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Thomas Bennet

Master of the "Eye of the Wind"

0 · 281 views · located in The Emberverse

a character in “Broken Ocean”, as played by Ragnarök

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Placeholder until we sort out character sheets

So begins...

Thomas Bennet's Story

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October 3rd, Change Year 8
South of Tofino, West Coast of North America


There was a determined and grim silence amongst the men who sat quietly on the wooden deck, the only sound apart from the creak of the rigging over their heads was the hiss of the ships hull as it sliced through the moonlit waters of the north Pacific. Carefully shielded lanterns cast small patches of light on bearded faces, armoured bodies and the black sleekness of wetsuits where no armour covered them over. Eight years ago these same men would have been cradling automatic weapons and clutching the side of fast moving RHIBs but things had changed since then. Where machine guns had once been held there were crossbows and short powerful recurve bows. Swords, axes, spears and shields, even a few tridents, their wicked points dulled with boot polish to match the night sky above, were racked carefully along the gunwales within easy reach.

Two men lay in the bow of the sleek sailing vessel that raced through the blackness, her masts straining with the mass of canvas that had taken an entire winters season to dye black. The cool night air smelled strongly of salt and the deep scent of the rain forest that loomed large a kilometre to their right. Each held a pair of priceless binoculars to their eyes as they probed the darkness ahead, sweeping from right to left as they had been trained so many years ago; “Always scan the opposite way you read, it forces your brain to slow down, forces you to notice the details”, their instructors had said and the men had listened, and now, on the oceans of a reborn world, they used that lesson to hunt a bitter foe.

The man on the right stiffened slightly, refocusing on the disturbance that marred the otherwise perfect rolling swells that caused their own bow to rise and fall by nearly three feet every dozen yards they travelled. It could be a whale, or some other sea creature, but he was almost certain that there was a faint trail of bubbles that all ships left when they had recently passed through an area, thrown up by their bow was they moved through the sea. He was deeply conscious of the netting that he lay on, the strands of rope crisscrossing his body while the ocean below splashed up to soak his chest and groin through the wetsuit and armour. He could catch faint whiffs of the Douglas fir wood that had been used to craft the vessels bowsprit.

The ship heaved through another swell and as it came down a grim smile cut split the blonde beard and battered face that gazed through the binoculars. There could be no mistake, not one but four such trails were still vaguely visible, even in the dark, the enemy were close.

Satisfied, he slithered back, carefully avoiding trapping any limbs or weapons in the netting and tapping his compatriot on the shoulder as he went, the second man followed. Both were big men and it took a lot of skill to move their bulk in armour without creating an ungodly racquet. They put their heads together for a brief second as the blonde man described what he had seen, speaking quietly rather than whispering for whispers carried further, especially over the open ocean, and the other nodded before he crawled back into position, his job now was to watch for the enemy and make sure they didn’t run them over in the night.

The men and women who were gathered on the deck had looked up the moment he had left his post and all of them watched him expectantly and he regarded them in turn. Not a single one of them wasn’t battle tested, you had to be to have survived the end of the world, and most of them had been fighting even before then, all had killed another human being before. He could see fingers flexing on weapons shafts and the coiled strength of each, like a cobra waiting for orders to strike. All of them had served their countries proudly before the Change and now they followed a new Code of honour but their skills remained sharply honed and they were the best.

“Enemy sighted.” The blonde signed using code common amongst fighting men. Four fingers signalled four boats. It was how many there were execting, sources had told them that the raiding party had been five boats but they knew that one had burned during the raid. The gathered warriors, he supposed that’s what they were now, nodded and quickly double-checked their weapons, everything was as perfect as they could be and he knew that there was no need for him to double check. There were only a dozen black clad figures but each had learned their trade from the best in the world and he would pit any one of them against five of their enemy. As one they pushed up to the edge of the gunwales and stared into the dark, the last little lanterns carefully extinguished as they sorted themselves into teams of three. It didn’t seem like many to take an enemy ship but, for all he knew, they were the only ones who trained in shipboard combat.

Silence fell again and the blonde returned to the bow, he didn’t need binoculars now to see the enemy ahead. Four schooners were moving slowly through the waves, ladened with plunder and slaves, war canoes, three or four each trailing behind them, towed pack train style. Classic Haida raiding party style and this one had hit a Sheikh settlement the day before gotten away with plenty of plunder and slaves. The Sheikhs were not a sea faring folk, manning nothing larger than a small fishing boat but they had money and wasted no time in engaging the services of the vessel that now plowed through the cool waters of the Pacific.

