So, here's yet another champter of Shen's Journey, this time our favourite ninja arriving in the pirate's settlement, Bilgewater. Hope you'll enjoy.
It was a torture, really. As the earlier storms escorting them to Bandly City had passed by, the sun found it's strenght again. It was blazing so hard Shen was actually afraid that the dried planks of the ship will catch fire. That is, if it doesn't sink before. Every time he walked on the deck, the planks cracked sounding like they're close to breaking, and it creaked every time a slightly larger wave hit it. And if that wasn't enough, the wind died down hours before. It felt like as if they were motionlessly floating on a dead pond, with the sails hanging lifelessly from the single mast of the ship.
The Salty Fish itself was a small fishing vessel with really not much free space on it. But of course in these times transporting refugees was a much more profitable source of income than fishing, since a fish usually costs five to ten bronze coins a piece, while the refugees practically pay as much as they can to escape the city. No wonder, since noxian soldiers were very keen on slaughtering yordles.
As of that, most of the passangers were yordles fleeing Bandle City, the last ones who could somehow gather up the otherwise ridiculous price for the trip to Bilgewater. Why Bilgewater? Two simple reasons, for once it's not under noxian influence, for second, it's close. Yordles taking the caravan to the north have to travel for days only to arrive at a settlement still on the mainland, and therefore under noxian control, and with a good chance of having a Helios statue at the main square, and all the consequences of that. Still, the journey to Bilgewater was no joy trip either.
"How long 'till we get there?" - Shen asked the captain, who was actually a human, perhaps just from Bilgewater, to fill his pockets by shipping refugees.
"Depends." - came the answer from the salty old seaman. Shen waited a few more seconds, but the captain had nothing more to say. Instead, he slightly turned the shipwheel.
"On what?" - Shen asked after another few seconds.
"Wind of course." - answered the captain and continued to stare at the horizon.
"Come on, you must have some estimation. Days, months, years? It can't depend on the wind if we get there in this year or the next. How long does it usually take?"
"In a hurry?" - asked the captain slowly, still not looking away from the horizon. Then he took a few deep breaths of the salty ocean air.
"Please answer." - said Shen calmly - "We've been out for a day. How many more will it take?"
"If the wind stays like this then as much as you want. Until you decide to swim."
"I'm asking for serious." - answered Shen with a smile. He didn't allow the captain to anger him.
"Should be there by evening." - the old seaman finally blurted out.
"Thanks. See, wasn't that hard."
Shen walked back to the front of the ship, where he found Kennen lying face down, motionlessly on the deck. He walked up to him and gently poked him with his feet.
"I know you're alive." - he said quietly - "Cap says we'll arrive by night. Probably."
Kennen slowly moved his limbs then sat up. He had a tired, crabby expression on his face. The ocean didn't take him lightly, but especially not the day-long idleness.
"So cap ain't thinking the ship will sink, huh?" - he asked with a hoarse voice.
"Nope. Cap's been sailing this ship for years."
"All the more he'll be surprised."
Shen sat down next to him.
"Just hold on for a little longer okay?"
"But dammn, it's sucking the life out of me. Hey, I already know the story of every single one of the refugees here on ship. Wanna hear some?"
Shen knew the ship was crawling with yordle refugees, and their stories are probably all very similar.
"Because there weren't anything else to do around, really, than listen to them."
"Told your own story as well?"
"I ain't stupid." - grunted Kennen.
Shen leant against the low wall of the ship and closed his eyes. The heat was intense, and the sound of the ship floating on the ocean was very repetitous. At least since Kennen stopped being sea-sick he had some more peace. Funny thing though, that there were no food on the ship at all. The captain had some bread and fish for himself, but other than that the there was no cargo. No one mentioned getting onboard comes with a two day starving. At least one of the yordles brought his old fishing rod and caught a few ones, mostly for himself.
"Mother nature's a bi.tch you know." - said Kennen - "I'm thirsty like a fish on dry, and I'm actually floating on an ocean of water, but guess what, can't drink it."
"I'm sure mother nature meant it as a personal insult towards you."
"Aren't You thirsty? There's no fresh water on ship."
"I'll manage." - answered Shen.
"I hope we'll get to Bilgewater soon. And because of the water, not the bilge. Actually, why aren't there noxians yet? They could have assaulted it already if they wanted to."
"I think they want to establish a solid empire on the mainland for first. Every island and peninsula comes after, so they'll have stable reinforcement and supply lines. And for now, that includes Ionia."
"And is that good for us? I mean that they are waiting."
"Well, it depends. If they manage to create a stable empire, then no. If they control the mainland and have no trouble at home, Ionia will hardly stand a chance. But if we manage to do something useful by then, we might even prevent the entire war. So it all depends on us."
"You mean us, personally?"
"Anyone, really. Anyone who can shut them down before they attack. Once they control the whole mainland as an empire, Ionia is as good as a province."
"A-ha. Then let's hope the others will do something while we're away looking for Akali."
"You mean we should leave her and head straight to Noxus?" - Shen raised his eyebrows.
"No way. Really. I'm just hoping others won't sit idly by either. Besides, we all stand a better chance if Akali is with us. I wouldn't go to Noxus without her."
Shen closed his eyes again and relaxed, sinking into the world of his own mind. But just before that, he heard Kennen dropping back onto the floor with full weight again.
