4 - Trial
“Dad.” Moonshine Wrathe smiled as he descended the platform, joined by his deputy, Cutlass Cate.
“Moonshine!” Barbarro answered, smiling at his now-adult son.
“Min elskling! It’s been too long!” Trophie gave Moonshine a hug, which he did not return.
“Has it? Time flies you know, when all you see is an eternity of open ocean.” Moonshine answered.
“How’s the life of captain been treatin’ ya?” Barbarro asked, slapping his son on the back.
“Painful, from time to time. But plentiful.” Moonshine’s eyes sparkled as he began telling his father stories of raids and loots that he had organized and seen through. When Barbarro asked how much loot he’d collected Moonshine answered jokingly, “More than your brother!”
“Which one?” Barbarro laughed.
“Pick one!” Moonshine answered, laughing with his father. Cate rolled her eyes as she went to stand with Jasmine and Jacoby.
“Some things never change, eh?” She asked, laughing a little.
“You know you only had to be his deputy for a year, right?” Jasmine asked.
“I know. But he asked if I would stay on, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t enjoyed that year. So I agreed.” Cate answered.
“Why? You could’ve come back to the Tiger.” Jasmine pushed.
“The Diablo was always my home, Jasmine. I think you knew that.” Cate told her.
“That was when Molucco Wrathe was captain. Moonshine’s completely different. No way it’s the same ship.” Jasmine countered.
“You’re right, Molucco isn’t there anymore, but Moonshine is his nephew, and you’d be surprised at how similar the two of them are.” Cate answered, watching Moonshine demonstrate the story of when they had nearly sunk the ship during a mostly un-organized raid.
“You’ve grown fond of Moonshine Wrathe haven’t you?” Jasmine asked.
“When you spend seven years as someone’s deputy you learn to love them.” Cate laughed. As Moonshine finished his story they heard the click of the platform and turned to see the Nocturnals, accompanied by Commodore Black and Captains Platonov, Salamos, Grammont and Quivers.
“Are we ready to start then?” Cate asked eagerly.
“We are.” Commodore Black nodded once and strode towards room thirteen.
“Go on ahead, I’ll fetch Connor.” Grace told Lorcan, kissing him on the cheek and making her way to room six, with her son right behind her.
“Grace!” Connor started, jumping up when he saw her.
“Connor, I’d like you to meet my son, Connor.” Grace smiled, hugging her brother and referencing her son.
“You named him after me?” Connor asked, touched.
“It was Lorcan’s idea, he thought you were dead and wanted to make sure you were remembered by everyone.” Grace nodded, rubbing her son’s head.
“Are they ready then?” Connor asked nervously.
“Yes.” Grace nodded.
“Okay.” Connor nodded and grabbed Kaiya’s hand. Grace wondered what they’d been talking about, sitting next to each other on the bed.
“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” Grace’s son tugged at the bottom of her shirt and nearly ripped the fabric.
“Yes Connor?” Grace asked, picking him up.
“Is that my uncle?” The boy asked.
“Yes. He is your uncle.” Grace answered, smiling and nodding at her brother.
“He doesn’t look like he did in the pictures.” Connor told his mother, frowning.
“That’s because the picture I showed you was from seven years ago. See, your uncle ages so it’s natural for him to look different than he did.” Grace explained.
“I thought you said he was like you?” The boy asked.
“He was, but the reason he was gone for so long was so he could stop being like me.” Grace answered. Her son promptly pushed himself out of her arms and jumped to the ground. He walked over to his uncle and punched him.
“Ow!” Connor cried, hugging his stomach. “Strong kid you got there, Gracie. What was that for?” Connor asked.
“It’s an honour to be like my mom. And if you would so easily throw it away then why did you even come back?” The boy demanded, crossing his arms on his chest.
“It’s a long story, one that I’ll have to tell you some other time.” Connor said, grabbing Kaiya’s hand and walking out of room six.
“Connor, I told you not to punch.” Grace scolded.
“He deserved it.” Connor pouted.
“Do you want me to send you back to the ship?” Grace threatened.
“No.” Connor answered.“Then be good. No punching unless you’re sparing or actually in battle.” Grace warned. “Come on.” She walked out of room six holding Connor’s hand and made her way to room thirteen.
“Now that everyone is here,” Commodore Black started, tossing an accusing glare at Grace for being the last one to arrive, “We can begin the meeting.” Everyone was silent as they waited for Commodore Black to continue. Connor felt like a fugitive on trial as he looked around the table at the accusatory stares from all his former comrades.
