Chapter Thirteen: To be a Corsair

The Captain had been quick to explain that the job of a First Mate was to be, essentially, his shadow at all times. He would eat and spend most of his day with the Captain and he would learn from him and all the crew that had anything of value to teach. He would learn how to fight for himself, how to fend off all sorts of attacks and he would learn best how to cheat at anything and everything he’d want. A Corsair wasn’t above common thievery or sleight of hand, and definitely not above trickery, after all a corsair was still a pirate, but somehow nobler and better. Takkris was somewhat fuzzy on that last bit of business but he didn’t question Killian’s convictions that the corsairs were somehow superior to the pirates. After all they all seemed to bathe and keep themselves clean and they were nice enough to him, if a little stand offish at first. As First Mate, Takkris would have an immensely heavy burden laid upon him. Should the Captain ever be off the ship or otherwise indisposed, it would be Takkris that would lead the entire crew. His decisions would decide the fate of every man and woman on board and such duties were not to be taken lightly. But most of all, by far the most shocking was learning that his gentle eyes had changed to be almost identical to the Captain’s. His right eye was as dark and blue as the angry sea during a squall, and his left eye was as emerald green as the treacherous straits of the Sargassi Isles to the south.

It took Takkris a while, and the aid of several long glances into a wide variety of mirrors to come to terms with his sudden shift of eye color. He wondered if his mother would even recognize him now, so different not just in the simple color of his eyes but his demeanor and attitude. He was on the cusp of something much greater than himself, and he could turn away and walk back and return to the person he once was, or he could dive into the depths that stretched below him and become something new, something nobody had seen before. He remembered back to the caravan and his dark thoughts about how he would have to change, becoming cold, cautious and ruthless if he wanted to survive. He thought about how that child had died along with his mother and that there was nothing left of him now. The person with blue and green eyes that stared back at him in the mirror was not that boy. He had changed already, there was no way that that child could have done what he had done to survive. Rather than lament his loss and how he had strayed from a noble and highborn path, Takkris felt relief.

And yet, despite his relief, Takkris felt a notable disconnect between himself and the boy he was, not only in his mind but in his name and all that he was. He was torn between this new life he was about to embark on, and the old one that had pushed him to where he stood at that moment upon The Empress. Part of him wanted to be known as Takkris Nhor’sky, he wanted to be known as the same boy that had been sold to slavery and then escaped to become one of the most fearsome corsairs around. And at the same time he felt the name did him no favors and did not suit him any longer. Much like wearing an old shirt that had clearly been outgrown, staring into a mirror he wrestled with the thoughts of change and with the desire to keep his namesake. Eventually his desire for a connection to his past won out and he deepened his resolve to keep the name Takkris Nhor’sky. He kept what few things had survived his escape from slavery and placed them into a small red lacquer music box that Sorlen gave him. Beneath the music apparatus was a false bottom where he could store the pin and his piece of tooth he had used to escape the diamond mines to freedom.

He was told to settle in the lower floor of Captain’s chambers at the rear of the ship. He had a fantastic view of the ocean and all that lay behind them from the room. It was spacious and had several emptied desks with relatively barren walls save for the golden sconces. Killian came down to make sure he was getting settled in properly, he himself slept on the upper level and in order to get to the lower three levels – four if the hidden hold was counted – was through the Captain’s chambers. It also meant that Takkris couldn’t easily sneak about the ship without letting the Captain know, and he was quick to point out that Takkris was a poor sneak.

“A Corsair is many things dastardly and dark. Remember always that your aim is to win not to play fair or honorably. You do everything you must to win, if you must cheat, then do so as long as you’ll win. Cheating in and of itself is its own little slice of heaven, an art where many would call it simple deceiving, but they’re oh so wrong. Come here Takkris,” said the Captain, moving over to a pair of cutlasses pinned up on a framed mounting board, “take one of these,” he threw one of the swords at him, handle first and Takkris caught it shakily in one hand, afraid of getting caught he winced a little and recoiled, but to his surprise his hand was steadier than the rest of him had been. “Now, ready your sword, I want to give you a quick little lesson.”

Takkris raised the blade defensively. He had seen enough that he could mildly wield a blade, but only in desperation and in truth he had no idea a sword was so light. He always thought they were incredibly heavy and cumbersome things. And while the sword did start to drag on his arm, it wasn’t heavier than he had imagined it to be. The Captain came upon him and pressed his blade up against Takkris’, locking them together.

“This is what’s referred to as ‘locking blades’ and it’s pretty common when you’re in a fight, particularly with cutlasses and the like. You hold your opponent at bay using your sword as a shield, normally this is enough to keep you safe. At least safe enough to take a few steps back and avoid being struck. A Corsair however knows better, it’s an opportunity to attack when your opponent is stuck so close to you and has limited range of motion to defend themselves or leap out of the way. Which is when you, pull this on them!” he said suddenly, whipping his hand into his jacket and pulling free a pistol aimed right at Takkris’ head. The shock of it stunned Takkris from being able to move as he stared down the barrel of the gun. His arms barely managed to hold back the Captain’s blade and he heard the Captain’s uproarious laughter before he saw him doubled over, holding his sides as he laughed. “Point illustrated! Quite well I’d say. Most people react like that, others get upset and call you a cheater, as if fighting for your life had some sort of honor code to it! When you go into a fight, you go in to win, you don’t adhere to a set of rules because rules only tie you down. You play to win and you use every dirty and cheap trick you can to make sure you come out victorious. This isn’t some honor system where you score points for proper form, if you lose you’re dead, and you don’t want to be dead do you lad?”

