Archive for October, 2016

Maritus, 368

Oct 30 2016 Published by under The Faux

Captain Downe had requested my presence in his personal quarters. It was a cluttered old room, with sheets of dust coating everything; from the eight-foot map of the Dralth that covered an entire wall, to the collection of antique wine glasses, an oddity of the Captain’s that he insisted everyone respect. Very little light existed within the confines of the quarters, although one lone candle of tallow flickered on a small center table.

He was seated in a corner, smoking coamjar out of a pipe. His eyes glittered in the shadowed canopy provided, and stared right holes into mine. I was nervous. I had served on the ship for two years, and even though many of the crew considered me one of their own, Captain Downe had kept his distance ever since bringing me on. I didn’t know why. I thought I had offended him grievously, for him to have maintained such a wide berth, especially after our initial rapport. Perhaps it wasn’t fair for me to expect so much attention from the man. He had an onerous job. Still, there was a feeling of neglect festering in my bosom as I stepped deeper into the room and addressed him,

“Captain Downe?”

“Sit.”

There was nowhere to sit, so I stood, head hung low.

“Sit,” he said again, and a long, black finger pointed to the floor, “there’s no mice. They avoid me.”

The mice were the least of my concerns. Why did he want me here? Some resentment began to blossom, and I muttered under my breath an innocuous curse. Perhaps he wouldn’t notice. Perhaps he would mistake it for my minute annoyance at a splinter in the floor.

“You’re upset. I understand. You have reason to be.”

I tried to protest against that notion; tried to plea that it was a shard that I had sat on that earned my tongue’s lash, but he silenced me with the same finger,

“I’ve not treated you well, lad. I brought you on and ignored you, as if you weren’t worth acknowledging. Then I summon you here and force you to sit on a shitty floor,” he took a puff from his pipe, and blew the smoke out so far that it blasted into my face, “It’s not right. And I’m sorry. But you need to understand why I’ve acted the way I have.”

There was a budding anxiety shredding my guts. The taste of bile kissed my tongue, and I could only nod to show that I had heard what was said.

Captain Downe put the pipe down to rest in his lap. He was still staring at me when he spoke,

“You want a try?” I knew that he was talking about the pipe, so I shook my head. He gave it to me anyway, and nodded his approval when I took my first puff, “I’ll be honest, kiddo, when I first saw you, there was only one thing I was thinking: selling you off to some owner in Pertport. You’re good stock–tall for your age, and strong too. And you’re not a bad looker either, in case the owner was a woman.”

I was too busy coughing out smoke to truly express my reaction of shock and rage, although my reddened eyes probably warded him off from offering more backhanded compliments.

“But you’re a damn good worker. You gained the loyalty and love of every man aboard. Even me, though I haven’t shown it,” Captain Downe took the pipe back, “Want a drink?”

I had grown meek as the anger that had arose within me before slowly cooled to a numb, biting acceptance,

“No.”

Captain Downe nodded and didn’t say nothing for a while. The schooner was being rocked by the waves, and the crew would have to take up the anchor soon. I was growing a little sick, so I asked to be excused.

“Nah… I still have something to say to you.” Captain Downe had closed his eyes now, and I was free to finally glare at his beautiful face, “You’re living a tough life, kiddo. You’re going to be living a tough life for a long while. You didn’t ask for it, but these things are rarely the fault of the inflicted.”

“Captain?”

“I thought that… maybe I was wrong. At first, it looked that way,” his face had tightened until it looked like a statue’s, “You didn’t have the signs. You didn’t show them. But these things take time. For me, it happened when I was young. Because my mother was half-Daravi.”

I wanted to vomit. My nails dug into the fabric of my breeches, into my thighs.

“It’s a curse, what we have, kiddo. If anyone were to find out, we’d be burned.”

I started to shake my head. The overwhelming dread that came when you sighted a rogue wave began to envelop me. I felt myself drowning.

