Chapter 1: Prologue- Two Islands
I'm posting this a little earlier than planned, still writing chapter three at the moment. My goal is to update this pretty regularly, and to have it done by the end of the summer. Picturing maybe ten chapters.
There was once a time where men were more and less free than they were today. It was an age of empires built on the backs of slaves, and an age of pirates who lived outside the law of any country, at least as long as they could run and hide. The empires were mighty, but there was a place that even they dared not interfere. A tropical sea, home to many islands and secret coves that sheltered the most fearsome of these pirate lords; in this place no governor dared set foot, no forts were built. Outsiders called it the Wasteland. Ships passed through between the empires and their colonies, but always as heavily guarded as the owner could make them. It was a place where civilization had fallen apart to form new structures.
In this sea there were two islands, one that had sweet water, and another where the water had grown sour.
The island with sweet water had been a blessing to a ship full of slaves, one night generations ago. The slaver had been passing through in a stormy night, and had been blown onto the shallow reefs. It carried a cargo of women, debtors who had been sold, criminals who were facing a punishment worse than hanging, and slaves stolen from their homelands. As the ship sank the women broke free, and a couple lucky ones reached the island.
They were blessed with clean water, and plants they could eat. The island had small wild game that could be hunted, and tall trees to build homes with. They created a new society in the middle of the jungle, far from the shores where anybody could find their secret sanctuary. Fires were kept small so no smoke would give them away. They raised the children they had brought with them, born in chains but living in freedom. They built small boats from the wreckage of the slaver that washed ashore, and sent whispers to the nearest town, of a safe place where women could live free. A trickle of whores, slaves, and the occasional young pirate kept their numbers strong.
This island sanctuary had no name, there was no leader who presumed to name it, but the children were raised knowing that it was their green place that kept them safe.
The other island was not a place like this. Its history begins with colonial merchant captain, gone ‘privateer’, gone pirate. He was a mean man by nature, and depended on slave labor to keep his profits high and costs low. Once he went pirate, he found that the violence appealed to him, as well as the thrill of taking all that he wanted. The religion that he had went sour within him, and he placed himself as a new messiah. He took the name Immortan Joe and built a cult of worship around him. He convinced his slaves to die for him, telling them of the great glory that would come to them in heavens above. Those that followed him called themselves ‘half lifes’ and painted themselves with white lead as skeletons, to remind themselves that Joe owned their lives, and soon he would own their deaths.
In time Joe built a fleet on the back of his brainwashed War Boys. He constructed a fort on a large island. This island had only one well that ran pure; the surrounding streams were brackish and sour. He called it the Citadel, and kept the sweet water for himself, only letting those who followed him blindly have the barest of sips. Slaves who would not believe called themselves the Wretched; they worked his fields and mines and spent their lives in chains, with little food and only brackish water.
Joe was now a Warlord, with his wives, his cult, and his water. He was feared by many others within the islands. He followed no law but his own, and enslaved all who were weak enough to fall for him, pirate or not.
This story does not stay contained to either of these islands though. Instead it will focus on the journey that goes in between them. A journey across the Wasteland, which left it changed for good.
Chapter 2: The Loner
Max woke up with the echoes of his nightmares still racing around his head. “Save us, Max. Save us!” But Mercy was long gone and it was only him in the familiar island shack. He looked out the small window and sighed as the first light of dawn filtered through the trees around him. There was no getting back to sleep now, but at least he had made it most of the way through the night. He got up and pulled on his boots, and shrugged on his jacket.
The day was warm, but he rarely took it off. It helped to keep his ghosts away sometimes when he could wrap it around himself like armor. Even in his little home they were there with him. The bed was too big for just one, and there were still two chairs at the table. Buried in the back of the cupboard was a set of chipped porcelain teacups, a sign that there had once been a feminine presence in his island hut. But now it was just him, and he looked past the empty spaces in his home, not inviting back the memories that he both treasured and feared.
He reached into the cupboard to pull out a handful of ship’s biscuit, only to realize his knuckles scraped the bottom of the sack. He grunted, realizing that he would have to make a trip out to Bartertown soon. Guess he would be diving for oysters today, in hope of rounding up a handful of seed pearls. He usually fished, but fish didn’t keep well on the trip, and didn’t bring much in besides. He had a little garden out back, just enough to keep himself fed, but most of his food he foraged for.
He went out to the small dock where his small schooner was moored. It was the sort of boat that could be sailed easily by two, but could be managed by one, if they knew what they were doing. The faded words ‘Interceptor’ could still be made out on each side of the bow.
Max made sure he had his sharpened fishing knife, strong gloves, and string bag for collecting. There wasn’t much else he would need to collect the oysters; the hard work was mostly in the diving and prying them off the rocks. It was a long and tedious task, but still dangerous as current could be unpredictable near the oyster beds.
The schooner sailed easily away from the shore of the island, buoyed by a lively tailwind. Max reached the oyster beds quickly, and anchored the boat. Then he threw down a knotted rope, anchored to large stone. Going hand over hand down and up the rope would help him conserve his energy and breath while harvesting. It would be a long day, and he wanted to take as many precautions as possible, harvesting alone could get risky; but for Max there wasn’t any other choice. He was loner, unless you counted the ghosts.
He started shedding layers, feeling more vulnerable as his thick canvas jacket came off, followed by the patched leather boots, the homespun shirt and waterproof oilskin trousers. He was left in a light pair of breeches and a short-sleeved shirt. Max buckled on the belt with his knife and bag, pulled on his gloves, and pushed himself into a small dinghy on board, barely big enough for one. He lowered it off the Interceptor, down to water level took a deep breath and slid into the water.
