((This is the game thread for the sea and sail adventures of the crew of the Smuggler's Moon... Being as this tale involves pirates and the like it should be assumed that the content, here, is intended for "mature audiences"... You know, blood, guts, harsh language, salty innuendo, wenches, etc.))
Posted on 2011-08-26 at 14:57:11.
Edited on 2011-09-09 at 15:40:23 by Eol Fefalas
No one had bothered to lock the door, but the runes hastily scrawled on it in blue chalk suggested that there was something of note waiting beyond it. He slowly opened it, holding his breath and his weapon ready for whatever the runes were protecting or hiding. Nothing attacked, however, and instead he was greeted with a small dimly lit room. A few blinks helped his eyes adjust to the light and at once he regretted opening the door.
Veiled in the faded light the figure of a girl was pressed against the wall opposite him. Her delicate wrists were bound in iron cuffs attached by chains to the ceiling, so her hands hung limply just above her head. The line of her body, scarcely covered in a dirty gown, wandered to the floor where she kneeled, the strength to stand obviously missing and the ability to lie down prohibited by the chains. Her knees settled over a large circular rune also drawn in blue chalk that covered most of the floor. The dark stains blotting her pale skin with harsh bruises and splashes of blood spoke of her treatment. As the door opened she had not lifted her head, strings of once blonde hair covered whatever damage had been done to it.
“Please… no more…” her tiny voice whispered as he took in the sight before him.
“Aye,” the corsair answered his tone as soft as the captive woman’s as he blinked against the gloom, “there’ll be no more, lass. I’ll promise ye that much…”
The pistol carried in his left hand was tucked into the sash at his waist, then, as his dark eyes tore away from the pitiful creature shackled there and, once more, pondered the blue-chalk runes that festooned the hatch, bulkheads, and deck of this tiny cabin before committing himself to breeching the doorway. Jericho Hawkes was no magician, nor did he pretend to understand the complexities of how magic worked. He did know, from more than one personal experience, that magic was dangerous and the signs and symbols that witches and warlocks utilized in the workings of their spells were not to be taken lightly even when they were naught but roughly scribed swirls of chalk.
“Khash!” he called along the corridor before stepping over the threshold, at last, and cautiously approaching the captive girl, “Fetch us a blanket an’ a spot o’ water, mate! An’ make it quick, aye?”
“Aye, Cap’n,” a deep, gravelly voice replied from some short distance away. The response was followed by the sound of heavy footsteps pounding the deck-boards and, then, a crash and clatter as Jericho’s hulking First Mate pillaged a neighboring cabin in search of the requested items; “Whutcha find?”
“Not what I were expectin’,” the corsair murmured, stopping just before the toe of his boot crossed the barrier of blue chalk that encircled the girl. His cinnamon colored eyes flitted up to where the chains that bound her were tethered to a sturdy beam, then followed the links of those chains back down to where the dark irons were clamped around raw and frail wrists, “not what I were expectin’ at all…”
His gaze moved from the manacles, then, and tried to catch glimpse the girl’s face behind the tendrils of dirty and matted hair that veiled it. The girl didn’t move, though… not so much as an effort to raise her head and look to see who it was that had come through the door… in fact, if Jericho hadn’t have heard her speak with his own ears, he might have thought, given a glance in passing, that she was dead where she hanged. “An’ I reckon this i’nae th’ place ye’d imagined ye’d be findin’ yerself, either, is it, lovely,” he whispered to the girl as, at last, he sheathed the blade he carried in his right hand and let his eyes fall to study the blue circle at his feet. “Jus’ a moment more, lass,” he told her then, “an’ we’ll have ye free, aye?”
“Whutcha say, Jarek,” Khash asked, turning sideways so as to fit his shoulders through the smallish door of the cabin, “I din’t heard ya… oh… et’s a gurl…”
“Aye,” Jericho nodded, turning to look at the dreadlocked half-orc who now stood behind him… he gestured at the runes inscribed about the place and offered a knowing wink as he took the waterskin that Khash had brought; “an’ more’n jus’ a girl, I’d wager, given all o’ this, eh?”
“Aye,” Khash growled, his black eyes narrowing suspiciously, almost nervously, as the Captain pointed out the magic symbols he had, at first, missed. “Ya reckon she’s da treasure whut da Sea Lord were talkin’ bout? Dere wasn’t nuffin’ on da brig whut coulda beed called treasure, I says… Jus’ some powder an’ guns’s about alls we’re ta get off’n dat, I’m ‘fraid… an’ dere ain’t much more ‘board dis’n but whut da crew mighta called pers’nals…”
Jericho nodded – the half-orc’s appraisal of the situation was very close to his own – but said nothing in reply as his attentions were fixed on using the contents of the waterskin to wash away a portion of the chalk-etched circle that surrounded the wretched girl and, as his free hand clutched at the turtle-shell pendant that hung about his neck, his lips silently formed the words of protection that should keep him safe if he made a mistake in dispelling the ward.
"They're for me... removing them won't hurt you. But I make no promises as to what this 'treasure' will do without them..." she whispered as she slowly raised her battered face and brought a pair of watery blue eyes to Jericho's.
Jericho’s lips abruptly stopped dancing over the incantation and curled into a roguish smile as his gaze sank into the liquid depths of the eyes the girl had just lifted to his, but his hand didn’t move from the tiny, painted turtle shell. “Now, now, lovely,” the corsair purred, “no need in makin’ threats ta th’ man’s about ta set ye free, is there?”
He set the waterskin aside, then, and without taking his eyes from those of the beleaguered girl, dragged his fingertips through the water and chalk to break the circle. That same hand lifted, then, and the tips of his fingers dipped under the edge of the black bandana tied about his head. “I’ll nae ask any promises o’ ye, lass,” he cooed, still smiling as he pulled a set of picks from amidst the braided and beaded tendrils of his khave-colored hair, “fer anythin’ other’n nae meltin’ me ta a puddle once yer free, aye?”
No further words passed her broken lips. Instead she pressed them tightly together as she took deep breaths through her nose, each one threatening to end in a cough that she managed to keep in her chest somehow. As the deeply intense pools that swirled in her eyes watched him approach the rest of her body tensed causing the serpent inked around the slender line of her left arm to almost shudder in anticipation.
“Aye,” Jericho grinned, “I’ll be takin’ tha’ as a yes, then…” He let go of the turtle shell pendant, at this point, and with both hands, reached for the manacles that fettered the girl’s wrists.
“Cap’n,” Khash rumbled from behind him, sounding a bit skeptical as to the actions Jericho was about to take, “I dunno dat ya should be doin’ wut yer tinkin’… Dese magicks is trouble an’…”
“Belay tha’ drek, Khash-mate,” the corsair captain interrupted, still keeping his eyes on the girl. “These magics’re nae any trouble at all, are they, lovely,” he winked at the girl as he worked at her bonds with the picks, “an’, soon enough, we’ll be settin’ ‘em in our wake an’ all th’ better fer it, aye?”
He felt the lock spring free, then, and the cruel, iron bonds gave way of some of their bite. “Now,” he said over his shoulder as he secreted the lockpicks away in his bandana again and used his other hand to fully open the restraints, “give us over tha’ blanket, lad. This young lady’s seen her enough o’ th’ chill, I reckon, an’ she’ll nae wanna be goin’ topside wit’ naught more’n this scrap o’ a dress she’s wearin’, will she?”
Finally freed of the binds she sunk down to the floor and curled her damaged wrists onto her lap. Her blue eyes closed and she simply sat there, waiting.
Despite the cautions alluded to by the runes and the warning uttered by the girl, herself, Jericho wasn’t sure that he’d been expecting much more from her than this. Nevertheless, it took him a moment longer to react to her circumstances that it might have had she been any other woman… He watched her for a moment, instead, crumpled there on the floor with her injured wrists cradled in her lap, and waited for her to make good on the threats leveled, first, by the arcane scrawlings about the cabin and, then, whispered past her own lips…
“She’s not gon’ turn us ta frogs is she?”
The privateer blinked, at last, and there was a mirthful glimmer in his eyes as he managed to tear them away from the tattered lass and cast a glance back at Khash. “‘Twould appear not, mate,” he grinned, winking at the big half-orc before returning his gaze to the crumpled blonde and crouching down before her, “An’ I don’ reckon she’ll be havin’ any such inclination ‘s long ‘s we treats ‘er proper, will she, lovely?”
The girl had listened but not reacted to what was going on around her until the pirate bent down to her level. She had been through this before and had learned that the more she reacted and the more she said the worse it usually got. The pirate waivered before her vision and she slowly shook her head as she drew her tongue over her parched swollen lips.
"Thirsty..." she whispered and felt the first pricks of unconsciousness work into her.
“Aye,” Jericho said softly, still smiling as he shook out the blanket his first mate had brought and draped it gingerly around the girl’s shoulders, “I reckon so, lass…” He made sure not to touch her as his fingers let go of the blanket and reached for the half-full waterskin he had set aside a moment ago… “Here ye be, then,” he continued after unstoppering the thing and offering it to her.
The extent of the pitiful girl’s torture became all the more obvious as, when they reached for the waterskin, her arms moved as if they were made of lead and her slender fingers trembled as they tried to take hold of the thing and tip it to her cracked lips. Jericho’s smile faded just a bit and there was some bit of disgust comingled with pity in the faint shake of his head just then. “Slow a’ first, aye, lovely,” he urged, tipping the waterskin to her cracked lips, himself, and allowing her hands the rest they deserved, “We’ll nae want ta have freed ye jus’ ta watch ye choke, will we?”
She did seem to choke down the first few swallows, of course – it was only to be expected that the power of her thirst would overwhelm her sense when the first drops hit her lips after so long – but, at his urging, the girl managed to slow her gulps, and, after a moment, actually swallowed more water than spilled uselessly down her chin. He let her drink her fill, of course, which left scarcely a drop left in the once-full skin, and, once her thirst was slaked, withdrew the waterskin and handed it behind him to the looming Khash.
The corsair stayed crouched before her for a long moment, simply watching and waiting as, he thought, he was allowing her time to gather her strength. He hadn’t waited overlong, though, when he cocked his head to one side and asked; “Can ye stand, lass? It’s been a while since yer legs been under ye fer standin’, I reckon, but, if ye can, now’s likely th’ time ta do so. We’ll nae be wantin’ ta linger aboard this scow much longer…” Almost tentatively he reached out and rested a hand on her shoulder, not quite giving enough pressure to his touch to indicate that he was about to haul her to her feet but, with the placement of his hand, gave enough of an indication that he was here to help her up should she require it. “Come along, now, lovely,” he cooed, “let’s be off and get ye ta rest, then…”
The water had helped stave off the prickles of darkness. However, now that the moment had come that she was expected to get to her feet and go with this pirate they began to return. Closing her eyes and trying to will herself to stay strong she slowly began to rise from the chalked floor. She rose nearly to her full height before the tides overtook her. As her delicate frame loosened with the faint the ship they were on shuddered slightly as the ocean around it rippled for a moment before falling into a quiet calm.
It happened so quickly that Jericho wasn’t entirely sure that his stumbling toward and catching the toppling girl in his arms was a reaction to her fainting or, rather, if it might have been resultant of the sudden turmoil of the sea that the captured vessel seemed to find itself in just as she succumbed to unconsciousness. Either way, whether from instinct and foresight or from pure coincidence and luck, he did manage to capture the beset lass in his embrace before her head met the deckboards and, also – whether by luck or skill equally in question – managed to keep his own feet under him as the Mizini corvette bucked crazily for no longer than it took to draw an apprehensive breath…
“Kraken!” Khash bellowed, his ham-sized hands crushing dimples into the wood of the doorway as the half-orc’s fingers sought purchase there in hopes of remaining upright himself.
…Jericho held that breath for a moment – listening to the short burst of surprised shouts up top and waiting for the waters to actually heave and toss as the demon kraken they all expected shot it’s tentacles through the surface and brought them to bear against flesh and timber alike. That breath finally escaped in the form of a dismissive chuckle, though, and the corsair hoisted the unconscious girl more securely into his arms and let himself rock away from the bulkhead where he had braced himself. “I’m nae inclined ta think so, Khash,” he said, flicking his first mate a confident wink before letting his eyes fall to the girl’s face, “she’d’ve had us all b’now if ‘twere, aye?
Per’aps a whale er some such gived us a nudge, mate,” he rationalized, shaking a spill of beaded locks over his shoulder as he carried the girl toward the hatch that Khash was now backing out of, “but ‘tweren’t no kraken… Either way, lad, the sea’s tellin’ us it’s time ta be goin’.”
“We takin’ her ta Rheobryn?”
“Nay, lad,” Jericho answered as he sidled past Khash’s bulk and made way along the corridor, “Rheobryn’s paid us fer scuttlin’ this Mizini tub an’ that’s what he’s gettin’ fer th’ price… this here ain’t th’ type o’ spoils I’d be givin’ th’ likes o’ him, anyway… not fer twice or three times th’ purse, saavy?”
The half-orc’s eyes dipped for a moment, as if he were ashamed to have to have been reminded of that. “Aye, Jarek. Saavy, mate.”
“An’ I knew ye’d be so,” Jericho replied, “Chin up, mate. Twas a fair question… an’ ye’ll not be th’ first o’ the crew ta ask…”
“Aye,” Khash grumbled, cracking a tusky smile and falling into stride behind the captain, “Ye’ll be bunkin’ ‘er in yer quarters, den, will ye?”
“Aye… unless ye think she’d prefer yers…”
“Don’ tink so, Cap’n.” Khash snorted out a laugh. “So, if we’re not gonn’ give ‘er ta Rheobryn, wut we gonn’ do wif ‘er den?”
“Not rightly sure, brother,” Jericho shrugged as he stepped onto the maindeck of the Mizini escort ship, “I reckon that’ll come down ta what she’ll be wantin’ once she comes ‘round, aye?
Fer th’ time bein’, though, what say we set course fer the Serpent’s Teeth an’ figger our way from there?”
“Aye. Freeport. What better place?”
“Aye, aye, Cap’n… No better place wut I c’n tink of…”
As Jericho had expected, there were several of the saltier salts on his crew who had been more than a little disappointed that the girl whom their captain had brought up from below decks of the Mizini ‘escort-ship’ wouldn’t be included as or considered with the other plunder that had been taken from the corvette and the larger brig it had supposedly been guarding. When the Smuggler’s Moon was crewed with old hands who knew Jericho Hawkes it didn’t happen as often but, when he had a fresh crew and they took a prize that carried ‘fleshly cargo,’ it seemed that challenges of this sort always went up… and he always responded the same way…
“There’s them folk tha’d see th’ Moon comin’, lads, an’ say ‘there be a privateers boat’… an’ there’d be still others’d piss down their legs an’ cry out; ‘Avast, it’s th’ Smuggl’r’s Moon! Surely there’s nae a soul aboard’s not a cutthroat pirate’… an’ even so, lads, there’d be them’d see our colors flyin’ an’ have even a lesser opinion an’ call ye lot worse’n tha’… but so long as Jericho Hawkes’ captainin’ her, me hearties, ye’ll never hear a right-minded soul call us out as slavers!
Pirates, brigands, freebooters, an’ rogues may we be, boys, but, we’re free men and there’s nae a sliver o’ space on me decks fer a man what fancies ‘imself a flesh peddler. If there’s one o’ them amongst ye, now, ye lot o’ randy bastards, ye can bring yer complaints ta me on yer blade er ye can toss yerself intae th’ drink ere we weigh anchor! Either way, I swear tae ye tha’ ye’ll be chum in th’ end, saavy?”
…There had only ever been a handful of times that the issue had been pressed to Jericho’s promised resolution… never once had that resolution come with a voluntary leap over the gunwales… and, this time, it hadn’t come to that at all. Most of those who had initially supported the challenge were impressed enough by the Captain’s bravado or cowed enough by the remaining crew’s boisterous cheers that they simply let the matter go. There was one lad, though – a young Kizmiri lad named Asim – who still looked baffled by the decision not to sell a slave that would certainly fetch a good price.
“But sir,” Asim called out as Jericho had turned to carry the still unconscious girl to the cabins beneath the quarterdeck, “a girl such as that would easily fetch twenty Lords in the markets Underside. That’s a tidy profit for…”
“There’s nae any profit ta be made from th’ sellin’ o’ others, mate,” Jericho called back without turning to look at the lad, “only mis’ry an’ sorrow. If it’s th’ gold’s worth yer wantin’, I’ll buy drinks ta th’ sum o’ twenty Lords once we’re harbored off A’Val, but none o’ ye swabs’re ta touch th’ girl…”
The roar that rose from the deck, then, gave Jericho leave to continue on to his cabin unchallenged and the flurry of activity inspired by the promised liberty in Freeport left him with no doubt that he’d have to worry about delays in getting underway.
