Duke Forecastle, Part 7

Duke Forecastle, Part 7

Unsinkable II hadn‘t been a particularly jolly place before the double eagle landed, but now the ship might as well have been crewed by uncroaked.

The day after the big bird arrived, three fights had broken out below decks over wildly improbable throws of dice and hands of cards. A majority believed that the double eagle was to blame. Admiral Chequer had banned gambling, and pulled most of the liquor ration as both a punishment and a precaution.

Four subsequent days of cleaning grapefruit-sized bird droppings off the sails, yards and planks–and themselves, if they were particularly unlucky–with naught but water to drink, made for a silent and ill-tempered group up on deck. They fed the bird about half of each day‘s catch, which made meals both more expensive to Seaworld‘s treasury and worse to eat. They were sailing blindly into enemy territory. Nobody had a happy thought to share.

Duke Forecastle didn‘t like the bird any more than anybody else aboard, but it was this effect on the crew that really bothered him. Whether or not he had any real authority, they were his crew, and he wasn‘t sure they could function this way. Or maybe this was how the bird‘s effect on luck worked, by dampening the mood and diminishing the crew‘s abilities, thereby imposing a penalty on their personal dice.

He didn‘t know and couldn‘t guess, but they were all thoroughly miserable. He hadn‘t made Cat Harping laugh since before its arrival. And not for lack of trying. For a couple of days, he‘d stepped up his antics and his attempts to make light of everything, until the Admiral finally broke his legendary reserve and snapped at him.

“The Queen‘s court has need of a fool, Fawksull! Her flagship has not! Upon our return, I shall meet with Her Majesty and recommend you for the office!”

Forecastle kept his mouth shut after that, and spent more time in his ward room, reading and staring out to sea.

Hashtag‘s didn‘t have a lot of advice about making the double eagle leave. You left it a pail of fresh water hanging from the top of the mainmast, took it buckets of raw fish, morning, noon and night, and you hoped for the best. If it took to the air, then you could try to sail out of the hex. Usually that was impossible. Certainly it was impossible with a fleet in tow.

The cursed thing would tease, though. Sometimes it would spread its wings and take to the air, and the sailors would glance up in silent hope. But usually it was just changing which yard it intended to perch on and which sail it would soil next. Occasionally it would even dive into the water to snatch up a fish or squid it had spotted from up there. But it always stayed near the ship and did not fly for very long. Mostly it sat there, squawking and/or crapping a few times an hour, day and night.

Somewhere up above the bird, above even the sky, there was a Titan who‘d created this beast. Forecastle wondered what the cosmic purpose of such a creature could be.

“I think I‘m going to feed it,” he said one hot afternoon, after Seaworld‘s turn had ended.

Cat Harping glanced up at the bird, which was on the mizzen topsail yard, right above their heads. While it was there, they watched it closely and often. This was a lower perch than it usually took, but it was still a lot higher in the rigging than Forecastle had managed to climb so far. On his two shaky attempts to climb up the shrouds, he had only made it as far as the main yard, the lowest one on the mainmast. That had been quite far enough for his comfort.

But maybe it was time for an adventure. Time to make something happen.

“I‘m sure that‘ll go well,” Cat said. “Especially with the way luck is on this ship. You‘d better order a launch into the water to fish you out. Or yer body. Whichever.”

“I do not get to give orders unless there is a very good reason.” He glanced at Admiral Chequer‘s back and grinned at her. As usual, the Admiral was listening and ignoring everything. “Especially as regards the launches. And this is not a very good reason. I‘ll be the first to admit it. I‘m just bored. And it needs to be done. So,” he said, putting his hands on his hips and looking up into the billowing sail, “I think I‘ll do it. If I can get up there.”

“Get a rigger to carry the bucket, s‘my advice,” shrugged Cat. “You‘ll need both yer hands. Try not to fall on me.”

 

---

The view from the mizzen yard didn‘t contain much that couldn‘t be seen from the quarterdeck, but it was somehow still breathtaking. Being up in the rigging was weirdly free and different, after so much sameness. The surface of the sea sparkled at him.

Forecastle gripped the rough hemp ropes. He kept the arches of his boots planted and locked upon the all-too thin and flexible hardwood of the mizzen yard. The seas were calm in this hex, but the sway of the ship up here was less gentle than on deck. He held his balance cautiously, and glanced back at the fleet.

