That Corvana seemed to favour him for advice and help was a fact not lost on Samm, and not one that he was particularly happy about initially. The witch's presence still made him uncomfortable, and more often than not he became flustered in her presence. He took solace by focussing on what he was doing during these times, so even if her verbal instruction was stilted, her visual instruction was superb. Nevertheless her persistence slowly lead to Samm's relaxation, and by the end of their journey home he could manage to hold a regular conversation with her. He began to realise that whilst on Mira Morrow she was unquestionably the master, that was all she had known, and out here, on the sea, she was new, even if she was a quick learner.
When they returned to shore three months ago, Samm surprised himself by also returning to The Mermaid. Revisiting an old haunt was unusual for him, but then he had never really had any companions to return to or with. An odd mixture of anger and happiness washed over him as he realised, that, despite his best attempts, these companions were now he friends as well as his allies.
Corvana returned with them, a fact that did not surprise Samm since his realisation of her position, and he was rather protective of her. He had no doubt that she could put a stop to any unwelcome advances herself, what he was worried about more was what state she would leave the man in afterwards, and how he would explain it to the local Rahyr. Whilst they ewre tolerant of the occasional fight along the docks, provided it didn't get out of hand, he didn't know how they would react to anything more, considering they tended to step in as soon as blades began appearing.
As they entered, whilst Willow bowled over Carmel with an enormous hug, he tossed the suit of chainmail he had borrowed back to Gregor; “That thing sure saved my hide a couple of times out there, thanks for letting me use it. Managed to salvage something that fitted a little more snugly though,” he said gesturing to the other suit he carried and patting his stomach with a smile. “Any chance I could store it on the stand with that, at least for a while?” he added.
The barman gave a hearty laugh and managed to shoot off a quick nod before the furry ball of energy that was Willow leapt onto him too, and Samm arranged both suits on the dummy with care, making sure to string a sheet of linen between them so they didn't rub, and making sure that the older suit was on top. No sense in attracting trouble.
Once he had finished he went over to buy a pitcher of beer for the group, and joined them at a table, stretching out and relaxing for the first time in since, well, since the last time he had been here. As he drank and chatted he thought back to his earlier conclusion of friendship.
“Mind you,” Samm thought, “who could share what they had together and not be brought closer by it?” Although it had started out as one their last trip had become more than just another mercenary gig – and more than once he had been saved by the quick actions of his comrades. Together they had faced thing Samm had never seen before, and together they had survived. Samm's loyalty was hard-earned, but this, surely, was a hard set of circumstances.
All these justifications for their friendship continued to roll around his head for a week or so, until he finally accepted that, damnit, he liked them and there was nothing he could do about that, so he best just get used to the fact, and ensure that the unthinkable never happened. In celebration of the fact, he managed to get roaring drunk that night and had to be carried back to his room, even as he assured everyone in slurring tones, that, should they ever need anything, he had their back. Given his alcohol tolerance, he drank a lot of beer that night, and the amount of money he laid down, along with the barman's friendship to Willow meant that any, well, distractions shall we say, of the other patrons was forgiven the next day when it was clear this was a one off event.
Samm was quick to take up Basaraba's offer to return to their ship in the intervening period – after all, sailing was what he lived for, and was a little surprised to see Corvana volunteer as well. Although he had grown more comfortable in her presence though familiarity it still wasn't the same as talking to any of his other companions. Still, he had no intention of trying to tell her what to do, and so once again he was aboard the Crimson Falcon, reminding Corvana a little more regularly than was necessary, exactly how she should tie off the rope after taking in the sail. Somehow she always seemed to be on the same watch as him.
He was pleasantly surprised to find that as crew, he didn't eat particularly worse than they had at the Captain's table, and his respect for her grew somewhat. He had been on many missions where the standard fare for his lot had been gruel, whilst the Captain and Officers feasted on fresh meat every night. Clearly Basaraba understood the advantage of a crew well fed in maintaining a tight ship.
Samm also happily joined in the raids they ran, although he was shocked on the first one to see those who had surrendered be cut down. He once again thanked his lucky stars he had never had the misfortune of being on a ship caught by the Crimson Falcon, for he had no doubt that he would be feeding the fishes if he had. Why, it was enough to make a make swear off piracy for life. Almost. When he really thought about it, Taysha was sort of a pirate herself, except she was just a state licensed one. She took just as much thrill in the hunt as the few he had sailed with.
During their explorations of the sunken cities he simply rolled his eyes (although never in Caphasia's presence). However the shattering had happened, as far as he could tell it wasn't likely to be going away any time soon, and he was perfectly happy with the way things were. Personally he found it plenty of work trying to make his way in this world without rooting around in one of the past. Still, they were easy trips, and easy money, so he didn't complain too much.
