DargonZine 31, Issue 1

Port of Call – Dargon

Nober 30, 1019 - Deber 1, 1020



   On New Year’s Eve, my ship named the Breath of Cirrangill sailed into Dargon harbor with the early morning tide. That’s right, my ship. Me, Percy Talador. I am the captain of my own ship. I wanted to name her the Curse of Cirrangill, but the priests wouldn’t let me. The bounty I got from a recent salvage mission was enough for me to buy a small ship. She isn’t much, just enough to carry a small amount of cargo and supplies.
     After docking, we secured the ship and set watch. Since we would not be offloading until tomorrow, I gave everyone but the watch liberty. Then I headed to the harbormasters to turn in a copy of my manifest and pay the docking fees and port taxes.
     When official business was over, I bought updated charts for northern Baranur and the area surrounding Dargon. The price was high, but I didn’t have a choice but hand over the money. You can’t sail coastal waters without good maps of the shipping lanes. I asked the harbormaster if the Friendly Lion, the ship my cousin Redale is on, was in port. He looked at the dock manifest and told me she was at pier four, berth three.
     It was around third bell when I reached the Friendly Lion.
     “Hoy!” I shouted.
     “What’d ya want?” A familiar voice called from the Lion.
     “Kodo?” I asked.
     “What’d ya want?” Kodo was the boatswain and cook for the lion. He seldom left the ship because of a fear of wizards.
     “I want to speak with Redale or Danae. I’m Percy, Redale’s cousin.”
     “I know who you are,” Kodo said. “They’re both dead. They fell overboard a sennight ago and drowned. Redale said you had turned pirate. Got your own ship, he said.”
     “I didn’t turn pirate, I turned private. I own my own cargo ship.
     “Pirate or not, they’re dead,” Kodo said. “Lost at sea.”
     “They’re not dead. Redale has been working aboard ships most of his life. He would not fall overboard. That is unless you tossed him overboard for pissing in your cooking pots.”
     “He did what?” Kodo shouted! “I’ll …”
     Kodo’s voice faded away as he headed below decks.
     I walked up the gangplank but stopped before stepping onto the ship. You don’t step on board a ship unless you have permission to do so. A deckhand was swapping the deck nearby.
     “Hoy, is Danae or Redale aboard?” I asked.
     “You got Kodo all worked up,” the deckhand said. “He’ll be mad at Redale for a while, even if he didn’t do nothing.”
     “I know. Is he aboard?” That was the point. Kodo and Redale always seemed to be at odds with each other.
     “No, they’re not here,” the seaman said.
     “Too bad.” I motioned for the deckhand to come over and handed him a Bit. “If you see Redale or Danae, tell them I’ll be at the Inn of the Serpent tonight. If they show, I’ll buy them a drink.”
     “Aye, I’ll tell um. Redale would never pass up a free grog.”
     “Thanks,” I said.
     “Can I see the mark?” the deckhand asked.
     I lifted my sleeve and showed him the mark of Cirrangill on my wrist. I have tried to have it removed. I had other tattoos put over it. Nothing worked. Once I even tried to cut it off. It always comes back.
     The seaman nodded and returned to his work.
     I thought about stopping at the Groggy Pig to see if Redale was having a grog, but it was too early even for my besotted cousin to be drinking.
     I spent the rest of the day taking care of personal business and arranging for a load of cargo heading to Shark’s Cove. The sun was just setting when I arrived at the Inn of the Serpent. I knew somewhere in Dargon, they were lighting a bonfire with the setting sun to symbolize the dying of the light and the beginning of the long dark winter. Right then, I didn’t feel like celebrating. I just wanted to have a drink and maybe talk to Danae and Redale.
     I went into the Serpent. Inside the doorway was the ugly green and red wyrm sculpture that gave the place its name. I’d been here many times during my navy days, playing cards, drinking, and getting into fights. Even this early in the evening there was a crowd and most of the tables had card games running at them. Money was everywhere. Moving through the crowd was a pair of muscular looking twins working as bouncers keeping eyes on the room.
