Landsoftheblacksea:Main Page/players/serala furcalor
A half-elven Bard with a particular interest in the legends and lore of the Tuathan, looking for revenge on the pirates that slaughtered her crew.
Serela doesn’t know who here mother was; according to what her father told her, she was one of the Dust Elves that lived in the wastes of the deserts that dominated the central area of the Issyrian peninsula. But the elves were – like many of the creatures of the desert – practically a myth; few ever claim to have seen them, and fewer still to have gotten to know any. Her father, who claimed to have had a long-term relationship with one, to include Serela as the child of the union, was widely thought to be somewhat unbalanced. Possibly just a tale he told himself to assuage his wounded pride at being jilted by his partner.
But as she grew older, there was no doubt there was something peculiar about her – the shape of her eyes; the larger, somewhat pointed ears; her grace and beauty; her keen ear for speech and music. While these things were all known in her father’s tribe, there were few who were skilled at all of them simultaneously, as Serela was.
Her father was a member of a small clan of people who lived in a remote area of the coast of the peninsula, far from the main population that dwelled on the northern coast – the Old Kingdom of Is-r’ia, now a vassal state of the immense Jhonian empire – the Emirate of Issyria. Her father’s clan was old – older even than the Old Kingdom, if their stories and tales were to be believed. They worshipped their own gods – the elemental gods of earth, air, fire, and water. Their clan was a water-clan – they lived on the coast, and made most of their livelihood by it. No one farmed, no one raised animal. What they could not harvest from the sea, they obtained via foraging – cutting lumber and gathering berries, nuts, and fungus from the omnipresent jungles all around them, or sometimes trading with other clans – there were earth clans further inland, air clans in the crags of the mountains, and fire clans near the borders of the desert, each of which exchanged goods once or twice a year as needed.
There were dangers, of course – the dog men from the desert raided occasionally, and the jungle was a wild, untamed place with its own terrors and horrors; and of course, life on the sea was no simple task – the weather, wind, beasts and currents harvested members of the clan each year – sacrifices to Ulna, the Sea Mother, most fickle of the Elder Gods, who gave and took with little concern for her faithful worshippers. Serala grew into a skilled sailor and was skilled in hunting the creatures of the sea that they depended on. She also learned the tales, epics, and songs of her people, and she was always called upon to entertain at feasts and celebrations – even by the other clans when trademeets were conducted.
Life was fairly uneventful for Serela as she grew older. But she was struck by a wanderlust, and desired to see what lay beyond the lands of her clan – indeed, beyond the entire peninsula. Her father could not change her mind, and finally once she had come of age, he agreed to take her along the coast to a settlement on the extreme fringes of Issyria – from there, she could go where she wished. It was a small city, and not completely clear that it was part of any country. In the end, this was for the best, given her limited experience with other cultures. She found a ship – the Ma’at Mna’al-i – looking for crew, and after putting up with the laughter about taking a woman on, she demonstrated her skills with harpoon, on the deck, and in spinning tales and entertaining the crew. The captain was a hard man – a dark skinned Issyrian named M’akkahn – and he ruled the crew with an iron fist. But he was also fair, and even handed – she received no preference in work assignments, and had to carry her weight in all things. But he also demonstrated he’d not tolerate anyone treating her differently than the rest of the crew – the first man who tried to force himself on her first ended up with a black eye from her, and then received lashes from Makkahn’s brass-and-leather whip. It was the last time she had any advances from the crew.
The ship was at various times a merchant transport, a slave-ship, a privateer, and an outright band of pirates – things depended on where they were, the opportunities available, and the changing political and economic climate. She became more skilled in fighting, but also in smooth-talking their way out of situations. Her days as part of Makkahn’s crew were hard, but rewarding in many ways. She learned much of the other cultures of the Lands of the Black Sea – Jhonian Merchants, the tribal cultures of the Forbidden Isles, the strange Kingdoms of the Athernian peninsula, and the complex web of political structures that formed the Islands of the Sea Princes.
