Taken from the journal of Captain Elias Vonn Oaken. The month names have been switched for more understandable names. There are less months in the year but they’re longer. The Lanthian year runs from April to December.
I hope you enjoy getting a peek through new eyes at the history of the pirate ship Starling and her crew.
2nd of November
It’s official. I am Captain Elias Vonn Oaken, master of the Sabistar. She’s a beauty, fully-rigged brig, inaugurated under the moon of Abrecan, saint of the wind. No better time to bless a ship.
We’re going underway in three days, and the dockmaster says it’s a good idea to keep a written journal aside from the ship’s logs. I will write on the nights I find the time, but this shall serve as practice, building a routine. A tight crew runs on good routine. My crew is new, untested. I figure by next spring I’ll have replaced most of them. Only the best will stay.
Admiral Faelan says 26 is too young for a captaincy. Fuck him. I’m not in His Majesty’s Navy anymore. The sea takes me on a different path now.
4th of November
Underway tomorrow morning, so I took a whore tonight. Her name was Jami.
I don’t know why I wrote that. Those places have new employees every season. It’s not likely I’ll ever see her again.
She was kind of a mouthy bitch, even to me, so perhaps that’s why she’s so tightly holding a place in my memory. I was surprised by how much I liked her attitude, because it wasn’t an act. Everything was genuine.
12th of December
We had a short first run out on the Sahirah, but it was a good first run. Perdu’s harbor was cramped when we pulled in, but that was an advantage as we unloaded a heaping cargo of cotton and honey. I’d lost four crew members taking the other ship, so I will have my quartermaster hold interviews for more able-bodied sailors tomorrow.
Perhaps the saints are playing with me, but I found myself face to face with Jami, the woman I met last month. So, I paid her for a night. We fucked twice and I told her of the Sabistar’s run, how I took down a merchant vessel, executed the captain, and emptied her stores. That’s how you sanctify a pirate ship, I told her. With blood.
To my delight, Jami was not disgusted by this. Fascinated, rather, by the brutality of my world. The memory of her burns deeper even as I write.
33rd of May
As the captain of the Sabistar, I owe allegiance to Queen Rochesa of Arandir. I have yet to meet her, but I am told her settlement is a haven for my kind, should the better people of Lantha crack down on piracy, but at a price. With summer fast approaching, it will be time to head to sea and plunder what we can. I have gathered from others I will need a woman if I even hope to step foot in Rochesa’s court. There are two female sailors aboard the Sabistar, but I do not know them personally.
I have decided to extend an offer to Jami, as I have spent much time with her since we returned to Perdu.
5th of June
I find an annoying amount of delight in having Jami aboard the Sabistar. She is fascinated by every aspect of sailing, and doesn’t seem to be bothered by the more gruesome aspects of piracy. Even more, I think she has become more enamored with the stars than me, and I am paying her one ket and four a week just to warm my bed. That is the same salary as any one of my riggers, and her job isn’t near so dangerous… most of the time.
I daresay I am jealous of the heavens, but I’ve a plan.
23rd of July
We will arrive in Arandir by nightfall (unless my navigator gives me the wrong headings again), and I have won back Jami’s attention, at the price of teaching her as many stars as I know. Many a night passed, the two of us sitting at the stern after lights out, until I could seduce her back to my cabin. No wonder I’ve all but forgotten about this damn journal.
Can’t say I’m too upset about it though.
24th of July
I took Jami with me to meet Rochesa, Queen of Arandir. She’d didn’t look too threatening to me, and she seemed to be quite taken with my mouthy woman. On the other hand, I’m not sure Jami liked the queen very much. Rochesa and I spoke of terms for our alliance and came to an agreement for the next summer’s tribute.
1st of April
I embarrassed myself today, when I announced that Jami would become my official navigator, to replace that empty-headed slug who could barely tell north from south on a compass much less the stars. In front of my whole crew, with my quartermaster annotating in the ship’s log, I realized I didn’t know Jami’s surname. I said the first thing that came to mind: Faintree. Maybe it was because it rhymed, or maybe I’d seen it somewhere before, but I blurted it out like a complete ass. The crew didn’t take notice, but Jami gave me the most curious, amused, annoyed look possible, and it sent my insides fluttering like I would die of a bad heart.
Of course, I apologized profusely when we were alone. She said she liked it better than her old name, and then laughed at me. She’s laughing at me now, still, and taking off her
33rd of April
I realize I have written very little in the last year, but truth be told, I haven’t had the time. This is the first night I’ve found myself with a moment to write.
