Ship of Destiny

Page 188

“Very good, Oti. How many prisoners?”

“‘Sides these two? Only five.”

“Condition of the ship?”

“Fit to sail, sir. And full holds as well. She’s loaded with good stuff.”

“Is she indeed? Marvelous. I think a prize this fat is enough to take us straight back to port, don’t you? We’ve ranged a bit this time, and Divvytown will look good to us, hey?”

“Very good, sir,” the boy replied enthusiastically. There were assenting noises from the rest of the crew.

The captain looked around. “Secure the five belowdecks. Get names, find out if they’ve got families that will ransom them. They fought well. If any express an interest in turning pirate, have him brought to me. Cam! Pick yourself a prize crew. You’ll be bringing this one home for us.”

Cam, the man who had first found them, grinned broadly. “That I will, sir. All right, you two, right back down where you came from!”

The captain shook his head. “No. Not these two. I’ll be taking them back to the Motley with me. Even if he’s not the Satrap of all Jamaillia, I’ll wager he brings a rich ransom from someone.” A deft lift of his blade tip cut Malta’s laces. She caught at the loose bodice of her dress and held it to her, gasping in outrage. The captain only grinned. “As for the lady, she shall have dinner with Captain Stupid and tell me whatever tales she pleases. Bring her along.”

Liveship Traders 3 - Ship of Destiny

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE - Paragon of the Ludlucks

ALTHEA WAS AT THE TOP OF THE MAST, WATCHING, WHEN VIVACIA’S SAILS FIRST appeared. The sails were all she could see, white against the threatening overcast. Paragon was lurking in an inlet with a clear view of a channel just outside Divvytown, but Vivacia had not yet passed the mouth of the inlet. Brashen had studied his scraps of charts, and gambled that this was the approach Vivacia would use to return to Divvytown, assuming Kennit would be returning from the direction of the Others’ Island. Brashen had guessed correctly. Even before Althea could see her hull or her figurehead, she recognized her mast and sails. For a moment, the long-awaited sight left Althea speechless. Several times over the last seven days, she had spotted ships she thought might be Vivacia. Twice she had even called Brashen to the top of the mast to confer with her. Each time, she had been wrong.

Now, as she watched the familiar rigging come into sight, she was certain: this was her ship, and she knew it, as she knew her mother’s face. She did not cry out the news to all, but came spidering down the mast and hit the deck running. Without knocking, she barged into Brashen’s cabin. He was in bed, sleeping after taking the night watch. “It’s her. To the southwest, whence you thought she would come. No mistake this time, Brashen. It’s Vivacia.”

He did not question her. He took a deep breath. “Then it’s time. Let’s hope that Kennit is truly as intelligent and rational as you believe he is. Otherwise, we’re offering our throats to a butcher.”

For a moment, she could only stare at him, wordless. “Sorry,” he offered huskily. “I didn’t need to say that. We both decided on this plan. We’ve both convinced the crew it will work. Don’t feel I’m putting it all on you.”

She shook her head. “You only spoke aloud what I’ve been thinking for too many days. One way or another, Brashen, it is all upon me. But for me, this ship and this crew would not even be out here, let alone considering this mad plan.”

He caught her in his arms for a rough hug. For an instant, the scent of his bare skin was in her nostrils and his loosened hair against her cheek. She rubbed her face against the warmth of his chest. Why, she wondered, was she willing to gamble at all? Why bet this man’s life and her own life on such a wild venture? Then he turned her loose and caught up his shirt from a chair. As he put it on, he became the captain again.

“Go shake out our truce flag and run it up. I want the crew to have weapons ready, but none in hand. Remind them that we’re offering to talk first to Kennit; we’re not inviting him to board us. At the first sign of aggression from him, though, we respond in kind.”

She bit her tongue to keep from telling him that the crew needed no reminders. They had drilled it into them rigorously. Without Lavoy’s subversion to deal with, she felt far more confident of the crew. They would obey. Perhaps, in a few hours, she’d stand on the deck of the Vivacia again. Perhaps. She jumped to carry out his orders.

“THERE, SIR. SEE IT NOW?” GANKIS POINTED AND SQUINTED AS IF THAT WOULD aid his captain’s vision. “The ship is holding anchor just off the beach. He’s probably trusting to the shoreline and the trees behind him to make him hard to see, but I spotted-“

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