“Earlier today, a dead man – Connor Tempest – came into Captain Grammont’s office and elected to inform us that he was not in fact dead, nor a vampirate. He has requested that I gather all of you here to hear his story. I will add to that agenda and announce that, upon hearing his story, we will vote and discuss what will happen from here on in. Connor, the stage is all yours, so to speak.” Commodore Black gestured towards Connor, who gulped back the lump in his throat. He hadn’t realized that he really was on trial.
“Where would you like me to begin?” Connor asked, trying to lighten the mood.
“How about you start where you died.” Jasmine said. It was clear that she was demanding, not asking.
“Seems as good a place as any,” Connor answered. “So, I was born a dhampir, like Grace, half vampire, half mortal. I found out that I could split myself in two, so I used it. I won’t go into details but basically, I saw that Jacoby, Cheng Li and Obsidian Darke had already reached Sidorio and that there was no way that I could get there in time to kill him myself.”
“So you decided to throw yourself into his sword?” Jacoby cut Connor off with a bewildered tone.
“No. I had foreseen my death, as a captain, twice before. So I decided that this was it. I split myself in two and sent one of me to die, while the other me could escape the ship.” Connor began anew, but was quickly cut off again.
“So you decided to die a coward?” Jasmine said accusingly.
“No. There was something I had to do. Any of you who knew what I was back then knew how unhappy I was as a dhampir. I hated it. So when I found out that there was a way to expel the dhampir gene from my body, that’s what I did.” Connor continued, but as he paused Obsidian Darke took the moment to throw in his piece.
“By leaving your friends, your family, and all the people who cared about you?” Obsidian asked.
“No. I was told that I needed to spend seven years encountering no one that I knew.” Connor answered.
“By whom?” Captain Quivers asked quickly. Connor looked at Grace, not wanting to betray her precious, secret book.
“By me.” Grace said, taking a deep breath. Everybody in the room turned to look at her.
“So you knew. You’ve known the entire time.” Cate stated. Grace nodded, but Commodore Black was quick to dismiss Cate’s statement.
“A more important question would be why would you tell him that, and how did you know that was what he had to do?” Commodore Black turned his accusing stare on Grace, who didn’t even flinch.
“A magic fortune-telling book.” She answered evenly. Commodore Black searched her face, trying to determine whether she was making it up or not.
“That still doesn’t explain the why.” Commodore Black pressed on.
“He’s my brother. I could see how unhappy he was. I wanted to give him an out.” Grace answered, revealing nothing. Commodore Black’s cold stare burned into her emerald eyes, and still she neither flinched, nor blinked.
“Who’s the girl?” Jacoby asked Connor, breaking the tension that had built up during Grace and Commodore Black’s stare-off.
“This is Kaiya,” Connor answered, smiling as he took her hand, “My fiancé.” Everyone fell silent. Jasmine’s eyes widened to the size of tennis balls, Jacoby looked like a bomb had just gone off in his face, Captains Quivers and Salamos looked as if they hadn’t even registered what Connor had said, Obsidian Darke put the tips of his fingers together and closed his eyes, Lorcan looked at his own fiancé with a look of horror on his face, Captain Platonov looked like she was about to faint, Captain Grammont chocked on his cup of tea, Connor’s nephew’s jaw dropped, Moonshine looked ready to kill Connor, Barbarro nodded approvingly, Trophie’s face kept twitching, Cate looked ready to cry, Grace looked at Kaiya, Commodore Black turned a blank stare on Connor, while Connor and his fiancé smiled at each other.
Jasmine was the first to speak. “Congratulations.” She said, sounding as if she couldn’t understand Connor’s decision. Connor and Kaiya looked around at everyone.
“Let’s get back on track shall we?” Captain Grammont suggested, wiping spilled tea from his over-coat.
“Agreed. Now that we’ve heard his story. We have to decide what to do about him. Connor, I’m sure you understand that we cannot simply allow you to continue where you left off seven years ago, as captain, I mean. It will take time for you to reach that level again,” Commodore Black turned to Connor as he said this. “Or even as deputy-captain on any ship.”
“I don’t need to. I already have my own ship.” Connor informed them. Kaiya looked at him with curiosity.
“You do?” Grace asked. Connor nodded.
“When I was out west,” Connor looked at the Nocturnals, knowing that they would know that he meant he had left their sector of the ocean, “I was crewed to a ship, the Virtus – it means power – and after a year I was made deputy when the original deputy died. Ten months later the captain was killed during a raid and I took over. When I went to Sweden a few weeks ago I told my deputy to meet me here in three weeks exactly. They should be here within three days.” Connor finished explaining. He saw Jasmine’s lip curl up into a slight smile.
