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Prince Sebastian Harlov slouched in his chair at the head of the table. At each of his sides sat a man identical to the other dressed head to toe in jewels, sparkling fabrics, and flamboyant colors—as was custom of Forsey nobility. He spoke to Captain Garlan, the man that stood taught across the table. “You may have the commission, but only if you’re absolutely certain this craft of yours can make the journey. I do not wish to sacrifice my people with no benefit to me and the empire.”
“Your grace, as the Good Brother has given you such, this will be the only ship capable of doing so. It doesn’t matter how far. She’s able to carry two years’ worth of provisions and withstand storms worse than those in the Eve. It’s a vastly improved design, if not because of the structure, then because of my rudder,” said Captain Garlan, clasping his rough hands together behind his back.
“I don’t want to hear nonsense about your mythical rudder, Torithman. How can your little book of Forsey coastal maps tell you how to navigate through waters you’ve yet to see? It’s my understanding that rudders only work for places people have already been.”
“Yes, that’s true for most, but I’ve got a special rudder. It tells me how to cross the sea at any point from the coast. Give me the commission for this and we’ll beat your brothers to the edge of the world. We’ll claim all the land and sea under your name, a gift to prove your rightful heir-ship to the emperor’s throne bestowed by our Good Brother.”
“There is great value in any land I can claim. The wars on the Eastern front are trivial at best, inching forward at much too slow a pace. It’ll be decades before anyone can claim the throne by them and by then the empire will have no unity. We’ll be broken into five separate kingdoms warring with each other openly.” Prince Sebastian toyed with the rings on his left hand. “Viscount Deri, would you please right up the necessary paperwork for me to sign? Have Captain Garlan give you the details. I want this charter done before the morning is through. As soon as we begin building this ship my brother’s will build their own. We can’t keep the designs secret for long, but we can get a head start,” Prince Sebastian nodded to the man on his left, who nodded in return. Viscount Deri motioned for Captain Garlan to follow and they both left the room.
“The most we can spare for this excursion is a quarter of the carpentry staff. They do have other projects to complete. The recent battles on our outer territories have taken their toll on our resources. I for one think it’s insane to continue prattling about in the sea when we have such problems in the homeland,” Viscount Deri walked in front of Garlan through the ornately decorated walls. Prince Sebastian’s wing of the Garenhold castle had always been the most lavish. There wasn’t much Garlan couldn’t swindle out of the Prince, as long as it put the Prince any closer to claiming heirship to the empire.
“Perhaps those problems could be solved if you only had more land. The barbarians of the North and East would certainly be less of an issue if you didn’t need to farm so much of their land to support your population. In Torith we ensure our land is sufficient for our needs, we don’t need such lavish excess,” Captain Garlan said.
“And that is why you’ll never be a true subject of Forsey. You Torithmen think so small. You can only see what’s in front of you, what you can produce with your work. In Forsey, we produce with our minds. We don’t need to settle for having less because we can always take more. We’re clever like that,” the Viscount held his hands clasped behind his back, his nose pointed to the ceiling, never glancing back to Garlan.
“Aye, why do you think I left? There’s no money to be made in Torith, only glory for the kingdom and glory for the craft. No, Forsey is much better for me. We have no sea in Torith, but here it goes on farther than the Good Brother would grant us to see, at least for now.”
“Why do you claim such things by our Good Brother, Torithman? You have no decree to practice our religion? Why don’t you continue your heathen rites?”
“As they say, a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Captain Garlan said as they turned a corner into a tiny room filled with parchment and ink. In the center was a small desk and a single chair.
“Yes, as they say. Though I do not think you understand the phrase. Stand at the door, you may not enter the writing room. We must wait for the scribe boy before we can begin. He will be here momentarily. I will ask you the details of the commission, the estimated cost, the number of crewmen, and your recommendations for ranked officers. The Prince will appoint the rest,” the Viscount said as he entered the room and sat at the desk. Moments later a young man dressed in white tights, puffy pants, and a plain green vest appeared behind Captain Garlan and squeezed into the room to stand near the Viscount.
“I suppose we can begin then,” Viscount Deri said.
