Aphelion Issue 234, Volume 22
November 2018
 
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Silver Tongue

by William Roberts




Lealand flung open the door of the Blue Tarkan Alehouse and drew in a deep, satisfied breath. He flipped a gold coin that clattered onto the makeshift stage to the right of the doorway at the feet of a trio of minstrels. All three looked up and nodded thanks as they continued to tune their well-worn lutes in the dimly lit corner.

“Is this stop truly necessary, Mr. Johnson? There are much more suitable establishments in town for Lady Kinston than this.” The well dressed man glanced around the room in disgusted horror. He produced a lace trimmed handkerchief from his sleeve and covered his nose. “It isn’t so bad Mr. Renegar. It is very, quaint. Like a stable for sailors if you will.” Lady Kinston half smiled at the two men. “Our little side trek to this establishment is of the utmost importance, Mr. Renegar. I have personal business to attend to with a few of these fine lads, and you’ll do good to mind your own while we are here.”

“Then please make it quick before the foul odor of this retched place overtakes me,” Mr. Renegar coughed.

“Sing me a shanty boys,” Lealand demanded. “Aye Captain Johnson, aye. Would there be any particular songs that you’d prefer Sir? Or perhaps one that your lovely mistress would like to hear,” the older of the three minstrels asked as he gawked at the beautiful young woman behind the Captain.

“Something with a lass and love sounds good to my ears right about now.”

“Aye Captain, I know just the song.” The dirty faced young man turned and spoke to his associates.

“Away oh, hey oh, way oh way,” the trio sang in unison.

The Alehouse went silent. Sailor, dockman and ale maid alike stood and faced the stage in solemn unity. “Away oh, hey oh, way oh way,” the patrons harmonized as one. A steady slow paced canter shook the building as each onlooker stomped a foot to keep time with the song.

“Away oh, hey oh, way oh way...,” the minstrels repeated then continued, “I met a lass as white as snow.”

“Way...oh...way…” The chorus harmonized again.

“With curly locks as black as coal…”

“Way...oh...way…”

“She stole my heart and took my soul…”

“Way...oh...way…”

“Her father dearest sent her off…”

“Away...oh...way…”


Lealand turned to the young woman behind him as the song continued. “What do you think, Arya? Wouldn’t you say that this is much more enjoyable than that cold and lifeless manor house that your father put us up in?”

“I suppose dear husband. But why do they stare at us with such hungry eyes?”

“Most of these men are from my old crew. I know them well. I would be willing to wager that most of them are staring at you dear.” Lealand leered at the young girl with a smirk. “Most have never seen a gilded lady such as you up close before. I am sure that they would love to see you in a much closer, and more personal fashion. I also have no doubt that a few of the others are most likely thinking the same sort of thoughts about our good chaperone Mr. Renegar.”

“I beg your pardon, Mr. Johnson? Please explain to me again why you have brought us to such a dreadful place? Lord Kinston would not approve of his daughter, wedded or not, to be in an establishment such as this.”

“You’ll be shutting your flabbering mouth at this moment, sir!” Lealand stepped to Mr. Renegar and stood nose to nose. “I have many reasons why, Mr. Renegar. Many reasons that have nothing in the slightest to do with money, power, or propriety, sir. But instead my reasons have everything to do with living life as a free man, not as a powdered and pampered puppet. My first and most important reason Mr. Renegar, is that I missed my home. Of all the places that I have traveled and seen throughout this world; this putrid, untamed tavern is the closest thing to a home as I have ever had.”

Lealand stretched out his right arm and pulled back his sleeve. He pointed his fist toward a man seated at the table just around the corner from the three singers. With a loud twunk, the man clutched at three iron darts that protruded from his chest. Blood frothed from his mouth as he attempted to scream. He gurgled a gasp then slumped forward onto the table.

“Oh my Gods, Lealand. What have you done?” Lady Arya stared at the dying man.

