We picked up the place a bit and jerry-rigged enough tables and chairs to suit us. Our first poker table was a lost cause – each leg was busted and it was cracked down the middle. We carted it out back and dragged a stained, unbroken one from the corner. No one knew where we’d left off or how much was in the pot. We scraped coppers and Braggarts’ silvers off the floor and divvied them between us before re-dealing. Then we found we were missing some cards and had to search for them and start over.

The mood was less raucous than before and the booze didn’t flow as freely, but that didn’t stop some from getting hammered. I backed off on the drinks and looked over my skill progression. That last fight hadn’t netted me any XP, but I had progressed.

You have advanced to skill level 4 in Dirty Fighting. When triggered, increased chance to apply negative debuffs to target.

You have advanced to skill level 8 in Analyze. Increased chance to see through hidden stats.

You have advanced to skill level 10 in Observation. Increased chance to spot hidden items or concealed facts. Hidden items now register with sensory input.

You have advanced to skill level 6 in Stealth. +2% concealment, -2% noise per level.

It wasn’t often that I advanced in 4 skills from one fight. Fighting enemies 2-3 times my level made a difference. Scrambling Braggarts’ eggs had done it for the dirty fighting. I normally didn’t feel proud of advancing that skill, but I did tonight. My fast-paced face off with stealth girl had promoted my other three skills. I’d been close in them, but this had put me over the threshold.

Hawkins draped an arm over my shoulder. “You know, I never thanked you for saving my life!”

“Sure you did, Hawkins.” I said as I removed his arm. He’d hunted me down on the ship and made sure I knew how much he owed me, and if I ever needed anything to let him know. He had forgotten that sometime after his seventh tankard. Everyone on the table had heard the same thing over and over. It would have been annoying if Hawkins didn’t have a five-minute memory and sound like a broken record.

“Hey Hawkins, how’d he pull you out of the water?” Joel asked with a suppressed giggle.

“You wouldn’t believe it! That whale had knocked me in the air and concussed me! I couldn’t see straight, much less swim. I slipped below the waters headed down for Davy Jones, but there Dom was, like a mermaid!”

That was the part everybody liked to hear, me getting called a mermaid. They laughed, I smirked because it was still hilarious even if it was about me. Hawkins took it all for encouragement, ignoring Marsh’s repeated superstitious grumbling about invoking Davy Jones.

“There he was, a savior from the depths! He pulled me to the surface, but I was still drowning, too much water in my lungs. He wrapped his big arms around me and squeezed me from behind …”

That got more laughter and imitations in husky voices ‘he squeezed me from behind!’

“More like I wrung you out ‘till you upchucked,” I said. This joke had gotten old faster than the mermaid one.

Hawkins didn’t take anything I said as correction. “That’s right! I spewed all over … oh, Domenic, I’m so sorry about that! I promise I’ll make it up to you! You’re a good guy, you know? I’m never going out on the sea again; you can bet your life on that! That was too close for me! That whale was nasty! A whole 30,000 HP! 30,000!”

“Hey Hawkins,” someone yelled. “Is it true Domenic saved your life?”

“You bet your whiskers it’s true!” he yelled. Then, like clockwork, he turned back to me. “I never thanked you for saving my life!”

I handed him my tankard. “I’d consider all debts between us paid if you refill this for me.” He didn’t hesitate, just took my tankard to the bar. Hopefully someone there would distract him. I was all for the game of making him talk in circles but give it a few minutes between takes!

A stranger moved to sit in Hawkins’ vacated spot. “Is that whole story true?”

“Every word of it, mister!” Joel said. “Including the mermaid part!” That brought on a round of snickers by everyone but the stranger.

“You boys sound like you’ve had a rough go of it.” He received noncommittal shrugs in response. “How long you been in port?”

“This morning,” Po replied.

“Ah! Tonight’s the best night in the world then, right?”

Everything about this man screamed like the set up for a pitch. I went ahead and asked the question: “What are you here for, mister?”

“I’m petty officer Blake of the Wind Runner. The short and sweet of it is we’re short on crew and are looking to hire on.”

“Where you going?” Joel asked.

“Andros,” was the reply. Maybe I’d been playing poker too long, but that looked like a bluff to me. There was something about the location that he wasn’t sharing.

“I’ve not heard of the Wind Runner. What kind of ship is she?”

“A merchant ship, the owner made some risky trade deal and now has to get this cargo to Andros pronto.”

We looked at him a bit blankly. This was a petty officer? Any proper seaman would have known what they were asking.

