Chapter 1:

Flotsam in the Storm

The Governor's Queen

~~~Five months ago…~~~

It had been about an hour since they’d entered the raging storm.

Rosamund was feeling like a fool. A deafened, thoroughly soaked, comically stupid clown.
And frightened.
So, so very frightened.

It was his first proper time at the sea and the group of three pirate ships they'd spotted was deceptively within their grasp. When Vice Admiral Khamil ordered his five ships to give chase, the Governor had nothing to say against it. The Helmsman warned them the air was strange, but neither he nor Vice Admiral thought too much of it.

He had no clue what possessed him to come aboard a ship into a sea battle. Khamil had kindly invited him on a tour of his newly obtained lands as he was leaving on his usual patrol. His ships were a part of special companies organized by Her Royal Highness and the Royal Admiralty, protecting trading routes where pirate ships often lay in wait. He did want to have a view of the land and sea he was now in charge of, so he saw no reason to turn him down. He felt like it was, perhaps, his duty as a Governor. Clearing out the pirates in the area was a task given to him personally by Her Royal Highness, the Queen of Bretonia. He thought he’d want to see how the younger Vice Admiral commanded his ships.

And then, an even worse idea sadly possessed Khamil. It was to allow their ships to enter a storm. He saw the darkened skies racing towards them, he should've known to abandon the pursuit. Rosamund should have intervened too, but he trusted Khamil knew what they were getting into. He stayed silent and didn’t disturb the man even when two other ships waved signal flags to tell them the mercury in their barometers was dropping dangerously low. He should’ve known better. And more importantly, Khamil should have done better.

But the pirates sailed there nonetheless, too. Did they perhaps have some way out of this mess? It was hard to imagine it amidst the crashing waves. Or perhaps they panicked when they saw their ships and didn’t notice the oncoming storm. Among other problems for the unfortunate pirates, Khamil’s ships managed to close the distance between them. They'd been exchanging cannon fire for some time now, both aiming terribly as the crews struggled to keep the ships afloat. Out of a barrage of forty cannons, perhaps one would hit, and so far, it hadn't hit anywhere important on either side. The man o war and two smaller frigates were skillfully navigating through the storm of both cannonballs and rain and even though they'd caught up to them at last, this battle was hardly won.

He heard the Vice Admiral scream a warning and tightly gripped the wooden rails. The ship lifted into the air and a wave of at least ten meters crashed into the bow. The deck was washed with seawater, but nobody went under. By this point, everyone had a safety rope tying them to one of the masts around their waists. At the very least he hoped this idiocy won't cost them more. Their situation was extremely dangerous, though. Sadly, by the time he'd told Khamil to abandon the chase - to which the sailors agreed gladly - it was too late. The storm was upon them, and it only brought the ships closer together. Instead of attempting to abandon the inevitable encounter, Khamil then ordered the men to open fire. The pirates did the same and were already firing by the time of their first barrage.

Like toys.

They were like toys.

Khamil severely underestimated nature and the ocean. Rosamund allowed him to and now regretted coming out with him. He should've stuck to leading the lands. Administrating and negotiating, bringing the law to the people on the outskirts of the Kingdom. Instead, he went out like a buffoon on a joyride with a twentysomething. It wasn't what bothered him the most, though. Khamil brought all these people with him, people who had no choice but to obey. The price of mutiny was the noose, after all. Or the firing squad, occasionally.

Rosamund blamed himself for not interjecting even if it wasn’t his place. He was the only one with a rank high enough to stop the Vice Admiral. He didn’t know better, and it wasn’t his fault. But he still felt guilty. The only apology he could offer to the men was to not be in their way, and not hide himself in the safety of the cabin. He (sometimes, when the storm allowed it) stood on the quarterdeck with Vice Admiral Khamil and the Helmsman, soaking in the disgusting and cold rain and seawater.

The lightning strikes were coming closer. The howling wind was blowing pure salt out of the water, making it difficult to breathe or see. The only one standing out in this storm was the Captain of the pirate man o war. They wore a sky blue coat that shone like a beacon against the black sky. He knew from the descriptions that this was the coat of the so-called Pirate Queen Adanita Vervain. To be this close to the source of everything, and to be unable to do anything about it, was the biggest embarrassment of all. She was within his grasp and yet he couldn't reach her. He could hear her shouting orders to her men, keeping them organized and safe. He wanted to compare the woman of the sea to the nobleman he was with, but he couldn’t make himself to. Despite the faults that led to them entering the storm, Khamil wasn’t an idiot. Perhaps the younger man wanted to show off the might of the ships to the newly appointed Governor and underestimated the situation.