Takkris shook his head. “No, I really would prefer I keep my limbs and life,” he replied.

“Good, good! That’s what I like to hear. A Corsair needs to have excellent situational awareness, at any moment you need to be able to use your environment to your advantage. Always make sure you keep that in mind, else you’ll find yourself on the wrong end of a bloody blade boy. And that certainly wouldn’t do to have my first mate suddenly skewered like a boar. But, you and I,” he said, motioning at Takkris’ mark on his hand and his own, “we’re uniquely enabled to bend the odds in our favor. Take for example this,” the Captain whipped the pistol back into its hidden holster and brandished his hand towards an empty long table, Takkris felt the shift in the room and the pressure building in front of the Captain before he saw anything. A violent wind gusted forth and blew over the table like it was caught in the middle of an intense gale and as soon as it had toppled over it stopped. “It’s easy to use these powers to do something greater. You can imagine how in a fight such powers would be immensely useful. I’ve no doubt you can do the same, calling our strength from the sea most things to do with water or wind are at our control. Most people wouldn’t think much of fighting you if you had one hand free and a sword, but our free hands are quite different aren’t they lad? They’re just as dangerous if not more than a gun, and with more than a few shots before they turn into a fancy little paperweight!”

Takkris stared, amazed and shocked at what he had done, but more than that, he could feel it was happening before he had seen it. “I- I felt that,” he said meekly.

“Felt what lad?” asked the Captain, taking Takkris’ sword and his own, placing them up on the wooden plaque.

“I could feel that you were doing something. I mean, I didn’t know what it was you were doing, but I knew something was happening. It was like I could feel a shift in the wind, that feeling you get before something comes. Like a pressure building in front of your hand, but I didn’t know what at first until I saw what you did,” Takkris answered in full length.

The Captain grinned in response. “That’s beautiful lad. I hadn’t thought you’d take to it so fast, but perhaps I was wrong. Sorlen had her eye on you, she said you’d take to the sea and wind faster than either of us could guess. I suppose I owe the lady an apology. I figured it’d take you years at least – like it had me – to understand what you had and how to use it, much less to even be aware of the damn thing. I guess that means I’ll have more to teach you then, and your days will be even busier than I’m sure you’re used to. You’ve got a lot of learning to catch up, plenty of training and a whole sea of knowledge to absorb. I do hope you’re up for the task lad,” said the Captain, turning towards the ladder mounted to the starboard wall, “we need you to be the best you can be, and that requires a great deal from you. Take a day, get settled in and we’ll talk some more. I’ll even let you choose your first lessons. Swordplay, bare-knuckled brawling, or sailing. One of them is the right answer, try to guess which.”

And with that, the Captain scaled the ladder in a few quick, sprightly hops and disappeared into his room above. Takkris was left alone in his lavish room to sit and think about…everything. He had so much to learn, so much to catch up on and at the same time he had this position of leadership and power. Perhaps not leadership, at least not yet, but it would groom him for a position later on. One that could see him at the helm of a mighty ship of his very own, being just as infamous and dangerous as the Captain was. Of course, that meant he had to do right by the Captain, by Killian. It also meant that he had to understand his little riddles and jokes, if only so he could better understand the man that would be his mentor. Truly, the man who would no doubt be more father to him, than his own that had sold him into slavery. At least he wasn’t too concerned about Killian doing that, there was a bond between them, forged by the mark they both bore on their hands. He didn’t want that to be for nothing, Takkris desperately wanted to be accepted and desired, even if it was for something he had no direct control over.

Takkris strolled to one of the high backed chairs behind a small writing desk and he plunked himself down in it. The floor was somewhat bare, only a few scattered, thick piled rugs here and there. Mostly it was polished mahogany that was remarkably resilient to scuffing and just resilient to his new pair of boots. He thought about how he wanted to dress himself, if he wanted to be more roguish and dastardly looking or if he wanted a look that was more his own. It was something that he could control and would be able to create a new identity for himself. He fidgeted in his seat for a moment, unsure of what to do next.

Takkris stood suddenly and strode over the armoire that rose up against the far wall, opposite the aft wall of windows. Takkris made a note to remember the nautical terms as well, knots, aft, starboard and whatever else there was that he couldn’t remember off the top of his head. He needed to learn the right words and language if he was going to fit in properly. Not only that, but if he was ever going to hope to lead these people, or know what it was he was doing, let alone saying properly he’d need to know everything that there possibly was about boats and navigating the seas that made up the bulk of the world’s surface. It was a particularly difficult and daunting challenge that made him feel exhilarated to get started. Finally an intellectual challenge had reared itself and he was ready, more than ready, he was hungry to complete it.