“First thing, I won’t accept anything less than being appointed as the Captain and Master Pilot. I don’t trust anyone else with command of my ship and rudders. If I don’t have that, then you won’t be getting your plans,” Captain Garlan said.
The Viscount looked at the scribe boy irritated, “Well, go on boy. You’re supposed to be documenting this. Just because I haven’t told you to write doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Get started. Sorry about that Torithman. The Prince does not allow captains to choose their own officers, even their pilot. You should’ve told the Prince before your audience had ended.”
“Fine by me, I’m sure Prince Cavera would be delighted to have these plans. He’s just next door, right?” Captain Garlan took a step back toward the hallway.
“No, don’t! Just wait a moment,” the Viscount scurried out of the room, his large black wig teetering on the edge of his forehead.
“Do you get paid to do this?” Garlan asked the scribe boy.
“No, sir,” the boy said.
“I couldn’t work a day in this castle without being paid. I can’t imagine wearing that clown outfit while it’s so damned hot.”
The boy’s face twisted in a disgusted grimace, “That is why you’ll never have the privilege of serving in one. It’s a great honor to be given a chance to serve the prince directly. How dare you insult his grace like that? May the Good Brother have mercy on you. My father sacrificed a lot to get me my position here. My family is too respectable to play the games of the merchant nobility. Even still, I can’t understand why the Prince is even granting you such a privilege as manning one of his great ships.”
“Because, boy, I’m the best damn captain and pilot in the world and I didn’t have to wipe anyone’s ass to get there.”
“I don’t wipe the Prince’s ass, if that’s what you’re implying.”
“No, of course you don’t. That’s well beneath your station as scribe boy. Tell me, what is it you do again?”
The scribe boy tried to speak, but Viscount Deri scurried back into the room saying, “Shut up boy, no one asked you to speak. Are you writing this down? We’re starting now, pick up your quill and don’t you dare put it down again. I thought your father raised you better than this. He promised a lot more than you’re giving us, don’t make him a liar. Garlan, the Prince has accepted your proposal on the condition that he appoints your first mate and the rest of your senior officers.”
“Very well, I accept those terms,” Garlan said, winking at the scribe boy.
At the end of the castle hallway, the evening after Garlan’s charter had been finalized, Garlan noticed a tall light-haired man following him throughout the castle. At first, he thought it to be a coincidence, but after the entire day had gone by and the man still lingered Garlan knew he was being pursued.
“What do you want from me?” Garlan yelled to the man.
“Me?” the man responded.
“Who else is here? You’ve been tailing me all day. What do you want?”
“I’m simply interested, Captain Garlan. You’ve been quite the talk of the castle. Convincing Prince Sebastian to commission such a voyage is quite the accomplishment, much less also having him appoint you as both Captain and Pilot. Now, that alone is noteworthy enough. There’s a flaw in your plan, though. If you want me to help you, then please, follow me,” the man stepped closer to Captain Garlan and beckoned him to come to the courtyard on the opposite end of the hallway. Garlan accepted. They stepped outside into the crisp air and colorful twilight. Succulents and palms lined the walkways of the courtyard garden and the sandstone pillars of the castle glittered in the newly lit light of the lanterns hanging around them.
“What is this flaw of mine?” Garlan asked as they rounded a corner, passing a crowd of young woman.
“You’ve wanted this commission since your first job as a ship boy. The pull of the sea calls to you and you can’t help but answer. To me, that seems like a weak reason to be willing to put to risk all that precious wealth and status you’ve achieved so far. There must be more to it than that, especially since you’re trying to remove anything or anyone that could obstruct your mission,” the man watched Garlan carefully as he spoke, searching for signs of nervousness even something as simple as an eyebrow raised. Garlan offered nothing.
“You assume much, but you aren’t entirely wrong. I am trying to remove my opposition. I don’t like my authority to be questioned on my ship. When at any moment I can have my command taken I don’t consider the mission to be my own. I’m not doing this for the Prince or the country. I am doing this for my own reasons. They just so happen to align now with our glorious Prince and rightful heir. Now if you’ll excuse me. I wrongly assumed you had anything of value to offer me,” Garlan broke away from the man, but was stopped when the man grabbed his arm.
