A pool of cut off strands of hair surrounded me, the cheap metal mirror that had seen better days gave back the shorter than would be proper cut and was partly covered by an old ragged bandana. It was the second time I'd have to bury Cassidy Elisabeth Doyle, first when I'd lost me mum and dad and now that Dr. O'Sullivan was in Castle Damros' dungeon, I had to move on.
Trousers, shirt, a pair of old work boots and a bandoleer came right up, I just hoped it looked convincin', the bandages were tightly bound around me chest, and hurt somewhat, but I could manage and lastly, I hung the blade by the ring that was on me belt, one of the few things I'd gotten out of the doc's house before runnin' away.
I walked out of the dinky tavern room with no soul giving me but a glance and walked out the door, the outside of the place was hardly any cleaner, the air thick with dust and the smell of burnin' coal. I walked through the docks slipping between folks going back and forth, crates and barrel in hands. The Voyage had a small plank going down and a haggard lookin' man taking people on. I slipped in line just as another was about to.
"Name?" He asked, lookin' jaded.
"Charlie Benjamin Doyle, sir." I answered, a small bit of hesitation in me voice, I'd lost the habit of callin' myself that... Thankfully, he did not seem to notice.
"Your accent, are you a Lore citizen?" He asked, finally glancin' up at me.
"Aye, me parents came here when I was just a lad. Then adopted by Mr. O'Sullivan."
He nodded, disinterested. "Permission slip?"
I opened the topmost pouch of me bandoleer and handed him the slip of paper I'd written. It was not a bad forgery, the O's and L's were a little off, but I doubted he'd ever seen the doc's writing before.
"Alright, get on." He said, motionin' with his thumb at the board that lead to the dry-docked ship.
"We're full kids." He announced once I took the first step up. "Try The Hummingbird, kids."
The deck of The Voyage seemed to be gettin' busy with sailors runnin' from one end to the other, yelled instruction by whom I thought was the captain or one of his mate. One of them approached me.
"Welcome aboard Mr. Doyle." He said, readin' the ledger that the other handed him. "You'll be helping the other boys for now." He handed me a mop and nodded at the four other ship boys that cleaned up the deck a little further.
"Aye, Aye." I declared before grabbin' it and beginin' to walk there when someone called me out.
"That's a nice blade you've got there, ship boy."
I turned around and the well groomed man in officer uniform stared at me.
"Aye, midshipman, sir." I said, hoping I hadn't misremembered what the blue frock coat and white button collar patch meant.
"At ease. I'm just curious as to where you found that Kukri."
"Me adoptive dad, sir, took it back from his tour in Bhārat. He was Surgeon on board the TLA Pelican, sir."
"I see." He said noddin'. "Well, I won't hold you any more. " He stepped aside and smiled at me.
I continued the way and prepared the mop as another of the boy spoke. "Hi, I'm Ashwin." I looked up at him and he looked a little older than I, with long brown hair pulled back into a loose tail.
"Charlie." I said, continuin' the job absently. "And it's Charlie, not Charles."
"Well, call me Ash. The big guy there's Pat." He said, motionin' at one of the other who had withdrawn a little and who seemed like he did not want to be talked to or be looked at.
"I'm Flint Orphos." Another said, still lookin' down giving me a glance at his dark-silvery hair.
"And me, Issac." The last one said. "Can we ask you were you're from, or you'll react like big guy?"
"Nay, it's fine. I'm from Irelocke, but really, grew up 'round Damros. Me parents came for work here, never left."
A slight tremor shook the boat and sent wave of manky water off the pail as the bird was let go off the dry dock, and let to fly again. "Seems like we be off the rocks, mates." I said.
I was off the ground, but locked on a boat with a wee under two hundred men that couldn't know I was not a lad. T'was going to be interestin' times...