They ranged far and wide, and enjoyed their share of adventure, as well as collecting riches on the way. She was satisfied, and felt accepted amongst M’akkahns crew as an equal. There was Jamshid Al-Masi, who came from the strip of land between Issyria and Jhon – the mountains called the Serpents Teeth. A practical joker with a sly sense of humor when the crew was at ease, he transformed into a deadly swordsman during their raids. And Ngozi, a huge bear of a Ugarian man, originally from the dense jungles of the Forbidden Isles. Normally quiet, he was a powerful warrior in battle; but during during bouts of calm winds or other boring periods at sea, he also was a gifted storyteller, entrancing the entire crew with fables of his homeland and its heros. She learned of the strange land of Usohaan where Randeep hailed from, across the mountains from Jhon and Issyria, who told stories of the creatures called el-Afants, as large as a house, that were ridden like horses into battle there. And so many others who opened her eyes to the wider world she was now part of.
It was one of the best times of her life.
Then the day of disaster came. They had set their sights on a fat-looking merchant vessel flying the pennants of Duath – a small, rich, but militarily pathetic kingdom on the Athernian peninsula; as they approached, the ship turned, unfurling a banner they’d not seen before – black, with the skull of a lion in the foreground with a pair of crossed axes behind it. The canvasses covering the ballistae on the decks were pulled away, and too late M’akkhan realized it for what it was – a lure to attract prey just like them. M’akkahn turned the Ma’at Mna’al-I, but it was too late. His sails were shredded in the first few volleys; arrows rained down on them next, killing many of the crew; finally, the grappling hooks flew across the distance between the ships, and they were boarded. Outnumbered and outfought, those that survived were bound and taken prisoner.
They were brought aboard the enemy ship, and got to see their holds emptied and brought aboard before the Ma’at Mna’al-i was set afire and burned. They were made to kneel before the captain of the enemy vessel – an older man, tall, and lean. His dirty-grey hair was worn long, greasy and unkempt under a broad-brimmed sailor’s hat. He had a full beard and moustache, and his skin was deeply tanned and wrinkled. He walked with a limp, favoring his right leg, and leaned on an ornately carved wooden cane, the grip of which was brass and shaped into the form of a fish with a gaping mouth. A curved cutlass hung in a scabbard from his belt, and several daggers were stuck into his clothes. He wore a huge black oilcloth coat over everything.
He looked each one over, after which there was either a nod, and the person was bound in chains, or a shake of his head – in which case, the crew slit the person’s throat, and they were thrown overboard. Serela watched too many of her former crew killed this way, including poor Randeep . Despite herself, she was shaking when it was her turn. She almost didn’t notice the nod, after which the chains were clapped on her.
M’akkhan was the last person. The enemy captain had him lifted to his feet, and then walked around him, inspecting. He took M’akkhan’s whip, making a joke in some language Serela did not know that caused much laughter amongst the crew. Then he gave orders, and M’akkhan was hauled up the mainmast, to the very top crossbar, where they proceeded to bind him, his arms outstretched, his legs down.
Those that survived were thrown below decks in chains – there was a hold with a grate for a top that opened deckside, which was typical for a slaver ship. They were able to see poor M’akkhan hanging from the mast for many, many days, burning in the sun, lashed by the rain, and finally dying in agony. They saw him lowered down, and heard the order from the captain to have him tied behind the ship like so much bait, that the sharks and other beasts would feast on him.
She doesn’t know how long there were at sea after that – at least two weeks. More of the crew died in the filthy hold, where they were fed only scraps and had little water. It was a terrible time.
She tried to escape – once. She had managed to slip her chains, and untie the rope holding on the grating, had pushed herself out, and was about to help one of her companions out behind her, when one of the crew laid hands on her. He received a swift kick followed by a headbutt that sent him reeling backwards, where he fell over the side. She tried to run for one of the rowboats, but it was too late – the man’s scream had alerted the watch, and in short order she was captured and brought before the captain. He ran a rough, calloused finger under her chin, along her neck, but stopped above her chest, giving her a poke. “’Tis lucky for you you will fetch more unblemished, lass. But even so, I kinna have ye killin’ m’crew. Fer that, ye’ll be punished. Severely.”