It had been several hours since Jericho had retired to his cabin and, after cleaning and covering the girl as best he could given her state, set her to rest on a cushion strewn divan. Other than to wash the layer of sweat, blood, and grime from the unconscious girl before he covered her in a warm blanket, though, he kept the same promise he’d demanded from his crew and touched her with neither inappropriate hands nor untoward eyes. Well… other than to make a closer inspection of the serpentine tattoo that snaked along the length of her left arm, that is… He’d first noticed the intricate design when he’d discovered her hanging in that tiny cabin aboard the Rapier and, even then, had found it curiously familiar – like something he knew he’d seen before and should know what it symbolized. That up close study hadn’t provided any more clarity, though, and, after a short while, he forced himself to abandon the appraisal of her inked skin and, instead, seek out his answers in the pages of the myriad tomes, journals, and scrolls in his collection. He was well into a bottle of black rum, half through a pipe-full of sweet-smelling snakeweed, and long into his research when the girl finally began to stir.
Her ascent into wakefulness was precipitated by a faint groan and a rustling of blankets as she moved beneath them that drew Jericho’s gaze across the room. Clenching the stem of the pipe between his teeth, the privateer laid a ribbon across the page he had been poring over before she had begun to stir – tapping the cryptic reference to “the serpent of the sea” with a finger – and closed the cover before turning his smiling eyes expectantly back to the awakening lass…
Across the room she woke up slowly, but kept her eyes closed. A familiar sensation gently rocked her to and fro; she was on a boat, headed in an easterly direction with the wind to their backs. It was a comforting feeling and she wanted to hold onto it as long as she could. Little comfort had come to her in the past few years and what had come her way she had learned to cherish.
As long as she kept her eyes closed she could imagine she was back on the Bountiful. Darenic guiding them through the clear waters and Hawthorne watching her sleep. It was a lovely dream. A small covered cough from across the room shattered it though. With a heavy sigh she let her eyes open to inspect the cabin she was in, after a brief inspection of the room she settled her eyes on the pirate sitting nearby.
The young woman held back the tears that welled up over the pale blue pools of her eyes as she looked at him and tried to determine if he was her savior or her captor.
“What now?” she asked in a quiet voice and waited for him to explain his intentions to her.
Jericho grinned at her from behind a curl of blue-gray smoke that danced in the lantern light and leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. “Well, luv,” he said, “whatever it may be, now, sure there’s nae need fer tears, aye?”
Carefully she watched him as he spoke to her, but his words did not seem to stop the threat of tears. “That has yet to be seen…” she whispered softly but let him go on.
“I’d thought intr’ductions’d be in order but, as ye seem ta have concerns more pressin’… We’re bound east fer th’ Serpent’s Teeth an’, gods an’ fortune favorin’ us as they seem ta be, should drop anchor at Freeport in four days.”
Her breath caught at that but she held his gaze and her tongue.
“I’ll be lettin’ the crew ashore, then, an’ givin’ ‘em their leave ta blow off steam. I reckon if it’s yer inclination ta take yer leave o’ us there, lovely, tha’ll be yer choice…”
The breath that had caught over Freeport poured from her lungs suddenly as her eyes glistened with tears about to be shed in obvious relief. The potential freedom he dangled before her had caught her off guard and for a moment she sat vulnerable before him.
“Til then, I fear, yer stuck aboard th’ Smuggler’s Moon wi’ me an’ mine…”
His cinnamon eyes sparkled in the lantern-light as he flicked her a wink before tipping the bottle to his lips and indulging in another swallow. “…Tis nae a horrible proposition, I hope, considerin’ wha’ ye’ve just come from, aye,” Jericho shrugged, the charming smile returning to his lips as he set the bottle aside on a table strewn with maps and journals and tomes of all sorts, “If nothin’ else, luv, ye’ll be treated a far sight better by me an’ mine than ye were by them Mizini curs.”
The relief had begun to fade almost as quickly as it had come over her. Rational thought, prodded by experiences past, forced her to examine the carrot he held before her carefully.
“Now, if’n ye were wonderin’ ‘bout a more immediate ‘what now,’” he chuckled, “I s’pose that ye’ve got yer restin’ outta th’ way an’ are likely hungry, aye?” He gestured to where a tray covered with a silver lid waited for her on one corner of the table; “It’s nae much but salt pork an’ oranges, a bit of bread, an’ a ladleful o’ stew what Cooky made, I’m afraid, but better’n wha’ ye’ve been fed o’ late, I’ll wager…”
Instead of reaching for the food he offered she kept her eyes trained on his, seeming to search decipher his words, and perhaps more importantly his soul.
“You’ll have to forgive me if I do not seem overly grateful to you for ‘rescuing’ me. I do not trust you.
I gather you overtook the Rapier because you were expecting some great treasure to be aboard her. You seem intelligent enough to have figured out you now hold that treasure…”
Carefully she shifted on the pillows, pulling the blanket over herself a bit more and then neatly folding her battered arms across her lap, her left hand laying over her right so the snake’s head pointed directly at him. As she did she noted the way his eyes flickered toward the tattoo. With a slight nod to herself she continued.
“You might not have yet calculated the exact worth of this treasure… but you will. And being the type of man you no doubt are…” she shook her head as a tear slid down her cheek, “you won’t just let me go. So far you appear to be civil enough, however. And as I gather you have at least some inclination as to what you have before you I can expect that the food will not be poisoned, at least not yet.”
Now the head of the snake rose and lifted the lid off the tray of food while her right hand ducked underneath and took out a few bits of the pork and bread.
“I will not be trouble as long as the civil treatment continues. I need the rest so I can better face whatever lays ahead for me at Freeport. I only ask out of courtesy that you at least inform me of your true intentions when we arrive.” Her own pair of watery pools were no longer able to keep his gaze in hers and so she dropped them to the morsels of food she held in her hands. Despite the churning in her stomach she could not bring herself to eat them though and instead stared at them as her tears began to fall and further salt the pork.
Jericho reclined somewhat in his seat and, puffing casually on his pipe, continued to smile as the girl spoke but didn’t bother to interject right away. When she spoke of her distrust despite having been liberated from the hands of the Rapier’s Master, the privateer’s smile broadened just a fraction and he offered a faint nod that seemed to indicate his understanding of that particular brand of skepticism. When she guessed (with more than a small amount of accuracy) at the events and circumstances that had set him on the hunt of the Rapier, Jericho arched a brow, impressed with her insight, but, also, offered a slight shrug that might’ve said ‘Aye, tha’d be a part o’ it, I reckon, but far from all’ had he bothered to speak the thought…
C’n she be readin’ wha’s in me head? he couldn’t help but wonder as his eyes flicked, for an instant, to where the head of the serpent tattoo rested on the back of her hand.
… Instead, though, he imparted only that faint change of expression and subtle lifting of shoulders as his reaction. He continued smiling and puffed once more on the pipe as his eyes lifted back to capture hers again. Jericho’s gaze hadn’t been away from her face long enough, though, for him to have missed the scant nod that the girl let slip, as if his glance at that serpent’s head had somehow validated that her professed mistrust wasn’t misplaced, and this urged him, at last, to set the pipe aside and lean forward.
When the words ‘being the type of man you no doubt are’ passed her lips and one of the tears that had been welling in her blue-as-the-sea eyes broke through her lashes and rolled down her cheek, Jericho’s smile began to wane and his eyes narrowed a bit. His brow lifted again but, without the smile behind it, the expression seemed more querulous than quizzical. He had leaned far enough forward, now, to rest his elbows on his knees, and, as the poor lass continued with her assumptions in regards to his character and intentions, he found himself lacing his fingers together and pressing the knuckles to his chin in order to keep his mouth from opening… A bit of the sparkle was gone from his eyes and the corsair’s smile melted further and further into a scowl as she continued on… the food will not be poisoned, at least not yet… as long as the civil treatment continues… so I can better face whatever lays ahead for me at Freeport… His head, which had until now been canted curiously to one side as he studied her, shook slowly from side to side as the girl’s eyes broke away from his and the tears she had been valiantly holding at bay finally won out.
“…I only ask out of courtesy that you at least inform me of your true intentions when we arrive,” her voice waivered a bit as her tears fell on the few morsels of food she held in her hand.
The heavy sigh that escaped his lips, then, blew across his knuckles before they fell away as he rose to his feet. “There’s a bit o’ wha’ yer sayin’s true, lovely,” he said after a moment, his gaze flicking to the pile of books he had been poring over before she woke, “I set upon th’ Rapier much fer th’ reasons ye say… missed th’ bounty Rheobryn put on yer once an’ former cap’n’s head, ye did, but… aye, I’d heard there were a prize what defied price onnat float.” His hand lifted and his fingers ran over his beard in thought as his eyes flitted back in her direction; “An’, yes, lass; once I seen there weren’t much else aboard, I come ta figger t’wasn’t quite th’ treasure I were expectin’, aye?
All o’ tha’, lovely, ye’ve got pegged,” he produced a kerchief from beneath his belt, then, and, taking a step or two closer to the crying girl, offered it over to her, “but yer a fair sight off in wha’ ye’ve got goin’ on in yer head where me an’ me intentions’re concerned.
I cannae profess ta know where ye’ve been er wha’ ye’ve seen, lass,” Jericho said, letting go of the kerchief as she slowly pulled it from his hand, “nor can I know wha’ become o’ ye an’ at who’s hands ye may’ve suffered. I reckon tha’s enough ta justify yer lack o’ trust, aye… If’n a soul’s known nothin’ but torment it comes ta expects torment as th’ day-ta-day… There’s plenty o’ salts wha’ sail these waters as it’d be easy ta reckon, after a time, tha’ one’s not much unlike t’other in them cases, so I’ll nae take offense ta yer presumptions.
I will tell ye, though, lovely,” he said, the smile slowly returning to his lips and the sparkle to his eye, “tha’ my true intentions fer ye once we’ve made Freeport’ve already been said…” He reached for the bottle of rum he’d set aside and tipped it to his lips before turning for the door… “I aim ta let ye decide what ye wanna do fer yerself, aye? True, I also figger on findin’ out a wee bit more bout wha’ makes ye such a treasure… beyond th’ obvious, o’ course…” He winked as he opened the hatch and backed out of the cabin… “but t’ain’t me way ta take an’ make slaves o’ no one.
I’m Cap’n Jericho Hawkes, by th’ way,” he grinned before turning and striding away, “Once ye get yer belly full, lass, I’ll be up onna quarterdeck if’n ye feel much like intr’ducin’ yerself… er maybe just seein’ the sky’s more yer fancy?”
She had taken the handkerchief and dabbed at her dampened cheeks while he spoke, but she had not once raised her eyes to look at him nor had she dared to let even a single word pass her lips as he spoke.
It was over an hour before the door to the captain’s cabin reopened and the slim apparition slipped out quietly from it to the upper decks. A few feet into the open she stopped and let her eyes take in the sapphire water that surrounded them.
“I’ve missed you…” she whispered softly to it. The salted air picked up briefly and ran it’s fingers through the tangles of her blonde hair, pushing it out of her face that finally showed the slightest sign of a smile upon the lips. It dried her cheeks from the tears she had obviously been shedding, and caressed over her tense body as if to try and relax her. The blanket she had taken from the room fluttered about her. Between the edges anyone who cared to look her way would notice she had traded the tattered remains of her dress for one of the oversized shirts in the captain’s room. On her the sleeves had to be rolled up several inches to let her fingers escape from the cuffs, and the hem dropped easily to her knees. She had cinched it closed with an old belt that had to be knotted instead of buckled to stay on her hips, but it held up the sheathed dagger she had also taken from the room well enough.
For several minutes she simply stood there, watching the little white crests that the wind whipped up on the sea, as one might watch the approach of a lost love.
When she began to move again she did so with a slight limp as she approached the captain. A few feet downwind from him she stopped and placed her hands on the edge of the ship keeping her eyes on the distant blue horizon.
“Davian Passat… and I hope you don’t mind…” she finished by indicating his shirt by touching the buttons near the neck with her fingers.
He had been perched on the bulwarks – one hand curled lazily around a rope that dangled from the rigging much as the other clung to the half-empty rum bottle between his knees – and looking out at the sea, himself, before she approached. He’d heard the cabin door open, of course, and watched her briefly as she padded across the deck and gazed out over the waves. Knowing that look the way he did, though, he forestalled the greeting he had planned and had turned his own eyes away to allow some bit of privacy for the lovers reunion. Only when she, at last, decided to introduce herself did Jericho let his gaze consider the girl again.
“Davian Passat,” he repeated, the syllables drawled out and just the slightest bit slurred as a result of the rum, as his smiling eyes skipped over the waves and settled on her… where her fingers lingered on the buttons at the throat of the shirt she had borrowed… “Pleasure ta make yer acquaintance, Davian Passat,” he grinned, almost chuckling as he swayed in her direction a little, holding himself in check by tightening his grip on the rope, “an’, o’ course I dinnae mind…”
“It seemed better than my dress and as you know I have no other possessions…”
“Aye,” he agreed with a nod, hauling himself back into a more upright position, “tha’ frock o’ yers’d seen a few better days… an’ I b’lieve tha’ blouse looks much better on ye than it does me, eh?” He chuckled again, took another pull from the bottle, and then slid off the bulwarks to plant his feet firmly on the deck. “Ye c’n keep th’ blade, as well,” he said with a smile, turning to lean on the railing and follow her gaze out over the water, “I’m expectin’ nae shenanigans betwixt here an’ the Serpent’s Teeth, but it dinnae hurt ta be pr’pared, does it?”
“He’s dead then,” Davian asked after a moment, “The captain of the Rapier?”
“Cap’n Tasin deHertsberghe,” Jericho nodded, his eyes still skimming the horizon, “Aye. He’s dead.”
“And what of the ship herself? Sunk?”
“Aye,” he confirmed, “likely ta th’ bottom by now, I’d reckon. We took a coupla her cannon, looted her powder and sail, but th’ rest were scuttled.”
Her eyes closed as he confirmed the fate of the Rapier and her crew. Solemnly she dipped her head and brought her left hand to her forehead, creating a line with the inked snake that ran perfectly perpendicular to the horizon, and then began her prayer.
“To those who now rest in Her eternal embrace, do so with tranquility in your hearts, for She shall be your guardian until the end of days. To She who keeps the watered dead, may you be pleased with their sacrifice, and may you be benevolent to those not yet in your keeping.”
With a deep breath she raised her head again, looking out over the ocean as her hand moved down until it curled neatly against her breast.
His gaze turned towards Davian again and he studied her for a long moment… his mouth opened as if to say something but closed just as quickly as he thought better of the words he had in mind… Jericho smirked a little, his gaze swinging back outboard to play over the waves again, and tipped the rum bottle to his lips.
After a moment of contemplation spent on the easily rolling surface of the sea, the corsair looked in Davian’s direction once more. “Been my experi’nce, tha’ when a soul’s found aboard a Mizini ship,” he murmured, “particular when tha’ souls’ in th’ state we found ye ta be in, tha’ poor soul’s likely not bound fer where they’d like ta be. I’ve set me course fer Freeport as she’s the safest harbor fer th’ likes o’ us I c’n fathom but I dinnae reckon tha’ even Freeport’s where ye were bound when ye left wherever ‘tis yer from, is it?”
He smiled a bight brighter as, almost hesitantly, her eyes tore from the horizon and met his. “Where is it tha’ ye fancy ta go, Davian?”
"Believe what you want about where we go when we die Captain Hawkes. But the ocean takes no sides, and She keeps Her dead. We're all bound for the same place…” And I never asked for their deaths... any of them." She finished with a sad heavy sigh.
"As for where I was from..." her eyes ticked to the sea a moment before going back to him, "I was born on the waves and as long as I am still on them I am home. For now it is enough for you to know that. To where I was headed once..." she shrugged lightly, "twas so long ago it no longer matters. Now to where we are headed..." her face pinched slightly and she curled her left arm almost protectively across herself and gripped her upper right arm with her fingers, "I do not wish to go to Freeport. Perhaps that is the safest harbor for you but not for me. I would prefer to never set foot on the bloodied soil of Freeport again. If you are planning on keeping your word, which I still have difficulties believing, I would prefer to stay on board until safe passage aboard another vessel could be arranged for me."
“The bloodied soil o’ Freeport, is it now?” Hawkes’ smile had scarcely diminished as Davian spoke. Even those few instances wherein she paused long enough for him to interject he offered little more than a passing nod, a dubious shrug, or, perhaps, a discerning eye turned to sea, sky, or sail after a tip of the bottle. When she spoke those last words, though, the smile faded into an expression of tight-lipped contemplation and his somewhat narrowed gaze, no longer wandering over the waves, bored into her for a long moment.