     I sat at the bar and ordered a drink. Redale likes Grog, but his intent is to get as drunk as he can. I don’t drink to get drunk. The barkeep put a tankard on the counter. I took a sip and nearly choked on the ale when I saw Taja Tallot, the wizard from the Red Roger, sitting at a table full of card players. Taja had a large pile of money while the other players had almost none. Sitting on the table in front of her was a short-stemmed white clay pipe with smoke rising from the bowl.
     As if she felt my presence, Taja turned and looked straight into my eyes. She smiled and motioned for me to come over and sit next to her. That was very close to the last thing I wanted to do. Dying might be worse, but not by much. I thought about running, I might make it to the door, but I might not. I picked up my tankard of ale and walked over to her table.
     “Do you want a hand?” Taja asked.
     “No,” I said. “I can’t afford to lose.”
     “You might not lose,” Taja said. So far, since I had arrived at the table she had not taken her eyes away from the other players to look at me. Something about her gaze and the smoke swirling around the table made me uneasy.
     “I remember something a wise man once told me that applies to this situation,” I said. “Never play cards with a wizard.”
     “What do you mean?” Taja asked. “I’m not cheating.”
     “I would never accuse you of cheating,” I said. “But it’s good advice.”
     Taja pushed a chair toward me for me to sit. I did.
     “It’s not easy being a captain, is it?” Taja smiled.
     “You know?” I asked.
     “Of course,” Taja said. “I’ve been keeping up with your adventures.”
     The last time I saw Taja was when the Red Roger sailed north away from the crushed fishing boat Danae, Redale and I was on to escape the sea hag we had stolen treasure from.
      “You hungry?” Taja asked.
     “No,” I said. “What are you doing in Dargon?”
     “Port of call,” Taja said. “It’s New Year’s Eve. Dargon is mine for the night. Dargon is mine until next year!”
     As the dealer dealt another round of cards to the players, Taja picked up her pipe and drew upon the stem. Swirling smoke filled the air, drifting around the heads of the players. Cards were drawn and discarded.
     “I win!” Taja put her cards down on the table, a big smile on her face.
     “You must be cheating,” one of the players said.
     “I am not cheating,” Taja said. “Look at my hand, doesn’t it beat yours?”
     I looked at her hand of cards. It was not a winning hand, the hand of the player who accused her of cheating had a better hand.
     “I can see your hand is better than mine,” the player said.
     “Did you see me cheating?” Taja asked. Taja looked around the table at each of the players. “Did anybody?”
     “No,” they all muttered. None of them looked Taja in the eye.
     “Then that makes me the winner,” Taja said. “I’ll let someone else have my seat while Percy and I go have a talk. Anyone want to join a game?”
     All the players around the table grumbled, muttering under their breaths about Taja and not getting a chance to win their money back, but none of them had enough courage to say anything about it.
     One of the meaty bouncers moved closer to us. He watched as Taja collected her money and put it into her belt pouch. Another player took her place and then we moved to the bar to sit down.
     We talked for a few menes about our prior encounter. While Danae, Redale and I managed to acquire a modest amount of gold, Captain Barnaby, captain of the Red Roger, managed to acquire a lot more. The sea hag saved most of her treasure, dragging it back to the depths of the sea where it can stay. I’m not going back down there again, no matter how much gold there is.
     “I’ve got a room,” Taja said. She got up from the bar and headed toward the stairs.
     On the way past one of the bouncers, Taja slipped him some coins and said, “Don’t let anyone follow us.”
     “Are you coming?” She asked when I didn’t follow. “I know you want to.”
     I felt, well, I’m not sure what I felt. In a way, I was excited but filled with dread too. I picked up my ale and followed Taja up the stairs. My mind was saying no! Don’t go! But my manhood was saying Yes! Yes! Yes!
     Yes won.
     Taja led the way to her room on the second floor. As we walked down the hallway, I couldn’t take my eyes away from the shapely form of Taja’s backside. It seemed to curve at just the right angles, not too thin, yet, not too fat. And the cloak she wore managed to make every step she took an exotic treat. I wasn’t sure if it were magic, or if that was just her. The longer I looked, the less I cared.
