The night fades as a blot of grey passing for the sun slithers out from behind the horizon.
The captain of the clipper, named Marrey Alle, is a short man with dwarf blood running through his veins. He stands near the wheel with his grey eyes on the brackish water behind.
His thick reddish brown beard billows like the sails in the cold morning wind.
“All is well,” bellows the sergeant at arms ringing the shift bell three times.
The captain is not sure that is true.
As the twenty sailor night crew prepares to hand the reins of operating the fast moving cargo craft over to the forty sailor day crew, he concentrates on a dot bobbing in the water maybe half a league back.
This has been a good crew. Hard working and nary a problem rousing one shift to replace the other. There have been a few discipline issues among the twenty marines they have on board for protection but not one punishment requiring an overboard, which is the usual pacification method with the fighter types.
The captain debates whether to keep both shifts on and alert the marines to stand by. He can sense trouble in the wind. He can almost hear the toil of battle building up on the water behind them. Maybe it’s all imagination, but he has not made it to over a hundred years of service at sea by not acknowledging an itch when he has one.
The night pilot notices the captains mood turn dark.
“This I ain’t be knowing. Doth ye spy that quavering speck behind us?”
The pilot takes his brass scope out of his inside coat pocket and fixes it to his face. On the white tipped wake he does spot a vessel. An old black two mast cutter.
“Aye, it be a cutter with two sails. Better them than a kraken I hazard.” The pilot is an old navy man also, but human and standing maybe five and half feet tall, shiny balding scalp with a rim of graying hair just starting to sprout from his shorn scalp. He is an excellent hand at the wheel, but with only fifteen years ferrying cargo across the Great Sea his guess is not as valuable to the captain as his own intuition.
“Nah, I think me prefer a sea beast to what approaches our aft.”
The pilot puts the glass to his eye again and notices the vessel does not fly any colors, “pirates?”
“Aye, and not just any ole pirates, I be guessing.”
The captain glares behind as if he could light a fire with his eyes and melt the fast running cutter into the drink.
“Hurry the first-mate, she be needed.”
There are many pirate clans rumored to be operating along the rocky East Coast, but lately all whispers seem to point to one having claimed dominance over all others.
The rumor is this particular pirate king has a Minotaur on retainer.
He is not very good on the water, but he is a bit crazy so it all works out. They call him the Minotiarius because he likes the net and trident. The pirate king keeps him below deck, well fed and uses him only in combat. His hooves make him almost worthless with deck work, but his strength is legendary in skirmishes. His reputation grows and stories are told by survivors how he can take an axe to the chest or neck and the only punishment felt only to the wielder of the weapon.
The captain could question how a Minotaur becomes a pirate?
Some stories could start with his progeny, a bull owned by a King.
The unsatisfied queen would visit the pasture and one thing lead to her giving birth to a horned devil.
The king banished the demon kin to an island.
The resulting sire was the Minotaur. He fantasized about escaping his labyrinth island, but the only way off was by boat.
Could it be that one was found?
Oh the irony of finding a boat only to become slave to a pirate king stuck forever in the bowels of the ship used as a weapon to gather booty.
The captain knows he is confusing legend with reality. There are minotaur clans here and there. News of the maze builders crop up occasionally. They are a dangerous nuisance who love to fight for sport.
He is distracted by heavy boots climbing the stairs to the wheel. He turns and faces the first mate. Her long blonde hair braided and twisted down the center of her straight strong back.
“Ser?” the first mate salutes.
He likes her. He could have had any number of sailors in her place, but none would have come close to her in terms combat.
“Prepare the crew,” the half dwarf growls, “a battle brews.”