(Bad actions can lead to good things)
The two companions sped from the old tavern as quickly as they could. Darting down one alleyway then the next, occasionally doubling back in a circle to make sure that if they were followed, which by now was quite likely, anyone giving chase would have given up and admitted defeat.
Only when the men were a few dozen streets from the pub did they stop and catch their breath. “I think that’ll do now” Iain panted, leaning against the wall of a building to keep himself standing. “Why? Because you can’t go any further” Shou taunted, considerably less out of breath than his friend. Iain only scowled.
The two men looked around themselves to get their bearings then set off towards the safe house they had found upon first arrival a week ago. It was only an abandoned old cottage, not particularly big or comfortable, but it would do for situations such as this one. Times when it was best to just hang back for a while and disappear.
Even though they had run quite far it soon became apparent to the men that they were still a fair distance away from their hiding spot. They continued on in silence for a few more streets, just to make sure that if anyone in the surrounding buildings were still up, they didn’t become suspicious of them.
“So” Shou said, after a few more turned corners “how much did we actually manage to hornswaggle from that filthy bilge rat? What?” he added to Iain’s disapproving look.
“Just because we’re pirates doesn’t mean you have to talk in the same manner of those despicable fantasists that think themselves pirates.” His friend groaned. “I’m not completely sure how much exactly. A fair amount. Plus the stuff we won back from that imbecile” he said extracting his many rings from his pockets, and placing them back on his fingers in the exact arrangement they were before. Then passing his friends skull shaped ring back to him. (Though, only after deducing that it was much too large to fit on any of his digits without sliding off).
The two pirates eventually made it back to their safe house, several blocks from their encounter earlier this evening. Iain took the key off from the string around his neck and unlocked the door.
He and his friend made doubly sure to look around before crossing the threshold and locking the door behind them. Iain then replaced the key around his neck and sat on a rickety chair in the corner, to wait until it was time for them to return to their ship. A few minutes later Shou turned to speak to him only to find him sleeping quietly. “I suppose I’m taking first watch then” he muttered, drawing his sword.
A loud bang caused Iain to wake from his slumber. Before opening his eyes he scanned his senses, ticking things off of a mental checklist as he thought of them. Ok nothing sticking out of my body. Good haven’t been stabbed in my sleep (how embarrassing that would have been). None of my bones are broken, good. Slight pain in my head and back. Hmm wonder were that came from, also I swear the chair wasn’t this uncomfortable when I sat in it… or this splintered.
Plucking up enough courage to open his eyes, Iain realised after a second or two that he was, in fact, staring at the cracked and hole filled ceiling.
“What are you doing?” he heard Shou’s voice from by the door.
“I appear to have fallen from my chair in my sleep, injuring myself in the process” Iain said deadpan “not to mention the chair besides” he added in an undertone.
“Good” his friend replied sheathing his sword “you’re turn to keep watch”. With that Shou threw himself down on the non broken chair with a yawn and drooped his head. Within moments the room was filled with the sound of his deep breathing. Iain rolled his eyes and drew his weapon. “I’m supposed to be the Captain, surely guard duty is left to the Quartermaster, and last time I checked that was you” he muttered to himself.
The dawn light slowly trickled through the cracks in the door, and under the frame. Golden-orange light begun to illuminate every surface in the room, and also highlighted just how unkempt and in urgent need of repair the place was.
Iain examined the small shabby room pointing at all the problems with the place. Still, he thought, nothing to do with us now. Not our problem. His eyes fell on his sleeping friend. He wasn’t half bloody stupid, and infuriating. But he was loyal, and reckless, and good company. Not that Iain would ever tell him that, friendships were not his strong point, or any form of relationship with another human being for that matter.
He wandered over to wake his snoozing companion when a sudden knock on the door averted his attention. The sunlight was partially blocked by a tall shadow. A person’s shadow. A man. He crept closer to the door, cautiously putting his eye to the widest gouge in the woodwork. He could feel Shou’s now fully alert and conscious presence at his shoulder, weapon drawn. The Captain signalled to him to put his weapon down. Down but not away, just in case.
Iain slowly removed the key from around his neck and edge it closer to the lock. Another loud bang. Iain flinched so badly at the thought of who the man could be that he nearly dropped the key. Seconds later the key turned in the lock. Breath held Iain opened the door…
Tristan was still contemplating whether or not this was a reasonable course of action. He had witnessed first hand the crimes the two men had committed not twelve hours ago, though as he searched for them he became increasingly more doubtful.
The men both owned weapons and were clearly not afraid to use them. Demonstrating this fact to the many occupants of the tavern last night. The blonde man had proven himself not to be taken lightly. His companion too was clearly all too experienced in hostile situations, owing to the way he managed himself in the brawl.
