A Discreet Return
A build for Lands of Roawia (LoR) online role-playing game. LoR features motivating contests and character-driven stories.
See if you can spot the easter eggs!
Abner decided to make camp on the mountaintop that night so as not to risk a dark and perilous descent. The marines had gotten used to sleeping in defensive positions by now (like them landlubber rangers!) and set into their patrol base quickly. Abner and Scraff set to work building a large fire to signal the Spirit of Lenfald.
“I’m no woodsman, but this seems rather risky to me,” said Scraff, squatting to place some tinder in their shallow fire pit.
“Possibly,” said Abner. “Though I’d be much more concerned if we had encountered a tribe of people on this island. Most of the things we’ve run into are reptilian. They need the sun to warm them so they can move about, so they won’t be out after nightfall.” He snapped a handful of twigs. “Besides, most animals are very frightened of fire.”
“Most?” queried Scraff.
Abner grinned. “Aye, most.”
“Heaven help us. What about the others, then, ranger?”
“Some are just too curious to help themselves. Mostly little furry critters of some sort. During the winter in Lenfald you will sometimes wake to find that one has crawled into your bedroll with you. It’s only an issue if it’s a snake or something.”
Scraff grimaced. He would never admit it, but he couldn’t stand even the thought of snakes. “Hmmm, little furry critters. I can deal with those,” he said.
“That was the first kind of creature that’s attracted to fire,” continued Abner cheerfully. “The other kind can be a bit more dangerous,” he stacked larger chunks of wood around the center of the fire pit. “They’re the big ones that try to be heroes and stamp out forest fires before they start. Unfortunately they can’t tell the difference between a raging blaze and somebody’s innocent campfire.”
Scraff was astonished. “We have those in Roawia?”
“Aye,” answered Abner. “And quite a few, actually. In Lenfald there’s a certain kind of boar who considers himself the fire warden. In Loreos it’s enormous herds of these gray horned beasts. Rhinoceros I believe they are called. Anyway, they’ve been known to stampede in droves and trample entire camps just trying to put the fires out. They can’t see very well, either, so they sometimes impale men in the process.”
“Charming,” remarked Scraff, “We have so much to look forward to.”
Abner stood and looked proudly at the tower of wood they had just constructed. “Well, she’s ready! Would you like to do the honors, Scraff?”
“Why not?” said Scraff sarcastically. “I’ve always wanted to sign my own death warrant.”
“Oh, don’t be such a canker blossom, Scraff. Here.” Abner held out a small piece of flint.
Scraff chuckled heartily and took the flint from Abner. “You really have some nerve, you know that?”
“And yet you still can’t help but laugh,” Abner joked back. “Now get on with it, unless you don’t know how to light a fire!”
“Easy there, Cap’n,” laughed Scraff. “I’ve been off the ship once or twice.” He took out his knife, stooping low over the wood shavings they had strewn about in the center of the fire pit. He slid his blade quickly and firmly across the flint several times, showering sparks over the kindling until at last it sizzled and burst into flame.
“Not too bad,” said Abner, taking the flint back and placing it in his pocket.
“Hush,” replied Scraff, turning out to face the water. “Let’s just make sure they get the message.
The fire rose quickly, the flames licking hungrily at the dry wood above them, devouring the fuel with its ravenous appetite. Soon the beacon was blazing brightly, shining out like a star resting upon the mountain peak.
“They can’t possibly miss this,” said Abner.
Sure enough, the dim glow of torches began to appear on the deck of the Spirit of Lenfald. Dozens of them sprang to life, filling the fighting deck with light. For good measure, a volley of flaming arrows was fired up into the sky.
Scraff chuckled. “Now they’re just giving us a show.”
“We should return the favor then,” said Abner, wrapping an arrowhead in a small piece of cloth.
“Now you’re really going to set the forest alight,” said Scraff with uncertainty.
“Relax,” reassured Abner, slapping Scraff on the back for once. “This’ll burn out long before it comes down.”
He dipped the arrowhead into the flames, igniting the cloth, and set the arrow to his bowstring. He waited a few moments for the fire to burn, then aimed high into the night and let the missile fly. The flaming projectile climbed high above the mountain, twinkling gloriously as it flew. It slowed and reached the crest of its arc, flickering as the cloth burned away, then turned its head towards the jungle below and plummeted towards the canopy.
“Have you always had this kind of flair for the dramatic, or did it just start when you had your little brush with our big toothy friend a few days ago?” jabbed Scraff.
“Come on now, you know that was fantastic.”