He opened the armoire to find it devoid of any clothes that would remotely fit him. Even if he were to try them on it’d look nothing less than a little boy playing dress up, pretending to be an adult, something he clearly was not by the look of him. But his outward appearance would change, if he could somehow adjust people’s first impression of him, then he could use his superior intellect to prove he was more than just a child playing at being a pirate. He always knew he would be judged by his appearances, such was the way of humans, as sad a truth as it was for him to admit. But it was always in a minor way, such that it wasn’t really important to him, he would have grown out of it eventually and his name and upbringing would have meant more than the soft, gentle features he was born with.

As he was staring into the oversized clothing, the trap door leading to Killian’s room above opened and the Captain descended. He loosely gripped the outside of the rails and slid down the ladder using the soles of his boots to slow his descent. The buckles, sword belt, gun belt, and necklace made a small metallic symphony of noise as his boots hit the wooden floor and he stalked towards Takkris. He was usually much quieter, to the point that his movement was almost completely silent. Takkris turned to him, wondering if the noise was for show or simply so he wouldn’t startle Takkris when he was deep in thought.

“Settling in all right lad?” he asked, placing his hands into his pockets.

“Somewhat, I was just looking for clothes but I can’t seem to find any that’ll fit me,” Takkris said, shutting the doors to the armoire with a soft sigh.

“Aye, I thought about that very problem. Lucky for you we’ve got a tailor aboard ship. Why don’t you come on up and meet him? He’s got several outfits already that should pretty much fit you. Not that they’ll fit you for long, you look to be about the age that you start growing like a damned weed. In a few months you’ll probably need a whole new wardrobe again,” he said, exasperated.

Takkris perked up at the mention of a tailor. He hadn’t expected something so good, or professional for that matter. He had hated going to the tailor as a child, always standing around with pins in the clothing. Always going back year after year, but it didn’t take him long after being sold into slavery to miss clothes that were suited to him, much less proper clothes of any kind. He smiled weakly and nodded his understanding. Killian turned on his heels and walked towards the ladder, silent as a shadow. Takkris followed trying to be quiet as he could but the wooden flooring protested his notion of quiet, each board echoing with a boisterous creak as he gingerly set his foot down, one after the other. Takkris swore he heard Killian chuckle under his breath as he gripped onto the ladder and ascended it in quick order. Takkris followed up after him, his muscles and body in general still felt too tight and new, it was difficult for him to stretch his arms and legs out as much as he needed to climb and the whole thing turned into nothing short of an ordeal. By the time he had managed to clear the trap door, the Captain and a short, rotund and bespectacled balding man stood watching him with great shared amusement.

Takkris looked between the two, who could not be any more different if one of them was on fire and the other entombed in ice. The man with the small brass framed glasses peered at Takkris with squinted eyes and a jovial, double-chinned smile. “Good Gods Killian, do you just bring any riff-raff off the streets? The boy looks positively starved! You, yes you boy! Come here and give us a turn around, I need to measure you so I can start getting something whipped up for you. No arguments! Just come quick as you please over here. That’s it, on top of that stool. Good, there’s a lad. Mhmm, yes, very good. No, no no, this won’t do at all! Are you trying to make the poor boy look like some sort of street urchin in an Interis play Killian? My word man, have you no decency to clothe the boy in a decent pair of slacks and a cotton shirt? What good has all my teachings been if you’re just going to go with whatever you have on hand!” the old, ballooned man prattled.

Takkris stood on the stool, lifting out an arm or leg and turning about as he was instructed. The man rarely used a tape measure or anything that could be remotely construed as a measurement device. But his eyes were keen and understanding, and it took significantly less time for him to tell Takkris to, “Get the hell off the stool boy, this isn’t a toy. Get!” before he yanked the stool off the carpeted floor with one hand and then spun the top of it so it extended out like a piano seat. He sat in it unceremoniously as he motioned idly over his shoulder. Killian quickly hopped to action and pulled forth a large steamer case that could fit half a dozen people the size of Takkris easily. As it opened, tall side upright various bolts of; cloth, buckles, buttons, thread, patches, embroidery, leathers, fringes, belts, straps, holsters, scabbards, talismans, trinkets, jewelry, tassels and clasps of all shape, size and material hung open or in various drawers that slid out. The whole thing looked like it could have filled two tailor shops to the brim and still have something left over.

The man, who Killian introduced as Cerrel, their resident tailor was an absolute whiz with anything revolving around clothing. Takkris tried on a wide variety of outfits, each one fit him better and seemed more his style than the last. They started plain enough with a shirt and slacks and boots of various kinds. Shoes wouldn’t do for a Corsair and that was plainly stated, they could go plain and simple if Takkris wanted, or as gaudy as he dared. But he was warned that the more gaudy an outfit the more difficult it was to maneuver in, there was only so much Cerrel could do and it wasn’t his fault if Takkris wanted to look like a grand fool with bells and whistles on. Takkris of course didn’t wish to go full out in terms of pomp and showmanship, but he did want something that was different from what he had seen. The other crew members tended towards darker, muted colors of some sort but Takkris wanted something else. The Captain used black and that was definitely out, he couldn’t very well use that, he didn’t want to look like he was copying the Captain’s style. He liked it very much, but the darkness didn’t suit him, he didn’t look as roguish or debonair as Killian did and even if he wanted to use it, it would look tired and odd on him.

