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Anne Cash – (Dame/Knight)

Played by: Sadie Raab
Name: Bloody Anne Cash Captain Anne Cash Dame Anne Cash
Gender: Female
Age: 33 (born 233)
Race: Human
Hair: Red
Eyes: Blue
Occupation: Captain of the New Aldorian Marines, Knight of New Aldoria, Former Pirate aboard the Blue Ruby
Known Skills: Archery, Dual Wielding
Birthplace: Aldoria
Appearance:

Bio:
Most little girls would have killed for my life. We weren’t terribly wealthy, but my father had owned a few small farms just outside the city limits of Aldoria. We were very close, my father and I. He taught me how to sail, how to shoot, and how to survive on my own. Not so with my mother. She was always upset that I would rather be dirty than pretty. “You’ll never find a husband if you look like a pigsty,” she used to tell me. She would yell, and I responded in kind. “I slipped on the dock,” I would lie to people. “The sea spray leaves the planks slick. I should really be more careful.”

My father was not only my only real friend, but also my protector. My mother’s rage could be cooled in an instant by his calming words. But such a good thing can never last. One evening shortly after my twelfth birthday, when we were out checking our snares for rabbits, my father and I were spotted by a large silver wolf. Seeing a threat to his free meal, the wolf lunged at my father, who could only barely reach his dagger before the beast sank its teeth into his neck. I fell too many times to count as I fled through the forest, tears burning my eyes, branches stinging my skin.

As I broke through the brush at the edge of the woods, I collapsed in a quivering heap. I was bleeding from a small gash in my forehead, and countless other cuts on my arms, chest, and legs. Tomas, a city guard and a good friend, was making his daily patrol as he came across me. He dropped his shield and spear, reaching my side before they hit the ground. I felt his arms around me as he lifted me off the ground, carrying me back to the guards station to settle down. He was still a young man, only twenty years old, but his strength and size always reminded me of an oak tree. He wrapped his cloak around me, and offered me some milk, which I finished all too quickly. When my breathing had evened out and my tears had dried, he asked me what had happened.

“My father…” I started, feeling another wave of sadness coming, “He was attacked by a great wolf. I was so scared, I just ran.” Tears flowed freely now, stinging as they ran over scrapes on my cheek.

“Your father was a good man, and a better friend. He practically raised me, too,” Tomas said, fighting back the tears I could see welling in his eyes. “Well, come on then. Let’s get you home, Annie.”

“No! I can’t go home!”

“What? Why not? I’m sure your mother is worried sick about you.”

“She doesn’t care about me. She didn’t even care about my father! All she loved was his money and title! She was only nice to me when he was around; if he had seen the things she did to me while he was away, she would have lost everything!” I shouted, ashamed that I had spoken so terribly of my mother, but relieved to have finally told someone of her wickedness.

“Well, I’m sorry, Annie, but the guardhouse is no place for a little girl, even one as scrappy as you,” he explained, messing my hair. “Is there anyone else you can go to?”

I stared so intently at the floor, one might have thought I was trying to dig a hole with my vision alone. “Only you, Tomas,” I mumbled. “Only you.”

“I love you, Annie. You’re like a sister to me. You know that. But this? I could be tried for kidnapping if they found out! I won’t take you back to your mother, and I’ll try to keep an eye on you, but I’m sorry, there’s really nothing more I can do.” He sounded defeated. Tomas was a good man with a good heart, but he was a soldier through and through, and disobeying the law like this was so out of character for him that I couldn’t expect him to do even as much as he already had for me.