Water surrounded him, shocking his system. Max kicked his way back to the surface where he took a couple breaths to calm his heart rate down, then reached for the rope and headed under. He hadn’t been to these oyster beds in at least two years, letting them recover from his harvesting. The current also tended to be a little tricky, but the pearls he had found had been well worth the risk. The shoal spread out before him, and he was glad to see it was larger than he remembered. He set his sights on a patch of good-sized oysters and started dislodging them with his knife. Working quickly he managed to get five or so free before his lungs began to feel tight. He worked his way up the rope, took another deep breath, and headed back down. Every couple of trips he took the time to empty his collecting bag, and after about an hour he moved his anchored rock to a better position. He took a break, feeling the unusual strain in his muscles.
Max couldn’t shake the feeling of uneasiness around him as he sat in the dinghy. Mercy was silent, so he couldn’t figure out what it could be. He stood up to get a better look at the horizon but couldn’t make anything out. The current did seem a little stronger than it had in the morning, he resolved to be extra careful on his next couple trips down.
The move had been a good one, there were a couple giant oysters on the banks of the reef below. Max slowed his harvesting place, as they were more firmly attached to the rocks. He began to extend his dives by a couple extra seconds, wanting to free each at least one of the bivalves before he returned to the surface. The feeling of uneasiness faded as his head began to spin a bit from the repeated lack of air. The carrying bag began to feel like a leaden weight around his waist, and the knotted rope became harder to grasp with his cold numbed hands. He was mindlessly in a rhythm now, trying to push through the discomfort.
The next time he emptied the carrying bag in the dinghy a dark shape on the horizon caught his eye. It was a ship, and not a small fishing vessel either. This one had sleek lines, built for speed. But it sat deceptively low in the water for its size, and he knew they were carrying cannons. Max made a point to stay away from cannons. He frantically clambered back in the dinghy and rushed to hoist it back up with clumsy hands. He cursed himself for not staying on his guard earlier. These seas were dangerous, and Max would rather live all his life as a loner than run into the wrong sorts of people here. He hit the deck running as he quickly tied down the dinghy. The anchor came up next, his shoulders straining as he cranked it up. The intruders had gotten closer than Max liked while he had gotten ready to go. They must have been just behind an island last time he checked for them to be so close so soon. He raised the sails and grabbed the wheel, glad that at least the wind was on his side, he could use a bit of luck.
As he pulled away from the oyster beds he noticed the other ship putting on more sail, they had spotted him for sure. He had hoped they wouldn’t pursue his small vessel, given that he obviously wasn’t hauling cargo. The Interceptor would be a bit of a prize though. Though she was small she was well built, and held her own against larger ships. Max was proud of her, he had kept her in pristine condition for the past years and she had only become more fleet after their time together. Unfortunately, her unique build had drawn their eye and they began to turn his direction and chase.
Max raised as much sail as he dared, the wind was still brisk and he was moving at a good clip, light as she was. He tried to hug the shore, knowing that the reefs would protect him from the heavier boat. They didn’t dare get as close to shore as he did without doing some significant damage to their hull. He gripped the wheel tightly, his heart beating a mad rhythm in his chest. In the rush he didn’t have time to put his jacket back on and it seemed like every exposed inch of skin was shouting danger as it was buffeted by the sharp winds. His fight or flight response was kicking into full gear. His vision began to flash at the edges and he saw Mercy approaching, glaring at him accusingly. Jess’ screams rang through his ears, clear and cutting. Her pain echoed in his ears and the sharp pains of loss and guilt turned his stomach. He couldn’t stop himself from curling up into himself on top of the wheel, his arms locked in their position. By the time he came back in control of himself, the ship was still on a straight path, but the rocks were looming above the surface in front of him.
Max turned the wheel hard, correcting course recklessly. His sails lost the winds and he could feel the Interceptor slow thanks to his erratic navigation. A quick glance over his shoulder showed that the warship had not made such a mistake, and was taking the opportunity to gain on him. The course correction had also taken him out to deeper water, closer to his pursuers. He doggedly kept on, hope that the Interceptor would be able to slip away, but his chances of escape were beginning to look slimmer.
A rush of air past his ears alerted Max that the warship had started attacking. He saw the projectile land in the water, safely off the side of his hull. It was an arrow that sizzled as it hit the water, but continued to burn as it sank into the depths. It was tipped with some kind of hellfire that would not be easy to douse. Max, like any good sailor, had a fear of fire around ships. Most of the arrows fell short of the stern as the Interceptor maintained it’s forward position.
Max heard a crackling sound and looked over his shoulder at the deck of the Interceptor, a lucky shot had found her sails and the hellfire had started eating through the heavy canvas. Max felt the sails begin to lose wind and the Interceptor slow. He know in that moment that they had him. He raced to the rigging to cut the sails free, tugging them overboard as they fell heavily down on top the deck. He couldn’t let the Interceptor burn, she was all he had that he still loved.
Even as Max resigned himself to meet the ship, he didn’t intend to give over his life easily. As the ship drew up Max grabbed two heavy flintlock pistols from a secret cupboard under the wheel, shoving them in his breeches. He didn’t have much ammo but he hoped it would be enough.
Max planted himself firmly on the deck of the Interceptor, his bare feet feeling her timbers beneath him. The larger ship grappled him with a jerk and the first boarder was soon over the side to join him on the deck. He was painted white and skeletal, but the guise did nothing to shake Max, his mind had presented him with too many horrors for this to strike fear into his heart. A quick efficient shot took out the boarder, right through his head. Max shot a boarding ramp, splintering it and sending the raider on it tumbling down into the sea. But two more were on deck and managed to get in closer before Max could shoot them down. More hooks had been thrown over and the boarders were coming faster. He took a couple more out with the last of his ammo, and then came in close to fight. The pistols made for good makeshift clubs, and his knife was as good at cutting through flesh as it was oysters. He slashed at a couple more, keeping them back as the deck grew slippery with blood under his feet. The boarders had been given knives originally, not expecting much of a fight form just one man. One had thought to bring a gun and stray shot hit him near the knee. Max crumpled to the deck, the last thing he felt was a blow with a club to the back of the head before everything went dark.