The men were good fighters, their discipline and training telling during the battles, ensuring they rarely had anyone wounded beyond repair. As one man fell another stepped smoothly over him to fill his place, maintaining the line and allowing the wounded to recover, or be taken back to the Falcon. However, though the battles Samm did notice the downside of their rigorous training. Their fighting was choreographed, repetitive, and it left the vulnerable. With Taysha's blessing, and with swords and spears exchanged for staves, he offered a challenge to the crew members to fight him on the deck. After all, he was just a stringy old man. As it was, the crew had already seen him fight a number of times, and didn't fall for the helpless old man act - they all knew Samm was as quick as a snake, and had many years of experience in staying alive. With much cajoling he managed to persuade some of them to take him on in the ring, and sure enough, after dodging their strokes a couple of times, he quickly floored them with a low sweep of his net, or a swift club around the head with his stave. He then proceeded to explain to them how, because they had all been taught to fight in strict order, it was easy to discern the pattern in their strokes, and from there to predict and exploit it. None of them needed it explained how this would serve to get them killed.
Samm spent the next few days working them out of their habits as best he could, encouraging them to try and switch styles between strokes, fall back to lure the enemy in, anything to make them hard to anticipate. About a week later one of the quieter men stepped into the ring against Samm, holding his 'sword' high. Samm fell into his typical low crouch, and they danced around the ring for a while. The marine was following his training to the letter, repeating the same set of moves over and over again, not even varying his style or speed. “He hasn't listened to a word I've said,” thought Samm irritably as he moved in to end the crewman's robotic dance. As he stepped in close, knowing the man would be recovering from his previous stroke, the soldier swung his free hand up and planted a fist hard on Samm's cheek, leaving the fighter dazed and surprised. With a swift step back the marine had his stave at Samm's throat, a killing blow had they not been training. A hush fell over the deck. Then Samm burst into laughter, relieving any building tension. “Thats my lad!” he yelled as he pulled himself upright. “Take note everyone,” he addressed the sailors, gesturing to the marine who had bested him and was now grinning ear to ear, “You've more than just your sword to fight with, and don't worry about fighting dirty, cuz the guy trying to kill you sure wont be!” Still chuckling he turned back to the crewman, asking him his name. “James,” the young man replied. “Well James, that was a fine performance out there, I fell into exactly what I've been telling you boys to avoid – I repeated the same tricks and it got me beat. But don't expect to be able to pull that kind of thing off in a ship battle laddie! Another man reading your strokes might not chose the same methods I did, and you wont have had a week to watch him beat your fellow crew!”
Although Samm enjoyed the captures they made, and joined the battle heartily, he had no stomach for the slaughter that followed afterwards. He made a habit of quickly returning to the Falcon upon the surrender of their enemies as he lacked both the idealism of Basaraba and the devotion of her men to perform such acts. During these times he usually found Corvana waiting for him - he got the impression she approved of his refusal to take part in such things, and occasionally she offered to clean his wounds with a scowl, which he was grateful for, as it relieved Mr. Slate's work. At least that's what he told himself. It wasn't like he liked a sorceress or anything. Nevertheless, whenever Caphasia stalked the deck there was a notable role reversal, and Samm was somehow always near to Corvana. Magic wasn't something he could cope with, but she had proven herself adept. And, after all, a blessing could counter a curse couldn't it? Not that Corvana had offered him a blessing or anything.
When the festival came round again, the niggling thoughts at the back of Samm's mind resurfaced. With the memorial service he was reminded once again that they had never found the taken, in fact, all they had found was more questions.
The night Alessio came to the pub it was obvious immediately he was not simply here to drink, In fact, Samm's suspicions had been growing with each day the Falcon remained docked. Basaraba was usually in and out of port like a flash, eager to get back to the ocean, something Samm had developed mixed feelings about. Before leaving Samm excused himself to collect the chainmail that hung on the dummy, Gregor wishing him farewell and a safe return with a silent nod that spoke of one who knew Samm carried with him the burden of duty.
During their walk to the office Samm quickly sobered up, the cold air and the topic he presumed to be forthcoming working together. He entered the office with a grim expression, all to aware of the dangers that lay ahead. Judging by what they had encountered on their last trip, he couldn't even begin to predict was they would see this time, aside that it would doubtless be perilous. Except this time he had the added burden of friendship. His eyes shot to each of his companions as the man spoke, as he mentally assigned them under his watch, and prepared himself for war once more.