“Wait, I can help you. You still have to deal with your bailiff, chaplain, and the prince’s nephew, Sebastio, who has been so graciously given the post of first mate. I can help you take care of him and the officers. What do you say?”
“I don’t know you or what reason you’d have to help me.”
“The reasons are my own. My name is Ferethi. The only way your voyage is to be successful is with my help. I promise you that. I have a special voice in the ear of the nobility. I can make things happen.”
“I’ll accept your help if you can prove me that you are capable of making things happen in my favor. Do that and you’ll be welcome to help all you want,” Captain Garlan said and then left Ferethi in the courtyard garden.
Ferethi sat on a whiskey barrel as the sun rose over the sea listening to the sounds of water lap against the docks, the seamen loading their vessels, and the shouting of Forsey naval officers as they maintained order among the chaos. Gulls giggled overhead, perched among the masts and brined rails along the less crowded docks. He waited for his new captain to arrive to give the final inspection of Sebastian’s Spear before they were to set sail in 3 months’ time. It wasn’t long before Captain Garlan barreled through a line of naval officers, and a hoard of sailors, to get to his appointed Master of Men.
Ferethi eyed him as he approached and stood to greet him with an enthusiastic handshake, “Captain Garlan! It’s fine to see you this morning. How was the trip from Garenhold?”
“Long and dusty. How else are they? Is my ship ready?” Captain Garlan accepted the handshake but broke it off early and peered past Ferethi to look around the dock for his ship.
“She’s not here yet, Captain. They just finished the final touches and will be towing her around by the afternoon. Sebastio tried to get them to finish today, but he’s been so consumed in his studies of your rudders.” Ferethi said. That damned fool. Patience, Ferethi, patience. It will come in good time, Ferethi’s thoughts of the ship’s first mate and under pilot Sebastio enraged him, but he kept his demeanor poised and excited, for the captain’s sake.
“Right, where is he, then? I need to see my ship. That’s why I took that damned river to get here. If my ship wasn’t ready now, then why did he insist I be here in the morning?”
“I couldn’t say, Captain. He’s in the naval office reading. The poor man has hardly been able to sleep keeping up with running the ship’s preparations,” Ferethi pointed toward the building at the end of the dock, a moderately sized shack propped on stilts with a ladder on each side.
“Very well, fetch him for me and I’ll ask him myself,” Captain Garlan took a seat on Ferethi’s whiskey barrel and pulled out a pipe.
“Yes, Captain,” Ferethi ran down the dock to the Naval Office and ascended the stilts to reach Sebastio and inform him of Garlan’s arrival. “Sebastio, your captain wishes to see you on the dock.”
“Excellent. He’s just on time. Where’s the ship?” Sebastio jumped from his chair, dropping an assortment of papers to the floor.
“She’s ready, they finished last week. However, I just got a message in from Whiteguard. Prince Rodrigo’s commission is set to sail early next month,” Ferethi handed Sebastio a small slip of paper.
“What?! Why didn’t you tell me this before the Captain arrived? We’ll have to move up the launch date to…” Sebastio paused a moment and looked out to the sea, “To tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? That’s far too soon, Sebastio. Half our crew is sailing back from a commission and won’t arrive for another week. Then they’ll need time to rest and set their affairs in order. We can’t leave tomorrow.”
“We have to. We won’t be able to beat them to the Isle of Roses if we don’t. What crew do we have available?”
“All our officers are accounted for, except the Bailiff.”
“We’ll need to find a new one. Can you do that, Ferethi? I need this. We have to leave tomorrow, otherwise that damned Prince Rodrigo will beat us and none of us will get paid. Do you understand? We can’t let those Southern dogs take our land and risk another civil war.”
“Of course, Sebastio, you can count on me. Come now, Captain Garlan is waiting,” Ferethi and Sebastio left the naval office and climbed down the ladder to meet Captain Garlan, who had made his way down to the end of the dock.
“Captain, how was the journey?” Sebastio asked.
“Where’s my ship?” Garlan said looking out to sea.
“She’s in the yard, almost ready to be put out to sea for her maiden voyage, we could leave now, provided we have the crew and the charter,” Sebastio said.
