Down by the Dock

Our Sailor took the old man up on his offer, after a cup or two of coffee, his wits slowly returned. He had reached the resolve that he had been acting foolish this morning and felt ashamed that such sloth and villainy of carousing had taken him so far into the throes of a depression, not to mention causing him to miss his ship. He still felt like crap, but self-aware crap at least.

The words of the old man at the dock were running through his mind as he sipped down the  hot revitalizing beverage. Who was that old man?  How could he have come across him, right in his moment of need? What enterprise would cause a captain to search for his own crew, and such a desperate crewhand such as our sailor was? He did not design to think too much about it, a gift horse in the mouth and all that. Still, he seemed a curious little fellow and, as our sailor downed the last of his coffee, grounds and all, the old man’s curious style and what he had said compelled him to at least  go down to the dock at the mentioned time and get a measure of what kind of ship the old man ran and what company it would keep. If travels made way back towards friendlier waters, it might be his only chance in months or even a year to get off of this remote outpost town.

The winds of the day were rising with the sun. In little time he made his way back down the docks and rounded the warehouse on dock 7.  Moored to the peir was not a brig at all, but a sleek and relatively thin three-masted schooner bobbing and creaking on the slight waves.  He looked upon the ship and it seemed such a strange vessel from the stout and bloated craft he was used to seeing at home. Even here, this craft was unusually slim and beautiful in its sleek stance. Atop its deck was erected a stately and comforting looking cabin with rows of glass windows. The sails were rolled against the masts and it looked like a comfortable boat at least. Written over the back was the word “Wanderlust”. He swept his gaze to the gangplank and the dock where stood a queer assortment of individuals.

Eleven were made by his count, of people clad in such disparate garb as one dark-skinned woman with a long, loose, hooded garment that came down to her ankles with full sleeves. Her hood was down and showed her smooth skin-shaved head and she seemed to carry some kind of pack on her back. There were two tall, they must have been at least 6″7′, Scandinavian men with hair so blonde the strands seemed to radiate in the sunlight, their pale skin was reddened by the tropical sun and they stood silent and grimacing together with deep-cut wrinkled faces cast in their own shadow. They wore simple woolen tunics, one blue and one green. A child no more than 11 or 12 stood stoutly garbed like a pirate might with silk scarves and ornaments and even a pistol braced on his chest. There were then five sailors that our own sailor might have called “normal” on the first inspection. They were clad in boots and jackets of a similar in type to his own, he saw then that there was among them a tan Spaniard with black hair, a young lad with curly red hair,  an old man with long, greasy grey hair, a burly man with a massive gut but supported well by the rest of his frame, so it seemed, and a thin-faced man with brown hair who crouched atop a nearby barrel. These individuals stood about on the dock, not talking to one another, but seemed to be waiting on the words of the two remaining individuals: An individual with such broad shoulders and a puffing chest, it took a closer inspection to see that she was, in fact, a woman of such massive frame in a kind of officers coat, hat, and dressed smartly. Behind her was a sober and thin looking man in a long black coat, he stood cleaning his spectacles.

Our sailor made his way to the group and saw that the old man from earlier was exiting the cabin to stand up on the deck, the small man was smoking his pipe and took a moment to exchange a few words with the black-coated man. Our sailor walked up to the group of disparate people and came first upon the bald woman in the red hooded garb.

“Hello.” he said to her after a moment, “Is this some kind of passanger ship?”

She glanced in his direction and said “La tatahadath maei.”

He was taken aback and resolved to be silent.

“She says don’t talk to her.” Came the deep voice of one of the nearby Scandinavians, the one in the green shirt. The tree of a man did not uncross her arms or look back to our sailor but remained with as solemn a look as ever could.

“Oh.” Our sailor said.

“She don’t speak the King’s.” The red-haired lad interjected. ” Not sure, maybe she’s in the wrong port.” He began poking her shoulder as though she were an oddity. “My name’s Kib, Don’t know how the Norwegian knows her demon tongue, but he don’t speak much o’ anything I’m sure there’s a good reason to bring-”

The woman spun around and slapped his hand away and spoke sternly into his face, “La talmus ‘aya waqt madaa!”

Her dark eyes stunted the lad, striking him to paralysis down to his feet. He shook where he stood under her lasting gaze. Our sailor laughed at the stricken Kib with his bugged eyes.

The Scandinavian leaned over Kibs shoulder in his pose. “She said don’t ever touch her again.”

Kib put his hands up “No harm done, no harm done. Will you tell her Norwegian? Tell her I’m sorry.”

“Yaqul altifl ‘iinah asif.” The scandinavian said.

She did not take her gaze off from Kib for a beat before looking up to the scandinavian and nodding and turning her back to Kib.

The red-haired lad put a hand on his heart. “Lord above, I’d swear she put some spell on me.”

Our sailor was thoroughly amused, he had met enough young lads who go about the world as though it were something to poke fun at, all too often they met with the teeth of their own ignorance to how things worked. Still, he began to wonder if such a strange collection were to crew the ship or if they were merely passengers. Perhaps both.

He was about to inquire to the scandinavian how he had come to learn such a strange language and what tongue it was, for the bald woman before him evoked such an alluring curiosity of someone he had never seen before. He would have liked to know what lands she was from, but before he could ask, the large woman in the officer’s uniform on the gangplank spoke in a deep commanding voice.

“Captain Tilluck will see you one at a time to add you to the ledger. This man next to me is Dr. Lunding, he will write your names down and in his book, you’ll make your mark if allowed. The pay is for the passage and for each passage only of 30 marks per passage, if that doesn’t suit you forgotten lot, then you can wait for the next ship or otherwise begone. Each sailor on this vessel is expected to work to make their keep and pay. That’s for the captain to decide. The first passage is around the horn, so it is not for the faint of heart, but it is up to you whether you sign on. Furthermore, if you are signed on, you are bound to-”

She trailed off, as her eyes glared down at the young child with the pistol.

“What are you doing here?”

The kid jumped up onto a barrel. “I’m gonna be a pirate!”

This elicited laughs from everyone who spoke English, in the case of the bald woman, the scandinavian translated for her and she put a hand up to her mouth with pitying eyes.

The big woman in the officer’s uniform laughed heartily. “Get away with you, this is no place for a child, where are your parents?”

The child spit onto the dock. “I ran away and if ye won’t let me come then I’ll have to shoot!”

WIth that, the kid took up the pistol on his shirt and pointed it at the woman. Her eyes flashed wide and a moment later the hammer hit home in the child’s pistol. Nothing happened.

“HA! you’re dead now, Now I’m the captain!”

An uneasy silence pervaded except for the blue-shirted scandinavian and the man on the barrel and Kib who roared with laughter while the big woman glowered at the child. In a swift motion, she stepped off the gangplank, hefted the kid up with one arm by the seat of his pants and pitched him and his pistol with one arm into the water. The kid made a splash off the end of the dock and bobbed up a moment later, his little face redder than a storm bouy.

“Get on now, I don’t want to see you back here again! You wet little rat!”

The kid swam down to the next dock and climbed up, dripping out of sight…

 

 

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