So Takkris chose a deep shade of crimson, one that he knew wouldn’t show blood if he was wounded. He paired with a soft earthy brown leather and gold-brass buckles, buttons, and clasps. It took several iterations of his outfit until it finally came together. His boots were tall, turned down things of a soft brown, the turned down tops of which rested about a hand below his kneecap. They had a large gold-brass buckle on the top of the foot and a few brass buttons along the inside and outside of the leg starting at the ankle and going up. His pants were a darker shade of crimson red with a few adornments and embroidery on the outside of the legs leading up to the pockets near the hip. They were made of a special type of leather, like the boots that was well-suited for use on the seas, whether diving or aboard a ship. They were large enough to move in, but close fitting enough that they seemed perfectly fitted to him. He wore a black simple shirt beneath it all, the shirt which according to Cerrel was really called a blouse but Takkris wouldn’t accept that, with ruffled cuffs and a simple short collar was a smoky black. Not quite as dark as Killian’s outfit, but enough that it could be considered a lighter shade of black, but not light enough to truly be considered gray. Takkris took a long time to settle on the color and he was rather proud of the selection.

Next came a vest, one of red leather that had small thin plates of flexible material sandwiched into the fabric and leather that was supposed to provide a great deal of protection without any weight or outward appearance of it. The vest was elaborately embroidered with gold thread worked into complex sigils and scrollwork and adorned with gold buttons. He was fitted for three gun belts, each one attached to a larger framework that was like a vest of soft brown leather straps fastened together with brass rivets. The holsters were to fit in the natural inner curvature between his ribs and his hips, and he found that as tight as the holsters were meant to cling to him, it didn’t impact his range of motion at all.

“You’ll be able to pick your pistols later on, but for now you can wear this. There are a few variations, you can have four pistols if you like, but I have a feeling you’ll prefer my personal setup. Three pistols and one short, stout blade, a Corsair can never be too careful, and sometimes you’ll be wanting that stout steel rather than a pistol when you go reaching into your jacket. There are a few of us who prefer to use only blades, Sorlen for example has more sharp objects hidden along her than anybody I’ve ever seen. And you’ve seen her, she’s half naked already!” blustered Killian.

Takkris stifled his own laughter, but Cerrel merely clucked his tongue at the Captain like he was nothing more than a boy telling tall tales to impress his friends. “He is right though, the holster you have is just a framework, you can attach and remove holsters and scabbards as you see fit,” Cerrel began before adding in quickly, “by you, I really mean me. Don’t get any fool notions in that thick head of yours that you can go around messing with your clothing. If ya need anything done to it, you come to me. By Gods if there’s a stitch out of place I’ll fix it with thread from your hair that I plucked out my damn self. Do I make myself clear boy?”

Takkris flinched at that prospect. He had been planning on giving it a few alterations so that only he knew about it, but all thought of that was thoroughly driven from his mind at the thought of that. Takkris only nodded wordlessly. He didn’t want to offend or somehow rile up the tailor any more than he already seemed to be. And he was in no disbelief that he could somehow do a better job, or even one that was remotely similar to Cerrel’s lightning fast and beautiful handiwork. But he had wanted to be able to have something all his own, something that was secret to everybody but him.

The coat was a thicker leather with more of those tiny plates sandwiched between the outer shell of leather and the inner, smooth almost silken sheen of the fabric. The plates were stiffer but they moved so fluidly that it was like they were tiny chain links without any of the weight that the metal would usually burden. It was a crimson with gold leather lining the hem and edges of it, including the folded down collar, it could be strapped closed with several straps across both sides of the chest, each of which were the same sort of soft brown as his boots and belt with gold fasteners holding them in place. There were also large gold-brass buttons to close the jacket if he wished.

“You’ll want to keep the jacket open lad, always best to make it look more dramatic. That and reaching in to take out your pistol or a hidden weapon is a right sight easier if it’s open. If you want it closed, or at least not flapping around, you can use a large strap across the chest from shoulder to hip that can keep it close to your chest without having to keep it buttoned shut,” said Killian. He was clearly watching Takkris with his own blue and green odd eyes, noticing how Takkris felt somewhat exposed.

“Buttoning or closing it is almost entirely for formal events where you’re required to look your best, but with this color and your skin tone I wouldn’t think you’d need to bother. You’d look better than most of the nobles would and you’d fit right in to boot,” chimed Cerrel in an uncharacteristically helpful tone.

“Thank you,” Takkris said sincerely, “could I get a large strap to go from my shoulder to my hip then, so part of the jacket can stay closed?”

“Of course, of course. We’ll put some pouches on it so you can put things you’d like to store in there. It’s not large enough to be used to carry your sword, we’ll give you a sword belt for that after we’re done,” said Cerrel.