“Ye’d pr’fer, per’aps, th’ bloodied soil o’ one o’ them countries onna Continents, then? Er mebbe off ta far-flung Hamunaptra er Tahuantinsuyu, aye? Places where th’ blood’s been spilt fer less an’ fer far longer’n it’s been done a’ Freeport’re more yer fancy, I reckon?”
Her expression set to mirror his own, except that the slight sheen the moonlight cast in her eyes betrayed the unspoken pain beneath her surface.
Jericho shook his head, pushed away from the railing on which he had been leaning, and let go a short, snorting chuckle as he turned an eye skyward and swaggered a few steps toward the Captain’s wheel. “Ye’re more’n welcome ta stay aboard once we port in, lass,” he offered, following his contemplation of the stars and, with an almost languid spinning of the wheel, adjusting the Smuggler’s Moon’s course per their positions, “an’, if’n ye care so, yer welcome ta stay aboard when we, again, leave ‘er in our wake…” his eyes flitted back to her, then, and he offered what might have been interpreted as an indifferent shrug, “…we’ll only be off them ‘bloodied shores’ fer a handful o’ days, I reckon, an’ll be bound fer only th’ gods know where, thereafter, aye? Back onna sea ta be sure, though, lovely, an’ if’n it’s yer will, I’m sure there’d be work ta which yer hands could be put…”
The smile had begun to work it’s way back onto his features by the time the course adjustment had been made but his eyes remained somewhat narrowed as he left the wheel, once more, under the auspices of the Moon’s swarthy-looking navigator. “Believe wha’ ye like about Freeport an’ th’ likes o’ us wha’ call ‘er home, Miss Passat,” he grinned as he passed behind her and took to the short flight of steps leading down to the main deck, “Jus’ th’ one caution, though…"
Davian turned a bit to follow his movements tensing her body with each word that was falling from his lips, until the head of the snake bit hard into the flesh of her other arm.
"We’re not, all o’ us, th’ blood-thirsty, cutthroats an’ brigands ye seem ta think us ta be… E’en th’ darkest corners o’ th’ farthest reaches finds a speck o’ light now an’ again… an’ ta think otherwise’d be a folly hard-forgotten an’ easily lamented, aye?” With that, he flicked the woman a wink and sketched a somewhat exaggerated bow before taking another long swig from the rum-bottle and weaving his way across the deck towards the bow…
His every step was followed by her eyes even as the tears began to roll down her cheeks again. The wind gently caressed over them though and left only salted trails down her face.
"We should not tarry amid these waters... if to Freeport we are destined, then to Freeport..." she seemed to speak to the wind itself. As if in response, it fluttered, the sails above them whipping in its grip for a moment before pulling taunt under a new gale that swept them east.
The next moment she turned back around and looked over at the navigator, who no doubt held a bit tighter to the wheel to keep the ship steady under the sudden strong wind. "Tell your captain it is Mrs. Passat..."
The navigator looked perplexed for a moment, his dark brow furrowing and knitting his wooly white brows together above blinking hazel eyes as they dipped from the lads scurrying about in the rigging up top and fixed on Davian. “Aye, missus,” he nodded after a moment, “I’ll be seein’ he gets th’ message.”
With that said she started back towards the captain's cabin, slipping inside and then propping a chair under the doorknob as soon as it was shut.
Jericho looked back once or twice as he made his way across the waists of the ship toward the forecastle. The first time, he caught Davian’s own eyes following him and, for an instant, considered going back and offering an apology for the rather sharp admonition he’d just given but, catching the wink of moonlight on the tears that seemed to perpetually pool in the girl’s eyes, thought better of it and, just as quickly averted his attentions… He’d had a bit too much to drink for him to have been able to deal with that properly, he figured…
’Specially in her state, aye? Lass’s got nae but storm clouds in her head a’present…
He looked back again when, just before he reached the foredeck, an unexpected gust popped the canvas and, in the wake of a chorus of surprised chirrups from the tops, the Smuggler’s Moon surged forward under the augmented wind…
“Hoooo-Ah! Badessey, ahoy!”
…His gaze had sought out, first, the lads in the tops – ascertaining that they were tending rig and sail as they should and not busying themselves with getting tossed into the brine instead – then dipped to where Epidii manned the wheel to ensure that, like the rest of the crew, the navigator was reacting appropriately to the gust. It was then that his eyes found her again, wrapped in his blanket and borrowed shirt, breezing across the decks as easily as the wind herself strode the skies… she paused, briefly, and said something to Epidii who, after a moment of puzzlement, nodded and returned to his tending of the wheel as Davian whisked off on her way back, Jericho assumed, to his own cabin… He tried not to follow her progress… wanted to look away and dismiss this second coincidence of wind and wave… but, with the moonlight winking stars off of the tears in her eyes and the way her bearing matched the wind, he couldn’t effectively manage either. Instead, Jericho’s gaze stayed locked to the girl and the Serpent of the Sea slithered through his mind even while his feet kept him moving, albeit in a backward fashion, toward the prow until Davian disappeared from sight.
When she, at last, vanished through the hatch and the door shut to the rest of the ship, Jericho’s transfixed stare was finally let loose and, with a smirk and a swig of rum, the privateer captain spun about on his heel and swaggered the remaining distance to the foredeck. “Gen’rosity’ll be me downfall if naught else, Willow,” he snorted to the half-elven lass who was perched on the cat head.
“Troubles with the new passenger, my Captain,” turning her golden, almond-shaped eyes from the horizon and setting them on Jericho, the tawny-haired woman smiled the question.
“Th’ usual, I s’pose,” Jericho shrugged, “Doubt. Distrust… I reckon she think us ta be no more’n pirates.”
Willow nodded. “Mmm, initial reactions shared by most that you take on, indeed, Captain,” she grinned, brushing a wisp of wind tossed hair from her face, “And that reaction from this one troubles you more than usual, does it?”
“I don’t reckon so… least ways it shouldn’t…” His shrug, this time, evoked a scowl, though, because, this time, it did trouble him. “This’n ain’t like most others, though, aye? Most come on an’ keep them sorts o’ things stowed away til they’re proved right er wrong… ye sees it in their eyes, a’first, but ye ne’er hear it from their lips. This Davian Passat, though… She all but said them very words to me face an’ not so much as a flicker o’ gratitude in any of it, aye?”
He took another sip of rum and considered the wash that broke off his ship’s bow for a moment. “How long’d it take fer ye ta fully trust me when t’were you, Will?”
“O’ my Captain,” the half-elf giggled, then, “what ever makes you think that I trust you at all, let alone fully, even now?”
“Mind yer tongue, Saercyn Willow,” Jericho smirked, his eyes glittering as they lifted to regard the snickering bard, “er I’ll be shovin’ ya inta th’ drink along wi’ all yer pretty words.”
“Who, then, would sing these lads of yours into shape should that happen, Jericho Hawkes,” Willow winked, nestling the fiddle she always carried under her chin and coaxing a long, low tone from the strings with a deliberate stroke of the bow, “None with the ease I can muster, I think.”
“Aye,” Jericho agreed with a wink of his own, “why do ye nae stifle yer gobbin’ an’ give us a song, then, shantywench? Somethin’ ta match th’ winds…”
“Only because you asked so nicely,” Willow smiled, pulling another droning note from the fiddle strings, “and, my Captain, because when I do, you’ll be more apt to consider the words you’ve just spoken to me and determine for yourself why this one’s skepticism bothers you so, hmm?”
“Ain’t it always th’ way, though,” Jericho smiled, leaving the bard to coax the crew into song as he moved to the bowsprit to lose himself in the sea ahead while he considered her words and his own… along with the enigma that was Davian Passat…
Even with the door securely closed Davian had difficulties sleeping for more than an hour at a time. Balled up on the divan the slightest noise near the door would startle her awake and she’d stare at the door with her watery eyes, waiting for it to burst open. It never did.
When mid morning daylight poured through the porthole in the captain’s quarters she finally released the chair lock on the door and again slipped out onto the deck of the Smuggler’s Moon. A strong wind still pushed them east. Her crew scuttled across her, obviously so familiar with the ship that they seemed more an extension of her than individuals. That was how a ship should be run, she thought to herself.
Quietly she dismissed her thoughts on how Hawkes ran his boat, and the memories that it tried to stir in her, and began to make her way toward the bow. She could feel the eyes of the crew on her as she walked, but kept her own eyes fixed on the ocean that lay before them. Even with the limp her walk to the bow was as sure footed and direct as any of the crew’s might have been. Growing up she had often wondered how those on land could even walk with such a hard unforgiving surface constantly under their feet, the gentle sway and surge of a boat seemed perfectly natural to her.
At the bow she stood at the railing, letting the spray spatter over her as the Smuggler’s Moon broke the waves.
Hawkes had presented an interesting question to her the day before. Where did she want to go? It was something she had stopped considering over two years ago. Her destiny seemed to be almost completely out of her control, and bobbing along as quietly as she could seemed to be the best way of handling it.
Returning home would seem a reasonable request. Last she had heard the family estate was empty but still owned by one of her brothers. There were also at least two boats that were run by her surviving siblings, and she knew she would be welcome to any of that. She had nieces and nephews she longed to know. Her aunt would be greatly eased if Davian returned home. Familial connections tugged at her heart, but she could not return home. They loved her and that was the problem. Across the world they were the only people she felt safe with, she knew that they would rather die than see her hurt… and too many had already done that. She would never again risk their lives in a selfish attempt to feel safe.
She pressed her fingers to her lips then blew a kiss out over the waves as she recalled all of those she had lost. “Keep them safe…” she whispered.
Freeport would, honestly, make another reasonable option. She could easily find what she needed there to begin a journey of revenge. Starting right there with Vernon Wiles. A deep sigh fell from her though and she sunk a little bit against the railing. Revenge, as reasonable as it might seem, was far from her desires. To begin with she did not have the energy for it. The past few years had drained her. And revenge would not give her what she wanted. It would not bring back those she had lost, it would not erase what was done to her. Instead it would simply create a circle of violence she would be swept into until she died.
All she really wanted was to be left alone, to be safe. Tears again blurring the horizon she looked out over the expanse of blue, searching for some sign of hope along its lines. Perhaps out there somewhere was some small island that she could carve a life on. Laying on the sand, her toes curled in the tide while watching the stars cross the sky without having to worry that another soul would find her would be paradise. Putting that into words, and giving it to a man she barely knew, though, was something she could not yet do.
Captain Jericho Hawkes… there was another interesting topic. She had finished off the last bit of the food he had brought her this morning while flipping through the logs she found in his cabin. The story he had told her about how and why he had taken the Rapier followed what he had penned in the logs. Similar tales were peppered throughout, but it seemed that majority of their jobs coincided with the ship’s name, smuggling.
He seemed to have genuine affection for most of the crew, especially the first mate whom she assumed was the half-orc brute she had seen back on the Rapier. It seemed the two were related, brother’s perhaps… although she shuddered at the thought, knowing all too well how such relations are created.
Dealings with his contacts usually carried less affection and were often guided by a sense of decency that she had not at first expected. A few of the names that appeared in the logs were familiar to her, some to a point that turned her stomach and made her uneasy. Nothing in them suggested that he would be the type to hold her against her will or make some exchange with her as the pawn. Still… there was a first time for everything.
In the end reading over the logs had only upset her. He had penned himself down on those pages and she had found herself wondering if she could trust him. Perhaps finding herself aboard the Smuggler’s Moon was fate finally twisting in her favor.
Her eyes closed tightly as if to bar out those thoughts, for they were dangerous. Instead she forced herself to recall the names in the journals that she knew. Forcing herself to play out scenarios in her mind in which those connections could lead her back to places she wanted to avoid.
“The sooner I can get off of this ship the better…” she finally concluded, opening her eyes to watch the ocean. Eventually the horizon would be broken by the jagged tops of the Serpent’s Teeth and she would be closer to making that happen.
“Or,” suggested a soft but musical voice from behind her, “perhaps the longer you can stay aboard this ship the better, hmm?
Forgive me,” the smiling half-elf said as Davian, apparently surprised that she wasn’t quite as alone with her thoughts as she imagined, turned and blinked at her, “I didn’t mean to startle you… I’m Saercyn… most of this lot, though, just call me Willow… and you must be the one our Captain’s calling Davi…”
Blinking Davian turned quickly to face the voice that called to her, her fingers flinching for a moment toward Jericho's dagger still affixed on her hip. They stopped when her eyes found the rather disarming looking woman before her instead of whatever nightmare she might have imagined briefly. While Willow introduced herself Davian took a moment to regain her composure, but did not return the smile.
"Davi? Rather presumptuous of him I'd say..."
Davian finished turning so that she now leaned back against the bow and spoke while she gathered her hair with her fingers as it whipped into her face with the strong wind.
"Tis a common trait for pirate captains, however..." she did not even try to hide the slight bitterness to her words.
"And no. I should not stay aboard this ship for any longer than I have to. Whatever port we end up after Freeport will be where I get off. Everyone has their price, and I don't intend to stay around long enough to find out what your captain's is..." her voice was steady, but the way she gripped her golden hair and the slight quiver in her eyes betrayed the unease she simply could not shake off.
“Presumptuous,” Willow laughed, “Hmmm, yes, I suppose that would be one word suitable enough for Captain Hawkes… brash, impetuous, rapscallion, haughty, scalawag... These words, too, are fitting, I think,” the bard shrugged her shoulders and the scarlet silk of her blouse rustled with the action, “And, knowing him the way I do, I’d wager he wouldn’t argue a one of them. But pirate… hmmm… Pirate might cause a balk… and some might say that you, Davian, are the presumptuous one to so quickly label him so.”
“Now,” the sandy-haired half-elf continued, holding her hands up to forestall the protests that were surely set to spill from the other woman’s lips, “none of that is to say that you’re entirely incorrect, of course, and, given the circumstances in which you were found, it isn’t an arduous task to see how you may have arrived at your conclusions… I was quick to arrive at the same ones when first I met him, you see?.. but I can assure you, my lady, that your suppositions are farther from truth than fiction.
I’ll say no more about the Captain aside from urging you to get to know him better before you make your judgments,” Willow winked, lifting her fiddle and gesturing to where Hawkes stood on the quarterdeck gazing out over the sea, “Just as I advised him to consider who and what you are before he made his own, hmm?”
Davian lifted her eyes along the line of Willow's gesture and sighed for a moment before again curling her snake coiled arm about herself and turning her eyes away. "No... I'd prefer it if he didn't consider it. As I said, everyone has a price... the more he learns of me the higher that price is likely to go."
Her watery pools slid over to Willow though, "And just what might you know about who and what I am?"
“You’d be surprised, I think… I might know more about who and what you are even better than you do,” Willow answered with a coy wink and then, with another tip of her head toward where Jericho stood by the ship’s wheel, grinning happily as he stared out over the bounding waves ahead, “and I definitely know more than he does…”
The fiddle found its way to it’s inevitable place in the crook of Willow’s slender neck, then, and she offered a knowing smile as the bow met strings, evoking the opening strains of a hauntingly beautiful melody.
“…He thinks, mostly due to his brother’s superstitions,” she murmured over the tune as it grew, “that you’re likely a witch or sorceress… perhaps a priestess of some powerful god… which is why deHertsberghe felt the need to ‘beat you senseless and bind you with spells and charms,’ as he so eloquently put it, until he got you to wherever it was that you were to be sold."
Quickly her eyes shut, temporarily damming the tears that welled up behind the lids. She knew all too well where she was to be sold, and to whom.
"He also figures that the serpent tattoo on your arm has some special meaning… again, in his words, ‘likely some coven mark or sign of her order’…” Willow grinned, then; “So he knows a bit, doesn’t he? But not all, hmm?
He might know more, by now, had you not locked him out of his cabin and kept him from his reading…"
Her eyes still locked shut she murmured, "That was not my intention... just an added benefit I suppose..."
"…he’d have likely found more on The Serpent of the Sea…"
The Serpent of the Sea... The Sssserpent of the Ssseea... My Ssserpent... a familiar voice hissed through her mind when those words dropped so easily off the bards tongue.
"...that could have refined his assumptions and brought him closer to knowing what I know… To knowing what you might know about what you really are… You, Davian Passat, are a Navigator…”
'Navigator' was not a term she had ever had attached to her, but she did find it fitting. Coming from Willow, a woman she had only known for a few moments that was greatly unsettling. The wind hung to the word for a few moments and swirled it around her before finally whipping it off into the distance behind them.
