The Axe That Feeds
Edges of the tattered, crimson tabard that once covered Sand’s hauberk now wavered with each passing of the nights’ breeze as it lay by that tree. The pair of embroidered griffons and the spears they clutched under a golden crown was forgotten, begging to no avail for remembrance. Agreeing to join the scavengers, Sand continued to dust himself off as the two started toward the encampment. He stared out at the ocean as they walked, sensing the dawn’s approach.
“Name’s Mholberk.” said the man before signaling his arrival with a bird-like whistle, “Most call me Berk.” Alerted by the call, the others emerged from behind the lantern’s light. A man, same as Mholberk, wearing a patch over his left eye stepped forward, “Awful long piss, Cap’n. Ye get lost?” “Shut it, Falk!” shouted Mholberk, “Listen, Boys, this ‘ere’s Sand. Found ‘em in the trees. Ill as he is the bastard’s still got it in ‘em t’ take me. He’ll be accompanyin’ us t’ Limsa.” The man with the eye patch protested, “Joinin’ us?! Cap’n ye don’ even know ‘m!” to which Mholberk responded without hesitation, “I said shut it! He’s no threat t’ us and he’s got spirit enough t’ fill the both o’ ye.” Disgruntled, the man crossed his arms and plopped to the ground, back resting against their dinghy, and mumbled under his breath what were likely profanities directed at the captain.
“Sand, this ‘ere’s me crew – what’s left of it anyway.” Mholberk said as he grabbed the shoulder of the other man, whose gaze drifted down and away. He continued, “This be Wallmhar, our newest; keeps to ‘em self but he’s a good hand, trusty ‘nough fer our line o’ work.”. Wallmhar, still looking off, bore a slight grin which Sand noticed. He couldn’t figure if his stance was that of apathy or diffidence, “Perhaps a bit of both,” Sand thought to himself, focusing back on Mholberk as he began to speak again. “That one o’er there of more mouth than eyes, is Falkbhrat; never ‘fraid to share his mind that one,” Mholberk said, gently shaking his head. Sand greeted his acquaintances with a nod of his head, “Pleasure.” he said, before taking a seat on what was once a ship’s mast.
There was a brief moment of quiet, long enough for Sand to frustrate himself in his attempts to recall memories before the beach. The still was then broken as Mholberk sat down next to Sand, handing him a pouch of swill wine and a dented tin plate, holding just a few bits of mutton and a lump of bread. “Eat,” commanded Mholberk, “Ye can’t go dyin’ on me just yet. I’ve work in mind fer ye, ‘member?” Sand took a small drink before realizing the extent of his thirst, conceding to it and chugging nearly the entire wineskin. “So, Sand…,” said Mholberk, “Am I t’ take it ye know naught of how ye came here?” Sand corked his drink, paused for a moment and said, “I…remember nothing before this place.” “Hmph…” grunted Mholberk, “Suppose ye hit yer head in the wreck.” “I suppose…,” said Sand.
The morning light now began to peer over the glassy horizon. Wallmhar sat staring into the fire as Falkbrhat slept, arms crossed, still propped up by the boat. The captain tossed aside the bone he had been gnawing, picked up his wineskin and a small chest, and headed to the dinghy to load their haul from the night before. Wallmhar jumped up to aid Mholberk, kicking Falkbhrat awake on his way. Sand finished his meager meal and the remaining wine before assisting in the push out to sea.
Arriving at the ship, Sand was second up the net behind Mholberk, and as the crew hoisted the dinghy, Sand stood on the deck with his hands on his hips, taking in his new surroundings. The feeling of the waves under the hull and the salty mist hanging in the air seemed familiar enough to Sand but he wasn’t quite at ease around men of this particular profession. Snapped back to reality with an axe thrust to his chest, Sand’s eyes now focused on Mholberk. “This be yours now. Care for ‘er, learn ‘er ways and she’ll feed ya fer the rest o’ yer days. Oh, and don’t go puttin’ it me back now either, will ya?” Berk said as he started up the stairs to the helm, “an’ ’ave a look through them chests. Mayhaps there’s proper clothes what fit an Elezen. We train soon as ye’ve ‘ad some rest.”