     Taja opened the door to the room and stepped in. At that moment, I remembered inviting Danae and Redale for a drink. The thoughts started arguing in my mind, Redale, Danae, Taja, Redale, Danae, Taja. I followed Taja into the room. Danae and Redale could buy their own drinks.
     After I entered the room, Taja closed the door. She placed her hand on it and muttered a few words. Then she turned to face me and undid the clasp of her white cloak, letting it glide to the floor.
     “The captain knows we’re here,” Taja said. “You and me.”
     “What?” I asked.
     “I knew you’d be here tonight, so I told the captain. He said I could do whatever I want with you. As long as I make you an offer to join us and I don’t break you.”
     “What kind of offer?” I asked.
     “The same one he made you when you were aboard the Roger,” Taja said. “To join the crew. He thinks you’d make a good sailing master.”
     “But I have my own ship,” I said. And I didn’t want to be a pirate, but I didn’t say the last part.
     “You do now,” Taja said. “That leads to the second offer.”
     “Second offer?”
     “Straight,” Taja said. “If you don’t want to join the crew, you could work with us.”
     “What do you mean, work with you?”
     “Run supplies for us,” Taja said. “Carry a few loads of cargo to places where we can’t go. Things like that. The captain trusts you enough for you to know where we are. That’s not something he does very often.”
     Taja sat on the edge of the bed and poured two glasses of wine from a bottle sitting on the nightstand. She handed me one. Then she drained the other one in a single sip and refilled it.
     “You and the captain, do you …?”
     “No, he treats me like his sister,” Taja said. “We’re close, but not in that way. I don’t fark with anyone on board ship. I’d have to kill them if I did. Couldn’t have anyone talking.”
     I sat on the bed next to Taja. She terrified me, and I was having second thoughts about being alone with her. I didn’t want to be a pirate, always on the run. I was happy doing what I was doing now except for Cirrangill’s curse but being a pirate would be worse.
     Taja pushed me back on the bed and straddled me.
     “When we last parted, I didn’t have time to tell you what I wanted,” Taja said. She started undoing the leather string of her blouse. “Tell you what. Tomorrow, you think about the captain’s offer for a while. But keep in mind, if you work with us you won’t have to worry about me killing you when we meet up at sea. I don’t think you’ll have time to do much thinking tonight.”
 
***

     I was deep asleep when someone hammering on the door woke me. Taja was lying next to me on the bed, naked. Her arms and legs intertwined with mine. We had fallen asleep some time ago after sex. A lot of sex. My private parts would be feeling it for the next few days.
     “Taja Tallot, by order of the duke, open this door and surrender!” A man shouted in the hallway.  “You are a wanted pirate and murderer.”
     “Well, by Cirrangill’s slimy wanger,” Taja said. “Can’t even spend a quiet night at the inn anymore. I guess someone recognized me last night. The door should hold long enough for us to get dressed.”
     Taja kissed me and got out of bed. I watched her naked body for a few breaths, admiring her beauty. She had small breasts, pale blue eyes, a perfectly shaped figure, and short cropped auburn hair.
     “Take a long look. It’s the last one you’ll get for a while.”
     I smiled and stared as I sat up on the edge of the bed. Taja dressed in dark breeches and blouse instead of the white leathers she had on before. Every move she made only showed her beauty, which made me want her but also caused me pain. Now was not the time to …
     “Fark,” Taja said a mene later. She started quickly stuffing her things into a leather backpack. “They have a wizard with them. The door won’t hold for long. Get dressed, we’ve got to go. Make sure you don’t leave anything behind.”
     “Go where?” Running from the Town Guard? I never had to run from the Town Guard before. The most experience I had with the Town Guard was for fighting or drunken behavior.
     “Out the window,” Taja said. “I picked this room because it overlooks another building. We can escape across the roof.”
