Thievery Abhors

The island’s docks were not entirely as I’d left them. Gulls cried, sailors swore, rope and canvas snapped in the wind as they always had. But the warriors coming down the dockside market street were new. I held up a hand to keep my crew steady. There had been rumors.

Black ink twined around the newcomer’s arms in stylized serpent’s coils. The fresh tattoos were dark and bright in the morning sun. I stepped down to meet them.

“So the old snake managed to take the castle?” This was the archipelago’s largest island and possessed the only fortress among them. Competing families fought for control of the stone castle. The bloody clashes crowned a king for a decade or two before they were ousted in the next spectacle. My own kindred lost the place a century ago. We’d largely given up on it since then,  Apparently, management changed again. I recognized the snake symbol, Rais had made a move.

The leader of the small band sneered, the corner of his nose twisting. “Not so old Fortunatta.”

I shrugged. My eldest brother ran the family now, I’d leave it to him to assure the snake we weren’t interested in his nest. My brothers and I still hunted merchants to bring wealth back to the isles, we had better things to do than fight over a meaningless crumble of stone and mortar. “Take any political matters up with Adan. It’s been a profitable season, I’ve got cargo to unload.”

It would be foolish to turn my back to him, especially with blood running hot from a recent victory. Instead, I waited for them to back down. The leader only smiled. “That’s good as we’re here to collect the tariff.”

I didn’t like his smug reaction to my sudden confusion. “There are no tariffs on Skye,” I said.

“Now there are. Things are going to be civilized from now on.” The leader said through yellow teeth. Behind him, others leaned forward ready. I wondered how many Captains had bought this amateur shake-down. “Twenty percent of the take.”

“Get off my dock. Pirates don’t pay taxes.”  Now I did turn my back on him.

He laughed as I walked back to my ship. “You’re going to have to take that up with the king. He’s quite serious about it,” The leader called.

I stopped, wishing the bruisers would have attacked me. It would have been a proper fight instead of shouted absurdities. I turned back around, conscious of my crew waiting still and ready to see what I would do. “Then the king can take it up with me.”

Their departure did nothing to quiet the brewing unease in my gut. Something had changed, and it wasn’t just the flags flying distant on those castle walls.

A brief continuation of the Thievery Series I started back in December.

 

Legal Theft: The Old Whore

They untangled, him with a soft pleased sigh, her with a stretch.

Vael reached an arm down and blindly felt around the damp floorboards. Her fingers landed triumphantly on the glass bottle. She twisted onto her back, settling again on the hay stuffed cot. Vael took a deep sip and then offered the same to Tanner.

He took it. “Not bad.”

“Not at all.” Vael stretched again so that her leg hung off the cot, bare toes brushing the floor. She stood with a slight sway. Beneath them she could hear the soft roar and clink of the common rooms. Quieter than normal, her people were gone then. That gave little time to get back to her ship before they did something stupid. Vael swore and began looking for her breeches.

“Ahh.” Tanner said, eyeing her search with a knowing smile. “You’re one of those.”

Vael stopped, one pant leg on, and looked at him. She scowled at his fond expression. The man didn’t have any right to look at her like that, it hadn’t been that good. “Huh?”

“I’m the same. You and I, we have salt water in our veins.” Tanner swung his feet onto the floorboards as he spoke. Vael was only half-listening, fondly remembering when Tanner was putting his tongue to a better use. He continued, unaware of her disparaging thoughts. “Can’t wait to get back on a ship, back out there. She’s a harsh mistress, but we love her.”

“Who?” Vael found her shirt.

“The sea.” He said, frowning at her.

“Oh.” As close to praying as she ever did, Vael wished respite from every young sailor who fancied the sea a personal muse and their ship a creaking disease-ridden wife. Vael grabbed her boots and coat. She’d put them on downstairs. “Well no offense, but your mistress is an old whore. Men have been in and on her for centuries.”

His lip curled in disgust. Tanner reached for his pants and pulled them on huffily. “Just another crude gob then.”

