Rise of the Thrall Lord
Rescue at Redune
It was nearly dusk as the Avenger rounded the horn at Redune Point. The stars were just starting to twinkle into existence as the light of day slowly receded towards the western horizon and the sky was blanketed with the dark of night. The top of Sentilla Light could be clearly seen on the shore to the west and the strange haunting melody of the tower could be heard above the sound of the crashing waves across the rocks that riddled the nearby coast.
Lieutenant Commander Pallas Stealle stood at the prow of the mighty Penwick warship Avenger observing the coastline ahead. He was second in command on the ship, a post he had only just been assigned six months ago.
Pallas had been in the Penwick Royal Navy some twelve odd years now, joining as a midshipman when he was ten. The young noble had worked hard to earn his commissions on his own merit instead of relying on either his family name or the fact that his father was the Admiral of the Penwick Navy. That had earned him the respect of his fellow seamen as so many other nobles rose up the ranks based on privilege rather than merit.
“Smoke on the horizon!” a voice suddenly yelled from above, interrupting Pallas’s train of thought. Turning his head upward, he could just make out the sailor against the darkening sky, high up in the crow’s nest above the main mast. The man was pointing north along the shoreline, far ahead of Sentilla Light.
Following the man’s arm, Pallas gazed northwest up the coastline. Was that a cloud of black smoke? There was definitely a darker patch of sky there against the background of the falling night.
“That must be Redune!” a voice cried from close behind him. Swiveling around, Pallas saw his commanding officer, Captain Lagrange Hightower, moving quickly towards him. Hightower was a tall, muscular man, with chiseled features and dark brownish hair that was just starting to grey around the temples. The grandson of the venerable Lord Hightower, and brother of Carenna Hightower, the Protector of Penwick, Lagrange was a noble in his own right. Yet, like Pallas, he chose to serve his city rather than rest on the laurels of his nobility.
Captain Hightower moved quickly forward to join him at the ship’s prow. Pulling a spy glass out of his coat pocket, he hastily pulled it open and held it up to his left eye. “It is indeed Redune…” he said after a few moments, “and there appears to be a ship in the harbor.”
Pallas strained his own eyes to see, but it was getting too dark and it was too far away to see anything without the assistance of a spy glass.
“I can almost make out her colors…” Lagrange continued slowly. Suddenly the expression across his face took on a grim pallor. Turning to face him he said darkly, “It is as I feared. Pirates.”
Pallas reacted immediately. He turned and stepped back onto the deck, bellowing at the top of his lungs, “All hands on deck! Prepare for battle! Ready the cannons!”
The crew responded instantly, moving swiftly around the large warship preparing him for the impending conflict. Pallas smiled grimly; they were a crack outfit, one of the best in the Penwick Navy and he was proud to serve with them.
Whirling back around to rejoin the Captain, Pallas wondered What would pirates want with Redune? It was really only a small fishing village, with perhaps two hundred inhabitants at most. There was actually nothing of worth there to plunder. So what was a pirate galleon doing moored at her docks?
As Pallas drew up next to him, Lagrange was still staring through his spyglass. The Captain had a uzzled expression across his face now. “What do you make of this?” he said in a quizzical tone as he slowly lowered the spy glass and held it out towards him.
Pallas reached out to take the glass, turned towards the town, still a good mile away, and gingerly held it up to his eye. Adjusting the lens slightly he focused in on the harbor in front of the smoking village and the large ship berthed there at the docks. It was definitely a large vessel, and armed for battle. He could make out the hatches along the side which were obviously for canon.
Looking up at the deck, he thought he could barely make out some figures moving about on it. It almost looked as if…someone was being hustled across the deck against their will. There, they stopped, the middle figure struggling against its captors! Now they were moving again. That must have been what the Captain saw.
Lowering the spy glass he saw his own concern mirrored in Lagrange’s eyes. “It is as you feared Captain. It appears they have taken hostages on board.”
“Dragon dung!” Lagrange swore under his breath, his frustration clear across his face. “Now what do we do? We can’t just blow them out of the water!”
“Ship astern!” a voice suddenly yelled from above.
