Maritus, 368

Oct 30 2016

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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