Another story based on the game, this one centered on the Pirates expansion.
“Get UP girl! Stop lollygagging! Dragon’s teeth, I’ve never seen such a lazy lump. You’ve chores to do, so get to it.” Dalomar gave Molly a shove with his boot that sent her sprawling. Her foot caught the mop bucket as she fell, spilling dirty water across the tavern floor. "And clean that up, now look what you’ve done."
Molly nodded dumbly, cold fire in her eyes. She brushed a hand across her face, pushing hair from her eyes. “Now you’ve muddied your face again, girl. No self respecting man is going to want such a filthy slob serving his drinks. Clean yourself up before we open!”
“Yes sir,” Molly muttered. “Thank you sir.” She stood the bucket upright and used the dirty water to finish mopping, wrung the wet mop out and went to fix her hair. “No self respecting man would come to a slop-house like this anyway,” she mumbled to herself.
An hour later the tavern opened, one of only a handful near the shore, and Molly greeted the first customer of the day with an insincere smile.
The hand of Corel that sculpted the mountains and rivers of the land had placed mountainous crags to the northwest, where the Corellian stronghold perched, and woods to the northeast, home to Rathwood and its dragons. Both fed rivers that flowed to the sea, where a small portion village grew, a bounty for tradesmen and travellers. Ships from afar docked at the quay and sent ferries up the Corel or Rath rivers to mountain or forest, and it was here that the Silver Sail Tavern and a handful of others served sailors and traders heading inland.
Molly Hart had worked at the Silver Sail for almost a year, usually under the watchful and abrasive hand of Dalomar Breng. She’d known the Silver Sail, despite it’s lofty name, was a disreputable tavern, but she needed copper and they needed a barmaid. Eleven months, and she was counting the days until she could tell Dalomar and his attitude and the stench of the bar and the whole lot of them where they could shove it.
“Come along, miss!” A wrinkled hand patted her backside as Molly cleared empty mugs from a table. “A couple coppers for a tumble, do an old sea dog right?” He grinned a toothless grin, and two of his cohorts made canine howling noises and roared with laughter.
“Thank you, but I’ve bigger fish to fry,” she answered, one of half a dozen stock answers she’d use as needed. She always tried to act civil, often speaking through gritted teeth. One day…
Though the front door to the Silver Sail was rarely closed when the tavern was open - to let unwelcome odors out as much as to let welcome visitors in - several heads turned to look when a large form banged against the door frame. A large man in a once-regal coat surveyed the front room before stepping in. His full beard was not just blue, but bright, cobalt blue with beads woven into strands. Behind him was a woman in an absurdly low-cut blouse and skin-tight breeches, with crimson hair and smouldering eyes. Both had the look of the sea about them. Molly nodded at the woman as she crossed the floor to join her partner.
“Something to turn the tide?” Molly asked. Dalomar claimed to like it when she dropped nautical references, said it was good for business. She gave a quick scowl to the man who tried to slid a hand up her skirt, and hoped the newcomers didn’t notice.
“Porter’s Ale?” he said with a wink. Molly nodded and weaved past more groping hands and leering eyes as she went to fill a mug.
She briefly studied the woman as she past - tall, slender, confident, wearing an outfit that demanded attention. Molly usually wore a nondescript blouse and skirts, and her apron, clothes as much efficient as versatile. She didn’t bother with finery - out here on the edge of nowhere, who’d even notice? Molly suddenly felt intensely envious of the seafaring woman, and her companion, They could travel where they wanted, see the world, explore…oh, anything! To live such a life! She poured a mug of Porter’s and handed it to the blue-bearded man, who was studying the assembled patrons as one would a farmer inspecting his flock. His eyes darted from man to man, taking stock of height, weapons, scars.
“Looking to fill your crew?” Molly asked, hoping she sounded like she knew what she was talking about.
“Considering it. You interested?” Molly gaped at the easy way he tossed the question out - did he really want her on his crew? Molly Hart, seafaring explorer…
“Dammit girl,” Dalomar barked from the bar, “you’re gawking so much you missed the mess by the back. Go on, do your ■■■■ job! Before I find someone who can. Someone prettier, to boot!”
“I --” Molly didn’t know what to say, as she dashed off to clean the mess.
Later that evening, as Molly swept up and Dalomar groused about sour beer and poor sales, a shout went up outside. The door flew open and a figure with an orange bearded, bestial head peered in.
“If you’ve precious, I’d keep 'em safe. Looks like pirates!” He studied Molly briefly before another figure joined him, a woman with a red bandanna.
"Hou, c’mon. Lianna and the others are dealing with the Titan - Chao’s all the way up in Morgovia with Tiburtus - lucky we’re here for pirates. Pirates!"