Vael grinned, pausing half out the door. “Pirate actually. Stories are for fancy hatted pricks and children, what the whore and I have is a business arrangement. And the bitch is waiting.”

This is the Legal Theft Project…. and this week I wrote a thing. This page will tell you if anyone stole the line “You and I, we have salt water in our veins.” from it. 

 

Legal Theft: Distant Views

Imagining the city before her in flames was torturing. Like a starving woman envisioning a fresh cooked goose, picturing the destruction only left her salivating with no satisfaction.  Seva took another long drink from the bottle and set it back on the rail, cringing at the sweet taste of rum as it coated her throat. The balcony, her balcony she corrected herself with a sneer,  and its view only served to darken her mood.

Set on the east of Cliffwalk, as far from the docks as a city villa could get, her new home looked over the winding streets and multi-layered districts that made up the largest social hub of the country. A year past, Seva would have fallen upon the rich maze of bars, whorehouse, powder dens, and underside degeneracy of Cliffside with gluttonous abandon. Now the thought left her sick. Above those bars and dens the other aristocracy in their villas watched.

Someone settled themselves on the balcony rail next to her. She stiffened, only two people freely came and went through her rooms. She didn’t want to face either of them right now. Coward, the word came floating up through the sickly haze of rum. She promptly told whatever pansy-ass-introspective part of her brain that was mouthing off to stow it, and turned with a sigh.

It was neither of the people she was avoiding. “Hey kid.”

Leon narrowed his eyes at the nickname she sometimes pulled on him. He was older than Sean, but Seva never called the brawler kid. Leon only mentioned the reason for that when at a safe distance from both of them. “Enjoying the view?”

She didn’t answer that, just took another long swig from the bottle. From the corner of her vision, she could see him open his mouth. Seva interrupted before he could get the question out, eyes still on the distant and moonlit waves. “So help you, if you ask me how I am fucking feeling I am going to throw you off this fucking balcony.”

He laughed at her, and Seva debated doing it anyway. “Fine.” He said.”How about a gift instead?” Leon drew something from his left pocket, splaying his hand over the rail. Three small square pieces glinted in the moonlight.

Seva squinted at the iron. “Dice?”

He nodded at her.

She picked them up. They were heavy and rough against her fingers. The mark etched deep into her back stirred, the skin tightening across her shoulder blades like an old burn. Pure iron, she could feel it calling to the magic in her veins. Seva set the dice down quickly.

She didn’t want to talk about the mark growing over her back, its effects on metal, or the nobles overjoyed it was happening, but this was her own damn balcony and Leon looked too comfortable leaning over the balcony rail. Seva starting counting down the minutes before she scruffed him and dragged him back to his sister.  “You want me to help you win at crown and anchor? Talk to Sean, or Dirk. I don’t cheat at dice.”

“Might want to start.” He looked at her sideways. “Could be good practice.”

Seva growled. Brat, coming in here, telling her how to do her thrice-damned job. A messy flop of hair obscured his eyes, she couldn’t tell whether he was serious or if this was particularly effective jibe.

Leon continued. “You know, before you have to impress that council and their teachers. Get a feel for the small stuff.”

She felt her her lip twitch into a snarl. Next week, she had until next week before the lessons started. They wouldn’t have her crashing ships or shattering swords. The lessons would be safe, controlled, and infuriating. “Don’t you have someone else to bother?”

He grinned at her but took a step back, swinging his arms. “Yes. You were just first on my list. Enjoy the view.”

“Fuck you.”

The salute he gave her was barely recognizable as one, laden down with mockery. Seva listened to his footsteps off the balcony and through her new chambers. She’d shake him down for whatever he pinched later.

The city before her was still serene when she turned back to the view. Seva took a deep breath, another long drink of rum, and pocketed the dice.

Pirates, thieves, and degenerates, I have them all. The librarian over at The Gate in the Wood can be thanked for this week’s prompt three metal dice. See what they, and the rest of the thieves too, did over at the Legal Theft Project. 