“Second Mr. Renegar,” Lealand growled, his tone heavy with furious disdain. “I greatly tire of you and your forced ways. I am a gentleman by no means, but I am a capable man in command of his faculties and I have no need of a chaperone. Nor do I have the need of an informant to carry messages to my wife’s father for the slightest of infractions to your twisted code! Regardless of how rich and prosperous the life of a gentleman may be, I can bear it no longer. I am what I am, and I can no longer pretend to be something that I am not.”

Lealand sauntered over to the table and sighed. He looked back to Mr. Renegar and Lady Arya with sad, tearful eyes. “I told this dirty braggart time and time again, that this was my seat. The poor bastard just wasn’t too bright, I suppose.” He leaned the dead man back, and pulled the three iron darts from his chest. “No matter now. The dead are dead, the life has been bled,” Lealand implored without remorse, then laughed. He shoved the dead man from his chosen chair, and took a seat.

“ALE,” Lealand shouted at a passing barmaid then looked back to Mr. Renegar with a scowl. “Now the way I see it, Mr. Renegar, you are a man of no worth. You and your type neither benefit the common good, nor assist me personally in any way.” A look of grave concern replaced the expression of annoyance on Mr. Renegar’s face. “I will admit though, a man such as yourself can be a valuable ally if you wish to play politics. I have no doubt that you have been invaluable to Lord Kinston during your tenure. Though I doubt he’d know that you had swayed the current goings on. Or that you did what you did in order to favor yourself with extra lands and gold at his expense.” Lealand chuckled with a toothy grin.

“Now see here, Mr. Johnson. I will have you know that I have faithfully served Lord Kinston with due diligence for decades. I am a valued advisor and…”

“And a cuckold, Mr. Renegar. A bloody cuckold,” Lealand shouted. “Come Arya, we are leaving,” Renegar clutched Arya by the wrist. “I think not Sir,” Lealand growled. “You’ll unhand her or I’ll set the mist queens loose on you. They would love to get their hands on a dandy such as yourself.” Lealand grinned wide.

“You wouldn’t,” Renegar protested.

“Oh I would, sir. I would. Now here is the conundrum. I have worked hard my entire life. I worked my way up from a blue jack and deck hand to a ship of my own. I have traveled, and seen a good part of this little corner of the world. I have bartered, bought, sold, and traded my way to a fairly good life at sea. Then when Lord Kinston offered me and my crew a license against the Nords, I was ecstatic. I thought I’d finally have my chance at lands and a title, and so I did Mr. Renegar. I earned Lord Kinston’s respect so well that he offered me his daughter's hand in marriage.”

“Will you get to the point already Mr. Johnson,” Renegar demanded with an irritated huff.

“I no longer have a wish to play politics Mr. Renegar. I have no more need of court life or the constant bowing and boredom that comes with a title. I especially have no more need for the amount of ass kissing that is required to keep everyone’s egos in check. That being said, I am sure that you will trot off to Lord Kinston and tell him that I endangered the life of his lovely daughter or some such thing. And to tell you the truth, I don’t much care, though I do have a thought or two on how to handle the matter.”

“Here ya go Captain,” the barmaid interrupted.

“Bless you lass, bless you.” Lealand took the overly full mug from the full-breasted barmaid and drank deeply of the dark liquid. He wiped the froth from his mustache with a happy belch and wide smile. “Thank the lords of land and sea. This is a blessed drink if I have ever had one. How I have longed for an ale over those dry, watered down wines of court. Here you go lass, for the ale and your troubles.” Lealand handed the barmaid four gold coins.

“This is too much Captain. It wouldn’t be right to take so much from you for only an ale.”

“It’s for more than the ale lass,” Lealand said as he looked down at the dead man on the floor. “Please see to it that Cooper comes and retrieves the bloody idiot before he begins to stink. And here lass, for yourself,” he hands her another gold coin.

“Thank you Captain, yes sir, I’ll tell Cooper right away sir.” The girl ran back to the kitchen.

“Where are my manners,” Lealand said as he pushed a chair out from the table with his boot. He took another deep drink from the mug. “Please Dear, sit and rest those thin twigs that you call legs.”

