22nd Trial, Cylus, Arc 718
Foster's Landing, Etzosi Coast
Foster's Landing, Etzosi Coast
"So that's the left, right?"
"If you're standing at the stern-"
"The back, and you're looking down at the bow-"
"The front, right?"
"Yeah, if you're at the stern and looking at the bow, then the port is the left side."
"What if I'm looking off the ship?"
"... then it don't much fucking matter, does it?"
"Oh, for fuck's..."
Stefan didn't know why the old bugger was getting so ornery about. He was hardly a fucking sea dog himself, after all. Both of them had signed up for a job - no, a voyage, he reminded himself - on the Charon a handful of days before with about the same amount of nautical knowledge. Which was to say, fuck all. Now Daniel spends a few breaks around the first mate and suddenly he's a sodding expert? The younger man tapped his pipe over the edge of the side and into the black water.
"Oh, calm yerself, for fuck's sake," he muttered as he watched the rain of red embers twinkle down to die on the lapping waves. "I'll have it straight by the time we cast off. See? Got those words right, didn't I?"
Daniel just shook his head and made a note to keep an eye on the boy. He was an eager one, and good with his fists, but he wasn't rolling drunks or breaking legs for shylocks or even lending the odd hand rousting merchants on the road anymore. Captain Renks didn't fuck about with his crew. Rumor was, he'd been known to hang one now and then, just to remind the rest to stay afraid of him.
"You'll learn what y'need to on the voyage," was all Renks said when Daniel had admitted their... temporary shortcomings, when it came to seafaring experience. The old cunt had fixed them with hollow eyes and grunted. "You'll learn fast, or y'won't learn at all... or ever again."
Danny had no bloody doubts the man wasn't joking. Clearing his nephew thought otherwise.
He's young. You're dumb when you're young. We always forget that, when we get old. Probably-
"Oi, bloody hell are you going now?"
Stefan stopped in mid-step, like a pantomime actor caught in the act. One hand on the rail of the plank leading down to the wharf, another picking his teeth, eyes wide and dripping with wounded innocence. "Gonna get somethin' t'eat. Want anything?"
"Steff..." Daniel closed the gap between them, feeling the schooner gently roll under his feet. Even strapped to the land she was restless. He flashed a look about the deck before he spoke, in cast the First Mate or the cook was skulking about. "We got watch duty until the early breaks. Both of us. That don't mean you can fuck of just cuz your fucking stomach rumbles!"
"But I'm starving-!"
Hell's Fuck, he sounded like such a child. He still was one, in more than one way. If Daniel didn't give now, he'd be a mopey sod all night. He rubbed his beard and sighed and his eyes flickered to the burst of noise down the foggy street. The Rampant Reptile, doing a good business. He nodded to the swinging lamp outside and growled, in no mood to fuck about.
"... a'right, down to the Reptile, two skewers of curried goat, back here. That's five fucking bits and if you're a fucking trill late-"
"Yeah, yeah, a sound thrashing-"
A meaty hand snapped out and grabbed Stefan by the collar. Yanked him close enough to see the steel and fire still burnished and burning under all the wrinkles. All his boyish arrogance faded, replaced by a brittle defiance that was wavering every moment Daniel glared down at him.
"No. I'll tell the Captain when he comes back. Now be fucking quick."
He let go and pushed at the same point. Let the stupid little shit glare and mutter as he walked away, if that's what it took to get his head straight. This wasn't rugrat shit they were about to pull: they were embarking on a proper voyage. Trials at sea, no hint of land, not a smear of it on the horizon. Just salt and biscuits and wet wood...
Daniel smirked to himself and went back to his duty, arms crossed as he paced up and down the deck of the Charon. There'd be other ships, too. Traders and merchants whizzing across the sea, bearing their bounty from one continent to another. Loaded down with furs and spices and oils and dyes and all other such cargo that was so, so expensive, because it came from so, so far away. They'd pack the schooner's holds with then, ship after ship, slaughter the crews and sink the empty shell left once booty and bodies were culled. Just one of them would provide enough look for him to finally, finally retire. A whole voyage, well-
His nostrils twitched. He frowned. Face taking on the distinct look of an annoyed bear, and he turned to the shuffling footsteps coming back up onto the ship.
"Fuck me," he growled, holding his nose as the figure approached. "Full marks on speed, boy, but did y'step in shite on yer-"
"Alms? Alms, sir? Please... jus' a copper a' two..."
"Who the... what in the fuck are you doing up here?!"
Whoever he was, he stank like shit and looked just as bad. Everything from his sandals to his cloak was battered and torn and tattered and stained and he smelled like he'd been marinated in turds, not just ambled through a couple. Stefan recoiled from the little bowl shaking his way, meager handful of coins inside entreating him to add to them. He swallowed hard and tried not to breath through his nose.
"Fuck off, you... no, stop shoving that in my-"
The beggar's arm swung up and across, and Stefan realized he'd been conned. The shuffle, the slurred voice, the stink of fresh shit and fried booze... all constructed to get him to lower his guard. Just another smelly derelict, no worry there. But that wasn't what killed him. It was the begging bowl. Clinking and rattling so close to his face, drawing his eyes, his attention, so he didn't ask himself where the other hand was-
-until it was swinging up at him-
-and holding holding something curved and shiny.
The beggar swung like he was trying to punch him in the throat, only he came up short. But the blade he was holding didn't. The forward-curved blade slashed through beard and flesh and blood with equal relish, karambit designed for such horrific carving. Stefan tried to cry out and the sound was a gargled, strangled, soaking thing that seemed to wheeze out of the hole the knife had ripped in him.
He clutched at his throat and his hand was drenched. His eyes popped open and he sank to his knees. Already the blackness was swimming around his vision. The world got smaller, focused into a pinprick as the darkness grew larger. Drowned his view as he drowned on his own blood, barely conscious of the torrent of it pouring out his throat, soaking his coat down to his breeches and then dripping even lower.
The last thing he saw was the beggar staring down at him. Cold, indifferent eyes measured the damage it had wrought... then walked away.
Kasoria had waited long enough, and wanted this job over. He didn't watch the lookout slump over onto the deck, and didn't need to. He knew a mortal wound when he saw one, beyond the ken and skills of any healer. He'd been dealing them out for decades, after all.