired,” He has terrible taste in clothing and colors, but perhaps I might be missing something?”

    Cai inclined his head slightly. Mario’s mouth puckered as though he had just eaten something quite sour.

    “My, or should I say, our cousin,” He growled.

    “Really?” YaoHui’s expression lit up,” I’ve never seen him before now.”

    “Not a surprise,” Mario grunted.

    “You don’t like him?” YaoHui’s expression reflected his puzzlement.

    “I don’t know him,” Mario grudgingly admitted.

    YaoHui frowned.

    “He is from the line of Alaric Al’Aeshir,” Cai explained.

    YaoHui nodded in sudden comprehension,” I see! What is he doing here?”

    “To be part of the company,” Mario shrugged.

    “I thought Alaric was the last of their line who was a part of the company?” YaoHui queried.

    “Alaric forbade any of his line from joining the company,” Cai shook his head sadly,” So until he died nobody dared to gainsay him. This one is the first since Alaric to join the company.”

    “Do you think he will cause trouble?” Yao queried.

    “He’d better not,” Mario snapped,” He’ll regret it. I won’t put up with the same kind of bigotry Alaric inflicted on RonCai and Alyssa.”

    Cai cleared his throat,” Do not judge him entirely based on Alaric’s actions. Wait and see what he does for himself.”

    “Yes, uncle,” Mario replied softly.

    “Of course, father,” YaoHui nodded.

    “I suppose I should see what Mei Feng has to say,” Mario looked at the missive like it was a poisonous snake.”

    “It’s probably full of various ways to tell you how much she loves you,” YaoHui snorted with laughter.

    “You are not the least bit funny,” Mario glared daggers at him.

    “YaoHui, Perhaps you are jealous that your sister has found someone she wishes to devote her life to, eh?’ Cai noted thoughtfully.

    “All he did was spend a week playing tea party with her!” YaoHui exclaimed,” That is the basis for love?”

    Mario threw up his hands,” I wrench my knee visiting you and Aunt Selena makes me stay put. I didn’t play tea party. Mei Feng served real tea, in the traditional manner, thank you so much!”

    “Enough!” Cai thundered quietly,” Yao, go find something else to do other than trying to torture your cousin.”

    YaoHui nodded and stomped away.

    “I am sorry, uncle,” Mario sighed.

    “It is not your fault,” Cai looked at his son’s retreating form,” I didn’t get to spend as much time with him when he was a child as I should. I’m getting old, Mario. If it weren’t for my pledge to go on one campaign with him I would be home right now enjoying some tea with my wife.”

    Mario noticed the grey hairs on his uncle’s head as if for the first time as well as the crow’s feet around the eyes from staring into bring sunlight for many years.

    “You’re not that old,’ Mario responded quickly,” You say it every campaign as a matter of fact. Well, for as long as I can remember, anyway.”

    “Mario,” Cai looked him in the eyes,” Look out for him. I have a feeling…”

    “You always have a feeling,” Mario retorted,” Usually it is about dinner.”

    Cai laughed,” So do you! I think it is a family trait.”

    The awkward moment passing, Mario hesitated,” About Mei Feng.”

    “I love my daughter,” Cai smiled,” She is as stubborn and headstrong as her mother. She will be relentless, much as her mother was with me.”

    Mario shuddered,” I’m doomed you are saying?”

    Cai chuckled,” You make it sound like a fate worse than death. Marriage didn’t kill me. Your aunt stalked me and had me bagged before I even knew what was happening. She is a strong woman. Yet I love her more now than when we first married.”

    “Being tied down…”

    “Tied down,” Cai snorted,” I’m here, and I am not ‘tied’ down. Marriage is not the end of your life. It is just another chapter. A richer one than you can possibly imagine.”

    Mario was silent for a short time. Cai waited patiently.

    “We are cousins,” he said weakly.

    “Five times removed,” Cai chuckled,” That is a rather pitiful excuse.”

    Mario shrugged,” Well, she is beautiful. Smart, too. I just don’t know…”

    Cai smiled ruefully,” I’ll leave you to your letter.”