Though he himself concealing, beneath his coat, a large steel hammer, which he was perfectly capable of using (regardless of what that drunkard who the pirates had scammed said) he still remained uneasy.
He intended to find the men only minutes after his escape but Sirena had convinced him otherwise “It will be much too dark and they will have already disappeared by this time, you’ve heard the stories about these people” she has said to him. He grudgingly listened to her and slept on the matter (though did not disclose the fact that his mind was already set, and that he would instead search for them in the morning as they could not be based out of town).
He also could not help but notice the signs which had seemingly sprouted out of the walls over night. Plastering every available surface with drawings of the two men on them, each offering a hasty reward for whoever caught them.
By now he had wandered many streets and turned numerous corners. Still no more sure whether he would even find the men, let alone decide what to do when he found them. He was hoping that by now his mind would have formed some, even rough, plan of action.
He stopped in a particularly worn down street amidst several shabby, disused buildings and considered giving up. Just as he turned to go concede, a loud splintering crash was heard coming from the next cottage down from where he was standing. Tristan gulped painfully, and planted his feet firmly in front of the door. One hand resting on his hammer, the other raised in a fist to knock on the door. After what seemed like an age of mental preparation he rapped his fingers upon the wood.
It took the pirates a few seconds to recognise who the man was. He was about the same height as Iain but with a soft looking round face and short blonde hair that curled on the ends. After a few slightly awkward seconds the men twigged onto the fact that the man was none other than the blacksmith who was present in the bar last night.
Iain put on his most charming friendly voice and said “So, what brings you here sir? Have you by any chance come to congratulate us on our handiwork?”
“You can shut up!” he barked, though with a underlying tone of nerves which was impossible to hide. “I’m here to turn you in” he said advancing towards them and closing the door tight behind him. Making sure he was blocking off the pirates only means of escape.
“I think he’s trying to threaten us you know” Shou said to his friend.
“I feel that that is indeed what he’s trying to do” Iain replied.
“Well that won’t do will it Iain”
“Indeed Shou it most certainly won’t” with that Iain drew his sword and Shou raised his own, pointing them both at the blacksmiths heart. The mans arm darted towards his belt and quickly removed a large steel hammer that was previously concealed from view. (Though the two men suspected some form of weapon was upon his person.)
He raised the weapon at his adversaries. “Now, you two are going to come with me to the authorities, and I’m not arguing that point” he said coldly.
“Oh I suppose there is a price on us is there? And you thought you’d act the brave vigilantly and bring us poor, unsuspecting wrong doers to justice” Shou returned just as icily.
“Well I’m afraid that’s not going to happen” Iain said calmly “and for future point of reference, if you don’t want to resolve a matter such as this by means of non confrontation, don’t bring a weapon.” On the last word Iain swung his sword in an arc, attempting to bring it down on the mans head. Unfortunately the blacksmith blocked it with his large heavy hammer, causing Iain to stubble backwards slightly.
The Quartermaster swiftly joined in, delivering blows to the man in front of him. Unfortunately these too were blocked. But just barely. The hammer was much too heavy for proper combat. The two pirates noticed this and, as if each reading the others mind, purposely swung their swords powerfully at the large metal hammerhead. Both blades sunk deep into the weapon causing large crevices in the metal. Their eyes met and they nodded, pulling their swords back away from their attacker.
Due to their blades being wedged into the head of it, the force caused the blacksmith to let go of the handle. The swords became unstuck at the last minute and the three men watched as the hammer sore through the air and landed with a loud crunch on the stone floor at the other side of the room.
The pirates’ attacker quickly attempted a hasty retreat after being disarmed. However his opponents were too quick for him. Before his hand even reached the door knob the blonde man spun him around and planted a painful blow, with his knee, to his stomach and threw him to the ground. Causing him to land awkwardly on all fours.
The blacksmith wheezed, urgently trying to catch his breath after being brutally winded. He attempted to lunge for his fallen weapon, but before he even got close, the curly haired pirate thumped the handle of his blade into the back of his head. His vision blurred then faded to black as he fell to the floor, unconscious.
Consciousness returned to Tristan slowly. He was not entirely sure he was conscious, though he could think independently so it appeared he was. He couldn’t open his eyes, or whether his brain was telling his body not to for fear of what he would see if he did.
His other senses slowly crawled back under his control. Feeling was considerably sharper than the others. A dull throb pounded against the back of his skull from where he supposed one of the pirates had hit him. He was also acutely aware that he was now sitting on something hard with his arms tied behind him.
He still could not bring himself to open his eyes so attempted to speak instead. An anguished grunt was all he could manage.