Cerrel took out a wide strap of stitched brown leather and sized it to Takkris’ frame. He was smaller than Cerrel’s usual work so the tailor took a few extra minutes to trim and resize the strap. He punched a smaller hole in it and put it around Takkris’ coat. He fitted a leather pad beneath it at the shoulder so it would rest there comfortably and he tightened it up with a massive gold-brass buckle beside which was an ornamental clasp. He quickly affixed several leather pouches, a few wide and large enough for specific items, and several smaller thin pockets for vials or something similar in size. The pouches were stiff and he could feel they were reinforced with something sturdy, the pouches moved but not anything like the fluid feel of his jacket or vest. He poked and prodded them a few times before Cerrel smacked his hands roughly away and finished securing them to the strap.

Cerrel stepped away and looked at him consideringly. “He’s missing something. What do you say Captain? Does he look whole to you? No, I don’t mean his lack of armament, which I would strongly advise you keep as it is until he learns to properly handle the implements. If he loses a finger or a limb I’ll have to rebalance his entire outfit to suit it, and you know how much I dislike doing that,” chided Cerrel.

Killian raised hand to forestall the tailor. “I know, and he’ll get what he gets when he gets them, as I see fit. The lad has secrets in store for all of us yet, I’m sure. I wouldn’t be so quick to judge him, not just yet at least. But you are right, he is missing something,” said Killian, folding his hands behind his back and walking up closely to Takkris, prowling around him like a jungle cat, “ah! A hat! Yes, of course that’s what he’s missing. Not all of us need one, but with such a magnificent outfit, one surely requires an equally magnificent hat!” and with that Killian reached deep into the steamer trunk and pulled out a beautiful, matching brown tricorne with gold scaled fringe work. He deposited it onto Takkris’ head and the whole ensemble seemed to come together in one dashing display. His long hair fell to the sides making him look somewhat odd and a little unkempt, but otherwise he looked every bit a Corsair as anybody else, perhaps a little more with how extensive his outfit was. The smoky black ruffled cuffs of his long sleeved shirt – which he would and could never call a blouse, even if it was the proper terminology – stuck out behind the pinned back gold rimmed cuffs of his jacket giving a very flashy look.

Takkris grinned as he looked at himself in the mirror and adjusted the hat better on his head. His hair was brilliantly blond, just like spun gold but it was too long and he looked more girlish than he had wanted to. “Could I get my hair cut, it’s too long I think,” he said.

Killian shook his head. “No, no, I wouldn’t dare let you slice off such beautiful locks! I think I have the perfect solution!” he said as he leaned over to the pile of scraps from Cerrel’s work and took out a thin cord of crimson leather. He slipped behind Takkris and gathered up his hair and tied the cord neatly behind his head, giving him a somewhat modest ponytail. His golden hair fountained behind his head like a spring of flowing gold and the red cord perfectly matched his outfit.

Takkris studied himself in the tall mirror and moved around a bit. “Go on son, we need to make sure everything’s right, move around, jump and do all that crap you young people are so stupidly known for doing. I’ll wait right here and sit until you tire yourself out with all your hooting and hollering,” said Cerrel with a notable air of grumpiness.

“Don’t mind him Takkris, he’s just angry he doesn’t look as suave or debonair as you do. You make one hell of a first mate lad,” said the Captain.

Takkris lifted his legs up, knees up as far as he could with his body as tight and stiff as it was. The leather was softer and more pliable than his own muscles, ligaments and tendons were, which made him chuckle darkly to himself. He moved around, jogging and sprinting for the short bursts that he was capable of. He found that he tired quickly, and it was probably at least partly due to the added weight of what he was wearing. It all felt very balanced and nothing was particularly off, but he knew he wasn’t normally that weak or easily fatigued. The boots moved effortlessly and had a spring in his step, almost like there was something in the heel that gave a slight bounce to each heel strike.

“Cerrel, sir, is there something in my heel? It feels…bouncy,” said Takkris, looking over his shoulder at the rotund man who was wiping his brown with a white handkerchief.

“That it has indeed, it’s a unique piece of rubber that’s far more springy than anything else you’d find. It compresses and absorbs shock far better than anything else I’ve come into contact with. It’s in the entire sole but the heel has a large chunk of it since most of your weight’s going to come down there, and hard. With those boots on you can reliably survive a four to five story fall, as long as you make sure you land on the heels first and roll forward. If you stay on the heels too long the material might just rebound too fast and with all your weight beneath it, you’ll very likely go flying like some spring shoed buffoon. And we can’t very well have that. But with your frame, even as an adult I’d say – so long as you don’t get fat and heavy like me – you could reliably jump down most of the way from the main mast onto the deck and be spared nothing but a slight joint jarring soreness,” answered Cerrel.

Takkris rocked on his boots, shifting his weight suddenly to his heels and letting that bounce him back to his toes. The tips of his boots were plated with some sort of metal that covers the toes and made it quite easy for him to balance on the tips of his boots if he had wanted. Though, in order to look and feel less girlish he abstained as soon as he realized he could do it. If he really wanted, he could do it on his own time when there wouldn’t be quite so many judging eyes. Takkris promptly twisted around and strode back towards them. “When do I get my pistols and sword?” he asked unceremoniously.