Joel cleared his throat. “So, it’s a brig? Carrack?”

“Galleon,” Blake corrected. Eyebrows went up. What kind of cargo was this merchant transporting? A galleon wouldn’t be the fastest method, it was the bulk method. Galleons were also the go-to ships for dealing with sea monsters. The increased size wouldn’t stop a mature Kraken from wrapping its arms around you, but they afforded the crew with room to carry the implements to fight back.

I didn’t recall seeing a galleon in harbor when we pulled in, either. Hawkins appeared again and looked at the man in his chair. I got my tankard from him and he wandered off to another table.

“When are you pulling out?” Joel asked.

Blake looked apologetic. “That there’s the clinch of it. We sail tomorrow. We’re willing to pay good gold for the short notice, but we need a capable crew.”

The other were shaking their heads. “It’s not that Andros is such a bad spot,” Po explained. “But we’ve been at sea the last 8 months! We won’t even get our full pay ‘till our ship master sells our cargo. We can’t be leavin’ tomorrow.”

Blake nodded as if he understood and had heard it all before. “What about you?” he said to me.

Now that was curious. How long had this man been around the tavern? What made him single me out? Had he seen me fight earlier and been impressed? Was he looking for a whole crew or did he know me? Ship captains knew me, so it was possible. Or did he just pick up on the fact that I wasn’t as ‘in’ with the rest of the crew? They were all looking in their drinks now, knowing it wouldn’t be beyond me to take this man’s offer.

There was also the fact that as soon as he directed the question at me, I got a quest offer:

New Quest! Escort the Wind Runner to its destination.

So, there was something about the trip that involved me enough that a personal quest was generated, or the captain had the ability to generate quests and was offering because they were desperate. The others hadn’t gotten any quest offer, so I was steering towards the first option.

Quests issued by the world weren’t a rarity, but they usually only happened for critical things. Kings and queens dealt with national quests every day, but your average craftsman might live his life seeing only a dozen. Alternatively, people with the leadership skill could generate certain smaller quests. That was one reason why Coe was so successful as a captain, he’d leveled up his leadership skill and could give XP rewards for successful hunts on top of the reward for slaying the beast.

Getting a quest to escort this ship meant there was something about it. It could be lifechanging for me or otherwise somehow important to the world.

I leaned back in my chair, the back legs creaking ominously. I swirled my beer and watched the foam. Did I want to go back out? Yes. A one-day turnaround was madness for other sailors but perfect for me. Did the quest interest me? You bet it did. Did I like this petty officer? Not particularly, nor did I know the ship or captain. Did I trust this man’s story of a merchant ship going to Andros? Nope. All in all, I was on the fence.

I took a sip of my beer, then looked Blake in the eye while I swallowed it. He was impatient for my response but was trying to hire me on. I enjoyed making him wait.

“Show me your stats,” I said.

Blake’s eyes went wide and even my crewmates looked at me askance. “What?”

“Your stats. You have them hidden. I want to see them.”

“To be clear, I am the petty officer, and I am not hiring you on to be one as well!”

“Yeah … pretty sure you ain’t been a petty officer before.”

He was steamed but got up and left without another word. The others looked at me.

“Geez Dom, I know he was flexing about nothing, but we didn’t realize you were in the habit of pissing employers off!”

“I didn’t say no.” I replied. They were bewildered.


When the fun was over and people were hanging out because of a sense of duty or because they had no better place to be, I stepped outside and into the middle of the road. I wondered if my hunch was right. It was – score one for me!

Blake stepped out of a side alley into the light of the moons. He didn’t meet me in the middle of the street, but he stepped far enough away from the alley that I didn’t fear an ambush. I’d yet to be press-ganged and was proud of it. He had his stats open to me.

“You’re perceptive. Have a look.”













































Small blades 13

Swordsmanship 32

Axes 25

Unarmed combat 6

Spears 8

Archery 23

Medium armor 25

Heavy Armor 15

Analyze 11

Shields 24

First Aid 6

Observation 8

Cooking 4

Alchemy 1


“You can understand why I didn’t want to drop my stats in front of the whole tavern.”

Of course I understood. Blake was no sailor; he was a soldier – and a highly trained one at that! I didn’t think he was showing me everything; his list of skills was varied but much too empty for someone who’d leveled as much as he had. That detail didn’t matter to me, he could keep those secrets. “I get that, and I’m glad you stuck around, I really am. But why did you? Why do you want to recruit me?”

