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The Adventures of Solaire, Part III: Introductions All Around!

The Incredible Yet Accurate Adventures of the Dread Pirate Captain Solaire Ravenheart

Otherwise known as

The Adventures of Solaire


Part III

Introductions All Around!


“People,” the third king of Nestoria, Solomon Prester, once said, “are a most peculiar animal,” and while he said that while he was very drunk at a banquet and later clarified that he meant to say “pigs”, the phrase turned out to be such a quality piece of accidental wisdom that it has spread to every corner of the globe. Today, it is commonly used as a neutral response for a grieving friend. Whenever someone comes to you with news of a neighborly dispute, an unfair ruling of justice, or even a broken heart, it is safe to respond with “well, people are a most peculiar animal,” as that allows you to take your friend’s side of the story without commiting to a point of view on the matter.


I, myself, have never liked the phrase. It makes human beings look like some sort of mysterious mythical creature, of which the inner workings will never be understood or explained. On the contrary, I find humans to be very simplistic creatures, driven by the same needs of food, shelter, companionship, and pride that most of the animal kingdom follows. What it does reveal to me, though, is that some people will never understand other people. To them, the machinations of a mind that is not their own is as mysterious as the forces that cause a small acorn to grow into a mighty tree.


Solaire is one of those people. More so than most, in fact. But a quality that is even more Solaire is to fix a problem with the most unorthodox solution available, and his lack of empathy is no exception. You may see for yourself in the pages ahead.


***


Weiss stared at the five men in the glass in front of him. Thanks to a very thin layer of silver on the pane (another invention of Weiss), they sat oblivious to his surveillance, believing that the large reflective sheet was nothing more than a mirror. He was unable to hear what they were saying, but that was of no consequence. He just wanted to take this moment to study them.


Three were in cuffs, with metal plates stapled to their neck. First there was Willaby, the strange fat man in the horrid green suit. He’d actually cried when they brought him in. Based on the reports of the sparkly smoke found in the second deck hall, he was a mage of some kind. Not a very good one, but a mage nonetheless. Then there was Skylar. One of the security men hired on. Shame about that. He’d shown quite a bit of promise, especially with those hook swords of his, but if his own guard would turn on him for the promise of quick coin, better to find out this way, he supposed. And then there was the youngest Ravenheart, the cause of all this commotion. Sitting there, surrounded by his two most intimidating guardsmen, the steely-faced, armored Tomo and the humongous, grinning Austin, he looked…


...bored.


Weiss “tisk”ed to himself and furrowed his brow. Such strange behavior from one of such noble blood. Surely, there was no way the money he was trying to steal was anything more than pocket change to him. Perhaps he was broke. Or simply stupid.


Solaire yawned.


That had to be it, he decided. He was giving the man too much credit. There was no greater scheme behind boarding his ship in the middle of a voyage. Even the sugar was most likely a fluke. He had potential with a pistol, that much was certain, which was the only reason he was alive right now. But in the mental department? Not much there.


Behind Weiss, his accountant Winthrop Skroob, second mate Charlie Scotts, and two more guardsmen stood. All four knew better than to interrupt their employer when he was thinking.


“Vhen did zis happen?” Weiss finally asked, back still turned to his employees.


“Um, at about 0540, sir” Charlie responded.


“Vhy vas I not informed?”


“You told me not to bother you with any more calls about this man, sir.”


Weiss chuckled. “Ah, yes. I did say zat, didn’t I?”


Nobody responded.


He pulled out a pocket watch and checked the time. “At zis point in ze voyage, ve are fife hundred miles avay from ze uninhabited Chrysanthemum Isle, nien?”


“I believe so, sir” Winthrop replied.


Weiss nodded. “Change course to brink us alongside it. Hold zis man in ze brig until ve can maroon him zere.”


“What? No!” Charlie exclaimed as the guardsmen wrapped their arms around him and dragged him away. “You can’t do this, please!”


“Standard pistol wis one schot. You’re lucky I’m gifing you zat much. Frankly, it’s a vaste on you.”

Charlie began screaming in protest and thrashing as he was carried down the hall. His voice faded away.


Weiss turned to face Winthrop. “Correct me if I’m vrong, but I belife Strussenbaug vas his second in command?”


Winthrop withdrew a small notebook from his jacket pocket and flipped to a page. “No, that’s correct sir.”


“Promote him to Charlie’s old position. Let him know in no uncertain terms vhat happened to his predecessor. Oh, and Vintrhop!” Weiss called out as Winthrop was about to leave, “put in an order for glass panes to place in ze slot machine vindow. Ve don’t vant anyone else to try zat again.”