“I ain’t gonna say it. Because it’s best you hold onto that inkling of doubt. It isn’t much, especially since you pretty much know the truth,” Captain Downe took a final puff of his pipe, “But I figured it was the least I could do, especially having dropped it on you like I did. I’m going to be a lot more closer to you from now on. I just wanted you to know that. I want the crew to know that too, because they don’t like how I’ve treated you, so you can call me Benn.”

Still reeling, I blinked up at the sitting man, despair and disdain corrupting my voice. The candlelight flickered out,

“Why me?”

“Because I don’t let anyone else do it,” replied Captain Downe, opening up his eyes at last and staring down at me with those piercing browns. I couldn’t look away, “And it’s not like you’ll actually call me Benn. My own mother didn’t call me Benn. How’s that sound? ‘Benn de Downe’?”

Although I was agitated at Captain Downe’s intentional misunderstanding of my question, I felt a sudden impulse, perhaps a wise one, to humor and play along. What had been said was indelible. I now had to adapt,

“W-what’s wrong with it?”

“Benn de Downe. Bend thee down? Come on kiddo, you ain’t that young, nor is anyone else on this ship.”

I shared a forced chuckle, and then asked to be excused again. Captain Downe looked me over for a while, and the nodded his dismissal.

“Yeah. You’re good. Go on then.”

I left Captain Downe’s quarters retching and sweating a fever. On my cot, I stayed, for days until Captain Downe pulled me out and forced me to scrub the lower decks.

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June, 370

Oct 23 2016 Published by under The Faux

The boy couldn’t read. That’s why they turned him away. Literacy within the ranks of the Reeves was an essential imperative that the Lady Justiciar enforced with little mercy; pragmatic to her very core, it seemed. The boy hated her for this, although he had never even seen her. He had heard all the good that she had done for the city, for the Kingdom, but this perceived rejection struck him deeply and rocked him to his very core. He would make Rimilde von Rievirkrintz suffer. He swore it in his own blood.

As he walked down Church Street East, the Cityguard Headquarters growing more and more distant, he drew his knife and examined the dull blade. Captain Downe had given it to him a few years before: a once finely crested hilt of bone lay base to a cold, six inch, iron-infused shark tooth. Captain Downe said it was a rare practice, to mix such drastically different materials, but he would have done anything for the lad. He would have sunk the entire ship if it meant saving the boy’s life. And the boy knew, especially now.

He pricked the fingertip of his pinky, and sucked on the trickle of blood, just for the taste. He wondered if the Lady Justiciar’s would be sweeter.

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Septembris, 366

Oct 20 2016 Published by under The Faux

Captain Downe was a gritty Farin man of about thirty-seven years of age. He’d been sailing the Dralth ever since he was ten though. I remember the first time I saw him on that Septembris morning; his deep brown eyes, slanted at the edges, like a Tubori; the massive seven-foot frame that seemed just as wide as it was high; his waist-length dreadlocks, bleached by the harsh sun. I wouldn’t hasten to say I had an infatuation, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. He moved like an ocelot, effortless and deliberate, but with none of the jitteriness that came from a cat. He was walking down the docks after just getting out of a dinghy. I could see his ship off in the distance. It was just a schooner. I remember thinking that no man of his size could fit on such a small thing.

“Benn!” I finally tore my eyes away from the Farin captain and looked to one of the plantation owners who had gathered down at the dry end of the docks to commission vessels. The owner was a distant cousin of the Fontaines–Harlan. A fat and red-faced man, Harlan seemed extremely offended at the prospect of having to wait near the sea at the height of noon. A handkerchief dabbed at his forehead, and his toe-curled boots oscillated the task of tapping impatiently.

“Benn!” Harlan shouted again as the Farin captain took his time on docks, “Hurry up! I have urgent business to get to. Damn desert walker. No regard for courtesy…”

The Farin captain bowed once to Harlan, and with a voice that was cool and collected, said,

“Harlan le Fontaine. A pleasure to do see you again-”

“Yes, yes,” interrupted Harlan, and he waved a hand in the air to quickly dispel the courtesies he had insisted were lacking moments earlier, “I presume you managed to secure the route back to Zadossa? I don’t want the shipment mysteriously being robbed by pirates again, if that’s even what happened. How on the Lord’s good Urth do pirates ‘mysteriously’ sneak onto a ship full of strong, Farin men and women, and abscond with two tons of grapes?”