Pallas and Lagrange exchanged a quick look then began to move, rushing side by side across the deck of the long warship to the rear of the vessel. If this was a second pirate ship they might be in for a real fight. As the duo reached the aft of the ship, tall white sails could clearly be seen coming towards them from around Redune point.
Once again Lagrange lifted up his spyglass and stared at the approaching ship. After a few moments, however, his frame visibly relaxed.
“Thank the gods! It’s only a merchant ship,” he signed with clear relief. A grim expression quickly returned to his face, however, and he began to pace the deck. “But that still leaves us with our original problem; how do we roust these pirates from Redune if we can’t blow them to smithereens?”
Pallas was half listening though. An idea was beginning to form in his head. “I think I might just have a way…” he said softly. Before Lagrange could query him further however, he spun around and ran back across the deck, bellowing out orders to the crew as he went. “Draw in the main sails! Bring us to a stop! And flag down that merchant ship!” he barked in rapid succession.
Lagrange finally caught up with him at midship. “Pallas? What do you have in mind?” the Captain asked the bewilderment obvious in the older man’s voice.
Spinning around he grinned wickedly at his commanding officer. “Since we can’t blow them out of the water while they have hostages…then we’ll just have to remove the hostages.”
“And just how do you propose doing that?” Lagrange asked still looking at him with a perplexed expression.
“Ah…” Pallas replied now smiling broadly, “That’s where our merchant friends come in.”The fact that it was nearly dark had worked in their favor. The pirates had not spied the Avenger come around the point, and now that it night, with their sails drawn and their lights out, the large warship could not be seen at all from the town.
As Pallas had ordered they flagged down the merchant ship, the Endurance out of Orlon well north of here. Her Captain, Rochino, was more than willing to help them when he heard what had happened and their plan to rectify things. So little more than an hour later, Pallas Stealle and his handpicked team of five naval swordsman were stowed away on the Endurance as it made its way into port.
The merchant vessel was allowed to pull into the one large dock on the other side of the pirate vessel; it being the only dock high enough for the two great ships. They had arrived unchallenged to this point; the pirates most likely looking forward to adding the ship’s cargo to their plunder. As they pulled in some figures were moving around on the dock.
“Throw us your lines!” someone called out of the darkness.
“Much obliged,” Rochino called back nonchalantly from the railing. “What’s will all the smoke?” he added in a conversational tone.
Some rude laughter wafted its way up from the dock below. It was quickly stifled however and a voice called back, “Nothing to worry about. Just a kitchen fire that got out of hand. It’s under control now.”
“Good to hear,” Rochino called back trying to sound agreeable.
Once they were moored, six rag tagged looking men swaggered their way up the gangplank onto the Endurance, declaring that everything on board was now their property. The men were obviously somewhat intoxicated and fell easy prey to a surprise attack by Pallas and his crack team.
“Nice job laddie,” Rochino whispered to him softly waving him over to the starboard rail. “It looks like a skeleton crew onboard,” he nodded towards the large pirate vessel across the quay. “The rest must be in town looting and pillaging.”
“Well they won’t be for long,” Pallas said nodding grimly to the affable sailor. “Thank you for the ride Captain.”
“Tis’ my pleasure lad,” Rochino chuckled softly.
Pallas and his men carefully made their way down the long gangplank to the empty dock below. As they quietly moved down the pier towards the other ships plank, Pallas got a closer look at the village beyond. Smoke and small fires could be seen off in the town, accompanied by the occasional cry and the sounds of steel on steel. The villagers must still be putting up a fight Pallas reasoned. He only hoped they were in time to save them.
As they reached the pirate ships gangplank, it was dead quiet except for the lapping of the water against the docks. The ship itself only had a few lanterns along lit here and there along its length, making it look mostly dark from down below. The shadow of a lone sentry could just be seen standing at the top the gangplank against the backdrop of the starry night.
That would not be a problem Pallas thought grimly. He motioned for the others to wait there. Then the young Lieutenant Commander called upon his training; for Pallas Stealle was a Spiritblade like his father and brother. His training had been somewhat different than the rest of his family, for Pallas favored the School of the Deadly Shadow, the ways of stealth and deception. He found himself rather glad at this particular moment that he had.