“Thank you, Tomas. I’ll never forget this,” I whispered in his ear as I hugged his waist. With a final wave good-bye, I ran from the guardhouse and returned to the edge of the wood from which I had emerged. Strewn across the ground were several of my things: an old leather pouch I would keep rations in while hunting; half a dozen simple arrows, most of which were broken; and the bow my father had given me when I was still learning how to shoot. The bow was beautiful in it’s simplicity: a slight recurve on each end, molded over the years to fit my palm like a glove. Hickory wrapped in tan suede to keep the wood warm and dry during the cold, wet months. It was the one piece of my father I still had, everything else being left at our home where I would have to confront my mother.
I pushed my fear to the back of my mind, taking my first steps back into the forest where my father had only hours ago been slain before my very eyes. Every shadow was a ghost, every tree a demon looking to bring about my end, but still I pushed on, fearful of the alternative. Let the demons have me, I thought. Their hell can be no worse that what I would face at my mother’s hands. After an hour of walking, I came across a small clearing by a creek and decided to stop and rest. I climbed a nearby tree and started drifting off with plans of the future dancing through my vision. Tonight, I would sleep. Tomorrow, I would find a way to live out here.

As I rubbed the sleep from my eyes in the early hours of the morning, I was greeted by a familiar sound, faint though it was: a young deer had made it’s way into my clearing, stopping for a drink from the creek. Feeling the emptiness of my rations pouch, I knew what needed to be done. I silently grabbed my bow and nocked an arrow, praying that the wrappings would keep the wood from creaking. Time seemed to stop for a moment, as I lined up my shot. I held my breath and released the arrow, lodging itself deep between the creature’s ribs. It fell with a lifeless thud, and I dropped from my perch in the tree to examine my shot. I smiled wide, knowing my father would have been proud of me for such perfect placement, although I knew it was luck and that I would never be able to do it again in a million years. As I looked at my kill, my heart sank for a moment: I had no knife to clean the bones, no rope to string the carcass up and out of the reach of predators, and no money to pay for any of these items. My mind was racing, trying to formulate a plan, but the only option that came to mind scared me to even think about: My father’s dagger, the one he used to fight the great silver wolf.

I spent the day trying to work out another way, something else that would keep me from returning to that grizzly scene. As night fell, I realized that soon I would have no other choice. Food would not be easily gotten, and a knife would be worth it’s weight in gold in the forest. I climbed my tree again and waited until morning to set off in search of my father, that he might once again save my life.

Something big came during the night. The deer I had shot had been dragged away, taking one of my two good arrows with it. By the time I could have gotten to it, there likely would have been nothing but bones left, and I had more pressing matters to see to. I had been hunting in these woods for as long as I can remember, and knew them like the grip of my bow. It wasn’t long before I had approached the scene of my father’s demise. Bow in hand, I slid my last remaining arrow from my quiver and nocked it, prepared to fire at a moment’s notice. I felt on overwhelming sense of fear as I neared my father’s body, as if something wasn’t quite right, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

As hard as I tried to steel my resolve against the sight I knew awaited me, nothing could prepare me for the aftermath of the struggle with the wolf. My father, or what was left of him, lay pale and lifeless on the ground, his eyes frozen in an eternal, agonizing scream, one his stoic face would not allow to pass his lips, even on the brink of death. His throat was completely missing, torn out by the beast’s massive jaws. Claw marks had torn through his tunic and deep into his chest, a now dry pool forming beneath him. On his belt was tied an old lantern with a few matches lashed to the bottom. In one hand, he held a tuft of silver fur, a memento from his fight with the wolf. In his other hand, the hand which drew the dagger…nothing! His ring and coin purse were still in place, so he was not looted by a passing thief. I searched the area, wondering if the dagger had been cast aside during the fight, to no avail. Where could this knife be?

I was hit then by a wave of emotions: rage at the wolf for taking my father from me, and at any gods listening for taking the dagger from him; sadness for the loss of my father, made ever more poignant by his proximity to me; but most of all, I felt shame. I had practically looted my dead father, and was furious over the loss of his dagger, almost as furious as I was over his death. The emotions tore at my body and mind, and soon I had fallen to my knees, resting my head on the blood-stained torso of the man who was once my closest friend. To this day, I thank the Light, or Arnath, or whoever it was who caused the light to play exactly as it had. A glint of a sunbeam peeked through the trees and reflected off a puddle of still-drying blood just as I rose to clear my eyes. I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it while I was searching for the knife! Too far from my father to be his, this was a trail of blood, faint but certainly there, leading away from his corpse. I ran back to grab my bow and the lantern, set my arrow, and followed the trail as quickly as my exhausted legs would carry me.

