S&S: The Screaming Mermaid

      Today’s snippet, titled “The Screaming Mermaid”, is a piece I wrote about my PC in Paul’s new pirate themed Pathfinder Campaign.
      Be forewarned, there may be mature themes and naughty language below. No really. More than any previous RPs I’ve posted because… non-good ca
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      “We’ll be there before we know it.”
      “Yuh.”
      Lorenzo chuckled to himself. Red was not convinced, but then again, why should he be? They had already been aboard The Screaming Mermaid for eight interminable weeks with at least that long to go. That she had been the only ship leaving Oppara on the tides when they’d arrived in the capital was their primary reason for choosing her. The name itself left a bitter taste in his mouth; Lorenzo preferred his bedmates to be sighing or moaning or even crying out to the Gods, not crying, struggling, or screaming. Still, The Screaming Mermaid had been crewed by a bunch of Vudrani out of Jalmeray and they seemed a decent enough lot. Dirty, vulgar, and undoubtedly criminal – but fun with it.
      This’ll all be worth it once we’ve got our hands on all that booty, he smirked, stroking his goatee. Lorenzo was leaning idly against the railing on the aft – wait, no.. starboard? Whatever – of the ship; he could feel the map case resting against his thigh and the expression deepened upon his lips. It’ll be worth more than even I can count in a hundred years. All that ancient loot, collecting dust in some hidden temple. Bless the Stinging Bitch, I cannot wait to get my hands on it.
      “Yo, Big Red!”
      The First Mate, a burly half-elf bitch with an eyepatch and a vivid scar that ran from her forehead to her chin splitting her nose in half, was beckoning Red. They had grown quite used to her booming voice during these past eight weeks, though Lorenzo did not believe he would ever get used to all the work a functioning ship required.
      “My ship will have to be much smaller,” he muttered, leaning his back against the railing to watch the crew bustle about with their assigned tasks. “Not so many hands to keep busy.”
      “Nor s’many mouths t’feed,” came a familiar voice as a hand clapped him on the shoulder. “Hop to, Renny m’boy. We gots us a whole messa fresh corn to shuck, a pig to slaughter, and a crate of spoilt apples to somehow make taste like they ain’t rotted clean through.”
      “Oui Chef.”
      Lorenzo followed The Screaming Mermaid’s head cook – a reedy, slip of a fellow who could not have weighed more than seven stone soaking wet. They descended to the galley and Lorenzo found his eyes drawn again to the ragged scars on either side of the man’s head. Graceful, pointed elven ears had been shorn brutally, his flesh hacked at so mercilessly that hair no longer grew in wide, curving swaths from his temples to his nape. But for all that orcish pirates out of Manaket had mutilated him, Faedrin Twice-shorn was a perennially jovial man who held no ill-will toward those who could name themselves orc-kin. Lorenzo had to admire the way the elven cook let nothing dim his joy; he loved food, he loved filling the hard-working bellies of the crew, and he loved butchering things. Love what you do, m’boy. Life ain’t worth a shit if you don’t love what ya do.
      “Start with them apples, Renny. Cut out the worms – but save ‘em for my chicks – and slice out the worst bits for the pigs. The rest – we’ll give ‘em a little boil, mash ‘em into a sauce, and mix in a handful of that sweet beet juice I got hidden on the back shelf of the pantry. Might even be edible that way.”
      “Oui Chef.”
      The repetitious work was surprisingly enjoyable. A man who had never done an honest day’s labor in his life, Lorenzo had proved a disaster hauling heavy rope, too slow at moving crates of cargo, inefficient at mending sails and splicing rope, and hopeless at swabbing the decks. Other than climbing up in the rigging as if it were the massive oaks he and Red had climbed as boys, the only task Lorenzo had been suited for was cooking. And he took to it as if it were his calling.
      He had never given food a second thought when it was brought to him, made to order and piping hot no matter the hour, nor had he considered the poor fucks who had to clean, shuck, chop, mash, boil, and dice whatever produce or protein struck his fancy. Now he felt a twinge of guilt remembering how often he had left a dish untouched to chill and congeal – ruining the extensive effort of a team of kitchen staff. Maybe one day he would return home to the Estate and apologize to them; or else he’d forget this feeling entirely and go back with a buxom brown-skinned bride from somewhere exotic, breed up a mess of heirs, and let them fight for supremacy until he laughed himself to death watching from a comfy, plush, lounge chair.
      When the apples were cut, boiled, mashed, and ready Lorenzo moved on to shucking corn. He knew better than to ask where Faedrin had acquired a crate of fresh corn out here in the middle of the fucking Inner Sea. Corn was peasant food, so far as he was concerned, but Faedrin had ways of making it taste like a dish fit for kings. Particularly when he stripped the kernels from the cob and tossed them into the fish stew with a handful of powdered, smoked chilis and some dried parsley.
      It was some sort of magic – the way the elf sprinkled flakes of this and powdered that, stirred in juice from one thing and vinegar from another, heated and cooled and spread and mixed and in the end came out with something edible and filling from what seemed like basically nothing. Lorenzo found it similar to alchemy – each recipe akin to a formula. Perhaps that was why he had taken so well to the skill, despite his upbringing, for Lorenzo had a very logical, analytical mind and he enjoyed experimenting with things to discover new results.
      “Renny, m’boy – catch that pig will you? It’s time to string him up in the culling cube.”
      Normally, Lorenzo did not allow folk to call him Renny. Only his great-grandfather had the right. Yet somehow, when Faedrin used the appellation, Lorenzo did not mind. In fact, as he chased down, cornered and scooped up the pig, he was smiling.
      Catching the pig was amusing. He was a clever little bugger and quicker than one might think.
      Stringing it up was tiresome. The little bastard squealed and screamed and struggled the whole time.
      Slicing its throat was gratifying. Blood flowed down over his hands, hot and sticky and vaguely sweet.
      Eating the pig would be delicious. Pork in all its multitude of preparations was on the top of Lorenzo’s list of favorite foods.
      Once the swine was drained, the real work began. Faedrin showed him where to slice and how deep and which of the ten types of knives to use for what sort of cut. Peel this here, scrub that there until the bristles fall out, roll out a keg, heft the sack of salt, lug, pour, sift, slap, grind, stir, and so on ad naseum.
      “You look a little green around the gills, Renny, m’boy. The blood gettin’ to you?”
      Lorenzo shook his head. Eight weeks upon the Screaming Mermaid and he still had not quite gotten his sea legs. Red took to it all with hardly a blink of an eye, but then, Red had had to adapt to circumstances a hell of a lot more often in his life. Lorenzo may not have been a Prince or the son of an Archduke or Baron, but even his status as the sole heir of a lesser viscount’s house granted him the kind of ease in life where things naturally rearranged themselves to his preferences rather than forcing him to change course.
      “Non, Chef. The blood doesn’t bother me.”
      “No? Well, you did good work today, kid. Go topside, get some fresh air. I’ll get one of the swabbies to help serve tonight. Kiskaeyn asked for you and Red to sit at her table tonight, instead of at the trestles with the crew.”
      Lorenzo hesitated, unable to keep the dismay from his face entirely, then nodded hoping Faedrin had not noticed.
      “Oui Chef.”

– – – – – – – – – – –
Signed, Josie
Note: Image is “Skull” by (George Crux) and “Black Cuffs” by (Andrzej Pobiedzinski) from SXC.hu; edited by me

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