“Maybe that was a little impressive.”
The night passed into morning without any major disturbances. The marines broke camp quickly while Abner scattered the ashes from the fire and covered the area carefully with leaves and twigs.
“What are you doing?” asked Scraff.
“We never leave a trace, Scraff,” replied Abner. “That means fires, too. Your enemy can’t track you if you don’t leave them a trail.”
Scraff looked about and spread his arms. “You realize there is no enemy tracking us?”
Abner slapped Scraff on the back again and started down the mountain. “It’s just a good habit to be in.”
The descent went much faster than the climb into the mountains. The terrain was far less treacherous and the slope much gentler on the western face of the mountains. The party also did not have to pass through thick jungle as they had near the foot of the eastern slopes, hastening their travel significantly. They descended so rapidly, in fact, that they reached the beach by early evening, where they found Scraff’s lieutenant and a large contingent of marines awaiting them with the launch.
Scraff hailed his men. “Oy there, expecting trouble?” he joked.
“With you around, sir, one cannot do much else,” quipped the lieutenant with a smile. He shook his commander’s hand firmly. “Good to have you back, sir.” He looked at Abner. “And it’s good to see you in one piece as well, Cap’n.”
Abner grinned. “Well that’s a much friendlier attitude than you bore a week ago!”
The lieutenant’s face grew beet red and his embarrassment was almost tangible. Scraff roared with laughter. “Come on, son. Let’s get back to the ship. And suffice to say you’ll think twice about mutiny in the future.
Once the launch had ferried everyone back to the Spirit of Lenfald, Abner climbed to the aftcastle to find Toliver. There sat the navigator at the table he had dragged up on deck, intently scribbling notes and sketching the terrain of the island. Abner raised an eyebrow and looked at the helmsman.
“Has he been like this the whole time?” he asked.
Morthgow nodded. “Aye, sah. He’s barely slept or eaten since he came back aboard. I’d be surprised if he hasn’t counted every seabird on this island by now!”
Abner chuckled and moved towards Toliver. “What’s the word, Toliver? Have you found us a route back to Lenfald?”
Toliver continued to scribble on his parchment as if Abner wasn’t there.
Abner furrowed his brow slightly and started again. “Toliver, have-“
He stopped abruptly as the navigator held up a finger for silence. Another man would have been insulting his captain, but Abner knew Toliver meant no offense. He was simply a strange- but very capable- man.
Toliver finally looked up from his parchment. “Cap’n. I believe I have found us a route,” he stated.
“That’s good,” replied Abner. “Then set our course for home.”
Toliver shook his head. “Not quite, Cap’n. You see, we must first sail west.”
“What on earth are you talking about?” demanded Abner.
“We sailed north from here when we first rounded the horn,” answered Toliver. “But we were blocked by an arm of this very same island.”
Abner looked at Toliver blankly. “I don’t follow. What are you talking about?”
Toliver continued impatiently. “This is an island, but it’s twice the island we thought it was. You see, it’s got two arms,” he said, moving his arms in a giant upside-down “U” motion. “Like this. They point to the south and are joined to the north. I highly suspect they do not continue much further north. In their center is a circular island that we saw on our journey northward. Cap’n, I believe that if we sail west and round the horn of the second arm of the island, we can sail north and find a westward wind that will return us to familiar shores. It should carry us somewhere just north of Isil Oro, if I understand correctly.”
Abner was impressed. “That’s quite the deduction,” he said. “But how do you know this land does not continue far to the north of here?”
Toliver hesitated. “Cap’n, I am asking you to trust me. I can’t know this for certain and I don’t pretend to. But with how the clouds and winds form here, it would seem that New Lenfald opens onto the water north of here. And I do believe we will find open water and friendly winds if we sail west and north. Besides,” he added. “Even if we do not, we will still be hugging the coast and we can go ashore for fresh water and food whenever we need it.”
Abner considered his navigator’s words for a moment and then nodded in agreement. “Aye, Toliver. I trust both your judgment and intuition. Lead us home!”
Toliver did just that, proving that his reputation as the best navigator in Roawia was more than justified. In fact, he was right to the smallest detail. New Lenfald was indeed composed of two connected, southward-pointing arms and it did not extend far to the north. Upon rounding the northwestern corner of the island, the Spirit of Lenfald was indeed spurred eastward by a powerful western wind, causing the crew to cheer.
Under Toliver’s careful guidance, the ship plowed steadily eastward. Her sails were never slack and she made great time- the distant coast of Roawia was spotted on the tenth day. Toliver’s predictions were once again incredibly accurate; the Spirit of Lenfald was sailing straight for the fishing pier at the north end of Isil Oro’s harbor. As they approached, Abner addressed the crew.