The Captain grinned like a wolf staring down at a sheep. “I’m glad you asked,” he said as he craned his head towards the door and raised his voice, “Sorlen, come on in and don’t forget the gear!”

The door opened, and banged around as a stiff wind blew in, gusting rain in thick sheets. Sorlen dragged a heavy looking metal banded chest and kicked the door shut behind her. She was soaked to the bone, which wasn’t too difficult since she only had on trousers and hardly anything to cover her breasts except two sets of white and red cloth, white for her left and red for her right. Takkris couldn’t help but notice that the slings she kept her breasts in looked remarkably like swaddling, but he wouldn’t dare say it aloud.

Sorlen pulled the chest to the center of the room and gathered up her hair in one hand and wrung it out onto the carpet. She flicked her head back to toss out her flaxen hair and then she kicked the chest hard. There was a loud metallic clack and then the chest sprung open. The chest sprouted several drawers and slides not unlike the steamer trunk, though it was far bigger and heavier looking, and all sorts of weapons appeared neatly inside organized in a way that Takkris couldn’t immediately grasp. Pistols were with daggers and swords, but rarely were swords with other swords, or pistols with pistols, except in the cases that they were, which only served to further confuse and confound the poor fledgling Corsair.

Killian strode over to the drawer and picked up pistol after pistol, small and large ones alike, those with multiple barrels and chambers and those with a single one, those of forged metal and those of primarily wood. He took his time but eventually he picked up a long barreled pistol with a black barrel etched with silver leaf and an ebony frame and handle. He looked it over, turning it in both his hands before he tossed it at Takkris without even looking at him. The gun sailed through the air and Takkris reached out clumsily and wrestled with its heavy weight before finally getting a firm grasp on it. He was suddenly terrified he’d drop it and so as he looked over the make of the weapon he quietly strode forward towards the Captain so that he wouldn’t have to toss him anything, and he could avoid the inevitable embarrassment of dropping whatever it was. He aimed the pistol, casting it around the room.

“What the hell boy! Don’t go pointing that at people!” yelled Cerrel, ducking down below the muzzle.

“What do ye think yer doin’! Ye don’t point yer pistol at a mate!” chided Sorlen, relieving Takkris of the pistol and popping a bullet out of the chamber, “Captain! Ye kept a loaded gun in the armory chest? What were ye thinking?”

Killian chuckled. “Give the gun back to the lad, no need to get so excited. The boy’s just learning. Do give me the bullet though,” he said quickly.

The bullet was a thick hunk of metal coming to a soft point at one end and flat on the other. Near the flat and round bottom was a thin blue glowing strip of glass or something translucent. The contents within gave off an eerie blue light. It didn’t take Takkris long to understand what it was. While he was not very well learned on gun smithing or the construction of most weapons, he knew cerelune when he saw it. That must be what powers the bullet. The hammer strikes the back of the bullet, which breaks into the cerelune and the resulting explosion propels the rest of the bullet forward like a miniature cannon. That glass has to be remarkably strong to avoid accidentally blowing up in the hands or barrel before the shot is intentionally fired.

“Captain, what kind of glass is that? Won’t it shatter if you drop it?” asked Takkris, looking rather nervously at the bullet the Captain was tossing in his hand.

The Captain chuckled and then let the bullet drop with a clatter on one of the rare spots of bare mahogany floor. Takkris flinched and recoiled slightly, much to the guffawing and uproarious laughter of those in the room. Takkris turned as red as his clothing and looked away until the laughter died down and the Captain spoke. “Aw don’t be sore lad. Just a bit of good natured fun is all that was. The cerelune is turned into a stiff disc so that it can be stored easily. It takes a special material to break the disc, much less set off a catastrophic chain reaction. Inside each bullet is a small round pin at the back,” he said, turning the bullet’s rear to face Takkris, showing him the small inner circle, “when the hammer of the pistol strikes this, it creates the chain reaction that ends up propelling the bullet forward. Without that exact point of contact or that specific material, the cerelune is perfectly fine. You could smash it with a hammer and all it’d do would crack and turn into shattered fragments and eventually powder. Or so I imagine. I’ve never been inclined to test it out myself. I prize a full set of limbs you see, just on the off chance that something in the hammer could in fact set off the reaction.”

The Captain chuckled lightly to himself and picked up the bullet, placing it into one of his many pockets on his vest. He motioned for Takkris to give him the pistol he was holding and he exchanged it for another. On and on it went, one pistol for another, a quick aim and draw and then another pistol. Takkris had stopped looking at all their intricate designs, he was beginning to grow hungry again and he wanted this to be over as fast as it could be. The designs were all interesting, almost increasingly so to the point that each pistol looked more elaborate and better designed than the last. He shook off that thought and continued, feeling the alternating sensation of cold metal grip and pleasing polished wood grip. His eyes glazed over and all of his motions became remarkably mechanical. He gripped the handle of the pistol, brandished it forward at an empty space of wall where nobody was standing – or sitting – near and then holstered it. He drew it again and then lowered it, letting the Captain take it from him, only to replace it with another pistol of different weight, balance and make. Slowly but surely the pistols were changing to a more pleasing grip and a better balance that felt smooth when he drew and aimed them sightlessly.

