The captain of the three-masted sohar stepped carefully, almost methodically down the gangplank to the dock. His name was Divo Zucco, and he had named his ship “The Sea Hag” in recognition of the terror that his late mother-in-law had instilled in him. Captain Zucco took a few minutes to adjust to the solid ground and looked around the dockyards of the town of Barria. This often-overlooked backwater fishing center on the heel of the Forkanzan Peninsula had never rated highly in the schemes of the squabbling nobles who had fought for generations over control of Forkanza. But now Captain Zucco noticed with dismay that a new flag fluttered high above the old customs house. Barria had been absorbed into the Fourth Imperium.
Another glance around and the captain was confident that what remained of his crew had been successful in securing his ship to the dock, so he began walking down the waterfront keeping a wary eye out for anyone that might be deemed an authority figure. For his entire career of existing just beyond what the laws would allow Captain Zucco had succeeded at just one thing and that was not being noticed. He was not a boastful man, nor was he a flashy attention seeker. He did not flaunt what wealth he acquired, and he made sure that his crew stuck to these same guidelines. Drawing attention to oneself was a surefire way to end up on the wrong end of a noose.
Normally Captain Zucco would leave a handful of crewmen aboard his ship to keep an eye on things, but as fate would have it a handful was all he had left. Putting into port at Barria had not been on his agenda of things to do this month, but necessity dictated the change in plans. A week ago, he hadn’t been entirely certain that The Sea Hag would have made it to Barria. His ship would need some repairs but nothing too critical. The main thing was hiring more crew members.
Immediately after arriving in Barria, Captain Zucco had dispatched his first mate, a lizardman named Kellkwog, to pass the word along the dockyards that The Sea Hag was looking to hire more personnel. While Barria was not a massive port city bursting with potentially awesome available manpower, it was a place that Captain Zucco might find folks willing to break a few rules once out in the open sea. Here at the southern end of nothing in Forkanza there wasn’t exactly a shortage of criminal types that might be looking to escape trouble on land in order to find more of it at sea. The list of crew members that Captain Zucco needed was a bit daunting. Normally his sohar ran with a crew of twenty-five, but he needed at least twenty to do the job right. Right now, he had all of twelve men. That left him eight short of what he needed for the vessel to function well, and another five to help tighten things up even more. If he could get a total of ten to sixteen more men, then Captain Zucco could sail on to get the repairs done that the ship needed. Heck, he’d even consider hiring a woman or two if they knew their way around a ship and wouldn’t disrupt the duties of everyone else by being all feminine and ridiculous.
Arriving at the Wilder Bogbeast tavern, Captain Zucco took another long slow look around. Inside he could see Kellkwog enjoying a tankard of ale while he chatted with those willing to get close enough to the lizardman. As Captain Zucco walked into the tavern, he removed his hat and waved it to the bartender. He made his way to a table on the right side of the main room and sat down heavily. This was a rotten business, this. Hiring some new crewmember, still wet behind the ears and green around the edges, just to take them out and risk getting them killed.
But the pay was good.