Legal Theft: Red

At that point, sense, logic, and sanity abandoned ship. Good riddance. They were not going to help her now. She broke open another barrel and oil slopped over her boots, spreading across the deck.

Her first mate was dead, gutted by the cannonshot that’d ripped open starboard. The second mate had chanced the waves along with sense, logic, sanity and most of the crew. The Scorpion was unmanned, shot to hell, and entirely out of defenses. The masts were upright though, she squinted up at them through the noon sun. That was good.

With a crippled rudder they were stuck staring down a quarter of the royal navy with no where to go but straight at them. The flagship watched, its escort not far off. They were confident and waiting for surrender to fly.

She chuckled to herself, joke was on the prissy bastards. Her ship didn’t have a white flag onboard. The only thing The Scorpion would ever fly was red.

The few men left dropped back to deck from the rigging, their last task done. They stood, watching her unsure as oil seeped into the splintered deck below their boots.

“Get off if you want to die pretty.” She grinned at them with blood stained teeth. She gave them a mock salute with the flint knife. Her rictus smile widened as they took the invitation.

Alone with her ship a more sentimental Captain would have run her fingers over the railing, or taken one last wistful survey before setting a final course. She spat blood in the flagships direction and began sawing at jury rigged ties.

*******

The flagship’s Captain watched The Scorpion sit in the water. It would be his shortly. Once they’d scrubbed the stink of the barbarians away and stripped the ungodly red color from the wood the quick vessel would make a fine addition to their fleet. He ordered his own ship to drop anchor, it would take time to fish the heathens out of the water and his prize wasn’t going anywhere.

“Captain?” The question came from his first mate a moment before the call sounded from the crow’s nest. The Scorpion‘s red sails unfurled, catching the strong wind. The splintered ship jumped forward, charging towards them like a javelin.

The Captain balked and stammered an order for evasive action. The barbarians had gone mad. His first mate screamed at the crew but the anchor was down and their sails were tight.

Steel flashed in the noon sun. The flagship’s Captain squinted towards the charging ship as his own men abandoned the ship. A single red coated figure aboard the enemy ship held up a knife and drew it against the wheel. The sparks caught. The Scorpion went up in flame.

The two ships collided with a scream of iron and wood, The Scorpion’s bowsprit impaled the larger ship, wrenching its deck apart and splintering the masts. The flagship’s Captain, pinned beneath tangled burning sails looked up to see red.

Plundered this line from the pirate over at More than 1/2 Mad. See what the rest of the thieves did with the line over at the Legal Theft Project

Adventures and the Predicaments of such things.

Ariadne,

Sister, I am eager to write but I must endeavor to keep my correspondence coherent amidst my excitement.

I will say first, that I am alive and unharmed, penning this of my own will and desire. I will say second that I hope any news you’ve received prior to this letter did not cause you overmuch distress. And thirdly, please forgive me the dramatics in what I write next, I have been captured by pirates. As I write, myself and the first and second mates are being transferred to their island stronghold.

I say in truth I never expected to write or utter the above truths, but such is the spontaneity of life I suppose. Thus far I have been treated as best as one can hope for in such a situation, the Captain herself is an interesting woman and we have talked at length over our respective cultures. She is quite the scholar. It is by her grace I am allowed to pen this letter.

Do not let my optimism disguise my concern. I am quite aware of the seriousness of my predicament, of my own making as it is. I have no intention of consigning myself to anything but an eventual return home. That said, I will not abandon the Coopers. They trusted me aboard their ship and spoke for my passage, I will not return their friendship with abandonment.

The irony does not escape me that I have been granted the adventure I’ve so long been enamored with. I suppose one must accept the perils as well, though faced with them one can only wonder if past authors have doctored their accounts. Presented with an onslaught of armed marauders the glories of adventure were the last thing on my mind.

During that moment I thought of home, and of my twin sister. I miss you, please do not worry over me. I will find my way back, I always do.

Your brother,

Theo