The Hollow Man

A dinner party

[Session 5] In which Easton is actually surprised to learn something.

From the point of view of Captain Baylee Kittiwake.
[Brackets denote events she didn’t witness herself, added just for tracking.]

The next morning I took advantage of being a “Hero” and had a warm, long, bath before meeting at the dock. I can get up early if the sea is involved. Always busy, Portside seemed even more chaotic than usual, the crowds larger. Waiting for the rest of the group I listened to the murmurs of the crowds and gleaned that the flagship of the navy was in port.

By the time the rest of my crew – plus the wizard – had arrive and we moved closer to the piers I caught sight of it. Massive 3 tiered sails flew the bright white and maroon flag of the King. It had launched just a year ago and was said to have a specialty team of 3 wind witches who moved it faster than any known ship, and a prow lined in metal and made for ramming. I had heard it had a new captain promoted just as the ship was christened, but hadn’t heard who as I wasn’t in port at the time. And who cares – the best navy ships are the ones I never meet.

As the group mused over the chaos I only half listened, instead watching the crowd, looking for ship flags (or the lack thereof) that I recognized. A few well known merchants. One small time smuggler. None of my primary competitors were in port – but given the flagship was here that wasn’t surprising.

As the group talks, I scanned the crowd and noted Rage watching us. Some spymaster he is. The wizard noticed too, and though we both ignored him, Rage sauntered over anyways.

“So, what are you all doing here?” he asked.

We sputtered. Doc offered a half hearted lie “Just wanted to get some air, been a while since we were near the sea y’know?” rage obviously didn’t believe it. Eventually we admitted we needed a ship, to get to the island of Matrinal in search of a few things.

Surprisingly Matt agreed to help us without further interrogation – which honestly is a terribly sign and means he has some sort of plan, and wasn’t at all surprised by our quest, which means he was having us followed. “I think I know a Captain, if Sugarbottom’s in port”

“Wait who?” we all laughed.

“An old friend, it’s a nickname”

“You have to tell us that story!” I declared.

“You’d have to buy me at least 2 drinks for that one.”

“DONE!” I immediately the group to the nearest bar, but lost Sharra in the process who ran to a nearby merchant ship which was in the middle of unloading a bunch of fancy woven rugs. She was still searching for a flying carp. I sent Tychus to fetch her before she got arrested (again).

In the bar I ordered a round of shots for everyone – 2 for Rage and myself. After two he shook his head. “No I can’t tell that story”

“Fine, drinking competition. First one to fold tells an embarrassing story.” I knew I couldn’t lose. And I didn’t. Matt proceeded to drunkenly tell of us one of his first military missions, in which his group was sent to a small village to defeat a hag. Instead they were captured by the hag, who put his friend on a tray and prepared him for backing by sprinkling him in powdered sugar – hence the name sugar bottom. They did ultimately defeat the hag but the nickname stuck.

Before we could find him though, Matt needed a while to recover. Instead the Doctor offered him a vial of his patented “hang over remedy” elixir. There’s a reason I let him stay on my ship.

We left the bar, Matt leading the way towards his carriage as he said “Ok, let’s see if we can find Captain Corstein.”

I stopped so suddenly I tripped, stumbling and catching myself. I looked to Sharra, who clapped her hands with giddy excitement and ran to catch up with Matt. I stood shell shocked. Doc stood beside me in silence a moment before offering me his pistol. I stared at it a moment then shook my head and pulled my flask from my hip for a long, long sip. Then I followed the group to the carriage.

Matt, apparently oblivious to my reaction, insisted we all go get bathed and cleaned and back into the fancy clothes he’s bought us all for meeting the king. I resisted weakly that I’d already bathed, but it didn’t matter. Sharra became trying to braid my hair. I swatted her off.

We spent a few hours at the baths being cleaned and groomed and made “presentable.” I spent the time fending off Sharra’s braiding efforts and brooding. I wonder if Marik’s forgiven me for stealing the necklace right off the diplomat he was escorting to Vyrilla on his last ship. Captain of the flag ship is a large step up in the world from the smallish ship he previously was caption of. It’s been over a year, I would put forgiveness at a 50/50 chance.

