Mayrie was bored of her life. Apart from sporadic visits from her brother, the most exciting thing she could do was plan where to plant vines or how to run their business. Eventually she had decided; she'd had enough. She wasn't going to sit around and waste her life being bored.
She'd sent a message to Tayend, telling him to meet her at the docks in a week. She made the journey into Capia, making sure that all the servants knew not to inform her husband of where she was. Hopefully, if all went well, she'd never see idiotic Orrend ever again.
Waiting for her on the dock was a blonde woman in rough men's clothing, reclining on a pile of crates. Suddenly nervous, Mayrie approached her. "Are you…Laura?"
The woman looked up and grinned, her golden hair falling back from her face. She looked like she came from one of the northern parts of Elyne. "Hey. Yeah. I am she." Laura got up, stretching her legs and brushing the dust off of her. "And you're Mayrie, right?" Mayrie nodded. "Well, nice to meet you. You are the one who wants to fund our ship, right?"
Mayrie grinned, her eyes lighting up. "Yes, that's me! I'm hoping it'll be an escape from…well, from a bad situation."
Laura nodded and said nothing more. "You have someone meeting you here or do you want to go straight away?" she asked.
Mayrie nodded. "Yes, my brother is meeting us here." At that moment she spotted a familiar flash of bright hair and clothes in the crowd. "Tayend!" she called.
Tayend looked up from fighting off a horde of his usual fans and waved. "There you are, Mayrie darling!" he trilled, giving her a heartfelt glomp. She patted his head affectionately. "Now, what am I doing here?"
"We're going sailing," Mayrie said happily.
Tayend went white. "Mayrie!" he yelled, "you know I hate sailing!"
"But this will be fun, Tayend. Come on." Brooking no more protest, she led a whining Tayend after Laura, who sent furtive glances at her brother every so often over her shoulder. Mayrie decided not to think about it.
They came to a large ship, where Laura stopped and grinned. "Hey, come out idiots!" she called. Mayrie raised an eyebrow. Tayend whimpered.
A Sachakan woman looked over the side of the ship. She grinned. "Hey, watch out! Some tramp's trying to get on our ship!"
Laura stuck out her tongue. "Idiot. Go get my sister."
The Sachakan winked and disappeared. Laura then made her way up the gangplank, with Mayrie trying to follow. Unfortunately, Tayend wasn't having any of it. "Leave me alone, Mayrie!" he whined. "I'm not coming! I hate boats!"
Mayrie sighed. "But Tayend," she wheedled, "we're going somewhere fun. Come on, when was the last time we had an adventure?"
Tayend shifted uncomfortably. "Ages ago," he muttered, "but that doesn't mean I'm coming!"
"Why not?" Mayrie yelled, losing her patience.
"I get sick!" Tayend shouted back at her.
Laura decided that she would unobtrusively sidle up the gangplank and leave the siblings to their argument, which was becoming heated.
"Why can't you just leave me out of it, whatever you're up to?" Tayend yelled.
Mayrie looked hurt. "I want you to come with me," she said quietly.
Tayend bit his lip. "I want…I want to come with you, Mayrie, honestly, but not on a boat…"
"You went on a boat before."
"Yes, but then I was with…" Tayend stopped as a sudden idea came to him. "Hey, Laura!" he yelled. A blonde head appeared. "Do you have a spare space on your ship?"
Laura shrugged. "I guess. We're pretty low on crew, as usual."
Tayend smiled. "Then Dannyl can come, right?" he asked Mayrie.
She shrugged. "I guess so. But we're about to leave, Tayend."
"No problem." Tayend grinned and pulled something from his pocket. "See this? I just press this button, and Dannyl should appear."
Mayrie stared at it. "Where did you get that?"
"Rothen gave it to me. Said someone should be able to get him out of any scrapes he runs into. It's latest technology as well."
Tayend lifted his finger and was about to press the button when Mayrie grabbed his arm. "Wait, what if he's in the bath or something?"
Tayend shrugged. "All the better," he grinned slyly.
Mayrie whacked his arm. "Tayend, you…Whatever, just press it."
Tayend did so, and with a magical poof a bundle of purple robes and yelling landed on the quayside. Obviously Dannyl had been sitting somewhere, so he fell in a heap on the stone cobbles. "Ow!" he yelled, sitting up and looking around. He spotted Tayend. "What am I…?" Then he noticed the device in Tayend's hand. "Where did you get that?" he gaped. "Who on earth gave it to you?"
