The captain sat studying their last course on a tattered boar skin map, one that had grown increasingly worn as orders and markers over the years had been placed and moved about. Much of it was faded and scratched out, but his eyes bore down on three small wooden figures signifying ships. Three lost ships all clumped in an area sixty miles off the cost of Ixalan. The first was a merchant vessel transporting goods pillaged from the mainland, on its way to a Brazen Coalition checkpoint. The second was a small frigate, a quick mercenary ship not built to withstand a drawn out battle, but one designed for speedy strikes and retreats. Its job was to scout the area, make a rescue if possible (the loot was priority) and get out. It had been a week since anyone had heard word from either crew. Finally the captain focused his attention on the third wooden figurine. Unlike the other two, this one was marked with red. Vampires.
Scouts had seen the vampire ship make sail in the general direction, but there was no word of a change in its course or it ever having reached a destination. All three ships had been lost at sea, no word of survivors or an explanation. The captain scratched at his scalp under his now skewed hat and curled his lips at the prospect of yet another fictitious curse wandering the lips of the locals. What he did not need was another patch of ocean upsetting the Coalition’s already superstitious trade lines across the ocean. It was his duty to clear the air once and for all. He could not fail where the others had, but the thought of the undead ship sent shivers down his spine. A glimmer of hope would soon arrive.
“Captain Nate! Life boat starboard!” The siren lookout wailed.
The captain leapt from his seat nearly knocking the wooden ships across the room and stormed out the galley and burst through the door. Half his crew was already throwing lines down to the drifting boat. He rushed across the deck and peered overboard. His hopes were dashed almost immediately. Below, climbing one of the lines, was a theatrically dressed animal – a monkey of some description, although altogether more gangly looking.
“He’s wearing the captain’s hat of the frigate we sent last week, captain.” First Officer Bracker muttered. “Probably a pet…”
The captain sighed, and offered out a hand to the castaway. It looked altogether well about its wits, and even had a makeshift hooked sword bound around its waist. Its eyes darted about, unsure of the captain and crew’s intentions. It let out a gentle snort of air and took the captain’s hand and allowed itself to be led away to his cabin.
The captain stopped and turned, animal in tow which was now peering widely at the first office.
“Do you think it was the invaders from Torrezon? Will… Will we be setting upon vampires?”
“We’ll find out in a few miles, a life boat can’t have drifted far in these currents. It’s either vampires, or whatever that vessel was transporting from Ixalan got out.” The captain resumed his escort.
“Prepare the men for a fight.” He muttered.
The crew had immediately set to powdering the guns and stocking up the canons. Each man was armed with a musket and sabre; half a dozen others were carrying rope and hooks for boarding. A man needed a certain kind of madness to board a vampire ship willingly.
The captain had spent the last few hours seeing to his maps, rolling over the possibilities in his mind. All the while the creature in the hat had simply sat on the far table, gazing out the window to an endless horizon of water. It had quickly accepted a few bananas and dried bread, but resumed its watch over nothing. That was when it grew restless, it began huffing and grumbling and shifting on the spot. The captain looked out above the creature and spotted a ship – sails and rudder stuck on hard left, endlessly circling a spot of ocean amongst the wrecks of three other ships.
“Bracker!” He shouted. “Ship! Three miles Port!”
Footsteps stomped beyond the door and the men began barking orders at one another. Ignoring the small animal still pacing in his room, the captain ran out the door to join his crew, and headed immediately for the boat wheel.
“Lookout, I need eyes on movement. Bracker, set the port guns at twelve degrees!”
“Port guns, twelves degrees. NOW!” Bracker shouted across at the deck hands.
It was a flurry of orders and activity as they sailed closer to the out of control ship, when finally the ship’s lookout relayed some jarring information.
“Captain, the ship is… abandoned. There are bodies in the water, human and vampire. There are more of those, creature things too.”
The crew stopped silent. The captain’s eyes narrowed, his brain trying to make sense of the situation.
“Wait… captain. There’s another-” The siren’s voice was cut off as a single canon went off on the careening ship, blowing the lookout off his perch and into the water.
The drifting ship turned towards them. The captain seized a spyglass and focused closely on the ship’s deck. He scanned across, not a single member of crew in sight. Then his eyes drifted off towards the person holding the wheel. Only it wasn’t a person. It was one of those damned creatures, cutlass in hand, a pirate’s waistcoat misbuttoned across its chest.
“Bracker… the creature. Where is it?” The captain swallowed. His face was dull with realisation that had come too late.
“Why sir?” his first officer was practically pleading with him.
“They’re not damned monkeys. We were told about these months ago by Lannery. They’re goblins.”
“ALL CANONS F-”
“BANANAS.” A screeching voice shouted across to the incoming ship.
The crews’ eyes stretched upward to the sails, the goblin with the captain’s hat was now leaping across the wooden poles, slashing through the ropes as it went.
“BIG GUNS AND BANANAS.” It shouted once more as the oncoming ship crashed through the side of the vessel.
Dozens of goblins burst out of the centre hold of the enemy ship like a wave of locusts, sweeping across Captain Nate’s ship, slashing blindly in their wake felling friend and foe alike. There was no order, no plan, only to destroy for the sake of destruction.
A goblin leapt onto Captain Nate’s shoulders, a shirt sleeve tightly stretched around its waist like a skirt and an eye patch strapped across its belly button.
“THE HAT IS MINE!”