Winthrop gave a polite nod and left the room.


Weiss turned back to the one-way window. Five more minutes of observing his charges, he decided. Then he’d have enough information to begin this little showdown of wills.


***


Meanwhile, on the other side of the glass, Solaire yawned again. “This Weiss guy better show up soon. I’m bored.”


Skylar, the man in the red and brown leathers, ogled at him. “You’re bored? We’re about to be punished by one of the most powerful men in the world for making him look like a fool at his own casino, and you’re bored?


“Well it’s not like there’s anything to do while we wait” Solaire retorted.


Willaby, the round man in green tweed, was staring up at Austin. The man was gigantic, easily over six feet tall and close to three hundred pounds of pure muscle. With his large, blad, head, massively broad shoulders, bronze tanned skin and swirling black tattoos all over his face, he resembled a bit more of a mountain brought to life and stuffed into a gentleman’s white suit coat and trousers than a man.


Austin gazed down at Willaby and grinned, revealing a mouth of triangular, shark-like teeth.

“Whatcha lookin’ at?”


Willaby’s eyes widened. “Oh, sorry, I-I’ll stop staring now.”


Austin laughed. “C’mon, tell me what’s on your mind. I don’t judge.”


“Well, it’s just…” Willaby leaned in and lowered his voice to a whisper. “Are you a grunzen?”


The large man nodded. “Yep. ‘Cept in my tribe, we called ‘em Nunui Nui. ‘Big Ones’. Elders figured it out when I was five feet tall by the time of my fifth birthday. Seemed to have capped out, though.”


“Goodness me. It’s just… well, I’ve heard about them, but I never got to see one before. Is it true that it’s just a random condition of birth?”


Austin shrugged. “That’s what the hoity-toities on the top deck tell me.”


“Well, I have to say, you seem very, um…” Willaby stopped, having trouble with the words.


Austin leaned over. “Yes?”


“...er…”


“Not stupid,” Solaire called out.


Willaby gaped back at Solaire in shock and fear. Austin just laughed. “Yeah, I know. Elders told me I was the first Nunui Nui to figure out how to talk, let alone carry out conversations. Probably would have been a genius otherwise.”


Willaby turned back to Austin. “So the intelligence levels of grunzens differ?”


“All sorts of things differ,” Austin said. “Some of us get really fat instead of strong. Some have shark teeth, like me, and some of us like to take our enemies, rip open their throats, coat our skin in their blood, and dance naked under the light of a bright full moon.”


Willaby went pale. “W-what? Grunzen don’t d-do th-th-that.”


“Oh.” Austin’s grin went wider. “Guess that’s just me.”


A slight whimper escaped Willaby’s lips.


(A quick aside: Austin’s shark teeth are not a random trait of the grunzen. His were filed to that shape as part of his initiation ceremony as a warrior of the tribe. I am unsure as to the exact purpose of this lie, outside of scaring Willaby, though he is a grunzen, if that falsehood caused that fact to come into question.)


While this was happening, Skylar scooched himself, and, by extension, the chair he was bound to, over to the bronze-skinned, clean-shaven, stoic-faced warrior wearing a huge set of armor made out of scales of iron and hardened leather painted dark red. He also carried a long katana sheathed at his side.


“Psst,” he hissed, “hey Tomo.”


Tomo slowly turned to him.


“You’re going to help me get out of here, right?”


Tomo returned to staring straight ahead.


“C’mon,” Skyler pleaded, “don’t do me like that.”


“You have brought shame and dishonor upon yourself by betraying the trust given to you by your employer,” Tomo responded. “I do not wish to speak with you.”


“That makes it sound a lot worse than it actually is!”


“You attacked the charges you were supposed to be helping for the promise of gold coin.”


Skyler mumbled something unintelligible and angry. “Alright, fine! But I’ve learned my lesson. Please, Tomo.”


Solaire rolled his eyes. “Give it up. Mr. Stick-in-the-Ass isn’t going to budge.”


“I am not” Tomo confirmed.


“See?” Solaire replied.


“I also have no sticks in my anus.”


“You get many ladies with that sparkling personality of yours?” Solaire asked.


“I do not associate with women. I must remain pure, disciplined, and celibate to uphold the code of bushido.”


Solaire groaned. “Weiss, just get here already!”


“Shut up!” Skyler spat at him. “You, of all people, have no right to complain right now!”