The next moment she had clamped one of her hands over Willow's and the neck of the fiddle as well, silencing those haunting notes as she looked into the bard’s eyes. Behind the washing of tears the blue pools swirled in a way that made Willow think of a cornered animal.
"He knows too much already then. And you are a great danger to me... and everyone else if you share what you think you know. I cannot wait until the next port... as much as I don't want to risk it I'll have to get off at Freeport." These words were spoken more for her own sake than for Willow’s but the next were sharply focused at the other woman. "Please, don't tell him anything else... I beg you."
As if snapped from some sort of trance Willow blinked rapidly when the other woman’s hand closed around her own and abruptly stifled the song she had been playing. That brief flicker of surprise or confusion dissipated as quickly as it had appeared, though, and was replaced once again by her ever-kind and placating smile. “I have told him nothing to this point, Davian,” Willow said softly, lowering the fiddle (along with her hand and Davian’s), “Nor would I ever be so reckless as to reveal secrets of the sort you obviously keep. I am but a shanty singer, a story teller, and a historian, dear girl, not a gossip monger…”
The bard gently slipped loose of the witch’s grasp, then, and glanced back to where Jericho tended the ship’s wheel. “Even if I were,” she continued with a small chuckle, her gaze returning to Davian, “our Captain is quite a bit smarter than he sounds or appears, hmm? He’d not believe a thing to be true simply because I said so. No. Jericho is more the sort to take all that he sees and hears with the proverbial grain of salt and, should he, on his own, find truth in the rumors he’s fed, that truth is seasoned all the better to his liking.
He’ll not be long in figuring it out for himself, at any rate, Davian,” Willow cooed as she lifted the fiddle again, “and, were I you, I might be doing some figuring of my own betwixt now and then.
You say that simply being what you are is a danger to us… and that any of us knowing the truth compounds the danger all the more. I say that the very danger you speak of is all the reason you should need to stay on with Captain Hawkes and the rest of us who call this ship home, milady,” the half-elf’s bow found the fiddle strings once more and, as Saercyn Willow turned and began to saunter away, started coaxing a new tune from the well-worn instrument, “I’m sure, should you take the chance to get to know the man, you’ll find that he’ll be able to keep you safer than any port you may find in the storm of your life…”
Her hands dropped to her sides and an unsaid apology for her brashness slipped into the deep pools of her eyes. Watching the bardess she knew she did not have to speak it, instead she gave her a slight nod before returning her troubled gaze towards the water again.
"You are most cruel at times..." she whispered out over the waters, and then sighed as a moment later the strong gale that had been pushing them towards Freeport lost some of it's strength and the sails overhead fluttered with the change.
"Most cruel..." she repeated as she turned back toward the ship and looked up at Hawkes.
Later that morning, after finding some food in the galley and spending more time staring out over the cruel waters, she deliberately made her way up to the quarter deck. With as much confidence as she could ever muster Davian approached the captain.
Leaning on the wheel, Jericho had lazily watched Davian approach... much the same way he had watched her during earlier conversation with Willow and, thereafter, her somewhat vexed meanderings about the decks… he had hoped that she’d have seen her way clear to talk with him then, of course, but, when she deigned to do so, he hadn’t taken offense. Willow had mentioned, in passing, that should the girl wish to speak to him, she would surely do it in her own time and only when she was ready…
“There are tangles of thought through which Davian must sort first, Jericho,” the bardess had told him, “and only when she’s found an end on which to pull to begin the untangling will she so much as know how to begin the parlay you seek to have. Patience, my Captain. She’ll seek you out when she’s found that end and, when she does, do try to be gentle, hm?”
…When her footsteps whispered to a stop not far off, Jericho offered a warm, unassuming smile along with a faint nod; “Missus Passat.”
"I've heard people say that three times is a charm... perhaps a third attempt at a discussion would be in order then, if you had a moment of course..."
Despite the uncertainty churning in the eyes that met his, her voice and her poise was steady.
“Aye, o’ course,” Jericho nodded, straightening a bit as he regarded her and, once more, finding himself marveling at the liquid quality of her eyes, “Always a moment fer a passenger er crew… Figured where it is ye’d like ta go as yet have ye, m'lady?”
Nodding slightly she started, “I think it is best if I get off at Freeport. It is not the safest port for me, but I’ve gotten out of it before and I will again. It is probably also best if you and your crew know as little as possible about where I go after this and how I will get there.”
A brow raised beneath the bandana tied about Jericho’s head and his mouth opened as if to say something but…
Quickly she brought up her hand to silence his objection to this so she could continue the speech she had been preparing. “I know I have been less than grateful to you. I do not trust easily. I doubt you would react much differently if you were in my position…”
…Hawkes’ mouth had found its way shut again and, as Davian spoke, his gaze had tracked away from the waves that broke in her eyes and, for the moment, were intent on those ahead of the ship. After considering her words he nodded, silently concurring that his own trust would be hard earned were their positions reversed, and the faint grin playing on his lips emoting both understanding of her caution and acceptance of her veiled apology…
“By now I imagine you have figured out that I was not meant to be a long term ‘guest’ onboard the Rapier. There is a very high ‘reward’ for anyone who finds and returns me to him. Luckily for me there is a provision on this reward, it can only be collected if I am returned alive, not unharmed…” she added with a bit of disdain, “but alive. I don’t know exactly how high it is, but...”
…“More than’d be enough tae buy oneself a spot on th’ Cap’n’s Council, I reckon,” Jericho mused, his eyes darkening a little as the woman’s revelations confirmed, more and more, the suppositions he had made as to her identity since he’d first set upon The Rapier, “if ye be who I’m thinkin’ ye be, Davi...”
“…I know that if you had not stopped them from reaching Freeport I would have been given back and the crew of the Rapier could have likely retired in luxury.”
…The warm and accommodating smile withered into something of a scowl at that, and Jericho’s eyes, flicking from the sea again to settle on the uneasy expression on Davian’s features, narrowed a little more. “A’ready Freeport bound were ye? On a Mizini ship, yet? Curious… but… Aye, a King’s bounty an’ Marilise bein’ in th’ know as much as she is’d make all th’ more sense then, wouldn’it? The scowl set a bit deeper and one hand lifted to scratch at his beard as, studying her intently, he began to ponder this unexpected snippet of information… Had it not been for the need to port in there in order collect on the scuttling of The Rapier, he’d have been suddenly inclined to forgo Freeport, now, himself.
Her eyes closed then and she took a deep breath. “It is not easy for me to openly speak of these things… you could easily decide that once we get to Freeport you could cash in on this reward instead of them.” Slowly she raised the lids on her eyes and looked directly into his sea worn face. “But I don’t think you will. If that proves true… you will never be able to fully comprehend how grateful I am. The best way I can repay you for that kindness is to leave. I don’t want more blood on my hands, especially not the blood of those who have… who have been decent…”
“Fergive me fer sayin’ so, Davi,” Jericho said, then, stepping away from the wheel and motioning for Epidii to take the helm as he did so, “but, if what ye say ‘bout th’ Rapier be true an’ this bloke Wiles be waitin’ on ye there, then, in good conscience, there’d be no way I’d be wantin’ tae leave ye off in Freeport…”
Davian’s liquid eyes blinked in surprise.
“…Aye,” Jericho nodded, “I know th’ name o’ the man’s been huntin’ ye… not hard tae figger when deHerstberghe’s log were full o’ scribblin’ in regards tae yer bounty…”
It was his turn to cut of her objections with the lifting of a hand, then. “Shush,” he said when the gesture alone hadn’t been enough to curtail her protest, “I know wha’ yer like tae say, lovely, an’ I’m tellin’ ye there be no need fer it. Should there be blood spilt o’er any o’ this, it’ll be on my hands, not yers, aye?”
He took her gently but firmly by the elbow, then, and led her towards the stair that descended from the quarterdeck. “We cannae be bypassin’ th’ Serpent’s Teeth all t’gether,” he said softly, almost under his breath, as they reached the foot of the stair and he turned her toward the hatch that led to his cabin, “I’ve had these lads a’sea far too long in search o’ ye tae deny ‘em th’ liberty I’ve promised ‘em but, yer right… Freeport, right now, is nae th’ best place fer ye tae be leavin’ us behind… We’ll talk on this some more once we’re away from all these ears, though… There be some weighty questions I need tae ask ere I toss me crew intae this storm, lovely, an’ yer th’ only one wha’ c’n be givin’ me th’ answers in truth…”
The sound of the ocean rushed in her ears as Hawkes led her into his cabin. His voice barely registered above the sound and she found herself wishing that it could block him out completely. Vernon was not what she wanted to discuss with him, she was not ready for that discussion. She was also not certain she was ready to reveal to Hawkes what it was she could do.
As he let go of her arm to close the door behind them, though, she knew she would not have much of a choice in the matter. Keeping her silence she moved toward the edge of his bunk and sunk down onto it. Again she curled her serpented arm around herself and lowered her eyes to its black design.
Why couldn't you simply be content with rescuing me? I don't want a champion, and I'm not asking you to be one for me. Please don't do this... she silently begged as she perched before him.
The latch clicked into place as Jericho turned to face her and leaned his shoulders against the planks. He studied her for a moment… the way she curled in upon herself when there was more than just air between her and the sea; the way her eyes would meet his but hold them for only an instant before sliding away; the pleading, yet, somehow prideful set of her countenance… He’d seen all of this before, of course; it was the look of the broken and the resigned, the nigh on hopeless mantle of slavery that he’d seen enshrouding countless others before he’d seen it on her. It wrenched at his guts anytime he chanced upon it, but never in such a way as this… as inappropriate a cloak as it was on all those others Jericho had ever come across (his own mother and himself included), it’s fit seemed somehow even more ill on this woman calling herself Davian Passat.
His gaze had been drawn to the serpent tattooed around her arm, again, he realized, just as his mind had been drawn toward the yet unfinished passage regarding the Serpent of the Sea he had been reading. Jericho allowed himself a little smirk, then, and blew out an almost uncertain sigh as his fingers lifted to, first, tug thoughtfully at the whiskers on his chin and, then, dipped to touch the turtle-shell pendant that hung from his neck as his gaze lifted to capture hers once more…
Please don’t do this…
…he could almost hear the words pouring from the liquid pools of her eyes.
“Ah, dinnae lookit me so, lass,” he said, at last, his hand falling away from the talisman at his neck and reaching for the rum bottle on the table, “I’m nae any sort o’ bloody hero an’ I got no aspirations tae any such a thing, aye? Heroes’re most famous fer gettin’ themselves killed, aft’r all, ain’t they, lovely? An’ I, fer certain, ain’t lookin’ fer no sech thing…”
As he spoke the desperation in her eyes swelled until it flashed with anger. Her head rose, her shoulders squared a bit more as she looked him in the eyes and cut him off with a raised voice, and for that moment a bit of who she once was threatened to shine through.
"Then let me go! Stop telling me I am safest on your ship and asking me questions that I don't want to answer and that are dangerous. If you want to live then throw me overboard right now! Death follows in my wake, it always has and it always will. I beg thee... let me go and live!"
The bottle had been at Jericho’s lips when Davian’s voice rose to a measure quite a bit above what he expected she might manage. It caught him unawares enough that a swallow of rum going down and a surprised chuckle coming up met each other in his throat and caused him to nearly choke on both. “Avast, an’ there be a mighty wind, now,” he coughed from behind the hand that was wiping spattered droplets of rum from his beard…
It was difficult to tell, with that hand where it was, exactly what expression might have graced the corsair’s lips, but his eyes were smiling even though they’d gone wide in the gale of her raised voice.
… “Much like th’ wind ye called up fer us yesterday, aye?” Jericho watched her eyes, then, his hand falling away to revel that he was, in fact, smiling as he sat the rum bottle and himself down on the edge of the table only a few feet from where she perched on the edge of the bunk.
When her mouth opened again, he held up a hand and smiled all the more. “Aye,” he nodded faintly, waving away whatever response or protest the girl was about to make, “th’ questions ye’d pr’fer not tae answer. Saavy.
I b’lieve I’ve got me answers, there, regardless o’ ye nae wantin’ tae give ‘em, lovely. Th’ serpent on yer arm, there, still vexes me a sight, but I been a-sea long enough tae’ve heard more’n one yarn er legend ‘bout mystic navigators, now, haven’ I?”
Amusement was not what she had expected from him when she shouted. The angry fires smoldered down but it seemed to have done her some good, for she calmed down a little and perhaps resigned herself to actually having a conversation with this man. At the mention of her serpent her other hand immediately went up to her wrist, grasping it about the neck protectively.
The sun beat down upon her from above. Behind her she could hear the fleet of ships bobbing in the bay, their crews just waiting, waiting for her. A nod from her brother at the helm and she smiled to match the sun before raising that snake up into the air high above her head. Following it the bright green flag emblazoned with a similar symbol rose up the mast as the sailors aboard the ships erupted into cheers...
The memory hit her and she took a deep breath as she slid down into the nearest chair. "Aye, and you aren't the only one who heard of 'em." Already the accent had begun to wear off on her. "Which was why my brother talked me into it, and alot of good it did him. Alot of good it did any of us in the end." She said bitterly.
"What else do you want to know? If ye think you've figured out what I am... what else is there to know?"
“Could be, Davi, tha’ there be plenty an’ more still tae know ‘bout all o’ this,” Jericho answered, “Might be there’s more tha’ I need tae know, o’ course,” he offered a faint shrug along with that reply and the smile was still dancing on his lips, but it was melting away from amusement and more towards reassurance, “but ye’ve jus’ told me all I truly wanted tae know, lass… an’ made me more an’ more certain tha’ I cannae simple leave ye off an’ give no more thought tae it, after...Were I tae do sech a thing, I may’s well throw ye over, now, like ye’ve suggested… It’d haunt me jus’ th’ same, wouldn’it?.. Per’aps worse...”
The captain of the Smuggler’s Moon sank back into silence again for another moment… watched the girl’s face as he wrestled with the thoughts that churned a maelstrom in his head… then, reaching for the rum bottle, slid off the edge of the table. “I don’ reckon tha’ I’ll be pressin’ ye fer anymore’n ye’ve a’ready give, lovely,” he said, tilting the bottle to his lips once again before returning it to the table, “As I said, ye’ve a’ready told me wha’ I wanted tae know… Time comes an’ ye may jus’ tell me wha’ I need tae know, ’s well, aye?... So, lass, where me an’ mine’re concerned, I reckon, there’s nothin’ more tae know ‘til yer ready tae trust us...”
He rested a one hand on her shoulder, then, but only briefly, and, with the other under her chin, lifted her eyes to his and waited until he was sure she wouldn’t look away.
“…Wha’ I want you tae know, though, Davian Passat… the bit tha’ ye need tae know… is tha’ ye can be free, lovely, an’ ye can be safe, an’, if ye let us help ye, it’s here wi’ us tha’ ye’ll start tae see tha’ again, aye?”
Jericho’s hands fell away from her, then, and he backed off a few steps before he actually turned for the door. “If yer wind holds, lass, we’ll be seein’ th’ Serpent’s Teeth in a day er less,” he offered without looking back, “Should ye still want off in Freeport, I promise, we’ll nae be tryin’ ta stop ye…
…I hope ye choose otherwise, though,” he said, pausing as he pulled the door open, “Pirates er no, tha’s yer decision tae make, but ye’ve got a place here, lass. A place where there’ll be nothin’ expected o’ ye save tha’ wha’s true tae who ye are, aye?”
The temptation was there. Freedom. When he spoke she could almost smell it like the first hints of bread baking in the oven. It was so tempting...
I'm so sorry Davian... but you know how it is... the familiar voice of the Prince apologizing rang in her head.
Quickly she stood up and took the few steps toward him, reaching past him to slam her palm against the door, shutting it before he could escape. Dark whirlpools circled up a few inches to meet his eyes.
"An' when he comes for me? Because he will. Vernon doesn't share his things. And as he's reminded me countless times I'm his.
What happens to my freedom then? When he dangles your dreams in front of you... or sends his assassins for you and worse yet anyone and everyone you care about? Aye? What happens then Captain?"
Jericho’s hand let go of the latch for an instant, Davian’s questions breaking in his ears like so many whitecaps on the surface of a sea from where there was only the blue horizon to be seen. If he contemplated his answer at all, it wasn’t for long… only the amount of time it took for him to tuck a beaded braid behind his ear, glance at her sidelong, and smile… a smile that had no trace of mirth or amusement or sheepishness to it, at all, but, instead, spoke to an assured (and, somehow grim) conviction with which he uttered the words; “Then, Davi-luv, I s’pose th’ bloke dies.”