Tayend winked and slipped it back into his coat pocket. "For me to know and you to wonder," he said, laughing. "Now come on, Dannyl, we're going on an adventure!"
"Um, what?" Dannyl protested as he was manhandled up the gangplank. "Wait, Tayend I can't just leave-"
"Are we all sorted then?" Laura asked cheerily, appearing from below deck.
"Yes!" Tayend and Mayrie chirped happily, with a gloomy mutter from Dannyl.
"Well, good. You can meet the captain then."
Mayrie hopped up and down excitedly and almost skipped up to the poop deck, where they found a young woman in a long black coat and tricorn hat sitting in a chair that had been placed just in front of the ship's wheel. She had put her feet, encased in knee high leather boots, up on the wheel and crossed them over, affecting a perfect image of nonchalance. She was also smoking a pipe, which Laura promptly knocked out of her hand. "What did I tell you about that?" she scolded.
The young woman sniffed and sat up, revealing her face, which was tan skinned and surrounded by dark gold hair. She was also, Mayrie noted with surprise, younger than Laura. Her eyes gleamed. "It's all for the image," she growled, staring at the pipe as if she could will it out of the other woman's hands.
Laura sniffed distastefully and with a casual motion she slung the pipe over the side. Its previous owner watched it go with a sigh. "And no more buying others," Laura said, wagging a finger. "I know you."
The as yet unnamed woman held up her hands. "Alright, I promise, I promise." She turned her attention suddenly onto the newcomers. "These our illustrious patrons, then?"
"The lady is," Laura corrected, "The blonde's her brother, and the magician…yeah, I dunno about him."
Mayrie stepped forward eagerly. "Good to meet you. I assume you're the captain?"
The young woman stood. "Indeed. Captain StuffRocksInnit is my full name, though most people call me Captain Stuffs."
Tayend frowned, puzzled. "That doesn't sound much like a real name."
Stuffs shrugged. "Well, on account of it being my stage name, ain't it? Anyway, welcome to The Lustful Barnacle. Now, where we going, my lady?" she asked, making a quick bow to Mayrie.
Dannyl and Tayend shared a look at the ship's odd name, and Mayrie threw up her arms. "Anywhere!"
Later, after they had cast off, the captain and Laura decided that their guests should meet the rest of the crew. There weren't many of them, and they all lined up obediently on deck. Captain Stuffs stood in front of them, checking over the proceedings and fanning herself with her hat, while Laura introduced the rest of the crew.
"I'm first mate," she grinned, giving them a mock bow, "and this lady here you've met before." She indicated the Sachakan woman who they had seen when they first arrived.
She nodded solemnly. "Takan," she said, her voice grave, "good to meet you. I'm on crow's nest."
Dannyl looked puzzled. "Isn't Takan a man's name?" he asked.
Takan's shoulders slumped. "Honestly, I put on all this grave manner to dissuade you from asking that question, and yet there it is." She sighed. "I don't know, my mother was weird."
Dannyl shrugged. "Join the club."
Laura moved them on, waving to the next person in line, a young Kyralian with her waist length hair tied back in a bun. She smiled demurely. "I'm Carrea," she said, "Midshipwoman."
They nodded and moved on to a young Elyne man with close cropped dark gold hair, who grinned. "I'm Ronan, ship's cook!" he announced happily.
The next in line was the youngest there, a Kyralian who smiled a little nervously and introduced herself, "Ralo, an ableseawoman. Nice to meet you."
That was everyone, and Stuffs immediately decided things needed seeing to. "All right crew, back to stations. I'll want you to check that rigging soon, Takan, it looks like it needs a patch-up…And tighten that halerd, Ralo, it doesn't look tight enough…" She stood for a second, hands on hips, considering. "Well, there are some sails that need darning, Carrea, if you want to see to that, and I'm sure you know what needs to get done in the galley, Ronan, so off you trot. Now, Lord Dannyl, can you paint?"
Dannyl looked confused. "Well, I've produced an accurate enough depiction of a flower in my time, but it wasn't much…"
Stuffs crooked a finger and Laura dumped a large paint brush and a foul smelling pot into her hands. She passed them to the astounded magician. "There you are. A nice new coat of varnish. All the railings, if you please. Have fun."
Leaving Dannyl to splutter at the indignity of it all, she strode across the deck. However, when she was halfway, she stopped and scuffed her toe along it. "Dirty," she pronounced, "this needs a clean." A groan rose up from her surroundings. "No worries, this is a job for a strong gentleman." She winked at Tayend. "Come on, no work no food. I'd go get changed if I were you. You can borrow something from the chest, Ralo, show him where to go and grab some swabbers. And you can do it too, this deck is filthy."
