The morning sun burned Bas’ eyes as he left the Prism Keep. He straightened his tunic and waistcoat and pushed the smirk from his face. With a bit of struggle, he suppressed his strut as he stepped onto the cobblestone street. The day before had been a good day. He won their case, allowing them to lay claim on most of the prizes they took on their last voyage.
He spent hours in Admiralty Court being called Sebastian Woodhull or Mr. Woodhull. The formality tired him. He deserved a night out. A little frivolous fun away from the pressures and responsibilities of the ship refilled his soul. The others weren’t complete screwups. Because he studied the law, they expected him to keep them on the straight and narrow. Sometimes it was good not to have to worry about everyone else.
When he and Maeve founded the Ocean’s Shadow, he dreamed of a life of adventure and excitement. Since he had the best handwriting, he wrote their salvage request, then their petition for recognition. Over time, he handled all the paperwork for the crew. One pleasure-filled night balanced out a day of mind-numbing boredom.
His only regret as he walked through the streets of Duskmere was that he hadn’t won them more money. None of the cargo carried a bounty. The court ruled that the Daskensian flag he presented was circumstantial. Maintaining a sailing vessel equipped for the voyages they undertook was expensive. It was barely enough, but it was better than nothing.
His blood boiled as they reduced their value down to the cezri they brought back with them. Coin counters only cared about one thing after all.
All too often, the responsibilities fell on his shoulders, but since he had not only won their case, and got their Letter of Marque and Reprisal renewed and expanded, he deserved a treat. He also needed a distraction from the work their extended letter and authority granted them. Their prominence would increase, and that brought with it its own risks and rewards.
Revelry escaped from the bars and pubs along the street and called him away from the ship. Their sweet song tempted him from his duty, but he walked past them. It wasn’t because he didn't enjoy the sailor’s life, but because he preferred not to play father to the crew.
In his absence, Maeve would have gone out to drum up work for them. When he returned, they would have already schemed their way into a trap to talk him into the mission. They would lie in wait to convince him to agree to whatever scheme they had concocted, and it was his duty to weigh it against the charter.
The Buttercup’s mast loomed high over the dock as one of the few sloops in the harbor. Most of the Duskmere fleet sought their fortunes elsewhere.
His stomach dropped. He didn’t know what they planned to do to talk him into their latest scheme, but his elation was about to end.
Crane’s tiny shadow ran across the deck to alert the others of his approach. Since they set a lookout, they definitely had something up their sleeve.
Bas blew the boarding song on his whistle, and Jade lowered the gangway.
As he bounded up the springy walkway, he allowed the swagger he so poorly suppressed to take over his demeanor. He nodded and winked at Jade as he stepped past him.
The others waited in the wardroom for him to report in. He wasn't ready to let go of the delirious feeling of victory, so after he walked below deck, he turned toward the private quarters and went to his room.
Maeve exited her cabin as his footsteps creaked down the hall to his door. She smiled at him, and he sneered back.
“How was your night?” she asked.
Bas twisted his face into an impish grin and responded, “it was alright. I just need a moment to get myself together.”
Maeve shook her head. The twinkle in her eye told him she had landed them a lucrative, but dangerous charter she believed she would have to twist his arm into. She probably wasn’t wrong.
He loved the back and forth between them. She was the dreamer, and he was the responsible one.
Bas entered his room and shut the door behind him. Responsibility weighed on him. His shoulders sagged.
He glanced at his face in the mirror. His mother’s blue eyes and his father’s small nose attracted his attention. He missed them so much. It was his job to ensure nothing bad happened to the ship or the crew. Sorrow reddened the skin around his eyes, almost to the same color as his short hair. He would not break down. The sadness had its time to control him, and that had passed.
After calming himself down, he tapped the water stone over the basin and washed his face. He emptied his pockets of everything but the letter of marque and the small bag of cezri the admiralty court awarded them.
He changed out of his heavy waistcoat into something more appropriate for the meeting with the crew, a canvas frock coat.
Outside his room, Maeve waited for him. She accompanied him down to the wardroom with only the slightest amount of chitchat between them. She rationed her words and used them with such tender care.
Bas swaggered into the room and tossed the bounty and the revised letter of marque and reprisal onto the table.
"The Mancai Admiralty Court has granted our petition to keep the spoils of our last voyage and assigned us the right to recruit two more ships to the fleet," Bas said.
The others hooted and hollered. Jade and Crane pounded on the table, and Harley shook her head disapprovingly at their exuberance.
Crane added, “that will come in handy with our next commission.”
Bas interrupted him and explained in excruciating detail the procedures before the court. He started talking about the additional clauses they included in the Letter of Marque and how their past exploits justified each line and clause.
Jade rolled his small black eyes. “We are Corsairs, not Pirates. We don’t fight for the Mancai. We stand up for the archipelago.”
Crane nodded his head. “Yeah, the Daskensians exploit the islands too often. We need to show they will not mess with us anymore.”
Maeve stood up and with abject seriousness said, “if we can retrieve something that has been stolen, we should take it.”
Bas smirked at their heavy-handed hints about their commission. “In theory, but all of this is moot if we don’t have the supplies to set sail.” Everyone lost loved ones and treasure to the invaders. Unwanted memories arose, and he forced them down. “Since I assume none of you have taken stock or used the sign-out sheets so we’d know what we have left, I need to do the inventory so we can even talk about what we do next.”
Bas stood up and ignored their protestations as he walked out of the room. It was time for him to be the responsible one again. It distracted him from memories haunting the corners of his mind. He didn’t close the door behind him to not seem angry.