The enthusiastic cry from the forward spotter sent most of the tiny ship’s crew scrambling up for a look, until the captain angrily shouted them all back to their posts.
“Confirmed sighting. It’s definitely a Laridae.” The call from Danst Rines, first mate of the Second Talon, restarted the scramble.
The captain sighed, but didn’t try to stop the stampede a second time.
“We found them!”
“That HAS to be the ship, right?”
“Of course it is. How many of those ancient boats could there be out here?”
“All right, you’ve all gotten your look, NOW BACK TO YOUR STATIONS!” Captain Lane Fremont let his crew see his own, wide, smile as they scurried back to their stations. “Engine room, give us whatever power we’ve got left. We’re going to circle and come down at the western port.”
“The western port, captain?” Danst sidled up behind his commanding officer as the crew scurried back to their stations, wearing an inquisitive expression. “I understand not wanting to come in to the same pier as our target, but the far side of the island seems a bit much.”
“We’re going to need more than seven men if we want to take that ship, Danst. I don’t think we’re going to find the sort of… new-hires we’re looking for in the primary LEGITIMATE port on the island.”
“We’re planning to take the ship? Not just the princess?” Danst asked the question with raised eyebrow, and a hint of a growing smile. “That could slow us down considerably as we rush back to serve the prince’s next whim.”
“Definitely a slower journey.” Fremont’s expression remained carefully neutral as he agreed with his first mate’s assessment. “But a vastly more comfortable one. And a perfect platform for a potential renegotiation of our employment, don’t you think?”
Danst’s smile quickly grew well past its earlier hint. “Aye, captain. As long as we’ve got something of sufficient value in her holds to negotiate with, that is.”
The grey-haired captain responded by tossing a key to his lanky companion. “So go unlock the coffers and don’t skimp on our recruiting effort.” The smile now on the face of Lane Fremont was decidedly more vicious than the one worn by his first mate. “I recommend hiring for quantity on this job. I imagine whatever the princess paid that damned Laridae to get her out here is still sitting in her holds, so be generous. We’ll be able to afford it by tomorrow.”
The grey-haired man hummed pleasantly to himself as he dragged a heavy canvas bag of metal scrap down the hallway and into the engine room. Frederich Weilander grunted with effort as he swung the heavy bag off the floor and onto his work bench, but the smile never left his lips. The engineer truly treasured these rare moments when nearly the entire crew was ashore, and he knew he could work on a project without interruptions. Late evening so no one else aboard the Pelican, save only his assistant and the woman they’d taken prisoner. God only knows why the captain hasn’t cut her loose yet, but as long as he’s keeping her locked up and QUIET on the far side of the ship, I find myself unable to truly care!
The distracted humming progressed into a full-on cheerful whistling as Frederich began sorting through his prizes, getting all of the various gears and incomplete bits of Clockwerk arranged to his liking with enough spring in his step to almost qualify as dancing. Tools were carefully selected and arranged, and the grey-haired man turned to the room’s largest storage locker with an eager gleam in his eye before halting and looking back at the still open door.
No one aboard now, but that would have been embarrassing. The engineer quickly strode back to close the door, then proceeded to lock it AND drop a heavy metal bar in place. “There we are, promise to a paranoid captain kept!”
Frederich’s cheerful demeanor returned as he quickly re-approached the locker and, after a moment of fumbling with the oversized combination lock, lifted the door open to reveal his most prized project. Even completely wound down, folded awkwardly into a slightly too-small compartment, and with many vital components removed; the Clockwerk fanatic still managed to look menacing enough that most people opening its compartment would have likely opted to close the door and reseal the lock. The engineer simply reached right in and began levering the heavy, metallic soldier from its resting place.
“Ah yes.” Frederich shook his head softly as he paused in his exertion to catch his breath. “Heavy lifting. THIS was why I consented to an assistant in the first place.” The pause lengthened as he considered heading back out to fetch that young man to assist him, but another shake of his head dismissed that notion. Nonsensical reasons or not, the captain has the boy watching our ‘prisoner,’ and I won’t tempt him away from his duty.
Resolve firm once again, Frederich managed to finish extricating his project from its locker and immediately began loosening bolts and opening plates to grant him access to its inner workings. And thanks to some carefully copied diagrams from the princess’ little ‘personal library,’ I should finally have this fellow back on his feet and functional as something OTHER than a barely controllable berserk killing machine by morning!