The Eye of the Wind, a pre-Change Brigantine, and one of the fastest tallships afloat, had been anchored in Ganges Harbour on the Saltspring Island in the former Canadian province of British Columbia. When the Change hit she had been commandeered by the local Government as they tried to establish order. There was luck on the wind that night as the Island was also playing host to a collection of Special Forces teams from around NATO who were engaged in war games in the Islands interior. When it became clear that things would not be returning to normal the regional Government collapsed and the Eye of the Wind, as well as Ganges Harbour, full to the sole care of the former special operations teams. Some infighting and indecision on what to do had whittled them down in numbers but more than enough remained to create a permanent base on the island. As the years past they found employment as Pirate Hunters, specifically targeting raiding groups from the north. They had added one other vessel to their fleet but the Eye of the Wind remained the largest, which was why, on this cool October evening, she was slowly closing on the enemy ahead.

The schooners weren’t much smaller than the Eye of the Wind none were as fast or as nimble and none were certainly as well manned. Warfare had changed somewhat since the blonde had been a soldier in the elite Canadian Joint Task Force 2, before that he had been a sailor in the Canadian Navy. The hardest truth to accept following the Change was just how damn hard it was to sneak up on someone else at sea with a sailing ship. He sometimes thought that perhaps his prayers were being heard by someone however because on this night a rising storm at their backs, it’s black clouds masking the mass of sail above his head. They had closed quickly but it was only a matter of time before someone realized they were there. The thought has no sooner entered his head as they gained within a hundred yards of the slowest enemy vessel that someone finally took notice.

A sentry, possibly one who had been sleeping until that moment, stood and peered towards them, and as chance would have it the moon peeked out from the clouds. He opened his mouth, eyes growing wide in alarm but before a sound was uttered a crossbow cracked from the forward gunwale of the Eye of the Wind and he clutched at the bolt that took him in the chest, pirouetting like a drunk before collapsing against the rail. A scream came from someone in the darkness and it heralded a scene of chaos on the rear most vessel and a man ran to the rail, dying as his compatriot had with a crossbow bolt in the gut. A small ballista swivelled amidships on the Eye of the Wind and a heavy “chunk” cut through the night along with the sound of something whipping across the water towards the Haida vessel. It flashed once in the moonlight and then slammed into the mast, gouging a great chunk out of the wood. The mast, already stretched under the strength of the wind to the vessels stern gave a great groan and then broke with a crack, toppling into the water.

One of the men crouched along the Gunwale bent his head to a large metal horn fixed to the ships mast near his head and filled his lungs.

“BARRROOOOOOOW”

The sound was terrific, echoing across the water and sending the men on the Haida ships into a frenzy as they rushed for weapons and armour. Their screams of terror could be heard across the water as they called out the name of their attacker for their could be none who did not recognize the great horn, the call of a hunter bringing its prey to heel.

“Ta-xet! Ta-xet!”

God of Terrible Deaths. Got a nice ring to it! The blonde smiled thinly at the thought as he kissed the blade of the axe he held in one hand, then raised it in the air and gave a formless scream that challenged the nights sky. To those watching there could be no doubt that his Viking ancestors walked with him that night as the killing began.

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October 6th, Change Year 8
Kingdom of Victoria - Formerly Vancouver Island, British Columbia


Say what you want but slavery gets shit done... The thought was an idle one, but one that struck Thomas Bennet every time he came back into port. He was seated straddling the gunwale as Eye of the Wind ghosted silently across "The Roads" towards the City, his blue eyes keenly noting the defensive weapons that tracked them from atop the towers that guarded the entrance to the harbour. Even a kilometre out to sea he could smell the city as they came closer, put enough people into one place and it was bound to smell. Luckily for them the pre-change sewage system was gravity fed and flushed straight out into the ocean.

His thoughts on this day however were directed towards the impressive building that sat atop the high point of land in what had once been the Township of Esquimalt. In the years following the Change the man they now called the Grand Elector had united the various factions of military and police survivors to form an army that quickly took control of the region. Those who had a speciality skills had been recruited for them, blacksmiths, engineers, carpenters, and so, those who did not have such skills, well, they could still work. The central building was built stones salvaged from the old provincial legislature building, now known as the Electoral Palace, it was the heart of the city-states government functions.

Ruler of this new world city was the Grand Elector, known to those pre-Change friends like Thomas, as Robert Binder, and he had taken to the Change like a fish did to water. With the support of various armed contingents following the Change he had turned what should have been an utter shambles into a working masterpiece. Esquimalt, surrounded on almost virtually every side by water, had been a natural stronghold and Robert led the charge in claiming it and turning it into a wonder of the post-change world.