“Gentlemen, I cannot express my gratitude to you for your incredible efforts on this unexpected adventure. And I would also like to express my profound thanks for not beheading me while we were stuck in the doldrums.”
The crew laughed heartily and somewhat sheepishly.
“Truly men, all is forgiven and I hope that you will forgive your inexperienced captain for getting you into this mess. I am deeply sorry for separating you from your families for such a time. I, too, was separated from mine and I can empathize with you. If your wives try to beat you with their broomsticks, I will be happy to intervene.”
Another laugh from the men.
Abner grew more solemn. “Men, on this joyous occasion we can celebrate the fact that through all of our tribulations, we did not lose a single one of our crew. I consider that miraculous and for that I will always be grateful. However, there is a very serious matter we must discuss before we can go ashore.” Abner cleared his throat. “Gentlemen, it is imperative that you do not share word of our discovery with anyone. I know this will be very difficult, as I myself am brimming with excitement at having found a new land. However, there are spies everywhere in these uncertain times and if news of land to the west fell into their hands… well, it could threaten not only Lenfald’s claims to our island, but the safety of our brothers and sisters who will undoubtedly return there. So I ask you all to please keep your knowledge of New Lenfald to yourselves for the time being. Please, gentlemen, for the sake of our great nation.”
There was a quiet murmur of agreement and a half-hearted chorus of “aye,” from the crew. Abner understood their feelings. He was dying to tell everyone that he had discovered a new land, too. He just hoped the men would be wise enough to keep their mouths shut for the moment.
The Spirit of Lenfald dropped anchor and the launch was lowered into the water. A pair of rowboats came steadily towards the ship from the pier to help carry the crew to shore. Abner boarded one of these boats with Scraff, Toliver, Morthgow, and a couple marines and they started off towards the docks of Isil Oro.
As they neared the shore, Abner turned to look at the city that awaited them. There, standing on the edge of the dock, just as she had promised, was Serena. Abner leapt to his feet, rocking the boat as he did so.
“Easy there, son,” said one of the rowers gruffly.
Abner paid him no mind. He waved frantically, but he needn’t have. Serena had already seen him and her face was filled with emotion. There were tears in her eyes and a huge smile pasted across her face. She was waving to him with both arms as she ran along the dock to where the boat would land.
As soon as the craft came alongside the pier Abner leapt from it, grasping the edge of the dock and springing up onto the planks. He caught Serena as she plowed into his arms, barely preventing them both from going into the water.
Serena grabbed his face and kissed him long and passionately, then pushed him back to arms’ length and looked him in the eye.
“You’re late,” she said.
“I love you too,” replied Abner, embracing her again.
Scraff clambered out of the boat and came over to them smiling.
“Well, it’s good to see you too together again,” he said. “And Serena, remind me to never cross you. You’re a dedicated woman.”
Serena laughed and dried her eyes. “Oh, shut it, Scraff, and go find some wench to flirt with who’ll listen to your exaggerated tales.”
Scraff and Abner exchanged glances.
“What?” asked Serena.
“Nothing,” replied Abner quickly. “I promise I’ll tell you later.”
At that moment a shout came from up the street.
“Oy! Who’s the captain of this vessel that’s just come into port?”
Abner turned to face his addresser. A tall, thin man wearing fine armor and the garments of the Isil Oro Guard was walking towards him, flanked by two of his men.
“That would be me, good sir,” answered Abner, taking a step towards the man.
“Well then, I presume I am addressing Abner, captain of the Spirit of Lenfald,” said the man, smiling broadly and extending his hand. “I am Lorthand, captain of the guard. It is indeed good to see you. We thought you lost at sea!”
Abner shook Lorthand’s hand firmly. “Well met, Lorthand. Indeed we were for a time…” Abner’s voice trailed off.
Lorthand looked curiously at Abner, detecting something in the ranger’s face.
“Perhaps you would like to discuss this matter somewhere more private?” Lorthand asked.
“That would be for the best,” replied Abner.
“Come then, we will go to my office,” said Lorthand, beckoning one of his men. “John, make haste to the city hall and alert the Duke of Captain Abner’s return,” he ordered. “And have one of the messengers prepare for a journey to Stonewald,” he added. “I have a feeling there is some great importance in the story our ranger friend has to tell.
As Lorthand led the others into Isil Oro, a plainly dressed man stepped casually off of the street and started up the road after them.