Ralo grabbed Tayend by the wrist and dragged him inside, and Stuffs made her way undisturbed to her chair, and resumed her earlier position, sometimes swinging the wheel a little to the left or right. Mayrie leaned uncertainly against the railing whilst Laura perched on the stern, spreading a few maps over her lap. "Do you have any idea where you want to go, Mayrie?" she asked.
Mayrie came to look over the maps with her. "I don't know. How about Vin first?"
Laura rubbed her hands together. "Good good, lots of vessels, plenty of plunder."
Mayrie looked concerned. "I don't actually have to…participate in any of these raids, do I?" she asked nervously.
Stuffs waved a lazy hand. "Not if you can't fight. And I don't imagine that prissy brother of yours can wield a sword either."
Mayrie snorted. "Not to save his life."
"But," Stuffs sat up, "we have a magician on our side. Hmmm."
Mayrie frowned. "Somehow I don't think he'll like using his powers to plunder other vessels. It may be best to keep him out of the way."
"Ah well, the world's a loss, eh?" Stuffs winked at Laura, who grinned.
"What?" Mayrie asked, confused.
"It's a north Elyne thing," Laura smiled.
"I thought you might be from Northern Elyne," Mayrie said. "Are you sisters?"
Laura nodded. "Aye. I'm a bit older than Stuffs, but we were so similar when we were small people used to call us twins."
Stuffs snorted. "And now they joke behind my back that I'm the evil twin, right?"
Laura laughed. "You are the evil twin."
Stuff's eyes sparkled from underneath the shadow of her hat. "Perhaps I am," she murmured darkly, her grin giving her serious tone a light edge. "Perhaps I am."
That night, after they had sampled some of Ronan's delicious cooking, the crew drank copiously and sang drinking songs long into the night, and it seemed their main aim was to get Dannyl drunk.
"Come on," Takan said, waving the bottle in front of his nose with an evil grin, "get a bit down you."
Dannyl frowned at her but took a perfunctory sip. The crew roared happily, and the bottle went round again, getting steadily less full as it did. The only person who took barely as much as Dannyl was Stuffs, who sat on the very edge of the wide circle in a dark corner. She had produced another pipe from somewhere halfway through the evening, but by then Laura was too far into the bottle to care, and a light cloud of smoke now hung lazily around her head. She smiled mysteriously at Mayrie whenever the young woman chanced to look over at her.
Mayrie herself had probably had a little too much, but she wasn't worried. She knew Dannyl well enough to guess how deep his relationship with Tayend had become, and the only man there apart from her now hopelessly inebriated brother was Ronan, who had been teased earlier in the evening about some hilarious escapade with a former boyfriend, so Mayrie safely assumed he too was a lad.
When she finally staggered to bed, helping poor Dannyl to hold up the weight of her completely wasted brother, she felt the ship rocking beneath her even more, and wondered if she would be sick. There were tiny portholes in each room, she remembered, so hopefully if the worst came to the worst…She shuddered. When they finally reached Tayend's door, Mayrie helped Dannyl to lug him through and onto the small mattress before standing wobbily on her tiptoes to kiss Dannyl's cheek. "Thank you for coming, Dannyl," she said, suddenly having to hold his arm to keep from falling.
He smiled at her. "It's nothing. Now, I should help you to bed, as well." Mayrie tried to protest, but he insisted and she found his help rather useful, though she would not have admitted it. By the time she was lying on her bed, she found herself flat out exhausted, and she fell asleep in an instant, smiling.
A few weeks later they had sailed to Vin and had taken a good haul in plunder. Dannyl, Tayend and Mayrie had been locked in their cabins for the duration of the raids, so the two men were none the wiser. Now, Stuffs had decided to sail to one of the lands to the west of Vin. "But that's not an Allied Land," Dannyl had protested.
"Doesn't matter," Stuffs shrugged, "we'll still be welcome there."
So they made port after a week in a land not dissimilar in climate to Vin, where every house was made out of paper screens and bamboo wood and most of the occupants strolled around in special dresses of varying degrees of opulence. And, much to their guests' dismay, owned slaves.
"Another slave owning land," Dannyl sighed as they sat on the quay, enjoying the sun. "It's a pity…"
Mayrie, who was sitting with him, shrugged despondently. "What can you do?" she asked, her mouth pouting in a little moue of displeasure.
Suddenly they heard someone shouting their names. It was Ronan, and he flung himself down hastily next to them and cried breathlessly, "They've sold Tayend!"