Pallas took a deep breath and then stilled his mind. Then he began to concentrate. The world around him disappeared as he reached down deep inside. He was well trained at this, and in the silence of his mind quickly found that spark of spirit. Within seconds he had all but disappeared, another shadow in the deep shadows among the docks.
The sentry never saw him coming. One minute the man was standing there at the top of the gangplank, staring mindlessly down at the docks, and the next he was unconscious on the deck at Pallas’s feet. Gazing quickly around the pirate vessel, Pallas noted that there was no one else up here. He reasoned that all the other pirates were either still in town or below deck. Turning towards the docks, he silently waved his companions up on board.
The five other warriors quickly joined him and as a group they quietly made their way across the empty deck to the entryway below. The stealthy team ran into a few more pirates below deck, but made short work of them. It went quite smoothly until they reached the aft cabins.
Around the corner they spied a guard in front of a cabin door. He stood staring down corridor in their direction. Muffled cries and banging could be heard on the other side of the door he was guarding. It was a woman’s voice!
“Let me out!” the feminine voice cried.
So they had finally found a prisoner! Unfortunately this hallway was rather long and well lit. Without a diversion, there was no way, even with his spiritblade techniques that he could sneak up on the man. If he saw them coming, the pirate might be able to slip into the room and use the hostage against them.
“Do you know who I am?” the female voice continued.
The guard half turned and chuckled to himself. If she could only keep him distracted.
Pallas slipped around the corner and ever so slowly made his way down the bright corridor, flattening himself against the walls as he went.
As the guard started to look back his way, Pallas froze in place. He was saved however when the woman cried out again, “Let me go and you will be richly rewarded!”
The pirate guard turned towards the door again and yelled through it, “Aye. That’s the truth of it. Your father will pay indeed if he ever wants to see your pretty little head again!”
If he was going to say more, he never got the chance. The butt of Pallas’s sword firmly connected with the back of his head and the guard slumped to the ground in a heap.
Pallas pressed himself up against the door and whispered, “Fear not good lady! We will have you out momentarily!”
“Who is that?” came the hushed reply.
“Lieuntant Commander Stealle, milady. Of the Royal Penwick Navy!” he whispered back.
“Penwick!” the woman responded excitedly through the door. “That’s where I’m from!”
“Shhh,” he cautioned her, then continued softly, “And that’s where we’ll be taking you back. Just give me one moment.”
“Okay,” came the quiet reply, the woman’s voice sounding somewhat chagrinned.
Pallas bent down and began to search the unconscious guard. Quickly finding a key ring he pulled it off the man and inserted it into the keyhole. It fit perfectly and as he turned it he heard a loud click. Pushing on the door, it creaked open revealing a dimly lit cabin beyond.
Pallas quickly stepped inside and his eyes fell on a striking young woman with bright reddish hair, faint freckles and green eyes that sparkled like emeralds staring back at him from across the small room. He immediately noted that the woman was a lady of nobility, dressed up in fancy attire.
She looks strangely familiar Pallas thought to himself. Bowing quickly to her he said softly, “Lieutenant Commander Pallas Stealle of the Royal Penwick Navy at your service milady.”
The young lady paused a moment staring him up and down, and then seemed to recover herself. “Pallas? Pallas Stealle?” she said in a voice filled with incredulity. “It’s me,” she cried excitedly, “Alice! ”/wikis/alice-dunamal" class=“wiki-page-link”> Alice Dunamal. "
Pallas stared back at the young woman in disbelief. Little Alice Dunamal? The daughter of Alburg Dunamal, the richest merchant in Penwick and the Baron’s Master of Coin! Of course he knew her. They had been childhood friends. But she had not been in Penwick for years! He vaguely remembered hearing something about a singing career, however, it was not an area of great interest to him and that is all he could briefly recall.
Shaking his head Pallas smiled inspite of himself. “Little Alice Dunamal,” he repeated, his voice filled with amazement. “The last time I saw you, you were maybe thirteen…” In his mind he saw a vision of a gangly young freckled redheaded girl, traipsing through the mud with him and his siblings, much to the chagrin of her illustrious father. Now, however, Alice was all grown up; and in fact she had become quite lovely.
“Well we all grow up sometime,” she replied as she continued to gaze at him. Then suddenly her face darkened once again.
