"Damn kooks. I told you that they were not to be trusted." he said, opening a lightly rusted can filled with tobacco, hidden deep in the pockets of his woolen coat. He slid the dark, almost nauseating substance in his mouth, chewing it voraciously. A nasty habit, he thought, but without it he'd go properly insane. The islanders were yet to be reasoned with and Mardock was breathing down his neck: it would nay be a week before he caught up, following their trails to the island.
"Their loyalty to the Chusharian empire must be greater than we thought. By the Queen, we paid for the lands fairly. How could I have known they would tear up the papers? " said Ingel, following Lucas above deck and onto the helm. Ingel was his younger brother, but alas, not born at sea like him, neither would he ever feel comfortable amidst the waves. His stubby legs shook in the frosty winds, his perfectly tended mutton chops oddly peculiar among the rough beards of the seamen around them. Now standing on the forescastle of his 24-cannon gunship Majesty Black, Lucas turned to Ingel, towering over him with his broad shoulders.
"You couldn't." said Lucas, wrinkles burrowing in his brow. "But the risk you took was too great. Especially since you're gambling with my money."
"I was trying to prevent a war." said Ingel, fixing his collar. "Your plans consisted of blowing the island to smithereens. Tell me, how would we ever cooperate with them, let alone set up trading posts, when we are at war with them?"
"You treat them as equals. They are not. They are beasts, savages. The only thing they understand is blood and murder. Aye, war is my plan and I stand by it." Lucas answered, damning his brother for his weakness. Of course, it was not that he longed for battle. He was too old, his sons already of age. But to secure the future of the trade, and with it his legacy, he would risk everything. All he had done in the previous colonies, eliminating rivaling companies, bribing the ministries, everything, would be for naught if he would not secure these new lands.
Lucas pulled out the spyglass he kept in his inner coat pocket and unfolded it. Through it he could see the isle of Kien-Qua, seperated from the Cheshurian mainland by a narrow channel, a mere four ships wide. Necessary trade was conducted here by an abundance of sampans – light boats consisting of nothing more than wood and paper – floating along the waves. The island itself was filled to the brim with lushious jungles, a large hilltop protruding from the center. Around the coasts several modest villages thrived on the plenitude of fish surrounding the waters. The reason he had chosen this island however, was not its emerald-like beauty: it was the southern peninsula, practically uninhabited, and ripe for plucking.
For the past few weeks, they had sailed northward along the Cheshurian coasts, trying to circumvent the idiotic trade laws the delegacy had instilled. Cursed be those fools! The fortunes they could all make were unimaginable, only to be crushed by such petty short-sightedness. Of course, there were ways to peddle goods without anyone knowing. But they were few, and the Cheshurian delegacy was not known for making idle threats.
"And what about the silver?" said Lucas, folding the spyglass. "Where is it now?"
"Ahem... yes, that's what I wanted to talk to you about." said Ingel, looking down to his feet. "The silver was already delivered to the natives. They said it was an appropriate gift to soothe the indecency of the proposal. At least, that's what Reverend Tanner told me."
"You did not think about taking it back?"
"Well, I wanted to prevent a war."
Ingel swallowed. "A thousand catty in silver."
"By God, I can keep the whole company running for months with that kind of money!" Lucas said. His hand clenched into a fist. "You of all people, as our treasurer, know that we are on the verge of bankruptcy. What on earth made you consider offering that amount?"
"I thought the price reasonable, considering what you intend to do with the land."
"We've been in these god-rotten waters for five years, and you still do not know how to barter? It's what they do, preventing them from losing honor, and keeping ours too."
Ingel glared at Lucas. "I do not care what these philistines want. I wanted the land, offered a fair deal and they refused. Simple as that."
"They kept the silver."
"Aye. But that was out of my hands."
Lucas shook his head. Even for Ingel, this level of nonsense was beyond comparison. "It matters not. I will personally retrieve the silver tonight. Let's see them standing their ground when they're staring into the barrel of my pistol." He pointed at Ingel. "You're coming too. It's the least you can do cleaning up this mess."
"Of course brother. I'll do whatever I can." Ingel's face darkened. "But do you really want to take the peninsula by force?"
Lucas saw the fear in the face of his brother. Barely a few days ago, Ingel had lost his son to scurvy. His youngest was old enough for battle, although still green and barely trained. Lucas scratched his beard. Around here, men were scarce and reinforcements rare. Mardock wouldn't help them, even if he'd be here in time.
"Signal the other ships. We'll meet with the other captains in two bells. Get Reverend Tanner and Colborn too."
"Aye aye, sir." Ingel replied and began shouting the proper commands to the crew, obviously glad he could escape their conversation. The signal lieutenant scurried away to the poop deck, hoisting up the sign flags for the other ships to see.
Lucas paced further toward the stern. For a brief second, he stopped, gazing upon the seas, the waves calming him, tasting the sweetness of the salt on his lips. Why can't everything be like the sea, he thought. Reliable, yet fickle enough to cherish it every day. Before long he shook his head and returned to his cabin below deck, making sure all preparations were in order.