He reached for the latch, again, thinking, at first, that those words would be enough, but found that his gaze had been caught in the whirlpool currents of her own and knew that she’d need more than that alone. It didn’t matter that her mouth was opening and closing like a fish out of water… as if the simplicity of his answer had been too much for her to believe, let alone respond to… nor did it matter that the serpent’s head tattooed on the back of her hand slithered away from the planks of the door as if she no longer barred him from leaving. It was the simplest of answers and the truest but her eyes said that ‘simple’ and ‘true’ were not things she was easy to accept… Have ye ever been free in yer life, Davi?…
“Listen,” Jericho murmured as his hand fell away from the latch again and his gaze turned to fully meet hers, “I’ll nae pr’tend tae know this Vernon Wiles, but, I c’n tell ye true, I’ve known more’n one like ‘im… mayhaps, a time ago, I’ve even worked fer one or two, sorry ta say… an’ I know how them bastards think, aye?” He turned to face her all together, then, tapping two fingers to his temple to emphasize his point.
“Th’ likes o’ him do wha’ they do cuz they think lots o’ gold in their hands and lots o’ folks subject to their power be the greatest force in all th’ world,” the fingers at his temple turned circles. “Wha’ they dinnae know, lass, is tha’ bein’ free’s a more valued commodity… an’ that folk may let ye take their gold wi’out much o’ a fuss but ye try an’ pinch a bloke’s leeway tae be who ‘e is an’ see if ye don’ get more’n a wee bit bloody in th’ tryin’, aye?”
Hawkes laughed when she did little more than blink at him. “A’right,” he said, throwing his hands in the air in mock exasperation as he swaggered back toward the table, “ye gave me yer bit o’ truth, lovely, I s’pose I owe ye a bit o’ mine ‘s well…”
He snaked a finger around the neck of the bottle and indulged in a long pull of the rum before he said anything else. “I were born a slave, y’see,” he said over the faint clinking sound the bottle made when he returned it to the table, “er a’least taken early enough as tae make no difference... Spent most o’ me days as a lad, just so… Even when I were told I weren’t a slave no more, ‘tweren’t so… Them birds in th’ orph’nage tried tae make ye somethin’ ye weren’t, jus’ like Krommush did…
It were called ‘rules,’ them sisters a’ Star o’ th’ Sea used tae tell us, not ‘slavery’… Thing they din’t know was Krommush had ‘im his rules, too, an’ jus’ cuz breakin’ th’ sister’s rules din’t usually end in blood er broken bones don’ mean it were any diff’rent.”
Davian was blinking at him, again, and Jericho realized that he was no longer smiling. “Heh,” he said, rubbing at his beard and glancing toward the rum as he tried to coax at least a grin back onto his lips, “bloody hell… ye are a diff’rent one ain’t ye?”
The smile wasn’t coming but he made himself look at her again, anyway. “If Wiles comes for ye, Davian,” he said, “I will kill th’ man… or I’ll die, meself, in th’ tryin’. Same fer any assassins th’ lubber’d care tae send, aye? Th’ Moon’s a-sea more oft’n she ain’t… ‘t ain’t like we’ll not see ‘em comin’…”
He winked at her, then, and felt the smile starting to return as he managed to escape from the vortex of her gaze and strode once more for the door. “An’ as fer th’ danglin’ o’ dreams,” he grinned when he pulled the door open and admitted a salted breeze to the cabin, “I got me dreams right here, lovely! Me mates. Me ship. Th’ sea below an’ th’ sky above! Ye cannae tempt a man wi’ somethin’ ‘e’s already got, aye?
A day er less, Davian Passat,” the privateer captain said as he let go of the door and strode out onto the decks, “I’ve known men what’ve chosen tae live free in far less time…”
This time she said nothing, merely pressing her lips firmly together and watching as he left, there was little more to say.
Posted on 2011-08-31 at 15:11:15.
Edited on 2011-08-31 at 15:11:35 by Eol Fefalas
The Rusty Hook, Freeport, 3 nights prior to the docking of Smuggler's Moon
As the evening wore on, the din within the main room steadily rose, building into an orchestral movement of raucous sailors, clanging tankards, and drunken song, interspersed with the random brawl over whose turn was next with one of the Rusty Hook’s various “ladies.” It had been no different last night, nor was it likely to change on the morrow, and as Lyriandel Evermoon set several fresh tankards of ale atop a wooden try, she wrinkled her nose following the long, drawn out sound of the man beside her breaking wind. A moment later, the noxious fumes caused her stomach to roil and her nose to wrinkle. She made a mental note to come back for this man, and hefted the tray over her shoulder, then began the weaving, quickstep dance around the patrons to get to the waiting party at the far side of the barroom.
Tonight’s guests all seemed more animated than usual, which she supposed was due largely to the full of the moon. Already, she’d broken up three fights, one of which she’d stopped unintentionally with her face, another by accidentally knocking both fighters unconscious after one of them thought grabbing her backside would be a humourous show of dominance. Feet sprawled into her path, and toasts we raised as ditties were shouted, warbled, or slurred, and it took a celestial amount of grace to remain on her toes during the rather short, but treacherous, trek from bar to table. Ducking swinging flagons and dodging sloshing tankards, Lyri thunked the tray down on the edge of the table and distributed the drinks.
Back home, she’d be just finishing the evening feeds of the livestock and prepping the morning feeds before drawing enough water from the well to heat for her bath. And then she’d be comfortably warm and clean, snuggled in beneath thick covers, with a candle and a book, to drift off while reading, only to waken in the morning at the crack of dawn to begin the new day’s chores. And the grove where she was raised was so sleepy, and quaint, and quiet - so quiet! - and, most of all, a place where nothing out of the ordinary ever occurred. It was nothing like Freeport, with it’s diverse and, quite frankly, LOUD population, andthe truth of the matter was simply this: Lyri loved it.
Growing up, all she’d ever wanted, much to her foster-family’s chagrin, was a life of adventure and excitement, searching for fortune and glory. “She get’s it from her parents,” Micarica would sigh, and though Lyri was too young when her parents were murdered to recall them as anything more than concepts, she loved Micarica and always felt a small pang of guilt whenever her foster mother say this, for the sound of Cari’s sadness was a deep one, and touched a place of shame inside of Lyri. There was a time Lyri had even tried not to be this way, headstrong and impetuous and practically lusting for adventure, because of how sad it made Micarica. But the call of the road, and later on, of the sea, became too much, and she suffered nightly bouts of guilt over herself. Caleb and Micarica had been so good to her, was this any way to repay them? And in the end, they had always known she was never cut of their cloth, that Lyri was never going to be the kind of girl content to marry, get fat with children, and manage a farm or a shop.
Lyri had now only the money she scraped together each night from the drunks in the tavern, few possessions, and never quite knew where her next meal was coming from, and she wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Except, perhaps, a spot on a nice big ship headed for parts unknown. Which was why, as she bandied small talk about with the patrons of this particular table, her sharp and luminous eyes, the color of new spring grass after a brutal winter, took in every detail; if they were pirates, and tipped well, she’d try to get on board with them.
“You best not be stealing away meh best girl,” warned a booming voice suddenly.
Her heart sank. Taro did this often, any time he saw her anywhere near someone exciting. Looking back, she flashed the large half-orc a dazzling smile, but her heart wanted nothing more than to bury her dagger into his right eye.
Taro Goldkeep laughed, a joyless sound that caused the party at the table to narrow their eyes and arch brows in confusiion and wariness. And, she supposed, they’d be right to. But it was Taro, for godssakes. If anything he was more likely to smash your ship than your face, and he was a regular, which meant regular money. It was just too bad Taro looked to Lyri as his own personal beerwench than a public servant. Oh yes, she mused silently, public servant. She rather liked the sound of that.
“Keep scaring offf the ships, Taro, and I’ll never get to make my fortune!” She hoped it sounded light and humourous, rather than as frustrated as she really felt.
Sadly, Lyri’s eyes gave her away, as they usually did. Yet her ire did nothing to dissuade the half-orc from letting these men know Lyriandel was not meant for their ship - or any. And it came to her, breaking over her as crisp and clear as a dawn wave breaking over the reef. If she was ever going to find a ship, she’d have to find one whose representatives were a hell of a lot meaner and tougher looking that Taro, otherwise he would run them off too, and she’d be stuck here all her days and eventually pressed into marrying some wharfrat with less brains than brawn, and raise little wharf brats who would run around with sticky hands and smear gunk all over some fine noble lady’s dresses, winding them all up in some stockade for the floggers and...
Lyri took a breath and sighed. The rapid cyclone of doom she had been contemplating vanished, replaced by a sense of hope and purpose. Yes, a tougher crew. Enough that Taro would have no choice but to give her up. Though, truth be told, she’d no wish to find out the lengths to which his possessiveness stretched. His gruff, thick voice broke her thoughts, and drew looks of amused wonder from the crew at the table.
“Come o’er here, meh pretty, sit on ol’ Taro’s knee and be sweetlike, fore I take my coin elsewhere and tells yer boss what a traitorous little harlot you be.”
By the gods, if she didn’t find a ship soon, she would just have to kill Taro herself.
The trouble was, she had never taken a life before. Not’s a persons; Lyriandel had, back home, taken out more than her share of rodents and larger predatory beasts looking to cull Caleb and Micarica’s supply of livestock. On the road with the adventurers she’d left with, she’d killed things then, too, but... just not people.
“You just sit and drink,” she ordered, moving away from him.
While she despised the way Taro jealously guarded her from anything remotely interesting or new, she didn’t really think she could kill him. After all, it was just Taro. He probably had a little sister somewhere like her, and thusly explained his complete lack of boudaries with her. Or, Lyri supposed as she moved about the tavern cleaning up spills and dumping cold water on passed out drunkards unable to hold their drink, maybe he was secretly lonely and sad and had so few people who would tolerate his rudeness.
Poor Taro, she considered, because it was her nature to look for the good in all people, regardless how unwashed, uncultured, or unlikeable. But, she asked herself, was he really unlikeable? Or was he just socially awkward? That had to be the case, she decided, and released a long, heavy sigh. She would, she resolved, have to be nicer to him while she was still in town. Maybe he’d be more inclined to stop scaring off potential ships if he were treated better.
To this end, once she’d lifted the face of a passed out sailor from his bowl of stew before he managed to drown himself, she returned to Taro’s side and rested an elbow on the bar, watching him a moment.
“Have the next one on me, ye scurvy barnacle, and don’t say I never was kind to ye.”
He watched her. Studied her. For a heartbeat or two Lyri actually worried he would try to devour her whole with just his eyes, so intently did he stare, then he grunted something close to gratitude, and finished his tankard.
This was, Lyri felt, progress.
Posted on 2011-09-02 at 16:37:37.
Edited on 2011-09-02 at 16:59:53 by Lady Dark
Smuggler’ Moon, morning of the 19th of Chad, 2005
Davian had kept mainly to herself since the little parlay in the captains quarters. He had offered her his rooms for the duration of her stay, and she had accepted. She felt safest there, with a chair propped under the doorknob to at least give her more warning should anyone try to force their way in. It was of course an inconvenience for the Captain, but Davian had gotten used to receiving special treatment during her life, and she no longer bowed out of it humbly. So she had taken full advantage to having her own private space on the boat and spent many hours there.
Today though they had finally made port, in Freeport. Just the smell that wafted off the nearby docks was enough to chill her. As they had approached the familiar bay chocked with boats she found she could do nothing but stand on the bow of the ship, gripping the railing with white fingers; watching as the one place she did not want to be swelled up before her until she was engulfed by it.
The wind turned more wild as the city came into view, still driving them forward but now and then a burst of unexpected wind would flutter the sails violently or catch a crew member unawares as they made their way across the deck, one had even lost a bandana in a sudden gust. Each time though the wind quickly corrected itself and regained its expected course. The sea suffered from the chaotic blusters as well, dark blue clips chopped at the side of the boat occasionally building a white frothy peak that was dashed against the decks. It was no better now that they were anchored and tied up, in fact the boat seemed to suffer more now that it had less room to move about in.
Davian did not seem to notice any of this though. Her bare feet were always sure on a boat, and she appeared to be completely transfixed with the Eastern skyline of the city, as if there was something there she found not only interesting but perhaps dangerous. It was the movement of the crew getting ready to take their sojourn onto land that finally drew her full attention away from the skyline. She knew she could not go herself, simply standing here on the railing where someone on the dock might notice her was dangerous enough, but there were things that she needed. Already she had considered whom she might talk to about getting those things and had settled on her ‘volunteer’.
Keeping the corner of her eye fixed Eastward she moved about the crew until she found Willow.
Saercyn Willow sat on top of the railing of the forecastle. Her fiddle was out, and she was softly singing into the air before her. The wind tried to push her sandy locks into the path of the bow, but none appeared to linger for long. The song was sweet, and it seemed like it was being slowly coaxed from the strings.
“Na 'Aear, na 'Aear! Mýl 'lain nallol,
I sûl ribiel a i falf 'loss reviol.
Na annûn hae, ias Anor dannol.
Cair vith, cair vith, lastal hain canel,
Lamath in-gwaithen i gwennin no nin?
Gwannathon, gwannathon taur i onnant nin;
an midui orath vín a dennin inath vín.
Trevedithon 'aear land erui ciriel.
Falvath enainn bo Mathedfalas dannol,
Lamath vilui vi Tol Gwannen cannen,
Vi Tol Ereb, ned Bar-in-Edhil i Edain ú-gennir,
Ias lais ú-dhannar: dôr en-gwaith nín an-uir.”
“Willow… I don’t mean to intrude and I know you are likely busy, but if you don’t mind I’d like a moment of your time.”
The half elf took the fiddle from under her chin and grinned down at Davi, “No intrusion at all. What can I do for you, my lady?”
“Well… it’s just… I don’t have any intention of leaving this ship while we are docked here. But I am in need of a few things. I know it is impetuous of me to ask, as I also do not have anything by which to pay you back with, at least not yet. And honestly… I am not certain I will be aboard this ship long enough to acquire the necessary amount. But if by chance I am and I do… then of course I would be in your debt and would pay it back, if of course circumstances allow it. So if you’d be willing…” she trailed off.
"Well," she said, jumping down from her perch atop the railing, "I don't mind. I planned on heading into town to purchase some more horse hair," Willow waved her bow towards Davi. It was obvious that almost half the hair was no longer tight, due to the amount that was frayed and hanging off the frog at the ends. She raised it to the fiddle and began playing scales slowly.
"Oh, it still works, but who's to say when we'll be back portside. There are plenty of things I'm sure you need that I don't mind getting," she smiled slightly and closed her eyes, with each item she listed, the bardess hit a different note in her scale, “Clothes, a hair brush, soap, information." The last note was noticeably sharp in pitch, and Willow’s fingers moved up to adjust one of the tuning pegs. Her eyes opened and focused on Davian’s, “Do you need anything else?”
A smile actually crossed her lips when Willow mentioned soap and she nodded. “Soap, yes that would be wonderful. I do appreciate you doing this for me. I’m not that fussy about clothes really, although I will admit that as impractical as it is I do prefer gowns, perhaps a pair of leggings for under them especially if it gets cold, but I’ve always loved the feel of the wind on my skin.” A slight blush rose on her cheeks at that. “But… whatever you find will be fine. Oh… and… mayhap a journal? I’m sure I can find a quill and maybe some charcoal on board already, but paper is likely to be scarce. That should be all.”
She nodded and wiggled her own bare toes towards Davi’s, “Well, if I’m going into Freeport, I reckon I better find some boots for these beauties. Let me know if you can think of anything else. And don’t fret about it; it’ll all work out in the wash.” Willow turned and wove her way around the deck towards the crew quarters below.
Davi watched her leave and could not help feeling the slight venom of mistrust bite into her. ‘Information’ she had mentioned; and it was information that Davi was nervous about. She had let that item go unmentioned, no sense dwelling on her fears, and perhaps if she did not act interested in it the bardess would forget about the offer.
She could sell her out, surely if she asked the right questions in the right places she could easily find someone who would direct her to Vernon. And she wouldn’t have to worry about the horsehairs on her fiddle going out any longer. That twang of venom did not run deep though. Davian had read the captain’s logs and saw nothing in them that suggested the girl would do something like that.
But… asking the wrong questions in the wrong places could perk up ears. Ears that might have a line to Vernon. As much as she wanted to know what was going on in Freeport and just how close Vernon was to learning about her escape she knew it was dangerous to ask and in the end she just wished to have Freeport long behind her.
With a sigh her serpent coiled back around her torso, the head caressing against her neck. Soon it would be behind her…
* * * *
Smuggler’ Moon, late morning of the 19th of Chad, 2005 ”Oh, blow ye winds. I long to hear you.