“Why would I want to sit Lealand? You killed that man in cold blood,” she reprimanded. “What makes you think that I would be willing to sit so close to a killer or a cold corpse for that matter?”

“That’s hardly fair now. He’s still warm to the touch.”

“You are incorrigible,” Arya said with an exasperated huff. “Aye, I am. And you are my wife. I am fully within my legal rights to punish you as I see fit, should you fail to obey any command that I give. I have personally witnessed your father invoke that law a time or two.” Lealand smiled with self-satisfaction.

“You wouldn’t dare,” she growled with uncertain defiance.

“Wouldn’t I?” Lealand smiled, then propped his feet on the table and took another sip of ale. “Do as I command or don’t, makes no difference to me my dear. Just know that with choice, comes result. For good or bad I cannot say because first, we must see your choice in order to reveal the result of that choice.”

She sat in the chair.

“Now Mr. Renegar, where were we in our little discussion?”

“You were about to explain to me how you will deal with my employer, your father in-law, after I have informed him of how you have endangered his daughter's life.”

“Mr. Renegar, really that is enough,” Arya defended. “Lealand will not allow anything to happen to me.”

“You defend him after he has just threatened you with harm by his own hand?”

Lealand fought for breath through a hearty red faced laugh. He finished his ale and slammed the tankard onto the table. The young barmaid pushed past Mr. Renegar and replaced Lealand’s empty Mug.

“Ving! Where be ye’ lad,” Lealand shouted

A short, barely five-foot tall man with broad shoulders, bald head and goblin like ears appeared beside Mr. Renegar. “Yes Captain,” Ving reported, at ease but tall and proud before his captain.

“Do ye’ still have my rosters and affects?”

“Aye Captain. I stowed all of your gear as you asked me to before I sold off the ship and paid the men. It would only take a few moments to retrieve your chest from the lockers.”

“Good. If you wish, place yourself on the roster as quartermaster and increase your previous pay by ten gold Airh per voyage.”

“Aye Aye Captain,” Ving said with a wide smile then disappeared through a door at the rear of the common room.

Lealand gulped his drink and slammed the empty wooden mug onto the stained and sticky table. He let out a loud belch as he stood tall, removed his embroidered velvet jacket, and tossed it at the minstrels. “One of you lads make good use of that and play me another tune.” He drew a strange barbed dagger from its scabbard at his side and checked the edge of the blade.

“Gold,” Lealand shouted over the ruckus of the tavern. The room went silent. He stepped away from the table to the center of the room and glared at each and every man. His cold gaze stern and condemning, as if he inspected the depth of their very souls. “What man in this tavern does not wish for gold?” He placed the tip of the strange dagger onto the table and began to grind it into the wood. “I have heard tales of the Far East; The mysterious perversions of AlKol, the great Guardians of Yolin, the wonders of the Melnnay seas. I mean to gather a crew, take a ship and make for where the winds take me. I will fund this little endeavor by plundering my own lands, and those of my benefactor. My soul screams for the seas and I mean to see all that a man can see before my time is up. I will capture, pillage, and trade my way across the known world. And I dare any other man to stop me or to get in my way.”

“Have you lost your mind Johnson? Lord Kinston will not allow this!”

“You say that like I should care what Lord Kinston thinks, Mr. Renegar. Lord Kinston is helpless to do anything and he will find out after it is too late. Same as you sir, after you entered this den of cut throats and thieves.”

“Now see here, I am a very important man. I will see to it that any man who so much as touches me will hang.”

The crowd erupted in sudden laughter.

“You will silence yourself Mr. Renegar. I have grown tired of that slack, flapping jaw of yours.”

“Captain,” Ving shouted as he pushed through the crowd. He placed a small chest next to Lealand’s seat. Ving retrieved a thick ledger book from the chest, laid it out on the table, flipped to a blank page and entered his name on the roster. He snatched a thick bundle from the chest and stepped toward Lealand. “Welcome back Captain,” Ving said with a smile, then unfurled the bundle. With a flip of the material, Ving held out a well-worn, greenish black leather longcoat.