“I swear to god, captain, if you pass out on me here I am going to roll you in the gutter and leave you til morning.” The overly sweet-toned observation from one Olna Dahl seemed to pull her companion’s awareness up to a slightly more acceptable level as the pair staggered down the street in the general direction of the pier.
The platinum-blonde first mate very rarely accepted offers to join either her captain or her crew for a ‘night out’ when the Pelican was in port. The former because, in general, the Pelican’s crew usually attempted to completely drain whichever bar or tavern they found themselves in for a night, and the latter because the captain’s tastes and drinking manners were, frankly not something she wanted to subject herself to when she was looking to spend an evening unwinding with some alcoholic assistance. Fortunately in some ports, such as one as far removed from real civilization as Jiungli, Edward Damini’s far-too highbrow taste for ludicrously expensive liquors and the manners he expected to be observed while imbibing said liquor simply could not be found. So in those circumstances, Olna made it a point to accompany her captain. She found the man to be damned good entertainment when she could get him drinking without putting on all of the annoying airs he so enjoyed. And she also enjoyed, quietly, watching his silent suffering the following morning.
“You wouldn’t REALLY leave me here, would you Olna?” It really was a marvel that Edward managed to get all of his words out with slurring any of them, considering the amount of brandy she’d watched the man consume.
“Well, the night is still quite young. I suppose I might track down Chea or the boys and have them drag you back to the ship.” Olna’s mischievous grin vanished for a moment to be replaced by a look of serious contemplation when the captain’s gaze swiveled back toward her.
She found it much harder to resist chuckling at Edward’s involuntary shudder as he likely recalled the LAST time arrangements had been made for Chea to cart him anywhere, particularly when said shudder caused the man to miss his footing on the uneven paving stones and he nearly went face-first into the street.
The loud and sharp cracking sound from behind her, accompanied by a far-too familiar burning pain in the blonde woman’s shoulder, quickly snatched attention away from the antics of her drunken captain. With no further thought, Olna spun and threw herself to the ground in a single, practiced motion. The rush of air that accompanied the next gunshot, as opposed to a new burning agony somewhere in her body, told the woman that she had successfully dodged the second bullet. As soon as the paving stones managed to halt blonde’s wild spinning dive, her uninjured arm was already extended with a double-barreled holdout pointing at a group of four men that were apparently ambushing her and her captain.
Olna’s two shots came much closer together than her attacker’s, and with far greater accuracy. The man reloading his own pistol flinched in expectation, but it was two of his still-armed companions that dropped lifelessly to the street beside him. The downed-woman grimaced as the man in the back of the group stepped forward with his own pistol still at the ready, and began rolling desperately across the street in hopes of finding some small cover before the man pulled the trigger.
Four more rapid gunshots rang out, and Olna flinched again as she expected to be hit, but found her eyes opening in shock as no bullets apparently came anywhere near her. A quick scan of her surroundings showed that her two remaining attackers had joined their companions in bloody pools on the paving stones, and her captain seemed quite pleased with himself as he holstered his own, larger, pistol.
“You are far too drunk to shoot that good.” Olna shook her head as she voiced her objection and quickly began reloading her own weapon.
“Drunk? On the rotgut they try to pass off as fine brandy in this wasteland? Perish the thought, Olna.” Edward demonstrated a certain level of lie in his own words as he pushed himself to a standing position and nearly staggered right back off his feet. “Though I will admit to being slightly tipsy.” He amended.
“Whatever you say, Captain Tipsy. Any idea why the locals suddenly decided they hated us enough to shoot us in the back?”
“Not sure on the locals, but that boy in the back has a decidedly Chelan cast to his features, wouldn’t you say?”
The blonde took a moment to stare in shock at her inebriated captain and the question of HOW he could possibly have noticed that from thirty feet away in the dark while DRUNK was just forming on her lips. Then her mind finished processing the most likely scenarios if one of their attackers was, indeed, from the Kingdom of Cheles. Instead of questioning the captain’s drunken savantism, the first mate made her way quickly to the corpses of their assailants and began collecting all the weaponry she could locate.
She had a feeling that she’d be needing a lot more than her one holdout pistol before the night was over.