Blow, boys, blow!
Oh, blow ye winds. I long to hear you.
Blow, boys. Bully boys, blow!”
Davian had not told the Captain she would be staying on board, although she had made the decision shortly after he had left her the other day. Now that they were in Freeport though she let him know her decision without words exactly.
”Oh, blow today, an' shine tomorrow.
Blow, boys, blow!
Oh, blow today, an' shine tomorrow.
Blow, boys. Bully boys, blow!”
Her voice rose above the din of the port from the side of the Smuggler’s Moon. A carefully set up rig had her dangling over murky Freeport waters. Her body throbbed under the yellowing bruises, and the places where a blow had burst open a layer of flesh stung with salt water and joined in the chorus of her song. Already blisters were breaking out on her fingers, adding yet another layer to the symphony she sang while she worked. But she didn’t stop, despite the pain there was something delightfully soothing about her task.
”Blow, boys, blow!
And blow me on,
And blow forever,
Blow me bully boys blow!”
One by one she was diligently scrapping the crusted bodies of barnacles off the hull. They splashed into the water beneath her with satisfying silence before disappearing into the murk. She would need a new layer of paint once they were all removed, and Davian knew she would happily take care of that, if she were still around when it came time that was. At the moment she was there though, and she kept her brother’s words with her still:
“Ships only carry who de please. Be good to yer ship, she be good to ye.”
((Lyrics of ‘Blow, boys, blow’ are not mine own. They are adapted from a traditional shanty I found on various websites. –M.))
Posted on 2011-09-02 at 17:46:43.
Steelight Sage of the Realms Karma: 44/9 1024 Posts
Smuggler's Moon, Morning of the 19th of Chad
He had been hearing of this strange woman for days. The scuttlebutt among the crew was that she was something special, or at least thought she was. The rope runner had seen her many times from above, as he raced through the rigging of the masts, but this time was different.
He saw the woman the captain had brought back talking to Willow, and his curiosity grew with each passing moment. But he had things to take care of before the ship anchored so the intriguing Lady would have to wait for now.
The ropes of the rigging hummed and sang as Vleryn ran across them, as sure footed as if he were on dry land. He checked and re-checked every knot, every tie off and the sturdiness of every rope as he prepped the rigging of the Smuggler's Moon for port. He would not be going ashore right away. Vleryn had been up most of the night sitting on the top of the mast, lost in the sound and sights of the waves and watching the stars. If he was to enjoy this port he would need to sleep at some point.
Smuggler's Moon, Early Afternoon of the 19th of Chad
They had been anchored for a while it seemed, but no one had woken him. Vleryn smiled at the thought. Apparently the crew had finally learned not to come near him while he slept. The last man that did almost recieved a second smile across his throat. Some lessons are learned the hard way it seemed.
As he rolled out of his cot the gypsy man considered his mood for the day. Hmm... mysterious and dangerous... I think black would likely fit.
His chest was beside those of many of the other crewmen despite his position as leader of the boarding party, a fact that irked him more than a little despite understanding the necessity and lack of space on the ship. He dressed himself in what was necessary aboard ship and went up to the deck, clad in black cotton breeches and little else.
Where is she I wonder. Likely already in Freeport, or packing for her trip. he thought with a smirk.
His gaze was drawn beyond the deck of the Smuggler's Moon to the sea, to the sky, and to the city. Like so many of the crew, this city had been where he found the ship, though at that time it was still called Isabella.
__________________________________________________________________ Somewhere in Freeport months before
The tavern was crowded, not a good thing given Vleryn's stormy mood that evening. He was stuck here, with no obvious way to continue his journey or make his riches. He had tried to sign up with many a vessel in the past weeks, but his gypsy blood did little to encourage the captains. They thought him a thief and a liar. While it may be true that he had stolen more than his fair share of trinkets in his time in Freeport, he was not a liar. And since he had not yet been caught or even implicated in the thefts, despite several flights from city guards running and soaring across the rooftops of Freeport.
So when three sailors approached his table, their cocky grins aching for a fist to shatter them, Vleryn smiled.
"We don't want your kind in our bar." The biggest of them said.
"Sorry to say, but the barkeep o'er there decides who stays and who goes, not some barnacles that washed in from the sea this morning."
Apparently they took offense to the comment... who knows why that might have been... One came at him from his left, trying to tackle him to the ground, but the gypsy was too quick. He spun to his left and back, extending his arm as he twisted to backhand the sailor on the back of his head, hard enough to send him into the second of his assailants as he circled around to Vleryn's other side. They were up quickly, the blow having done no real damage other than sending them both sprawling.
A sly grin grew on the gypsy's face as they came at him again. He leaped up on the table with such grace that the mug of mead he had been drinking hardly shifted. From this position he noticed that there were a number of patrons looking on with great amusement at the three men trying to get hold of the agile gypsy. His mood shifted at that and a true smile showed on his face. He began to enjoy the show he was giving them.
Unfortunately, he didn't have much time to consider that as the two men behind him upended the table he stood on. Reflexively he leaped towards the third man, the largest of the three, his leg lashing out as he flew by connecting firmly wih the man's jaw. Vleryn hit the floor and rolled, coming quickly back to his feet, facing the three assailants, one with blood dripping from a shattered nose. His smile grew wider.
The glint of metal in the fire light told him that the game was over. He had embarassed these men enough and now things had gotten serious. The large man rushed him, the blade of a rapier clear of its scabbard and poised to impale him. In a flurry of blindingly fast movement, the gypsy sent two of his own blades slicing through the air, each barely missing the sides of the large man's head as he rushed blindly in. The thrust of the rapier came predictable at his chest, seemingly clumsy and slow compared to the speed and grace of the gypsy thief. He rolled to the outside of the blade, spinning in behind the man, who froze instantly when the sharp prick of a metal blade cut into his throat ever so slightly.
Ony then could the crowd turn their attention to the other two men, each of which had their clothing stapled to the tavern wall by one of the gypsy's blades.
Vleryn held his position for seconds that seemed like an eternity before removing his blade and pushing the man to the floor. When he nodded towards the door the three men were more than happy to oblige, though they would not soon forget the embarassment. Vleryn found himself attached to a ship that very same evening.
_______________________________________________________________ Smuggler's Moon, Early Afternoon of the 19th of Chad
As he made one last run across the rigging, checking everyone one final time he noticed something odd off the side of the ship. The woman that captain had taken aboard was... scraping the hull.
Never expected to see that. Perhaps this girl is more worthwhile than I thought. If that were the case he might as well stop by and say hello.
Grapping one of the tied off ropes from the mast he quickly tangled himself in it and lowered himself towards the water in a manner that almost appeared spider-like. When he was close enough to not have to shout, but far enough so that he wouldn't frighten the girl (or so he thought) he spoke to her for the first time.
"'ello my Lady. Never thought I'd see one so proud as you scrapping crap off the bottom of the Captain's pride. I'm sure she appreciates it though. Care for a hand?"
Without waiting for an answer Vleryn lowered himself a bit further, pulled a dagger seemingly from nowhere, and began scrapping away.
Posted on 2011-09-04 at 12:06:42.
Edited on 2011-09-04 at 12:16:06 by Steelight
... and now playing the part of the Dastardly Villain....
Freeport, late morning of the 19th of Chad, 2005
“Yes sir..” the underling replied, “Cap’n Tasin deHertsberghe’s Ship..”
“Ah yes…” Vernon Wiles said with a nod… he paced in front of a large window which overlooked the harbor … he stopped and turned to face out the window looking out upon the bay…
“So… you are telling me that his ship along with my ‘cargo’ is missing?” the man said asking for clarification … “cause if that is what you are telling me… you realize that I will not be happy.” Though the words were spoken in a calm tone it was clear that the man was perturbed at what he was hearing…
“ah… yes… yes sir… that is what … I am saying.” the underling trailed off… clearly wished that he didn’t have to deliver this news …
Vernon stood for several moments staring out the windows… finally he just waved his hand dismissively to the underling who bowed and then left the room…
Vernon Wiles stood looking down upon Freeport from his large mansion set upon the hills overlooking the port… everyone around here knew of the man… they knew he was very rich having made a lot of money from taking his inheritance from his Merchant Father and expanding his business into shipping and other reputable trades… what most didn’t know was that he had as many illegal ventures as he did legal ones…. His wealth was sizable…
It wasn’t only his riches … he was a handsome man… few women would contest that… he wore only the finest clothes… his voice was velvet with a hint of a accent that none could place precisely… many said it was his eyes that one could never forget… dark pools of steel blue which seemed to peer into a person and see the deepest parts of your soul…
His wealth and looks only secured his position among the elite of Freeport and the surrounding seas and while he refrained from any direct involvement in the politics of the region it didn’t stop him from keeping a few politicians in his back pocket… it was simple really… every one had a price… the trick was finding it and having the money to exploit it…
Vernon straightened the lace cuffs of his silk shirt… a habit of his as he lost himself in thought… his ‘cargo’ was missing once again… while the Rapier had been reported overdue … he figured that the ship was surely lost at sea… with the substantial reward that he had offered for the return of his property he was sure that Captain deHertsberghe would not tarry with the delivery of that ‘cargo’…
Something had happened… had someone else learned of what he carried and taken it for the reward … possibly… or had the ship simply fallen pray to the pirates that plied these waters… also possible… he didn’t know… but somehow he knew that She was still alive… still out there…
Davian belonged to him… he had bought and paid for her… and he never freely gave away anything that belonged to him… oh she had tried to get away… several times… but he has always managed to get her returned to him…
She was very stubborn he had to admit… she had rejected his advances from the start but he was determined to have her… and her love… he had tried to be reasonable at first… pursuing her… buying her all manner of trinkets… jewelry .. Elaborate clothing… had even built a section onto his mansion to overlook the sea… that she loved… but nothing worked on her… she would not return his love…
In the end he had lost it… he realized that perhaps he could have been a little more patient… but somehow he didn’t think patience would win the day… well he was not to be rejected forever… he had ‘taken’ what he wanted from her… and he had enjoyed it… he was sure that she had not… but by then he was beyond caring if she did or not…
He hated her for forcing him to resort to such measures… he had beaten her several times … all the time telling her how horrible it was that she had forced him to come to this… even forcing him to kill her brother after she wouldn’t listen to him when he asked her to use her abilities to help him… oh she had helped in the end but he had killed her brother anyway… and the entire crew of his ship… he even had the maidenhead of her brother’s ship brought back and hung it in her room as a reminder of the consequences of disobeying him… but disobey again she did by escaping again…
She was so stubborn…
Now she was out there somewhere… he was sure of it… she was either a captive of someone who was after the reward for themselves… or she had been rescued by someone who wanted her for themselves… in any case her feminine wiles just might help her to stay clear of him… well he would see what he could do to counteract what she had to offer with what he could offer…
Stepping to the side table he pulled on a cord hanging from the ceiling… a bell could be heard in the distance… he returned to look out the bay window whilst he waited… shortly the door opened and the underling who had been so unfortunate as to deliver the unhappy news entered…
“Yes sir?” he asked sounding as if he wondered if he would be allowed to live…
“Summon Count Rugen..” Vernon said not bothering to turn to face the man… “I have a job for him…”
The underling bowed and left quickly… happy that he was going to live at least for awhile longer…
The powerful man who was used to getting his way stood there looking out onto the bay… the wharfs below with all the dock rats and sailors scurrying about like insects … as they appeared to him from this height… he wondered… could she be down there… on one of those ships… he doubted it… she knew he was here… and Freeport would be the last place to which she would willingly come…
He would find her again… and if he couldn’t buy whomever might have her then he would destroy them and get her back… but she would be his again… and she would pay dearly for making him take such drastic measures… oh how she would pay…
The wind blew delicately across the deck as Khash leaned against the railing, almost losing himself in the beauty of the crystalline waters. The Moon was sailing as magnificently as she ever had, gracefully caressing the waters she passed over. Looking out upon the blue filled him with happiness, it was an everlasting reminder of the freedom he and Jarek dreamt of for so long. He never stopped enjoying that the dream they shared had become a reality; their own ship -well, Jarek's ship, but Khash knew his brother would never abandon him, not after all they'd been through together. Free of the bigotry and corruption they had dredged through in the past, the Moon was their home; no port or hideaway could compare to this feeling of independence. It was times like this, where the ship danced her course so serenely that Khash was at peace, usually sharing the moment with his brother. However, Jarek was nowhere to be seen.
Jarek had been preoccupied with their newest 'passenger' since they had raided the Rapier, but Khash still had reservations over how trusting Jarek could be of this magick user... he hoped the girl hadn't bewitched his kin. The concern he had for his brother were building to the point where he had begun to absent-mindedly drum his fingertips upon the railing, drawing more than a few stares as the intensity quickened and became more fierce. No one came near him to see what was on his mind; it wasn't that he was in a particularly angry mood, but often he'd -forgetting his own strength- leveled crewmen who had startled him. Finally, the tension had built up in him to the point that he realized he was gripping the railing was blanched knuckles; it was time to look for his brother.
He made his way swiftly towards Jarek's private quarters, meeting no resistance as the few shipmates he encountered dodged out of the way after seeing him move at such speed. Even Halfpenny skirted aside quickly chuckling or cursing something about looking where he was going, Khash could never tell with the little quartermaster. It bothered him that his friends could have such fear in their eyes in his passing... though perhaps he was wearing his frustration openly. He paused then to realize he was scowling. He hadn't meant to, but he took his brother's well being seriously. Jarek had always done the same for him.
As he approached the door his ears caught the sound of a raised voice, and he slowed he pace so as to hear the words. "....If you want to live then throw me overboard right now! Death follows in my wake, it always has and it always will. I beg thee... let me go and live!" A lump caught in his throat and he hoped that Jarek was okay, slowly advancing towards the door. An odd noise that gurgled passed through the door, followed by a choking gasp mixed with his brother's chuckling. Minute compared to the last outburst Khash barely caught Jarek's words...“Avast, an’ there be a mighty wind, now". Jarek's response befuddled the sense out of him... what was going on?
Staying where he was Khash was unsure what to do with himself. He considered bashing through the door to save Jarek from the magick witch.... but what if it spooked the girl and she cast some sort of spell at him or his brother... plus he'd owe Jarek a new door. The last time he thought he was saving his brother from a feminine attacker it had not gone as he thought it would.... Jarek had been tied up certainly.... but.... He had gotten quite the earful about decency and privacy that day. The innkeeper had also been less than thrilled at the noise and the destruction of his property despite Khash's noble intentions.
Restraining his urge to check on his brother, the half-orc backed away slowly, taking care to avoid making excessive amounts of noise. As he turned away the door behind him creaked open slightly before slamming shut with a force that echoed. Concern bubbled in Khash's mind, his black eyes narrowing as he peered back over his shoulder. He tried to calm himself, remembering that his brother was a bright one, usually with some plan or understanding of the situation before getting himself mixed up in it. Khash was going to put faith in Jarek, even though this time he was greatly worried about the potential risks; it just seemed like more than they'd brought on before.
The stranger's words washed over his mind as Khash retraced his route to the railing perch he'd previously visited. Frustration had left his face, his brow sagging as it was replaced by worry while he pondered the implications of her ultimatum. A herald of death was not something that sounded like he wanted to play with it; if the girl brought harm to Jarek he'd do good on her wish to be thrown overboard.
Looking out upon the waves again he tried to release his anxieties and fears.... not that any would believe him fearful of much, short of a kraken. He lost himself again recalling his past adventures with his brother. He had a feeling things might get a bit more complicated from here on out.
"How's she fairin' Khash-mate?"
Jarek's voice caught Khash off-guard, causing him to lose his breath in a wispy gasp that he quickly turned into a low rumbling chuckle.
"Savvy Cap'n," He turned to flash his brother a toothy grin, getting one back in return. He seemed optimistic. "She dos ye proud taday; we be quik set fer Freeport." Turning his gaze back to the sea he sighed "Gonna miss dis sight in the nex few daes Jarek. Ain anneethen a betta home."
Posted on 2011-09-07 at 00:47:54.
Edited on 2011-09-07 at 01:06:31 by Tuned_Out
Smuggler’s Moon, morning of the 19th of Chad, 2005
“Well, if I’m going into Freeport, I reckon I better find some boots for these beauties. Let me know if you can think of anything else. And don’t fret about it; it’ll all work out in the wash.” Willow turned and wove her way around the deck towards the crew quarters below. The eyes of their new passenger were burning into her back.
Easy now, there is that presumptuousness again.