When Max woke up he was chained to a wall in a place he didn’t recognize. His first thought was for the burning pain in his back, followed closely by a harsh aching in his head. Max took stock of his surroundings. He was in some sort of workroom, the heavy wooden tables were bloodstained, and a surgeon’s tools were strewn out. Hopeless moans filtered through the thick stone walls to Max. A medical bay then, of some sort, not a good sort at least.
A man dressed in a stained butchers coat stood against the far wall. Max held still to feign unconsciousness, but the man had noticed a twitch as he woke up and approached Max, “Hello there, aren’t you a strong feral.” The man said, looking appraisingly at the muscles rippling in Max’s arms as he began to struggle against the chains. “Didn’t think there were many left in these parts, especially not with a rig so fine. Not to mention those pox scars. You’d have survived it then, when means you’ve got some high quality blood. Immortan sure is happy you’re not just some useless weakling, turned out to be quite the catch for a wild man.” The man was polishing a set of needles with a rag, stained black and bloody now. “We’ve got you all marked up now, claimed you as property of the mighty Immortan, got you labeled as a high octane donor. If you try to run others know they’ll get a nice little reward for bringing you back. So don’t think you’ll make it far even if you get out of these chains.”
Max fell limp, his base instincts giving in to the futility of the situation. The burning on his back would be a tattoo then, from the spread of pain he knew it was large, nearly impossible to hide. He was a slave then, to one of the many self-made warlords in the Wasteland. From the way this guy talked and dressed, he wasn’t the one in charge. Some guy named the Immortan. Max remembered hearing whispers of the name, but nothing specific, he hadn’t listened much to chatter on his rare trading trips and now he found himself regretting it. He wished he knew if this man killed all people he captured, or just enslaved them. Either way he was dead, it was just a matter of time.
The man turned towards Max, a new sort of needle in his hands. “We just had a pox outbreak and I’ll be needing some of that high-octane blood to dose up the Warboys, make them strong against it. High in the Spirit it is sure to be. Took a little bit and its not fouled any of my other samples yet.” The butcher tied a strap across Max’s upper arm and stuck the needle into Max’s vein, drawing blood out into the glass chamber attached to the needle. Max’s screams echoed against the stone walls as the man stole his blood.
Just a short interlude and world building with the Organic Mechanic (taking name suggestions which would be more era-compliant, Body Butcher?) Furiosa is coming next chapter.
High octane in this universe has the same meaning, but refers to something that is high in spirit (eigth element in Joe's religious book) not gasoline
Out in the harbor of the citadel there was a festive air. Joe was sending out the War Rig. He had trusted his mighty Imperator Furiosa to captain in it in his stead for the short trade run to Powder Town. But even this could not dampen the crowd’s excitement. The War Boys near worshipped the War Rig as much as they did Joe. Her gleaming guns, sleek hull, and gleaming brass work all lent an aura of power and strength to the revered warship. She was death to their enemies and glory to themselves, shine as shine could get. She was the symbol of the Immortan’s mighty power, and their small place in it. Each and every one of the War Boys wished to end their half-life and leave for Valhalla amid a pool of blood on her decks. If Joe was their God, she was their Goddess; she was revered just as much, just not so loudly.
Completing the pantheon of the War Boys’ gods was Furiosa. Joe’s most trusted Immortan, who had risen through the ranks by only her own grit and talent. Even with one arm she could still hold her own.
The arm had been lost during her rise to glory, but she had had clockwork prosthetic made. Joe had captured the clockmaker to make navigational equipment, but the arm was a masterpiece. Fastened to her stub below the elbow so that she could still bend her own joint, but reinforced with straps up to the shoulder to better support the weight. An intricate system of gears and levers meant that she could bend the fingers and lock them in place, with the help of her working hand. Furiosa had quickly adapted, and worked even harder to stay in Joe’s favor.
Her crew was the most tightly run, overseen by Ace, a half-life who had lived enough for three. Her crew called themselves Fury Boys with pride, some even holding on to their half lives in order to serve her longer. They were not as prone to the excess of violence that Joe inspired in his soldier; she had taught them that it was better to save their strength for the greater glory that still lay ahead.
Furiosa herself stood on the foredeck of the War Rig. The wind brushed through her close-cropped hair and the Imperator’s streak of black powder shaded her face. This wasn’t her first trade run, but her heart was pounding as hard it was for her first War Party. She glanced down at Ace on the main deck; her first mate was keeping the crew running sharply with his omnipresent gaze and an occasional order. As the sails caught the wind and the War Rig began to move out into the harbor Furiosa faced towards the Citadel, looking at where she assumed Joe would be. He wanted a show of force, and she had provided. The War Rig shone with the attention that had been put into making her ready. Not a smudge or speck of dirt could be seen anywhere, the cargo had been stowed securely, and the gunner crews had been trained within an inch of their life to ensure maximum efficiency.
As they reached the mouth of the harbor Furiosa felt the stronger breeze blowing off the waves. She glanced back at the entourage of smaller ships, no match for her vessel. A barely perceptible wave of her prosthetic fingers to Ace and the black flag was raised. Joes’ stylized skull was embossed in white against the black background. It caught the breeze, and billowed out, the symbol clear to all watching from shore. The War Rig caught the tide and left the harbor. Furiosa strode over the helmsman, and nodded to him. “I’m taking the wheel, want to feel her fly.”
The helmsman handed over the wheel with an understanding nod.
The War Party was on its way. Joe had been pleased with the smooth departure of his trade ships; it had made a fine show for all remaining inhabitants of the Citadel. Little did he know they were carrying more than he thought.
It was a couple hours of smooth sailing before Furiosa relinquished the wheel. She strode back to the foredeck and made a small gesture to Ace, who followed her. They stood at the front near the bow, out of range of anybody who would try to listen in. Furiosa gave a quick glance up at the rigging just in case anybody was listening for above.
“We’re sufficiently distant from the any of the Citadel’s scouts?” she said, glancing towards the direction in which they had passed.