“I have every right to complain,” Solaire shot back. “I’m stuck in this holding cell with three wet blankets and a crazy shark man.”


“Crazy shark man…” Austin muttered, amused.


“I see no damp sheets” Tomo observed.


“Yes, because of you!” Skyler scowled at him. “If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be down here.”


“I don’t recall holding a gun to your head to help me,” Solaire remarked. “If anyone has a right to complain, it’s the fat man with the whiskers.”


“Yeah!” Willaby exclaimed.


Solaire glared at him.


Willaby’s gaze returned to the floor. “B-but I won’t.”


“Don’t let him intimidate you!” Skyler yelled.


“Don’t let him intimidate you into not being intimidated!” Solaire yelled as well. “I’m very scary, trust me.”


Austin chuckled. “I like this one.”


“Are the sheets hidden?” Tomo asked.


“Shut up!” Skyler shouted.


“Or what?” Solaire challenged.


“I’ll shut you up myself!”


“Quite a boast coming from a man tied to a chair.”


“I will...”


CLANG.


Mr. Weiss entered at the other end of the room, accompanied by a thin man who looked like a vulture in human form, carrying a small book.


Austin and Tomo subtly straightened up.


“Vell, vell, vell.” He approached a metal table at the center of the room, set his red velvet tophat on the surface, and leaned onto the table. “Zis is quite ze interesting situation, nien?”


Willaby and Skylar glanced nervously at each other.


“Ah, but vhere are my manners?” Mr. Weiss continued. “Allov me to introduce myself; my name is Mr. Veiss, and I am your nev boss! Nov, you might hafe noticed zat zere is a metal plate attached to your skin. Vould anyone like to help me demonstrate it?”


Solaire narrowed his eyes at Weiss. “How about you demonstrate it after you shove it up your… GAAH!” A buzzing sound filled the air as Solaire jerked this way and that, eyes screwed shut in pain. When it was over, a long line of ozone-reeking smoke trailed from the plate in his neck.


“Zank you, Mr. Ravenheart.”


“It’s Solaire,” he gasped. “And happy to help.”


Weiss chuckled. “Zese are Abrary slave plates,” Solaire looked up and gritted his teeth at that, “and zey vork vis a combination of magic and technology too far adfanced for you to underschtand, let alone vork around. I can gife you a controlled, non-lethal schock vis zis,” he held up a small remote with a button, “or I can tell it to delifer a lethal blow. It vill also deliver a lethal schock if you tamper vis ze plate, attempt to remofe ze plate, or if my heart efer stops beatink. Undershtood?”


Nobody spoke.


“Excellent! I’m schure it goes visout saying, but you are all mine now. Vhen I say jump, you say ‘hov high?’ Vhen I say run, you say ‘hov fast?’ Zere are seferal tasks I need you to complete for me as ze days go by. Tomo and Aushtin” he said, gesturing to the two men behind them “vill also be helpink you. Vhile I am not vis you, zey will be in command, so if zey ashk you eizer of zose questions as vell, you are to respond in ze exact. same. vay. Do zis all vell and visout queschtion, zen ve can talk about releasing you.”


“Talk?” Solaire interjected. “You expect us to kiss ass to you for a pat on the head and a maybe?”


Weiss glanced over to Solaire. “Ah! Mr. Ravenheart…”


“It’s Solaire.”


“...glad to see you so… comfortable, on my schip. I hafe to say, you caused quite ze commotion back zere, vhat vis ze slot machine and ze gold coins and makink my men look like fools.” He smiled. “I’m schure ve vill hafe quite ze time workink togezer, Mr… Solaire.”


Solaire stared him right in the eye. “I’m sure we will, Mr. Weiss,” he said, pronouncing the name “Wees”.


“It’s Weiss” he corrected, pronouncing it “Vice”.


“Wees” Solaire confirmed.


“No, Vice.”


“Wees.”


“Vice.”


“Wees”


“Vice”


“Wees.”


“SKYLER!” Weiss exclaimed, loud enough to make the man jump. “I hafe to say, of all ze people I expected to see down here, you were not one of zem.”


The man in leathers squirmed a bit. “Well, you know what they say, first time for everything… right?”


“And your lasht, one way or anozer,” Wiess said, nodding. “Disappointink zat you decided to srow all zat talent avay. You had quite ze fote of confidence from your former captain, and I could see vhy. Hook svords are a hard veapon to mashter, much less climb vis, nien?”


“They are.” Skyler’s face began to look hopeful. “Lot of time and talent went into that.”


