Date Posted: 12th October 2019
Taril wrapped his coat a little closer around himself. It was long after dark and the Lady Agate was just a shadow against the bay. Storm clouds obscured the moons. There didn’t seem to be anyone on watch, but it might be that Taril couldn’t see a watchman from where he stood in the shadows. His little crossbow was a comforting bulk in his pocket and Dodger was a warm, heavy weight across his shoulders. The flit drowsed in the dark, his eyes half-closed.
Dhravi must have told Garik about how he’d beaten his wife, Vinalee, and had lost his family and right to fish as a result. And then when Humari was hurt in the market, Garik had seized the opportunity to steal Taril’s safe in retaliation. Except it was an awful lot of trouble and risk for Garik to take on for one of his sailors. Why did he care enough to risk his reputation at Sunstone Seahold to help Dhravi take revenge? Especially if Dhravi _had_ been the one to attack Humari when she lay sleeping.
Maybe Dhravi had been one of the sailors loitering outside Taril’s office all those days ago, waiting for Garik to finish his business, but it seemed odd that nobody recognized him. Dhravi wasn’t entirely forgotten at Sunstone Seahold. More importantly… was Dhravi on the ship? And was his black book with Garik or Dhravi? Taril squinted up at the ship, wishing he could see through her wooden hull to where they’d hidden his book. Most likely it was with Garik, he thought. Dhravi would share a bunk with the rest of the crew.
Silently he crossed the dock. His peg leg was muffled with a bit of leather wrapped tightly around the end and made little sound as he crossed the dock to the Lady Agate. He roused Dodger, and after a moment the flit took off and circled the ship. The little brown did his best, but wasn’t able to find anyone on watch to bother. When he returned, Taril gave him a bit of dried fish from his pocket in thanks.
Taril then unwound a knotted rope from around his shoulders. The end was tied tightly to a long length of twine. Dodger wrapped his claws around the end of the twine and flew up to the ship’s raining. The flit looped through the rail, then flew back to Taril and happily accepted more of the dried fish the merchant offered for a job well done.
The twine was attached to a rope, which Taril drew up and over the ship’s railing. Once both ends of the rope were level Taril tied it to the end of the dock and used it to climb hand-over-hand to the ship. The rope burns on his palms stung as he climbed, but he was soon over the rail and stalking quietly across the ship’s deck.
There were voices below-- a few of the Lady Agate’s crew were belowdecks. Dodger had done his spying well and there was no one keeping watch on the ship’s deck. Unsurprising-- the ship was riding high in the water and didn’t look like she had much of value belowdecks. Likely anyone who wanted to steal her goods would have to go past the sailors’ bunks anyway.
Taril hesitated. Black anger made him want to go belowdecks and see if Dhravi was there so he could shoot him in the face, but with his missing leg Taril knew that he was no match for more than one man. If he could retrieve his ledger, though, he’d have the upper hand again. Perhaps Dhravi would come to _him_, and he would be ready. Taril started to move. He kept to the shadows and was soon back at Captain Garik’s door. It was locked. He withdrew a set of picks from his pocket and was quickly inside.
Taril stood in the dark for a moment to let his senses adjust. Dim shapes resolved themselves from the shadows; a bookcase, a desk, a chest near a second door that likely led to Garik’s bunk. The desk was the most likely place Garik would stow a ledger. Taril crossed the room and began to tug at drawers. Only one was locked; he knelt in the half-light and the lock on the drawer sprung open. He pulled the drawer and found--
Relief rushed through him quick as the tide. Taril pulled it from its hiding place and slipped it into his coat. He closed the drawer and froze; there were voices on the deck. Someone shouting a greeting to the ship and someone on deck answering. A man laughed, and there was the low murmur of conversation. Taril slipped his free hand into his pocket.
The door to Garik’s cabin opened and Garik stumbled in, his arms around a tall woman-- no, a man. Taril blinked, recognition dawning. This was the gaunt man who had begged for marks all those Turns ago: Dhavri. Vinalee’s ex-husband. He was laughing, his attention on the man wrapped in his arms. “--can’t believe that no one noticed--”
“Hush.” Garik spotted Taril standing behind his desk. Eyes narrowed, his hand went to the dagger at his waist as the merchant brought the tiny crossbow up. “What the blazes--!”
“I’m just here to collect what’s mine.” It was hard to sound calm. “Hello, Captain Garik. Dhavri.”
Dhavri leaped away from Garik as if he’d been stung. His lip curled with disgust when he spotted Taril. “You! You selfish bastard-- stupid Vinalee should have taken you down with her.”
“Many would agree with you,” Taril said mildly. He gestured to the second door with his crossbow. “Time to roll the dice. It’s up to you what happens next. The first option is no good for anyone. You try to fight me or sound an alarm. I pull the trigger and put a quarrel through at least one of you. I have pretty good aim, I’ll have you know.” He bared his teeth in a rictus of a grin. “So, one of you dies, probably. I get beaten to death or thrown overboard, and nobody lives happily ever after. If you’re gambling men, you’ll recognize these as poor odds.”
Garik’s grip on his dagger eased, but he didn’t take his hand off it. “And the second option?”
“You and Dhavri go into your quarters and shut the door. Proceed with your night as you wish. I’ll go home with my ledger. You never sail into Sunstone Seahold again, and we all live to a ripe old age.”
The two men exchanged a look. Dhavri turned back to Taril with a sneer. “You ruined my life, you know that? You could have given me marks but you chose to give them to that feck of a wife I had. Everyone chooses her over me.”
Taril nodded at Garik. “Looks to me that not everyone chooses Vinalee over you.”
“You and Morin-- I had nothing after that herdbeast Vinalee went after me,” Dhavri said darkly. “Nothing. I was just lucky that Garik took me in. He had no reason to, not after Morin took everything and you kept me poor. I’m fecking glad Morin died. I hope your wife dies.”
Anger curled dark through him. Taril’s grip on his crossbow tightened. “You have two options, Dhavri. Perhaps your fate was chosen for you last time we crossed paths, but this time, it’s in your hands. Choose.”
Garik put a hand on Dhavri’s shoulder. “Enough. It’s over. Let’s go.”
The sailor hesitated, then both of them made their way across the room to Garik’s quarters. As they passed, Dhavri’s hair moved against his forehead, revealing three red scabs, all in a row. Firelizard claw marks. They slipped into the room with the bunk and quietly shut the door.
Humari’s firelizard Jib had attacked the man who had attacked her. Taril’s hand tightened around his crossbow as he saw red. Dhavri had attacked Humari.
Briefly he considered locking them into the office and setting a fire to burn them alive. Or wrenching open the door and putting a crossbow bolt between Dhavri’s eyes. But then he remembered the voices from belowdeck-- there was nothing he could do now that wouldn’t get him caught.
**Patience,** he told himself. But it was so hard to leave them when his blood sang for revenge. Reluctantly, Taril edged around the desk with his crossbow aimed at the closed door. As soon as he was at the door that led on deck, he yanked it open and ran across the ship to where he’d left the rope. The crossbow went back into his pocket and he was swinging awkwardly over the rail as his blistered palms screamed in protest. The dock rushed toward him; Taril landed badly and fell to his knees. He scrambled upright and made a quick, undignified exit from the dock.
Above him, the carved figurehead for the Lady Agate winked. His ledger pressed against his chest beneath his coat and kept Taril’s secrets close.
Last updated on the October 26th 2019