“Ah, good to see you’re back with us” a deep slow voice came from behind him. The blonde pirate, the one with the funny name.
“You hit me in the head” Tristan coughed.
“Well in fairness, you did try to arrest us both and attacked us with a war hammer. See how that works?” the other pirate added sarcastically.
The blacksmith groaned in frustration. “You can hardly say I was in the wrong. You stole from that man in the pub”
“A friend of yours is he?” the more sophisticated pirate asked.
Tristan laughed hollowly. “Far from it. He’s a annoying drunkard who can’t keep his mouth shut. But that doesn’t make what you did fair.” The two men smiled at one another wolfishly, Tristan however missed the exchange as his eyes were still tight shut.
“So, how did you manage to find us?” The voice was so close to Tristan that it made him jump, his eyes snapping wide open to find the curly haired pirate only inches from his face.
“Go on then. How did you find us?” the man repeated calmly, though with a slight impatient edge to his voice.
“Well I saw the posters up this morning, the reward for your capture”
“That was surprisingly fast” Shou muttered from the other side of the room. Iain nodded. “ok so there are posters, that complicates matters, but not much. So next question, how did you know where to look for us?”
Tristan suddenly found an unknown reserve of confidence “I answered a question of yours, now its your turn to answer one of mine” he said sitting up as straight as he could with his arms tied behind him.
Surprisingly the pirates smiled at one another. “Ok, we may be criminals but we’re not totally immoral. What would you like us to answer?” said the captain.
“Why are you here?” the blacksmith asked.
“To be totally honest” said Shou, walking over to stand next to his companion “we’re only here as a bit of a break, we’ll be carrying on to our proper destination later today.”
“Where might that be?” Tristan asked.
“Sorry question for a question” Iain said “how did you know where to look for us”
“Well I figured you couldn’t be hiding too far away, and you wouldn’t want to attract any attention. At first I thought there was no hope of anyone catching you, but this morning Sirena told me that a woman at the market said she saw two suspiciously dressed men lurking around here in the early hours before sunrise.”
“Ah” mused Shou “and who’s Sirena? You’re love interest is she?”
“That’s two questions” Tristan smirked.
“Two questions asking the same thing” the blonde man returned, he too was smiling.
“Yes she is” Tristan said. The questions stopped for a while and the pirates went back to whispering amongst themselves. Tristan couldn’t hear what they were saying, as they seemed to be speaking so quietly they gave the impression they were lip reading.
He hung his head and waited for whatever the pirates were going to do to happen when a thought suddenly occurred to him “Are you going to kill me?” he asked simply.
The two men looked at him and he couldn’t help but notice they looked fairly disturbed by the sudden and unexpected nature of his question.
Iain walked up to him and crouched back down, and to Tristan’s surprise said the most honest thing he thought he had ever heard.
“We’re not going to kill you.”
With that he got up and walked back to his friend, whispered something, the giant pirate nodded, looked in Tristan’s direction then left the building.
“Where is he going?” Tristan asked timidly. The pirate merely looked at him with what seemed like a look of sorrow on his face.
Joseph was not best pleased. Not only did one of his customers get attacked just last night, (regardless of whether he started the fight and completely deserved it or not), now the authorities had arrived at his property to ask him some questions about the happenings, and any details on where the two men from last night may have gone.
He also had to wake Hannah, never a good idea especially at this time of day, so the town’s watchmen could interrogate her also.
The honest answer from both the barman and his wife was: “We honestly have no idea who they were or where they went.” Of course as with all government forces assigned to protect the populace, their answer was not good enough.
“About when did these men first come into contact with you?” asked one of the men, a stout short man with a copper moustache. He spoke with a slight highland accent.
“About a week ago” Hannah replied “I never really spoke to them properly” she turned to her husband for reassurance “I mean they kept themselves to themselves”
“Did you not find this at all suspicious?” asked the other man he was slightly taller and balding.
“No not really. I mean you get all sorts in here, you never really take any notice, and we’re running a business we don’t judge.” Joseph said confusedly.
“So you serve many wanted criminals do you?” said the copper headed man
“Of course not” snapped Hannah. The Official glared but she did not drop her scathing look. “We just serve people drinks we don’t mean any harm to anyone. What happened last night was unfortunate, but I assure you has never happened before and won’t happen again!”
The balding man looked up at the two muskets hanging above the bar. “So what are those weapons for ay?” he asked snidely.
“They’re just decoration!” Joseph barked, now losing his patience with the men “they don’t even work!” (This of course was a lie and both the barman and his wife knew it).