“What was the name of the captain you took over for?” Commodore Black asked.
“Captain James Morgan.” Connor answered.
“Captain Morgan, eh?” Commodore Black repeated, writing the name down on a pad.
“You never mentioned you would find your captaincy elsewhere.” Grace said.
“Wasn’t planning on it.” Connor shrugged.
“How much inheritance did he give you?” Trophie asked.
“Trophie!” Barbarro looked at her incredulously.
“It’s a fair question.” Trophie said, and Commodore Black seemed to agree.
“Not as much as Molucco did, don’t worry. He figured that giving me his ship would be more than enough. I only got one million from Captain Morgan.” Connor answered, leaning back in his chair and put his arm around Kaiya.
“A ship and a million, plus what’s left of your inheritance from Molucco. You must be happy.” Trophie said accusingly.
“So I am still getting my inheritance from Captain Wrathe?” Connor asked to clarify.
“It was in his will, and if you’re alive we are obligated to give it to you.” Commodore Black nodded.
“Good to know.” Connor answered.
“If I may,” Obsidian Darke spoke, opening his eyes at last, “I think we should simply allow Connor to return, with his new ship and its crew. It seems clear that he did what he did because he had to, and not to hurt us. It seems that the easiest option would be to allow him to return.” Lorcan nodded beside him.
“Agreed.” Barbarro said. Moonshine and Cate nodded their own agreement. Connor and Kaiya smiled at the much appreciated suggestion.
“It isn’t that simple though.” Commodore Black said, showing off his authority.
“Why not?” Grace’s son asked from her lap.
“Connor not now.” Grace whispered in his ear.
“Because,” Commodore Black addressed the small Nocturnal, “If we just let Connor come back as if nothing ever happened what’s to stop other pirates from thinking they can just disappear for a while whenever they please?”
“Common sense, morals, lack of reason, fear, love of what they do. Need I go on?” The boy answered. Commodore Black sat back in his chair and chuckled slightly.
“You’ve got an attitude to ya, I’ll give you that much. But that’s beside the point. We can’t just let Connor come back as if nothing happened. That’s the point of this.” Commodore Black told the child.
“But something did happen. He died, remember? He had to. No way around it. Otherwise his death would’ve happened later and it would have been permanent. It’s better off this way, don’t you think? Aren’t you the one who said that he was an amazing young pirate who showed great potential? That it would be a shame to lose him?” The boy turned his big black eyes on Commodore Black with feigned confusion.
“I’m with the young one.” Trophie said, shocking everybody. It was no secret that she was none too fond of Connor Tempest.
“I am in agreement as well.” Captain Salamos nodded.
“Me too.” Captains Grammont, Quivers and Platonov chorused.
“If I may,” Kaiya said, leaning forward, “I’m new to the pirate community, but it seems like a tight-knit group, and if you all loved Connor as much as you seem to have loved him, why shouldn’t you just let him come back?”
“She’s right, you know.” Jacoby nodded at her.
“Apparently so.” Jasmine said, nodding in agreement with her deputy and boyfriend.
“Do you all agree then?” Commodore Black asked.
“We do.” Lorcan said, everyone nodding their agreement.
“All of you?” Commodore Black pushed.
“Yes.” Moonshine answered, slightly aggravated, speaking for the first time since Commodore Black had come down the platform.
“We all loved Connor, and I don’t think that’s changed because he was dead for seven years. And if we want to prove that to him again we should just let him back into our lives, and hearts.” Cate spoke quietly, as if it hurt her just to think of Connor’s death.
“Fine. You’re ship will be given a sea lane and your crew’s files will have to be brought to us.” Commodore Black said reluctantly.
“Where should I sleep until my ship gets here?” Connor asked.
“You can sleep in the room you occupied during you first stay at the academy.” Captain Grammont answered.
“Thank you.” Connor nodded.
“You’re welcome.” Captain Grammont smiled. The tension in the room eased and everybody started smiling and a few of those in room thirteen started to laugh, save those who had come from the Nocturne – Grace, Lorcan, their son, and Obsidian Darke.
As everyone started leaving the room – to return to their own ships or else to go teach their night classes – Connor caught grace by the arm.
“Here, Lorcan. Don’t wake him.” She handed her son – who had been sleeping in her arms – to Lorcan to take to the ship.