“We want to avoid riffraff, so we’re only looking for those known about here. Your name came up more than once. That warranted me tracking you down, but then I saw you fight. I was impressed.”

“Impressed I had my rear end handed to me?”

“I could have taken any one of those clowns. Two gets tougher, especially with a stealth-ster. You incapacitated one in a few seconds and wore the other down, and you have a fraction of my levels and none of my abilities.”

“I had help – a whole crew.”

“Crowding a fight doesn’t mean it gets easier. I don’t give out compliments often, boy. Take it and ask your questions.”

“Captain’s name?”


“Do I need to know the name of any other people?”

“You’ll be introduced to the crew tomorrow. That it?”

I sighed. “I was politely asking if this is a no-questions-asked trip. If it is, I’ll keep my trap shut but I’ll charge my no-question’s rate.”

He glared at me. Would it hurt the guy to invest in charisma a little? He was a bit out of balance and it made him disagreeable. “We’ll pay you the same wage captain Coe quoted you, plus another gold on arrival for every week we were out.”

That was a nice bonus, but I still drove it up. Captain Michaels should have sent someone with a smoother tongue to make his deals. “I liked working with Coe. Make it a gold and a half a week.”

He gritted his teeth, but he wasn’t the one paying for it. “Done.”

“Just so we’re clear, that was full-disclosure rate.”

He glared again. “I’ll meet you with the contract in the morning.”


“Where are you staying?”

“If it’s all the same, I’ll meet you at the dock and sign the contract there.”

“Suit yourself,” he growled.


I was inebriated but still in control of my body and faculties – at least enough for basic functions. I made my way to captain Coe’s warehouse. The back door was locked but the front door was open. He’d probably been doing business late and whomever was visiting hadn’t locked the door. A good thing for me, because I had no lockpicks. My drunk debuff wouldn’t let me use them right in any case and picking the lock of a warehouse looked really bad. I had no desire to fins myself sharing a cell with the adventurer bunch.

I found Coe working in his upstairs office, ledgers and inventories on his desk. He’d be working late for the rest of the week, no doubt, catching up on business that had gone on while he’d been away. He’d heard me climbing the stairs, and his left hand was below the desk. I knew for a fact he had a compact crossbow slung below that desk and he could pivot it to point anywhere near the door.

“Domenic? What’s going on?”

“The boys and I got into a tussle with some adventurers at the tavern. Everyone’s alive, but it was a near thing for a few.”

Coe growled as he put his pencil down. I was relieved to see his left hand come to rest on the desk. “Who was hurt?”

I gave a recount of the fight, the statistical side anyway. I was sure Fink would be by at some point to give the captain a head’s up too, and I didn’t want the captain to think his first mate had started it before the man had gotten to tell him his own side of the story. After I told him, I led in with my questions.

“Have you ever heard of Captain Michaels or the galleon Wind Runner?”

Coe squinted and thought about it. “Wind Runner is familiar, but I can’t place it. Michaels … I don’t think so. Why?”

“There was a man recruiting for him at the tavern after the fight. He was really pushing for me.”

“Did any of the boys join him?”


“Did you?”


I felt bad when I saw the disappointment in his eyes. “When does she sail?”


“You don’t waste any time, do you?” I didn’t know how to respond to that. It wasn’t exactly a compliment coming from him.

“When you settle the crew’s pay, can you place my share in my bank account?” I had set up an account here with the intention of letting my mum draw from it as she needed. Since she’d seemed to ignore it, I had taken to placing the money in her hands when I thought she needed it. If she was getting engaged, I didn’t imagine she wanted my money right now. It would be in the bank if she got desperate and remembered. Actually, I’d have to check how much I’d saved in there.

“I’ll see to it.”

“Did Cook … uh, Gerald come see you?”

Coe nodded. “He did, and he told me about your help. He’s staying aboard the Essential until I can uncover the current politics.”

“Good, good. You uh … mind if I crash behind some crates tonight?”

The captain nodded. “There’s sure to be a blanket around here somewhere. Good luck, my boy.”

A note from captaink-19

Edited; thanks for the suggestions!

I realized while writing this that my efforts to keep the world at comparatively low-levels had me nerfing the people who should have experience, so Blake got an upgrade.  

Also I'm trying out different colors for the tables.  I had a bit of symbolism behind the colors and their relationship to Domenic, but some colors hurt people's eyes when reading on different devices and light settings.  If the green here is bad, I'll try something else.

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