It started in Arandir, sometime late summer. September, I believe. We’d taken several ships that summer, and towed one to Arandir to present to Rochesa. I didn’t notice at the time, but in hindsight, I suppose I was full of myself for having a profitable summer, and I stepped over some bounds in Rochesa’s company.
It got out that I had hired Jami at first as an exclusive bedmate, not as a crew member of the Sabistar, which infuriated Rochesa to irrational ends. In my arrogance, I challenged her. I owed that woman no apology. In that moment, I saw why so many men fear the pirate queen. The very air around me seemed to grow heavy, and I think I was lucky to live that day. My boatswain wasn’t so lucky, because she walked around the table and slit his throat with a knife I never saw.
And in the end, Rochesa took my ship. I lost the Sabistar. She also took three more of my crewmen and hauled them back to her keep, and I suspect they are dead now.
Jami, the loyal few of my crew, and I bartered for passage aboard another pirate ship. Leannan Pol, a friend, took us as far as Nachton, a Kasakian city, and put me in contact with his allies there.
Using most of the money we had, Jami and I bought a ship. The seller gave us a deal, even threw in one of the rig’s original deck hands, a nineteen-year-old lad named Rhett Challener.
It was a slim brigantine. Rhett said she was called the Starling. The little bird had had its wings clipped, to put it politely.
Jami, Rhett, and my bare crew helped me to fix her up. For three months we pirated the people on land, until we made the Starling sea-worthy again. Tomorrow, at dawntide, I will attempt to take her out to sea. I hope she floats. I pray, because Kasake is an unbearably hot, dry country and I would like to NOT be trapped here for much longer.
1st of May
The good news is that the Starling floats. One full day at sea, and she’s doing even better than I’d hoped.
The bad news is Rhett Challener. The lad was quiet, always kept to himself before, and I’m quite shocked to see how quickly his demeanor flipped around. He’s energetic on deck, and knowledgeable to be sure, works as hard as anyone. I caught him flirting with Jami a time or two. But what bothered me most were the several vivid tattoos on his back and more scars on his front. They are Erish tattoos, and even I don’t have the desire to put myself under those hellish needles. No man can sit long under that pain. I know there’s something wrong with that boy. I just can’t nail it down yet.
15th of July
Rhett’s secret was revealed this morning when there was a violent altercation below decks, just before the 8 o’clock watch. The other deckhands claimed that Rhett was cutting on himself. One of them tried to stop him, and Rhett stabbed him.
I put a whip to Rhett’s back myself, and part of me wanted to whip him to death, if death was what he wanted. I don’t think I overreacted. I can’t fathom what happened, or why. The man he stabbed is in surgery. If he dies, then I will kill Rhett.
Now I wish I’d been more observant when I took the deal for the Starling. We’ve had no luck finding profit in piracy. The few ships we’ve captured have kept us from hunger, but haven’t filled our purses. Tensions are high. There is no affection between Jami and myself. Even our fucking is… a mere physical act.
I fear this ship is cursed.
16th of July
Perhaps a saint is looking over Rhett’s shoulder, but the man he stabbed is pulling through. The surgeon is optimistic. I would like to offload Rhett the moment we reach Lamb, but Jami keeps insisting we do more to keep the lad busy, that his skill onboard outweighs his liabilities.
I’m still not sure, but for her, I suppose I can give him a chance, so I promoted him to boatswain. I’ve never been one for prayer, but we’re on the edge of desperation now. I shall pray to the saints before I retire tonight.
29th of December
It seems Jami was right, and promoting Rhett has done wonders. I still insist I haven’t sailed with him long enough to understand his violent episodes, however frequently they may come, and I don’t think he’s worth the risk. Nevertheless, I’m impressed with his seamanship the longer we work together. He does the work of two men.
Jami has been distant. She seems bothered, but won’t speak of it to me. When I tried to make love to her, she shrugged me away, didn’t let me touch her.
4th of April
Our luck continues to spread thin, even as we return to our home port, Perdu. Most of the crew left as soon as the anchor dropped. I do not have enough men or women to sail this sad little brigantine.
I can’t bring myself to care, either. Jami left as well.
22nd of October
The southern country of the Sahirah, Arenon, seized a Lanthian town on the border. As of today, Lantha is at war.
9th of June
I’m tired of feeling sorry for myself. I’m tired of putting myself to bed with a bottle of rum, still piss drunk when I wake. It has taken me near a year to see what a pathetic mess I’ve become, and I had to look down the barrel of my own pistol to see it.
