The elf looked at the Harbinger Captain,
"Al'Barran?" Danoa tapped his forehead, "Al'Barran - a Marrokian Knight if i recall.."
"You recall correctly, Sir Elf!" Captain Karok nodded. The captain motioned for Danoa to seat himself in a rather comfortable looking wooden-wrought chair, cushioned with tight-leather and Western cotton. Much of the Captain Ready-Room and Quarters were kingly furnished. Ironic, considering Captain Tiberus Karok did not seem the type of man that enjoyed Kingly luxuries; preferring, instead, a more rugged setting like the deck of a ship, or the rigs of his main-mast.
Queried the captain, "What do you know of him?!"
Danoa sipped, and shrugged, "I do not recall much. He was a knight, close to the king, if memory serves. Well decorated, thrice times, methinx for conduct becoming of a Knight... he fell in to obscurity when under the tutelage of Brandyn Lorenquick - a Knight who is in service to King Goldenbane, Sword-arm to Master Cyphus Half-Elven himself... " Danoa smiled, and pointed to his friend the captain, "He keeps himself in good company this knight of yours..."
Tiberus Karok frowned, and he put down his goblet of wine, and tapped at his own chin, "If that is so, Danoa Jaxa, then tell me this: Why was it that Kanan Al'Barran is stripped of title, and was brought to me in shackles!?"
Danoa was abacked. With a raised eyebrow, and now full of curiosity, he replied, "Why, Captain - you have me at a loss.."
"I am as perplexed as you are," Karok smiled.
"I am not afraid to tell you, Tiberus, that matters of state, here in Marrokville, have taken a curious turn towards the North," Danoa, too, put his wine down as he took in the captain's face. It was clear that The Harbinger's master was not surprised. Danoa's eyebrows rose, "War is brewing,"
"Yes! And I think that our other guest may hold the answers to that," Karok stood, "But, i am just a sailor, Danoa. My job is not to question my passengers on why they are with me.. I am only to deliver them safely to their harbor of choice. In this case, he is to be delivered to the Prince of Devensheer himself... But I’ll not see him in shackles aboard my ship..."
This fact was curious to Danoa; considering the man was a prisoner.
"Kanan Al'Barran was aboard a ship named, The Windrow, some years back, when a conflict in Tavenlore became volatile. Marrokville had ordered some of its Knight North-West to patrol the borderlands along the East and South -- Undead, and Goblin marauders sought to kill all trade - this was during the Dark Crusades - before Tavenlore's borders split...
"The skipper of the Widow thought by sneaking his ship into the Western shores of the Tavendish Sea ... really only an inlet from the Oceans to the North leading into the mainland, he would gain the advantage of stealth, sneaking the knights land-bound via runabout ... a solid plan, I think..."
"Aye, I've been there, " nodded Danoa.
"Ah.. well - you see, during this particular night - the moons were dark - the skipper thought the chances were good to put to shore without the enemy being any the wiser, and establish a camp from which The Marrokans could lend aid to the nearby villages... "
"What happened?" Danoa wondered.
"The captain had been wrong... The second they landed, arrows sped overhead - it was all the men could do to dive into the water, armor and all... 5 men perished by drowning and 4 more injuried by arrow-fire. Kanan Al'Barran, diving into the water, took the skipper with him -- it wasn't until we got to shore, that I saw the arrow that took Kanan just below the left arm, between his armor and his armpit... "
"Graces! You were that captain.."
"Kanan Al'Barran saved my life that day... I cannot believe that he is a traitor to marrokville. I've never known a more loyal man!"
Danoa stood, understanding.
"I shall have to meet this Knight... " he said.
"I pray that you do. I've known you for many years .. and I've come to trust your sense in people.."
"You flatter me, Captain," Danoa smiled, and bowed.
Tiberus Karok nodded, "Pray you take your leave - i shall see you at morning meal!"
"I look forward to it.."
Danoa Jaxa spent the first hour of his visit on the Harbinger touring the ship. He'd visited onboard only one other time before, and he recalled being impressed even then. The Harbinger was a well fashioned boat; which came to no surprise to Danoa.
Tiberus Karok was a well respected sailor on the Astelbanian seas. From Kezia to Devensheer to Westbridge and as far west as Qualerin, people knew the name; Karok. In fact, the captain of this vessel was the only trades-captain, in the service of a king or privateer, to have ever set foot in the Elven chamber of Commerce and the only human man to have ever spoken with the Queen. The queen was so impressed with Karok over the years that she handed him plans for a sleek, yet large, galleon... Which the good captain returned to Devensheer; and subsequently had the King commissions her construction. King Goldenbane saw it only fitting to give command of this vessel to Tiberus Karok. In a brief ceremony, the Prince deemed Tiberus Karok a captain in the King's Royal Navy - and he accepted and was granted honorary title and responsibilities that came with the post.
