By the afternoon, the Smiling Seductress' bowsprit was seaworthy again. The hulking slave ship and her smaller escort was almost ready to get under way, and nobeast was more eager to leave the shores of the mainland astern than Raziah. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a hundred other little problems that were getting between the captain and the tiller of her ship, and most of the questions being directed at her seemed utterly trivial. Did she want them to take on more fresh water? No, she had checked the supplies that morning. Did she want the bow examined for any damage that had gone unnoticed since the battle? No, they had looked at it already and she didn't want to waste time and energy by beaching the ship. Raziah had almost reached the relative quiet of the aft deck when none other than the new first mate was suddenly in her face, breathing heavily as if he had run a marathon to catch up with her. Raziah instinctively leaned back, a scowl on her face and her paw on the hilt of her cutlass.
"What is it now, Tchana? Why are the crew not aloft yet? I wanted full sails set ten minutes ago!" Raziah growled, trying to keep her voice from carrying too far. In truth, she had wanted the sails set far earlier than ten minutes ago, and the continued delays were grating on her nerves.
"Cap'n! Oh, my cap'n!" Tchana, the short fox blustered, holding up one stubby claw whilst he regained his breath. "P'raps it would be wise, on account of our good fortune, to call upon Illas an' Annas to watch over our journey home? You know, our former cap'n-…"
"I knew our former captain far better than you ever did, Tchana," Raziah cut in, the grip on her cutlass tightening with each word. "And he knew my opinion on the matter too. There are no spirits in the salt spray, nor drowned ghosts in the tides watching over corsair ships. You heard me say this every single time we held a sacrifice to Illas and Annas! Now the old captain is dead. His tradition dies with him, no?"
"But captain," Tchana protested, fully pronouncing the word as if that would make the ferret take the fox more seriously. Raziah stepped around him. Tchana jerked his paw towards her as if to catch her by the arm, but at the last moment thought better of it. He didn't want to lose the arm, after all. He trotted after as she strode to the tiller, the two tillerbeasts standing smartly to attention as she pulled her compass from her sharkskin tunic.
"All paws, to stations! Weigh anchors! Set full sail! Tiller, come about and set course Sou'-Sou'-West!" Raziah bellowed. The shrill blast of sailor's whistles set the crewbeasts scampering up the shrouds and across the yardarms. The bigger, more brutish corsairs strained their bulging muscles pushing on the spokes of the capstans, the heavy wheels dragging the wet, seaweed-slicked anchor chains from the water. The sails were unfurled as the Smiling Seductress slowly turned to her new course, the Drowned Harpy preparing to follow her.
"P'raps not a full sacrifice, cap'n, but at least lemme say a few words," Tchana begged, trying clumsily to bow low before Raziah, and finding his belt and bandolier of knives getting in the way. "It may give the crew wot takes comfort in the spirits o' the wind'n'waves some courage for the long days at sea ahead."
"'Whom take'," Raziah corrected.
"Er, wot, cap'n?" Tchana scratched the messy rust-coloured fur atop his head.
Raziah's whiskers twitched in amusement. She had obviously been spending too much time with Kawldkan Marlfox, and his Palace manners and speech were rubbing off onto her. "Never mind, Tchana. You are free to speak, sing and curse at the sky and seas all you please. Just don't tell me I have to expect a reply."
"Aye aye, cap'n!" Tchana tugged his chipped ear gleefully, and hurried off to find the young fox kits that served as the ship's drummers. On occasion, the Smiling Seductress used drum signals, mainly to frighten enemy ships with the noise of doom and death, and to encourage the corsairs to fight harder. However, the drums were also used when somebeast called upon Illas, Spirit of the Salt Spray, and his sister Annas, the Drowned Ghost whom controlled the tides and currents. As the slaving ships caught the wind, and the slaves desperately peeped through any crack in the hull to catch a last glimpse of the mainland, the terrifying hammer of the drums began. Tchana screamed over the drums and the wind to be heard by the corsairs, whom all roared and cheered him on.
"Lady Annas, Terror of the Deep! You, who hold the all-devouring Kraken in chains, you whose tears salted the seas, you whose severed claws fell into the ocean and made the first flesh-eating sharks! Guide our ship, O Annas! With a mighty sweep of your tail, send us a current back to Sampetra! We are all doomed beasts, a watery grave lies open before us! But let us survive our voyage, and many more sacrifices shall we send to your Kingdom Below the Waves!"
The short fox spread his arms wide, and turned his gaze from the sea to the sky. He called again, the steady Boom, Boom, Boom of the drums intensifying and growing ever faster.
"Lord Illas, Scourge of the Sky! You, who build treacherous twisting towers of wind to crush our ships, you who sends killing strikes of lightning, you whose mighty voice we hear echoing after them! Fill our sails, O Illas! With your wrathful breath, send us a gust back to our Emperor! For you, who never suffers a foolish sailor, chose Emperor Pantaleon for greatness, and you chose us to serve him! Cleanse our bodies with salt spray, that our spirits be prepared to survive this voyage!"
The drumming was a cacophony of madness at this point, the baying and yelling and stamping of corsair's footpaws making the din unbearable to the trapped slaves. As if Illas himself had indeed heard Tchana's call, a draught of wind billowed the sails, and made the mainsail thump and snap until its ropes were tightened properly. The anchors were secured, and the corsairs were ordered over to the port side of the ship, so their weight would counter the tilting of the ship as it caught the wind.
Raziah stood with her back to the commotion, studiously scanning the coastline with a telescope. A parting gift from Kawldkan as she had left Sampetra, the device was virtually unheard of in Mossflower, as far as the ferret knew. However, the Emperor had connections far and wide, and so rare and exotic items like the telescope occasionally found their way to the island. Raziah had a curious feeling about this voyage, and it wasn't just the drumming in her ears. She felt a prickling around her neck as if she was being watched, and not by Illas or Annas either. Perhaps somebeast was watching the slavers from the shore? Raziah did not like being spotted by mainland beasts. News that a ship as infamous as the Smiling Seductress had been spotted would travel fast. The ferret captain hoped they would be well on their way to Sampetra before any troublemakers started to look for them, hungry for the big slaving ship's precious loot.