Chapter 42: Captain of Nothing
“A good man and a dead man are often the same. I’d rather keep on living.”
-Captain Legarius Rand, 179 U.E.
Barandi patched himself up. A ragged, bloody nub was left where his manhood had once sat, but he was alive. Quintilla’s gun to the side of his head proved an excellent motivator, and he ordered his crew to fetch the map pieces from the hold without a struggle.
Stephan stood in a corner of the room, trying to keep an eye on everyone and everything. Barandi being a psychomancer, he knew he couldn’t trust any of it. He’d already been fooled once. Glasses switched on, he scanned Barandi’s cold aura for any sign that he was using magic.
So far, there were none.
A hard lump lingered at the back of his throat, making it hard to swallow. Torch was gone. He hadn’t known him long, but just like Quintilla, he had assumed that the man would live forever, dancing on the very concept of mortality.
Now, he was just a sack of dead flesh.
Stephan shivered at the thought, how easily that could happen to any of them. His gaze drifted to Yin.
I won’t let that happen.
For a moment, he wished that the girl hadn’t chosen piracy as her path. That she could have had a normal childhood.
Maybe it’s not too late. Maybe she could still have that.
Barandi’s aura spiked when the three bronze plates were brought out. Whether because he was casting a magic spell, or simply a twang of regret that he would have to hand the artifacts for free, Stephan couldn’t tell, but he eyed the plates closely as a half-naked crew member carried them into the room.
Kurko took the map pieces, turned them over in his big hands, and nodded. He seemed satisfied.
Stephan, however, was not. There was something wrong with them. The sublime weave of magic he had seen laced into the others, it was… gone. Either the pieces were defective somehow, or…
“They’re fakes,” Stephan said.
“Preposterous!” Barandi said. He chuckled, but his voice was strained. “Those are the genuine article.”
Kurko threw one of the pieces to the floor. It smashed into countless pieces. A thin layer of magic faded with a shimmer and a crackle, leaving an ordinary dinner plate.
“Glamored,” Stephan said.
“You’ve got some spunk, don’t you?” Quintilla asked, mouth next to Barandi’s face. “Even now, you’re trying to rip me off. Have your crew bring out the map pieces. The real ones. I won’t give you another chance.”
“O-Okay!” Barandi cried. “Okay. But there’s something you ought to know.”
Quintilla waited patiently for him to continue.
“You see, uh… I don’t have three of them. Just two.”
Quintilla shot him in the leg, made him cry out. He shuddered with the pain, skin fluttering with color, and it took several minutes for him to compose himself enough to speak.
“Don’t bullshit me,” Quintilla said.
“I’m not… I swear. I said I had three because that’s what you wanted to hear. It’s not like I was planning to give you any of them. But I only have two. It’s true.”
Stephan detected nothing in his aura to suggest that he was being deceitful. Either he was telling the truth, or he was a very good liar. Stephan didn’t rule out either.
“I need three pieces to complete the map,” Quintilla said. “If you don’t have the third one, you’re going to tell me where to find it.”
“How am I supposed to know?” Barandi cried. He poked at his leg and hissed. “I don’t care about that made-up treasure of yours. Never did. Those pieces were just trash to me before you showed up.”
“You know people. They talk to you. People say you start half the rumors in the Free Cities, and have a hand in spreading the other half. So, if you value your dickless existence, give me a name.”
“Fine! Let me think. Uh… Yes! I heard that a crew dredged up one of those pieces. Antolai’s crew. But they got wiped out months back. I’m guessing whoever did that probably has their piece.”
“I don’t have a fucking name, Wenezian! That’s all I can give you!”
Quintilla glanced back. “Stephan, does he check out?”
“He’s telling the truth, far as I can tell,” Stephan said.
“Good. Barandi, have your people get the real pieces out for me. Kurko, Yin, accompany them. Root through the cargo hold, just in case.”
Barandi did not protest. A few minutes later, two bronze plates were brought out. Kurko confirmed that Barandi hadn’t squirreled anything away. Yin had picked up a bright pink feather scarf and a pair of sunglasses.
“There we are,” Quintilla said, lowering her gun. “That wasn’t so hard, was it Barry?”
“Fuck you,” Barandi grumbled.
“Tee, open a portal to the Tits Up.”
“Why does everyone assume that’s something I can just do,” Taira said. She did as she was told, however, and a minute later she had a portal online.
“Good.” Quintilla raised her revolver.
Barandi opened his mouth to speak.
She put a bullet in it. Blood spattered on the fine silk bedding.
“Now we’re even,” she said. Holstering her weapon, she stepped through the portal.
They cut down a handful of trees and built a pyre on top of a bare hill. They took off Torch’s prosthetic before lifting him on top of it, then set it alight.
The whole crew was gathered, watching in silence as the flames danced high against the darkening sky.
“Should’ve given him a proper sea burial,” Quintilla said, hands on hips. “Only way for a pirate to go.”
“He was Concordian,” Stephan said. “We burn our dead. It’s how it’s always been. Besides, it’s kind of fitting for him, isn’t it?”
“Suppose you’re right. Anyone got some words?”
“What was his real name?” Stephan asked.
“Ellian,” Quintilla said. “Ellian Candor.”
“Ellian Candor,” Stephan said, “was a strange man. Unpredictable. But good. Better than most. He wasn’t one to talk about his past. He preferred to live in the moment. “The pain he felt inside was reflected on the outside, but that never defined him. What defined him, in the end, was…” He paused, bit his lip. “Loyalty. Loyalty to the family he found in the unlikeliest of places. To honor his memory, let us stay close. Cherish each other. It’s what he would have wanted.”
Taira wept silently, the kithraxi petting her legs. Yin dug a handful firecrackers out of her pocket and threw them on the fire. They went up with loud pops.
“Well spoken,” Quintilla said. She unfolded a piece of paper and held it up. “I’ve got his will here. I’d like to read it out. Mind you, this thing is barely legible, so I’ll paraphrase. His money goes to me, he says, because he’s never seen anyone more in love with the stuff. Ouch. His cabin goes to Kurko, to fit your other butt cheek into. His clothes go to Kazzul, but he won’t be offended if you burn it all. His copy of ‘True Accounts of Magicke’ goes to Taira, if he hasn’t used it as toilet paper already. Lastly, his ashes go to Yin, so you can mix them into one of your pots. He hopes to make a beautiful flower someday.”
They stood in silence until the flames burned low. Kazzul drank, drained half a bottle of yiuzhan. Lubbards didn’t cry, but his skin color fluttered with emotional distress.
Eventually, the pyre died out. All that remained of Ellian Candor was ash and a few bits of charred bone. Yin brought out a red flower from the ship and scooped some of the ashes into the pot, mixing the soil around.
“Goodbye, you beautiful bastard,” Kazzul whispered, touching the edge of the smoking mound.
Quintilla stepped out in front of the crew and cleared her throat. “In light of what Mr. Lordling said about family, I have something I’d like to say. I realize I haven’t been completely forthcoming with all of you, and you deserve better than that. So, if you’d hear it, I want to tell you the story of me, my sister, and Legarius fucking Rand.