“For those who do not know me, I am Captain Lealand…Silver Tongue…Johnson,” he proclaimed as he slipped on the longcoat. Ving held out a leather head wrap that the Captain eagerly donned. “That feels so much better. Thank you, my friend,” he said with a nod to Ving. “My swords Ving,” Lealand demanded. The small man ran to the chest and retrieved two single edged short swords with simple wooden handles. Lealand checked each blade with loving care, and then slid them into the scabbards hidden inside the longcoat.

“Those of you who are loyal to me blockade the doors and gather those who are not. If you wish to sail beneath my colors, then step up and make your mark. I mean to steal a ship this night and rob my dearest father in-law of everything he is worth.”

“You will all hang for this treason,” Mr. Renegar blathered.

“No sir, I will not. I regret to inform you that you will not have the opportunity to witness such a heinous thing as a pirate hanging, but I am sure that we will meet again in the underworld.” Lealand pointed the strange dagger at Mr. Renegar’s chest. “Say hello to the great beasty for me Mr. Renegar,” he laughed then flipped a small lever on the dagger. With a heavy metallic thwack, the blade of the dagger flew forward and embedded itself up to the ricasso into Mr. Renegar’s chest. The sides of the blade scissored outward and chewed into the thin man. “Oh my gods! Mr. Renegar!” Arya sobbed. “He’s a worthless leech on the back of the world, my dear. I have made the world a better place on this night by removing him from it.” Lealand wound up the slack of the thin cable that connected the blade of the dagger to the handle. “And I assure you. This man is a soulless beast that no one will miss.” With all of his strength, Lealand yanked on the cable and removed the blade from Mr. Renegar’s chest with a sickly crunch. A portion of the man’s rib cage clung to the dagger.

“Ving, reset my dagger if you please,” he ordered as he handed the handle to Ving. “You two get rid of this,” he pointed to two men, then motioned toward Mr. Renegar’s body.

“You vicious beast! You murdered my father’s man in cold blood.”

“If you feel that way my dear, please consider this notice of our divorce. I have already managed to arrange work for you.”

“Wha…,” she stammered before Lealand interrupted.

“Someone take her upstairs and put her to work with the rest of the painted up doxies.”

“No. You cannot do this. My father will have your head!”

“No my dear, I don’t believe so,” he laughed. “A valuable word of suggestion for you to mull over, Wife. Learn to do for yourself quickly. The quicker you learn that lesson the less harm will come to you,” he laughed.

“More Ale! Come lads make your mark and let’s get to business.”

Arya tore herself away from a sailors grasp. “I will not be anyone's whore!”

Lealand glowered at her. “What makes you think that you have a choice in the matter? Take her away,” he ordered the sailor.

“You will not!” She struck at the sailor like a feral cat. Four red stripes appeared across his face that immediately began to seep. “You will take me with you as full partner in your enterprise as well as your wife,” she growled.

The room exploded into hysterical laughter. Two sailors restrained Arya’s arms to her sides as Lealand approached. He stopped a few steps away from her and glared with curious uncertainty.

“Who are ye’ lass, and what have you done with my frigid, docile sheep of a wife?” He looked her up and down as he licked at his toothy, lustful grin. “You’ve a fire about you that I’ve never seen before, Wife. What pray tell has sparked this bit of you to life?”

“You have summed up the misery of my life. I do not want to rot away of boredom at court. I want to experience the world Lealand. Take me with you,” she pleaded.

“I think not Arya, you’d be a distraction and hindrance at best on a voyage. Not to mention a liability should we get into a situation. Take her upstairs and hand her over to Kayleigh. She’ll take good care of you my dear.”

“I said no Lealand. I am no one’s whore and I will be boarding that ship with you!” She white knuckle gripped the manhood of both sailors. The sailor on her left vomited across her back and shoulder. The other shrieked in tearful agony. She stood proud and defiant as she released her grip.

