Tale #10: The Velvet Scholia
The Hank & Jordan & Tenzer Coporation has diversified quite a bit since its founding in 390 GE. Turning into a lucrative business, they have reclaimed some of the old Hank & Jordan's cooper works and shipyards, opened profitable trading routes across the Corsic Ocean, and even published a series of story books called "Ferry Tales of the Ocean Belt", which boasts twenty-four large volumes by now, and a roughly five-thousand issue story magazine called "SILFs of the Sea" has been in circulation around the Corsic Ocean and even the Great Land since 1304 GE, coming out monthly pretty much ever since. SILFs, Stand-in Loan Ferries, of course, are subcontracting mages that have qualified for a freelance HJT Ferry license in exchange for a percentage of their fee. Their disadvantage, compared to Ferries, is that they have no steady employment and salary with HJT.
The wind was gently blowing about the wide, blue stretch of the Corsic Ocean, on which the Velvet Scholia was sailing at a leisurely speed. Though somewhat slow now, they had been making good way in the past few days, passing by Jamphel Yeshe with a wide birth. After leaving Saresham a month ago, Captain Sahani had sailed the Velvet Scholia to the Hooper Chain to make some trades, mostly buying up wares rather than selling them and hiring a seasoned Ferry from HJT. The goal of the long journey ahead: Adamantaya's Centipede Harbor on the Anvil Islands, far away in the East. From the Hooper Chain, they circumnavigated the great island of Guantil-ya, making for the southern route towards the Kamakiri Islands, far outside the sight and reach of the accursed Jamphel Yeshe. Sahani had relatives who studied and worked at Ka Hale Akamai, the magus academy located on the small island of Ainan, and she planned to make an extended stop there. But in the end, they would proceed onward to the Adamantaya to sell their precious cargo: prized Saresham silk from Sahani's homeland and licorice and whiskey from the Hooper Chain. With the significant distance in between and the current state of supply and demand, Sahani was sure to make a mint. With a brisk pace, she strode across the deck, breathing in the fresh and salty sea breeze, her black hair blowing gently in the wind. At the bow, staring out into the distance, stood the Ferry she had hired. He was a seasoned sailor with a shaggy beard and strangely unbefitting, fine clothes, including a frilled shirt of breathtaking green hue and a lavish cloak. When Sahani arrived at his side, he just put down a brass spyglass. "A fine day we're having, eh? I'm thinking about casting a line, seeing how we're running rather slow right now. Care to join me, Jürgens?" she suggested cheerfully. "That does sound pleasant. Though I am feeling ambivalent about that-" A scream echoed down from crow's nest: "Pirates! Pirates to the starboard side! Pirates approaching!" "About that pirate ship approaching us," he finished. Sahani spun around, her heart freezing in her chest. ~Pirates... Gears preserve us...~ she thought in horror. With a quick motion she freed a copper key from her money-chain and tossed it overboard after kissing it. The old superstition of appeasing Vinclav when facing adversity at sea was something her father had always held true to, and she had no mind of breaking tradition now. "Man your stations, everybody!" she yelled, trying to keep her voice steady. "Secure the cargo, roll out the powder kegs, ready the cannons!" She tried to make out the pirate ship. It was still a bit away but closing in at a surprisingly fast pace. A brigantine of impressive size, it was only slightly smaller than the Velvet Scholia and likely armed to the teeth with cannons and a battle-hardened crew. It wasn't looking good for the Captain. She frantically zoomed around, making sure everyone was doing their job; then noticed that the Ferry was still standing at the bow, thoughtfully stroking his beard. She moved up to him. "Mr. Jürgens, you're a trained Ferry, can you deal with those pirates? I am paying you for events such as this, am I not?" "Well, technically. Officially I am only liable if you sink due to bad weather, rapids, or rocks in the water." He paused for a moment, considering the approaching vessel. "They have a wind magus. You can see from the drag on their sails that an unnatural wind is speeding them towards us. And there is a chance they might have more than one magus. Hmm... Let me try something." He stepped to the side of the ship and jumped, vanishing in the waves below. Sahani's eyes widened. "What?" She looked over the side, seeing nothing more than the tiniest ripple remaining off her former Ferry. "What?!" She ran up to the upper deck to be in a better position to shout orders, all the while cursing loudly: "Char so bis! Chullu bhar pani me doob mar!" She spat on the planks and took her place. "Broaaad-side!" she issued to the helmsman, and the ship jerked as it started to turn. "Readyyyy cannons!" she yelled clearly, feeling the rumbling from below deck. The scout yelled down from the crow's nest: "By the gears, they have ram-pike! Enemy ship on collision course!" Sahani stared in terror at the ever closer behemoth ready to bite into her beautiful ship like a shark into supple flesh. But just when she was about to give the command to fire, knowing that the three cannons they had below deck would at best put a good dent in the enemy ship before it broke them in half, something miraculous happened: The enemy ship slowed down! And not just that: As she observed it more closely, she noticed how it had sunken deeper and deeper below the waterline. It almost looked as if... as if they were taking on water! Then she saw it. A set of large jaws, white and glistening, emerged from below the pirate ship and dug into the hull, mighty teeth of ice that tore holes and opened new pathways for the merciless brine to infect the wooden steed that had, until moments ago, sought to cripple the Velvet Scholia beyond repair. Now the tables had turned, and Sahani would not have to waste even one cannonball. It was a miracle. Once the pirate ship had sunken and they had put a good distance between themselves and the wreckage, Sahani heard a wet thud behind her. She turned around in surprise, only to see the Ferry stand in front of her, his pretty clothes soaked in sea water. Though she had hissed the vilest curses upon him before, now she stepped up and hugged him. "Seems I could do something about it," he noted. "Now, how about we cast those lines. I have a mighty craving for sitting still for a while. Though some dry clothes might do me some good before that."