The orange-faced humanoid nodded at his companion and they dashed off to join the melee at the dock. Molly peered out the door, watching them go. She knew that Corellia’s famous legion of heroes led a dangerous life, but just once she’d like to taste a little danger of her own.
“I’m down to check barrels, girl,” Dalomar groused. "If the pirates get to close… show 'em your ugly face. That’d scare anybody off."
Molly bit back her retort and grunted at his departing backside. She really hated him more every day.
After a few moments alone, a crash and commotion from the dockside drew Molly out of her resentful silence. She opened the door to see the Hou, urgently whispering something to a walking panda in a yellow sash. He motioned for the large beast to move, then turned to Molly.
“You use a sword before?”
“I… no? I’m pretty good with a mop?”
“Desperate times.” He handed Molly a small sword and tugged at her arm. She followed his quick pace down the gravel road to the quay, where three others she recognized were fighting toe to toe with a band of pirates. The blue-bearded man and his lady friend were in one of the brawls, along with - Molly had to blink twice to make sure she was actually seeing it - crabs as big as children, standing upright and wearing boots. They brandished formidable scimitars, and one seemed to have lost a limb somewhere along the way.
“C’mon!” Hou shouted, “The town needs you!” He leapt into battle, tearing at one of the crab creatures with both hands.
Molly held the sword in her hand and wanted to be useful, but suddenly realized she had no idea what she was doing. These people, the town, the Silver Sail - it hit her with a start how much she really didn’t give a ■■■■ if they lived or died. This wasn’t her town, these weren’t her people. All her life she’d just followed orders and done what she was told, but here she realized she really didn’t want to do that anymore.
A soldier in a green tunic bumped against her as he dove past, and started to apologize when he realized he knew her from the bar.
“You should go back to the bar, miss, this isn’t safe…” She half nodded and half ignored him as he joined the swirling melee, as Molly considered the storm swirling within her own heart. These people - should she defend them? The town? What had the town ever done for her?
There was a sudden, keening noise and all the action seemed to freeze. Molly looked up to see the pirate woman, the one from the bar, standing tall and singing. Her voice had a stunning effect on the town’s defenders who stood briefly paralyzed and disoriented before shaking it off to rejoin the fight. Such power!
In the swirling crowd she found herself drawn towards the blue-bearded pirate, who regarded her for an instant. He saw the barmaid girl, holding a sword limp in her hand, a far-off look in her eye.
“This isn’t where you belong, is it?” he bellowed between parries.
He hadn’t said, ‘This isn’t where you belong’, as if telling her where to go, but had added ‘is it?’, as if allowing her her own validation.
He swung his sword and the orange-bearded creature, Hou, backed away clutching a severe wound. Two of the soldiers on the ground looked immobilized and Molly realized the townsfolk were losing this fight.
“Take me with you!” she said before she knew she’d said it. The pirate gave her a split-second glance and nodded.
“Tomorrow night, ten bells,” he said quickly, directions his attention elsewhere. Molly braved her way out of the fight and sat on an empty barrel to consider her future.
The following day, all talk in the Silver Sail was on the attack the previous night, whether the pirate fleet would return, and their chances of surviving a second attack. If anyone recognized Molly from the fray, they didn’t mention it. Dalomar’s attitude was mixed - as sullen as usual, but genuinely concerned about his own future. His indecision was meted out on Molly, upon whom he heaped more scorn and verbal assault than usual.
Molly made her way through the day by wondering if the captain - her captain, she thought suddenly - would return.
As darkness fell, a band of heroes and soldier lined the waterfront , swords and weapons ready. The whole town seemed to briefly hold it’s breath.
From the darkness out to sea a loud cannon roared, and the crowd shouted as a building exploded in splintering wood and screaming timbers. Another cannon shot, and the lighthouse sagged on broken joists.
A sudden wave of armed sea creatures swarmed the deck, taking the townspeople by surprise. Swords clashed and blood flew as the two sides attacked each other with force.
Molly quietly stood, walked to the door of the Silver Swan and tied a ribbon in her hair. She knocked once on the wooden door frame as she stepped outside.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going?!” Dalomar roared, “get back in here this minute!” Molly turned and blew him a kiss, her eyes cold.
“Hoop-la,” she said softly.
Another cannon shot splintered the quay as the young barmaid strode casually through the surging crowd.
She saw her blue-bearded captain ahead, who threw her a wink even as he swung his sabre.
And Molly, the young girl who never knew her place, finally knew exactly where she was going.
This story was written for the pirate expansion of Empires and Puzzles, and inspired by a song I’ve loved for years - The Black Freighter, by the English band Steeleye Span.