Eventually Kennen shook him out of his meditation. When he opened his eyes dusk had already engulfed the sky around him. He looked around the ship and noticed that everyone was staring ahead, to the point where the ship was heading.
"Would you look at that!" - whispered Kennen.
And indeed he was right. As Shen turned around, two fireworks shot out into the darkness and soon exploded, filling the night with orange and blue lights. And where they came from, was actually Bilgewater, the harborside.
Everything, even the ships included, had dozens of small lamps on them, lamps that shined with colors of great variety, from yellow to green to blue to orange to purple and red. The docks were decorated in a venetian style, flags, ornaments and colored cloth hanging from all the buildings, from ropes hanged between small wooden columns or the palms and tropical trees, and of course from the masts of the ships. Soon, two other fireworks shot, illuminating the night with red and green this time.
As the ship got closer, Shen also noticed the dozens of tables all around the docks, and the huge crowd that gathered. The sound of laughter, music and yelling also got stronger as they approached the island, filling the warm, nice fresh air of the southtern island.
"Wooow..." - whispered Kennen as they sailed past an enormous ship, lit by all the various colored lamps on it, the wind gently blowing the flags on it's side - "They do know how to live..."
The Salty Fish finally hit the pier and Kennen, being at the very front of it, was the first one to jump out of it. Standing on the docks, he was still astonished by the sight of the Bilgewater carnival, pirate songs mixed with muffled voices and singing from the crowd filling the docks. Shen climbed out of the fishing boat and stood next to him.
"I guess this night we won't be searching for Akali..." - he sighed with a smile.
"Shen, we've been on the road for days, not to mention the shipping, and all we found was suffering and destruction everywhere. It's reeally time to have some fun. You deserve it too. You need it too."
"Ah well ... okay, I guess." - answered Shen after a few seconds - "So where do we go, hm?"
Kennen's answer was supressed by another shot of fireworks, covering him in yellow light for a few seconds.
"I said let's take a look at that ship" - he repeated - "That huge one over there."
Shen looked around and noticed the ship Kennen was pointing at. Indeed, it was a large piece of boat that dropped anchor in the middle section of the harbor. As they walked on the docks, they noticed that there were many little games around at certain tables, lightly organized events ranging from drinking contest to card games.
"Bloody cheater!! There's no way you could get that!" - bawled a man at a table filled with cards.
"Your scurvey mother's the cheater, scum!" - yelled back the other sitting in front of him.
He tried to draw his sword, but he sat too close to the table and didn't have enough free space. It was at this point when the other man leant forward to grab his head with both hands and smashed it into the table, cards flying in all directions. But Shen no longer watched.
They arrived by the ship Kennen was curious about. The harbor was practically full, though this one stood out from the lot. It was beautiful, triple masts, double decks, thirty-five cannons and steel hull reinforcements on both sides. Of course, this giant was decorated for the occasion as well, perhaps with the richest array of adornments. On it's front, beautifully curved golden letters wrote: "Saltwater Scourge".
"So it's actually a ship. I mean the Saltwater Scourge." - said Kennen - "This is where Gangplank took his title then. It's his ship. And **** what a ship it is."
"Impressive, indeed." - nodded Shen - "And this means he's in Bilgewater right now. Probably he is, at least. Now all we have to find is the Fortuna Mayor."
"The what? You mean huge luck? True, that's always handy, but..."
"No, it's a ship. The Fortuna Mayor took Akali here. It's private property, meaning not an army ship, bur rather a pirate ship. And it definietly should be in this harbor right now."
"Well then, we're in luck with this carnival. Everyone's drunk as hell, so we can ask around and won't have to push too much for information." - Kennen nodded.
"So what are we waiting for? Let's go and ask those sailors. With a bit of luck we can find some serving on the Fortuna Mayor." - Shen added with a smile.
And so the two compainions entered the array of tables and stalls that formed the center of events. Altough Shen enjoyed meditation more than huge partys, it was still better than the dead city of yordles, and besides it made him remember the Ionian seasonal festivals, which he always attented with joy along with the other ionians. As for the dead city, it's population seemed to have been gathered all up here. There was a dazzling amount of yordles in this pirate carnival, and most of them happy and drunk.
The pirate music, the lights, the grog, and the games filled the evening with joy. Pirates and yordles were sitting at the same tables or watched some of the events like throwing knife competiton with open betting. Some of the others were betting on which pirate can balance an egg on the flat of his cutlass for longer while walking circles. This task was a lot more difficult then it seemed for first, because the floor was wet from all the eggs dropped before, not to mention it's really hard balancing something when you're drunk. A little further was the traditional 'fish the apple out of the waterbarrel only with mouth' game, but there were a few dead people around it who seemed to have suffocated. Maybe a coincidence, but maybe someone pushed their heads into the water and kept it there for too long. Who knows. Anyhow, for people who had enough of games there were plenty of stalls offering all kinds of pirate liquor, lots of places to sit and drink, while a little further away from the docks towards town, mutton, lamb and turkey were roasted on open fire. For a few copper coins you could get any of that, or if you wanted some more, all the town's taverns and brothels were open all night-long.
"I think we should split up." - said Kennen as they arrived at the core of the festival - "We could really cover more territory."
