Laerian opened his eyes and looked down at the scurrying crew below.
The wind on his face had been a nice sensation, soothing.
But with the pirates approaching, it was more important to be ready.
Stretching his legs for a moment, he searched the ship with his eyes. Tomas was standing at the rail, presumably glaring out at the other ships. The crew darted around him, doing their best to get the ship to port or to shore before the pirates could catch them.
Has Laerian been less patient he would have slashed the lines and doomed the entire ship.
But, that would have meant the deaths of all those on the crew. A better solution was to take a small rowboat. He knew that the ship had three launches. He was sure that the captain would be willing to part with one in exchange for a chance to escape.
Rolling to his feet, Laerian made his way back along the crossbeam, and scrambled down the rigging.
As he dropped the last few feet to the deck, Tomas turned towards him, his face set in the scowl that seemed permanent now.
“What’s the plan? Can we fight off pirates?”
“We don’t. Get our things. That’s our final ship”
The revelation did little to improve Tomas’ mood.
“We’re going to go with the pirates, and hope that they don’t kill us but take us where we want to go instead?”
“Yep! So go grab our stuff while I talk to the captain about borrowing a launch”
“What about just taking this ship to the port?”
“It won’t work. How are we going to find a ship that just happens to be going to Faron Rek? The plan was to keep taking ships back and forth until one was attacked by pirates. Then we jump ship, cast our fate with the pirates, and go from there”
It was tempting to grin, tempting to make some infuriating response, but that would do nothing to get Tomas to cooperate. Instead Laerian just shrugged.
“If this doesn’t work then we’ll do things your way next time. I’m going to go talk to the captain”
“Fine. If the captain agrees to give you a launch”
Laerian turned and darted between the crew as he made his way to the stairs.
“Captain?” He stepped onto the aftcastle and looked around. The Helmsman was there, but the captain was not. “Helmsman, have you seen the captain?”
“He went belowdecks”
Laerian turned and hurried back down, wrapping his scarf around his right hand as he did so.
It was probably nothing, but a missing captain at a time like this…Oftentimes the captains of these ships had…deals with the pirates. If the captain had an arrangement and was going to fulfill the details of it, he might not appreciate being interrupted.
Looking both ways down the hall, he went left, towards his own quarters first. The door stood open, and Tomas was throwing everything into Laerian’s pack.
“Tomas, things may have changed. The captain may have an agreement with the pirates. I’m going to check it out. Want to ready a launch when you’re done packing?”
A thin growl met his request, but Tomas nodded after a moment.
“Thanks. I’ll be right back”
Laerian turned the other direction, and started for the stairs into the hold. He slid down the first ladder, and ducked behind some crates; it would only take a moment to set his scarves to dancing, and then he would be ready for anything that he would be up against.
He had just started Sketching when he heard the clinking of coins from further down the hold. Peering out he saw the captain walking along, a small chest in his arms.
“This should be enough for this trip…especially if I hand over the passengers and their supplies. Now then, let me see, what is a good ex-”
He was cut short as Laerian stepped out and pointed a dagger at him.
“Captain. I can’t help but wonder why you have a small chest full of coins. You couldn’t possibly be planning on paying off the pirates could you? Especially not with my travelling companion and I”
“Ah. No, you see, it is not that at all it is-”
Other men would have stammered. They would have been nervous in a situation like this. Laerian dove forwards and the club that would have knocked him out missed by a hair.
As the captain stepped back Laerian rolled to his feet to face the surly looking rower who stood in front of him, club in hand.
“Cap’n, you want I should know this one out?”
“Ah, but my dear sailor, and captain, that would be a bit rash”
Laerian turned sideways to the rower so that he could keep an eye on both men more easily. The captain didn’t seem like the type to fight…but you could never be too careful.
“You see, I was looking for you to offer a solution captain. To your pirate problem. I was going to offer that my companion and I put out in a small launch and go negotiate for your ships release. After all, you have gotten us to our destination fairly quickly. We were looking for the pirates”
Laerian shrugged sheepishly, the nonchalant and easy gesture completely at odds with his internal conflict. If this went poorly…
“You were looking for the pirates?”
The captain was even less nervous than before; obviously things were going his way.
“Yes. We’re bandit kings, looking to get to Faron Rek”
That seemed to take him back a bit. The fop and the moody youth were bandit kings? Who wanted to go to Faron Rek?
That meant one of two things: They were tougher than they looked, or they were crazy.
Apparently the captain wanted nothing to do with them either way.
“Ah. Well. Dan, you can put the club away. We’ll send our passengers on their merry way to the pirates. No need for a launch master…bandit king. Engro isn’t your name is it?”
“Nah. Engro? Play on engross. I sometimes do stage shows. Thought it’d be funny to name myself after what I do to people. Have to say, I’ve pulled you boys in quite well”
“Mm. Yes. Well. Go ready yourself and your companion. I’ll let the crew know that we’ve been commandeered by the two of you and that you’re not to be interfered with; we’ll sail to the pirates and trade you two and the payment for our freedom”
Laerian smirked as he snapped a mocking salute, then scrambled back up the ladder to go find Tomas.
Hiros stood before the Blood Red King.
The woman was hard, tough skin worn and weathered. Her arms were thick with muscles, and she wore her saber like she knew how to use it.
Normally Hiros would be flustered. Today, he smiled.