Pallas shook himself out of his silent musings. What was he thinking? This was no time for reunions. They were in a dangerous situation right now and ever second counted. Aloud he said urgently, "Was there anyone else taken prisoner?”
The young lady’s face fell and a look of dread washing over it. “I’m…afraid not,” she responded quietly. “I’m the only one left.”
“What do you mean?” Pallas asked taking a step forward and searching her face while trying to make sense of her cryptic response.
“My crew…their all dead,” she replied her voice trembling as she tried to explain. “We were headed from Southpoint back to Penwick when this pirate ship appeared out of nowhere. The Captain said we could not outrun them, so he tried to drop me off in port, hoping to lose them inland. But…” she paused and there was small catch in her voice, “they…they caught up with us on the docks. They killed them…killed them all,” she said her face a mask of horror and her voice filled with dread.
She looked so small and fragile at that moment that Pallas’s heart went out to her. Walking over to the terrified young woman he placed and arm around her and said softly, “You are safe now Alice. I promise you, no harm shall come to you while I am at your side.”
Alice Dunamal had been visibly shaking, but she suddenly stopped and looked up into his eyes. There were large tears welling there as she gazed up at him. A brief smile crossed her face, then she reached forward and grabbed him, burying her head in his chest. The young woman sobbed uncontrollable as she held onto him tightly.
Pallas let her cry for a short while, but he knew they could not stay there much longer. He needed to get her off this ship and back to safety. Then they could take care of the rest of the pirates.
“Hush now…it’s okay,” he said patting her gently as she continued to hold onto him. She was quite soft and warm in his arms. Under any other circumstances he would have found her embrace quite appealing, but it was time to go now. Reaching down he placed his hand under her small chin and lifted her face up towards his. Her crying slowly abated and she looked up at him uncertainly.
Pallas could not help smiling warmly at this pretty young woman. He could not believe she was the gangly young girl he had grown up with. She was indeed quite lovely. He told her as gently as he could, “We really need to get going.”
Alice stared at him a moment more then pulled herself away and straightened her dress. “Yes, yes of course,” she replied now sounding quite embarrassed.
Pallas smiled at her once more briefly then led the way out of the cabin. They ran into no one else until they reached the docks. As they made their way down the pirate gangplank, a few figures could be seen coming from the direction of town.
“Hey! Whadda you think you’re doing?” a surly voice cried. “That’s our prize!”
Pallas ignored the question, instead yelling over to the Endurance, “We’ve got the hostages. Get ready to make sail!”
“Aye lad!” he heard Rochino’s deep voice boom back down to them.
He had been holding Alice by the waist as they descended the gang plank together. Now he spun her behind him and let go. “Stand back,” he told her gently. “This won’t take long.”
Behind him he could hear the pirates yell as they charged across the dock towards them. As Pallas spun to face them with his men, he heard Alice’s voice behind him. “Be careful!” she cried with clear concern.
There was nothing to worry about however. The fight was over in less than two minutes. The pirates lay dead on the dock, but two of Pallas’s men were also injured. Quickly helping them back up onto the Endurance along with Alice, they were soon moving away from the docks, and none too soon. More shouts could be heard now coming from the quay and other figures could be seen running along it from the town.
Pallas waited till they were a good fifty feet out then had Rochino signal the Avenger. Less than a minute later whooshing sounds filled the air followed by explosions that sprang up all around the dock and the pirate vessel.
At the mouth of the shallow harbor, the white sails of the Avenger could be seen, each blaze of her forward guns lighting up the vessel as if fireworks were going off around her. The entire battle was over in less than an hour. The pirate ship never got a chance to leave its berth and now lay as a smoldering wreck next to what was left of the long Redune dock.
Pallas left Alice in Rochino’s capable hands as he and his team took a rowboat back to town. Joined by the rest of the swordsmen from the Avenger, they quickly dispatched the rest of the stranded pirate crew; all that had not already run for the hills that is. In the end, only a few buildings were burned, and about 20 villagers were dead, but all in all the town of Redune remained intact.
News of their exploits was sent ahead, and upon their arrival at Penwick the naval docks were lined with a cheering crowd. As they moored the vessel, Pallas noted a number of signs being held up by the crowd reading things like “Welcome home Angel Flame” and “We love you Angel Flame”. He noted that Alice, at the rail by his side, smiling and waving to the folks and throwing them kisses.