“For sure, they don’t tend to venture more than 10 knots or so outside the island, we’ve covered about 35. The winds have been good.” Ace answered.
“And we’re sure the crew is loyal?”
“As much as they can be with the indoctrination they’ve received. At least three fourths will follow you. We can still run her well with those numbers.”
“I don’t think anything can be done about the pursuit ships?”
“No. We couldn’t trust that anybody outside the Fury Boys would follow. They won’t be expecting our broadsides, I don’t think it will be much of a fight.”
“I’ll give the order to change course soon then. I just need to check the cargo first. Be ready for blood. I trust my boys, and I trust my mate. “ Furiosa looked Ace in the eye, and no more words were needed. He would help her to execute her orders, even if it meant going against Joe. Even if it meant killing their own to escape.
Furiosa strode down from the foredeck and into her cabin. She locked the door and pulled the curtains over the small window tight. She knocked three times against the left wall, and listened for the five response knocks. When she heard it she opened the door concealed on the paneling. Out came the most precious cargo on the War Rig, five Wives smuggled away from the Citadel. Joe’s most precious treasures were making a break for freedom, carried by his trusted right hand.
The Splendid Angrahad was the first to speak. She was Joe’s favorite, and the one who inspired this break for freedom. “Does any suspect?”
Furiosa answered, “Only Ace knows, and I trust him beyond life and death. Nobody else suspects that this is anything more than it appears.”
Toast was the next to speak, always the practical one, “I suppose they’ll find out soon.”
Furiosa nodded, “It’s going to happen soon. Stay hidden here. There will be blood. The ships in our escort aren’t carrying anything bigger than an 18 pounder, they trusted the heavy guns to us. Even so, you’ll still feel the shots. Have you been managing so far?” Furiosa said with a meaningful glance to Angrahad’s protruding belly. The Wives had barely left the Citadel since they had been brought in, only displayed on Joe’s arm within the protection of the island.
“We’ll manage.” Angrahad, a slight note of challenge in her voice, “Cheedo and Dag have been sick, but it doesn’t matter. We’re going to be free.”
“Get back in then, and brace yourselves.” Furiosa said, ushering the Wives back behind the false wall. She closed it tightly behind them, making sure the seams blended in with panels on the wall.
Once they were out of sight Furiosa let out a sigh. Their lives were in her hands now. When Joe found out his Wives had escaped they would be hanged if they ever returned. Angrahad might live as long as the baby inside her did, but even she would swing eventually. She had to make the call, and hope her crew would follow. She had spent long years building a crew of sailors around her. Ones she trusted for their steady heads, and their unfaltering loyalty to her. She was the one who gave them earthly rewards, the one who had helped them to reach their full potential. While Joe promised the gifts of Valhalla, she would soon promise a much more tangible gift, that of freedom. And she knew the shackle marks on the wrists and ankles of her Fury Boys matched her own. Once Furiosa set a new course, she hoped they would follow her down the new road.
She walked with confidence out of her cabin, making eye contact with Ace as she took her place near the helm.
“Turn east!” she ordered.
There were murmurs of confusion within the crew, the course didn’t need to be corrected, to turn east would be to get off the trade route.
“Didn’t you hear the Imperator, turn east! Are you Fury’s Boys or not?!” Ace yelled to the crew, who started moving to turn the ship. The helmsman gave Furiosa a questioning look, but her wordless stare was enough for him to follow.
The nose of the ship turned, away from the sun and towards the line of dark clouds on the horizon. They were following new orders now.
I updated the formatting, hoping it will be easier to read now.
I think the next one will be split from Max and Furiosa's POV, I'm excited for some naval battles.
Max was chained in the belly of a ship. He was seated on a bench next to dozens of other ragged captives. They were on their way to be sold at Powdertown, but until they got there the slaves had been charged with manning the oars if the need arose. The hold stank with sweat and fear, not just from the slaves here now, but a deeply engrained scent from countless slaves that had come before.
After Max had been treated by the Body Butcher he had been sent to the holding pen outside the Citadel where other captured slaves awaiting sale were. He had been chained up to a long string of men. Their empty eyes and packed closeness had kept Max silent and on edge, too afraid that if he opened his mouth only a feral yell would come out. It had been dim twilight when he had first been penned, and at high noon the next day he had been dragged out. In all that time he had not had even a sip of water and his train of thought had become even more fragmented and blurry. He remembered flashes of the harbor above as they were shoved into the lower hold, the blue sky disappearing above their heads. Before long the rocking of the ship had changed. They were pulling out of the harbor, into the open sea.
Two war boys with whips patrolled the hold, looking for anyone sleeping or trying to leave their place on the bench. Heavy wooden oars lay across the slaves’ laps, dropping the oars got the whole bench a whipping. If they needed to row hatches on the side of the ship would be opened so that the oars could reach the water.
Besides the War Boys and slaves there was one more person in the hold. A masked figure squatted behind a large drum up front. The Doof was there to beat a rhythm for the rowers. He had large, muscular arms and clutched what looked suspiciously like human leg bones in his hands. Max could barely make out what looked to be a web of ropes hidden in the shadows behind the Doof, perhaps he was just as much a slave as the rest of them?
The rocking of the ocean down in the hold kept Max’s mind quiet. The familiar and rhythmic motion kept his mind quiet, even trapped as it was. But he was brought out of his trance as he heard the faint sounds of a commotion up on deck. The ship was lurching in a new direction.
And then the sound of a cannon boomed in his ears, and an impact shuddered throughout the ship.
As soon as the ship pointed itself to the east, Furiosa had ordered gun crews at the ready. Her boys jumped to it, sensing a plan brewing. She didn’t know if they would all follow once they knew the intended target, but she hoped.
“Ready for broadsides!” She yelled at the helmsman, “We’ve got to lose this escort.”