    Mario noticed his erstwhile cousin had also left at some point during the time he had been conversing with his uncle. With some small repidation he began to read the letter.
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  14. #14
    Hurricane Sergeant of Arms Amric's Avatar
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    July 24, 1565 - At Sea

    The tall man sat upon the deck with a cloth and whetstone sharpening one of his sabers in a slow methodical manner. He seems completely comfortable in his bilious yellow tunic and lime green pantaloons. His dark black hair was tied back in a knot and his grey eyes were concentrating on the task before him.

    rasp went the lightly oiled whetstone as he gently stroked it up the blade of the weapon. The blade was oily and shiny at the same time in the bright Mediterranean sunlight.

    His mouth crinkled into a frown buried into his beard as he eyed the blade in a highly critical fashion. Testing the edge with a calloused thumb briefly before sending the whetstone back along the blade once more. Then again. Over and over until the edge was honed to a razor sharp edge.

    Wiping the blade down with a silk cloth he placed it gently within its sheath before taking out the twin to repeat the procedure with it. Once complete he returned his materials to a leather pack and stood up, stretching his frame out to his full six feet five inches. Picking up the pack he moved up toward the bow of the ship.

    His gaze took in some mixed Chin-Italians standing up there chattering among themselves. A grimace is smothered within his beard and he turns away to go in another direction. Although new to the Free Company, he was well aware of who they were and who they were descended from, which was the ne’er do well great, great, great grandmother.

    Andre stalked away, having no desire to meet his erstwhile cousins. His three times great grandfather, Alaric had on many occasions regaled his progeny about the horror of his sister marrying some yellow foreigner from a far away land. None of his family had been allowed to join the Free Company in the many years since Alaric had left.

    The Al’Aeshir family had kept their martial tradition, but by joining in whatever army was in the Naples region. In fact, once Alaric died, the family had changed their name to Aeshir to distance themselves from the idea that the family had connections to Islam and the Turks.

    Andre sighed, for with Alaric forbidding the family to join the Free Company he would also regale them with the adventures of the famous mercenary band and the men who lived life to the maximum and accomplished amazing things facing overwhelming odds time and time again. They may not have always won, but the legend of the Free Company gave their enemies nightmares that still persist.

    The tall Italian made his way through numerous men on his way to the back to the galley. He had spent ten years in the Neapolitan army in the cavalry and the scouts. The moment his term of service was up, he chose not to stay there but join the Free Company. Alaric had died a few months after his decision to join the army. Andre had spent those years cursing the fates for letting his decision occur prior to the man’s death.

    He was looking forward to restarting the family tradition of being a part of the company. Two generations had been involved, and three had not had an opportunity to do so. His own father had been somewhat horrified to learn that his second son would join the famed mercenary company. They had not parted on very good terms, but Andre would not let his father, nor his erstwhile cousins keep him from his dream of being a member of this company.

    A few of the men he stalked past looked a bit shocked at his choice of clothing colors, but he didn’t care. When he wasn’t on duty he liked to wear colorful clothing and enjoy a flamboyant lifestyle. Wine, women, and song was his motto when not working. Life was to be enjoyed, for who knew how long one could enjoy it? Unlike Alaric, Andre was certain he wouldn’t live to such a decrepit age.

    So why not enjoy it why it lasted? He stopped at the stern of the vessel and looked out over the wake of the galley. He didn’t like the idea of mixing races, but he wasn’t about to let that keep him from gaining glory and getting mentioned in the famous Company Books. Alaric was in them. So was the legendary Amric. He was determined that his name would be featured just as prominently as theirs had been.
    Guardian of Truth, Defender of Justice, Harbinger of Light! Formerly known as the Hurricane!

    Now retired from writing!

    "You can rest assured, sir, that I will do everything in my power to make sure it isn't my fault!" --Dr. Grant

  15. #15
    What? The_Hawk's Avatar
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    July 24, 1565 - At Sea

    "Maurice!"

    Glorious nearly lost his footing as he vaulted a ranger he barely recognized. Staggering, he pulled himself up and stumbled on, ignoring his near-victim's protests. "Maurice," he hissed to his young sergeant, d'Auxonne. "There's news! We're off to Malta. Tell the men. Wait! No, nevermind. I mean, yes, go." Glorious slapped Maurice on the shoulder and gnawed on the air as he calculated the best way to spread the word, and show Gunshy he'd done it more quickly than his artillery counterpart could manage. He grinned as he saw a teenager ambling towards him.

    He grabbed the youth by the scruff of the neck and pulled him toward the railing. Hunkering down, he hissed, "Hey, what's your name, kid?"