Karok had never spent one day in the Royal Naval Academy.
The captain had been so well respected in the annals of diplomacy, trade and combat, that none in the Royal Navy challenged this appointment, and since that day, the Harbinger has been the pride of Devensheer's fleet. One captain had threatened that Karok would be an admiral before too long - a tongue and cheek accusation had sent the Harbinger's master back to his ship and not to return for nearly 3 years... it is still a running joke among ship-captains in Devensheer to this day. (Danoa had heard it first hand before).
The Harbinger was well under weigh, the anchors now fastly secured on the bow and stern. Now under power of the winds, Danoa took the time to find his own sea-legs, fighting the dizziness that always seemed to meet with him this far into a voyage at sea. In passing, he spied the slumped form Kanan Al'Barran, skulking down into the bellows the ship. Finding a jump in his step, and avoiding midshipmen and riggers, he chased down the former-knight 3 decks down ... entering his private quarter..
"I say, 'Lo there!" Danoa called. The man's face was gruff, unshaven, and his jade eyes sunken; sleep-deprived. Danoa could not see why he would be ignored. Most men were curious enough to speak with an elf...
Kanan Al'Barran was slow and deliberate in beginning to close the doors to his quarter..
"Lo, I say -- I am Danoa Jaxa of Qualerin.. might I..."
The door shut - and was barred. Danoa swallowed his words. Clearly, this man was more bitter than he'd first thought. He gave a gentle knock..
"AS I've said.. I am Danoa Jaxa .. I met you once in Castle Marrok, during trade negotiations between the elf-lunds and Marrokville.. We shared an... ale!" Danoa's nose wrinkled. He never could acquire a taste for the stuff .. at least not as much as most human men could..
There was no answer.
"I see.." he talked to himself, "Well then.. I would very much enjoy your company.. most men here are sailor - and I know little of sailor-talk .. and being the only other non-crew member, I thought that we might share a drink of rum... " he shrugged.. "But i will honor your privacy, good sire... i'll be in the gally then should you have a change of mind.. good night, sir knight!"
With a sniff, Danoa turned on a heel, and made for the stairs leading to the gally - where he would eat mediocre food, and get his share of rum for the night. That is, until he heard the lock upon Kanan Al'Barran's door disengage. He stopped in his tracks, and turned his head to see the man's head peek out of his door.
"I am a knight no longer," Kanan's voice was like sandpaper, "And i do remember you.."
"Ah," Danoa smiled, perked, "I trust my personality is hard to forget, then," he nodded.
"Among a roomful of men with rounded ears, an elf tends to stick out!" Kanan countered.
Danoa lost his smile, but later grinned, "I see your point... Rum?"
After a moment or two of contemplation, Kanan resolved, "I suppose I can use the company," he said.
"Of course you can! Come -- I will pour!"
The ship rocked bow to stern as the Harbinger sailed against the tide, but the chairs and tables in the lower decks gally were fastened fast to the deck-plates. The chairs, with the pull of a rope moved back from the tables enough for a man to sit, and then locked into place along railing installed below the feet when the rope was released. Once seated, a person moved as the ship did; so long as one's stomach could take it.
Plates and mugs were held secure on tables with the use of engenius wedges installed at each place setting. Danoa Jaxa was thankful for this as he poured rum from a bottle into two wooden mugs. He offered one to his companion, and lifted his own,
"TO the Harbinger..."
"May her namesake mean good fortune!" Kanan finished and took a sip.. It was good rum.
"Well said," Danoa nodded, and finished his own, and repoured.
"Thank you... " Kanan bowed his head, received more rum, sipped and began, "Tell me.. What is an elf doing on a human ship heading to Devensheer?"
"hmm.. not so much a curiosity really, when you consider that i have roamed the land of men for nearly 20 of your human years... merely a blink in my lifetime.." danoa smiled, "i've always been curious by Man. Your impulsive behavior, greed, your need to accumulate as much wealth as you can in your short lives; to have a legacy - it is foreign to my people. Our legacy lies in our bloodlines; in our literature and art - or communion with Arcana..."
"Do not let a mage of Westbridge hear you say that," Kanan said in warning.
"I know of this attitude with the Towers .. and i find it very very curious... Curious indeed.." Danoa's face was wide with wonder, his tongue licking his lips as he sipped again from his mug of rum. He allowed the warmth of the drink to reach his hands and he continued, "One would think that command magic through artifacts, alchemy and word-trickery would be blasphemous..."
Kanan actually laughed, "On that front, elf, you have an ally... i've never trusted magic casters.."
"Really?" this notion in human behaviour perplexed Danoa. Of course, to an elf, the use of magic was no different than the use of one's lungs while breathing, "and why is that?"
"Men who weild magic use it to gain power... with more power, comes corruption, mistrust, manipulation of people... Mages use the common folk as pawn in their worldly agendas... " Kanan emptied his mug, "they breed distrust..."