There were sounds of a commotion by the cannons, as some boys began to realize what she was doing. Now that the secret was out she wanted to talk to her boys, hopefully to win them over. She didn’t want to lose her crew; mind racing with what Angrahad had spoken of in those late night planning sessions, Furiosa began to speak.
“Fury Boys!”, she bellowed, “It’s time to break out of your chains! I am tired of being a thing. I am not here for the Immortan to use, I am a person. You are all people. I want to take you to a place where the water is sweet and the land is good. I know your names, I know your stories, and I know you thirst for freedom as I do. I know you are not things!”
After her speech, Furiosa glanced around at her crew, her chest heaving with fear as much as exertion. She saw faces that were unsure, but a spark of hope was in their eyes. Many had not put a name to that wordless desire for freedom, but it was deep inside them all. She had named it, and it burned brighter inside them now.
An unknown voice from the deck yelled, “Fury Boys! Free boys!” The call was taken up by the others until it echoed across the War Rig.
But Furiosa didn’t have time to bask in the moment. Although there was no danger within the crew, there was still a threat in the rest of the escort. “Ready those guns!” Her crew scrambled back to their posts. As soon as they were fully facing the first escort ship, floundering to match her unexpected course. She saw them trying to signal her, question what was happening on the War Rig.
“Fire at will!” she yelled, and felt the deck shake beneath her feet as the first shot was fired. It hit bow of the first escort ship, not causing any serious damage, But it was a decisive move, declaring her a traitor to Joe and the Citadel.
Great booming shots began to ring out, and the full artillery of the war rig was unleashed against the lighter escort ships. A lucky shot shattered the mast of a far vessel, leaving them stranded in the water. Another had been hit squarely in the hull, and water was now rushing into the gaping hole in the planking.
Before it sank she noticed a small dark shape moving skyward. A bird! She didn’t know that Joe had sent messenger birds along on this trip, but the old man was paranoid. Her mind raced as she went through what this could mean. Joe had not trusted her with the birds so he suspected treachery, to some extent. The Citadel would know by tomorrow, but she hoped it would take time to assemble a fleet, a couple hours at least. Furiosa didn’t think Joe’s suspicion lay deep enough to have a pursuit fleet ready to go. Only one bird had been sent from the decks of the sinking ship, and she hoped furiously it would not make it back to the Citadel.
The weather had turned violent as soon as Furiosa had. The wind whipped at the sails, and the waves were now jagged and capped with white instead of the gentle rolls they had been earlier, black clouds that were once only on the horizon now threatened to block out the sun overheard. They were heading into a storm, and no small gale.
“Furiosa, you’ve led us to the Mother of Storms!” Ace yelled to her over the sounds of the gusting wind.
“With any luck she will protect us and destroy our enemies” As the seas grew more wild the shots had hit the targets less and less. Two ships of the entourage still limped along next to them.
“Tie down the guns and batten the hatches, all hands prepare to take us through the storm! Point us into the wind! Furl the top sails and shorten the foresails!” The winds were headed east so Furiosa risked riding the storm, hoping to put distance between her and the Citadel. It was risky to leave up so much of the mainsails in such a violent storm, but Furiosa trusted the War Rig could withstand it. She also knew that the smaller entourage vessels would succumb to the storm or fall behind.
I put off writing this for longer than I should have, there was just so much going on this scene and I wanted to try and find the best way to translate that. Max and Furoisa are going to be together next chapter, I promise. And we'll get a bit of Max's POV in the battle so I can try to write the violence of the scene a bit too.
Chapter 6: Seas Roughen
Max had felt the seas go rough as the ship weathered battering from cannons. He didn’t know where the shots were from, surely no raider would dare to attack such a large party?
He heard shouts from up above ‘Imperator bitch has gone rogue! Grab us a blood bag up here, Slit got hit with the shrapnel!”
One of the overseers scanned through the slaves’ tattooed backs until he found Max. He strode over and unchained Max’s neck shackle from the line on the bench, instead securing Max to his belt. He gave the chain rough tug and pulled Max towards the ladder.
“Come on blood bag, don’t try any shit. “ the overseer said as he dragged Max past the benches. Max’s legs had gone numb over the hours of the journey and he could barely keep his balance on a deck that was rocking more roughly.
The upper deck was a battlefield. Clouds of smoke from the black powder made Max’s eyes sting. Men had rushed to the small cannons, only a couple 18 pounders and a bow chaser, trying to fight back against the larger ship. Most of the shots went wide, but a couple managed to hit the War Rig. One shot shattered a railing, another tore a small sail from the mast. No serious damage had been done, nor was there much chance with their lighter artillery. Max could see wrecks of the entourage around them, one with its mast gone, all ready foundering and taking on water.
“Move blood bag!” the overseer snapped, landing a club across Max’s shoulders, the blow igniting pain from the fresh tattoo, “I’m not about to let Slit die because your slow ass wouldn’t fucking move.” Max looked down and scurried behind the overseer, trying to make himself less of a target for shots flying through the air. The overseer took him to a small upper deck near the bow chaining Max’s hands behind a post. Max could see a white painted figure slumped over nearby, blood oozing slowly between the fingers of his hand, which was grabbing the wide gash on his side.
“Nux, hurry your ass up and give me some of that high octane blood. I can’t die historic laying down like a coward.” Nux pulled out a syringe attached to a long needle, similar to what the Body Butch had used earlier.
“Hold still blood bag, it only hurts more if you squirm.” Nux said as he jammed the needle into the crease of Max’s arm. Max watched as the cylinder slowly filled with a dark red liquid. Once it was full Nux took the needle out and then went over to Slit. He inserted the cylinder more gently, and pressed down, adding the high octane blood to Slit’s veins. He then propped Slit up, shoving his shoulder under Slit’s arm.
“I’m gonna walk you back down to the action, gonna let you be witnessed. “ Nux said, the pair stumbling down to the lower decks. Max was left chained to the post, staring out towards the battle. He could see the War Rig, her rage magnificent. Deadly as she was, Max could not deny her beauty, she was strong, sleek and powerful.
