28th of Intas, 2719
“Oi, ye clumsy sack o’ kenser shit!” Luella Blythe’s voice rose easily over the noise of the docks, striding over to the teenager who was doing his utmost to juggle a parcel far too large for his gangly frame. The venture was failing as much as anything could fail, the box falling to the ground repeatedly while the awkward adolescent did his best to cover up his blunders. Unfortunately for him, Luella saw it all, and she was ready to flay the boy alive if he damaged even an inch of the merchandise some fool had entrusted him with.
Her face set in harsh lines of sharp irritation, the pirate yanked the package from his hands, jerking her chin in the direction of the ship he’d just departed. “How ‘bout ye don’t destroy all the King’s goods, eh? We ent payin’ ye t' break 't, boy. Ye drop one more box, an’ we ent payin’ ye at all, ye chen?”
Several rapid nods showed his understanding, hastening off in the other direction before she could say another word. “Bunch o’ clockin’ idiots,” Luella muttered in disgust, dropping the package at its intended destination with far more ease than its previous handler. Drawing her sleeve across her forehead to dry the sweat from her labor, her eyes narrowed when she saw another boy heading in her direction.
“Miss Blythe,” he greeted her with a nod, holding a folded scrap of paper in her direction. “Got a message for ye from th’ Taxman. Said t’ make sure it got put in yer hands.”
Luella’s brow rose in confusion and curiosity alike. “Th’ Taxman, eh?” Dusting off dirty hands on equally dirty pants, the Brother unfolded the missive and briefly scanned its contents, her brow only rising further into her forehead. “An invitation to th’ Palace,” she murmured in surprise, flicking the boy a penny for his troubles. Accepting it gratefully, he bit into the coin before shoving it in his pocket. “Don’ know wha’ I were expectin’, but it weren’t that.” With a snort, she glanced down at her disheveled appearance and shook her head.
“Guess I best get cleaned up, eh?”
A mouthful of rum shot a column of fire down her throat, the sweet burn settling in Luella’s belly and unravelling whatever tangles lay within. The King knows ‘ow t’ treat ‘is subjects, the pirate thought to herself before another swallow joined the first, setting her glass down in front of her. She'd been at the Palace for nearly an hour, plenty of time for her to drain a bottle, and still she had no idea why she'd been summoned. Be nice t’ know why we’s all ‘ere in th’ first place, she mused behind half-lidded eyes, barely concealed impatience starting to find its way to the surface. A lit cigarette replaced the rum in her mouth, the woman dragging on the spur and releasing the smoke in wafting tendrils around her head. Even if I ent one t’ complain ‘bout free booze.
Restless fingers tapped the surface of the table, a dark gaze sifting to and fro. Gatherin’ like this means somethin’ big, she reasoned, her eyes lighting first on the golden-haired galdor at the head of the table. Corwynn Wynngate. The Taxman was a household name among the Brothers, and one who didn’t call on such a group without cause. If he was involved, it was sure to be something worth her time, and every moment that passed just revved her up that much more. Why were they here? What was happening? And when would they get to the clocking point?
Next, she took in the tattooed lass beside him, a woman whose skin was as colorful as her own. Lacey Lovell. A wench she knew by sight and reputation, even if their paths had rarely crossed before. A good pirate, but not a Brother. What the clock’s she doin’ ‘ere? The others that she recognized were definitely Brothers, so she couldn’t help but wonder why someone not in their organization would be among them. Was she joining? Was this some other kind of business entirely? Luella had nothing but questions, and no answers seemed forthcoming.
The next face she stopped on was that of Murko Muelton, a Mugrobi raider and close associate of the late Tom Cooke. A clockin’ moron at that, she added silently in her head before taking another swallow of rum. He was respected well enough among the Brothers, and with good reason, but any time she’d had the misfortune to be in his presence, she’d come to regret it. If ‘e’s ‘ere too… Luella rolled her eyes. Maybe I shouldn’t have accepted Wynngate’s invitation. Shrugging, she took another drag off her cigarette. Too late now, I s’pose.
Leaning back in her chair, she took in the rest of the room with a smug, satisfied nod. At least Anders an’ Will was left off th’ invite list, she thought with no small amount of relief when she found no trace of either one. Though I doubt any man wi’ a lick o’ sense would throw us all in the same room so soon. Not ‘less ‘e’s wantin’ ‘is palace painted red. A smirk briefly crossed her lips. I do wish I could see their faces after findin’ out I was invited an’ they wasn’t.
As she had the thought, Luella couldn’t help but wonder why she had been invited. Her disgraceful departure from The Hammerhead’s Prize was common knowledge around the Harbour by now, and she would’ve thought such a separation would take her out of more than a few good graces. Not like I were in many t’ begin wi’, but th’ point still stands. Luella was respectable in her own right, the surly pirate a good navigator and an excellent fighter, but she wasn’t particularly known for her ability to get on with others. A group this large and varied… whoever had thrown this venture together must have decided her biting attitude was worth the other skills she could bring to the table. I guess we’ll find out, eh?
After what seemed like hours of drinking and speculation, Corwynn at last began to speak—pulling them all back together and demanding their attention on him. “’Bout clockin’ time,” she muttered. “Didn’t come ‘ere for no fuckin’ family reunion…”
Draining the rest of her glass, she leaned forward to hear what the galdor had to say. Which wasn’t much, as it turned out; Lu’s head turned toward a disgruntled Muelton, who spoke aloud the thoughts reflected in her head.
“Aye, a bit o’ an explanation would do wonders, Wynngate,” Blythe added her dry voice to Murko’s, straightening in her seat and cocking a brow in the Taxman’s direction. “Ent a one o’ us ‘ere that’d dare snitch a Brother’s business. Don’ get me wrong, I’m all fer a bit o’ dirty dealin’, but it’d be nice t’ know jus’ wha’ th’ dirty dealin’ is.”