"And yet, to us elves, those that cannot see or appreciate arcana for the beauty that it is envokes distrust... Arcana even surrounds you, my friend," smiled Danoa.
Looking up and around - and then into the green eyes of Qualerin-Native, Kanan suggested, "I will ask that you do not remind me of that fact again... the notion irks me.."
"As you wish." Nodded Danoa dutifully, "Rum?"
"Pour away, elf!"
"Ah," grinned Danoa, pouring with precision. Then he continued with his own tale - he always liked telling stories, "I have always had a facination for Man - and i'd thought that i had actually come to an understanding of it (of course - the more I got to know you fellow kinsmen, the more questions befuddled me)... And my duties to my Queen in Qualerin had begun to prevent my returns to the mainland. Beseech Her as I could, my Aunt, The Queen, would see me precide over trade-route negotiations and peace-treaties with our - altogether incomprehensible cousins, The Drow. " Danoa lifted his cup, "I do not mind telling, my good Kanan, that The Drow are a disagreeable people."
"I can imagine!"
Danoa thought on it... and concluded, "Yes I believe you could!"
Kanan had no idea how Danoa could come to such a conclusion, but being here with a talkative elf beat sulking alone in his quarters. He let the pointy-eared man continue.
"I was called to audience one morning by the Queen's aid - with news that the Seers of our city had foreseen a disturbing and macabre vision... The elvin people would be hunted ... and to what end was unclear.. but we would be hunted by the World of Men.. "
Kanan's attention, immediately, became sharp. "Really?!" this sounded more like a statement.
"Indeed - i could not conjure this tale; I'm not so skilled a spinster as that, I think.."
"I beseech you, continue." Kanan pressed.
Danoa, now having a captive audience, rose his voice in a good cant, "We elves are not known for our trust in Men - and that folly had earned us equal distrust in Your eyes, " Danoa's head bobbed this way to that.. "Well not.. YOU per se, you catch my meaning, of course..'
"of course," Kanan had to sip his rum for patience.. the heat of the sugary drink helped.
"With my experiences traveling throughout mainland Astelbania, my Queen saw wisdom in sending me forth in to the Lands to the South of Astelbania - Westbridge, Marrokville and Devensheer... to foster relations with your people. "
"and because you'd traveled here already - you were the obvious .. expert," Kanan was cunningly feeding the elf for more information.
"Obviously," agreed Danoa smiling, "tho' i admit, I was not as well greeted 100 years later. " Danoa noted aloud, "You human die far too shortly,"
"It is a failing," nodded Kanan - humoring Danoa.
"Ha!" Danoa enjoyed the joke. "Over the past 20 years, I have traveled to different cities - with the help of the good Captain here, and have made relationships with some of the good governors of Astelbania.. One being, King Gerald Goldenbane.. "
"I, too, must speak with him, upon our arrival.. it seems our paths are destined, Danoa"
"Indeed..." Danoa rubbed his chin, "You know.. of most humans I’ve met, you are one of the more agreeable men..." Danoa complimented... and showed his own cunning when he added, "And so, i find it hard to understand that you would be aboard this ship as a prisoner accused of treason... "
With that, Kanan's eyes went dark.
"Believe what you will, elf! The fact that my titles and knighthood have been stripped from me is no fantasy," Kanan lifted his mug and drank.
"I doubt justice was served by it," Danoa imparted.
"There is little justice in Marrokville, Danoa Jaxa!" nodded Kanan.
"Well then, let us hope that your exile is not in vain," winked the elf.
"Exile? I see no exile, Danoa. I'm to be tried .."
"Please," raised a hand to protest, shaking his head, "Let us have an understanding, Mister Al'Barran, hmm?" Danoa leaned over the table and leveled his eyes to Kanan's, "If I do not believe that you are a criminal - and the captain of this ship neither believes it - than I know for fact that the Prince of Devensheer will neither take stock in it... hmm? And besides, I KNOW Gerald Goldenbane... This King has not murdered a man in the name of capital punishment since the day he took the throne... " Danoa gave a knowing smile, "There is something bigger afoot here. I need not know what it is; for now it is not my business - and I understand that you must protect yourself and those with whom you are in league. Mark me, I am wise to that." Danoa nodded, but wished deeply to impress upon Kanan his sincerity, "In this, I will be an ally.. I hope that you can trust me one day... "
With that, Danoa stood to take his leave, "Please remember what i've said."
Kanan inclined his head slightly; the message was understood. Before Danoa made it out of the Galley, Kanan spoke,
"Mister Elf," he called.
"Mister Al'Barran?" Danoa turned.
"My exile, as you called it,"
"It has come at a great price... !! I will need all the friends that i can muster.."
There was a great profound silence between the two men; only the creaking of timber and smashing waves rented the air.
"Then let us pray it IS NOT in vain.." Danoa said and left.