Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Sneak

Since the storm of the past week, the ship had slowed rocking, giving the seamen a short reprieve from the ever-present headache of readjusting to the shifting footing. Captain Harn had decided to give the crew leave to relax, as the sky seemed clear, and had retired to his cabin for several days. Though it was sometime near afternoon, most had taken this opportunity to go below deck and get a bit of gambling in, or enjoy a few drinks without having to deal with rum-drenched clothing. After all, it was a fairly gloomy and depressing day, and they were far enough from land to relax their guard on these seas. The Marauder had been on the high seas for months; now was a time to relieve the anxiety the crew had felt over the upcoming time ashore. After the tumultuous experience escaping from the shore of the Netherlands and subsequent time spent traveling on the coast of Africa looking for a profitable sea route, the present anxious atmosphere as next to nothing to this crew, but more hardened crews had gone bad from lesser troubles.

Rumors of dangerous political going-ons in the colonies had worried most of the Britons on the ship, despite the likelihood of good sailor work being available. However the few men they had picked up from the coast of Africa, along with the Dutchmen who had decided to try their hands at sailing, seemed mainly indifferent. As it was, only a few of the crew or passengers stayed on deck in the day’s foggy atmosphere. On the deck, one vagabond, dressed in only ragged grey robes, had decided to stay, likely from unconsciousness; his body was draped over a spool of salt-encrusted rigging.

Or so it seemed to the helmsman, who made only a small notice of this before getting lost in thoughts of what would be soon an entertaining shore leave. Perhaps if he had paid more attention, he would have noticed the vagabond suddenly darting up from his place on the rigging. The vagabond, his body obscured now by the foremast, shot like an arrow up the mast’s height, moving along the rope as if gravity didn’t even apply to him. A grey streak during his ascent, at the top of his journey his figure resolved into sharp focus. Perched atop the crow’s nest, his grey robe flowed out into a cloak, revealing a thinly-clothed, wiry frame underneath.

Finding the barrelman asleep, the figure dropped down into the crow’s nest and moved to the edge, facing the bow of the ship. Reaching into his robes, he retrieved a small tube which unfolded into a telescope in his nimble hands. The vagabond looked through this at the horizon, sweeping from left to right until something caught his attention. A small patch of green, streaked with bands of brown and off-white stood at the edge of the horizon. He collapsed the telescope, placed it back within his robes, and slid his hand around into another pocket in his clothing. Feeling around for a few seconds, he was satisfied by the rough-yet-fragile texture of a small rectangle of stationery.

His fingertips felt across the gold-leafed letters “To My Associate…” before sliding further down along the paper. “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Shadow.”.. Viktor, the vagabond, grinned. He was near his destination. For a moment he stood in thought at the crow’s nest, considering the distance between the boat and the slowly widening length of land on the horizon. The barrelman beside him stirred. With a leap, Viktor was up and over the edge of the crow’s nest. By the time the lookout cried out “Land!”, the vagabond had resumed his place, feigning unconsciousness on the spool of rope on the deck. He had a job to do, and he had a reputation to keep. He’d be damned if he’d fail to do either task.

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