“Good. We’ve had the charter since the ship started construction, Prince Sebastian wanted us out to sea as soon as she was finished. I was told that would be three months from now.”
“Well, Captain, we would leave now, but we have a problem. You see, we just learned that Prince Rodrigo chartered a crew to leave first thing next month. If we leave tomorrow, we can ambush their fleet at the Isle of Roses before they reach the Edge of the World,” Sebastio wiped sweat from his forehead and grasped at his belt.
“What’s the problem then? If we need to leave tomorrow, why are we wasting time talking about this so far out from the shipyard?” Captain Garlan asked, he rested his hand on the handle of his pistol.
“We don’t have the crew…” Sebastian said looking down.
“Is this true Ferethi? Our crew isn’t ready?” Garlan turned toward Ferethi with a fiery gaze.
“Sebastio’s crew isn’t ready, but mine is. I have a crew ready and able to set sail. Sebastio was busy studying your rudders to fulfill his duty as pilot. I took it upon myself to recommission the necessary crewmembers in order to leave by morning tomorrow. I secured a Bailiff just yesterday, since the one originally assigned is currently on a commission to the Eastern countries. He won’t be back for two months at least. Our new bailiff will be Viscount Yozen de Mar, unfortunately the tight bastard was the only one available at such a short notice. The rest of the crew I picked up from the Eve’s shipping guild. Some of the ship boys are new, but they were trained well. We were forced to buy some slaves to man the kitchen from our spare funds as well,” Ferethi said, passing a sinister glare to Sebastio.
What in the hell has he been doing?! I didn’t tell him to do any of that. How long has he known of Prince Rodrigo’s commission? Damn it all. I’ve been so absorbed into those rudders, Sebastio thought as he dipped his head in shame. “I apologize, Captain. I’ve failed to uphold the duties of first mate and under pilot. Please forgive me.”
“Doesn’t matter now, does it. You’ve got a fine Master of Men here. One doing the job that you should’ve been doing. You had no crew ready to leave at a moment’s notice? I told you Sebastio, to be my first mate you needed to be prepared for every possibility. You promised me you could do this. Apparently, I was wrong. You did one thing right though, your Master of Men, did you pick him yourself?” Captain Garlan motioned toward Ferethi.
“Sorry Captain, I didn’t choose him either. He was appointed by Viscount Deri,” Sebastio said.
“Then I vastly overestimated your abilities,” Garlan turned to Ferethi, “How did you come about the position?”
“I’ve worked with the Viscount Deri for years on management of shipping charters. I’ve successfully crewed and managed even several of your own vessels. On your famous trip to the Isle of Cherries I appointed the Chaplain, Bailiff, Master of Men, Constable, and several of the seaman myself. I’ve also served under a few of those roles on my own. As a boy I scurried along the decks of the warships repairing the sails and oars as they broke. Before long I commanded those in charge of repairs. The rest carried on as it was. Sailing is a profitable and noble business when you know how to work it. I asked Viscount Deri for the appointment to Master of Men as this charter is too important to leave in the hands of anyone other than you and me.”
“That’s quite the resume, Master Ferethi. Sebastio?” Garlan said.
“Yes, Captain?” Sebastio responded.
“You’re relinquished of your duties as first mate. From hence you’ll serve only as Pilot of this vessel. Not Under Pilot or Master Pilot, but pilot. I’ll take full authority over navigation as Captain Pilot, but you’ll be at the helm for the most part. Ferethi?”
“Yes Captain?” Ferethi said.
“Since this is your crew and not Sebastio’s you’re to be my new first mate. I gather these men would give more respect to you. Don’t disappoint me. This voyage is more important than any country, prince, or war. I won’t be undermined, overruled, or decommissioned. We are going to find what’s on the other side of that sea, it doesn’t matter who has to die to get there.”
“Of course, Captain,” Ferethi said following Captain Garlan as he walked up the docks toward the shipyard. Sebastio said nothing, he only held his head high, attempting to feign a pride that had just been torn to pieces. The sun sparkled off the crashing waves of the never-ending sea. Sebastian’s Spear glinted in the distance, it’s massive sails and golden pointed bow reached into the horizon. She was beautiful and majestic. She was ready to tame the unknown world.