It wasn’t until Takkris had begun to lose count of the pistols that he had realized the Captain was tugging on the pistol to relieve him of it but his hand wouldn’t let go. Takkris snapped out of his daze and looked down at his hand. The Captain smiled up at him, winking his green eye at him. “I think the lad’s found his pistol. A Wainright Straightshot, very hard to come by, mahogany handle with rich gold inlay and a rifled barrel for a superbly stable shot. The muzzle’s a bit longer than usual but that provides a more stable shot at longer distances, the gun is mostly made of mahogany with the metallic parts made of seasteel. You can tell that from the flaked bluish color on the barrel. Completely resistant to corrosion that is. You picked yourself a damn pretty pistol, would you care for its twin?” asked the Captain, an eager twinkle in his eye.

Takkris grinned back, slipping the pistol into a holster on his right. “Please,” he replied.

The Captain took out a nearly identical pistol except the color of the barrel was slightly darker and the handle was inlaid with gold instead of silver, but everything else was pretty much the same. Their weight and feel were completely identical and Takkris, feeling immensely pleased slid the twin into the holster and immediately began to notice the unbalanced tug of the gun holsters weighted to one side. The Captain seemed to notice this too and then began rifling around in the drawers for something else. He brought out a slightly larger pistol, one that had the end of the muzzle flare dramatically like a bell. It was heavy, heavier than the two pistols he had on his right side, and it would likely balance things out a good bit. And yet, there was something that Takkris just didn’t like about it. Something that made him turn up his nose to it despite the recommendation.

“Would it be okay if I looked through for something? I’d like to see if anything catches my eye, maybe it’d go a bit faster,” said Takkris, hopeful that the Captain would allow him to peruse at his own pace. He did appreciate the work the Captain had been doing, he was carefully and very obviously selecting guns based off Takkris’ response, or lack thereof but Takkris wanted to look at the whole lot for once and see if there was anything that might jump out at him.

The Captain bowed his head slightly and backed away from the chest, flourishing his hands with his palms up for Takkris to take his position, knelt down over the chest as he was. Takkris lowered himself down onto his knees and was surprised at how much the trousers absorbed the shock of the sudden motion. He looked over dozens upon dozens of drawers and hooks all propping up pistols and blades of various types. Nothing was cheap or simple, even the most basic piece of equipment must have cost a small fortune, they were all works of art in their own right and Takkris almost felt bad for not picking any of them immediately. They were more valuable than anything he was likely to see if it wasn’t lucky enough to be picked up by Killian. But he felt, no he knew that Killian would want him equipped to the best of his ability and he would not be satisfied if Takkris just picked the first thing he saw. The Captain had something planned for Takkris, that much he knew for certain. But what it was exactly he had no idea or way of knowing. But he knew that the Captain would be aware when and if Takkris decided to start cutting corners, and the last thing he wanted to do was disappoint the Captain. After all he was the man who plucked him from starvation, awaiting a lengthy and potentially fatal jail sentence and a life of untold horrors that he couldn’t even begin to imagine.

It was during Takkris’ inner struggle that the gleam of gold and the shine of a blood red wood. Takkris looked and reached in deep to the bottom of the chest and pulled out a heavy and thick pistol the likes of which he had never seen before. The handle was slightly curved and made of rich mahogany with gold inlay and a gold butt on the bottom of the handle. It had a massive wooden barrel made of a deep red wood he hadn’t ever seen before, flaring out into a golden barrel with six flared, flat sides. He stared at the front of the gun, making sure to point it away from his face, just in case it was loaded. The Captain certainly didn’t seem to be the type to care much for safety. Much to his surprise there were six barrels drilled into the wide flat plane at the front of the gun. Takkris had never seen its equal in all the stories and legends of pirates he had ever heard before. It was heavy, but it was almost perfectly balanced as he aimed it around the room.

He slipped it into his holster, it was oversized but even still the holster barely fit into the leather thing and only after a bit of coaxing. The weight of the pistol evened out the feeling of imbalance and he started to move around again, and though he could feel the heft of the weapons on him he somehow felt more solid. His gait had more confidence and a touch of swagger to it, even though he didn’t know how to properly maintain or use the weapons he carried, having them there made him feel comfortable and confident. He felt safer when he could feel their weight. It was a difficult feeling for him to process since rationally it made very little sense. When Takkris looked back at the Captain he was smiling ear to ear, it was clear he understood what was going on.

“You found a treasure of the Corsair’s, a brilliant little number called the hexagun. It fires six rounds all at once, it’s incredibly difficult to aim, and even harder to maintain but it packs a punch like none other. You could cut down several men in a swath before you,” he said waving his arm in front of him for dramatic effect and a punctual visual, “before they even knew what was coming. It’s like grapeshot out of a cannon that you hold in your hand. If you serve her well, she’ll look after you for all your days. That little red number right there, her name is Mayhem, and when you get a taste of her in action, you’ll keenly understand why.”