“Hello King. How’re you? I’m here to kill you dead and take your throne”
The woman stared at him for a while and shrugged.
“I’ve seen how you fought my bodyguards. I’m good. Better than they were. But I can’t beat you”
There were gasps from the assembled crowd behind him. People didn’t like to see a Blood Red King step down without a fight.
It went against their bloodlust.
Hiros didn’t like the King’s play either. It was worrying that she was so willing to give up what she had fought so hard to earn. This was either a ploy to get him to lower his guard so she could kill him later, or it was an attempt to make him look weak, and like a target for others.
His decision made, he stood straighter, readied himself to Sketch, and glared up at her.
“I won’t let you leave”
“Why not? You’ll beat me if I stay. You have nothing to lose by letting me leave. And it isn’t like I will return. I’ll lose, either to you or two your bodyguards.
“Besides, if you let me live, you stand to gain. I have contacts, friends who will be glad to see me walk out of here alive. You’ll be losing enemies, not gaining them, if you let me live”
Hiros looked at the woman for another moment, then shrugged.
“Sure. But, not to insult you, I’ll go settle into my rooms before you leave, then have someone look over the throne. I’d rather not have you walking close to me, or leaving a parting gift on the throne for me”
The woman nodded, and waved towards the exit.
“By all means, Blood Red King. Take your time. Usually the coronation is the next day. I’d suggest staying away from enterprising would-be-monarchs until then. Best way to become King is to kill your predecessor before they’re even crowned”
Hiros nodded at the advice, and turned to leave. As soon as he was away from the group, both brothers joined him.
“You’ll need to announce that we are your first two bodyguards. Then we’ll look for the third”
“Sure. Meanwhile I’m going to kick back, relax, maybe have some gourmet food ordered u-”
“No. You’ll get started on the work that Natasi left for you”
Hiros’ jaunty strut faltered for a moment, and he had to lengthen his stride to try and catch up to the two brothers.
“Work? She left me work? But I thought that I was just going to be king!”
“Of course she left you work”, The shorter brother sounded almost…pleased to see Hiros’ distress, “Why else do you think she had you crowned Blood Red King? You can order around the gangs and bandits as you please, get them all ordered and ready to fight a war”
“Fight a war?” Hiros paled as he stumbled on the uneven ground; his full attention was on the brothers, and none was left for paying attention to where he was going “We’re going to fight a war?”
“No, King. You’re going to start one”
Tomas stood beside Laerian and the captain as the pirate ships drew up, one on each side of their smaller ship. The anchor had been dropped five minutes ago. The pirates had taken their time lining things up and satisfying themselves that it wasn’t some kind of diabolical trap.
Tomas flexed his fingers and checked that his dagger was at hand. He’d taken the time to complete his Sigilian before; if this came to a fight he wanted to be ready.
“Oy! Stand down, and prepare to be boarded!”
The voice was loud and booming, echoing off the flat decks and ocean.
“We’re standing down you fools!”
The captain and Laerian swung to look at Tomas in surprise. It was not wise to antagonise pirates. Especially when you wanted them to help you get somewhere.
The pirates who had been throwing lines and boarding planks across the gap between the ships paused in their work, and turned to stare at Tomas.
Then, as one, they parted to let a well dressed man with a rapier step up to the pirate ship’s bulwark.
“You call us fools?”
It was the owner of that commanding voice. He did not look a man to mess with.
“Well then. You were going to be set free after only surrendering your cargo, perhaps not even all of it, but now we’ll take more than that. How does your lives sounds?”
The pirates around him laughed nervously as Tomas’ captain began to quiver. Turning to Tomas, his eyes drew down in anger and his voice was a hiss when he spoke.
“What have you done, you idiot?”
“Grabbed their attention”
“We had their attention already! What you did has just put my ship in danger!”
“You misunderstand. We had their attention. I did not. And I needed it all focused on me for this to work”
A rare grin dancing across his face, Tomas pushed the captain aside so that he could talk to Laerian directly.
“Laerian, we’re getting ourselves a ship, today”
Laerian stared back at him for a moment, then burst out laughing.
“You do this your way then. I’ll back you up if need be”
The man with the booming voice, likely the pirate captain, rolled his eyes, and stepped onto the plank that another pirate had thrown between the ships.
“Are you three done with your chat? Can I deliver your punishment now?”
Tomas smirked at the man, and drew his dagger. Then, after considering for a moment, he slid it back into its sheath.
“Captain, I’ll need a dagger. I don’t want to waste mine”
As their captain stammered in surprise Laerian pulled a dagger from somewhere in his coat and tossed it to Tomas.
“I doubt I’ll be getting it back?”
“Whatever, I can get more”
The pirate captain had made it across the plank, and had drawn his rapier during their banter.
“I’ll start with you, since you’re the one who called me fool. First, I shall divest you of that pitiful armament you call a weapon, then I shall-”
Nobody would ever know what it was he was going to do to Tomas next, as his speech was suddenly cut short when Laerian’s dagger punched through his forehead. The force of the dagger sent the man flipping backwards, over the edge of the boat.
He, and Laerian’s dagger, disappeared with a splash.
Everyone turned to stare, once more, at Tomas, who was still had his arm outstretched from the follow through of his throw.
“Right. So, you were calling us fools, but now your captain is dead. Can we discuss this with someone more reasonable? Maybe the first mate?”
Laerian just laughed again.