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Any Port In A Storm [Solo, Complete]

Celeste Monroe

Shenaniginstigator In Chief
DAO/DA2 Timeline
((28 Kingsway, 35 Dragon; The Waking Sea))

Storms at sea were high on Celeste’s list of favorite things, blending as they did the rush of danger and the knife’s-edge balance between skill and luck that would bring a tall ship safely through the wind and waves. Storms at night were even better, with lightning forking through the churning clouds providing the only illumination of the foaming tops of the waves as they crashed this way and that and the feel of the deck beneath your feet the only way to tell what was happening beyond the rail.

Storms that grabbed a ship and held on tight, shaking it like a dog with a bone were another matter entirely. Storms that yanked skill completely out of the equation and left you hanging onto the wheel while the wind ripped away a hatch, broke your rudder, shattered your mainmast and shredded your sails were nowhere to be found on her list of favorite things. Storms that left you adrift, nearly awash from the water that had poured into the hold and missing two crew members were, in fact, squarely at the top of her list of things that sucked mightily.

It had boiled up fast and hard from the southeast as they were headed for the straits between Brendel’s Reach and Ostwick, and for three days they had been at its mercy. Julian had been lost early on, caught aloft trying to untangle a knot in the rigging that was hampering their attempts to furl the sails. The wind had heeled them hard to port, and a massive wave had snatched him away. A lull early on the second day had given them barely enough time to dump their cargo: several tons of Nevarran steel, keeping just enough to serve as ballast; if they had still been fully laden when the second half of the storm hit and took the hatch, the Wicked Grace would be at the bottom of the Waking Sea. As it was, they were low in the water, with Nordstrom and Stubby below working the bilge pump to clear the half flooded hold. Celeste still wasn’t sure when Piper had gone in, but when the seas had finally calmed, she was nowhere on board.

“Can you replace it?” Celeste shouted down, peering over the stern.

“Aye,” Young Torgun grunted, “but it’s gonna take time.” The bo’sun was suspended alongside the ship by a rope harness, his bag of tools hanging from another rope. Gideon held the free ends, raising and lowering on a block and tackle as ordered, while Dax and Bailey stood by with harpoons, alert for any sharks that might be thinking about dwarf for dinner. Normally, all of this could have been accomplished with much less difficulty from the dinghy, but that had been another casualty of the Maker-bedamned storm. Freeing the broken pieces from the pintle-and-gudgeon hinge, putting the spare in place and securing it was an operation best carried out while tied up to a dock in a shallow harbor, but without a functioning rudder, it was going to be damned hard to get to a dock in the first place.

Behind her, Sorcha, Brannigan and Teo were sorting out the rigging while Kalindra mended the sails that were salvageable. The boom of the foremast had snapped away, but if they transferred the boom from the ruined mainmast forward (a job that was going to require the combined efforts of the entire crew), they should be able to hoist enough sail to get them into port.

Not the one they’d been aiming for, to be sure. Antiva City was a long way off, and they wouldn’t be seeing it any time soon. Celeste knew a solid six weeks of repairs when she saw it barely floating. It was going to bite deep into the contents of the strongbox, though fortunately the cheap steel they had dumped had been filler intended to keep customs inspectors busy. Their real cargo was still securely stashed in the smuggler’s holes built into the ship’s structure: a full set of engraved dies of Antivan andris, courtesy of the best counterfeiter in Cumberland. Delivery (once she decided on the best way to do it without a ship) would net them a tidy sum, but first, she had to get her wounded ship to a safe harbor.

‘Safe’ might well be a relative term, she reflected as she scanned the distant shoreline with her spyglass. After a lifetime sailing the oceans of Thedas, she needed neither sextant nor chart to know which town was the closest to their current position off the Wounded Coast: Kirkwall. Not her first choice for an extended stay, and she toyed with the notion of trying for Ostwick, but if another storm blew up, the Wicked Grace was as good as sunk, crew and all.

Decision made, she put away the glass and headed down to help with the rigging, stepping around the Thing, who was so grateful to be on a steady deck that he didn't bother taking a swipe at her ankle. She just hoped they’d dealt with the damned blood mages.
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