Up here Max could taste the wind and the sea, up above the oppressive hold. He could feel an ominous pressure in his skull, right behind his eyeballs. He knew that this was the sign of a storm, and a major one at that. Locked in battle as the ships were, neither one would have time to run from it. They would have to hunker down and let it pass, drifting way off of the course they were pointed on.
Nux came unsteadily up the ladder as the waves began to pick up. They weren’t big enough to raise warning yet, but Max could see the signs. A black smudge on the horizon, the pressure change, and the roughening surf all seemed small by themselves, but Max was more or less undistracted from the battle and able to place them into a bigger picture. Nux wrapped a rough piece of bandage around Max’s arm, trying to stop the trickle that was still making its way down past his wrist. Nux was chaining Max back to his waist when he too became aware of the conditions. His eyes flicked to the War Rig.
The War Rig was preparing to flee. It was clear from the way they were taking down only minimal canvas.
“Captain!” Nux yelled, down to the battlefield on the deck. “Storm is coming, and the traitor bitch is running! We gotta go after her.” He rushed to the rail, dragging Max along, forgotten.
In that time the smudge on the horizon had grown significantly, the black clouds now beginning to loom over the ships. The sounds of battle died off as the men scrambled haphazardly to the rigging. They were on pursuit, following Furiosa through the storm.
The winds began to gust, and Max could sense it was too late to get down below, back into the hold. He gripped the railing, white knuckled as the howling winds overtook them and the rains began to come down in stinging sheets. The men climbing in the rigging could barely keep hold of the lines that held them to the spars.
The pursuit ship was rolling through the rough waves, barely fighting its way through the storm to follow the War Rig. Max could barely see through the torrential downpour, combined with the blackness brought on by the massive storm clouds. The waves crashed down on deck, drenching everybody in icy cold saltwater. Beside them another pursuit ship that had been floundering was sucked down to the depths of the ocean as it was swamped by the waves. The water streaming down Max’s face stung the cuts on his neck from the shackle. Nux, still chained to him was begging the gods above and the mighty Immortan to let him live to see Valhalla. Max cast his eyes upwards, towards the Mother of Storms and mouthed a silent prayer to what ever was up there.
Max opened his eyes to bright sunlight glinting off white sands. His body was wrapped around the wooden spar he had been chained to. Nux was also still chained to him, but wasn’t moving. Max didn’t bother to check if he was alive or dead, it was doubtful that he would have any assistance in getting out of his chains there. The beach was littered with various debris, cracked planking, wooden barrels, and something that looked like one of the masts, but nothing that could be used to break the chain. The island wasn’t large, but further back from the beach were a couple trees that might be concealing a stream, so Max headed off, slinging Nux over his shoulder.
Max had been living on the edge of survival for years now, so was operating on animal instincts after his brush with death. He didn’t think much of flinging Nux over his shoulder, corded with muscles from hauling whatever he needed to live. Anyway, it was clear that nobody on the Citadel was eating well except for the Immortan, most of the war Boys were nearly skeletal, only enhancing the effect of their paint. Though underneath the paint, which had washed away with the dunking in the sea, Nux’s skin was a dark brown.
Max continued with the overseer’s body around the bend in the beach, towards the trees. As he climbed a rise in the sand he could see that they were from the only two on the island. The storm had blown the War Rig here as well, and she was stuck in the shallows, waiting for high tide to get past the treacherous rocks around the island.
More important than the ship, was the barrels dripping fresh water that the crew was rolling back along the beach. Max headed out, not bothering to stay hidden. They would see him anyway if he approached the spring, and by approaching head on he might be able to get a few words in. Anyway, they wouldn’t be able to shoot him. There was no way their powder could be dry after such a storm.
As Max walked towards to the crew he could see something baffling. Five young women, one heavily pregnant, clad only in thin white shifts. They looked nothing like sailors, nor anything like the ragged female slaves that had been chained in the pursuit ships. They must be some prize of special value to be kept separate, yet they were left free to wander.
As he approached the young women a body slammed him from the side. Max was pinned to the ground, Nux’s body falling off his shoulder. The Imperator was on top of him, her knees pressed against Max’s shoulders and a pistol in her good hand. Beneath the smear of black powder on her forehead was a growl of rage. She pressed the pistol beneath his chin and fired.
Luckily for Max the powder had been wet and the pistol only gave off a dull click as the bullet remained in the chamber, instead of blowing through Max’s skull. Furiosa quickly slammed the butt of the pistol down on Max insted. He managed to move his arms and throw her off balance, so it only glanced the side of his head instead of knocking him out.
Max attacked Furiosa, the pair rolling in the sand. Max gained the upper hand but one of the girls in white grabbed the chain attached to his neck shackle and dragged him off. Furiosa took the opportunity to run near to the ship and went to grab for a knife she had stashed there. She wasn’t able to get a hold on it before Nux grabbed at her legs, jolted into consciousness when he was dragged by the women. Max took the knife from where it tumbled in the sand, but Furiosa was back on her feet and pinned him against the hull of the War Rig. She bent Max’s arm, bringing the knife dangerously close to his throat, just beginning to cut into it. When Max was pinned there he saw flashes of his ghosts, a woman standing away on the horizon. He felt his last grip on himself break as he sank deeper into feral mode, adrenaline pumping.
As Max felt the blood run down his neck he managed to straighten his arm and flip over, pinning the Imperator against the hull. But suddenly Max was tugged back by his neck shackle, dragged by the chain attaching him to Nux. The women had grabbed the newly conscious War Boy and tried to remove him from the pair grappling on the side of the ship.
Furiosa came towards Max with a yell of rage, kicking at his face. White hot pain exploded behind Max’s eyes as one caught him on the brow bone, narrowly missing his eyes. She got behind him and yanked at his chain, choking him. Max lashed out and elbowed her in the groin, knocking her in to the ground where they once again began wrestling in the sand.