Following the blood for hours, I finally came to the mouth of a small cave at the foot of a large hill. Cautiously I inched my way down into the darkness, slipping twice despite my efforts. I lit the lantern and strung it through my belt, causing shadows to dance along the walls. The light made my quest easier by far, not only allowing me to avoid loose rocks and keep my footing, but gleaming off small drops of blood on the floor I otherwise would have missed.

The cave was deceptively small, although I walked through in the dim light, bow at the ready for a little over half an hour when I happened upon a sight that made my blood boil: laying on the floor in front of me was the great silver wolf that had only days ago slain my father in front of me, my father’s dagger protruding from his flank, still oozing crimson from the fight. I had made no attempt at stealth as I approached, and the beast turned to look at me, admitting defeat with his striking green eyes. He would die soon, he knew, and had accepted his fate. I could feel him pleading with me to end his suffering. I was more than happy to oblige, although mercy was second to revenge in my mind. I drew my arrow back and let fly, sinking it deep into the wolf’s haunches, far from a killing shot. Tears of fury streamed down my cheek as I walked up to the wolf, roughly seizing the dagger from it’s side. Time and time again I plunged the now dripping knife into the beast’s neck, long after I knew it had died. This was my closure, although afterwards I felt more empty than ever. Every stab drained a little of my resolve, until I dropped the dagger and sobbed again.

It was morning before I had the strength to move again. My lantern had gone out, but sunlight still filtered into the cave. Taking the dagger from it’s resting place next to the dead wolf, I washed it in a small pool near the back of the cave, wiping it clean on the wolf’s pelt. I tucked the knife into my belt, tore my last arrow from the beast’s thigh, and proceeded to leave the cave. As I emerged, a warm summer breeze brushed my face, and I realized just how refreshingly cool the cave was. With one way in and out, it could easily become a new home for me, certainly more stable than the tree in which I had been sleeping. Now was not the time for worrying about shelter, though: now was the time to hunt, as I had not eaten since Tomas found me outside the woods. I drew my bow and set off into the forest once again.

More than a year had passed since I took my vengeance upon the wolf who had slain my father. I was just over thirteen years old now, and had honed my skills to better survive in the forest: I had become a wonder with my bow, learned how to clean and dress my wounds, and a few simple snares to use. After weeks of trial and error, I figured out how to make my own arrows. They were by no means pretty, but they flew straight enough. Throughout it all, always at my side was that dagger, the one used to end the wolf, the last thing my father held before he died.

As good as I was, though, there were things I could not make or find on my own. I had tried my hand at clothing, although the result was pathetic at best. Bandages were hard to come by, and were used often as life alone in the forest can be dangerous. Eventually, seeing no other options, I decided to return to town to see what I could find there.

I made my way to the edge of the woods outside of town and looked around for any signs of movement. Sure enough, a few guards were on patrol, so I waited until they had passed to make my way to the town. The town hadn’t changed much since I left, and I quickly found my way to the marketplace. I managed to hold on to a few coins before I ran away that I used to pay for the essentials, stocking up on arrows, a basic tunic as mine had grown too small in the past year and was in a horrible state of disrepair, and purchasing a length of rope.

By the time I had run out of coins, I realized that I had forgotten to buy food. Venison and berries start to get old after a while, and I would have killed for some bread or an apple. Desperate for a change in diet, I told myself I would do what it would take to get what I need. I approached the stand of a local baker and waited. As soon as her back was turned, my hand darted for a small loaf of bread. Mere inches away from my goal, my hand was stopped. A firm grasp held my wrist fast, struggle as I might to break free. I looked up to confront the one who would stop me, but stopped when I met his face. The eyes of a friend watered when they saw me, the little girl he had thought dead.