The two officials got up and walked to the door. “I’m sorry” said the balding man, though he clearly wasn’t as he smiled cruelly as he said it “but this tavern will have to be closed down for aiding known pirates”. With that he and his accomplice slammed the door shut behind them, leaving Joseph and Hannah both reeling at the men’s severe and unnecessary punishment.
As the officials wandered down the crowded cobbled street, they smiled in satisfaction at what they had just done. The governors had made it clear that in any area that had be found known for pirate activity was to be firstly warned of the danger and secondly, if the occupants of the area did not co-operate their business would be closed down.
Though the barman or his wife clearly had no part in the activity’s that had happened the night before it was always good to make a swift judgement, even if only to make an example to ward of any other townsfolk who may be thinking of going against the governments wishes.
Just to be on the safe side they had also closed down many of the other shops. The barbers, many of the market stalls, the bordello around the corner (though not before sampling some of what was on offer), the madam there was not best pleased, her and one of the girls were particularly angry, though quietened down soon enough when they were threatened with imprisonment. The bards were also un-allowed to play. No particular reason the officials simply found them irritating.
As the officials turned the corner they smiled at their work and felt no remorse of how many lives they had just ruined on a whim.
Hannah leaned across the bar, her face stretched into a frown. Her husband was standing behind her at the bar looking equally glum. Despite the tavern being officially closed that still didn’t stop them serving their friends drink (though it was now free as they were to be arrested if anything was sold in this property and the authorities found out).
“Why would somebody be so stupid!” cried the tall ginger haired man who had also been in the bar last night. There were several grunts from around where he was sitting at the bar. His stall had been closed down this morning because he was accused of ‘aiding dangerous criminals’ whom of course he had not done. When he told the officials his account of the story they merely said he was at fault simply because he didn’t attempt to stop the men. Funny he thought where were the night watchmen when all this was happening?
“That’s politics for you” said the barber “haven’t got the power to find a criminal, but have the power to exploit and punish innocent people. Sad” again there were muttered agreements amongst the small party in the tavern.
As well as George, the merchant, and William the barber, many of the group where also in the tavern the previous night. No doubt the main reason they were all punished. Because they were there. Noah, Jack and Jegan, the three town bards, were now banned from playing music. Emma, the madam at the local bordello, and her good friend Sarah were now out of an income.
Sirena, the town blacksmiths wife, was now without a flow of money and also had apparently lost her husband, who had gone out this morning and not come back. He’d now been gone seven hours. Daybreak until now just after dinner. She was understandably most upset. “I bet those pirates have got him” she sobbed “I doubt I’ll ever see him again” tears started to fall from her eyes.
“Come on don’t say that” said Emma, putting an arm around her.
“Yeah” agreed Sarah, she clasped the poor woman’s hand in hers “I’m sure he’ll come back. You’ll see, he’ll come back and he’ll be fine” she added with more conviction than she felt. None of them had ever personally lost anyone in such a manner. But they had all heard the stories and rumours about what pirates did to their captives. If the rumours proved to be true the poor man didn’t stand a chance. But of course nobody had the heart to mention this. Though they all knew in the back of their minds it was almost an inevitability.
The woman continued to sob, each whine becoming more helpless and more unbearable to the people around to hear the woeful noise.
The door to the building begun to swing opened. Joseph called that they were closed the realisation dawning on him. “Oh I know you’re closed” said the shape in the doorway, the darkness of the room etched her silhouette in the doorway so not much of her could be seen. Two other figures followed her over the threshold. One large and skinny, the other small with long hair; the second was also unmistakably a woman.
The three other newcomers stood at what seemed to be strategic points around the room, as if keeping all the occupants of the room under guard. “The way I see it” said the first woman “you’ve all been done over by the law”
“You can say that again” said Jegan the shaggy brown haired bard at the end of the bar.
The woman smiled “of course, I know why they’ve done it” with that she stepped into the light just behind where everyone had turned to look at her.
She like the men from last night was dressed in a long dark coat; her shirt was purple and her waistcoat sparkling silver. On her feet where a pair of black high heeled boots with fancy silver buckles. She too wore a tricorne on her head adorned with an exotic looking purple feather.
Attached to her belt were a sword and a gun holster, which contained a deadly looking pistol. She and her associates where pirates.
“Haven’t your friends caused enough trouble?” Hannah screamed, totally furious at the discovery of who these people where. “We’ve already been closed down; I suppose you want us arrested next?”
“Those men are not my friends, though I do know them and am interested in finding them. And that is the last thing I want” she said flatly addressing Hannah.
“Well what do you want?” asked Noah, the darkest of the bards.
“We” she said waving her arms to indicate her two companions “are offering you the chance to… enlist your services to help us find them, and…repay…the men who have wronged you.”
The room fell silent.