The Old Rockpool

The day had gone quickly. After Mandenport had been sighted late-morning, the afternoon was taken up with preparing the ship for a couple of day's worth of docking and minor re-stocking: parts of the ship had to be tied in extensively to the docks, forms had to be signed in those gloomy register offices, different crewmembers assigned to different duties. Anyone who was not guarding the ship or involved in its restocking, Leopold had given leave to spend the night, and the following day, exploring the city and keeping their spirits high. 

He did not care much at all for the act of drinking - something that he could only identify as poisoning oneself into deliriousness - but he had, of course, observed its motivating effects on the crew, and, additionally, taverns had proven a remarkably useful place in the past for picking up rumours (and things were so confusing right now that God knew he could do with more of those). So, when Fenlock, Moldark and Bollis had - half-jokingly - invited him for a pint or two, it was to their surprise that he agreed.

Leopold, Moldark and Fenlock were now sat, merrily mingling, in a charming waterside inn named 'The Old Rockpool', which was filled with all manner of fading sailing and fishing memorabilia, including the regulars. The smell slapped of saltwater. (Bollis had since disappeared into a place called 'The Devil's Beard', which was at the least a much wilder tavern, and almost definitely a brothel.)

He had spent the evening listening to old sea-stories, and some legends. One involved a near-encounter with a giant squid. None of them, unfortunately, were particularly relevant, and Leopold was just beginning to think about returning to the ship, when a scraggly, grey-bearded man who had been staring at him with hard, grey eyes, said to him.

"Yer a captain, if ever I saw one."

Moldark and Fenlock had kept quiet about Leopold's true status, to allow him to fit more inconspicuously into the background, so the statement caught Leopold off-guard.

"Yes, that's correct, I am." He said pleasantly. "That was awfully perceptive. What gave me away?"

"Yer eyes. Aye, they's old, burdoned eyes, such as ye see only on kings, and high to-do cap'ns. And ye don' see many kings walkin' roun' these parts." The sailor chuckled. "I see it all, I do. When I makes my wanderin's o' nights. I see every sorts of folks an 'undred times an' more."

"Well, you seem like an observant fellow."

"Well, cap'n, I'll tell ye - it's a good thing I'm an observant fellow, because I been poor me 'ole life, an' while every man needs smarts to get by, havin' enough money so as to pay people off and to get people to do yer biddin', wouldn't half help some. Ol' Lady Luck's always had it in fer ol' Jim Hommeritt." He tapped his noggin. "Knowledge 'as been the money o' yours truly. Knowin' about the way o' things."

This was encouraging. Leopold immediately bought him a drink, and sat down to conversation with him. First of all, Jim asked him whether he was sea or sky, and Leopold said sky, and Jim said he was a captain of the sea, but only of his little fishing boat Mary and his dog, Horatio - and then they had a grand talk about the world, and their adventures within it, and events that had affected them both (such as the whirlwind that had swept near the Midwestern Sea twenty years ago, when both Jim and Leopold happened to have been within three miles of each other at one point, as they discovered.)

Eventually, Leopold steered the conversation to things that had been troubling him. Jim had been talking about a strange sound he had heard whilst drifting by the coast recently, and Leopold took the opportunity to say "Well, we've had a few out-of-the-way occurences on the Jackdaw recently?"

"Oh, aye?"

"Yes indeed. Strangers cropping up from out of the blue. Black Swamp Dragons attacking us - in the middle of the sky, mind you. Sirens, and banshees, far from their usual nesting grounds. I don't mind telling you, I'm beginning to feel some trepidation about our expedition."

"And where be ye goin', may I ask?"

"Oh, just a little town somewhere nearby. Masaire. Anyway, I..." Leopold suddenly stopped. Jim, he noticed, had just frozen, his eyes both intense and far away.

"I say, are you alright?" Leopold inquired.

Jim only glanced madly about the inn for a moment or two, before leaning in and saying quite quietly "Aye, I've only had a one-too-many. Say, will you be meetin' me in the morrow, cap'n? Gordons, the blacksmith, he's a trustin' sort. Say, half-seven."

And with that, he simply went. Without a further word.

As it was, Leopold was feeling quite past it by this point, so he bid farewell to the also expiring Moldark and Fenlock, and made his way out of the inn and towards the ship. Along the way, still thinking to himself, he ran, by co-incidence into Sage.

"Good evening, Rosewood" Leopold declared, really quite tipsy. "I say, you look to be in some, some state."

"Captain..." she said, relieved and apologetic.

"Where have you been? How much did you drink? Drinking is (hic), bad you know, it's (hic), oh... dear. Ruddy hiccups. Oh, never mind, let's walk back to the (hic) ship. Didn't Vayr and Dina look after you?"

Sage only laughed, then shook her head. "They weren't with me. It was a r... rough place."

"What... (hic)... happened to your bow?"

She smiled. "I made a daring escape, if I don't say so my... self."

Leopold smiled too. "Back to the ship I say! I can say what I wan't, I'm the (hic) captain. Tell me all (hic) about it. And let's try and figure out where those... other two ... two got to."

The End

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