     “My name is Tanbry Cortinas,” a female voice said, “and I am a member of the Dargon Town Guard. Remove your spell holding the door or I will be forced to remove it myself.”
     “Stupid young bitch,” Taja said loud enough for Tanbry to hear it. “Just go ahead and do that.”
     “I could just stay here,” I said. I wasn’t a pirate. They didn’t want me.
     “You could,” Taja said. “But I can’t let you do that. They will ask you questions. You don’t know anything, but I can’t let them break you. The captain would be mad at me if I got you into trouble.”
     “What if I say no?” I asked.
     “Get dressed or I’m going to throw you out the window naked,” Taja said.
     There was a smile on her face, but it did not reach her eyes. I had no doubt she would do what she said. I dressed as quickly as I could, taking exceptional care to pack away my tender privates.
     “You go out the window first,” she said after I dressed. She grabbed me and gave me one last kiss.
     I climbed through the window and onto the roof. It was a cold, dark, and moonless night. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, as the saying goes.
     I turned back to look at the window and saw Taja coming through. In the light of the window, I noticed her figure was not as perfect as it was a mene ago. Dressed, I thought her clothes hid some of her beauty.
     “We need to go,” Taja said. “She will be through the door any moment.”
     “Why am I running?” I asked.
     “You’re with me,” Taja said. “They wouldn’t take time to listen, they would just arrest us both. They might just throw you into the duke’s dungeon. Me? Well, I’m sure they have a dark hole to put me in.”
     “Straight, lead the way. I can’t see,” I said.
     “Take my hand and try to keep up,” Taja said.
     We ran across the roof top to the rear of the building. From behind us there was the sound of a loud boom, followed by shattering glass. The window of the room we just left exploded outward, raining glass all around the area.
     “What was that?” I asked as I ducked.
     “That was Tanbry opening the door,” Taja said.
     “Fark, what are you doing?” I asked.
     “What are we doing?” Taja asked. “Escaping from the Town Guard. What did you think we’re doing?”
     “Did you just kill some of the Town Guards?” I asked.
     “No,” Taja said. “I didn’t do it. If anyone’s hurt, it’s Tanbry’s fault for being an inept wizard.”
     “We can’t kill the town guard,” I said. “Not just because it’s wrong, which it is, but because if you do, they won’t quit looking for you.”
     Taja stared at me for a few breaths with a very odd look on her face, like she’d eaten something sour. Then she said, “Why do you think they were knocking on the door? To give me flowers? They’re already looking for me.”
     “It’s just not right,” I said. “Swear that for tonight, while I am with you, you won’t kill anyone unless you absolutely need to.”
     “Why would I do that?” Taja asked.
     “Because I’m asking you to,” I said. “They’re the Town Guard.”
     We jumped from one rooftop to another. From nearby, the sound of a whistle blowing cut through the night. More Town Guards were close by.
     “Straight,” Taja said. “I won’t kill anyone tonight unless I have to, but you’ve got a lot to learn about being a pirate.”
     “I’m not a pirate,” I said. “I don’t think I will ever be a pirate.”
     “At least you’re good in bed,” Taja said. “Tanbry is going to be sniffing our tails so I need to get out of Dargon. Once I do that, I know a few tricks I can use to lose her.”
     I was growing short of breath. Ever since the curse, I found it hard to breathe out of the water and there was not much room for running onboard a ship. “How do we get you out of Dargon?”
     “I thought I could go through the night gate,” Taja said. “It’s always open. Unless they get there first and post a guard.”
     Just then, we came to the edge of the roof. “Jump,” Taja said.
     “It’s dark down there,” I said.
     “It’s ok,” Taja said as she pushed me off the roof.
     I kept control of my fear as I fell into the darkness. I was not going to scream and embarrass myself. After falling a short distance, I landed on a pile of hay and slid to the ground.
     “We’re at the stables of the Golden Lion,” Taja said. “The guard will be checking all the local places for me.”
     “How many people have you killed?” I asked.
     “I don’t know,” Taja said. “I quit counting at fifteen. Why does it matter?”