Willow reappeared from below deck in one of her bard outfits. Her frame supported a scarlet cropped choli that had crisscrossing straps down her torso, and black leggings with slashes that showed white fabric on one side and purple on the other. These were stuffed into tooled turn top boots, and she finished the whole outfit off with a black bolero jacket. Dark eye pencils had been applied to her eyes, causing them to stand out against the bard’s sea-tanned face. Her violin was securely strapped in a case on her back, and at her hip she wore a rapier. Cat calls rippled around the deck since most of the crew were accustomed to seeing her in practical garb.
“Dear Gods, my eyes! Not sure you could get any louder!”
“Don’t threaten me, Chez,” Willow replied, making a rude gesture at one of the deck hands, “I could be wearing a hat.”
“Watch it, Will! Don’t yer go settin’ t’deck on fire!”
“There she goes! Lookin’ for work, Will? “
“Just a meal that doesn’t involve seafood,” she called back.
Jericho’s large frame stepped in front of her midway across the main deck, and she stopped to look up at him. He was much too close. She could feel the heat from his body, and smell his perspiration mixed with a light lingering twinge of spiced rum. Her breath caught in her throat.
His large hand reached out and enclosed hers, "Ef yer goin', Will," he said, pressing a few coins into her palm, "see to it tha' our guest's got somethin' appr'priate tae wear, aye?"
She looked down at the coins in her hand and sighed, "Come on now, Jericho, you know full well I was going to see Megs. There's not much need for this; it all works out in the wash. Besides," Willow looked back up at him and grinned, "I know where to go for... repayment if I need it."
Jericho’s beard parted in a sly smile, and his fingers swept away from the half elf’s hand, leaving the stack of coins in its wake "Aye, lass," he grinned, "tha' ye do... Ye hang on tae tha' regardless... Could do a bit tae buyin' a snip here an' a loose tongue there, aye?"
The coins jingled softly as she weighed them in her hand, considering. Her eyes were unfocused as she looked towards Freeport. Inns and taverns flickered in front of her field of vision, superimposed over the other ships and crews docked.
"Aye," she replied somewhat distantly, "meet back at the Hook around lunchtime? I'll make sure that there's adequate noise for a private conversation." Will's eyes snapped back onto Jericho's, "Unless, of course, a different time would be better."
"Th' Hook it is, Will," he said, nodding with a hint of a smile in his eyes, “Lunchtime should do... I dinnae think Khash an' me'll be havin' much trouble outta Rheobryn."
He reached out a hand and pushed a lock of her sandy hair behind one delicately pointed ear. Her skin tingled along the trail of his fingers. "See to it they've a good bottle onhand a' th' Hook, aye," he winked again, and settled his hand on the hilt of his blade, "Mind yerself on them streets, Saercyn Willow. Th' Moon wouldnae sail's smooth wi'out ye."
"Don't worry, Jericho," she said as she patted the hilt of her own sword, "I won't be dancing at any balls without you." With the air full of unfinished innuendos, Willow turned to disembark the ship.
Walking into Freeport was like walking into the armpit of humanity. The early morning air did nothing to lighten the smell. The aroma of excrement, sweat, and seaweed permeated the atmosphere, seeping into every building and alleyway. Some tried to deaden the smell with perfumes, but far from masking the odor, amplified the sickeningly sweet stench. Saercyn knew that it all stemmed from the number of people crammed in here at the docks, and unlike the locals, she never had been able to get used to it. Pleased that she tucked her coin purse inside the jacket instead of on her belt, Willow made her way into the throng.
Horsehair, journal, bottle of good rum, and a visit to Meg’s she listed mentally as she brushed past early morning hawkers. Most stalls on the docks had already been stocked, complete with bleary eyed merchants and brisk looking housewives. First things first. The Rusty Hook.
The Rusty Hook was situated just far enough away from the Docks for lonely sailors and drunks not to be spotted right off the bow of their own ship, but still within stumbling distance. The doors were unlocked, even at this hour, and Willow pushed them open and entered. The bar looked like it was in a state of ill repair. At least, what was visible looked like it was in ill repair; the rest was covered in the aftermath of what appeared to have been a bar brawl. Chairs and tables were knocked over and broken, bottles littered the floor, and unidentifiable substances were left in what might have appeared to be discreet corners.
Only one person seemed to be awake in the establishment. A young woman with long red hair was standing in the middle of the mess. It was apparent that she was a maid there, and she squinted at Willow, who was framed in a fiery light halo in the door.
"Looks like a helluva party.”Willow stated, walking in and letting the door swing shut. The sudden shock of sunlight vanished at once, “ Hope that it didn't get the best of you. The boss around?"
She chucked in response, "Had to guess, I'd say still up in bed with whoever. Drusilla or Druma or whatshername,” the woman looked thoughtfully at Willow again, "You lookin for work then? I bet our drunks might like a bit o song with their wenching,”
"Wenching?" she laughed, "Not for me. Never did much of that, but I like the atmosphere here at the Hook from time to time. I'm not in port for long, I was hoping for trading a little bit o' music for some lunch here in a couple of hours. It’s been so long since I've tasted chicken," she smiled hopefully, "and maybe a potato? Rose here," she shrugged the case on her back, "has a tendency to bring in a few more patrons then what's of normal fare, I thought the master of the house might like a little bit more business during daylight hours."
The woman’s smile widened as she spoke, and she threw Willow a knowing wink, "Like any smart man would turn that down. More coin for him for what, a single meal? Go on, I'll say yes though it's not my place. But taking the rap for this beats walking in on him with his women."
She paused for the space of a breath, then her eyes lit up, "Do you have your own ship? I mean, just making conversation here..."
Will looked intently into the young girl's eyes, then smiled softly. It wasn’t the first time she had heard these words, nor did she doubt it would be the last. The half elf was pretty confident that the girl already knew the answer to that question.
"A ship of my own? Not hardly, I merely sing for one's crew." Her eyes swept the room, and settled in one of the corners before looking back, "Though, knowing the captain, he may make his way in here after a while. Not to say that he would be here for the entertainment, but you never know."
The bard walked over to the counter nearest the young red head, and dropped two skulls on the counter, "Although we might be out looking for a thing or two t' do, if you have heard of any errands a free ship might run. You know, just making conversation," she finished, echoing Lyri's own words with another wink.
The light in the maid’s eyes reappeared, and a smile crept onto her face, "Aye, I might know a bit of something about that. I'm Lyri. Lyriandel, actually, but..." she chuckeld, and gestured towards the door that was undoubtedly the kitchen, “You find you've sorted your affairs early, come on back. I'll make sure you've a good meal, and I'll only ask a hundred questions, stead of thousands. Deal?"
“I always try to sort my affairs early, if I can. Sounds like you have a deal, Lyri.” She clapped Lyri on the shoulder before saying, "Speaking of early, I hate to cut your questions short, but I've got some errands to run. I'll be back in a few hours - if your master is up and about I'll be sure to talk to him so you don't get your rear burned."
The half elf turned to leave, and looked back, "I'm Willow, by the way."
Eastern District, mid-morning of the 19th of Chad, 2005
The morning sun was still harshly spotlighting the front door as Willow exited The Rusty Hook. She paused momentarily to give a weedy looking boy a few pennies for the current issue of The Shipping News, and tucked it up under her arm as she sought out the main route to the Eastern District. The street ended up taking her along the walls of Old Town, which enabled her to avoid the majority of the twisting and turning alleyways. The music store, Darbonne’s, was mercifully open at this hour, though not without the grumpy luthier. He eyed Willow suspiciously, and made quite a ruckus when she asked for “three times the amount of horsehair for any reasonable person.”
By the time she left, she was certain that he had overcharged her considerably, but there was nothing to be done for it. He was the only working musical shop outside the Merchant District, and she knew for a fact that they would have charged ten times as much as the old luthier did. Fortune again was on her side as he had a number of journals, long and designed for music, along with a selection of charcoal writing sticks. She purchased the thicker journal, and left him three sticks shorter.
The bard popped into Alice’s House to see if she could purchase a bottle of liquor. The smiling barmaid told her that she had just the thing, and left her standing at the counter while she went down to the cellar. A few other patrons sat around the tables making small talk. The booths were designed for privacy, but she still caught snippets of the closest table.
“… but Count…”
“Don’t speak my name.”
“My apologizes,” the first voice was saying, “but I don’t believe you fully understand the amount of the reward…”
“Here you are!” the barmaid said, setting a wrapped bottle on the counter, “It’s one of my favorites, the rum was fermented with strawberries.”
“Awww, you knew just what I wanted,” Will replied and set an extra two skulls where the bottle had been. The pretty barmaid flashed her a greedy smile as the extra coins disappeared into a pocket. As the half elf exited the bar, she heard the first voice say, “…with long blonde hair, and she’s got this tattoo of a serpent…”
Resisting the urge to make an excuse and stay inside Alice’s, Saercyn Willow marched straight out the door and into the street. She paused at the side of the building to take a few breaths. If you go looking for trouble, Will, you’re gonna find it. And you’re not here to look for trouble, are you? Jericho’s words came back to her as her eye lingered on the bar’s door.
"Mind yerself on them streets, Saercyn Willow. Th' Moon wouldnae sail's smooth wi'out ye."
“You’re right again, Captain,” she murmured. Best get on with it. Will looked again at the large wooden door before turning south. Meg’s place was on the edge of the Eastern District. The wooden sign bearing the words Banderwood’s Tailoring and Sundries looked in desperate need of a new paint job. A small bell tinkled as the bard pushed open the door.
A stocky looking halfing looked up over a pair of reading glasses. Her shirtsleeves were rolled up past her elbows, revealing an array of maritime tattoos, and her dark brown hair was set in two plaits on either side of her head. She set down her glasses and a skirt she had been embroidering and stood.
“Well well, look what the tide left at the door,” a toothy grin broke across her face, “How the hell are ya?”
Willow deposited her bundles and paper on the nearest counter and took three swift strides towards the halfing. She clasped arms with her and drew her into a hug.
“Doing well, Megs,” they released the embrace, “I’m in port for a little while, so I thought I’d stop by and say hello.”
“That so?” Megs took a step back and slowly looked her up and down, “You’re awfully dressed up for just being out and about.”
“Well, you know how it is. Coming to Freeport allows me to… express myself a little bit better than being on a ship does.”
“I’d be careful if I were you.” The halfling crossed to the front door, locked it and flipped the sign to closed, “A few lonely sailors might try to back you down one of the darker alleys.”
A dagger flashed out from up one of Willow’s jacket sleeves. She flicked it around in her hands and looked sideways at Megs, “If one did, then he’d find my boot up his arse so far he’d be spittin’ polish for a week.” They shared a laugh, and Will threw her jacket and dagger onto the counter. Megs sat back down in her chair and propped her feet up on a little cushioned stool that stood next to it.
“So, tell me the real reason you’ve come by.”
Saercyn leaned against the counter and attempted to arrange her face in a disarming expression, “What? I’m not allowed to drop by on one of my friends?”
“Saercyn, you know damn well if you just stopped to talk, you would have done so before or after business hours.”
The bard threw her arms open wide, “You caught me. I need some clothes, and a few other items.”
“Nope. They need to leave with me.”
Megs stood up and started going through one of her garment racks, “Well, I don’t have many things in your colors. What are you looking for?”
Oh Gods, here it comes. Willow cleared her throat slightly, “A dress.”
The rustling sound that Megs was making stopped. She slowly turned on the spot to look at the half elf, “A…dress?”
“Yeah, a dress. In blue or maybe brown if you’ve got it.”
The halfling still didn’t move. Her hands were motionlessly still holding onto a pair of pants in one hand, “I’ve never known you to put on so much as a skirt, let alone a dress”
Willow turned her back on her friend and began looking through her small selection of make-up, “Maybe I’m trying out a new look. Life is short, life onboard a ship even shorter, all that noise.”
The soft rustling of clothes began again, “So, is this a new look for your captain.”
Her hand paused before she selected a couple of eye pencils, “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Don’t try and cop out, Will,” She set a couple of dresses on the counter, “You may be good at seeing the truth of things, but you’re terrible at hiding your feelings. At least around me.”
“Yeah, well, you’re just a little freak like that,” she said, attempting to sound jovial, “I seem to do just fine around other people,” Willow placed a half a dozen bars of soap on the counter. Megs was staring at her, “And in response to your question, no it’s not. Mind if I wash up? I wouldn’t mind using something other than seawater.”
She grabbed one of the bars of soap and they went into the back. Megs had a copper teakettle on for tea, and she up ended it into a wooden washbasin. She mixed it with some water from a bucket next to the door, and sat down on the other side of the wall.
“So how are things on that front for you?” Willow asked as she began to undress.
“Practically non-existent. It’s hard enough finding another interesting woman, let alone one of the same race.”
“I’m sorry, lovely.”
Megs tapped her boots together as she leaned her head against the wall, “ ‘s ok. I’m pretty used to it.”
The water felt wonderful. Freshwater never left that hard residue that seawater did, and Willow relished in the extra clean feeling it was giving her. The soap she was using was a new recipe that Megs had concocted; some type of vanilla and spice mixture. It reminded her of baking cookies.
“Why don’t you jump onto a ship again, Megs? A little excitement might do you good.”
The halfing’s chuckle echoed around the door, “Why, are you offering? I’m sure the captain wouldn’t mind the two of us bunking up together.”
“What happened to the whole member of the wrong race?”
“Touché ,” Megs laughed, “A girl has to try.”
The two friends continued to chat after Will’s bath was finished. The bard subjected herself to trying on a few dresses, and picking out a couple that seemed both practical and had some semblance of style. Megs delighted in having her parade around in more feminine clothes, and she packaged two dresses along with a set of leggings, tunic, and some small clothes. Eye pencils, lavender and vanilla soap, hairbrush, and a new oiled cloak all went into a bundle as well. Megs had an old pair of boots that were a little big on Willow, but they went into the pile all the same with a few pairs of thick socks. All in all, the halfing didn’t question the items that she was picking out.
That is, right up until, “Megs, could you put me together a small embroidery kit.”
“What the hell for?”
Willow fidgeted. She knew how long the hours aboard a ship could be between action, and she was fairly certain that Davi could only stand so much of bones between drunken crewmates. The journal would provide for some of that distraction, but it seemed to lack a certain element. There was something to be said about personal creation, and although Willow had no talent for needlepoint, she knew the value of it in others for self expression, meditation, even an excuse for solitude.
The halfing stared at her again. Willow tried not to let her face betray what she was thinking. Dammit, Megs! Don’t do this.
Megs’ voice sounded flat, “Along with a new wardrobe.”
The halfing nudged the old pair of boots, “And shoes a few sizes too big, and twice as scuffy as yer own.”
“And twice as much soap as normal.”
“Yes, Megs.” Willow sighed. The halfling raised her eyebrows, but said nothing else. Willow didn’t dare ask to have the sundries separated out; she didn’t think Megs could hold her questions if she had. She put together the embroidery kit, wrapped it up, and put it on top of the rest of her packages. The halfing began counting on her fingers and muttering to herself.
“I figure all of that will be four lords and six skulls.”
“Four lords and six skulls?!?” Willow exclaimed in mock outrage.
Megs turned a delicate shade of crimson, “Don’t you dare, Saercyn Willow! You know that’s on the good friend discount!”
Will laughed in reply, “I know, I’m just trying to get a rise out of ya. You look cute when you’re angry. That’s a helluvalot better than I expected. Thanks a million, Megs.”
“You planning on coming by for a drink later?”
Willow’s heart dropped just a little. As much as she had shielded it due to the nature of her work, it still hurt to barge in on her friends, use their generosity, then leave again. She began loading up her packages, “Not this time, Megs. We aren’t landed for long. I need to get down to the Rusty Hook to finish an arrangement, and then I think we’re on our way. Though you’re always welcome to join me down there for lunch ~ I’m sure they’d comp us both for my songs and their extra patrons.”
“Thanks, but I don’t think so,” Megs replied. She moved to the door and unlocked it, “I’ve been closed up long enough today. Besides, scurvy, forlorn men aren’t really my type. You got everything okay?”
“I’ll manage. I’ll see you next time, Megs.”
“Fair winds, Saercyn Willow,” the halfling said, holding open the door. The bell tinkled sadly overhead.
“And for you, Meghan Banderwood,” the bard replied.
Freeport Docks, just past High Noon, 19th of Chad, 2005
Willow stuck to the main road back towards the docks. If she didn’t hurry, she knew she’s miss her opportunity. There was no chance that she’d bring all of these packages into the Rusty Hook, and it took all of her concentration not to bump into the mob of people milling about the docking area. She grunted off the questions from her fellow crew as she dashed down to the crew quarters. The packages got stuffed unceremoniously in her trunk, and she grabbed the bottle of rum before securing the lock and bombing back up on deck and off of The Smuggler’s Moon.