“A-Annie?” Tomas asked incredulously. “You’ve been gone for a year! We all thought you were…” My hand slipped from his grasp as he tried to wrap his head around the situation.

“I told you I couldn’t go home, Tomas.”

“Come with me. We should get you out of here.”

“I can’t stay, Tomas. What if someone finds me? What if they try to make me go back to my mother?”

“Well, at least let me help you. Here,” he pressed a small pouch into my hand. “I’ve been saving for a new sword, but I think you need it more than I do. Besides, I’m joining the navy soon. They pay better than the guards anyway.”

“Tomas, I can’t. You’ve done so much for me already, it just wouldn’t be right.”

“Annie, you’ve lost your father. You won’t go to your mother. You’ve been living alone for a year, and you’re what? Twelve?”

“I’m thirteen, thank you.”

“Just take the money, Annie. Get some food, get a sack, go somewhere, since you apparently can’t stay here. Just please, take care of yourself.”

“Tomas…”

“Go! That’s an order, Annie!”

As I turned to leave, I glanced back at my friend. His back was to me, but I could see in the hunch of his shoulders that he was crying. I walked back to him and hugged his waist, just as I had the last time we parted ways. “Yes, sir.”

Two years had passed since I last left Aldoria. With Tomas’s coins in hand, I had managed to feed myself well, coming into town every few weeks to load up on food and make repairs to my equipment. I did, however, also learn how to not get caught when acquiring things that weren’t mine in the technical sense. It was always my style to learn how to do something before there was a need in order for it to be a second nature by the time it was required. If Tomas knew that I had been stealing food and the occasional arrows from the armory, he would have had my head on a platter.

For those two years, I had only been taking what I needed, although I soon decided that I would try to find the money to move to a different city, where my survival wouldn’t rely on a bow shot or sticky fingers. As a result, I took to taking small items of value: small rings, the occasional coin purse, and the like. I would hide them away in my cave, bringing them into town long after they had ceased being missed, to find a buyer. I don’t know what possessed me to step up my game, going from picking pockets to sneaking into a store at night, but I did.

It was the shop of a candlemaker, new in town but well-liked by his customers. I waited until after nightfall and approached the shop through an alley behind the building, took out my picks, and quickly opened the lock. As I stepped inside, my eyes darted from piece to piece, trying to size up the most expensive item I could take without raising much of an alarm. A noise behind me caused me to jump, and I spun around, dagger in hand, to be met by the clouded eyes of the shop owner’s old guard dog, now just a shell of it’s former self. I relaxed and sheathed my dagger, walking up to an elegant silver candlestick. My fingers wrapped around it, but as soon as it cleared the table on which it rested, my world went black.

I awoke who knows how much later, bound to a chair in the shop. The shop owner stood in front of me, a solid plank of wood in hand. Only after managing to put two and two together did I notice the dull, throbbing pain in my head.

“Well, look what we’ve got ‘ere!” He said, talking to his dog but pointing at me. “We’ve caught us a thief! Whaddya fink we shoul’ do wif ‘er, Brute?” The dog gave no response, which was enough for the shopkeeper. “Yeh, I s’ppose yer right. Th’ guards ken deal wif ‘is one. But firs’…” He approached me, a slight limp in his right leg. How the hell did this man sneak up on me? I didn’t have time to think about it any more, though, as he plank he held slammed into my temple again, sending me back into darkness.

I didn’t know where I was, or how long I had been out. All I knew was that it was dark, and I was wet. As I groaned against the shock of the cold water, another wave splashed my face. A lantern was lit, and I saw three shadowy figures standing before me, one holding the bucket used to assail me with water.

“W…where am I?” I asked, fearing the worst.

“Shut up, bitch!” The one with the bucket responded.

“I’m tied to this chair pretty tight. I’m not going anywhere. The least you can do is tell me where I am…unless you’re afraid that information will help me, that is.”