     I was silent for a time while we ran through the alleys of Dargon. It would have been hard for me to run and talk at the same time anyway. I had a notion of what time it was. It was late when I finally went to sleep, and it didn’t feel as if I had gotten much sleep. So, it had to be seventh or eighth bell.
     We rounded a corner and came across two men pushing a cart while arguing with each other. They sounded like an old married couple. The men pushed their cart and stopped to pick up a bit of trash from the alley and toss it onto the cart.
     “They’re moving away,” Taja said. “Good.”
     “They’re just a pair of old garbage collectors,” I said.  “They’re harmless.”
     “They could tell someone what they saw,” Taja said. “And then the guard would be on us in a mene. And they could identify you for being with me. You don’t want that do you?”
     “No, but they’re gone now,” I said. “Let’s go.”
     We moved through the darkness, along the alley to Market Street. There, we stood in the shadows and watched four Town Guard run by. Once the guards were out of sight, we slipped along the sidewalk toward Nochtur.
     “To get out of town we need to get to the Street of Travellers,” Taja said. “The guards know that, and they’ll have it patrolled and secured. We have to find another way out.”
     “What other way is there?” I asked.
     “I know of a way,” Taja said. “By ship.”
     “What?” I asked. “We can’t sneak onto the docks and hide on a ship.”
     “Yes, we can,” Taja said. “I know of a ship we can not only hide on but actually get away on.”
     I knew the ship she was talking about. Mine.
     We moved along Main Street heading toward Commercial Street. Taja moved like a natural through the darkness, while I stood out, even when I was standing in shadows. As we turned toward the docks, every street we crossed had a guard at the corner. How we managed to avoid them I don’t know. Our luck ran out as we passed the Inn of the Panther. Three guards were coming out and spotted us.
     “There they are,” one of the guards shouted. “Sound the alarm!”
     “Careful,” one said. “They said the woman is a witch.”
     “Did that guard just call me a bitch?” Taja asked.
     “No, he called you a witch,” I said, “but you can’t kill him.”
     “Cirrangill’s twat,” Taja said. “If I can’t kill them, what can I do?”
     “Put them to sleep?” I asked. “Make them drop their weapons? Turn them into sheep? I don’t know what you can do, you’re the witch.”
     “This is not a game,” Taja said. “You can’t just throw magic around like you do a rock. *And I am not a witch!*”
     “What do you suggest then?” I asked.
     “Run,” Taja said.
     We ran with the town guard right behind us, blowing their whistles. The guards didn’t try to catch up, they stayed behind so they could report where we were. When we reached the Inn of the Hungry Shark, we ran inside.
     I did not frequent The Hungry Shark. Fights were common, and even the guard wouldn’t go in if they didn’t have to. It had to be the most dangerous inn in Dargon.
    “Those three will wait a mene for backup before they come in,” Taja said. I could barely hear her over the noise. “We need to get through the crowd and out the back before they do.”
     We stood just inside the door, at the edge of the crowd. Taja lit a black briar pipe she took out of a pocket and puffed two small clouds of smoke into the air. At first, I didn’t notice anything, but after a few breaths, it became obvious. The stench of rotten eggs and gong was overwhelming. We moved through the crowd, which parted for the stench. All the while, Taja was shouting, “Sorry, I got to get to the head. Make a hole.”
     We reached the rear of the room as the guards came in. When the crowd saw the guards, it was like pouring high proof rum on a fire. The room erupted into action. Most of the patrons leaped from their tables and headed toward the doors. A few tipped their tables over and took position behind them.
     We made it through the rear exit into an alley along with many of the patrons who quickly vanished into the night. At the end of the alley was a single Town Guard. There was no way we could make it past him.
     “Stay here,” Taja said.
     “What are you going to do?” I asked.
     “Only what’s needed,” Taja said.
     Taja walked halfway to where the guard stood and stopped. A few breaths later the light of a flickering flame illuminated her face.
     I watched the guard fall to the ground.
     I ran up to Taja and asked, “What did you do?”