"Good idea." - said Shen as he avoided a drunken sailor falling onto the planks of the dock just near him - "I'll take the side closer to town, you can stay here in the harborside, if that's fine."
"Kay. Let's meet at midnight. Any idea where?"
"How about the Saltwater Scourge? We can sure spot that monster from any part of town."
"Allrighty." - said Kennen, then disappeared into the crowd.
Shen, now alone, took a look around and decided to go give those roasts a check. He walked past a few tables and soon arrived by the fires, set up on an open square in front of the coastal taverns. There were five fires altogether, but they were big enough for more than one chicken at a time to be fried on them. The raw meat was packed in crates a few meters behind. Some people were sitting around the fires though most of them rather took the tables. Shen approached a pirate who was turning the turkeys above the fire.
"Good birds aren't they? How much for a leg?" - he asked.
"Five coppers. They were plundered from the finest trading ships. You won't find better in Bilgewater." - and with that he took one off the stick, cut the leg around with his knife then tore it off and handed it over to Shen in exchange for the coins.
Shen took a good bite of it and indeed, it tasted heavenly. He was really hungry from the two day long ship journey all without food, and a good leg of turkey in the warm, smooth night of Bligewater was really a treat. He picked a table with the fewest drunken sailors by it and took a seat there. The others didn't seem to bother, so after a few more bites he decided it's time to ask around.
"Hey guys, just arrived from Bandle City. What's up with the party? I mean what for?" - he asked, putting away his natural way of speaking. He didn't want to get down to the Fortuna Mayor straight away.
"For the pirates!!" - yelled the one sitting next to him.
"Hell yeah!!" - bawled another one - "We'll set sail this weekend. It's been so **** long."
"Going hunting again?" - asked Shen.
"Bloody right mate. Finally, the noxians showed those purple robes the way out. It was impossible to board a trading vessel before, or those cockheads came showering magic on your arse. But it's ALL over now, time to sharpen the sabers!"
"Well then, let's drink to that." - said Shen and poured some wine from the jug on the table into an empty tankard.
"Aye!" - the sailor raised his mug with repsect, then drank it all out.
"For the pirates!" - the example was followed by the other one.
"Ahh, nice one." - Shen put down his tankard - "Hey, I'm looking for a friend of mine, an old sea dog. He serves on the Fortuna Mayor that should have arrived yesterday, or at least a few days ago. Care to tell me where's the ship?"
"You weren't that late. It actually came early this morning. But the crew's staying on ship, well most if it. Anyway, it's docking a good three hundred meters from here, to the southeast. Close to the Crushed Skull tavern."
"Thanks. I think I'll just go and check it out."
"Right. One last on the hunt."
Shen drank his wine then stood up and headed for the direction the sailor showed him. Just as he walked among the dozens of tables again he noticed an interesting yell.
"Anyone else betting against the furrly little one? No? No more?"
Shen turned towards the voice's direction, and he saw Kennen on the shoulder of a huge, heavily muscular pirate who stood next to a target, throwing knifes sticking out of it's center. There was a small crowd around them.
"Do we have a champion?" - he shouted - "Anyone else wants to bet against him?"
"The rat's a cheater! The knives are weighted!! Give me my money back you scum!" - yelled a dirty looking man from the crowd.
"The rat used MY knives, besides you can't weight them like dice, you idiot! It has to be balanced, you scumbag, not weighted!"
"Is this balanced enough for you!?" - the man drew his pistol and shot at the target.
Altough the bullett didn't hit the center, the wooden piece still broke and fell from place. Someone from the crowd however didn't miss a punch at the cheek, knocking out the gun waving idiot. Two others grabbed the unconscious body and threw it off the pier into the sea.
"So the winner is this furry little yordle!!" - announced the huge pirate that carried Kennen on his shoulder - "Who's buying him the grog?"
Shen smiled, then kept walking after he witnessed the little scene. So it seems Kennen wasn't exactly doing his job, but well, who'd blame him? He's just like that. He's good with a shuriken, and probably wanted to look for information, but just couldn't resist the throwing knife contest. Let's hope at least he made some money.
After a couple of minutes Shen was back in the harbor checking the ships. The port was literally full of ships, almost not a free space, only for the smallest of them like the Salty Fish which was now tied to the shore with a rope. He started checking the names of boats close to the Crushed Skull tavern and soon found one with the inscription "Fortuna Mayor". It was a fast looking frigate, single deck and two masts, floating peacefully on the water with rolled up sails.
"Fortuna Mayor..." - Shen thought - "Fortuna Mayor. Why does that sound so familiar to me? Fortuna Mayor, Fortuna ... Miss Fortune? Is it her ship? She's probably the only female captain around here. Let's see."
Shen approached the sailor guarding the ramp leading up to the ship.
"Is the Captain onboard? I'd like to speak with her."
"A-a. Nay sir" - came the answer - "She wasn't onboard during the last trip from Bandle City. We'll meet 'er here."
"Ahh, might as well leave it. Thanks though." - Shen replied. He just didn't want the sailor to report his question.
