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       Pirates of the Decian Sea, p.1

           J. E. Sandoval
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Pirates of the Decian Sea
Pirates of the Decian Sea

  By J. E Sandoval

  Copyright 2012 by Jim Sandoval

  ISBN: 9781476372082

  Corwyn Fyke, first mate of the Waverunner, sat alone at the Officer’s Mess table waiting for the rest of the crew. Every night, the officers ate together. It reminded him of his childhood, how his mother would insist that the entire family eat together all those years ago before he went to sea. It was a consistency, which was something he needed in life.

  It was a clear night outside, but extremely windy, which made the Decian Sea choppy. The ship was rocking back and forth in an almost hypnotic rhythm. He would definitely sleep well tonight, he though as he sipped his grog.

  As he placed his tankard on the table, the ship lurched to starboard, causing the cup to fall. With cat-like reflexes, Fyke bent down and caught it right before it hit the wooden floor. He gave a sigh of relief, as spilling any alcohol was simply unacceptable.

  Captain Jaxom Karinga opened the door and walked in. He sat at the head of the table to Corwyn’s right.

  “Hell of a lot of wind out there,” the captain said.

  “Aye, sir. When things started picking up, I ordered the sails reefed.”

  Karinga was in his mid-thirties. He had long black hair, which he usually kept tied in a ponytail, and wore his facial hair in a neatly trimmed goatee. He wore his usual maroon jacket and a new black silk shirt. Corwyn had served with Jax since he first went to sea so long ago he couldn’t even count the years. Jax was the finest captain he could ever hope to sail under, and through their time together, they had become the best of friends.

  William Dunkirk, the ship’s boatswain, was the next to enter. He nodded to Fyke and Karinga, taking his usual seat at Corwyn’s left. Sunken eyes, short trimmed brown hair, a hooked nose and a gaunt face echoed his no-nonsense approach to work and life in general. They picked him up six years ago after he had spent some time in prison for pulling a few heists. Fortunately, these days, he used his organizational and leadership skills for the good of the crew. He was a nice enough chap, but wasn’t much of a talker.

  The next one in was their large, muscular Master-At-Arms, Stockmoor, or Edge, as he was called. He took his seat at the foot of the table.

  “Evening, sirs,” he said.

  “Evening. How did the crew’s training go today?” Karinga asked.

  Edge shrugged. “I think they are getting a little over confident these days.”

  Edge had been a Sergeant in the Elgannan army under General Branvold. He boasted a large number of kills on the battlefield, but what was even more impressive was his skill as a trainer. Over the last three years, he had whipped the crew into shape and turned them into an efficient fighting force. He had spotted a special potential in Corwyn and had molded him into a fine knife thrower. Edge went with Captain Karinga anytime he went ashore, as he had since he joined the crew, five years ago.

  Next in was Quenton, the ship’s surgeon, taking his usual spot to Edge’s left. He was bald and wore a fancy blue silk shirt. Nice fellow. Always willing to help with any task, and always ready with a hangover cure if one of the crew imbibed too much ale or whiskey. Quenton had been with the crew for over ten years, and he seemed perfectly content to stay.

  They waited for a few minutes. Corwyn noticed that the captain was starting to get impatient. “Hey Doc,” Fyke called out.

  The short and stocky ship’s cook stuck his head into the room. “What is it, Mr. Fyke?”

  “Will you please fetch our forgetful Yeoman from the jib?”

  “Will do, sir!” Doc closed the door behind him.

  Karinga sighed. “What in hell’s name does he do up at the jib all bloody day? I don’t see the fascination.”

  Corwyn shrugged. “Who knows? Thinks, plans, chase away head demons, or maybe he just likes the view.”

  “It’s bloody odd if you ask me,” Dunkirk said. “There is something unnatural about that lad.”

  Fyke chuckled at Dunkirk’s superstitious nature. “You surely don’t mind all of the gold he puts in your purse, though.”

  “Oh, no, I didn’t mean it like that,” the boatswain said defensively. “I just can’t figure him out. Captain, have you ever thought of giving him more duties on board?”

  “No,” Karinga replied sternly. “That lad more than earns his keep when we put to port. His time at sea is his down time.”