The man dropped the bucket and raised his hand to strike me, only to be stopped by the man in the center. “Gentle with this one,” the voice said, and my heart sank. “Alliston, take Boris outside, and get him some air. Let him cool down for a while.” Tomas’s voice was more confident than I remembered it being, and less gentle. “I can handle her.”

As the two others left the room, Tomas pulled a chain up in front of me and sat down. I could not bring myself to meet his gaze, for I knew how disappointed in me he was.

“What the hell, Annie? Stealing? Really? Your father raised you better than that. What happened to the money I gave you?” A tear rolled down my cheek, shame burning my face into a bright crimson hue. “I can’t get you out of it this time. You understand that? You’re in trouble, and there’s no one who can come to rescue you. I’m sorry, Annie. But this is on you.”

“Tomas, wait.” He didn’t.

“I’m sorry, Tomas. I let you down.” I called to him as he stepped into the door frame. He paused for just a moment.

“Yes, you did.” With that, he was gone.

The day of my trial arrived sooner than I had expected. Normally the penalty for a first offense of burglary was simply jail time, and a substantial fine. Due to the weapons found on me -my father’s blood-stained dagger, a pair of throwing knives, and a short sword I had managed to sneak out of the town’s armory during one of my more recent trips- it was assumed that I was there for more than just loot. The severity of this crime led the prosecutors to push instead for a more severe punishment, with the kinder ones asking only to have my hands removed.

As I was brought before the judge, in the rags of a prisoner, hands bound behind me, I knew that I was finished. I had been caught, and Tomas was right: there was no getting out of this one. Even if all they took from me was my hands, I would no longer be able to hunt to feed myself and would die soon enough. I fought back the tears for as long as I could, but it was no use. By the time the trial had started, I was a convulsing heap of flesh, dirt, and shame.

“On behalf of the Kingdom of Aldoria, I, the Honorable Judge Reichert, shall now hear from both plaintiff and defendant in this case,” the judge began. “Plaintiff, present your case.”

“Oy, sure ting, yer honor. ‘ere I was, sleepin’ in me room above me store. I hear ol’ Brute, me trusty guard dog, get up and ‘ead downstairs. Now ‘e normally don’t do ‘at, so I were a mite suspicious. I grabbed me plank and went downstairs jus’ as quiet as a mouse, yer honor.” The candlemaker seemed to be almost enjoying himself. “ ‘Fore I got down, though, she ‘eard ol’ Brute comin’ down the stairs, and honest to Light, pulled a knife on ‘im. On me damn dog! ‘At’s when I knew she were trouble, an’ crept up behind ‘er. I ‘it ‘er good in th’ ‘ead, an’ she dropped like a bag o’ taters. It were self-defense, it were! Honest! She broke in an’ tried ta kill me dog, so I thumped ‘er a good one. ‘At’s ‘zactly ‘ow it ‘appened, yer honor.”

I had managed to stop crying by this point, although underneath my calm facade, I was screaming.

“Despicable,” the judge spat. “A knife? On a Dog? What have you to say for yourself, Miss…?”

“Cash. Anne Cash.”

“Cash? You wouldn’t happen to be the daughter of Henry Cash, would you?”

“That was my father’s name, yes. What does that have to do with anything?”

“Nothing, my dear. But he was an old friend. We served together in a few battles. My condolences, I heard he had passed away when you were younger.”

“With all due respect, your honor, I’d rather not talk about my father. It’ still a sensitive subject for me.”

“Of course. Do you have anything to say on your behalf, Miss Cash?”

“I don’t suppose an apology will cut it at this point?”

“ ‘ell no it won’t! Off wif ‘er ‘ands! Off wif ‘er ‘ands!” The candlemaker tried to convince others in the gathered crowd to join his chant.