Shen walked away, and made his way into the Crushed Skull tavern. So this guard confirmed that the ship's captain is indeed female. Now there really aren't many female captains running around, so it is very likely Miss Fortune. Even the ship's name indicates that. And also, she wasn't onboard when they took Akali here to Bilgewater from Bandle City. Now would Miss Fortune want to take Akali anywhere further? To Noxus? No, the army would have taken her there already. Then what? Ionia? Simply no reason. It appears Bilgewater was Akali's final destination. And that means Akali will be loaded off ship and taken somewhere inland.
Shen entered the Crushed Skull. It was a small tavern with many rounded wooden tables, the air filled with smoke. There was a different pirate music playing here than outside. Shen was hoping to find more memebers of the Fortuna Mayor's crew, but instead he recognised a very familiar pirate playing poker at one of the tables. It was the captain of that massive boat outside, the Saltwater Scourge. Gangplank.
Shen started to think. Actually, Gangplank and Miss Fortune are sworn enemies, so fighting one of them opens room for alliance with the other. Gangplank could indeed help, just how to tell him?
"Another bastarrd" - said Gangplank as he took aim and shot one of his poker partners - "I don't like the way he mixed those cards."
Shen took the opportunity and walked over to the table, grabbed the corpse and pushed it off the chair.
"May I join?" - he asked, standing next to the now empty chair.
Gangplank looked up at him, then the chair, the body on the floor then again at Shen.
"Sure, why not. Just don't mix as badly as him."
There were three of them now, Shen, Gangplank and another pirate who was mixing the cards, with great care of course. Soon Shen recieved his cards.
"Thirty copper for starters. I won't rest 'till I win!" - Gangplank smashed the coins on the table.
"I heard you like risks" - said Shen looking at Gangplank - "Be it seventy."
"Maybe I do. Holdin' and I'm raisin' to a hundred" - Gangplank answered.
"I just happen to have something for you. A little risk's involved but you can win off a lot from it. Like a hundred and fifty copper. Holding?"
"I'm out" - siad the third player.
"Really? How about two hundred and you tell me more?"
"Two hundred." - Shen placed two silvers on the table - "And I'll tell you when we're alone."
Gangplank pulled a gun from under his coat and shot the third player before he could stand up from the table. He noticed the pirate reaching for his gun, but it didn't help him, he was too late.
"So, we ARE alone now, by the Sea Devil! What is it? Yer got me curious there."
"It's Miss Fortune. She recived a gift from Noxus, a prisoner. Akali by name. Or at least that's what I suspect. Akali was taken prisoner by noxian forces during the siege but she arrived here to Bilgewater as prisoner on the Fortuna Mayor. That's Miss Fortune's ship right."
"Aayy, the biatch owns that dry-rotten piece of rowboat. But I'll have her once, and send her to a visit to the depths of the sea!"
"So, if I'm correct, Noxus wants Miss Fortune to control Bilgewater. Simply because, unlike you, she can be bought off. Akali is a gift to sign the alliance between them, so that Miss Fortune will owe a favor."
"Akali as a prisoner aye? Nasty piece of work could that be, she was a sharp fighter. But what the bloody hell does Fortune want with her? I didn't know she was into chicks like herself." - Gangplank took a sip from his pipe.
"No, it's not about that. Or at least, by all means, not only about that." - Shen replied - "Everyone knows a war is coming. A war that will reach Ionia sooner or later. Akali is important as an ionian champion, not as herself as Akali. It's all about that, if Ionia hears Bilgewater captures ionian champions, they're going to fear the pirates a lot more, making it easier for them to pillage the shores when Noxus finally launches the second war. Since Miss Fortune has the prisoner, many pirates will join her, and in turn Fortune will follow noxian orders during the war."
"Pirates aren't soldiers goddamit! We're free, and neutral as the salt of the seven seas!" - Gangplank said angrily - "That bloody Fortune has always been a w.hore for power."
"So, shall we capture Akali from her?" - Shen asked, slightly nervous but not showing it.
"Aayy. I won't allow her to tangle with Noxus on our bill. At least if she doesn't have this Akali any longer, no one will join her whoring. Altough I'm not interested in the girl, I don't believe in this hostage thing. It won't never work. So, where is Akali now?"
"I'm sure we'll find the answer on the Fortuna Mayor." - Shen replied.
"Tomorrow! It's too late for boarding it today, almost midnight it is. Go and find yourself a place to sleep. Besides I think I won the poker game."
Gangplank showed his cards, and indeed, they were better than Shen's. The pirate took the two silver coins, stood up and walked out of the Crushed Skull. Shen followed him to the harbor. The warm salty air of the night felt really good after the smoke filled tavern. He walked up to Gangplank and quietly said:
"I could sneak onboard. You know Plank, I'm Shen from Ionia."
"A thousand salty mudcrabs!!" - Gangplank spun around - "What the hell, you never walk around without that mask! Aahh, but anyway, you're in Bilgewater Shen! You don't sneak around here! You take what you want, and NEVER give it back! Tomorrow we'll board the Fortuna Mayor, I'll swear to that. But if you really are Shen, you'll come in handy too. You're good with a blade after all. Meet me at the Saltwater Scourge tomorrow morning at dawn."
With that, Gangplank turned and walked away, leaving Shen where he was. The ninja considered sneaking onboard Fortune's ship, but if Plank boards it anyway tomorrow then there was no reason for it. A hostile takeover still allowed a more detailed search than sneaking around poking in drawers.
