Hench (wo)man for Hire (Part 4) by Esperanza Devereaux
Captain Avery to the Rescue?
Evening had come and lamps glowed warmly from doors and windows in Skull Island. I was sitting in the tap room of the Kraken Skulls tavern, eating dinner. The taste of defeat in my mouth combined with the slumgullion stew, rendering it bitter indeed. And I had no one to blame but myself. Stupid, stupid!
My only recourse now was to go ask Avery for help, any assignment at this point would be welcome. He would be sure to take full advantage of the situation, if he knew how desperate I was.
A lad approached me and said, “Excuse me, miss, but be ye Cap’n Devereaux?”
I nodded, still wrapped in thought.
“Cap’n Avery would like to see ye, ‘ at yer earliest convenience ‘ he said.”
I took a last mouthful of stew, chugged my tankard of yum and left.
When I entered Avery’s office, he was not alone. Two others were seated comfortably near his desk, a Unicorn and a Bear. I wondered what would bring such a strange pair here.
“Ah, just the person I was hoping to see,” Avery said, adding, “And so promptly here, also.”
He gestured toward his guests. “Allow me to present Thane Grim Thunderfist and Maestro Giacomo Di San’Angelo. Gentlemen, this is the young captain we have been discussing: Esperanza Devereaux. Take a seat Esperanza.”
He then addressed the Unicorn, “Maestro, perhaps you can fill in our young friend here on the situation?”
“Si, Capitano Avery. As you may know there has been a renewal of Resistance activities lately in Valencia. We have also been joined by unexpected allies from Grizzleheim. Many of our members are reluctant to continue activities if their children are in danger from reprisals. Therefore it was considered prudent to transport the children to a safe haven. As some of them have exhibited magical talents, we have decided that Wizard City would be the safest place to send them.”
Wizard City! I glanced at Avery, but his bland expression told me nothing.
The thane spoke next in a deep rumbling voice like a drum. “We realize that such a voyage will be long and fraught with danger, therefore I am willing to pay ten thousand in pure gold for the services of an experienced captain willing to undertake this venture. Our children’s safety is worth more than paltry gold.”
Silence fell on the room, then I realized they were waiting for me to speak.
“Thane, did Captain Avery tell you that I’m currently without a ship?” I asked.
“But we have one!” exclaimed Maestro Giacomo, “Here it is.”
He pulled a bottle from his coat and handed it to me. When I saw what it contained, I gasped and nearly dropped it.
“B-but this is a..” I stammered.
“An Armada ship, si! To be precise: an Armada prison ship. It was recently stolen by the resistance, ah it was a clever ruse!” Maestro Giacomo laughed.
“I believe you are familiar with such a ship.” commented Avery, dryly.
I had never heard of such an audacious scheme in my life! Perhaps this idea, as well as the gold, prompted my acceptance.
“I accept the venture, gentlemen, tell me your plans and what you would have me do. I am completely at your disposal.” I said.
I handed the bottle back to Maestro Giacomo.
“Meet us at Skull Island docks at midnight, there you will receive your coordinates to the pick up point.” said the thane.
They rose shook hands with Avery and left. As I turned to go, Avery spoke.
“A word with you, Esperanza, before you leave.”
“Are you absolutely sure you want to do this.”
He held up his hand before I could protest.
“I have concerns about this mission, a Clockwork ship? You will be doubly a target from enemies of the Armada as well as the Armada itself; surely, they know by now that one of their ships is missing.”
“Captain Avery, I’ve already accepted this mission.” I reminded him.
“I’ve sent you blindly into situations before and need to be sure you are clear about the danger.”
“Then good luck to you, Captain Devereaux.”
After a brief rest I arrived on the docks at midnight. It was a clear night with a million stars sprinkled across the sky. Maestro Giacomo and Thane Grim were waiting for me.
“Here are your sealed orders, Captain and also two thousand gold of the promised payment. You will receive the rest after the successful accomplishment of your mission.” said the thane.
“It is time to unbottle the ship, Giacomo.”
With a rushing boom of displaced air, the ship appeared at the pier. I took note of the name: The Sardonic*. Very appropriate, I thought.
“Here comes our crew.” announced Giacomo.
It was with relief that I noticed our crew were Unicorns and not the usual Warf Rats or Crab Thugs, who hang about the docks looking for trouble.
“I will be joining you on this voyage,” said Giacomo, “Our thane, here,” and he slapped the Bear on the back, “must return to Grizzleheim.”
“Yes, if all goes well, I will expect to see you in Northgard in a week’s time.”
‘If all goes well’, if we’re not sunk by a Marleybone ship or captured by the Armada, if a hundred things don’t happen. If, if...
* sardonic – to be disdainfully or cynically mocking, ironic.
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