“Schame zat you couldn’t hafe had more discipline elsevhere in your life.”


“L-look, maybe we could work something out, right? Public apology, pay you the money back, m-maybe we could discuss other forms of favors?”


“Yes, and zen I’ll let eferyone know zat mutiny isn’t serious and seft from me is okie-dokie. Maybe I schould shtart forgifink ze gamblink debts as vell?” Weiss rolled his eyes. “Honeshtly, you shtruck me as smarter zan zat, Skyler.”


Skyler’s eyes fell to the floor. Willaby looked at Skyler, then back to Weiss. “I’m sorry, but there must have been a mistake here, sir.”


Weiss turned to him. “Ah! And Villaby, vas it?”


“Er, Willaby, yes.”


“I hafe to admit, I hadn’t had ze pleaschure of meetink you before. Do you mind tellink me vho you are?“


“Well,” he stammered. “I-I’m a baker. Was a baker, I suppose. Place burnt down. Not sure why, come to think about it. L’homme de guimauve, it was called. Specialized in cakes and pastries. I was the pastry chef.”


Weiss nodded. “And a sorcerer.”


The eyes of Skyler, Tomo, and Austin went wide as they stared at Willaby, who began to nervously fidget from the attention.


“Well, I-I-I mean, that didn’t really come into play with the baking thing. It was more of a minor… thing… I could do… sometimes.”


“Minor thing?” Skyler exclaimed. “You were lucky enough to be born with magic and power literally in your blood, and you call that a minor thing?”


Solaire yawned.


Willaby’s expression went dark for a second. “It’s only a good thing if you can control it, and I was not given that ability.” He turned back to Weiss. “But surely there has been a mistake! I had nothing to do with this commotion, I swear!”


“Oh really?” Weiss asked. “Because accordink to our records, you lied to a crew member to hide Mr. Solaire here…”


“He was threatening me with a gun!”


“...got into a shcuffle vis ze crew member vehn he tried to enter…”


“I panicked!”


“...cast a shpell to obscure vischion to aid in his escape…”


“That was an accident. I can’t always control…”


“...shtabbed ze poor crew man after Solaire had left…”


“...what? No... I didn’t…”


“...and zen attempted to fight ze security forces in ze hallway.” Weiss smiled. “Vell, at least ve got ourselfes a sorcerer out of all zat chaos, nien?”


A look of horrified realization crossed Willaby’s face. “You can’t.”


“Can, did, and done!” Weiss glanced back to the vulture man. “Nov, Vinthrop, if you vouldn’t mind giving zese people back zere veapons and oser effects so ve can let zem go. Zey schouldn’t be a problem vis ze plates.”


Winthrop approached, lifted a large oblong bag off the floor and onto the table, and opened it up. “Tomo, would you please untie Mr. Skyler?”


Tomo unsheathed the katan and flicked faster than the eye could follow. The various ropes binding Skyler fell to the ground as he stood up, rubbing his wrist.


Wintrhop began withdrawing items and placing them on the table. “Two hook swords, one custom made revolver pistol, long barreled, and one custom made revolver pistol, short barreled.”


Skyler took the items and placed them back in his holsters, mumbling as he did so.


“Next, Mr. Willaby please.”


Tomo repeated the motion to Willaby’s chair as he unsteadily got to his feet.


Wintrhop studied his notebook. “Nothing”


Solaire looked at Willaby and raised an eyebrow.


His face turned a bright shade of scarlet. “I’m a baker on vacation!”


“Zat won’t do.” Weiss reached into his coat and pulled out a short wooden rod, cut into square and diamond-like patterns. “Here’s a shpell focus. Schould reign back your power enough for you to defend yourself magically, efen sough it’s cheap. Try not to oferload it.”


Willaby took it and oggeled it like a jungle native encountering a bar of soap for the first time.

“Lastly, Solaire?”


Tomo repeated the motion, and for just a second, Solaire saw the side of his neck, There under the skin, so old it had been healed over, was a foreign object. A slave plate, he realized, as he walked to the table.


“One custom made revolver pistol, broad barrel. Two single shot hold-out pistol attached to a spring-mounted vambrace…”


Weiss took one of the hold-out pistols off of the table before Solaire could take it. It was a small flintlock, welded to a brass extension arm that could be drawn back and clicked into place. He pushed and pulled the spring back for a bit before nodding approvingly and extending it towards Solaire, who immediately snatched it out his hands.


Winthrop cleared his throat. “Two revolver pistols, one pair of knuckle guards, three daggers, one cutlass…”


“Gods and demons” Skyler muttered.