Counting the flagship, the force now boasted nine ships and twenty-two masts. The warships that had joined them along the way were arranged in a rough diamond pattern to the northeast. They were making for Fenga Papit, the one-city colony that they‘d most recently lost to the Anchormen. The Admiral hoped to retake it.

The move should draw some kind of response from the Anchorbar fleet, or they might run into Anchorbar ships defending the city. At any rate, it would be action. Forecastle would have a battle to fight. Maybe even on land.

For now, though, he had a bird to feed.

“Ready, sir?”

The rigger‘s name was Chronot. He held a steel pail with a rope handle in one hand, and kept the other hand completely free, doing nothing, when it could just as well be grabbing a line or the mizzen mast. Why wouldn‘t he hold on to something?

Forecastle nodded, and pulled himself up the ladder rungs of the much thinner mizzen topmast shroud. The canvas of the mizzen topsail undulated in front of him, doing him the immense favor of blocking most of his view. Each rung was easy enough, and he concentrated on placing the next step, grabbing the next rung. Chronot had given him some words of encouragement in the beginning, but knew enough not to say a word when the Duke was actually climbing.

Forecastle froze on the ropes, though, when the eagle let out a squawk. This close to the bird, the sound was chilling and horrible. He looked up and met two of its four yellow eyes. Still about twenty rungs above him, the thing was huge, monstrous. Its unkempt brown feathers looked more like a coat of fur. As he watched it, the second head swung around and examined him as well.

He took a breath, gripped the ropes tightly, willed himself to take another rung...

...and found he couldn‘t do it.

He shut his eyes and hung there. He needed a moment. He took several. As the moments passed, he found he really didn‘t feel like opening his eyes, and that feeling continued.

“Sir?” said Chronot after several moments.

“Rigger...” said Forecastle hoarsely. A breeze blew over his face, seeming to freeze the sweat to his forehead.

“Sir, would you like to go back down to the deck for a while? I‘m sure–”

“Rigger, please!” snapped Forecastle.

He took three more deep breaths, in through his nose, out through his lips, and opened his eyes.

The next rung was in reach.

He grabbed it.

 

---

Reaching the cross-tees was good enough. That was fine. He didn‘t need to climb all the way up on the spar itself. He looped both legs through the lines, held on to the mast, and sat on the solid oak boards. The ship's sway was even worse at this height. And there were riggers who climbed all the way up the mainmast. Titans, how could they manage it?

“Okay,” he breathed, reaching an arm behind him. “Fish.”

“Aye, sir.”

Chronot handed up the bucket. The double eagle was very close and very interested in him now, both of its feathered heads staring him down. He wondered if the heads would fight each other for the fish, despite the fact that it would end up in the same stomach either way.

It turned out that the heads worked together, almost like hands. Both beaks plucked the big cod from his gingerly outstretched fingers, and he quickly jerked his hand away. Then the two heads cooperated to tear the fish into shreds of flesh and guts, taking turns swallowing until the thing was gone.

They looked at him expectantly, and he hurried to hold out another one.

So it went, from the top of the bucket to the bottom. The last fish was a little flat blue thing, barely larger than his palm, but he offered it anyway. Only one of the heads bobbed down and grabbed it. He started thinking about the best way to climb down again.

Then the head that hadn‘t taken the last fish called out a gravelly caw into the wind, and he felt...something he hadn‘t in a while. Not since the dwagon fight.

He was leading a stack.

He looked up, and realized that he knew the double eagle‘s points. The head that had taken the last fish bent all the way down to him, and he instinctively reached out and scratched the little feathers on the top of its skull.

It was a Seaworld unit now. He had tamed it.

Recent posts... (See full thread)
Galdon wrote:
Godzfirefly wrote:
Galdon wrote:
So, given the choice between "bad luck, and possibly sinking later" and "every single crew member being pecked to death right now" I think the choice to attack is pretty easy to make.

I'd have thought that until it was pointed out in-comic that if the Double Eagle tried taking you away to be eaten, no one would fight it to protect you. That's a pretty significant assertion, I'd think.

Yeah, but that is a normal, feral Double Eagle. If a feral Double Eagle attacks the crew, it's only going to take one of them. A Double Eagle aligned to an enemy side however is going to attack relentlessly on it's own due to being an unled unit.