    Gulping for fear of being in trouble, the boy eyed him warily. "Uh, King, your lordship."

    "King." Glorious smiled wolfishly. "Good. I need you to do something for me."

    "Ah, my master wanted me to go below, and..."

    Digging in his pouch, the knight produced two denarii and pressed them into the youth's hand. He pointed across the ship, his finger excising a line from bow to stern. "Go and pass the word that we're headed for Malta, to fight a hundred thousand Turks." He peeked his head up and spotted Gunshy, then pointed toward the other end of the deck. "Start there." He waved at the coins. "Two now, two if you do it right." He pushed the youth toward the opposite side of the ship. "Go, now!"

    Glorious grinned sheepishly at Maurice. "Cost of doing business, you know."
    Proud participant in the Free Company: NOW: Book VII -- Closure (and OOC Thread.) Death rides again!

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  16. #16
    Major Erik Jaeger's Avatar
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    July 24, 1565 – The Mediterranean: Somewhere East of Malta

    Renault watched the spectacle play out between Glorious and Gunshy with a shake of his head. This sort of thing had been going on between the two men for what seemed like ages. The bets, the counter-bets, it was all very humorous to the man. He just wondered how soon it would be once they landed the old rivalry would replace the good-natured wagering going on.

    Renault snickered and looked to David, No… Captain, “Those two will be at each others throats once we land and set up camp. You’ll need to watch those two Dav… er… Captain.”

    Captain merely snorted at the remark as if it was nothing new. David knew that Renault was making sure he didn’t forget the rivalry there and simply doing his job. Men often wondered why his father kept the insubordinate man around. He lacked the professionalism of a soldier, but he could not deny the man’s abilities or his wisdom. Plus there was something… relaxing about this man. The lack of formalities was refreshing at times but frustrating at others.

    Renault was watching the men aboard the ship and watching the rumors spread like wildfire from the cavalry and artillerymen to the normal grunts and Rangers. He knew he would have to speak with his men soon. A few were new to the Rangers and even fewer still new to the Rangers and the Company. Renault shook his head at the thought of those very select few that not only became Rangers but became Rangers right from the start. Rarely did the men that tried to become Rangers made it, fewer still made it on their admission into the Company.

    They were still several days out from anywhere. It was time to get to business. Time the Rangers learned who they were and start working on the silent craft, especially the new members will need to learn the silent hand codes.

    Looking to Captain, Renault could see some of the dilema on the boys face, Such a burden to place on a boy, well we’ll see if he has the making of a true man in him. Considering his lineage he should and then some. “If you don’t mind Captain, I think it’s time I got my men assembled and start teaching them a few things that they’ll need to know… like the fact they don’t know as much as they think they do.” He grinned at this and it was not a very pleasant sight.

    Captain nodded his assent and Renault walked off bellowing, “Rangers, aft quarterdeck! Spread the word.” Renault didn’t walk as much as glide on the pitching craft to the rear of the vessel fully expecting his Rangers to be well on their way by the time he made it there.

  17. #17
    Hurricane Sergeant of Arms Amric's Avatar
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    July 24, 1565 - At Sea

    “Rangers, aft quarterdeck! Spread the word.”

    Andre heard the bellow of his sergeant in the distance. With a small sigh he turned toward that direction. He hadn't known the fellow long. He'd spent his military career with nobles in Naples and then with those eager to be scouts in that army. Arrogant men, those. It was too early to tell how the Rangers, as they are called in this company, would be like.

    He stalked to the aft quarterdeck and waited for Renault to make his way to him and some of the others who were making their way to the commanded meeting place. He nodded to those arriving at the summons, but didn't say anything. He figured it would be better to wait and see what the sergeant had to say before he said anything or voiced any opinions.
    Guardian of Truth, Defender of Justice, Harbinger of Light! Formerly known as the Hurricane!

    Now retired from writing!

    "You can rest assured, sir, that I will do everything in my power to make sure it isn't my fault!" --Dr. Grant

  18. #18
    Soul Reaper von Streusser's Avatar
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    July 24, 1565

    "Hey, Rangers on the aft quarterdeck, now. Spread the word." Arpad nodded to the passing man who had hissed the message to him, then turned and headed towards the back end of the transport. So, he was about to meet the vaunted Free Company Rangers...he felt self-conscious for a moment, reaching down and tugging at his clothes. He wore a burgundy silk shirt laced up to his neck, a black leather vest and black trousers, and soft black leather boots. Over it all was his cloak...he had several of different colors, but today he had chosen black to go with the theme. He had worn little but black since that night in Palermo. Arpad didn't know why he felt like mourning...but it just seemed appropriate somehow.