Mayrie and Dannyl looked at each other. "What?" Mayrie asked.
Ronan leaned over, trying to get his breath back, and wheezed, "Stuffs and…Takan…sold Tayend…to slave traders."
Dannyl's mouth fell open. "They did what?" he yelled, jumping up.
"Sold him to slave traders," Ronan repeated.
"But why?" Mayrie cried, feeling tears well up in her eyes.
Ronan shrugged. "I think Stuffs was drunk. And let me tell you, that doesn't happen often. And Takan just sort of…thought it would be funny?"
Dannyl clenched his fists. "I'll show them how funny it is when I get hold of them!" he yelled. Then he knelt back down and grabbed Ronan's shoulders. "Where were they when they sold him? Do you know what the traders looked like?"
Ronan thought for a second. "Well, I can take you to the bar where the others are; I think someone else might have seen them…"
Dannyl nodded, and offered his hand to Mayrie. "Okay, come on."
They arrived a few minutes later at a seedy looking bar which had tables outside it, all covered with large sheet of cloth serving as a sun screen. At one of these tables the crew of The Lustful Barnacle where deep in heated discussion. Dannyl strode over to them and, without preamble, yelled, "Where's Tayend?"
They all went silent and looked at him for a second, before Laura wailed, "Stuffs sold him! I can't believe I have to call her my sister!" She covered her eyes with her arm.
"It wassh gud bishness…" Stuffs slurred, grinning lopsidedly at Dannyl.
"You're obviously ragingly drunk, and probably unaccountable for your accounts," Mayrie concluded, before turning to Takan. "Which makes you the culprit, I believe."
Takan shrugged. "Sorry. It was a bad decision. I guess we should go get him back."
Laura jumped up from the table. "Yeah! Come on Dannyl, they'll be scared of you! Let's go rescue Tayend! Takan, you're in disgrace, so you can stay here and look after Stuffs."
Takan pouted and muttered something, but stayed with the captain while the rest of them raced off after Laura to another part of the city. They arrived at a large warehouse just in time to see a man closing up shop. Laura caught his arm and asked breathlessly, "Is this where the slave traders buy slaves?"
The man nodded. "Aye, it is. We've just closed up for the day. If you want to speak to a specific trader, you'll have to find their boat."
Laura groaned and turned back to the group. "Does anyone remember what the name of the boat was that they sold Tayend to?"
"The Dreaming Shark!" Ralo said happily, "I remember because one of the traders had it tattooed on his arm!"
Again they raced through the city until they came to the docks. They asked the harbourmaster if he knew the whereabouts of The Dreaming Shark, and he pointed them to a squat ship tethered to the end of one of the long piers. "You'd best hurry though, my friends," he warned, "they're about to set sail."
The group dashed along the wooden boards, Laura and Dannyl sprinting out in front. "We'll save you Tayend!" Laura cried.
When they got there they found that the boat had already drawn up its gangplank, and Laura suddenly fell to her knees. "We'll never catch them!" she cried.
Dannyl waved his hands and rose into the air. "Fear not, I can fly!" he said, grinning, and he floated over to the boat. There were shouts of surprise, then anger, and then a few people flew over the sides of the ship. Then there was quiet, and the boat ceased to move. Then, suddenly, Dannyl appeared, floating, over the side of the ship, carrying a familiar face.
"Tayend!" everyone cried, and rushed to hug him when they landed.
"Hello everyone!" Tayend said, smiling despite his brush with disaster. "Are you all alright?"
"We didn't even have to do anything!" Carrea said, grinning, "Dannyl did everything for us!"
"Three cheers for the magician!" Ronan yelled, and the quay reverberated to the noise of their celebration.
The room was stuffy and hot, and the Guild Administrator wasn't best pleased. "So, you sold a member of the Elyne court to slave traders, then attacked the slave traders and threw them overboard to rescue him? What in hell possessed you to do such things? Do you have any idea how much trouble we're in now because of it?"
Dannyl looked annoyed. "I didn't sell him," he said, then pointed at Stuffs, "she did."
Everyone looked at Stuffs, who swallowed. "It was Takan's idea," she muttered.
Takan, blushing, did the only thing possible in that situation; she jumped on Lorlen and yelled, "Marry me!"
Laura sighed and scratched the side of her neck as chaos broke out. "Honestly, sometimes I don't know why I put up with you lot," she muttered to herself.
Stuffs took this chance to jump out of the window, yelling, "And you shall always remember this day as the day when you almost captured Captain StuffRocksInnit!"