We are herded into a carriage and taken to Matt’s local apartments in town, where he’d decided to throw an impromptu dinner party to introduce us. I think he just likes showing off.

Rather then let us mingle in the slowly-filling ball room, Matt puts us off in a study until we’re to be announced. In the study I sulk and sip from my flask –especially after Matt declared I was limited to only 2 drinks at the party. Tired of fending off Sharra, I let her braid my hair and place a ring of flowers on my hat. Doc goes through the books in the room, tossing several into the fire and pulling pages from others, muttering about them being wrong and useless. Sharra sits on the ground, dress fluffed about herself, and begins to flip through an artists sketchbook. I watch as she begins to correct and add to the sketches on the pages with a faint grin.

We are finally allowed from the room, and Sharra takes the manservant with her on her arm as her guest and dance partner. He looks shocked, but is apparently mute as he says nothing about it.

At the doorways to the ballroom, we wait as Matt makes a speech about our heroics and the king and blah blah the crowd eats it up. He steps aside out of our view, and his staff begins announcing us by name, title, and with something about our roll in defeating the evil wizard. He starts with Etrix, then Doc Moritz, then Tychu, the lordlings first of course, then Sharra, and finally myself. I sneak one more sip even as I hear my name called.

I momentarily debate turning and fleeing from this entire display of pomp and ridiculousness. A moment of awkward clapping falls to silence, before a servant pushed me from behind. I stumbled but caught myself and turned it into a saunter forwards finally. My eyes sweep the room, purposefully avoided Marik for a moment.

My entrance made, the music starts up again and the crowd begins to murmur and chatter amongst themselves. Over the din, I hear “NO! It CAN’T BE!” and it sounds like it comes from Matt. What I don’t see is Marik dropping his wine glass – and a servant catching it and returning it to his hand, this happens several times. Matt’s look of complete and utter shock from realizing that his friends “love of his life” is the pirate captain he’s worked with on-and-off the last few years, and that he now knows way more about Baylee than he ever wanted to.

Begrudgingly I enter the crowd and head towards Matt, who stands besides Marik, a look of complete disbelief on his face. Even as I walk towards them, Sharra flounces onto Marik in a hug. He looks confused and shocked, extracting himself from her arms and holding her at arm-distance for a moment before saying “Sharra?!” She grins, “I KNOW it’s the dress!”

“Well you look quite pretty.” Marik says with a smile, and she’s off – dragging the manservant with her to dance.

Flustered and completely thrown off-guard, he stares at me. I offer a slight nod of my head. Matt grabs a drink from the nearest server and gulps it down.

“So….Sugarbottom?” I smirk.

Without looking, Marik punches Matt in the arm.

“So how are you?” Marik offers weakly, looking to immediately regret the question even as it leaves his mouth.

“So, flagship captain?! You should give us a tour!” Matt offers with an uncharacteristically awkward change in topic.

“I can do that.” Marik says to Matt, but not taking his eyes off me.

“How about tomorrow, what are you doing tomorrow?” Matt’s grabbing another drink from a passing tray and draining it. I reach for one myself, at the same moment as Marik, hands momentarily overlapping each others before he moves his to a different glass to take.

“I can do tomorrow.”

“How about…”Matt pauses, glancing at myself, Etrix, and Doc. “Noon. Let’s do noon.”

“Alright, noon. I’ll give you a tour of the Riza.” Marik confirms. He sets his half-finished drink aside and offers his hand to me for a dance. I pause before accepting. As we move off, I hear Matt remarking “Go on Butterfly” and whip around, glaring daggers at him despite blushing furiously. They are apparently better friends than I had realized.

We leave the Doctor, Etrix, and Matt together and move to the dancefloor. The trio stand there watching us with growing surprise. [Etrix looks at Matt and asks “So you think they know each other? That’s good right, it means he should agree to take us to the island?” The Doctor and Matt exchange glances, and proceed to use a series of sea metaphors to describe the two Captains histories. Docking. Engaging in business. The land lubber doesn’t get any of them.]

