Septembris, 366

Oct 20 2016

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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