The man waited, patient. He was not in a hurry. Unlike the two stood in front of him. He sat and watched as they became more agitated.
One of them, the younger, grunted in frustration, before being hushed by the older. “Captain, it is imperative that our cargo is transported urgently. Please, you must help us.”
“Then you must meet my price. Or take your urgent cargo to a ship offering fewer guarantees, and higher risk.”
They looked agonised as they thought it over, sharing a look between them, coming to a conclusion. “We must see if we can procure additional funds to meet your demands. May we trust that you will at least still be here when we return?”
They left in a hurry, seemingly arguing between themselves.
The Captain smirked to himself, turning back towards the Shadow Dancer, where the crew were loading up supplies. The first mate, Jessamy, approached.
“Couldn’t meet their needs, Captain? Or they couldn’t meet ours?”
“Apparently a quality service is too expensive for them. But they still want us to take their crates. They’ll be back, likely within the hour, with the money. And the goods.” The last was almost an afterthought. “We’ll get it loaded, then give the men the afternoon off, sail bright and early in the morning. Is everything else loaded?”
“It should be by now, if ‘Lyn hasn’t been thrown overboard.” They both laugh at that.
“Well, assuming she’s still dry, keep the crew hanging around a little longer. If our clients end up having to have their goods loaded in the morning, then perhaps it will incentivise them to faster action in the future. You know the routine, not sure why I’m telling you again.”
Jessamy nods, with a grin, and turns to find her sister. The captain turns to wait for the clients, pulling a book out of his bags to read.
The clients, of considerably greater wealth than import, returned, a servant pulling a crate on a handcart besides them. They were trying to be both hasty and careful, being forced to settle for careful whenever they tested the patience of the road.
As they reached the busy docks, and worked their way through people, they saw their destination, still sat there in his irritatingly flamboyant wheelchair, reading a book.
“He actually is just sat there waiting for us, isn’t he. He knew we’d meet his price. Arrogant prick.”
“Shh, we need his services, you know this. We can suffer a little self-importance so long as the books reach the boss’s buyer. We might even be able to wangle a bigger payday.”
“More likely to get nothing to cover the increased cost, if you ask me,” the younger muttered, before getting a light swipe to the back of the head.
“Captain Petrichor, we’ve been able to procure the additional funding to meet your price. 400 platinum pieces, in exchange for guaranteed, high-security delivery to the recipient at the Arcanis Mysticeum, with a bonus acknowledging that you are going out of your way for us.”
Several people look up at mention of that amount of money. Most, recognising the tattooed Captain in his wheelchair, rapidly looked down again.
“Alright. Deal it is.” He holds his hand out for the bag of coins, and upon receiving it. “This the goods, I presume?” Without waiting for an answer, he turns and moves towards the water, letting out a loud whistle as he does. “Jessalyn! One more bit of cargo to load up, if you could arrange that. Then I think we’ll be pretty much done for the day.”
Jessalyn appeared on the side of the ship, to look at the cargo, before waving several sailors down to collect the crate.
It is early morning, sunrise still a way off. The crate is secured, in the armoury no less. The night watch is on deck, trying to stay awake. Petrichor is in bed in his cabin. The thief quietly closes the door behind him. She’d heard mention of the money the previous afternoon, and this ship was rich and fancy. They wouldn’t miss a pocketful of platinum. Maybe two pockets.
From the bed. “The money is in a chest against the back wall.” The thief froze. “I am closer to it than you, but I’m also lying down, and can’t walk. You’ll take about 20 seconds to get to the chest, but it’s locked, so you either have to get the key off of me or pick the lock. When you have the chest open, you have to find something useful, and then you have to get back to the door and off the ship without getting caught.” He has been putting on some sort of goggles or glasses while talking. She couldn’t tell what they were for. “So? Are you going to try and make it; are you going to try and silence me; or are you going to turn around and leave?”
The thief’s mind raced. This was clearly a trap. But what was the trap? Would he strike the moment she turned to leave? Was he waiting for her to get close enough to reach her first? Was he going to attack at all? Could he attack? He didn’t seem to be able to walk, so perhaps if she stayed away… If the chest was locked, then there was no way he’d let her just pick the lock. What if he waited until she was halfway through the door and called out an alarm?
The captain had pulled on some more clothes, and seated himself in the intimidating wheelchair. “Why are you stealing? Part of a gang? Hungry? Boredom?”
Her mouth moved silently for a moment, trying to work out what she was going to say. “I was hungry. That much money could set me fed for months, maybe years. Ain’t much food to find when you ain’t got no job.” Her mouth clamped shut again. She hadn’t intended to say quite so much. She still hadn’t moved, still unsure whether to flee, but now seeing that talk might be a new, safer option.
“And why are you unemployed? By choice?” He was sat still, but it was a stillness that involved staring directly at her, and it was unnerving.
“I tried to find work, things in town, on some ships. None of the captains would take someone untrained, and none of the other places around here had space. Why are you asking? Does that mean you’re not going to kill me? I think if you were going to kill me, you wouldn’t care.” She suddenly wonders if suggesting that possibility was the wisest course.
“Killing you would be the easiest solution, yes. But if I was going to kill you, we wouldn’t be talking, you would already be dead. How did you get on board undetected? Swam around to the sea side of the ship?”
“I, um, I swam from the empty berth a few places down, yeah, climbed up the sea-side of the ship. Was gonna head back the same way.”
Petrichor smiled. “Well, depending on how much money you were planning to steal, you might have sunk before getting back to shore.” He watches, as if considering something. “Discipline on board is hard, but not unfairly so. Irritate the crew, they’ll be sure to let you know; get reported to my officers, everyone on ship will know; get reported to me, you might wish I’d taken the easiest solution tonight. But if you work hard, and prove yourself a valuable member of the crew, well, I have people who have been with me for 20 years and more. The pay is 2 silver a day until my officers are satisfied you are competent, then it increases to 3 silver and a share. You want the job?”
“I- I could have a job for real? On a ship? On this ship?” It couldn’t be real, it was probably just a trap, to let the crew get behind the door to grab her as soon as she left. But what if it wasn’t? She could finally leave, do something with her life beyond stealing from strangers. “Yes. Yes, Captain. I accept.”
“Lovely. We set sail a half hour past dawn. I suggest resolving anything you have left here fast. Don’t be late, we don’t wait for stragglers.”
She opens the cabin door, where there are indeed a couple of armed sailors waiting, but her Captain waves them down. “This is our newest crew member, she’s just going home to settle her affairs, she’ll be back before we leave.” They let her pass, out of the cabin and off the ship. She walks almost in a daze, as she finishes processing the conversation she just had, before realising she’s on a clock now.
She breaks into a sprint, running home to get her few possessions ready, and to share the news.
I’m evidently extremely bad at writing with any level of consistency, but here we are again, a mere 50 weeks after the last of these I finished. I intend to make this a bit more regular again. Hope you enjoyed it.