     “Only what I had to,” she said.
     “Is he dead?”
     “Does it matter?” Taja asked. “He’s not a problem now, is he?”
     “I asked you not to kill anyone.”
     “Well, if it will make you feel better, don’t check to see if he’s dead,” Taja said. “That way, you won’t know, and you can feel better about yourself.”
     “Damn you,” I said.
     “If you weren’t so good in bed and I didn’t have to make sure you’re not hurt, I’d leave you behind,” Taja said. On her face was the same cold smile as before.
     “Sorry to be such a burden,” I said. “I’m a sailor and I don’t want to be a pirate. I wasn’t looking for adventure.”
     “Don’t worry,” Taja said. “I’ll get us out of here. And maybe change your mind about being a pirate once you see how exciting it can be.”
     The alley ran parallel between the Street of Travellers and Main Street, behind the Inn of the Panther, the Inn of the Hungry Shark and on the other side, Arto’s Imports and Decalon’s Books and Scrivener. It ended near Sandmond’s Inn.
     “The docks are right over there,” I said. “If we can get to my ship, we might be safe.”
     When we stepped out of the shadows at the intersection of the Street of Travellers and Commercial Street, someone was waiting for us.
     “Taja Tallot, yield.” It was the same woman’s voice that was at the Inn of the Serpent. Her name was Tanbry. She stepped out into the street. “Do not make me use force.”
     “Bitch,” Taja said. “You’re good for someone as young as you are, I’ll admit that. But you’re just a whore in heat looking for a hound to ride her. Do you think you can capture me?”
     “No,” Tanbry said. There was a faint hint of fear in her voice. “But I’m sure I can slow you down until more help arrives.”
     “Really?” Taja drew a slim dagger from within a fold of her cloak and threw it at Tanbry. The dagger struck Tanbry in the shoulder, embedding to the hilt. Tanbry dropped to the street screaming. “Try tossing some magic now bitch.”
     “When in doubt,” Taja said as she turned to face me, “throw something.”
     Taja walked toward Tanbry. I wasn’t sure what she was going to do, but I didn’t want her killing the young wizard.
     “Whatever you’re thinking,” I said, “don’t. You said you wouldn’t kill anyone.”
     “Fark you,” Taja said. “If I want to kill someone, I’ll kill someone.”
     Taja reached Tanbry, who was trying to avoid her. She put her foot on Tanbry’s shoulder, pinning her in place and reached down to pull her knife out. Then she wiped the blood from the blade onto Tanbry’s cloak.
     “I was just going to get my knife,” Taja said.
     “I won’t forget this,” Tanbry screamed at Taja. “I’ll …”
     Taja viciously kicked Tanbry’s head. Blood flew from Tanbry’s mouth, then she was silent.
     The sound of guards coming echoed down the street.
     “Don’t worry, she’s not dead,” Taja said. “She’ll recover.”
     “Isn’t there a wizard’s code?” I asked as we ran across Commercial Street and onto the docks.  “Don’t you have to use magic or something when another wizard challenges you?”
     “Don’t be an idiot,” Taja said. “There are no rules except for the pirate code.”
     “What’s the pirate code?” I asked.
     “We are pirates,” Taja said. “The number one pirate code is take what you want, give nothing back. Oh, and kill anyone who gets in the way.”
     Taja was a pirate. I would never be a pirate.
     We crossed the docks and arrived at the Breath of Cirrangill. I didn’t want to help Taja escape, but there was little I could do to stop her. She would kill me if I didn’t, no matter what Captain Barnaby said and no matter how good she thought I was in bed.
     “They want you, don’t they?” I asked. Or was it me they wanted now? Did they know who I was? Would they be posting a reward for me? Would I be the first of the Talador line to be a wanted criminal?
     “Big reward,” Taja said. “You interested in the reward? Last time I looked it was five hundred gold.”
     “Five hundred gold?” I asked. “Isn’t that a little much?
     “Ok, it’s not five hundred,” Taja said. “I’m not sure what it is, but I’m sure it’s close.”