A twelve kilometre long curtain wall now encircled the entire Township and the one section that had been solid land had been dredged out, effectively making the city an island with 8,000 people inside its walls. Robert had also taken the liberty of renaming this new City after the former Canadian provincial capital of Victoria, now a ruined husk only a stones throw across the old eastern harbour. That harbour might have been a good choice to build a city around but a cruise ship had slammed into the seawall and sank, blocking the harbour. The rusting white hulk was easily visible to Thomas as they drew closer; it’s glassless windows gaping like so many surprised mouths. Most of the people aboard had drowned or been burned alive when the ships fuel, spilling into the harbour, had ignited and engulfed much of the harbour mouth. To the west was the old Naval base, Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, and it had remained clean and clear, it’s deep water port well suited to handle the tallships that plied the worlds oceans for salvage.

The warships that had once moored at those piers had been dragged out into the roads and anchored, slowly being stripped of useful material. They still rode there, still sharply angled and proud in their bearing, monuments to the technologies man had once been capable of producing. One in particular was more than a hull to Thomas, the HMCS Vancouver, the first warship he had ever sailed on and where he had met Robert. He could still, in his minds eye, envision the 57mm deck gun shooting rapid fire in the Gulf of Aden as they engaged Somalian Pirates, it seemed like a lifetime ago. They were passing the stern of the Vancouver now and he threw a gentle salute towards the rusting grey hull. In a year or two she would probably sink of her own accord but her service would never be forgotten. It brought a lump to his throat to think of how easy it had been to traverse the world with those massive diesel engines beneath your feet. Now it was the wind, and the strength of men, that drove the conquest of the seas. An era had come and gone.

“Request for recognition code from the Harbour Master!” The lookout above Thomas’s head gave him a slight start and he waved to acknowledge that he’d heard before taking out a small pocket mirror and blinking a code towards the harbour ahead. It was standard protocol but since the Eye of the Wind had left alone and was now returning with two other vessels it only made sense the Watch Commander would ensure they were friendlies.

The entrance to Esquimalt harbour was sandwiched between two imposing structures. Colourful banners streamed from their turreted tops and the glint of spears could be seen as watchmen leaned on the parapet, the flash of light against a binocular lens let him know they were being closely studied. To the left of the harbour sat on the site of the World War II fort bearing the same name of Fort Rodd Hill there now stood a post-change fortress of concrete and steel, a long low parapet facing the sea revealed narrow shooting gaps through which the tips of ballista could be seen, ready to smash an enemy ship into submission. To the right was a second fortress built on the site of Admirals Point, formerly the home of the Royal Canadian Navy’s Pacific fleet commander. It was now the head quarters for the Victorian Defence Core and also boasted the highest tower in the area; it was to this point that Thomas directed his recognition code. There was a brief pause and then an answer blinked in the afternoon sunlight.

Not for the first time Thomas marvelled at the size of the walls that stretched away to his right. They were almost sixty feet high and twenty feet thick with massive square towers every 100 feet. They, along with virtually all the buildings pushed up since the Change bore a striking resemblance to Italian City-states of old. That was two fold, someone had called it “Founders Syndrome”, people took on the characteristics of their leaders and now one was more fiercely proud of his Italian heritage than Robert. The second reason, and Thomas still felt like a complete nerd for even thinking it, had been that many of the upper echelon in power here had been big fans of Assassins Creed and so modelled most everything off what they knew of that time period.

It might look a bit silly sometimes but hell, at least we aren’t pretending to be medival knights, right? Thomas thought with a somewhat shame faced grimace. Not like those lunatics in Oregon playing King Arthur and the Celts. He chuckled to himself. Yea… Soooo much better…

The light from the top of the tower had continued to blink as they got closer, the breeze freshening to push the scent of the pine trees out to mask the smell of the city and he took a deep breath, enjoying the sharp crisp October air.

“All clear to proceed! The Grand Electors compliments and requests you join him in the Electoral palace as soon as your able.” The lookout cried out again and Thomas jumped down from his perch as the Eye of the Wind angled her bow towards the gap between the two fortresses.

They were on the final approach now and on their left the Palace of Royal Roads came into view. The old military academy turned university was now the Grand Electors summer residence when he wanted to get out of the city and the massive cedars around it were turning a bright orange colour that complimented the colour change on the vines as they swarmed up the stone building.

End of the world or not, no one could have predicted how this would turn out. The thought came to him as he looked past the Palace and further inland where he could just see the swell of lush green pastures dotted with herds of cattle. If Vancouver Island had one thing it was a great growing season and the ability to support plenty of life. But that was never enough, even now, in the north, towards Duncan, he knew that armies were preparing to heave against each other and soon men would die beneath the golden boughs of the mighty Cedar trees. Thomas touched the sword at his waist and then the hammer that hung about his neck.

“Madness ends sometimes. The Gods decree it, not man.”

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