“Order! I said order!” The judge shouted over the rising chorus. “I have made my decision: Miss Cash’s life could easily be taken for her crime. It will not, however, be taken this day, or by this court. Her life is forfeit, and the court will enforce her punishment. A lifetime in prison, as penance for her sins, or a life of servitude to our country. I hear Commander Ridgebon could use another deckhand. The choice is yours, Miss Cash.”

After the trial, the judge returned to his home near the courthouse. As he sat at his table, he looked towards the heavens and quietly said to himself, “There, Henry. Now we’re even.”

I quickly became a fixture aboard the I.A.S. Interceptor, a relatively small ship in the Aldorian navy. They gave me a set of leather armor, and were more than happy to supply me with arrows. I could shoot, which helped turn the tide of more than one battle, raining arrows from the crow’s nest. This skill was proven all the more useful when we went ashore when I would return with fresh meat to fill our stomachs. I had much to learn from the ship’s medic, though my willingness to absorb his teachings shocked him and I progressed quickly. I even came to replace the ship’s cook, much to the relief of all on board. I will say this of the cook: he had a remarkable ability. He could prepare any dish imaginable, with what he called the “four basic food groups: beans, bacon, whiskey and lard”. Sure, it all ended up as the same grayish-brown paste, but everyone had simply learned to not argue anymore when he told them it was cod, or beef stew, or a salad.

Our ship had an important task: we were to hunt down the pirates that frequented the local waters and send them to the briny deep. We were good at our job, too. My first month at sea, we sank three pirate vessels, saving many more merchant ships from meeting with a salty, wet fate. The second month we destroyed five of the ships, all under the watchful eye of Commander Jackston Ridgebon. He was a brave and handsome man, fair in his dealings with the crew, and forceful in a fight. I won’t lie and say that I never developed any feelings for the man, but I was just a lowly deck hand, and he was a Commander. He was also a dozen years my senior. I was still just a little girl in his eyes.

After a year or so on the ship, my history was finally revealed to this new family of mine. I had become like a daughter or a little sister to most of them, and they wanted to know more about me. I told them of my father, and his fight with the wolf. I described my mother, although I may have embellished a few of the warts. I told them of my time in the forest, of Tomas, and of how I got caught. “And that’s how I ended up here. Looking back, I don’t know if I would have changed a thing.”

I had noticed early on that the Commander was almost unnervingly interested in my story. When I was finished and our medic was telling his tales of past battles, Commander Ridgebon placed his hand on my shoulder and asked me to meet him in his chambers. I followed him, trying to avoid as many curious eyes as possible, because I knew what this looked like.

When I entered his cabin, he offered me a chair and told me to sit. He was pacing, trying to find the right words. “Commander? I just wanted you to know, if this is about the thievery, those days are-”

“Hold on, Anne. You’re not in trouble. It’s just that I…well, I knew your father well.”

Great, I thought. Another fan of my father opening up that old wound.

“You’ve been with us for what? A year now? You’ve certainly shown me that you can handle yourself better than most of the men on this ship. I also owed your father a favor before he…” Commander Ridgebon started to trail off.

“Sir? Is everything okay?” He was troubled, and I wanted to go to him, but was frozen in his chair.

He shook the emotions from his mind, then looked back at me. “Yes, everything is fine Miss Cash.” He pulled something out from his coat, although I couldn’t quite make out the shape. “Or should I say, Ensign Cash?” He held out the item to me: it was a small pin, denoting my new rank. I thanked him several times, and each time he laughed, saying I had earned it, and that my father would be proud. I saluted him, and spun to return to the rest of the crew. I was met with whoops and shouts, some congratulating me, others asking me how many times I had been in his chambers before I got the promotion. I heard none of them, for I was on top of the world.

A year had passed since my promotion: I was seventeen now, and had grown into a woman. My archery had been honed even more, although with my new leadership position, I was forced to learn discipline, and the Commander kept us on a tight schedule. Today we were to make port in the small town of Wave’s Edge, to investigate rumors of pirates among the locals. As we dropped anchor and prepared a small rowboat to go ashore, the Lieutenant and I both volunteered to go with a small crew. Having the utmost confidence in us, the Commander sent us both ashore with three other sailors, Each dressed in light armor and armed with a simple sword. I, of course, wore my leather, and carried my bow in hand, dagger in my belt.