Ducking and weaving through the throng of people, Will made her way back to The Hook with only a few curses from others who got their toes stepped on. She paused outside the swinging doors to catch her breath, and compose herself. This type of establishment required a certain state of mind, and she wanted to make sure that she wasn’t caught off guard. Laughter sounded from inside the bar. Will quickly made sure her hair wasn’t too windswept, and entered The Rusty Hook.
Posted on 2011-09-08 at 15:51:53.
Edited on 2011-09-08 at 18:56:05 by Celeste
Night: Decks of Smuggler’s Moon, 18 Chad 2005
The sun had set in the wake of Smuggler’s Moon and sent her sailing into the dark. The decks had grown quieter… the creaking of her timbers, the occasional snap and flutter of her sails, and the lapping of the waves against her hull were far more prevalent on the Moon’s decks at this hour than in the daytime when the hustle and bustle of the crew, their voices raised in shouts and songs and their feet thumping on the decks, could often times muffle those things… and, though the winds still held, driving the violet-hued prow of the elven ship steadily through the waters toward Freeport, the night seemed incredibly still as Jericho padded barefoot on to the Main Deck.
Though many of the crew slept (some below decks, some stretched out on the Main itself) there were others still awake; a small knot of swabs dicing for pennies whilst passing a skin of wine, here; a pair of rigging-monkeys fussing with some loose knot-work in one of the shrouds, there; the helmsman, Epidii, standing solemnly beside the wheel, his gaze alternating, now and again, between the stars above and the dark expanse of sea ahead; and, up in the tops, Jericho was sure he spotted “Rope Runner” moving through the rigging…
“Th’ lad’s most like tryin’ tae juggle daggers whilst hangin’ from th’ ropes by ‘is toes,” Jericho chuckled under his breath, his gaze flitting away from the gypsy bladesman’s silhouette and following a spray of stars across the sky and into the sea.
He swaggered towards the gunwales, his eyes as intent on those stars just above the ink-black line of the horizon as his thoughts were intent on the happening of these last couple of days and what might come of having Davian Passat aboard. He’d given his own cabin over to the woman, already… an offer of good faith, he’d called it at the time, thinking it would further reassure her as to his intentions where she was concerned and, of course, give her a place to ‘hide with her thoughts’ whenever she might need it… but, Jericho was sure, that his cabin wouldn’t be the highest cost he would pay for having rescued Davi from deHertsbergh’s Rapier…
Gone an’ made more trouble fer ye’self, ain’t ye, he mused inwardly, leaning against the rails and staring out into the blue-black melding of water and sky, An’ sailin’ ye’self an’ yer crew direct intae the face o’ wha’s sure tae be more, even so, should ye linger in Freeport too long, aye?
“Ah, Jericho-lad,” he murmured, half a sigh and half a chuckle, as he turned from the rail and perched himself on the barrel of a nearby cannon, “Whatcha got yerself in fer this time, eh?” He pulled a long-stemmed pipe from where it had been tucked through his belt and poked the contents of the bowl with a finger before clamping it between his teeth. His eyes skimmed the decks, again, and he puffed thoughtfully at the unlit pipe while he contemplated what might come next… and what he’d tell his crew about Davian when the time came. Jericho had just lit a splinter of wood on a lantern’s flame and was about to touch it to the bowl of his pipe when the heavy sound of approaching footsteps drew his attentions away from the sea and stars and towards the companionway…
“Ahoy, Askurt,” Jericho called when he spied the Moon’s master gunner emerging from below decks, “I were beginnin’ tae wonder if’n ye’d pry yerself away from them guns we scavenged long enough tae get ye some air afore we ported in a’ A’val, mate!”
Askurt chuckled at this. "Someone had to make sure those were well cleaned. This ship's not long for the ocean should LeBoom get hold of one not well-kept. A brilliant gunner, but a little to absent minded at times. She'd sink us on the first back-fire." Askurt's voice was light, at least for a dwarf, but his eyes serious, gauging the Captain's mood. It was apparent he had something on his mind.
“Aye,” Jericho replied… the dwarf’s words had caused him to smile around the stem of the pipe, but the just the thoughts of the Moon sinking caused Hawkes to shudder… “We’d nae be wantin’ tha’, would we? I’d hate tae be treadin’ water whilst ye an’ LeBirna rowed a plank back tae raise th’ Rapier…” He blew a smoke ring out across the deck on the wind of his laughter. A good-humored wink followed and Jericho patted the cannon he was sitting on as he reclined slightly. “I’ve nary a doubt ye’ve a’ready got them guns in fightin’ shape, Askurt-mate,” the Captain grinned, puffing on his pipe, “these did fine fer deHertsbergh’s scow, aye?”
He studied Askurt for a moment as the dwarf tromped toward him, then, let his gaze sweep the deck and the seas beyond before returning to the cannon-master. “Ye’ve somethin’ on yer mind, Askurt,” he said, “elstwise ye’d be eyein’ yer guns more’n me…”
Askurt nodded. "Aye Captain, something...." Askurt knew he should be careful in his approach, but was not one to beat around the bush. Things like that were best left to Elves. He scanned the horizon, not really seeing it. "You've been gone the better part of the day," he said, turning to face Jericho.
“Mhmm,” Jericho conceded, a brow spiking slightly beneath the bandana as he wondered where the dwarf might be going with this, “our new pass’nger’s a bit tossed about, mate. It’s taken more’n a peck o’ reassurances tae get ‘er becalmed.
Is it tha’ ye’ve missed me smilin’ face as brings ye topside, Maast?”
Askurt did not grin at the jest. He eyed Jericho knowingly. "Anything that takes the wind out of th' Captain's sails is cause for concern," he said, then lower, "especially if it can then put it in the Moon's...”
“Understood, mate,” the Captain smiled faintly, “ye c’n belay yer concern, though, aye? Me sails’re back tae full an’ our pass’nger’s stowed safe an’ outta th’ way fer th’ time-bein’.” Puffing on the pipe, he leaned forward a bit and regarded the Master Gunner seriously; “Could be th’ lass put the wind in the Moon’s sails as th’ scuttlebutt says, me friend, but could be twere jus’ happenstance, too, aye?” His gaze ticked toward the hatchway that lead to the Captain’s Cabin, rested there for a moment, and then returned to Askurt; “Th’ girl’s a special one, I’ll nae be denyin’ tha’, but let’s keep th’ bit about ‘er stirrin’ th’ winds stowed fer a spell… I’d nae like tae have half me crew run off once we hit Freeport fer no more’n superstition an’…
…Tha’s nae wha’ yer thinkin’, is it, Maast?” Jericho almost scowled, leaning back again as he contemplated the possibility, “Come tae tell me yer off a’ Freeport cuz yer worried we’ve a witch aboard?”
At this the dwarf did smile. "It would take more than the thought of witchcraft to get me off this tub, Cap'n Hawkes." He then sobered. "But if this wind is happenstance, I'll fire myself out the cannons." He paused, collecting his thoughts. "Ye'll not get rid of me as easy as that Captain. And you know I'm not one to rumor-mongering. Let's just hope the crew stays distracted by the prospect of shore leave, and don’t take it on themselves to ask questions. Should one of them set foot in Freeport with that in their heads...." Askurt shrugged. "Gathering a new crew will be the least of our worries."
“Aye, an’ ye’ve got th’ right o’ it, there, lad,” Jericho chuckled from behind a smoke ring. He was glad the dwarf hadn’t come to him with plans of leaving the crew… just as glad that, despite the rumors that’d floated the decks in the last couple of days, none of the rest of the crew seemed so inclined, either… but he couldn’t help thinking back a few years to when he’d taken a ship named Isabella and, along with her, ‘inherited’ another passenger who had made his mates, then, just as uneasy as Davian made his crew, now. Monsignor Domino had had a more threatening, almost evil air to him, though, and they’d managed to deliver him without much incident, despite a rather uncomfortable two weeks in the bokor’s presence. “I reckon if we treat ‘er like she were any other pass’nger, Askurt,” the captain shrugged, remembering that such had been the case with Domino, “we’ve got precious little tae worry on, there…” He grinned and patted the cannon he was straddling then… “…an’ we got yer boomers fer whate’er may try an’ sort any our way, aye?”
Askurt nodded is assent. "Aye Captain, when ye sail from Freeport, ye'll find me ready to sail with you.... with perhaps a new toy for the Moon..." Askurt trailed off, a gleam in his eye. "Goodnight Cap'n." He retreated across the decks, seeking his own quarters and the night's sleep.
“G’night, Askurt-mate,” Jericho returned, grinning faintly at the glimmer he’d seen in the dwarf’s eye and the mention of a new toy… I wonder wha’ th’ ol’ salt’s conjurin’, now?… “Dinnae fergit, drinks tae th’ tune o’ twenty lords when we take th’ shore,” he called after the gunner, tapping his pipe out over the rail, “It’ll be comin’ outta me own share. Ye’ll be sore tae miss it…” He chuckled when the crusty dwarf raised a powder-blackened hand in response and then, silently, disappeared back below.
“I bloody well hope ‘e’s nae thinkin’ about slaggin’ the guns we took from th’ Rapier an’ makin’ tha’ Long Tom, agin’” Jericho chuckled, swinging a leg over the cannon he’d been sitting on and sliding his feet back to the deck, “I dinnae know where ‘e’d even think tae mount such a theng…”
Still smiling, Jericho Hawkes gave a slow shake of his head, let the rest of his chuckle escape his lips in the form of a sigh that bespoke the relaxation that a quiet night on the decks of Smuggler’s Moon always brought on him, and stretched. It was a languid stretch, drawn on longer than he had intended by the feel of the breeze that blew across him at just that moment… and his smile shifted a bit, too, becoming perhaps as languorous as that stretch was, for that breeze not only carried the soothing touch of the knighted sea but, also, the sounds of Willow at her fiddle…
~City lights shine on the harbor,
Night has fallen down….~
…As was often the case with the half-elf’s playing, the music and lyrics seemed to swirl around him, seeming to emanate from every direction at once and, yet, at the same time, seemed as soft as a secret whispered into his ear alone… that particular trick of her talent, though, didn’t confuse him, now, as it had when he had met the bard some five or six years ago… He turned toward the prow…
~…Through the darkness and the shadow,
I will still go on…~
…He found Willow just where he’d expected – perched on a crate near the bowsprit, “Rose” nestled in the crook of her neck, her sandy hair tossed by the wind, and her honeyed eyes reflecting the starlight as she gazed out towards the eastern horizon – lost in her music…
~Long, long journey, through the darkness,
Long, long way to go…~
…Jericho padded to a stop behind her, his gaze tracking hers out over the waves to linger there for a moment while he simply listened…
~…but what are miles across the ocean
To the heart that’s coming home?...~
…He smiled, then, his gaze abandoning the sea and sky to frame Willow, once more. “I ne’er know if yer conjurin’ tears er smiles wi’ tha’ one, Willow-luv,” he murmured as he kissed her softly on the neck before seating himself on the crate behind her, “I reckon tha’ all depends on who’s doin’ th’ listenin’, though, dunnit?”
Willow made no answer aside from a sidelong glance, a smile, and to continue playing…
~…Where the road runs through the valley,
Where the river flows,
I will follow every highway
To the place I know…~
“Aye,” Jericho said, his eyes wandering back out to the sea that surrounded Smuggler’s Moon, then along the decks to the scattered knots and dots of her crew, “an’ who be listenin’ th’ hardest t’night, I wonder?”
Again, Willow simply smiled and glanced at him as he reclined across the crate beside her, but made no other answer, just then, but to keep singing…
~…Long, long journey through the darkness,
long, long way to go;
but what are miles across the ocean
to the heart that's coming home?
Long, long journey out of nowhere,
long, long way to go;
but what are sighs and what is sadness
to the heart that's coming home? ~
The lyrics evaporated into the night but the music played on for a while. Jericho lounged on the crate, his gaze alternately wandering the stars and Willow’s face as he contemplated the song, the ship, and the souls aboard. “Wha’s it say ‘bout a heart tha’s a’home in the roamin’, Will,” he asked after a few moments, “D’ye reckon there be a shanty ‘bout a heart wha’s home is where e’er it may be a’ th’ moment?”
Willow slowly took Rose from the crook of her neck. The song seemed to echo out across the water even after the notes had died. She sat motionless and gazed across the open water. Thoughts of home and family swirled in her mind, alternating with the faces of those on board. After a fashion, Jericho's voice floated across to her, seemingly from far away even though he lounged right next to her.
“Wha’s it say ‘bout a heart tha’s a’home in the roamin’, Will? D’ye reckon there be a shanty ‘bout a heart wha’s home is where e’er it may be a’ th’ moment?”
She stayed quiet for a moment, contemplating the nature of what he said.
"You would say that, Jericho Hawkes.” She said softly, replacing Rose beneath her chin. The notes of the previous song were quietly coaxed from her strings, “Jericho Hawkes, the man born on the waves. The man who has known plank, mast, and sail all of his life. The man who feels the call on the wind and the change of the tide in his blood. The man who has never known the warmth of a hearth fire, the breath of the trees, or the longings of a home left behind.”
Jericho offered a faint smirk and blinked into the sky, wondering if he should miss the splintery decks of Bloodtusk or, if it was Star of the Sea or, perhaps, even the labyrinthine streets of Freeport that he should miss when he thought of such things. He’d known all of those places as ‘home’ after one fashion or another as he’d grown but, even at that, ‘home’ was just a word of convenience where applied to those places, wasn’t it?
“I miss these decks when I’m nae aboard ‘em,” he almost whispered after a moment, trying not to drown out the soft notes Willow had begun to play, “I long fer th’ sea when I been too long ashore…” His cinnamon eyes ticked to her face, then; “I a’times feel lost wi’out Khash… an’ yerself…”
“There are those who say that home is where ever you hang your hat,” she said, smirking at him. She played a few more bars before continuing, “Then there are those romantics who say that home is where your heart is. So tell me, Jericho, where does your heart lie, hmm? On the waves, on these decks, or with those whom you care for?”
“C’n it nae be wit’ all three,” Jericho asked, then, “more’n not, it’s all one in th’ same tae me, aye?”
Her song changed immediately; the notes conveyed longing, but a different longing. As the Smuggler’s Moon broke the waves, the melody seemed to compliment their sound rather than be above it.
~If there's one thing in my life that's missing
It's the time that I spend alone
Sailing on the cool and bright clear water
Lots of those friendly people
And they're showing me ways to go
And I never want to lose their inspiration
It's time for a cool change
I know that it's time for a cool change
Now that my life is so prearranged
I know that it's time for a cool change
Well I was born in the sign of water
And it's there that I feel my best
The albatross and the whales they are my brothers
It's kind of a special feeling
When you're out on the sea alone
Staring at the full moon, like a lover
Time for a cool change
I know that it's time for a cool change
Now that my life is so prearranged
I know that it's time for a cool change
I've never been romantic
And sometimes I don't care
I know it may sound selfish
But let me breathe the air
Let me breathe the air...
If there's one thing in my life that's missing
It's the time that I spend alone
Sailing on the cool and bright clear water
It's kind of a special feeling
When you're out on the sea alone
Staring at the full moon, like a lover
Time for a cool change
I know that it's time for a cool change
Now that my life is so prearranged
I know that it's time for a cool change.~
Jericho had allowed his eyes to be lulled shut as Willow sang; her voice and her playing mingling with his thoughts and, he imagined, helping to disentangle them… laying them neatly out much like he had seen notes arranged on the staves of the “sheet music” she had shown him once…
“Aye,” he smiled, not opening his eyes even when Willow’s voice subsided, “A’ways a change blowin’ out here, innit?” The Captain yawned, then, and shifted a bit atop the crate, slipping his hands behind his head as a makeshift pillow… “An’ where th’ change blows the Moon goes, twould seem, eh?
Thank’ee fer the song, Will,” he said from behind another yawn, one eye opening for an instant to peer up at the shanty-singer, again, “I reckon twere jus’ wha I needed tae put me back on course, aye? An’,” he smiled again as that eye closed once more, “I reckon ye knew it afore I did...
Heh,” he chuckled sleepily, “Does me heart lie on th’ waves, on these decks, er wit’ them I care fer, she asks… Right now, Saercyn Willow, me heart lies no place but here aside ye…”
She smiled softly, but said nothing. She shut Rose in her case for the night and trailed her fingers across his bearded face. The half elf remained for a little while listening to Jericho's deep breaths before retiring below deck.
((OOC: The above post was a collaborative effort, brought to you by Eol Fefalas, Chessicfayth, Celeste, Enya, and the Little River Band. Next post from Jericho will be "in port"...))