So he made his way back to the docks to look for Kennen. He found the yordle sitting with two others at a table not far from the fires, a mug of beer in his hands. As he saw his friend approaching, he called out to him.
"Hey Shen! It's not midnight yet is it? Sorry if I wasn't at the ship, any success in the search? By the way, you won't believe, I won you about six gold coins. There was a contest of..."
"Yeah, I saw that." - said Shen laughing, as he sat down next to Kennen - "That throwing kinfe contest. You're certainly handy with those."
"Thanks. Oh by the way, he's Larry, a blacksmith from Bandle City..." - he said pointing at one of the yordles - " and that's Rhonheim, clock and watch specialist. An expert on time, and he said it's not yet midnight, so I can't be late." - Kennen finished with a wide smile - "They both escaped the city."
"I see. Glad to meet you. I see yordles aren't hunted here in Bilgewater. That sure can be a nice change."
"Not more than humans." - Larry answered. He was a strong, short muscular yordle with a thick moustache. A typical blacksmith, with a hoarse voice. - "Everyone's equally hunted here, if you don't watch yourself, you'll end up dead and robbed, yordle or human, doesn't matter."
"That's all nice and good..." - Rhonheim continued - "But who will need clocks here, I don't yet know. At least Larry's lucky, all the pirates wants their sabers sharpened, cannons forged, or bullets made for pistols. Plenty of work for him."
"I'm sure you'll manage" - Kennen answered - "Hey, if nothin else, you can still sign on a ship and plunder some booty."
"That wouldn't be very much like me." - Rhonheim sighed - "You know, I became a clockmaster because I don't like murdering."
"Really that was the only reason?" - asked Larry - "You could have became a blacksmith then."
"No, that wasn't the only reason..." - Rhinheim looked over to the smith with a bit of anger and contempt.
"Hey Larry..." - Kennen said after finishing his mug of beer - "You know you could forge me some well balanced throwing knives, or shurikens. I could certainly use some."
"I could try when I move into my smithy. I made a purchase here in town. Hell the old owner was happy to set sail again. Thirsting for blood and booty that one did."
"Hey Ken." - Shen patted Kennen on his shoulder - "We should go. I have news too."
"Kay." - Kennen nodded - "Allright gentlemen, thanks for the company, be seein ya."
The two companions stood up, and Shen suggested they go rent a room, so they headed for the closest tavern. But just on the way Kennen bought himself an entire roasted chicken, saying that even if he doesn't eat it now, it'll be good for breakfast. They paid for a night and moved to their room. The door had a huge rusty iron lock on it, with the key on the table. That was supposed to keep the thieves away, as if Bilgewater thieves wouldn't be known for blasting through doors.
The room had two old wooden bed in it, a small round table in the middle, a small closet, and huge amounts of dust and spider webs, along with empty bottles that previous lodgers left there. There was a single window looking at the harbor, and they could just see the five fireworks shot in the night that marked midnight. Before going to sleep, Shen explained everything he found out to Kennen.
"So, do you think this hostage thing really could work. I mean Gangplank doesn't trust it either." - asked Kennen.
"It all depends on how they use it." - Shen replied - "If they tie her up and hang her from the front mast, I bet it would work."
Kennen didn't want to think about a tied and hanged Akali any longer, so instead he said 'gnight' to Shen, curled up and closed his eyes.
Shen also drifted off to sleep, emptying his mind from all the troubles of tomorrow, Gangplank, the boarding of the Fortuna Mayor. They were so close to finding Akali now.
Shen awoke early in the morning. He opened his eyes, took a deep breath and sat up. Kennen in the other bed was still fast alseep, quietly moaning as he truend from one side to the other. There was no need to wake him up, Shen was certain he can handle the Fortuna Mayor with Gangplank alone, so he let the little throwing knife champion sleep and walked out of the room, quietly closing the door behind himself.
He left the tavern where they slept and walked out into the open. The docks were silent now, many of the pirates passed out, sleeping on the tables or on the ground. The fires were also extinguished by now, only ash remaining in the pits, but the colored flags were still swaying in the cool morning breeze.
Shen briefly looked around and spotted the Saltwater Scourge, easily the biggest ship in the harbor. Even from a distance he could see the crew was readying the ship for launch. As he walked up to it, Gangplank was already waiting.
"Shen, good you're here matey, we're soon setting sails."
"But the Fortuna Mayor is just over there. It dropped anchor long ago." - Shen was a little confused - "Why don't we walk over to it and board it from the harbor?"
"That wouldn't be like a pirate at all!" - Gangplank answered, his voice showing a bit of surprise and resentment - "Now get onboard, you scurvy ninja!"
"You're the captain..." - Shen shrugged. Guess it's the pirate's way.
Shen walked up the ramp leading to the Saltwater Scourge's deck. Gangplank soon followed, and the crew pulled up the ramp and released the sails. The ship left it's dock only to sail rougly 400 meters further along the harbor where the Fortuna Mayor anchored. Gangplank commanded the ship to sail up parallel to it. When they were just next to it, he bawled:
"FIRE! Ten middle cannons! Get ready to board!!"
The Saltwater Scourge fired it's ten central cannons on the left side that was looking at Fortune's ship, penetrating it's hull. The noise woke many of the harbor's sleeping sailors. The Fortuna Mayor cracked and leant right as water starting filling it's lower deck.