“Would you look at that Ving. There may be hope for her yet.” Lealand licked his lips, then slapped Ving on the back and stepped toe to toe with Arya. “So tell me good wife. What services do you bring to the table?” He looked downward at her with a grimace, the top of her head almost to the height of his shoulders. “How do you propose to earn your keep aboard my ship, Wife?” He stared so deeply into her eyes that he looked to be inspecting her soul.

“I have tended to my father’s accounts for years. I could be of use in your business dealings.” Arya wrung her hands, then caught herself and placed them behind her back.

“Pah! That’s what I have Ving for,” Lealand chuckled.

“Then let me say this plain and clear good husband. You said that you plan to raid my father’s estates as well as our own to fund this little venture. You have no idea where my father keeps his gold and jewels and I seriously doubt that either yourself, Ving, or any other crewman could ever hope to find his cache.” She bore a contemptuous gaze at him as she turned to leave.

“He keeps it all in the vault I am sure. Hidden in a secret room just off from his offices. I have seen inside of it with my own eyes. The room glitters with gold and silver,” Lealand replied.

“You must have too much salt in your head husband. You know nothing of my father or his ways. That room he chose to let you see is a mere pittance compared to the real horde.” Her voice was coarse and gloating. She continued toward the front door of the tavern.

“Wait Arya,” Lealand shouted then turned to Ving. “What say you man? You’ve been my right hand all these long years. Could you teach her to keep the tallies and logs? That would free you up to tend to other matters.”

“Aye Captain, I could. And if what she says is true, coin and gems are easier to spend than artwork or goblets.”

“We’ll give you a fair chance as the ship’s Eigthmistress, dear Wife. You’ll tend to the ship’s logs and accounts and report directly to Ving.”

She glanced back over her shoulder with a sly grin. “And what of my pay husband?”

“Pay? What pay? You’d be along for the voyage as you requested,” Lealand stammered.

“I think not,” she continued toward the door.

“Fine Arya, fine. Dammit to all the hells. A gold Airh or equivalent coin per voyage and payable in port.”

“Three,” she countered.

“You’re out of your bloody mind if you think any apprentice on board my ship will earn nearly as much as a master.”

She continued out the door. Lealand looked at Ving in frustrated disbelief.

“Don’t look at me Captain, you married her”

“Two,” Lealand shouted.

Arya poked her head back into the doorway. “Two and a half.” The Captain looked between Arya and Ving as he tapped his foot. “Fine! Two and a half, but you’ll be fodder for the crew if you cross me. Now sign the damned roster and get to work.”

“Aye aye Captain.” She obliged with a self-satisfied smile and signed the roster then took a seat at the Captain’s table. “Line it up mates! We haven’t got all night.”

“May Ordeious have mercy on our souls for letting that she devil aboard my ship,” Lealand paused, shook his head, then continued. “Ving, what have we anchored in port this night?”

“There are a number of small fishing sloops and schooners. A chebec, a large number of Nao’s out of Gil’Ford, and a three hulled Elven Lúthien.”

“A Lúthien you say? Now that is a prize to be sure. Is she moored at the dock or anchored in the harbor?”

“She’s docked at the warehouse wharf Captain.”

“Then that settles it. We’ll have a ship, and a swift one at that. Do you know the name?”

“I believe I heard someone say her name was The Star Nola, Captain.”

“I like it.” Lealand smiled at the thought. “I believe that we’ll keep it. Make your mark lads and we’ll make for our new ship! A toast! To the Star Nola, may she sail swift and true!”

The crowd erupted with cheers and laughter, “The Star Nola!”



THE END


© 2018 William Roberts

Bio: In a previous lifetime, William Joseph Roberts was an F-15 mechanic and Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force. He has traveled the world and experienced many things in his few years. During his tenure in this lifetime, he has been called a Jack of all trades, a Renaissance man and insane squirrel wrangler by his peers. Since his enlistment ended, he has perused careers as an industrial and architectural designer, design engineer, and now, eclectic writer. William Joseph Roberts currently resides in the quaint southern town of Chickamauga, Georgia with his loving wife, three freaky smart nerd children, and small pack of fur babies.

Twitter: William Roberts

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