But what crew in their right mind would want to tame a Double Eagle??!! One of the major themes in Erfworld is lateral thinking - creative, nontraditional solutions to problems that various sides come up with in order to keep going. I expect that any seafaring crew would automatically assume that any sea creature they encountered was feral, as taming them is not something any Seafarer would ever think of doing. Doubly so for a double eagle, whose only benefit comes when the thing leaves your ship and hex. This is a new thing, a new possibility (and a horrible new headache for the Seafarers).

I expect that if Anchorbar is using the double eagle gambit, the reason why every crew has a non-seafarer may be due to the relative rarity of these eagles at Sea - they sound like they are rarely encountered, and should an all-seafarer crew encounter them, they might just sit there and wait for it to leave rather than taming it. it's possible that Anchorbar is doing what others suggested and just releasing the birds to gain the Luckamancy boost (we haven't heard whether that's possible yet - can you order a unit to go feral/barbarian???).

Hmmm.... I wonder if the seafaring special has an associated negative penalty to taming (an actual Number) due to the superstition thing?
0beron wrote:
Balance wrote:
Now that it's a Seaworld unit, Seaworld commanders should be able to see its stats--including its specials, whatever they may be. That might prove quite informative. (Though I suppose it could just have a bare listing of "Luckamancy" as a special, leaving no particular clue how the ability actually works.)
Thaaaaaaat could actually be really useful in another way. If it doesn't have a special AT ALL then maybe the crew will listen to reason and the superstition can be defeated.


I would like to say that this would be something to avoid telling the crew, even if it is true. We heard there were fights over "wildly improbable throws of dice and hands of cards" among the crew. To me that says the Double Eagles Luckamancy abilities have a basis in fact, and you should be gaming this to gain the burst of good luckamancy when the Double eagle departs the ship (not the side, or the hex, just the ship) for when you need it, as it is a unit with limited caster abilities you can exploit (similar to the limited magic abilities of Archons can be exploited)

But if you are right and this is all a in their heads, and the "Bad Luck" the crew is currently experiencing due to the placebo effect and negative morale, remembers that can go with ways. I would be telling the crew that now that the eagle is on our side, we have its blessing, and all the bad luck we have been experiencing these past few days has been leading up to a string of good luck we can turn on for a boost on demand when we really need it, just by sending it away from the ship. Because that is the story, right. Even if it is not true, the fact that the crew believes it will make them fight better and improve performance.
Lilwik wrote:
Put yourself in the place of the double eagle. Would you want to turn to the side of someone who hates you? Even with leadership, that can't be appealing.
Well, true, but think about it - every other person who's ever fed a Double Eagle would have hated it. They would be thinking nonstop, "I want you to go away forever, Double Eagle, please leave." Forecastle, on the other hand, doesn't buy into the superstition - he very specifically doesn't hate the Double Eagle, so by that logic he's got a better chance of success! And anyway, my point was more general than that: There's no evidence that a unit without the Leadership special can tame wild units, as we've only ever seen it done by units with Leadership before. So the riggers and crewmen who'd normally take up this task might have been working with a 0% chance of taming the Double Eagle, whereas Forecastle would be working with a greater than 0% chance. That's all I meant.

Lilwik wrote:
It's only pointless if you can't tame the double eagle. Erfworlders know that animals can sometimes be tamed, so they might send a few warlords up to feed it just to see if double eagles can be tamed. They might lose the warlords, but no one expects being a warlord to be a safe job, and gaining the power to tell the double eagle to go away would be worth a risk. It wouldn't be much of a risk, since the eagle doesn't seem to be making a habit of killing the people who try to feed it.

Since warlords have the power to sometimes tame animals, why did no one mention the possibility that the double eagle might be tamed when Forecastle made his plan to feed it? Even Forecastle himself doesn't seem to consider the possibility. The only answer I can think of is that warlords have tried to tame double eagles enough times for people to conclude that double eagles are untamable. Of course, most of those warlords were probably seafarers.
This Double Eagle doesn't seem to be attacking anyone, but it's made quite clear that it could, and that if it did, nobody would want to fight back because injuring the bird is basically cursing yourself and your crew. On that basis alone, why risk a unit with Leadership? And again, the superstition is that so long as the Double Eagle hangs around, your Luckamancy is bad, but once it leaves, your Luckamancy swings upwards. They don't want it. So why would anyone try to tame the Double Eagle in the first place? That's the whole implication I got from the update - that everyone was going to be angry with Forecastle for taming it. Nobody wants that to happen, so they've never tried to do it before.