    He stumbled suddenly, his left foot having hit a pack he hadn't seen, and he had to catch himself on the railing. His wrists inadvertantly bumped together, and there was an audible clicking noise as the knives he kept there, hidden under his clothes, touched. The new Ranger cursed in Hungarian, hoping that the rest of the Rangers were already to the aft quarterdeck and had not seen him trip...it certainly wouldn't inspire their confidence. Losing an eye had not only cost him his peripheral vision on the left side of his body, but had also wreaked havoc on his depth perception...he couldn't tell how close anything was. "Well, this will be interesting..."

    Arriving at the aft quarterdeck, he saw that many of the Rangers had beaten him there. He returned each nodded greeting with one of his own, and tried to keep his aloof and confident expression in place, resting his hands on his hips as he waited for the others to arrive.
    Lonk the Sane: My job? Taking care of crazies like you. Making sure you don't go and hurt yourselves with your deviant powers. And cookies, I make cookies.

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  19. #19
    Hurricane Sergeant of Arms Amric's Avatar
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    July 24, 1565 - At Sea

    Mario put the letter back in the envelope and placed it into a pouch at his side. With a grunt he sees Erik Von Stark approaching rapidly, a smile upon his face.

    "Erik," Mario grinned," Nice to see you didn't get trampled by Gunshy and Glorious in their ever present urgency to outdo each other."

    Von Stark snapped," I nearly did anyway! So what is the word?"

    Mario laughed," All at once. Find de Priego and have the men come here to the foredeck."

    "You got it, Mario," Von Stark sighed," You know, you could give me just a hint."

    "And spoil the fun?"

    "You're a hard man," Von Stark chuckled.

    "I do my best," Mario nodded toward the rest of the deck.

    "I'm going, I'm going," Von Stark stalked away.

    Cosimo de Perugia ambled over just as Von Stark left," What is the news, LT?"

    "Let's wait for the others, shall we?" Mario nodded," Of course you could speed things along by gathering the others of your formation."

    "No hints?"

    "No," Mario retorted briskly," Go, man. The sooner you get going and get back the sooner you will find out. Of course you could do it the hard way."

    Cosimo nodded briefly and ran off, eager to find his fellows of his file so that he could find out what was going. Perhaps the Captain will have made good on his promise after all.

    Mario saw yet another of his men making his way toward him. It looked like the Pole.

    What the hell is his name?Mario thought furiously,Come on man! Paderewski! That is his name! Uh-oh, here comes some more men wanting news and still the greater part of my men aren't here yet. Oh well, I suppose I could reread the letter.
    Guardian of Truth, Defender of Justice, Harbinger of Light! Formerly known as the Hurricane!

    Now retired from writing!

    "You can rest assured, sir, that I will do everything in my power to make sure it isn't my fault!" --Dr. Grant

  20. #20
    Second Lieutenant

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    July 24, 1565 - Mediterranean: Somewhere East of Malta

    Time, Frederick noted, seemed to pass quickly depending on which song you played. After the slow and depressing German song which in the course of twenty-four lines had described forbidden love and a vengeful father, driven by desperate loneliness he plots to kill his daughter's lover. By the sixteenth line, both men had struggle in mortal combat only to see the father accidently stab his daughter.

    So from that depressing tale came the desire for a lively if not humorous tale of two drunken friends trying to save their small fishing boat from Arab pirates, divine storms, and their own bumbling idiotcy. It was one of Frederick's favorites and he immediately began playing.....

    "Prego il dio, era spiacente per i nostri sins così soddisfa l'uccisione che il deserto pirates e li libera dal disastro!"

    The finely tuned Florentine lute with its red painted cover and strings made of fine Sheep intestines was playing beautifully. Frederick struggle to keep a straight face with every line until it seemed his mind, tired of the exercise, forced the lute from his arms. It did not fly so much as it slid across the deck. He jumping after it, caused him to slide as well until he and his lute collided with an Italian laughing with other men as he put a letter away.

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