- Markshire PCs:
The half-orc captain looked down from the rail to the scrap of elven girl on the pier below. Her clothes were odd, oft-repaired but neat—doubtless one of the many foreigners who wandered into the fast-growing merchant city every day. She looked healthy if underfed—no mean accomplishment for the newcomers, who succumbed in droves to the new plagues and the increasingly violent and aggressive Beggars’ and Thieves’ Guilds. There were parts of the city now where the captain himself would not go. Hells, he wouldn’t even go ashore on some trips—when the plagues were so bad the carts of dead filled the streets.
He glanced back over the ship to make sure the men were doing their tasks, readying the ship for the crossing. He turned back to the girl, who just stared at him blankly through the oddly slanted eyes of the Far Lands. Sure he’d regret it, he nonetheless broke the silence. “What you want, girl?”
The girl seemed startled that he spoke, but curious, backing and tilting her head slightly like a hawk might if the rabbit he had caught suddenly tried to fight back. She pointed at the gangplank.
“Gghhar. We’re too busy, ye vregl. Sell it somewhere else; my men are done with shore leave.”
A spark of fire came into the girl’s eyes when he spoke the local slang—she’d heard it before, obviously. She sneered slightly, composed herself, and lowered her arm. Then, overdramatically, she pointed in turn at herself, the gangplank, the deck, and out to sea.
“My apologies, miss” the Captain said sarcastically, crudely sketching an imitation of the deep bows the FarLanders exchanged all the time. “Of course ye’ll be wantin’ passage and have no way to pay for it. We’re a merchant ship, girlie—merrr-chant—filled to the gunnels with—” He turned to the mate across the deck. “Lars, what we carrying this trip? Salt cod?”
“Gghhar, that’s right—filled to the gunnel with almonds from the south. Make crossing, sell nuts, buy hides or something else to take to the next port. Merr-chant, girlie. No passengers.”
The girl continued to stare at him, her finger still pointing out to sea. It looked to the captain like she might be about to cry, but her arm was steady, and her gaze still fixed.
“Don’t go blubbering, ye macker, look here.” The half-orc stepped quickly to a nearby barrel, popped the bung, and spilled some almonds into his tar-stained hand. He stepped back to the rail, crouched down, and showed them to her. “Almonds yes go to sea. Not you.” As he said these last words, he used his other hand to move her pointing hand for emphasis—from almond to sea, from her to the dock. She stepped back quickly when he was done, and he rose.
“Well, that’s that then,” muttered the Captain to himself. As he turned away, he just barely noticed the girl bowing to him. “Eh? Off with ya, then…”
Something in the flash of the girl’s face as she bowed low gave him pause—a smile? He turned back to the rail, his foot crushing something. Instantly, he called to the mate, “Lars, who was it swabbed this deck? It’s a mess, ye macker, bring me the cat, I’ll flog—” He broke off as he looked down at the almond shells he’d stepped on, then to his empty hand, then to the girl, who calmly tossed the shelled and stolen nuts in the air and caught them in her mouth, crunching away happily and then pointing back out to sea.
“Gggharrr.” The Captain cursed, kicked the shells onto the pier, then laughed once, loudly enough so the nearby crew knew they could show the smiles they’d been hiding. He called up into the rigging. “Marco, you drunken half-elf piece of guano, stop butchering that sail you’re pretending to mend and get down here. Speak your elf-gibberish to the girl and tell her she can earn her passage—she gets off when every single sail is mended—spares, too. No question she’s deft, let’s hope she can sew like a good girl, and ain’t just some elven clown.”
As the half-elf slid and climbed nimbly down the ropes, the Captain surveyed his ship and his crew. What he saw brought the regrets he’d anticipated earlier. He looked once more at his empty hand, wondering how she’d done it so quickly, without his noticing. He realized some of the crew might be watching him, and he quickly re-bunged the barrel. “Where’s she headed, Marco?”
“Uh, cap’n, I asked her just that: she said she’s going where we’re going.”
“No, sir. She doesn’t know that place. She just said ‘Where you are going.’”
“You tell her about the crossing? How it’s the most lucrative trade route, if you can only survive?”
“Cap’n, she didn’t care—at all—she just wants to go…anywhere.”
Oh, well, she’d tire of it soon enough—almost all elves did. The decision had been made—too late to back out now—so the Captain just tried to limit the damage. “Marco, show her the ropes but give her some damned gloves—we want her to sew with those quick hands, not be a tarred-up rope-monkey like you. And for the gods’ sakes show her how to puke over the side without following it—she’s a lubber for sure.”
“And lads—three more things. Yeah, three, like the number of fingers old Ratsnuh’s got left. You all can count to three, right? Put your fingers down, Ratsnuh.” He shook his head.
“First, leave is over—you let her pathetic self be. The crossing’s hard enough without that kind of trouble, and look, Zino brought me the cat anyway—you know how much I like to use it. Second, Marco, tell her no shares, just passage, eh? Last thing—maybe some other idiot told some of you idiots that a woman aboard’s unlucky? Ghhar—when was the last time you heard me laugh? That makes her the luckiest damn charm you sorry lot will ever see. Now, get back to work. We leave in an hour.”