  The door opened. “Sorry I’m late.” David took his usual seat across from Fyke.

  The final person to join them at the officer’s table was the blond haired, blue eyed enigmatic David Tanner, the ship’s Yeoman. Fyke was very fond of him, almost like a favorite nephew. David had saved Corwyn and Jax three years before from some of the sea merchant guild’s piss-boys who thought they could make a quick score. Upon learning of his talents for reading, writing, and doing sums, Jax had hired him on when he was but 14 years old. It turned out to be the best decision Jax had ever made, as Tanner was such a skilled negotiator and tactician, he had made the crew very wealthy. Well, most of the crew. Some like Edge would burn through their gold faster than Tanner could earn it, which was no easy task. David was the son of a leather worker from Northpoint on the island nation of Decia. His father must have done incredibly well for himself with how educated David was. Truth be told, David didn’t like to talk about his past, so no one pressed the issue.

  “So, Corwyn, which of Doc’s many faces of hardtack do you think we’ll be served tonight,” Karinga asked.

  Corwyn shrugged. “Don’t know and don’t care. They are all delicious.”

  The rest of the crew chuckled. Corwyn had grown up downwind from the Odourus Blanches in Gaul, the large garbage dump for the northern city of Bor De La Maer. He left when he was old enough to sail, but people joked that he had stayed too long and it had burnt out his sniffer.

  “Probably Dandyfunk,” Tanner said. “We haven’t had to choke that down in a while. Hey Corwyn, when we put in at River’s End tomorrow morning, after we make the drop-off, will you accompany me to the Royal Bank? I need to make a deposit.”

  “Of course, lad,” Corwyn said.

  “If we see a guild ship in port, I’ll come too,” Edge offered.

  David nodded. “Good idea. Afterwards, how about we stop at the Royalton for lunch, my treat.”

  Corwyn perked up. He had heard that The Royalton was the finest dining establishment the capital city of Elgannan had to offer. They also had the most well dressed serving staff, and they treated their patrons like nobility. He would finally get to see how their cooking stood up to Doc’s.

  “In fact, if anyone else wants to join us, feel free.”

  “I think I’ll take you up on that, David,” Jax said.

  “I’ve got too much to do,” Dunkirk said. “But thank you for the offer.”

  “I need to stock up on my medical supplies,” Quenton said, “otherwise I would be in on that like maggots on a bloated rotting corpse.”

  Tanner wrinkled his nose. “Gee, thanks, Quenton! Just the image one needs before dinner.”

  “Sorry, Davey. My apologies.”

  Doc opened the door to the cabin, carrying a large bowl.

  “So what is it tonight, Doc?” Fyke asked.

  “Dandyfunk! And lots of it!”

  Corwyn caught David smirking.

  “Dig in!” Doc said before turning around and closing the door behind him.

  “So,” Jax said, digging his spoon into the brown mushy mixture, “what do you think we’ll be able to get in River’s End, David?”

  David smiled. “I think this next run is going to be our most profitable yet. The Royal Bank is looking for someone
to transport half a million gold to their branch in Port Cauldwell, and they are offering a 4 percent payment for its delivery.”

  Corwyn’s jaw dropped. “Damn, that’s a lot of gold!”

  “And a lot of risk!” the captain said. “If we fail to deliver, we would end up in indentured servitude until we could pay it back!”

  David waved his hand dismissively. “Won’t happen. Once the guild finds out we are on a run for the Royal Bank, they will leave us alone. If one of their ships attacked us and took the gold, the Bankers would seize all of their assets and put them out of business.”

  “What about pirates?” Edge asked.

  “Always a danger, but the only one who has been able to keep out of the guild’s reach is Black Jack Mulligan, and no one has heard from him in four months.” David dropped a glob of Dandyfunk on to his plate.

  “What about that Edward Blackheart fellow?” Quenton asked.

  “Dead. I heard he tried to raid a ship outside of Port Kolm and the Decian Navy captured him. He had a date with the gallows the next morning,” Tanner replied.

  They ate in silence for a while, the captain considering his options.

  “What else could we do?” he asked.