"Dammit, I didn't coun on that. We don't have much time 'till the ship sinks." - Gangplank muttered. Then he yelled over to the crew - "Board the ship already useless scum, throw those grappling hooks!! Remember we are looking for information, documents, papers, anything on a League champion prisoner!!! Whoever finds it recives ten gold coins! GET MOVING ALREADY!"
"Should I go as well?" - asked Shen quietly.
"If ye want to. But my boys will search every inch of that ship, there's nothing they won't find."
"Unless there are some of those famous secret rooms, ey?"
"They use pickaxes to cut through everything made of wood. And believe me, most things on a ship is either made of wood, or can be plundered and brough back here."
"Clever." - Shen admitted - "That ship's going to sink anyway after all."
"Bloody right mate. That biatch deserves it."
Shen walked over to the railing where he had a good view of the other ship. The Fortuna Mayor's crew did not provide much resistance, most of them still being drunk so Gangplank's men cut their way through them like knife in butter, soaking the deck with fresh blood. After fifteen minutes or so the Scourge's crew started returning to the ship, packed with heavy crates, sabers, swords and other meele weapons, powder barrels, nets, cannonballs, oil lamps and tons of papers.
"Allright boys, bring every documents and papers to my cabin. Shen, follow me." - the captain ordered.
Gangplank led Shen into his own captain's cabin. By it's size it could easily fit to be in a royal castle, except for the wooden walls. The room had the finest mahagony furnitures, the huge window in the back had velvet curtains to it's side while the walls were decorated by paintings, fancy blades and nautical maps. There was a nice mahagony desk in the middle of the room with a silver plate of oranges on it. Soon, a sailor arrived with a bunch of papers and books in his hand, and placed them on the desk.
"Right. Now we're gonna look through these. Shen, you know best what we're after so you're helping me on this. And you there, why are you still here?!" - the last sentence was aimed at the delieverer.
"Captn said it's ten gold whoever finds the document. The crew, ... and khm .. and myself... we would like to claim it."
"GET OUT! OR I'LL HANG YOU ON THE MAST!!" - Gangplank bawled.
There was no need to say it twice, the pirate ran out as fast he could.
"We did not find it yet, it might not be here. The greedy asssholes always want everything in advance..."
They split the material between themselves, Shen looked through the journals while Gangplank browsed the letters and maps. The journals contained information on where the ship has harbored before, bought and offloaded cargo as well as the first mate's personal notes. But it would appear that Akali was a secret business, because the books and records contained nothing about her, not even any prisoner loaded onboard in Bandle City. It appeared that Miss Fortune did have half a brain to strictly warn the first mate not to record anything.
"How about this, ninja?" - Gangplank asked as he tossed a map in front of Shen - "It's a map of the Blue Flame Isles. There's a spot marked with an 'A'."
"Don't pirates mark treasures with 'X'?" - Shen asked back.
"Not unless they want every cockhead to find it. But isn't it an 'Akali' that we're looking for? Couldn't be?"
"Maybe you're right. Anything else that might be it? Anything more you found?"
"Not a thing."
"So where is this place. You know the isle more than me."
"Hmm, lemme see." - Gangplank took a good look at the map - "If I remember well, that should be a seaside cave. So, that's where that whoring Fortune wants Akali taken?"
"Our only lead..." - said Shen quietly.
"We'll taki it then! You ready to move?"
"I am, but how will we go? It's a seaside cave, do we take the ship, or walk inland?"
"Hmmm... good question." - Gangplank replied - "What do you say?"
"I would do it like this: Have the ship somewhere close to the cave, but we go in on foot, unnoticed. When we need it, our ship can help."
"Right then, we'll do it your way."
"The Fortuna Mayor arrived here yesterday, early morning. Isn't it possible they're already done?"
"I think I can say you're lucky on that one, ninja. My pirates reported a caravan leaving yesterday evening, but they probably spent the night out in the wilderness, before they'd reach the cave. It would be too far, but they didn't want your prisoner in town anyway, for I might sink their ship too soon. Almost got them bastarrds still."
"Then waste not a minute, and hurry to the cave. I'll go get my companion." - said Shen as he rose from the table.
"What? So you're not alone aye? Who's this companion then? The third one of your little band, the yordle?"
"He is." - Shen answered shortly.
"I had a first mate once who was on for yordles, tho wasn't one himself." - Gangplank laughed - "But the sea took him in the end. Well, with a little help ... yahaharrr."
Shen slowly shook his head, but did not answer. Bilgewater probably never gets old with tales like this. He quickly left the captains cabin, and just wanted to leave, but the ship wasn't in port, since it was in position to board the Fortuna Mayor, that almost completely sank by that time. He looked around and found that the front of the Saltwater Scourge was just close enough to another ship that had contact with the docks, so he ran over to it and jumped.
"What the... " - many of the sailors yelled in surprise as Shen landed on their ship.
Unfortunately a lot of sailors came onboard to watch the 'sea battle' but the ninja just shoved away and ran off their ship into the harbour. At least that went smoothly. Now to wake Kennen up, if he isn't awake already, since half the the city was, due to Gangplank's clever cannonshots. Even a small crowd had gathered, but did nothing more than peacefully watched the Furtuna Mayor sinking to the bottom of the sea. Shen walked up to the tavern where they slept, but found Kennen sitting at a table just in front of it.