As we made the pier, we ran through the same process as we always had. One sailor would jump out and help another out of the boat. One of them would tie us to the dock as the other would watch his back in case of an ambush. When that was finished, they pulled the others ashore. I was the last to leave the boat, bow in hand for cover fire, should anything go wrong. When we were all on the dock, we noticed a distinct lack of commotion. Normally our visits were met by some excitement: good or bad, there was always movement. The men were uneasy, but were trained to do their job. We advanced as a unit towards the town, two sailors in front, then the Lieutenant, then me, and the third sailor behind.

As we approached the center of the town, we finally heard something, although it was far from what we had hoped for. A young girl screamed from inside an old warehouse nearby. I nocked an arrow and bolted for the door, determined to save this poor child. My crew mates called for me to wait, to let them go first, but I didn’t have time for that, and neither did the girl. I threw the door open and ran inside, seeing nothing but old crates. That’s when the door behind me slammed shut, and I heard the dulled thud of a bar being placed across it. The windows were boarded, and the warehouse was in darkness. I heard feet shuffling, and shouts from outside.

“Anne! Anne!” They called to me, but a hand from the shadows closed over my mouth before I could respond. Another pair of strong hands pulled me to the ground, held me down as I was bound at the wrists and ankles.

“Bloody pi-mmph!” I tried to yell as a rag was forced into my mouth.

“Oy, she’s a mouthy one, Cap’n,” A short, mousy man said, grabbing my chin. “Not the prettiest, but it’s been a while. Can we keep ‘er?”

“Aye, I s’ppose that would be proper. Go take her out back, Lou.”

I struggled against my bonds as I was lifted from the floor and thrown over a surprisingly muscular shoulder. He walked, saying nothing. Soon we were back outside, through a side door on the building. Just as with the light glinting of the drops of blood that led me to the wolf, a higher power must have been looking out for me, as the Lieutenant managed to spot the man leaving the building with me over his shoulder and gave chase, with the others not far behind. The man, practically a giant, noticed his pursuers and dropped me to draw his sword. I groaned at the fall, although I managed to work my dagger out from my belt to start to cut my bonds. The man had incredible form, dodging and parrying every swing from his four assailants, occasionally lunging forward to strike, although it never amounted to more than a small scrape.

Snap! My hands were free, and I started on my legs. The sailors pressed harder, trying to bring this massive foe down. Snap! My legs were free now, too. I looked up at the battle raging over me, just in time to see the man raise his sword over his head with both hands. Two sailors ran him through, but it was too little, too late. The sword came slamming down on the Lieutenant’s skull, splitting it with a sickening crunch. I screamed and lunged at the man, plunging my dagger into the back of his knee, then prying his own sword free of the Lieutenant, making a clean slice across his massive throat. The Lieutenant and I had never been very close, but he was a good man, with a family waiting for him back home. Someone would have to tell his wife that she was now a widow.

Everything had happened so fast, I fell to my knees in shock. One of the sailors managed to grab me and carry me in an all out run back to the rowboat, as another grabbed the body of the Lieutenant. We were pursued, but only to the pier, as the sailors pushed their limbs to row ever faster.

Only when we were back aboard the ship did I realize I still had the man’s sword in my hand. It was beautiful blade, solid black with a falcon’s head carved into the pommel. A wicked curve near the end made it flow like water. I decided I would keep the sword, for the Lieutenant, and to remind myself to be more cautious in the future. The Commander approached me, asked me what the hell had happened out there. I moved to speak, but instead collapsed into his chest and waited for his embrace.

“Well,” He started, wrapping one of his arms around my shoulders. “I know it’s a bad time, but looks like we’re in need of a new Lieutenant.”

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