We started to dance, falling easily into a rhythm together. The music changed to a tango – and I caught sight of Matt over at the band telling them to do it! Marik and I smoothly changed step, our dance skills earning us a large opening on the dance floor. I caught sight of Matt’s open-jaws stare of shock.

[“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Matt this surprised before” I offer after a few minutes of silence.

“Me neither, he’s hard to surprise. Goes with the job I think.” Marik glances at his friend. Despite the Spymaster gig being a ‘secret’, everyone seems to know. “How long have you known him?”

“Few years, almost since becoming Captain. At first it was little jobs, then bigger ones.”
“Hard to imagine you working for the crown.”
“As long as the price as the right, client doesn’t matter. And Matt always pays.” I pause, interrupted by the dance. “I’d ask how long you’ve known him, but I heard all about Sugarbottom this afternoon.” I grin, meeting his eyes. Marik laughs. “It did take half a dozen drinks to get him to share that story at least.”
“Which I’ll never live down. It’s alright, just call him Lady Razzle Dazzle.”
I falter a step in the dance with laughter. “Razzle dazzle? Story time!”
Marik proceeds to tell me how Matt dressed in drag in order to complete a mission. It’s a side of the Spymaster I haven’t heard of, and it’s hilarious.]

Hours passed, and we chatter, dancing as artfully around important topics like stealing from his passengers as we did around the dance floor. Another change-your-partner dance started. As we swirled across the floor I stepped up to a new partner to find Etrix, who had been dancing with Lady Marilyn Wistern. She crossed in front of me, faltered, and whirled to face me shouting “YOU!”

The music stopped, a few dancers bumping into each other as Marilyn and myself stopped. Oh, I knew her. Former dockmaster, she’d made me her nemesis. She tried so hard, for so long, to catch me smuggling goods into port, but I’d outsmarted her every time. The last time she’d been held responsible for falling to find the criminal that had stolen goods from another ship, and been forced into early retirement. To make matters worse, her son had run off to join a merchant marine ship, in part due to the stories about me.

“YOU! You’re no hero! You’re a THIEF” She laid into me, getting louder and screeching. The crowd fell silent, staring at the fight. I only smirked, “You must have me mistaken – “ She didn’t let me speak, she just yelled, pointing at me, getting closer. When she started to jab her finger into my chest my hand fell to my sword and I growled at her to back off, but she kept it up.

Before it could explode into a fight however, Marik whisked her off – gesturing for the music to start again. They disappeared into the crowd of hesitant dancers as I fell back. A few minutes later he returned, and Lady Wistern left, fuming, but clearly chastised from whatever the naval commander had said.

Taking our queue, Marik offered to escort me home. I talked him into taking me to the Riza instead to ‘christen’ it instead: his room, his office, the crow’s nest.

The next morning, I was up early – because Marik was. Military timing, he’s up at the same time every morning. We didn’t speak, speaking always gets us into trouble, instead we watched the crew cleaning the ship and the hub-bub of the port in amicable silence while Marik did some paperwork as well.

By the time the remains of my crew, the Etrix, and Matt arrived, I was dressed and presentable and sipping coffee beside Marik at the top of the gangplank. They all looked a little surprise that I was awake (and sober) and waiting for them for a change. I can see the light bulb go off over Etrix as he finally puts it all together and exclaims “OH, DRYDOCKING! I get it now.”

Crew had put together a table with linen cloth and breakfast spread on it on the deck for all of us. We sat down, and Matt began to butter Marik up.

“What do you want?” Marik interjected fairly quickly – he knows Matt too well.

“Well we need a ship to take us the island of Matrinal.”

“Why?”

The group floundered, everyone trying to explain only part of it. I said nothing. I was NOT asking Marik for help. For starters, I refuse to owe him a favor. Eventually, they explained that we were in search of dragon eggs, reagents, and other items.

Matt finally called in a favor to get Marik to agree. But Marik wants payment, an extra set of sea witches for his crew, and to have his current first mate replaced.

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jonaselowery Caerlyn

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