Solaire saw him remove the very last item he had on him before he was captured: a long ivory cane. A long ivory cane with a sword hidden inside.


“Can we hurry this up?” Solaire interrupted before Winthrop could announce the last item. “I need to get out of here before I fall asleep from boredom.”


Winthrop looked at him confused. “I beg your pardon?”


“C’mon, you know, faster! Vamoos! Andele!” He thought for a minute. “Eedspay-upsay!”


“We have a process we need to…”


Weiss chuckled. “It’s alright, Vinthrop.” He took the cane out of his hands and handed it over to Solaire. “ Let’s let him safe zat fim and figor for ze job, nien?”


Solaire took the cane and held it at his side, his only ace up his sleeve left secret.


“I vill let you knov vhen you are needed, gentlemen.” Weiss gestured to the open door beside him. “Until zat time, you are free to avail yourselfes of ze room and board in ze crew quarters.” He smiled. “Enjoy your shtay at ze Emperor.”


***


After a brief meal of not quite the worst slop he’d ever had, but pretty close, and a sleep on a cot that ranked just above “tavern floor” in Solaire’s experience, he was back out and about the ship, taking in the sights, sounds, smells and feels of it, mentally cataloging every weakness he could find or think of.

So he’d gotten a little curious and things hadn’t gone exactly as he’d planned. So what? The mission was still the same. Find out where the information about River was kept, steal it, and sail away, preferably with a gunshot through the neck of that smug Eiswhen-accented son-of-a-bitch in the red velvet suit. And yes, now the ending of the plan had a few complications thrown into it, but at least he had a reliable alibi until he was ready to make his move. Who knows? Maybe he could even get into a few places a bit easier like this.


While making his way through the engine room, trying to understand the mess of pipes and valves and having absolutely no luck doing so, he spotted the familiar form of a large man in a green tweed suit standing a bit away.


“Hey! You there!” Solaire called out.


Willaby turned around, saw Solaire, and attempted to hurry off.


“Wait a moment.” Solaire jogged up to him and put his hand on his shoulder. “I’m glad I ran into you. I found the captain’s room, but it’s sealed with some kind of multi-stage lock I’ve never seen before.”


“M-hmm.” Willaby started to strode away.


Solaire kept pace. “It’d take me too long to pick it, so I thought that you could do whatever that magic voodoo you do to it. Maybe melt it off.”


“Mmm,” he responded. His tone became more terse.


“So if you just want to follow me…”


“What’s that?” Willaby’s gaze suddenly shot up and to the right, at something he couldn’t see. “You need my help over there? Way over there? And you need me to come alone? Will do, good sir!” He walked away from Solaire with a quick march, refusing to look back.


Solaire scratched his head. “What’s up with him?” He shrugged and turned up a staircase, heading to an upper deck.


Voices sounded from the landing above him, just out of his view. Curious, he slowed his pace and listened as he walked.


“Darrensby, would you just listen to me?”


“I did listen, and I told you no.”


Solaire turned a corner and saw Skyler arguing with someone he didn’t recognize on the staircase landing, though from the uniform, he could tell the other man was one of the ship hands. As he came into view, both of them stopped to look at Solaire.


“Oh, blast it to hell” Skyler groaned.


The shiphand sniggered. “Why don’t you ask your girlfriend there?”


Skylar glared at the man and grabbed a handful of his shirt, shoving him down the stairs. He caught himself easily and winked back at Skyler as he passed Solaire and descended the steps.


“What in the name of the abyss do you want?” Skyler spat at him.


“I found the captain’s quarters,” Solaire responded, “but I’m unfamiliar with the lock. Since you’ve been here for a bit…”


“Of course.” Skyler rolled his eyes and try to push his way past the pale noble. “Rot in hell, Solaire.”


Solaire stepped in front of him. “What is this about? This hostility. You and the tweed man, you both…”


“Tweed man?” Skyler’s stare shot daggers at Solaire. “You mean Willaby?”


“If that’s his name.”


“You want to know what’s wrong, Solaire? You ruined our lives. We’re pissed off at you. So if you’d please go away…”


“I did that?” Solaire thought for a moment. “Tweed might have a case, but I remember you being just as eager as me to get off this ship with that money.”


“Yeah, and you know what? I thought that meant working together. We could have escaped, easy, but when I turned around, my ally was nowhere to be found. Instead I had a whole other platoon of robots getting in line to stab me.”


“Well, that was your fault for trusting me.”