Max had the advantage of height and weight, as well as two good arms and was able to pin down Furiosa. She didn’t give up yet though, still managing to land blows against his still ringing head with a nearby piece of driftwood. Max was seeing stars and barely hanging on. He managed to roll them over and pin her arm behind her back. He drew back the knife, still miraculously gripping in his fist and drove it downward, straight into the sand beside Furiosa’s head, before pressing it to her neck.
The bird circled over the Citadel, lower and lower until perching on windowsill of the guard tower. The War Boys on guard quickly slipped the message tube from its leg, running it through the corridors towards the Immortan’s inner chambers.
The Boy burst into the room “Immortan, there’s news from the trading party!”
Immortan Joe was sitting at a large table in fron of the room, illuminated by ship’s lamps. He was a large man, with long bone white hair. He wore a gold brocade coat, decorated with gaudy ribbons and medals he had stolen in his youth. Underneath, white robes belted with a large silver skull. It was his ceremonial garb as leader of the cult. A death’s head mask covered the lower portion of his face. The skull was constructed with long gilded horse teeth to give it a more ghastly appearance. It was rumored that this mask wasn’t ceremonial but to cover the wreckage of his face, which had been eaten away by syphilis and quicksilver.
Joe snatched the letter from the messenger’s hand. News this early in a voyage was rarely good. The was only a couple a couple words scrawled on the small scrap of paper. ‘Betrayed. Go east’ The Immortan let out a roar and stormed out furiously, heading towards the Vault.
The Vault was a small atrium built deep in the Citadel. It was behind a large padlocked door, that only Joe held the key to. Inside it was a small paradise. There was a manicured garden with ponds of fresh water. However, high walls loomed all around, never letting the inhabitants forget that they were captives. Now these walls were defaced, messages left by his escaped Wives. ‘We will not let our sons be warlords’ and ‘We are not things’ were the only traces that the girls had once been here.
Joe headed into the smaller personal rooms. There stood Miss Giddy, brandishing a flintlock in her frail arms. An old tattooed whore, she had been stolen in her youth and was now the matron of Joe’s harem. The Immortan kept walking , backing her into a corner and pushing the gun to the side.
“Where are they?!” He roared, his voice raspy and muffled by his mask. “She stole them!”
Miss Giddy stood up, not intimidated by his anger. “They begged her to go, they didn’t wish to be your whores anymore, and have their children killed and taken away.”
The Immortan strode out of the room. ‘Ready my fleet! We’re chasing the bitch who stole my treasures!” War Boys started rushing to every corner of the Citadel, carrying the message and heading to their stations. All the remaining ships would be leaving. Only extra Boys, near the end of their half life would stay behind, not able enough to sail.
“Corpus,” Joe said, calling to his deformed son as he entered into his inner sanctum once again. Corpus was in a specially rigged chair by the window, his small body held up to an elaborate telescope. “Send birds to Powder Town and the Bullet Farm. I need their fleets to join my hunt. I need to make sure no body dares defy me again.” Corpus nodded and pushed the War Pup who stood by him towards the rookery.
Next Joe called for Rictus. While Rictus was whole of body, he could not be taught any of the simple skills. He followed his dad fanatically, a piece of walking muscle. “Rictus, you will come with me as my First Mate. The Great Gigahorse shall chase these traitors to the ends of the Earth.” Joe’s own personal ship was named the Gigahorse, after a massive horse with a billion legs that came to him in a prophetic dream. It was armored with thin layers of steel affixed to the sides. Its sail’s were massive to carry the extra weight. Because of the unwieldy masts that stretched higher and further than normal the ship had a pronounced lean, where the bow was lowered into the water. It was a hulking beast of a ship, intimidating but barely sea worthy.
A couple hours later Joe was standing on it’s decks, gleaming in the late afternoon sun. He was wearing plates of beaten gold over his robes, giving the impression of a muscular physique. Like his ship the armor on his body was almost as useless against any weapon. Yet the War Pups and wretched still cheered as their shining god left to take back his snatched treasures.
Hey guys! I was originally going to post this as part of another chapter but it got a little too long, so enjoys this shorter one. Stay tuned for the 'Rock Riders' I'm really excited for that chapter as I've had some really exciting ideas of how to rewrite that scene in universe.
Also if you've read this far could you maybe just leave some kudos or a comment. I don't care if it's blank or anything I'd just really appreciate knowing if anybody is actually reading the whole story or if they don't like it and give up. Much appreciated! I really do want to make this a great fic. I know writing isn't my forte but I hope somebody besides me likes this idea.
Furiosa lay under the feral, panting from their fight. He had had the opportunity to kill her, and yet she was still alive and not seriously harmed. The knife was pressed to her throat, but she still had a chance to make it out of this. She twisted her body, testing the limits of the hold. Once she had maneuvered, something on the horizon caught her eye.
Max heard the woman below him gasp, but he kept the knife at her neck, not falling for a ploy. He didn’t trust this Imperator, even if she had gone rouge. He didn’t want to trust anybody, especially those that bore the marl of the Immortan. However she was also his only way off the island, short of taking the ship for himself. Then she spoke, “We’re going to the Green Place.”
Bargaining would be the only way either of them got off this island, so Furiosa had offered this chance to the feral man who held her. “The green Place of Many Mothers. It’s a secret island, where the water is sweet.” The feral grunted and settled back on his haunches, she was still pinned but the knife was no longer at her neck. “You can come, but you won’t make it without me. The crew is mine, and they won’t sail the War Rig without me.”
Behind the pair Nux was oblivious to the conversation, “We’ve got his wives, you can ask for anything you want! He’s gonna be so grateful. I could drive the Rig!” The wives managed to grab him, Toast shoving a gag in his mouth.
“Do you want that collar off your neck?” Furiosa asked, nodding to wards the collar, and the chain attaching the feral to the War boy. That seemed to seal the deal for him, as he got off her. Dag walked forward tentatively with bolt cutters. She started with the chain to the War Boy. Once it was snapped the wives wrapped the chain around Nux, further restraining him. Fag went behind Max to get to the weak point of his collar. With a glance from Furiosa she broke that too. Once the collar was loose the feral tore it off, itching at his neck, trying to erase the feeling.
Furiosa gestured towards the horizon. “Looks like Immortan heard about us. He’s on his way, and he brought a fleet. People Eater, Bullet Farm boys, flamers, polecats, they’re all coming.” She turned and walked away the wives clustered around her.
“No way the feral will come, he’s crazy.” Capable whispered.
“Crazy smeg” The Dag added in vicious tones.
But the feral followed them back to the War Rig; still occasionally scratching at the marks his collar had left. Nux was still gagged and chained on the beach, struggling and forgotten.
Furiosa yelled out orders to the crew. “Let’s get the Rig moving. We’re heading to the Rocky Archipelago. I’ve made a deal for safe passage. We should be able to lose Joe there.” There was a flurry activity as she strode onto the deck. The anchor was raised, and a lookout was sent to the bow to maneuver them through the shallows. The tide was high enough that the obstacles were submerged, but it was still difficult to navigate. She stood at the wheel, listening to the relay of instructions. The Rig cleared the by and was soon out into open water. With all the activity nobody noticed a lithe brown body, still streaked with white paint, climbing in one of the open gun ports.
The Rig was blessed with smooth sailing towards the Archipelago. They had good winds, but the image of the War Party still sat shimmering on the horizon. A tingle of fear stayed at the edges of Furiosa’s mind. She was distracted by a sudden commotion of deck, with noise coming from the captain’s quarters.
When she stormed in the War Boy was there, being held down by the wives. Toast turned to her, “This rat smuggled himself on board.” When Furiosa pulled a knife Angrahad laid an arm across her, stopping Furiosa from getting closer “We agreed, no unnecessary killing.”
“He’s kamicrazy!” Furiosa protested.
“But he’s just a kid, and he’s near the end of his half life” Capable retorted, eyeing the sores on his body.
“I’ll die, witnessed, head to Valhalla!” Nux cried, struggling against the wives. They only wrapped him tighter.
“He’s got you fooled. He’s no God at all.” Angrahad turned towards the war Boy, an intense look, bordering on fury in her eyes. “He’s a lying old man.”
“Why do you think he’s had us branded?” added Dag.
“Even you, cannon fodder.” Cheedo said, not letting go of her end of the rope.
“We aren’t things.” Angrahad said, an air of finality in her voice.
Nux collapsed into the corner of the cabin, tied up and the fight gone out of him. Capable settled down next to him, keeping a careful eye on the War Boy.
Furiosa headed back to the wheel, the girls had it covered. She would have killed him, but at least he was controlled now. Let these girls try to change the boy, give peace a chance for once. They didn’t need blood on their hands. It was too late for her though.
When they’re approaching the hidden bay that marks the meeting point Furiosa signals Ace over. “Can you get me the feral?”
“Sure thing, but what good is he?”
“I need the crew to stay hidden, I don’t want the Rock Raiders to know we’re dangerous. He doesn’t pose a threat as much as any of the Fury Boys, and
I want somebody on deck if things go sideways.”
“Why not me then? I can disguise the paint.”
“Ace, I can’t afford to lose you. I need somebody to keep things calm below decks, and you’re the only one I trust.”
“I’ll grab the feral.”
Ace came back, the feral following behind, glancing warily around the deck. He obviously felt uncomfortable outside of whatever hidey-hole he had been stashed in. Ace left when Furiosa gestured to him, going to fill in the rest of the Fury Boys on the plan for the Rock Raiders.
“What can I call you?” Furiosa asked. The feral stared back, giving a half shrug and a grunt.
“Well, I’ll just call Fool then, and you respond.” Furiosa said, a tinge of sarcasm in her voice. The feral tilted his head to the side, indicating that he understood.
“I need you to be my backup on the helm. Any of the Fury boys would make the Rock Raiders too suspicious. You know how to captain a ship.” The feral nodded yes, but Furiosa had already made that assumption. Nobody could survive as long as he did without a damn fast boat and a way to sail it.
“There’s a secret kill switch for the helm, designed it myself. Makes it so the helm isn’t connected to the rudder.” Furiosa grabbed his hand and guided it to a panel under the wheel and slightly to the right. The seams were indistinguishable to the eye, and barely felt by touch. “If they board us and things get nasty, slide the panel up.” Her hand guided his through the motions, revealing a gear inside the compartment. “One turn left, one turn right, two turns left and one quarter turn right.” Her hand once again went through the motions with his, sliding along the gear without engaging the mechanism. “Don’t go through it until I yell for you, and if I can’t yell use your judgment.” The Fool nodded, drawing his hand back to his side like it was hot sand he couldn’t bear for another second.
“Stay ready and stay on deck.” Furiosa turned away from him as she took the War Rig to the mouth of the bay.
“Ace, take all hands below! We’re entering Rock Raider territory.” She said, with more authority then volume, trying not to let her orders echo off the stone cliffs around them.
Furiosa returned to the helm. Trying to ignore the tingles of warmth that were still in her fingers from where she touched the feral. Best after all that she didn’t know his name, it would be easier if he were killed during the trade.
Wow! 10k words and there's still a lot of story left. This has really grown past why I expected, but I don't want to leave out any of the scenes.
I promise I'll finally get to the Rock Raiders next chapter, they were one of the first things I envisioned when planning the story and I really can't believe it's taken me so long to get here.
Also, sorry that updates are so far and few between. Life has been real busy since the semester started and it's easy to let projects fall by the wayside. Don't worry, it's still gonna get finished, it's just going to be a slower project than I hoped. If I do end up abandoning this due top real life I'll have it marked, but I'm not at that point yet.
Also thanks for the kudos so far. I'm really glad that other people like the story and have bothered to read my writing.