The Unconventional Caliber of Men-An Ongoing Tale Chapter 223

Benjamin from Brother’s Campfire Here! Join me while I spin a tale of the Land of La Longi!

One flash from a lantern was all the evidence that the merchant ship had arrived. The sounding of a shrill whistle was the shopkeeper’s response.

Rowing hard, Asthton and Athyes made their way to the merchant ship. A rope ladder was thrown from the deck along with rope to secure the small vessel alongside. There was no movement above and it was eerily silent.

Ashton was content to wait. Once, while gathering, he saw a rabbit sitting deathly still in the middle of a field. A hawk flew overhead. In fear, it bolted, only to have it’s life ended. It felt this way now.

He was nervous, and a little sick from the bobbing up and down of the ocean.

Athyes was not so inclined for patience. He whispered,
“Climb aboard and see what the holdup is, we must be going.”

Ashton felt cornered, afraid. “Let’s wait. We know not what transpires above.”

Athyes was contemptuous, “are ye afraid boy? Do what I tell ya, if you know what’s good.”

“Give me the chain on your neck, Athyes. It looks rather expensive.”

“No. Why would I do that?”

“It would lessen the value of pressing me into this merchant ship against my will. Let me have the chain.”

“You are foolish. I am paying you for a job. Do you intend on me paying for you sitting idle?”

“Sir, I grew up along the sea with the Longboatmen and have seen many a thrall washed up on the beach when services were no longer required. There will be less chance of that with your gold on my person.”

Begrudgingly, Athyes accepted. Ashton’s eyes never left the shopkeeper’s until he was well out of reach. Something did not set right and his mouth was cotton and palms sweaty from the confrontation.

The rope ladder was foreign to him, and it’s usage a little awkward, but he adjusted quickly. It would have been much easier without the shoes Colette insisted he wear.

At the top, he was met by a sailor who put a finger to his lips signaling silence.

Moving slowly, he pointed off in the distance. Her profile could hardly be made out , but another ship was passing.

The sailor, blood flowing back into his fear whitened face was relieved.
“Tis Captain Gryll, of the Grasshopper. We are fully laden with cargo and the man is ruthless. Come, and we will get the supplies that were ordered.”

Swiftly, Ashton and the sailors loaded the supplies in nets that could be lowered with block and tackle.

Silence was maintained throughout as the pirate ship could not be far away.

Ashton could see the rope ladder had been lifted He would have lowered it himself, but his way was blocked by a tall thin man with one eye and no patch to cover. His smile was mischievous and his teeth yellow. “May I help you lad?” He asked.

“Yes, please sir, will you lower the ladder that I may return to my ship?”

“Na, lad, Captain says we keep all who come aboard. We be short handed after all.”

He lifted his left arm to reveal a hook attached. “You will do as a good cabin boy for now.”

A lump came to Ashton’s throat and his heart raced. He was to be La Longhaied then.
Dread filled his mind as he thought of how he had been tricked aboard so easily. It was time to think fast.

“Is that how you will speak to your ship’s surgeon? I chose to come aboard and I need my tools and ruck from below. Do Have Athyes send it up for me.”

The sailor was ill smelling and of evil disposition. “so be it, surgeon. My eye has been bothering me and I think the rash is coming back.”

“I will examine you on morning’s light, good man.” Ashton replied.

As the sailor looked over to Athyes, Ashton reared back and kicked his hinder parts pushing him overboard.

Quickly, he threw the rope over and swung down, shimmying as fast as he could.

The rope began to move upwards. They were pulling it back up as he descended. The rope was awkward for him to use in the first place and he fell into the sea. Kicking fast, he resurfaced. Athyes’ boat was gone!

He could see the lights of Hayhyrst, and it was a good ways out.
He was exhausted. Chopping wood, pushing a wheelbarrow, rowing, and stacking the trade goods had taken no small effort on his part.

His left arm stung with pain. Had he pulled a muscle?

“Throw me in the ocean, boy, you drown now.”

The sailor who he had kicked overboard latched on with his hook and held him under. He could feel the hook scrape bone. Terrified, he pulled his dagger and slashed.
The man was relentless and held him under. Ashton stabbed again and again.
The sailor’s body gave way and began to sink and Ashton gasped for air. He had nearly drowned.

Sobbing and afraid, he sheathed his weapon.
This was the second time he had taken a life and he was disgusted with himself. Both times he was cornered and afraid.
In this instance, they would have used him up and thrown him overboard when he was of no further use to them.

Ashton did not like violence and yet it seemed to find him out. He just wanted everything to be normal again. What was normal? Like the sea, his life was rocking to and fro. It would be up to him to make sense of the world, to strike a balance. Perhaps some violence was necessary to maintain order.

Ishaan was right. He would have to conquer himself before he could conquer anything else. Here he was, drifting along worried about philosophy when it was time to act.

Feeling his arm, it had a wretched gouge. He would have to dress it at the next opportunity. Such wounds were prone to infection and the ocean was full of sickness.

Ashton swam far from the ship tow
wards Hayhyrst. It was not likely, but he didn’t want a boat lowered to retrieve him.
It would not be hard and there would be resentment from the crew for taking the life of a crewmember, even if he was justified in taking a life.

There was no time to waste. The water was cold, the swim far, and he had a gold chain to return.

Author: The Storyteller

Benjamin Thiel is a husband, father, correctional professional and author of The Ongoing Tale at Brothers Campfire. His favorite quote is "Don't count the lions. It will make you afraid and slow you down."

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