And Rosamund didn’t stop him.

No. Staying calm was the most important thing to do in this situation. Keeping hold of himself. A mistake was made, but it couldn't be corrected if he goes off on a tangent like this. Vice Admiral Khamil was already making up for it by properly leading the men onwards, so it was time he started to pull his weight as well. Another lightning crackled and hit the nearby sea, immediately deafening him once again. If a mast gets struck, the ship will catch fire and whoever is on it will certainly perish. Perhaps not a fire, in all this rain, but if it is damaged it will be hard to safely and quickly sail back once they're out of the storm. There wasn't much he could do about that, though, so he focused back on the Pirate Queen. The lightning blinded him somewhat as well, but after a few moments he could see one of her men climbing the shrouds all the way up towards the crow's nest. The person was climbing in a strange manner, as if there was something wrong with their legs, but they safely made it all the way up - something not even Vice Admiral would've dared to ask of his men in the middle of a hurricane. The wind was blowing towards them, and he felt as if he could make their words out amidst the weakening ringing in his ears, roaring of the sea, and screams of his men.

"ɪ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ɪᴛ!"

"ʜᴏɪsᴛ ᴛʜᴇ sᴀɪʟs!"

And perhaps it was his imagination, but he could swear there was something like a long glowing thread in the hand of the man in the crow's nest, reaching all the way to the clouds like the string of a kite. And the pirates on all three ships truly did begin to hoist the sails, while those on Khamil’s ships were secured on their masts.
"The wind will tear them to pieces! They've gone mad!" Vice Admiral shouted next to him, as if that was something he wasn't aware of. However, Khamil seemed to be completely unaware of whatever it was that the person in the crow's nest was holding, meaning it could only be-

“BRACE!” Rosamund shouted.

The wind suddenly turned, slamming everyone on the ground. Rosamund found himself gasping for air, unable to breathe in the powerful burst. Vice Admiral and the rest of the crew weren't faring any better, and only the Helmsman managed to hang onto the steering wheel, which had shifted with his weight on it. The ship began to turn, while the ships of pirates were pushed farther away. Their sails were filled with the violent wind, but somehow did not tear. That meant he was right, unfortunately. "Mage!", he shouted back to Khamil. "They have a mage! In the crow's nest! Abandon pursuit immediately!" There was no way they'd make it through the storm chasing someone who was controlling the winds. Vice Admiral was straining to see what he meant through the salt and rain. The ships were already gaining distance, while their own ships were-

A shadow loomed over them. He looked to his left and his eyes widened. A wave, a rogue wave, easily towering above the main mast.

A wall of water, crashing down on them.

Rosamund's hands torn from the railing.

His rope coming undone after finding its limits in the unimaginable forces.

The railing of the ship once again greeting him on his departure overboard.

The depths.

The cold shocked him and the impact forced the air out of his lungs. For a precious moment, he couldn’t make out which way was up or down as violent torrents dragged him around. His already soaked clothes weighed on him, making it difficult to move, and he desperately wanted to breathe in, even if it was the water. He opened his eyes in the dark waters, looking for anything to tell him which way to go, and found himself directly under the very ship he fell off of.

He had no choice but to swim.

His long coat felt like lead. It felt like there were hands grabbing onto it from the abyss, calling for him and trying to drown him.

Not again, gods! Please!

Just as he was about to lose all hope, a wave lifted him up and he managed to break to the surface. He gasped for air and was greeted by the ocean as it pushed him under once again. This time, he wasn’t in as deep and he managed to find his way to the surface for the second time, wheezing and coughing from the cold and the water in his lungs. He was exhausted and with no way out. The ships were too far and were already being carried away by the storm. Something large floated between the waves not too far, and between the bouts of sinking and swimming he finally realized what it was. The mast! One of the masts had broken off, and if he’d only manage to reach it, perhaps he could survive!



He gave up trying to undo his coat and started desperately swimming towards it. The waves were pushing it away faster than he could move, but he had to hope and keep going anyway. Just keep on, or else you die.

Until his arms and legs cramped from exhaustion, and finally, he began to sink.

Per Astra