Stowaway, 43

A New Locale Provides New Opportunities

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Pelican Bay was built on hill leading east, away from the bay. Pax watched that hill approach from the corner of his eye as he wandered the ship, checking on all the crew—all his crew—to make sure they were ready to disembark. They were getting off right away so as not to be in the way of the Eagle’s Wing’s crew while they unloaded their cargo.

He came around to the helm, where Oggie was looking a bit pensive, and Denver was standing there at the prow, which seemed odd to Pax.

Just as Pax thought that, a seabird landed there on the rail, and Denver smiled at it. “Hi.”

The bird squawked, and Denver nodded. “Okay, thanks.”

Pax narrowed his eyes, wondering what tomfoolery this was. Denver had seemed like a reasonably well-adjusted person, but now he was over there talking to a bird.

Denver wandered over to the helm, saluted Oggie. “There are no pirates in the bay, sir.”

“Thank goodness,” Oggie said, waving. “Go tell Sharp to put the normal sail up, would you?”

“Yes, sir.” Denver hurried off, and with a glance at Oggie, who looked tired, Pax followed after him.

“You can talk to birds?” he asked, as Denver looked around for the tall first mate.

“Anyone can talk to birds,” Denver told him. “You just have to look at them and open your mouth.”

Pax glared at him, if only because that was the kind of response he would have given and now he was annoyed that he hadn’t thought of it. “Well, I suppose, if you want to be pedantic. But they talk back to you. That’s concerning. You should see a healer. Or a priest.”

Maybe Denver was a demon. Maybe Pax should kill him. Or just avoid him forever, since if he killed him, his soul might possess a flock of birds and follow Pax around everywhere.

Pax shuddered.

Denver, meanwhile, laughed at him. “It’s just something that happens. I’m not hearing them say words or anything, don’t worry. Promise I’m not crazy.”

“Well, you like birds, so I think you are, but go on.”

A smile. “Birds are amazing. I’ve always wanted to be able to fly like they do.”

“Me too, but that’s why you make deals with wind spirits or seek out artefacts of immeasurable power that can make the heaviest of objects float. Being a bird is…” Pax just shook his head. “No.”

Denver snorted. “You’re funny. I bet…if we’d met differently, we’d have been good friends.”

Denver talked to birds, so Pax sincerely, vehemently, thoroughly and vibrantly doubted it. “Probably,” Pax lied. “Maybe we still could be. I mean, we won’t see each other that often since we live on different ships, but you know. If we meet in ports and there are no birds around, we could have lunch.”

With a smile, Denver nodded. “Okay. What are you guys going to do?”

“We’re going to get another ship and…” Pax hesitated. “And we’re going to get Nate back.”

“You really think he’s out there, somewhere?”

“I know he is.” Pax smiled. “I may not talk to birds, but I know quite a lot anyway. Maybe even more, since I’m pretty sure birds lie.”

“They don’t. Birds aren’t like people.”

“People only lie if you let them.”

“People lie all the time because they can,” Denver said quietly. “People hurt each other all the time because they can. Birds don’t do that.”

Yes, they did, but Pax heard hurt in Denver’s voice and kept quiet. “Anyway. Yes, he’s out there somewhere. You’ll see when I get him back.” He made himself smile. “Maybe I’ll tell a bird to come let you know.”

Denver chuckled. “Okay. I’ve got to go find Sharp before we get too close to the harbour and cause a panic again.”

“Sure,” Pax said, waving him away. “You shouldn’t let me keep you from your duties. Reflects poorly on your character and you’ll never get promoted that way.”

“Okay.” Denver made off, still laughing at Pax. Pax just sighed and went to find his people.

The process of docking the ship in Pelican Bay was fortunately not something Pax had to be overly concerned about, and once the hammerhead sail had been taken down, there was no fear that they’d be arrested for being pirates, which was also nice. Pax just focused on staying out of the way and keeping his people together, sidling up to Natalie as the ship was tied down. “Everyone’s ready.”

“Thank you,” Natalie told him, patting Pax’s shoulder. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“You’d still have your ship without me,” Pax muttered. No matter what Sharon said, it was Pax’s fault that the Crown had been taken onboard the ship.

“I hate to be the one to tell you this, Pax, but the world doesn’t actually spin around you. If the Sea King wanted my ship, he’d have had it with or without you.” Natalie looked down at him. “And I’d rather have you here, pissed off at him with me, than not.”

“She’s right.” Pax jumped a little at Cedric’s voice on the other side of him. A hand fell on his shoulder. “I can’t imagine a force on the ocean I’d want against me less than you in a snit. And that’s including an angry Natalie.”

Pax coloured, looking at his feet. “Well, you’re in luck,” he said, taking a breath. “Because I’m in a hell of a snit.”

“That’s the way, lad,” Cedric said.

“We need to have a serious talk with our people,” Natalie said, as the gangplank was laid down. “Not all of them are going to want to stay. I’ve savings enough in the banks to pay out contracts, and lodge those who are staying, but some will want to leave.”

Pax wished they wouldn’t. He couldn’t stand more people leaving. But he knew she was right. “We’ll do it once we’ve found an inn for us all,” he said. “Um…I’ve got some savings too.” He had all the money Theodore had paid him for the two stones, and if those investments of his had paid off at all, there was more even than he’d realized. Pax would have to pay a visit to the bank and see.

“Don’t worry about it,” Natalie told him. “It’s not your responsibility.”

Pax didn’t agree, but he nodded for now because he didn’t want to argue about money right here and now. The gangplank was lowered, and Oggie came over, offering a hand to Natalie. “Good luck getting back on your feet, Captain.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Natalie said, smiling a little in such a way as to turn the title into a question. “I can’t tell you how much my crew appreciates your help.” She took his hand, clasped it.

“You’d do the same for us.”

Natalie nodded, and they shook hands for a moment before breaking apart, and Natalie waved her people towards the gangplank. “Come on, let’s go.”


Pax turned, saw Denver standing there. “Thank you,” he said to Denver. “For everything.”

“Yeah. Be careful, okay?”

“I will.”

Denver was standing there, looking nervous. Then he moved forward and hugged Pax. “You’ll get him back.”

“I know,” Pax whispered, hugging back even though spontaneous hugs were not his thing at all. “Thank you. Hey.”


“Get a shirt made from heavier fabric. It won’t sag as much and give away where your knives are.”

Denver went still in his arms, and Pax smiled, letting him go. “Thanks for everything, Denver. Really.”

“Y-yeah. Anytime.” He looked suspicious, nervous. But Pax just waved at him, and stepped down the gangplank.

On the crowded dock, the ground wasn’t moving. Dry land. Pax didn’t like it. He looked around, joining Natalie and the others, who all just looked so lost even if they were hiding it to degrees. “Okay,” he said when he got there. “Let’s not dally. We have work to do.”

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