Putting it simply, if you send a unit with Leadership to feed a Double Eagle, there are two risks. One, it might attack, whereupon you either harm the Double Eagle and are cursed, or you risk losing a valuable Warlord or higher-class unit. Two, you might accidentally tame it, whereupon the damn thing now hangs around your ships unless you order it to go off and croak, tantamount to harming it in the first place.
If you send a low-value unit to do the job, the worst-case scenario is that you lose that single low-value unit.
Looking at it this way, it makes perfect sense to me that nobody would send a unit with Leadership to do this job, because it's easier and carries far lower risk to simply get another unit to. Forecastle deciding to do it was an unusual choice, and now we have an unusual consequence.
Selexor wrote:
Two, you might accidentally tame it, whereupon the damn thing now hangs around your ships unless you order it to go off and croak, tantamount to harming it in the first place.
If anyone was worried about accidentally taming the double eagle, then someone would have stopped Forecastle from feeding it. The whole ship is so cautious around that bird, so it makes no sense that they'd be willing to take a risk for nothing more than Forecastle's whim. Neither Cat, nor the Admiral, nor the rigger seem to share your concern over accidental taming.

Why would anyone order the double eagle to croak? And why are you talking as if hanging around the ship or croaking are the only two options for tamed double eagles? Maybe ordering it to hang around an Anchorbar ship would be better. Or it could be ordered simply to go off and not croak. It's clearly capable of feeding itself, plus getting any ship it finds to feed it. Even if they do order it to croak, now that it's on Seaworld's side it should be incapable of harming Seaworld. Just like any other unit of Seaworld, everything it does should be for Seaworld's benefit, especially if it's not a commander and therefore just follows orders. It might even be that the Luckamancy of a tamed double eagle can be harnessed, like having a Luckamancer in their crew.
I don't think taming it was on any sailor's horizon at all. This is new ground for them and I expect reactions to be mixed, not completely antagonistic. Some will stick to the superstitions and just think this is the worst possible thing, others will see the upside. If I had to guess, I would expect most of the crew to have the worst reactions, the Admiral to not like it but see the advantages, and Cat Harping to be more enthusiastic, but that's just wild speculation.
bpzinn wrote:
I would be telling the crew that now that the eagle is on our side, we have its blessing, and all the bad luck we have been experiencing these past few days has been leading up to a string of good luck we can turn on for a boost on demand when we really need it, just by sending it away from the ship. Because that is the story, right. Even if it is not true, the fact that the crew believes it will make them fight better and improve performance.


Reminds me of Cohen the Barbarian in Interesting Times. Is the omen nailed down anywhere? No? Right, it's mine! "The Gods smile on us, ahahaha!"
Lilwik wrote:
If anyone was worried about accidentally taming the double eagle, then someone would have stopped Forecastle from feeding it. The whole ship is so cautious around that bird, so it makes no sense that they'd be willing to take a risk for nothing more than Forecastle's whim. Neither Cat, nor the Admiral, nor the rigger seem to share your concern over accidental taming.

Why would anyone order the double eagle to croak? And why are you talking as if hanging around the ship or croaking are the only two options for tamed double eagles? Maybe ordering it to hang around an Anchorbar ship would be better. Or it could be ordered simply to go off and not croak. It's clearly capable of feeding itself, plus getting any ship it finds to feed it. Even if they do order it to croak, now that it's on Seaworld's side it should be incapable of harming Seaworld. Just like any other unit of Seaworld, everything it does should be for Seaworld's benefit, especially if it's not a commander and therefore just follows orders. It might even be that the Luckamancy of a tamed double eagle can be harnessed, like having a Luckamancer in their crew.
I'd agree with you there, except for one very simple problem - it still happened. Nobody on the ship, including Forecastle himself, actually intended for him to tame the thing. The whole ship's reaction to the Double Eagle's presence was "Don't make it angry, give it food, and hope it leaves." As far as anyone knew, Forecastle included, that's what he was doing. I'd be willing to bet that if he had instead said, "I'm gonna try to tame it!" The Admiral would have forbidden him to try. Instead, they didn't share my concern over accidental taming because, well, who on Earth would consider "Accidental Taming Of An Unwanted Unit" to be a problem?

