It were a dark and moonless night and wild were the weather, as it always is in these kind of tales. The rigging whipped and sang as the small vessel ploughed through the restless seas and the rain poured so thickly a beast couldn't see his paws in front of his face! It was on this ship, the Iron Queen that seventeen souls kept counsel among themselves in the dim light of a flickering lantern belowdecks.
- "Weren't for the rain I'd have me a clear viewin of the lay of the seas and if there be land, cullies!"
Said the lookout, a right weathered looking feller, a hedgehog by species.
- "What'll we do now, mates?"
Asked a young otter lad.
- "Just sit tight an wait for the seas to calm. We've battened the hatches and locked the doors, so every beast to his bunk! All exceptin you three!"
Said the strong otter captain, pointing out two otters and a squirrel.
- "Into me cabin and there we'll talk of our mission"
Gredd, the young otter who had before spoke settled into his bunk that dark, fearsome night. He thought of his home, Oh! how he wished to be back under his father's roof! Snug in his bed! But he had joined up with this salty crew, running away from home and toward what he imagined would be great adventures! So far there had just been cleaning of bilges and swabbing the decks and days of seasickness. The crew jeered at him for that, because he was an otter, by golly! This youngbeast had never set foot in the sea before or upon a ship's deck, so he wasn't accustomed to it at all. The first few weeks were hard enough for him, and they got a little better when he gained his sea legs, but the older members of the crew expected him to do everything! 'Learnin the ropes' they said. He sighed as he lay on his back, lulled by the constant rocking and creaking of the ship he now called his home, but his thoughts were far from there.
In the night, the sea calmed, but that was the least of their worries. When the fog and rains cleared, they could see clearly against the cold night... a hulking great ship with four masts and painted solid black with a blood red scar along its hull! If there were anybeast abovedecks, they would have warned the crew. They would have swung the ship around and sped away, before the great ship's evil crew spotted them! But everybeast was belowdecks, snug in their beds but for the captain, who pored over documents and plans with his three close friends. No one saw, and so, no one knew...
Chapter One: Storms and Fogs
"Just four seasons ago, to the very day, we lost a good crew an a great Captain. Captain Brenlan was experienced an knew the seas from here to the Isle of Orrey like the back of is paw. His crew were bravebeasts all, an some were fathers an mates to some of ye standing here this day. Maybe it were a storm, or some other great calamity what brought down the Iron Queen, we'll never be knowin that. But we do know that they went down with honour an were a light unto us all! Long live their memory!" It was a cold day, one of those grey days that tell a beast he'd better stay indoors. But the beasts who made this place their home, on the coastline to the north of that great mountain Salamandastron, gathered here on this grey day to commemorate friends, loved ones they had lost at sea. Otters, squirrels, hedgehogs, mice, they all stood in a ring around the spot where the maiden vessel had pushed off from the shore. One by one, the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and mates of those who had disappeared two seasons ago walked forward to a spot on the shore and placed some small item, a smooth pebble, a flower, or a carved seashell in the ring, which was surrounded by small black stones. The beast who was speaking to the group, a tall hare with grey fur and deep brown eyes, turned to the sea as the last beast had departed. He sat himself down on a weathered stone which stuck up from the sand and sighed. He and Captain Brenlan had come to this place nearly ten seasons before and they settled here among the goodfolk after their seafaring days. Lewenn was older than his friend by quite a few seasons and he couldn't take to the seas anymore, but the younger Captain had gone on a mission of which he told no beast but a few who went with him. They had never returned. Lew shook his head as he thought to himself. Why didn't ye tell me? Your closest comrade. I would have gone to Hellgates and back...I would have. He got up on his creaky old paws and made his way back to the small settlement with the question that had followed him these four seasons still on his mind. Why?