     We only had a mene or two before the guards would be close enough to see us. We had to get away from the pier before they did. Otherwise, they would chase us by ship. The Breath of Cirrangill was not a fast ship. There was no way I could outrun them.
     “Are you ready?” Taja asked.
     “If they search the ship, they will find you,” I said.
     “We should be able to find a rowboat tied to the pier,” Taja said. “They use them to check the ship’s hulls. You can row upriver past the guards.”
     Just like she said, I found a row bow near the ship. We climbed into the rowboat and cast off.
     “Can you hide us?” I asked.
     “Straight,” Taja said. “Do you smoke?”
     “I enjoy a pipe now and then,” I said.
     “Good,” Taja said. She took the short-stemmed white clay pipe out of a pouch at her belt and filled with a black tobacco from a different pouch on her belt. She put her finger into another pouch and when she pulled it out, the tip of her finger was on fire. She used her finger to light the pipe.
     The smoke from Taja’s pipe expanded until it encompassed the boat, hiding it from sight in the late-night fog that covered the harbor. I coughed once, then adjusted to the smoke. After a few menes, the boat had cleared the docks and was heading toward the river mouth. On the docks, the Town Guards carrying torches searched for us, going from ship to ship.
     “Quiet,” Taja whispered. “I’m not hiding sound.”
     The only sound we made was the rhythmic splash of the oars. Once we were clear of the port and headed upriver, Taja said, “Not too bad. You may make it as a pirate yet.”
     “I’m never going to be a pirate,” I said.
     “Don’t give up so easily,” Taja said. “Think about the other offer. It would be good for both of us. I’d hate to lose you.”
     It was harder to row upriver than I thought it would be. My arms grew tired and my back ached, but I kept going. I rowed past the first ferry, and then Pickett’s Let. Finally, we reached the beach of the second ferry landing and pulled ashore. The sun was just cracking the eastern horizon.
     “Fark,” Taja said.
     “What?” I asked.
     “There’re guards over there, checking the ferry,” Taja said.
     The first ferry of the day going across the Coldwell was loading. Three guards stood on the dock, checking everyone boarding.
     “Back into the river,” Taja said.
     I just grunted, pushed the boat back into the river, and continued rowing. We continued upriver until we reached where the old Causeway had fallen. I carefully navigated around large blocks of stone in the water. A race of people from across the sea called the Doravin were constructing a new bridge, but it would not be ready for some time.
     Once we were past the Causeway, we found a place to put the boat aground. Taja climbed out and stood on the shore.
     “What a way to start the new year,” Taja said. “Good wine, good sex, and an evening of adventure.”
     “I guess it was an unforgettable evening,” I said. “But not one I want to repeat anytime soon.”
     “You know you enjoyed it,” Taja said. “At least part of it.”
     I didn’t want to admit it, but I did enjoy it.
     Taja walked up to the roadway without looking back.
     I put the rowboat back into the river and drifted downriver back to my ship. I knew I wouldn’t become a pirate. That wasn’t something I could live with. I had spent most of my adult life chasing them. Not to mention the disgrace it would cause my father.
     I would have to think about Captain Long’s offer, if only for my own safety. Should I make runs for him, I would be a smuggler and if caught, I might face the gallows.
     The problem was if I didn’t accept the offer and I encountered the Red Roger while at sea, Taja would kill me. I don’t think she made idle threats. Taja might be beautiful, but she was just as deadly.
     But what if I only took supplies to their ship? If I didn’t bring contraband into port I wouldn’t be smuggling. Then if I were stopped, all I would have on board would be normal supplies. Food, water, other things like that. That was something for me to think about.
     I made it back to my ship after the sun cleared the eastern horizon. It was the first day of a new year and I had a lot to look forward to. No matter what I decided, at least now the future looked interesting.
     And that is how I spent New Year’s Eve in Dargon.

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Dargon Things

Things are Dargon-specific characters, places, or items unique to the world of Dargon. The Things below appear in this story. You may click on one to see its definition and the stories in which it appears: