Fromin shifted in his fetal position atop the stack of frosty, soaked mattresses and felt the joints in his legs grind somewhere in the back of his neck. He could still hear the creaking, metal on metal echoes of the torpedo deck directly beneath the berthing compartment in which he had situated himself. The sound seemed to mimic the grinding of his bones. Every thunderous moan that she bellowed echoed the prayer and the desire that Fromin himself felt to a moderate degree; she wanted to be dead, and so did Fromin. Her once valiant and strong body was broken and crushed and she was suffering a prolonged death in a dark, cold place far from home and so was her supply officer.
While he could still hear the death rattles coming from the submarine, he could no longer smell. He thanked God in heaven for the frostbite that had destroyed his nose and the fully packed (and possibly frozen solid) sinuses that kept him from the brine and sewage smell of icy bilge and seawater. It would have only made things worse. His lungs ached from breathing what was left of the compartment's air, and he was certain that he had either developed pneumonia or the fuel oil for the diesel had flooded into the compartment as a result of the crash was burning him with fumes. The emergency air lines still worked; Fromin had isolated them when he had sealed the compartments watertight doors. But the sounds of the crewmen pounding on those doors when they realized that the submarine was sinking had distracted him, and he had forgotten to seal the berthing deck off from the torpedo room below him. The pounding on the door did not last nearly as long as he had thought it might, but Fromin had been forced to turn off the emergency lanterns of the compartment his only source of warmth as well as light due to the bulging, blue and bloodshot faces of the crew staring through the porthole of the door at him in fury after they finally drowned.
Fromin was a survivor, and he had always had a knack for making the best of a bad situation. The sinking of the Lleyenna was no exception. When the captain called for him to form a detail of the crewmen to seal off all watertight doors and to distribute the arctic escape kits, Fromin knew that there simply would not be enough time to save all of the men before he could make a bad situation into a fighting chance for life.
He smiled through frostbitten lips which cracked and bled, adding a brief respite from the numbing chill in the air. The Americans or the French will be here soon. Perhaps the Norwegians he thought to himself. I hope it's the Americans. I hope they have fresh bread on the rescue ship.
Fromin covered his face with his mittens so that his breath might keep his eyes from freezing in their sockets in the event he woke up, but he was tired and needed sleep now. It had been a very long time since he had slept. He had not slept since before the crash some eighteen hours ago.
So very tired
Fromin woke from the metal on metal sound above him. The Lleyenna was not moaning this time. This time, the sound was like that of an emergency access valve being accessed from outside of the ship! Fromin could not open his eyes, but he could smile. He must have shifted in his sleep and, as sure as the sun sets in the west, his eyes had frozen shut. He tried to lick the blood from his lips as he grinned, but his numb tongue simply waggled. Being blind is a small price to pay for being alive he thought. Pension is the harlot of heroism, and heroism is the reward of survival.
Fromin heard a shrill screech as the access valve gave way and a hatch steamed open. He attempted to smell the air that he imagined was rushing into the compartment, warm and clean, and remembered that he has lost his sense of smell as well as, apparently, his sight. He cried out in Russian as he heard a series of footsteps clank down the access rungs of the bulkhead that led to the emergency access hatch, but received no answer.
They must not speak Russian he thought, as his ears rang from the sound of his own voice. He idly wondered for a moment if he would go deaf before this was all over as well. Fromin felt the water shift around him and heard movement coming towards him.
Again, he chanted his name, rank and service number to his rescuers hoping surely they had brought a translator with them, or at the very least a fellow Russian officer. In mid-sentence, however, what felt like a frozen vice strangled the words in his mouth.
Fromin struggled sluggishly, his frostbitten limbs and unresponsive joints moving in slow motion as his eyelids fluttered up and down over eyes that could not see what was pulling him off of his stack of waterlogged mattresses and into the icy water of the flooded compartment. He felt as though a mask made of duct tape had been suddenly and violently ripped from his face as if the chilled and tortured flesh of his countenance had been flayed in one, single motion and suddenly, Lieutenant Fromin could see exactly what his rescuers were.
He tried to scream at the hellish sight before him, at the jet-black skinned figure that held him by the throat at arms length, suspended inches above the water in the compartment, but only moaned.
"Are you the engineer of this vessel?" the figure hissed in Russian. Its breath smelled of rotten fish and sewage, and suddenly, Fromin realized he could smell again. The demon before him loosened its grasp on Fromin's throat only enough for him to speak.
"I - I am merely the supply officer"
The demon tightened its grip again. With its free hand, the demon shackled a chain around Fromin's left wrist, then his right. The chain's felt warm at first, and then, almost as quickly as Fromin regained feeling in his arms, the warmth turned into a searing cold.
The demon gave a hearty tug on the chain and Fromin was pulled almost immediately from the forward berthing compartment of the Lleyenna, through the emergency access hatch and into the dark, stormy air above. Thunderclouds darker than any he had ever seen during any deployment in the Barents Sea loomed almost solidly above him, and as almost an afterthought, Fromin realized that the Lleyenna was on the surface of the water, which looked almost black for the cloud cover above.
Fromin looked down just in time to see the massive demon that had "rescued" him exit the access hatch. It barked orders to gaunt and ghastly sailors wearing rags for uniforms who stood on the forward deck of the Lleyenna, throwing lines of chain from her cleats to what appeared to him to be small, filthy outriders and catamarans with the occasional, barely seaworthy and billowing tug here and there.
The Lleyenna has been captured and salvaged by pirates! Fromin thought to himself as he dangled a few feet above the sonar cone of the once proud submarine.
"Captain Renatus, sir!" one of the pale, ghastly looking sailors shouted across deck to the towering demon who was surveying the towing efforts. "We've located the engineer, sir."
"Very well" The captain replied. "Have the engineer brought to me."
"What about that one, sir?" the sailor pointed at Fromin's dangling form. Captain Renatus turned and grinned at Fromin. His bright yellow eyes and teeth glimmering even under the perpetual dusk of the Tempest's thunderheads.
Captain Renatus turned back to the sailor and raised a black hood from his cloak to cover his head. "Chum him to the sharks."
"Aye sir" replied the sailor as the captain began climbing the rungs that ran vertically along the port side of Lleyenna's sail. The sailor whistled towards the aft end of the battered boat and then pointed to Fromin.
"Captain Renatus is merciful to your hunger, drowned ones. He provides you a table from which to sup. Take all you want, but eat all you take, lads."
Mikhail Niki Gregor Polosovkim Ivan Fromin watched each of them come around the sail from aft towards him. Their bloodshot eyes and blue skin still distorted in the same glares with which they had stared at him as they died while he watched.
Fromin closed his eyes as he felt their icy, wet hands pull his uniform from his body, and as they sank their teeth into him, he smelled bread and smiled.
Obliviography has seen a bit of resurgence in the wake of the fall of Stygia. It is readily acknowledged by many of the intact Guilds and less-fractious factions of Renegades and Doomslayers that have banded together under various flags in the ruins of the Isle of Sorrows that in order for Oblivion to remain contained it is vitally important to preserve the knowledge that has been collected over millennia regarding Nothing's Champions if for no other reason than to gain intimate insight into the still-strong enemy faced by the wraiths of what might be left of the Dark Kingdoms.
There is, however, no mention in any of the collected or respected records salvaged from the Institute for Obliviographic Studies that mentions the Scourge of the Sea of Sorrows, Captain Renatus.
Some wraiths who have encountered Renatus and escaped believe and tell that he is Pasiphae; that being the concentrated shadow of a Ferryman made manifest or, in a more spiritual sense, a "Saint" of Oblivion.
Captain Renatus can (and does) navigate the Tempest via Byways in much the same manner and with as much expertise as any Ferryman aboard the flagship of Oblivion's fleet: a soul-powered, World War One era destroyer named The Scythe. Many refugees from the Far Shores tell tales of an island of darkness and cruelty that glows green on the horizon across the Sea of Woe a small gulf in the tempest where shipwrecks occasionally enter the Shadowlands from across the Shroud. It is believed that Captain Renatus maintains a Soulyard on this island as well as a base of operations for the relic ships he is able to salvage from the Tempest's waters. Hulls are patched with the soulforged corpii of any hand that can be reaped from the waters surrounding by armies of dedicated mortwights. When no hands can be reaped from the wreckages that bubble and bob up into the Sea of Woe, striplings suffice. Captain Renatus' Soulyard refits the relic ships with engines that run on the molten corpus of wraiths and guns that fire shells forged of nothings and striplings bound to barrow flame tips.