To my surprise, Rhett charmed some foolish and unsuspecting sailors onto the Starling, and they’ve signed on. He even found me a quartermaster, another former Navy sailor by the name Valdis. We got the Starling shipshape and took her out. The Sahirah has become a watery warzone, so Rhett and I will sail the Starling to the west, preying among the Herne for unprotected merchants.
30th of May
Lantha and Arenon are still at war. No treaty in sight. Rhett and I found a small profit, enough to restore our spirits, I believe. The saint of fortune seems to have forgiven me my sins, for now.
Yesterday, I met with a young man named Damerae Khenan. He was upstanding, quick-thinking, and eager, with an impeccable sense of direction. I told him I needed the day to think about hiring him on as navigator, but I’d already made up my mind, in truth.
Damerae told me he was saving up for him and his girl to be married one day. I think Jami would have approved.
12th of June
I smile to myself this day. My Jami stepped up the gangway with her seabag on her shoulder, and I tried, by the nine hells I tried, not to run across the deck to greet her, for I feared she was an apparition come to send me back to a bottle of rum.
She asked for her job back, the job I had given to Damerae Khenan not a year before. I couldn’t let her leave again, so I offered to pay her a navigator’s salary, but she would act as my first mate, side by side with the quartermaster.
I have not been able to stop smiling. If we are blown to bits tomorrow, I will die with more joy than I have felt in years.
2nd of July
Our first order of business, with the whole shitty war still raging on, is to mend ties with Queen Rochesa. We will sail for Arandir in four months’ time and offer up an enlarged tribute. The crew has voted on this course, though none of them were there to see what happened last time. I swear to saints I will hold myself in check.
13th of December
Fear courses through me this night, for I will meet with Rochesa in the morning. No one recognized the Starling, so I kept my profile low and arranged a meeting. Jami enticed me with her sex, but even her touch did little to ease my fears. Rochesa might kill me. She might kill Rhett, or Damerae. Jami. Hells, the queen might kill us all and put the Starling on a reef for target practice.
14th of December
I saw death in Rochesa’s eyes when she looked upon me. Jami saved my life, for she was there not as my whore, or even my navigator, but as my second-in-command. Rochesa saw that I trusted Jami over all the men of my crew.
We made peace.
7th of September
Fortune graced me with a most lucky find in a small town west of the capital. Though, like many things, it came with baggage.
Every good crew needs a good surgeon, and Quentin Bouchard is the best doctor in the country. Fortunately for me, he also brutally murdered someone. I had a choice: to turn him in and collect a handsome bounty, or hire him. Any short-sighted fool would drop the doctor off on Bainard Prison’s front steps and hold out their hands for payment, but I saw his value in the long term. A doctor who could return a man from the brink of hell shouldn’t be wasted in a crow’s cage.
I am pleased to have Quentin Bouchard as my ship’s surgeon. He gets paid in meals and relative safety.
I am less pleased about his companion. She calls herself Roanna LeRoux, a Lanthian name, but she’s obviously foreign. I can hear it in her accent and see it clear as day in her features. While she claims to like ships, she doesn’t know the first thing about sailing. She has until we reach Perdu to impress me, or she’s gone.
27th of September
I let Jami decide whether or not to let Roanna go. She brought up the very valid point of Quentin Bouchard possibly threatening to leave as well, since the two are attached at the hip despite the vast age, class, and race difference. Besides, Jami told me, Roanna shows promise, learns fast, and gets along with the whole crew.
2nd of May
My luckless days seem to be over, and that makes me wary. Yet I’ve allowed myself to celebrate, albeit not so openly as the rest of the crew. I’ve finally crafted the perfect crew. They are as part of the Starling as I am now. While we are not rich in gold, our catches grow bigger as we spent a whole six months at sea, only pulling in for supplies and nothing more.
Rhett still struggles with his own demons and has come back from the tattoo artists in Erland with new pictures on his back. He slipped into his dark place once or twice, but not to the level of that very first time I saw. He has become good friends with Roanna. I see those two in the ratlines all the time, seeing as how they’re on the same watch. It’s not surprising, really. They’re close in age, I believe, and I don’t make it my business to know what they do after watch.
Jami grows considerably fond of Roanna, as well. And the rest of the crew adore the young woman. The only person who seems indifferent is Damerae. He seems to take her flirting seriously, as if Roanna is trying to put a rift between him and his fiancée. Actually, I’m not sure they’re engaged.