She was stripped, and the captain lashed her in front of all the crew, using M’akkahn’s brass and leather whip – to their delight and her humiliation. When he was done, blood ran freely from the wounds on her back that would most surely scar. Her tattered clothes were returned to her, and she was clapped back in chains and put below again – this time, the bonds were so tight her hands were numb within an hour. There would be no further escapes. Finally, there came the day they made landfall. Serela doesn’t know the where they were – it was a swampy marshy area, with a number of small islands offshore. They were offloaded from the ship onto a pier that led to a settlement the size of a small town, fortified with wooden palisade wall that sported towers every so often. The construction was solid and functional, but with no thought of aesthetics – buildings formed of rock and mud and wood sagged and tilted in all directions; thatch roofs of marsh-grass in obvious need of repair.
The population of the town had the look of its buildings – shivering, huddled people. Most were human, but Serela noted a significant proportion of half-orcs, half-goblins, and what might have been a huge half-ogre walking around in the population. She also saw full-blooded humanoids – mostly Orcs and Goblins, but there was even a section of pier where a group of lizard-men had gathered, trading something with the locals.
The captain who had taken them captive was talking on the pier with another man – short, stout, powerfully built with broad shoulders and a huge chest. The short man was possibly in the same age range as the captain, but looked far more hale and hearty. The short man squinted under bushy red eyebrows, his head shaved clean, sporting a full beard and moustache also bright red. The short man called the Captain by a name – Avoss Marghalla – while the captain addressed the short man as Sneer. She saw money exchanged, and soon enough they were all led to a small wooden building where they were locked inside behind wooden gates.
In a few days, the dozen or so remaining crew members – including Ngozi and Jamshid, who had managed to survive – were sold, most in one sale to a large group of huge, hairy humanoids, she noticed. She never saw any of them again.
But no one purchased her. Eventually, she was alone in the prison.
That was when Sneer came. He informed her of her fate – she was to be his, a servant girl who would wait on him, and attend to any of his needs. It was quite clear what he intended.
But despite his strength, Sneer was not the smartest of men. He had her cook him dinner the first night, still in chains. She used the kitchen implements to pick the locks on her chains, keeping them on loosely so he would not notice. She kept his ale mug filled during his meal, which he ate with gusto, his beard and moustache filthy by the time he finished.
He never even saw the knife coming.
She left his body cooling as she slipped out into the chill night air. Stealing along the pier, she found a boat small enough for her to pilot by herself. She took note of the stars and the wind, and set her course north, following the coastline.
The small fortified town receded into the night until it was just a small collection of twinkling torchlight. She made a vow to return here someday, to find out more about this Avoss Marghalla. And then, to hunt him down and have her revenge.
She owed Makkahn and her crewmates that much, at least.
She navigated north for several days, passing by some smaller settlements along the way – who knows what kind of folk might live there, or whether they might be allied with those she had just fled? But finally, she rounded a marshy point and spied a huge, walled city to the north, where the pennants and flags of the Kingdom of Athervon flew prominently against the grey and cloudy sky.
It could only be Avis Armois. She had never been, but it was talked about within the crew as the southernmost city of Athervon, the largest, dominant realm on the Athernian peninsula. Not friendly to pirates, that was for sure – which is what she needed right now. Someplace safe to start again, until she was strong enough to set out on her hunt.
She pulled into a small pier, throwing a rope to a nearby deckhand. He directed her to the shack where the Harbor Master resided to pay her mooring fee and register her vessel. She walked in the other direction, having no coin, and disappeared into the streets.
She was back before dawn the next day, her purse now having a few gold coins in it – some from singing and performing at a nearby tavern, a few more lifted from a sailor who didn’t know how to hold his liquor, and even a few won at a game of Queen’s Knife – which could be lucrative, if you knew how to cheat properly.
She paid the Harbor Master the mooring fee for three days. By then, she would have lodgings, and some leads on a more steady – and substantial – source of income. She knew she couldn’t operate long like she was without attracting the law, or the local thieves’ guilds – or both.