He turned to her and asked softly, “Who is this Angel Flame?”
The young woman turned to look at him, a coy smile upon her winsome face. “Why that’s me silly!” she told him smacking him lightly on the arm and pretending to be offended. As he gazed at her uncomprehendingly she smiled brightly and added, “I really am quite famous you know. I guess you didn’t realize you had rescued a celebrity.”
Pallas gazed at her quietly for a moment. So Alice was the famous person “Angel Flame”. He vaguely recalled hearing the name somewhere. However, to him she was merely little Alice Dunamal, the girl he had grown up. “I’m sorry Alice, but I’m really having a hard time thinking of you as some famous person. To me you’re just…Alice.”
Alice giggled in response then placed a gentle hand on his arm. “It’s okay, really. Deep down inside I’m still the same Penwick girl who used to have mud fights with you, your sister and your little brother,” she said softly. “I really wouldn’t want you to treat me any other way,” she finished drawing closer to him and looking up into his eyes.
Pallas stood there as if entranced, drawn into her gaze and losing himself momentarily into those deep emerald eyes. They stood there together for what seemed like hours when suddenly a voice yelled, “Prepare to disembark.”
They both turned and saw that the gangplank was down. Alice smiled briefly up at him, and then he escorted her over to and down the gangplank towards the waiting crowd below. The throng was cheering wildly and chanting the name “Angel” over and over again. Alice merely smiled demurely and waved to her admiring fans.
When they reached the bottom, Alice’s father, Alburg, was there to meet his daughter. She disengaged herself from Pallas and flew into her father’s arms.
Pallas stood back and surveyed the crowd. He quickly spied both his mother and father standing out in front, the latter saluting him smartly. As he saluted back he noted his sister Thea and younger brother Lloyd standing beside his parents. Thea smiled at him warmly, giving him the thumbs up sign while Lloyd stood there with a big doofy grin on his face. Pallas shook his head but couldn’t help smiling back at his no longer so little brother.
Suddenly Alice was in front of him once again. Grabbing his hand, the lovely young redhead dragged him over to her father.
“Father,” she said standing between the two men, “This is Pallas Stealle, the man who rescued me.”
Pallas was surprised to note that she was blushing somewhat.
Alburg Dunamal was normally a reserved individual. Standing tall and stately in his fine clothes, with his grey mustache and goatee, he looked the epitome of the noble gentlemen. On the few occasions that Pallas had met him in the past, Alburg always seemed very austere. Pallas was also quite aware that he was not a fan of the Stealles, perceiving them as some kind of rivals for control of the city of Penwick. While indeed true that the Stealles had a certain amount of influence around town, none of his family saw it quite the way Alburg seemed to.
Thus Pallas was quite surprised when the elder Dunamal stepped forward and briskly hugged him. “Thank you for saving my daughter young man. If it were not for you, I might never have seen her again.” Dunamal stepped back and there was genuine warmth in his expression as he look Pallas firmly in the eye.
“It was really the efforts of the entire crew sir,” Pallas replied somewhat embarrassed for being singled out for the Avengers efforts in rescuing Redune.
“That is not the way I heard it,” a familiar voice said from behind Alburg. The elder Dunamal stepped aside and Pallas was surprised yet again. Standing behind the gentlemen merchant was the Baron of Penwick himself, Carvernous Avernos. A not overtly tall man, Cavernous was somewhat overweight and soft looking, as if he had seen no exercise his entire life. Probably about the same age as his father, the Baron nonetheless showed no signs of graying, instead showing signs of balding through his thin brown hair. “According to the sending from your Captain,” the Baron continued, “it was your idea that ensured the young Lady Dunamal’s safe rescue.”
Pallas found himself momentarily speechless. The entire crowd seemed to have gone silent waiting for his reply. When he finally found his voice, he merely bowed and said, “Thank you your Lordship.”
“Yes, yes,” the Baron responded actually smiling at him for the first time since Pallas could ever remember. The Baron, like Dunamal, was not exactly a fan of the Stealle household. “Your quick thinking and bravery are to be commended…” the Baron continued, “and rewarded.”