  “Lady Malcoeur is in the market for some weapons. We could fill a quarter of the hold and make a nice profit on it when we return to Port Cauldwell,” David offered. He ate a spoonful of Dandyfunk and frowned. “Ugh. How could something so sweet taste so bland?”

  “Anything else?” Karinga asked.

  “Dickenson’s latest batch of whiskey should be ready. Those always fetch a good price in Decia,” David said. “Plus, cloth is always cheap this time of year. I’m sure we could turn a decent profit with the Decian tailors guild. Not everyone can afford silk.”

  Karinga gave half a smile and looked around the table. “I say we do all four!”

  David smiled. Karinga was getting more and more bold. Trusting David’s instincts had become second nature to him. He often trusted it more than his own reasoning lately.

  Corwyn weighed all of the pros and cons of the job as he started eating. First off, how to make sure the gold was secure in the hold. He would have to put three guards on it at all times. Second, the thought of indentured servitude scared the hell out of him. Third, being a relatively small ship, they only had a crew of 40. What if someone with a larger ship did try and attack them?

  “Something on your mind, Corwyn?” David asked.

  “Oh, sorry lad. I was just having some thoughts on the risks.”

  “Well, let’s hear them,” David said.

  “How do we make sure none of the crew gets into the gold? I mean, they are good lads, but the temptation would be awful big.”

  David nodded. “True, which is why the guild will most likely put the gold in iron strongboxes with locks so complicated that I doubt even Dunkirk here could crack them. Not that you would, Will.”

  “Absolutely not. My thieving days are far behind me, I assure you,” Dunkirk said.

  Corwyn shrugged. “I suppose you are right. What if another crew of say, a large independent ship, tried to take the gold?”

  “Anyone with a large ship will be terrified of retribution from the bankers. The guild won’t dare touch us, and like I said, no one has heard from Mulligan in four months. He’s probably retired, captured, or dead. And anyway, it’s not like we’re sailing the Mediterranean waters.”

  “I’m sorry, David, but indentured servitude scares the hell out of me. My brother, Cethwyn, is an indentured servant in New Paris. His life is a living hell.”

  Tanner took a deep breath. “I ask you not to press me on the details, but know that if we fail to deliver the gold, I have a rock solid plan that will allow us to walk free.”

  Corwyn blinked. “Um, Davey, you can’t just drop a doozey like that and expect to move on.”

  David folded his arms. “I’m sorry, Corwyn, but I can’t elaborate. I just ask that you trust me.”

  “Very well, David,” Jax said. “Corwyn, please let it go.”

  Fyke sighed. That was asking a lot, but David had never let them down in the past. “Alright, David. I’ll trust you.”

  “Good,” Tanner said standing up. “Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going down to the hold to see if we have any creamed whiskey left. I need something to wash away that gritty gruel taste.”

  * * * * * * *

  One thing that always impressed Corwyn was the opulence of the different branches of the Royal Bank. “For an institution that let people put money in at one location, then withdraw money in a different country and not charge a copper for it to make enough gold for such beautiful decorations, it boggles the mind!”

  “That is just one of the services they offer,” Tanner explained, adjusting the heavy sack he had slung over his right shoulder. “And don’t let the name fool you. There is absolutely nothing ‘royal’ about them. They are run by common born merchants. In fact they loan gold to monarchies and nobility, then charge a lot of interest on it. That’s where they make their real wealth. In fact, my father…” David stopped mid-sentence.

  “What about your father, lad?”

  “Oh, nothing. He took out a loan once to buy some new leather-working tools. He said it wasn’t worth the hassle it caused and he would never deal with them again unless he absolutely had to.” David fell into an awkward silence.

  Fyke knew better than to press him. He spent the rest of walk towards the banker’s window looking at the beautiful variegated carpet, the colorful tapestries, or the many fine works of art that lined the walls, both paintings and marble statues. The customers were mostly well off, wearing fine silk clothing and the best leather footwear the city of River’s End had to offer.

  “Hello, Mr. Tanner,” the pudgy, well dressed man behind the counter said. “How much will we be depositing today?”

  David hoisted the heavy sack he had been carrying onto the counter. “Three thousand gold. This is for my personal account.”