Takkris grinned to himself. He couldn’t help but feel a burgeoning sense of pride and belonging. He happened to pick up a trademark of a Corsair without even realizing it, not only that but he also favored it which made him feel like there might be a connection he hadn’t realized he might have with the Corsairs after all. Something that went beyond blood. He had thought that perhaps he would somehow find a way to fit in, but he was beginning to hope that it would be natural, like the way it first felt when he was out on the sea on a real ship.

Sorlen clapped politely and sweetly for Takkris and then rushed over to grab him by the arm, taking him back to the chest. “Pick yer blade, my roguish new Corsair and you’ll be one step closer to being complete,” she said.

Takkris reached in, and as he did she covered his eyes with her hands. “No peeking! Ye take what ye first grab, it’s a Corsair gamblin’ tradition!”

Takkris let out a resigned sigh and felt around carefully. He didn’t want to accidentally pull on a trigger and blow up the whole box. Knowing the Captain as little as he did made him wary of how poorly he checked the other weapons for live ammunition. He finally felt something cool, like a small button of metal. He reached his fingers deeper and curled them around what felt like a polished wooden handle. He pulled it free and lifted it in his hand. Sorlen released her hands from his eyes and he saw a non-descript black scabbard around the blade of a beautiful cherry wood handle, pierced with three brass fittings and an elegant but simple hand guard. The pommel and hand guard were made of a silky smooth black metal, and when Takkris drew the blade from its scabbard, he was surprised to find the blade itself was also the same black metal. It was a cutlass, slightly curved with a fuller down the center of the blade ending a bit more than two hand’s width from the pointed sharpened tip like that of a hunting knife and starting about half a hand’s width from the cross guard. The hand guard had small spikes adorning the various elegantly worked weaves of metal.

“You’ve got Corsair blood in ye, no doubt!” announced Sorlen, “That’s a Blaggard Blade that is. A beautiful work of art if I ever seen. Ye can stab or slice with it, and the hand guard has them spikes so you can sock ‘em in the face if they get too close. And the pommel is weighted not just to balance the sword out but to use as a skull crusher! Ye get close and,” she lifted her fist up and slammed it down on a wooden drawer, rattling the metal weapons inside, “bam that’s the end of them.”

Takkris winced, he was certain the jarring of the drawer would have certainly caused something to go off, and then for that something to make another something go off. And then somehow the whole ship would have blown up from a massive chain reaction that all started with Sorlen making a dramatic show of things. He wasn’t the only one slightly unnerved by it, and without another word the Captain started to close up the drawers and latch shut the hinges, but not before taking out a short, wide black item and setting it behind the chest, out of Takkris’ vision. After the chest was completely sealed and locked tight, he looked over at Sorlen. “Could you be a lass and take it down to the armory where it belongs? Talwin gets very nervous when things aren’t in their proper place and with the storm brewing I don’t want to give him any more cause for alarm,” said the Captain.

Sorlen nodded, and as she lugged the massive chest into her arms, the Captain smoothly slid an arm behind the chest and plucked whatever it was he had set down and placed it into his coat. He gave a knowing smile to Takkris, who had seen the whole thing, but still couldn’t precisely make out what it was he took. Takkris gingerly swung the blade around, taking several steps away from the three crew members. Sorlen looked back and gave an approving nod and smile to Takkris before she wrenched open the door. It banged open and the constant droning sound of a harsh rain flooded into the room. She groaned as she lugged the chest out into the pouring rain, the darkness only pierced by the golden glow of the lamps on the deck and the bright flash of white lightning above.

The Captain twirled two fingers and the door slammed shut, blocking out all sound of the storm as well. “How’d you do that? Not just the door thing I mean, how can’t we hear the droning of the rain? You’d think it’d be deafening in here, why isn’t it?” Takkris asked openly.

Killian grinned roguishly. “Just a little enhancement I made to my quarters. Most of them you can hear the rain, a lot of the crew particularly likes it and some find it soothing. I find it somewhat annoying and it ruins my thoughts so I made sure my room drowns it out. Don’t worry though, you can hear it in your room below. The dampening only works in my room and a couple others across the ship. Let’s get back to business though shall we?”

The Captain lazily loped towards him, motioning for Cerrel. The older man grunted as he forced himself up onto his feet and he trundled forward, holding something he had been idly working on while Takkris was selecting his pistols. It was a sword belt, designed to be lopsided and fit on him at a slant, using his right hip as a pivot point. Cerrel buckled the belt on him and then for added measure tied the strap in a simple southknot, leaving the excess of the belt dangling down. Takkris wasted no time fitting the scabbard into the loop and securing it. He practiced drawing the blade over and over again, a look of pure jubilation bloomed on his face and was only mirrored by Killian’s own parental pride. His light green and blue eyes shimmered like the rippling surface of the ocean in midday.

“One last gift to finish your outfit,” said Killian, handing Takkris a stout dagger as black as his cutlass but where Takkris’ cutlass was long and narrow, the dagger was short and wide with a double edged blade. Takkris took it and placed it below Mayhem, and finally felt a completely sense of balance among his armaments. Killian placed both hands onto Takkris’ shoulders and smiled at him like a proud father might. “Now, you are a Corsair.”

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