The Menagrie, V. II

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There were bandits on the road. There always were in High Rock. Maricent didn’t worry. As soon as a bandit leaped into the road in front of him or he saw a warning arrow land in the dirt near his feet, Maricent stooped a bit, took off hit hat, stared at the ground, and started the beggar’s lines from The Murder of Katariah, Act II: “Excuse me, kind sirs, kindest sirs, but could you spare a few drakes? I haven’t eaten in three days and…” The bandits would roll their eyes, holster their weapons, and get back into their ambush spots. A few even handed him a drake out of pity.

Two weeks later he arrived at the city nearly broke and with a hole worn through his left shoe. As he didn’t have enough money left for even the cheapest room, he went immediately to the docks.

“Pardon me,” he said to the friendliest looking sailor, a man so gaunt, tan, and muscular he might have been half-dreugh. “Do you know if any ships here are headed to Summeset?”

“Aye, the Abecean Ambassador, that one right there. But she never takes passengers.”

Maricent walked to it and began heading up the gangplank when a short but extremely broad Nord ran to the plank and said, “What do you think you’re doing? Trying to stowaway?”

“No,” said Maricent, “I merely wanted to speak with the captain.”

“We’re fully loaded and can’t take on any more cargo.”

“I wasn’t going to ask about–”

“And we never take passengers. So blow away.”

Maricent tried arguing, but the Nord kept running over his cues, and wouldn’t let Maricent even complete a single line. He walked back down the plank, dejected, and sat down on a crate nearby.

“Hey, you want to get on that ship?”

Maricent looked up to see another sailor, a Redguard boy of fourteen or fifteen who only looked a bit dreugh around the face. “Yes, I can’t explain why, but–”

“The Captain don’t take passengers,” said the ugly boy, “but she sure needs sailors. I can tell you a way you might do it for a couple drakes.”

Why not? Maricent thought. He had few enough drakes left that the loss of two more wouldn’t make any difference. He took out a pair and tossed them to the boy.

“You’re too grey to be a recruit, but if you can buy a day’s illusion from the Mages’ Guild, you can look young or look like a real sailor. Don’t let Captain Stone-Fists’ reputation or surname scare you. She’ll make your life miserable when she finds out, but she won’t just toss you over. Best be quick about it, because we leave at dawn.”

Maricent’s heart rose in hope, but then crashed when he pondered the going rates for the Mages Guild. He couldn’t afford a Starlight. There was no way he could afford an illusion spell to—

He clenched his fists and shouted at the sky, “Am I Maricent the Great or not?”

The ugly boy gave him an odd look as Maricent left and started searching for things he could use as a disguise: a sailor’s shirt left on a crate, one of the scarves most sailors seemed to wear, a straw hat, and a few other odds and ends. He dressed, tried to get into the role of a common sailor, and went back to the Abesean Ambassador. “Wanna see Cap’n Stone-Fist,” he said. This time the overly broad Nord just pointed him towards the little room at the front of the ship. He knocked on the door and it opened at once. He looked up, realized what he was looking at, and looked up again at the tallest Nord he’d ever seen.

She looked him up and down and down and down. “A recruit, eh?”

Maricent nodded.

“Aren’t you going to salute your Captain?”

Maricent saluted, a maneuver he fortunately learned for The Dwynnen Lai.

“Are you three hundred years old? No one salutes like that anymore. Well, it made me feel special, anyway. Let’s see what you’re about. Grab a rope and show me a bowline, a clove hitch, and a crane hitch.”

Maricent had no idea what she was talking about, but he had what seemed like a brilliant inspiration at the time. He pointed at his ears and mouth and made a sort of groaning sound.

“A mute, eh? Well, come here.” The captain waved for him to follow and then handed him one end of a short rope and pointed to a ring on the edge of the ship, then made a motion like a rope tying to it and then coming off again. Maricent worked for years as a stagehand when he was a youth thought back. If this were a prop, I’d use the shakeaway knot. He rapidly tied one and tugged it, then shook it loose. The Captain nodded, then pointed to one of the horizontal poles sticking out of the forward mast and motioned going around the pole, then tugging hard at the rope. If this were a flat, I’d use one of those round-and-under knots. He tied one. “Five drakes a day,” she said, “and you get your pay when we get into a port. You understand?” Maricent nodded, and only his immense acting experience kept him from saying thank you.

That was easy, Maricent thought, as Rolath — the ugly Redguard boy who tipped him off — led him around. He saw such marvelous curiosities as the bunk he shared, where the mess was, an hourglass that was apparently important, and a small locker he could use to put all the things he didn’t own. That was really easy, he thought. Given his luck over the last few years, he began to feel a steadily building dread.

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