“Don’t be too long. The sun will be up shortly and we leave at dawn.” He warned.
“Wait up for me. I want to talk about the wedding.” She smirked.
“Finally.” He smiled, leaning in to kiss her. They were passionate for a second before Grace pushed away.
“Don’t wake Connor! It’ll take him forever to fall asleep again if you do.” She laughed and kissed her fiancé on the cheek before pushing him towards the platform, to catch it before the others made it up. Grace stayed behind to talk to her brother.
“So you don’t drink berry tea anymore.” Connor said, obviously not a question, but Grace answered it as if it were.
“No. I wouldn’t be allowed anyway. After you left I told Mosh Zu about my escape from Sanctuary, and he didn’t like it. He told me not to come back unless it was a life or death emergency, or if I lost my way. Then he told me not to ask for anymore tea, nor a donor.” Grace shrugged.
“Grace even when I left your body had started rejecting mortal food.” Connor said worriedly.
“I know. I had enough tea stored for another year, and I made it to last six months longer. But then I had nothing. I wasn’t going to share any of the donors on the Nocturne, so I faked it. I didn’t tell Lorcan what happened with Mosh Zu. I didn’t tell anyone until one day I was giving Connor a bath and I dropped. Lorcan came in when he heard Connor start screaming and the next thing I knew I was back at Sanctuary, with Mosh Zu standing over me.” Grace told him.
“So he healed you.” Connor filled in.
“He healed me. And he agreed that, though he wouldn’t allow me any berry tea, as he had already banned anyone but those in the midst of their healing to drink it, he would assign to me a donor, provided I spend two months a year in my old position as a doctor at Sanctuary.” Grace added.
“So you agreed.” Connor continued for her.
“Not at first. I told him I’d get on fine by myself and left Sanctuary with Lorcan. I dropped sooner this time, about a month in. When I woke up at Sanctuary again I realized that I really didn’t have a choice. Mosh Zu raised the time to three months a year. But I agreed. It took a lot of convincing, but I agreed.” Grace finished.
“So are you as good as you always were?” Connor asked, teasingly.
“Better. I’m better even than Mosh Zu. He’s asked a few times for me to take his place three months a year, to learn more and allow him to rest for a while.” Grace answered, laughing a little.
“And you haven’t agreed?” Connor asked.
“Mosh Zu doesn’t take blood Connor. Or berry tea. He doesn’t eat or drink anything. He’s like the captain. As powerful as I may be, I will never be able to do that. And I don’t want to be in the position of someone like that. I’d feel like I was letting them down.” Grace explained.
“Have you spoken to Mosh Zu about this?” Connor pressed.
“We may be close again, but I feel that telling him would be a mistake.” Grace answered. They were silent for a time, and the next time either of them spoke, they both spoke at once.
“Please, you go first.” Grace smiled at her brother.
“I want you to come to my wedding, with Lorcan, and your son.” Connor told her.
“Unless it’s a night-time wedding we can’t.” Grace frowned.
“I know, but I was hoping that an indoor wedding might do the trick.” Connor said, a note of pleading in his voice.
“It could work, I guess. If we come in before dawn.” Grace said.
“Great!” Connor smiled at his sister. “Now, what did you want to say?”
“Just that I want you to be at my wedding as well.” Grace smiled.
“You aren’t married yet?” Connor asked incredulously.
“I wanted you to be there, so I’ve been putting it off. I mean, the fact that I spent two weeks unconscious and three months a year away helps to postpone it, but I wanted you to be there.” Grace explained.
“Of course I’ll be there.” Connor smiled and nodded.
“I have to go. The dawn bell will ring in a few minutes.” Grace said, taking his hand before walking to the platform.
“Grace,” Connor called after her. She turned around and looked at him. “Why are you wearing a male pirate’s outfit?” He asked.
Grace smiled and answered, “A dress isn’t helpful when you’re climbing rigging for four hours, sparing for another hour, and taking care of a seven-year-old for the rest of the night, every night.” She left Connor struggling to make sense of what she’d said as she turned and jumped onto the platform as it began its ascent anew.
“Time for me now?” Kaiya asked, sneaking up behind Connor and wrapping her arms around his waist.
“We can go upstairs if you want,” He turned around and whispered in her ear seductively, “Where there’s a real bed. A huge bed. We can lay down and sleep in it. Or talk. Or undress each other. Whichever.” He started rubbing his mouth along her neck and made his way up to start biting her ear.“I think we should do that.” She said. They stepped onto the platform and managed to keep themselves in check until they made it up to the bedroom.