Many believe that Renatus' Fleet of the Damned hunt and destroy Ferrymen and that ultimately, the captain will isolate the Far Shores, cutting off any Byways that might lead to them across the Tempest, and launch an assault on the principalities that will all but ensure their complete and total fall to Oblivion. Others believe, however, that Renatus' fleet is being outfitted for a direct assault on any surviving coastal Necropoli that might remain in the Dark Kingdom of Iron, taking full advantage of their weakened defenses and the chaos and confusion that has followed the demise of Charon's Hierarchy. Either way, spectral ships along the horizon of the liquid ebony surface of the Sunless Sea are driven towards what is left of Stygia with ill omen in their sails, using hatred and malice to spin their screws and plot their course under the command of a captain that knows comfort only in the stillness of shadow.
Captain Renatus appears, at first glance, as a weathered Ferryman who may have seen more than his fair share of abuse at the hands of the Sixth Great Maelstrom. His cloak is tattered, frayed and, in places, patched with soulsteel reinforcements. Beneath his cloak and cowl, however, the captain's corpus is as black as the waters of the very Tempest on which he sails. His eyes glow with a jaundiced, decayed yellow light and when he smiles, the yellowed rot of scurvy beams from his grin. He stands a towering and imposing eight feet tall and, when boarding or repelling boarders, engages in combat with a soulsteel scythe that glows with greenish-blue barrow flame across the length of its three foot blade.
While not a warship of the same ilk as the HMS Monarch (Wraith: The Great War, pg. 228), The Scythe maintains a structural integrity of 100 and has many of the same technological innovations of the Monarch where armament and propulsion are concerned. The Scythe serves as the flagship of the Fleet of the Damned under Captain Renatus' supreme command but also benefits from Renatus' ability to navigate the Tempest with his ship, support vessels and all hands in exactly the same manner as a Ferryman. At any given time, The Scythe boasts a support group of much smaller craft, i.e., tugboats which have been armed with catapults or with relic firearms, re-engineered exploration and fishing vessels with soulsteel forecastles for the purposes of ramming, and even the occasional jet ski or cigarette boat for high speed ship-to-ship attack. For more information on the special abilities of the Ferrymen, see the End of Empires sourcebook for Wraith: The Oblivion.
The Sailors of the Fleet of the Damned
Captain Renatus' men are, for the vast majority, doppelgangers and nephwracks who have perished at sea through accident, storm or through naval combat that left them to die slowly and in despair at the bottom of Skinland oceans. Nothings and striplings are, for the most part, considered nothing more than raw materials for the fleet to utilize in the maintenance of the vessels that make up the fleet, armaments for the crews of the ships and fuel for the engine rooms. Captain Renatus takes great risks and measures to race his fleet at full speed to the sites of relic ships that punch through the Shroud, eliminating competitive reapers and salvaging as many relics and new souls as are possible to strengthen his mission.
Renatus elates in hope turned to horror. As Pasiphae, he has led countless souls into the mouth of Oblivion itself masquerading as a heroic, Stygian savior. At times, when a relic vessel comes across the Shroud, Renatus will secure the area around the ship and wait to harvest any souls that might be inside with the hopes that they are aware, coherent, and believe themselves to be alive. He takes great pride and draws no small amount of strength from watching the faces of the newly reaped enfants contort at the realization that they are, for all intents and purposes, in hell.
The Sunless Sea is the battlefield chosen by the captain in the demise of Charon and the fall of Stygia. With the Hierarchy in shambles, the guilds in confusion and Stygia in ruins, the time has come for Oblivion's kiss to sloppily spill across every shore touched by the waters that fuel the Tempest. The Fleet of the Damned is the captain's ticket into the upper echelon of the ranks of Oblivion's champions as well as his means to bring victory to the master he so dutifully serves and despair to those who oppose it among the ranks of the dead.
Very little is presented in official canon regarding the Pasiphae, who are believed to be the discorporate Shadows of Ferrymen. It should be noted that Pasiphae, as it is stated in Doomslayers: Into the Labyrinth, are most probably immune to the effects of Hive Mind, which allow them to think somewhat independently from other spectres. The following are my personal suggestions for Arcanoi that might be used by Captain Renatus:
Contaminate 5, Corruption 5, Embody 4, Fatalism 2, Hive Mind 2, Inhabit 3, Intimation 4, Leechcraft 5, Maleficence 5, Moliate 5, Outrage 5, Pandemonium 4, Phantasm 4, Puppetry 3, Shroud Rending 2, Tempestos 5