Pallas stared at him in confusion, not sure quite what the Baron meant by rewarded.
A satisfied smile crossed the Baron’s face as he realized he had caught the young man totally unaware. “You have done Penwick a great service this day young Master Stealle. You have saved one of the City’s greatest assets…" he continued turning towards the crowd and waving his hands around extravagantly, “the famous songstress Angel Flame.” The Baron turned back and bowed to the young Lady Dunamal.
The crowd went wild and cheers of Angel, Angel rippled through the masses once again. Pallas was not a fan of the Baron in truth, thinking he was more of a bean counter than a leader, but he had to admit the man knew how to work a crowd. Th cheering went on for another minute until the Baron raised his hands and asked for quiet. As the crowd calmed down, Baron Carvernous Avernos turned back to face Pallas once more. Raising his arms in front of him he cried in a loud voice, "Turn around and gaze at your new command…Captain Stealle,” he finished magnanimously with a flourish of his arms.
The crowd went wild once again, this time cheers of Pallas, Pallas erupting from their midst. Pallas’s eyes grew wide as the meaning of the Baron’s words sunk in. He quickly turned around to look at the Avenger, and then just as quickly swirled back to gaze at the Baron. His new…command? Captain? But he had just made Lieutenant Commander not six months ago!
Suddenly, Pallas felt a large hand grasp his shoulder. Spinning around he saw Captain Hightower standing behind him. Lagrange was grinning from ear to ear.
“Congratulations Pallas!” the Captain cried over the din of the crowd. “It’s well deserved.”
Pallas was overwhelmed as he stared from Lagrange up to the tall ship moored to the docks behind him. The Avenger was now his? It was something he had always dreamed of since he was a small child; having his own command. But the Avenger?
A thought suddenly occurred to him. “What about you?” he cried to Lagrange over the din of the crowd.
Captain Hightower began to laugh boisterously. “Oh ho. Don’t worry about me lad,” he responded continuing to chuckle. Leaning forward he lifted his hand up and said in a confidential tone, “I was planning on retiring soon anyway, and Master Dunamal made me a nice tidy offer to run his fleet of merchant ships. Trust me, I’ll be just fine.”
Before Pallas could say a word he felt a small hand on his other shoulder. Whirling around he saw Alice staring up at him with a bright smile on his face. “Congratulations Captain!” she cried brightly, then she stood up on her toes and kissed him lightly on the lips.
His head swam for a moment as she brushed up against him, the smell of her hair and warmth of her lips against his having an intoxicating effect upon him. It only lasted a moment, however, then the young woman pulled back while whispering gently, “And thank you for saving my life.” Then she stepped back altogether and smiled demurely at him.
The crowd’s cheering renewed and Pallas felt the blood rush to his face, sure that he must be as red as a beet.
“Ahem,” Alburg Dunamal cleared his throat. “Yes, congratulations indeed,” the master merchant said in a firm voice. “I’m sure you will want to celebrate with your family,” he added, that last word sounding a bit strained. “However,” the merchant continued with a thin smile, “please come by our home once you’ve settled in, and we can have a celebration of our own.”
Pallas looked from Alburg to Alice, the latter smiling at him quite warmly. Clearing his own throat he replied evenly, “Certainly Master Dunamal. It would be my pleasure,” he added with a small bow.
“Very, good. Now let’s be off,” Dunamal responded extending his arm to his daughter.
“And I must be off as well,” the Baron added. “Affairs of state you know and all that.” The Baron and his retinue departed alongside the Dunamals; Alice turning her head to give Pallas one last look.
As the young Stealle stood there in shock, his own family gathered around him.
“Well done son!” his father Kratos cried with obvious pride.
His mother leaned up and kissed him on the cheek. “That was very brave of you Pallas.”
“I’d expect no less!” Thea cried pounding him on the arm and then wrapping her other arm around his waist.
“Yeah. Not bad bro. Not too bad at all,” Lloyd said punching him solidly in the other arm.
Pallas winced momentarily. When had Lloyd gotten so strong?
Smiling and laughing, the Stealle family made their way to their carriage for the trip across town and out to their ranch. Yet Pallas could not help once last glance in the direction of the receding Dunamal carriage; noting the winsome young red haired Alice staring out the back window and smiling in his direction.