To her credit, Roanna soaks up knowledge like a starving sponge. When she’s not working or on watch, she’s hopping about the ship, learning from anyone who’ll put up with her.
I admire that, but beneath her sweet laughter and open smile lies ambition. She’s making a name for herself. Already some of the crew call her Lady Luck.
We took port in Arandir this morning.
Jami claimed to be sick from spoiled fruit while I prepared to take our tribute to Queen Rochesa. It was a good tribute, from the last year of successful plundering and even some smuggling. In any case, I brought Roanna along to meet the pirate queen.
Rochesa took to Roanna like they were long-lost sisters or something. I found it unnerving. They left in the middle of a feast, the rest of us not a clue what to do. When Roanna returned, she had a smugness about her. Queen Rochesa demanded that Roanna carry the Starling’s tribute from that day forth. By the saints, I managed to rein in my anger. When I questioned Roanna, she said that the words Rochesa shared with her were not to be shared with another.
What am I supposed to do with a sailor whose allegiance has been fractured? What will happen if I return to Arandir without her? I suppose, for now, I shall trust her blindly, but I will always have one eye on Roanna.
11th of June
The crew has voted to spend the summer close to Perdu. The war between Lantha and Arenon has left the far eastern cities of the peninsula largely unguarded, so we have taken to smuggling. It was Rhett’s idea. There is good money in it and we are in port every month. That certainly brightens Damerae’s smile, seeing his little lady more often. I had the pleasure of running into them in town, and I was surprised to find what a proper, delicate thing she is, his Juliana.
Even after all these years, I still prefer my Jami.
It’s come to my attention that the smuggling bit wasn’t Rhett’s idea at all, but Roanna’s. Perhaps it was a coincidence that the words found themselves at my ear, or she had planted the idea with Rhett to find its way to me. Perhaps it’s paranoia poisoning me.
The Starling’s ascent to fortune has not escaped me, since the rise began when I brought Roanna aboard. Lady Luck, people call her. Sin of the Sahirah, others say. She’s already made a name for herself, beloved by the crew. My quartermaster Valdis is smitten with her. I heard rumor that they had taken to sharing a bed.
I have decided it is time to go back out into deeper seas. It’s time to test Roanna LeRoux.
I put Roanna in the thick of things this day. We violently took an armed merchant vessel. Unfortunately, it was at the cost of my quartermaster’s life. Valdis is dead. Though Roanna failed to draw blood, she handled herself well.
I offered Jami the position as official quartermaster, but she wanted to be navigator. I passed the job to Damerae Khenan, until Roanna LeRoux stood up and challenged him.
As if the crew hadn’t seen enough fighting that day, they worked themselves into an uproar I could hardly refuse. I let Damerae and Roanna compete for the position, and I began to question my fortune when Roanna defeated him. She is my quartermaster now, and that pleases the crew.
Damerae was forced to step down to a mixed position. I’m calling him my damage-control man. He takes care of problems across the ship. As long as our luck holds out, I’ll keep paying him the same salary.
Jami woke me late last night because Roanna called to pursue a ship during her 8-12 watch. We had to throw on our clothes as the crew roused to take the ship. By the time I went out to kill that woman, we were alongside and the battle had started.
I should have hung her the moment the crew was victorious. The call to hunt is my order to give and no one else’s. Even now that my temper has cooled, I still want to string Roanna up until she stops kicking. Bless her luck, for that ship was fat with freshly-minted gold kets.
We are rich. Finally. And it was Roanna who made it.
I settled for whipping her, reminding her of her place, but the crew took that from me as well. They rallied around her. Couldn’t let me ruin their good luck charm. She’d won them all to her side long ago, and I only now see it.
Jami wants me to calm down, let it go. But Jami cannot understand the embarrassment I’ve suffered. Roanna belongs to the pirate queen, and I know now that the pirate queen is usurping me. I have done nothing but try to please her, but it seems men only cross Queen Rochesa once in their lives. I’d lost my chance. Rochesa wanted that all along, to see me suffer, die slowly.
I will prevail, as I have before.
Playing Roanna’s game has turned out to be easier than I thought. I let her stand beside me at the helm. I listen to her council as I see fit. I let her think she and Rochesa have won me.
This deception has forced me to deceive Jami as well, but it’s necessary. Jami likes Roanna too much. She can’t know what I have planned.
Roanna LeRoux must die.