“Well, they have to be very quiet, Master Fontaine.”

A few of the other plantation owners who had accompanied Harlan wore affronted looks, and turned expectantly to their insulted member. Harlan, to his credit, knew exacerbation was the worst possible outcome for the meeting, and only spat at where I lay. I wiped the glob of saliva from my face and uttered an apology before turning over on my side, back showing to the plantation owners, so that Harlan couldn’t see my offense.

“Just make sure it doesn’t happen again, Captain Downe. You have a long history in these waters, and in Penmoor, but these last few years have been especially tumultuous. There are other, native-born captains who we could easily bring our business to.”

“But none of them are as cheap as I am, aye, Master Fontaine?” I couldn’t see Captain Downe’s face at this point, but I assumed it had the smuggest look on it, “Don’t worry. Shipment will be delivered fine. Hurricane season makes cowards out of most pirates.”

I could hear Harlan and the other owners gasp,

“You plan to set sail in the middle of the storm month? Are you mad man? I forbid it!”

“Ain’t any other ships coming in until Novembris, Master Fontaine, and them grapes will spoil before then. Stop picking so early in the year and you might be able to bargain.” Captain Downe’s footsteps resumed, and soon they were accompanied by the rushed scrambling and protests of Harlan and the other owners before they faded off.

I must’ve stayed there on the docks for a while, because when next I heard Captain Downe’s voice, it was as dark as a Daravi and Lunare and Arien were high up. A large hand rocked my shoulder as gently as it could, and then hauled me up as though I weighed nothing,

“You all right, kiddo?”

Captain Downe’s face was beautiful. I don’t know why it was, but it was. Maybe it was because of the way his ebony skin, a few hues lighter than the sky around it, seemed to be a physical manifestation of the night itself. It was smooth, flawless, which was hard to understand since he had been sailing for so long. But maybe that’s why he seemed to beautiful then. I think I spent too much time staring, because his hand shook my shoulder again.

“Y-yes, sir. I’m all right, sir.”

Captain Downe’s eyes were piercing, and I blinked a few times to show that they were too much for me. The two orbs of deep brown didn’t look away,

“What’s your name, kiddo?”

“Volpe Varroe, sir. My Ma and Pa work for Mister Harlan, sir.”

“Harlan ever spit on his slaves as much as he does his servants?”

I grew indignant at that, and puffed out my chest until my ribs showed through the thin, dirty tunic that I wore. I wanted Captain Downe to know that I couldn’t stand for what he had said. I wanted him to know that I could be just as imposing as he was to Harlan,

“I ain’t a servant, sir. Ma and Pa work for Mister Harlan. Not me.”

I reckoned that I looked pretty ridiculous, being so bold to a captain who had me at a disadvantage, with his hand on my frail shoulder, alone on the docks where I could easily fall into the waters below and drown. I wondered how my face looked, all twisted, with the dried remnants of Harlan’s spittle crusted across my cheek.

Still, Captain Downe was patient. He had a way of making you feel as though you just did exactly what he wanted you to, and soon my chest deflated and all I could do was look down at my feet. The captain looked over his shoulder to the manor atop the hill, all lights as Harlan celebrated the departure of a half-Daravi noble bastard and soon to be arrival of his profit for the harvest.

“Say Varroe, how about you come with me? We need a cabin boy, and you seem like you’re itching for something to do.” His hand left my shoulder, and I considered running for it. “Unless you like them spit showers Harlan gives you…”

“Arien take you.” I snapped at the captain, although I was grinning just like he was. I looked up at the manor, where my Ma and Pa were probably serving Harlan and the other plantation owners vanilla cakes and wine. I don’t think I loved them. Not like I loved Captain Downe. “All right. I’ll come.”

He took my hand and began to lead me over to the dinghy. I recall thinking of him as my protector from then on. I remember thinking that he’d never die.

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