  “Not bad! You are amassing quite the fortune, young man. I’ll take it in the back to get weighed and then I’ll bring you your receipt.”

  “Maurice,” David said, “Could I please speak to the manager? I understand that you fellows need a transfer run to Port Cauldwell, and with us, you wouldn’t have to pay the guild premium.”

  The banker raised his eyebrows. “Is Captain Karinga aware of the risk he is incurring in such a transaction?”

  “Yes, he understands completely.”

  Maurice looked to Corwyn. “You are his first mate, aren’t you?”

  “Um, yes sir, I am. And the lad speaks the truth.”

  “Very well. Mr. Fyke, you may wait in the customer’s lounge. Help yourself to any refreshments you may desire. Mr. Tanner, please come with me.”

  Fyke wandered over to the lounge. Looking inside, he realized he would stick out like a sore thumb with his black silk shirt, black three-cornered hat with a large green plume, black leather pants, and leather boots. He was also the only one armed, carrying his rapier and throwing daggers.

  The other customers stopped their conversations when he walked into the room and stared at him. Corwyn fidgeted uncomfortably at the unwanted attention. He walked over to the refreshment table. Available were pastries of every kind, honey nut treats, boiled cream tarts, fresh fruit, and several jugs of various liquid refreshments. He picked up a small plate of apple slices and began walking around the room, looking at the paintings that lined the walls.

  “Sea-going fellow, are we?”

  Fyke turned to man who wore the livery of a royal court member. He looked to be in his early fifties, was clean shaven, and had straight salt and pepper hair. “Yes sir. I am Corwyn Fyke, first mate aboard the Waverunner.” He extended his hand.

  The man grasped it and shook. “Geoffrey Haemar, chief advisor for King Nicolae Northcott.”

  “Wow. That is an impressive posi

  Haemar shrugged. “I look at it as a chance to serve the people of Elgannan. So, what brings you here, Mr. Fyke?”

  “Just waiting for our ship’s Yeoman. He’s depositing some gold, and I came along as protection.”

  Haemar smiled. “Ah, a man of action, are we? How delightfully refreshing!” He leaned in close and lowered his voice. “I’ll tell you, these merchant types are awfully dull.”

  Corwyn chuckled. “I know what you mean. For me, when they drone on, I just picture myself at sea. Oh, that endless blue in every direction, sun setting on the horizon, the gentle salt spray, the gentle rocking, it will chase away any head-demon that has decided to nest in your noggin.”

  Haemar closed his eyes and inhaled. “Yes, I can see how that would be calming. Sometimes I wish my duties would allow me to have more freedom to enjoy such simple pleasures. Which reminds me! The owner of this hasn’t been heard from in some time, so I can only assume he is dead. A man such as yourself would have more use for this than I.” He dug through his robes, pulling out a small rolled parchment. “Here you go,” he said handing it to Fyke.

  “Hey Corwyn, you ready?” asked David, sticking his head in the room.

  “Oh, hey, Davey, I want you to meet someone!” Fyke said, motioning David over. He slipped the parchment into his inside vest pocket. “This is Geoffrey Haemar, chief advisor to King Northcott! Master Haemar, this is our Yeoman, David Tanner.”

  Haemar extended his hand to David, which he shook. He looked at the young Yeoman quizzically. “Have we met, lad? You look terribly familiar.”

  David bit his lip. “Um, no. I just have one of those faces, you know? Come on, Corwyn. The Captain and Edge will be waiting for us.”

  “Now David, no need to be rude,” Fyke said.

  “Oh, it’s quite alright, Mr. Fyke. No, lad, I’m sure I’ve seen you before. Maybe I know one of your parents?”

  “Doubtful. My father is a leather worker in Northpoint and my mother died in childbirth. But if you will excuse us, we really have to go.” David grabbed Corwyn’s arm and hurried him out of the lounge.

  “Good to meet you, Master Haemar!” Corwyn said on his way out.

  “Good to meet you too, Master Fyke. Hopefully we’ll see one another again!”

  They walked quickly out of the bank.

  “Why the quick exit?” Corwyn asked.

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