"I wondered where you are." - the yordle said as he arrived - "So? Tell me."
"We have a possible lead on Akali. We'll be heading further inland with Gangplank. So gather up and prepare to leave, okay?"
"Sure, it's not like I have much to carry anyway. Well aside from that handsome purse I won here last night." - he added with a smile.
At that point Gangplank arrived with a few men behind him, and soon caught up to them.
"So my friends, ready for a good healthy hike in the jungle? Ah, and you must be Kennen then. You know I had a first mate once..."
"You already said that." - Shen interrupted him.
"That was another one." - Gangplank looked back at him - "This one ... but nevermind then. The sharks remember and that's enough."
Kennen looked up at Shen's face to see his reaction, but there wasn't much he could read.
"Gentlemen, I'll lead the way!" - said Gangplank.
"The ship's on the move, right?" - asked Shen quickly.
"It is mate, it is. It will be waiting for us."
With that Gangplank took point, leading the little band. They went through town, and this was the first time Shen and Kennen actually went deeper into the city of Bilgewater. Most of the houses were still wooden shacks with sea specific objects left astray ahead of them, like lone anchors and unused ropes, or torn sails, objects typical of sailor families inhabitating the district. As Gangplank led them a little further in a few stone houses appeared as well, but shacks still remained in majority.
Bilgewater probably had the highest density of taverns from all the towns in Valoran. Aside from that, many small marketplaces appeared in various parts of the city as they walked through it, but nothing too serious, like a Demacian Fare. After a few minutes they reached the city gates, but Bilgewater had no guards like other towns. After all, there was hardly even a government.
Walking through the wooden city gates, they have entered the tropical jungle of the Blue Flame isles. This kind of flora wasn't unkown for Shen at all, quite the contrary, it had many similarities with the forests of Ionia, altough different enough for him not to be able to feel at home, still.
For a while Gangplank followed the dirt road leading out of the city before he entered the untamed jungle head-on at some point, his five pirates and the ninjas following him. After about fifteen minutes even the pirates stopped swearing at the bugs and mosquitos, because they got thirsty in the rising heat. Of course they drank all their rum away even before they left the ship. So, soon the only sounds were the footseps of the travelers, buzzing of bugs and the swishing of leaves as the wind got stronger times and again.
It was actually farther than Shen expected. After good four or five hours, when the sun was already past it's highest, Gangplank stopped. They were at the foot of a larger hill, with a small cave entrance, or rather a tunnel in it's wall.
"So, here we are lads!" - Gangplank said with delight - "The other end of this passage is directly at the shore. The Saltwater Scourge should already be there."
"But just to make sure..." - said one of the pirates, a voice hoarse from thirst - "We should wait half an hour, right?"
"Don't even think about it." - said Shen quietly - "So everyhting's ready, right?"
"Yes, so let's get a move on. I wouldn't want that whöre unworty of any sea to salvage the noxian alliance gift."
And so Gangplank took point again and entered the little tunnel, Shen and Kennen directly behind him, followed by the five pirates. After half a minute the little tunnel expanded into a huge cave hall, with the height of at least 10-15 meters. It had a large entrance facing the shore, actually big enough for an entire ship to fit through it, if only it had water. It was the biggest seashore cave Shen ever saw. And there it was, small campfire in the middle of it, with lots of crates around.
"Ssshh mateys..." - Gangplank whispered - "We don't want to alert them."
Shen took a better look at the people sitting around the fire. There were at least fifteen of them, and one wore a hat that appeared to be like Miss Fortune's
"That's our biatch..." - Gangplank whispered as they hid behind a larger crate - "Shen, can you see Akali anywhere?"
Shen scoped the area. There were too much crates and barrels and cargo in the cave, but still, he could not see any cage, or anyone tied up, or even any person that had Akali's body proportions.
"They don't seem to have her." - he whispered back to Plank.
"Well, the map was correct, Fortune's here. They must be expecting Akali. We should wait."
And so they waited, keeping an eye on the large cavern entrance. And the minutes went by, slowly turning into hours, and Shen's legs started hurting as he crouched behind the crate. The cave began to feel emptier with every past second, as hope of seeing Akali got weaker by every one of them. The people around the fire didn't seem to be in a chatty mood, they certainly didn't want to start chatting about when they expect Akali to arrive. After some time though, the person that appeared to be Miss Fortune stood up and started walking in circles around the fire, probably of boredom.
And then finally, footseps and noises of wheels could be heard. A caravan entered the cave, with a single horse and a carriage, and to Shen's greates relief, the carriage was carrying a cage, a cage in which Shen discovered Akali's two sharp, but tired and tortured eyes. He was sure Akali had spotted him, she even moved slightly, but gave no other sign. Ah yes, years of experience together made them feel each other's instincts, feel each other's thoughts, even their presence. Shen could have sworn that was the sole reason Akali spotted him in the cave's dark corner.
And so the time has finally come! The Saltwater Scourge was already sailing out from behind a small hill and a few trees that covered it before, to be in shooting range. The first mate must have seen the caravan and gave the order.
"Time to plunder!" - said Gangplank as he jumped out of his hiding place - "Parrrley!!!" - he shouted as he took aim and shot Miss Fortune right between the eyes.