And the whole point of the Double Eagle being bad was that it was, in the most explicit terms possible, unwanted. The superstition holds that a Double Eagle would be bad Luckamancy while it hangs around, and grant good Luckamancy when leaving under its own volition. That's the entirety of the superstition as we know it. If intentionally making the bird leave was an acceptable option, they'd have done so right away by shooing it off or shooting at it until it decided to retreat. But they didn't do that because instead, it has to choose to leave because it decides to do so on its own. And now it literally can't.
It's a Seaworld Unit that's not capable of using Language, that voluntarily stacked itself with Forecastle. There's no version of this scenario where it will now go away under its own power - any order to make it leave the ship is exactly that, an order. Meaning it won't be leaving of its own free will. Even if you make it go somewhere else for an incredibly good reason, you're still making it go somewhere else, as opposed to just letting it go away and do its own thing, which is very specifically what everyone was hoping it would do.

Once the Double Eagle arrived, there were exactly four possible outcomes for its existence.
    - It hangs about for a while, then goes away under its own power (Good Outcome)
    - It hangs around forever (Bad Outcome)
    - One or more Seaworld Units intentionally make it go away (Worse Outcome)
    - It croaks while on board the ship (Worst Outcome)
Forecastle has just removed the first and only positive option from the table, do you understand? So I'm acting like having it hang about or ordering it to go away and croak are the only options because at this point, they actually are the only options. If you see a loophole I missed, please explain it, but otherwise? This is EXACTLY why Forecastle's having an "I Booped Up" moment.
Selexor wrote:
And the whole point of the Double Eagle being bad was that it was, in the most explicit terms possible, unwanted. The superstition holds that a Double Eagle would be bad Luckamancy while it hangs around, and grant good Luckamancy when leaving under its own volition. That's the entirety of the superstition as we know it. If intentionally making the bird leave was an acceptable option, they'd have done so right away by shooing it off or shooting at it until it decided to retreat. But they didn't do that because instead, it has to choose to leave because it decides to do so on its own. And now it literally can't.
It's a Seaworld Unit that's not capable of using Language, that voluntarily stacked itself with Forecastle. There's no version of this scenario where it will now go away under its own power - any order to make it leave the ship is exactly that, an order. Meaning it won't be leaving of its own free will. Even if you make it go somewhere else for an incredibly good reason, you're still making it go somewhere else, as opposed to just letting it go away and do its own thing, which is very specifically what everyone was hoping it would do.

Once the Double Eagle arrived, there were exactly four possible outcomes for its existence.
    - It hangs about for a while, then goes away under its own power (Good Outcome)
    - It hangs around forever (Bad Outcome)
    - One or more Seaworld Units intentionally make it go away (Worse Outcome)
    - It croaks while on board the ship (Worst Outcome)
Forecastle has just removed the first and only positive option from the table, do you understand? So I'm acting like having it hang about or ordering it to go away and croak are the only options because at this point, they actually are the only options. If you see a loophole I missed, please explain it, but otherwise? This is EXACTLY why Forecastle's having an "I Booped Up" moment.


I think you're giving the crew too much and too little credit. Too much when you take their beliefs (and the words of the book whose title escapes me) as the final word. I don't think taming the bird has to fit within the original four outcomes. Too little credit when you assume that none of them will reassess the situation. That's why I think the reactions will be mixed.
Selexor wrote:
It's a Seaworld Unit that's not capable of using Language, that voluntarily stacked itself with Forecastle. There's no version of this scenario where it will now go away under its own power - any order to make it leave the ship is exactly that, an order. Meaning it won't be leaving of its own free will.


I'm pretty sure that 'of its own free will' is not the relevant criterion, but rather, how it feels about the ships it is leaving behind. If it was happy with them, blessing. If it was unhappy, curse. If it's on their side, it will bestow a blessing (which will be weak if they use it a lot).
Selexor wrote:

Instead, they didn't share my concern over accidental taming because, well, who on Earth would consider "Accidental Taming Of An Unwanted Unit" to be a problem?
[/quote]

On Earth, anyone who ever acquired a stray just by feeling sorry for it and feeding it, whether you wanted it or not.

On Erf, on the High Seas. probably not much of anyone. Until the first time your side acquires a stray, at least.