The Pirates Life
A full day escaped Sand as he slumbered beneath the deck of Mholberk’s schooner brig, The Vicious, and when he rose the next morning he found Falkbhrat standing at his foot, back turned. Before Sand could question his presence there, Falkbhrat turned. He was holding a scrap of parchment, reminiscent of the one Sand had found stored in his hauberk on the beach. In a short moment of panic, Sand searched his belt and the bedding in which he lay. Finding nothing, he looked back at Falkbhrat, whose eyes stuck to the page. Sand then made the realization that the letter he searched for was the same his new crewmate now held. “Who’s Vana’diel?” said Falkbhrat. Sand, wearing a quizzical look, quickly snatched the paper from Falkbhrat and gave it a quick glance. “Where did you get this?” Sand demanded. Falkbhrat replied, “Easy now. It was just lyin’ ‘ere, how’s I t’ know who it belongs to?” Dismissing the offense, Sand turned his attention to the forgotten parchment and began to read:
I write this as our ship spirals the whirlpool from which Leviathan sprung to strike us down. Our objective completed, my only hope now rests with our sister ship – may Altana return its passengers to his majesty, to report on both our victory and defeat.
My dear wyvern is gravely wounded, and I stricken, for I have not yet sired Vana’diel another Dragoon.
I meet my end neither a Dragoon nor General, but a loyal servant of the great nation of San d’Oria, and so, I shall wear proudly her colors unto my demise.
Upon finishing the letter, Sand looked to Falkbhrat, mirroring the bewilderment he displayed. “You’re this E’palacion then?” said Falkbhrat. “So It would seem,” said Sand, “but I am him no longer. I know naught of the man who wrote this.” Days turned to weeks on the voyage to Limsa, and Sand, known now by the crew as E’palacion, grew even more skilled with the axe than the Captain who gave it to him. He learned the workings of the ship; to rig the sails and climb the mast, oft jumping half its length in a single bound. E’palacion thinks back to the letter from time to time, and of Dragoons, his forgotten home and the man he once was. He hears tales from the crew; of Ishgard to the north, of their thousand year war against the Dragon horde of Dravania and of a rogue Dragoon residing in the snowy mountains of Eorzea. The mentioned bond between man and wyvern is the source of many a conversation; for here a Dragoon’s purpose is to slay dragons, not ally with them.
On the seventeenth day, as E’palacion sat in the nest, he spotted a ship though the sun’s beams off the port bow. E’palacion called the sighting and swung down, meeting Mholberk on the deck. “Looks as though they’re comin’ straight for us.” said Falkbhrat as he leaned over the rail for a better look. Peering through his spy-glass, Mholberk’s mouth fell open. “I know that flag,” he muttered in shock, “…it’s the Reavers.”
Upon hearing that last word spoken by their Captain, a strange quiet washed over the crew like an icy breeze. The sea itself calmed in ominous anticipation and the sun hid in the clouds. Falkbhrat and Wallmhar made ready the sails with incredible haste. Nothing of these Reavers was ever mentioned to E’palacion. Confused and a bit frightened now, he stood motionless, staring at the enemy ship on the horizon. As the Vicious turned its tail with Mholberk at the wheel, the others fetched the weapons. “Sand!” said Falkbhrat as he launched his axe to him. Catching it, E’palacion finally asked, “Preparing to fight, then? Just who are these Reavers?”. Wallmhar and Falkbhrat stared back at him with the deadest of faces. “Pirates,” said Mholberk from behind them, “The very worst of ‘em all”.
Try as they might to escape, the Reaver’s ship was too fast for the Vicious. The crew knew well the futility of their action – the coming battle was inevitable – but it bought just enough time to craft themselves an advantage.