Alas, his aim was proper as always, and with the League no more, such a kill had lost it's consequences. Shen used the confusion the pirate created and ran up to the caravan, throwing a blade precisely into the driver's neck. Kennen was right behind him, and showered the rest of the escort with throwing knives launched with bleeding precision. They lost count of the kills as Shen had to slice up a few more jugulars when the rest of the escort jumped at him. Once they had a few clear seconds Shen quickly collected his blade and they grasped the bars off the cage and pulled it off the carriage.
"More of them coming!!!!" - Gangplank yelled - "Take cover, I'll give the sign!!"
It seems the caravan was a little early and left part of it's escort a few minutes behind, because at least twenty more people was storming into the cavern from the shore's direction. Gangplank however fired another of his guns, signalling the Saltwater Scourge. In just a few seconds, the incredible noise of firing cannons filled the air, as the Scourge fired a volley of cannonbals through the huge entrance of the cavern. Shen and Kenen barely managed to drag the cage to a bumpy spot in the wall where they were covered from the cannonfire. Gangplank and his crew ran back into the tunnel, but Miss Fortune's crew wasn't close enough to make it, since they just entered the cave. The volley took every single one of them, filling the cavern with blood and torn off limbs, bones and organs lying everywhere. Then the ship finally ceased the fire.
"Shen....." - Akali whispered from inside the cage - "Kennen ... thank you..."
"It's not over yet, we'll have to get you out of here." - said Shen, a weak smile appearing on his face.
"Allright..." - said Gangplank as he watched over the effects of the massacre - "I think we're done here. Excellent job everyone. Oh, Shen, and I don't owe you anything for this tip, because there you have your comrade. Still, I am grateful to you."
"That's all good and nice, but we have to break this cage yet."
"Shouldn't Fortune have the key?" - asked Gangplank.
"Dammn, just my luck..." - Shen replied looking over to the fireplace - "A cannonball torn her body..."
Still, he walked over to Miss Fortune's remains. A cannonball just hit her on the stomach and tore her body in two, aside from Gangplank's pistol shot in the head. He literally had to dig through flesh and blood as he searched for the remains of cloth and pockets. Getting bloodied to the elbow, he finally found a key. It made sense Fortune had these on her, after all.
Shen ran back to Akali's cage and pushed the key into the lock - but it didn't fit.
"Dammn it! It's not that!"
"What? But ..." - Kennen blurted out in surprise.
"To hell with it, take her onboard and break that **** cage!" - odrered Gangplank.
With that two strong sailors grabbed the cage with Akali in it and carried it away, as the two ninjas just stared at each other's eyes.
"Come onboard, the two of you! I'll open some fine bottles of rum and there'll be 'Yohoho' all over the night." - Gangplank yelled over to them, obviously overjoyed by the victory - "And you Shen, get yourself washed in the sea. Believe me, saltwater's the best to clean off the blood, if you know what I mean."
Shen took a deep breath and walked out of the cavern, with Kennen behind him.
"But we found her Shen! She's safe now." - said Kennen - "Why aren't you happy?"
"I don't know Kennen." - Shen replied as he crouched down to wash his hands at the sea - "Maybe it's just all the suffering I saw in her eyes..."
"It doesn't matter now, she's safe, she could just as well be dead. Come on Shen, cheer up."
"Right..." - Shen answered shortly.
He climbed up the rope ladder that was hanged from the ship's side and climbed onboard. A strong pirate stood next to the cage with a crowbar in his hands, the lock broken on the deck, the cage already open. Gangplank, like a true gentlemen, held out his hand and gently held Akali's in his own, helping her out of the cage.
"Welcome on the Saltwater Scourge M'Lady." - he said - "I hope you'll be satisfied with my humble little ship."
But Akali ran straight over to Shen, and hugged him as tight as her weakened muscles allowed.
"It's allright Akali" - Shen whispered into her ear as he returned the hug - "It's allright now..."
Meanwhile Kennen also climbed onboard.
"You can't imagine how happy I am to see you, Shen. You really can't" - Akali mumbled as tears filled her eyes - "And you, my favourite little yordle." - she added, truning to Kennen.
"Akali, I missed you so much." - Kennen said on his warm, but always slightly hoarse voice.
"Here M'Lady! Have some oranges, they always help me." - Gangplank appeared with a silver plate of oranges in his hand - "I really wouldn't have a lady with tears on my ship, so take as much as you like."
Akali didn't refuse the offer, and took an orange off the plate. Shen quickly handed her one of his katanas and helped her peel the orange. No more words were said as Akali started eating segments of the orange one by one. It really seemed to do her good.
"You know Shen" - Gangplank walked up to him - "Our little action in the Bilgewater harbor didn't make us very popular there. Once the other captains find out, they wouldn't really like me being back there, so we'll just go sailing the seas for a while 'till they forget. And because I'm so grateful for you, for making this party possible, I'll let you decide where we go, okay?"
"Thank you Gangplank."
Shen considered the possible destinations. They could go back to Ionia now. But now that they have Akali, he felt they could do more than organizing defense back there. He felt they need to do something that really strikes the noxian army hard.
"We're going to Noxus." - Shen told Gangplank confidently - "I'm going to kill Jericho Swain."
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