Skyler put his arm across Solaire’s throat and pushed him into the wall. “Until Weiss gets whatever that job is lined up for us,” he growled, scowling at him inches away from Solaire’s face, “I don’t want to see you. You get that?” He shoved himself off and walked down the stairs before Solaire could respond.


Solaire stood in the empty staircase for a moment before continuing his climb upwards.


***


There’s only so much searching any man can do in a day before his body makes a request for food, however vile, and so Solaire tore himself away from his task once evening fell to make his way back to the crew’s mess hall.


The large room was incredibly loud and crowded, with sailors and wait staff moving this way and that, shouting over each other and raccously laughing. Whatever revulsive white creamy stew they had served the day before was today’s dish as well, as people lined up to fill up their wooden bowl and move into one of the many long tables running the entire length of the hall.


“Hey, fairy man!” A sudden motion from across the room caught Solaire’s eye. It was a green lime, sailing through the air to hit Willaby on his back, who didn’t so much as turn around from his spot seated in the corner when it hit him. “Give us another dose of pixie dust!” A chorus of cruel laughter rang out.


Skyler stood up next to him and shouted back “Fuck off!”


“Oooh, I’m so scared,” the man at the table retorted back. “He might fight us. Here, is this enough?” The group began throwing copper pennies at Skyler, who stood there and fumed as the coins rained down upon them.


Willaby gently grabbed Skyler’s arm. “Forget it, it’s not worth it.”


Solaire sighed and walked over to the table of taunters.


The apparent ringleader of the group saw him walking over and nudged the others. “Hey, lookit. We’ve got the mastermind right here! Tell me, what’s it feel like to be smart enough to come up with a heist like that?” he shouted as the others howled.


“Why? Want some help filling the holes between your ears?” Solaire asked.


The laughter died down, replaced by stares of anger. The man got up from the other end of the table and walked around until he was inches away from Solaire’s face. “You think you’re clever, huh?”


“Not really,” Solaire said. “But among you lot, it sure makes me look like it.”


He nodded, turned back to his friends and nodded, then reeled back with a sudden wide swing aimed straight at Solaire’s head.


As Solaire watched the sailor telegraph his punch, he couldn’t help but feel disappointed. Schoolyard bullies fight the same everywhere, it seems.


Solaire ducked under the blow and lunged forward, driving his fist straight into the pit of the man’s stomach. Startled, he clutched his belly and leaned over in pain, allowing Solaire to move past him and drive his foot into the back of his thigh, toppling him onto the ground and giving the noble space to put his shoe onto the back of his neck.


Across the table, the man’s friends started to get up.


Solaire drew the Ivory River and aimed it at them.


The whole mess hall went silent.


“You stupid or something?” one of them snarled. “You got that shock plate on you. One call to Weiss and you’ll fry.”


“Go ahead,” Solaire invited. “Honestly, I’m curious how many how many of you I could take with me before I went down.” He twirled, moving open the flaps of his coat and revealing the small armory stored inside. “Enough to use all twenty bullets loaded, I’m sure. Then we’d have to get creative with the daggers. So, who wants to go fetch Weiss?”


You could hear a pin drop in the mammoth room.


“Right then.” He faced the rest of the mess hall. “Listen up you lily-livered arse-faced shit-for-brains collections of human waste! My name is Captain Solaire Ravenheart and these,” he gestured to Willaby and Skyler, “are my crew! Anyone has a problem with my crew, they take it up with me! Anyone who takes it up with me has a bullet from this gun in their future! Now did you all get that or would you like for me to repeat it slower?!”


The only reply was an awkward cough from the back.


“Good!” Solaire removed his foot from the man’s neck and knelt down next to him. “How about you?” he whispered. “We understand each other?”


The man quickly nodded.


“Excellent.” Solaire stood up, gave the man a swift kick in the side, and headed over to Willaby and Skyler. Slowly, the staring heads turned back and the conversation picked up again.


“You always make that much of an entrance?” Skyler asked.


“Usually.” Solaire responded, then sighed. “Listen, I know the two of you hate me. And you have every right, so hate me all you want. Hell, plot your revenge while you’re at it. But since we’re stuck together, we might as well work together while we’re here. Save the shouting and fighting and stabbing for when we’re off this ship, alright?”


Willaby and Skyler looked at each other, then back to Solaire.


“You… you want to sit here?” Willaby asked, pointing to the seat next to him.


Solaire shrugged. “Don’t see why not.” He picked up the lime from the ground, sat down, and began to peel it with a dagger as three of them sat together.

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