The captain clung to the wheel, careening the ship again to the right, causing the remaining banshees to, again, re-adjust their flight. They were howling now, but these howls were no longer threatening - Leopold could sense the fear, the urge to retreat. Below him, he heard two more wails, as two more had their hearts penetrated, and disintegrated into dust. He saw Drakmor barely acknowledging his kill before leaping off to fight where the fray was thickest.
The ship lurched forward as they gathered even more speed. He knew that Fenlock had managed to escape the battle - at his order - and make his way back to motivate the crew in the engine room. Soon, amidst the deep roar of the wind, the high and penetrating cry of the banshees disappeared into the night. He leaned back, relieved, wiping sweat off his forehead with a napkin.
Only a minute passed, before he heard "Captain...", and turned round to face James Stalworth, and with him a man Leopold had never seen before in his life. A stylish fedora lay on his head, and beneath charming features he wore a well-worn trench-coat.
"Who the devil are you, and how did you get aboard this ship?" Leopold boomed, standing up straight to face the man eye-to-eye. The swagger in the man's face recoiled a little.
"Pleasure to meet ye, cap'n. You can call me Darroll, and I'd like..." he began, but was cut off.
"Both your name and whatever you were about to say are probably irrelevant" Leopold interrupted, "Now, answer quickly, or I'll have you thrown off."
He was surprised to see that this gentleman, Darroll, kept his poise - as though he was completely unimposed by the threat.
"Me full name is Darroll Goldwynn, and I thought I had business in these parts. As I was mistaken, I was hoping I could barter passage on your ship, Captain. If that's what you'd like to hear."
"Oh yes? And do you know anything about black swamp dragons or banshees?"
"No more'n usual. Whacked one of 'em off me not ten minutes ago."
"And how the curses did you get on board?" Leopold demanded.
Darroll nodded to the deck, where his glider was parked on the decking. Leopold looked at it was some admiration. "Nifty-looking device" he mumbled.
He faced Darroll again. He looked into his eyes, sizing him up. Then he turned to James.
"Stalworth, escort this stranger to a holding-room. Lock the door. Maybe find a sentry or two." He faced Darroll. "Is this acceptable to you, Goldwynn?" he said.
Darroll shrugged, which did not please the Captain terribly, but, as he was not a member of the crew, sufficed. Not long after Goldwynn and James had disappeared below decks, Leopold looked out in the darkening Western sky. Then he made his way to a brass bell and rang it loudly, and called clearly across the ship "Lights out. Call up today's night-crew. We rise at four."
A few nods and 'aye-aye's were returned to him, so he made the short walk to the captains' quarters. As he sighed deeply, took off his coat, began to play a gentle piece of Schubert's on his gramaphone, he was thinking about strange things. Dipping his quill in ink, he spoke his thoughts aloud as they made their way onto the page. "Black swamp dragons, led by a Midnight Marsh Dragon to attack a ship in the middle of the sea; sirens at an island far from their usual nesting grounds; a stranger appearing from the blue; where? To what purpose?"
Thus, it was to great surprise, in the middle of considering these strange things, a very familiar voice answered Leopold's mutterings.
"I thought I recognised this ship." The crunch of an apple. "I was right."
Leopold, enraged, simply stood up and shouted, mostly to himself, "Dear God, it seems I'm running a dingy hotel on the outskirts of Takashelle, not a respected Galabrian Ship in the middle of the Midwestern Ocean! Honestly, how did YOU get here?"
Baron crunched into the apple again. Currently half-lying comfortably on Leopold's bed, he sat up and smiled, bits of apple hiding behind pearly teeth.
"Wait, let me guess. You flew."
"Hello uncle" Baron said. "Been here a while actually. I thought you'd be angrier - I've been hiding below decks living off these mangy apples. But the time comes when nothing will do for a man but some company, and good, cooked meat."
Leopold raised an eyebrow. "Cooked? I'd be tempted to say you're growing sophisticated, nephew."
"Ha Ha" Baron declared sarcastically. "So, you're not enraged, uncle?"
"What, because you took off with those scullery maids the last time I tried to give you a chance at a man's work? No, not angry necessarily - if they were the sorts of girls to fall to temptation so easily, they're not the sorts I want on this ship. Neither are you, if that's what you mean. Yes, you'll be disembarking when we reach Mandenport. What are you doing here anyway?"
"Oh, I was just following a damsel in distress. A siren. Did you know you have one on board? I thought that was outlaw."
Leopold laughed at this, unperturbed. "So you were our stranger on the beach" he said with retrospect. "Wait, what do you mean a siren?"
Baron merely offered a cheeky grin, before depositing the apple-core into his mouth, crunching and swallowing. As his nephew stood up, Leopold sighed and returned to his desk. He already had too much to think about without reflecting on yet another seeming co-incidence, or this 'siren' nonsense.
"Where do I sleep?" Baron asked.
"Wherever you like. Has it ever bothered you?" Leopold replied with disinterest. After he heard the door close behind him, he made a few more notes, before retiring to his bed and falling asleep.
Dawn had just pricked its face over the gloomy sea, and the bell of the Jackdaw rang clearly across the deck. Leopold's first thoughts as he awoke were of the two new passengers. The thought carried over as he made his way to the navigation-room, meeting with Baxtalo and Mathe and looking over the ship's present position.
'Two weeks 'til Mandenport' he judged. 'That's two weeks to see if Baron and that Goldwynn fellow are staying aboard this ship.' He chuckled to himself. Neither seemed likely.