Chapter 22: THE CAPTAIN STANDS UP
The first day The Hampton Chase went out to sea was the worst day of Captain Jonathon James’ life. As most terrible journeys go, Jage could look back on the whole experience fondly, but it took a lot of triumphs to do so. The reason why the first day was so horrible was that he had no idea what he was doing, which was obvious to not only him, but to the rest of the crew as well. The Captain felt as if knowing everyone’s jobs should also be something he knew as well, or did this position just require a certain amount of panache, a certain degree of delegation, to man well? Would the crew respect him for just getting them underway, or would they swiftly throw him from the boat as soon as they got out to a distance where they could just return saying “waves got choppy, Young Captain lost his footing. Ah well”?
So, the first day the boat went out to sea, Jage spent the majority of time at the helm, swinging the wheel to and fro, watching the Compass, and trying to get it, for no reason whatsoever, to consistently point at the S, which meant South. They left in the morning, taking The Hampton Chase, a medium sized boat. It had been tied to the docks, and rented out by the dock owner’s daughter, Kelles, a woman whose business was watching the docks, and constantly shuffling the boats the pirates brought back. The prettiest boats, like The Hampton Chase, were kept by her to be rented out to sailors with expeditions in mind, like Jage’s quest to find The Lost Kingdom of Gambrille.
So, with the money his parents gave, he paid Kelles her fee, and took the boat out with the crew. He settled at the helm, watching the men as they loaded on their personal items, and then loaded on the items they told Jage they were required to have in order to survive. Not knowing anything different, Captain Jonathon James agreed to everything, which could have been much to his detriment.
The way Juba became his first mate was easy, he simply appointed himself as such. And, being first mate seemed to carry with it a lot more responsibility. So, when the crew balked, and said Juba was a horrible choice, Juba went to work anyway. Jage simply shouted everyone down and agreed with Juba that he should be by the Captain’s side. All of this occurred about a hundred feet from the shore, only moments after being pushed off from the docks, the wind just catching in the sails. For the rest of the morning, Jage steered the ship, but mainly watched Juba assume the role of his right hand man and command the sailors to do his bidding. The captain wondered if that was his job.
The other thing that Jage assumed but didn’t know was that the world was most definitely, certainly, a very large place. And to just point a compass needle in a southern direction, and head there, was probably not going to help them find anything substantial, especially their overall goal of finding Gambrille. He asked Juba if they had a map of the area on board, and after Juba was gone several moments, and the crew was looking lazy since they had not received any direction for awhile, Juba emerged with the map, and laid it down on a table next to the ship’s wheel, where Jage could see it but still keep one hand in control of the ship.
“Thank you, first mate,” Jage said, looking at the map.
Juba chuckled, placing rocks in the corners of the map to keep it from blowing away. If it blew away on the boat, it most certainly was going into the water where it would be lost forever. “You don’t have to call me first mate, Cap’t. Just Juba. Juba’s, fine.”
“Regardless, Juba, I assume you know I know less than I should, so I want to thank you, not just for the map, but for coming to my aide with the captaining of this ship.”
“It does us no good to go about this journey blind, and without direction. And it does you no good to fill your ship with pirates posing as sailors. Without some morality, this crew will deem this the easiest boat they’ve ever stolen when they throw all hundred pounds of ya to the sea. The one smart thing you did, which I don’t even know if you did intentionally, was get your boat from Kelles. These men love The Dry Mermaid, and if Kelles doesn’t get her boat back, she’ll hunt each one of them down.”
JJ knew the risk of these men dispatching him to be drowned, but to hear it voiced sent another shiver down his spine. He looked at his crew of potential mutineers and as it just so happened, most of them were looking up at him. They were taking a break, laying down in the sun, getting their sea legs accustomed to the bobbing and weaving of the boat, and watching to see if their young Captain possessed any basic nautical knowledge. Jage, for all of his worth, stared at the map as if he seen it before, but to be truthful, his family did not own a map in Quakenfalls, and he did not get far enough in schooling in Fortis to make any sense of what was before him.
“So, currently, we are sailing toward Baku? This large land piece down here?” Jage said, pointing to the beige area at the bottom of the map which didn’t seem altogether too helpful because it covered a very small area of the world. Jage assumed there were things beyond Baku, but the map seemed to end halfway through that land mass. Similar to the land mass East and West. And, according to what was before him, there was nothing North of Springborough but more and more water.
“Yes, Baku. The land of weapons.”
“I’ve heard of Baku,” Jage said, not lying. Even with his minimal schooling and lack of geographic knowledge, Jage paid special attention to the stories of the land that produced all the swords, all the crossbows, all the neat ways people could harm each other in this day and age. What also appealed to Jage about Baku was that it seemed like a desolate war land. From what he envisioned, people punched each other in greeting, which looked comical in his mind, as long as he wasn’t the one being punched.
“Are we sailing to Baku? Are we asking them if they know where the Lost Kingdom of Gambrille is?” Juba asked.
That was not Jage’s plan, but without a concrete plan, he couldn’t necessarily rule anything out.
“You think they would know anything?”
Juba looked at his Captain, but Jage couldn’t read just what it was he wanted to say. He knew the next words out of his newly minted first mate’s mouth would just be half of the truth.
“I think anything is possible, Captain. But, I also think we are not of the Baku sort, and they might know this, and therefore might use it more to their advantage than we would like.”
Jage looked at the map, of the large land mass that represented Baku, and the tiny canal of water that seemed to separate Baku and the land mass north of it, Liphorn, that held the Kingdoms of Silevellen and Sanbay. And then, world’s apart, on the opposite side of the map, was Delfia, where the Valley of Merchants and the Valley of Cherries were. According to the map, Springborough’s land seemed much bigger than what Jage could remember, and Quakenfalls, the Village of Fortis, and the docks, all much more pronounced than how hidden in the island they all seemed. No doubt, the mapmakers were sailors from Fortis, who used artistic freedom to make their world bigger or more meaningful than it actually was.
“Somewhere on this map, Juba,” Jage said to his first mate, “my family’s kingdom is, but hasn’t been marked, yet. Somewhere on here. And it was tasked to me to search the seas, and so these seas are our goal. How long to search everything South of Springborough?”
“All of this?” Juba said, motioning to the blue area north of Baku. Jage nodded. Juba looked at the map and sighed, putting his hands on his hips. He then looked up, and over the endless seas in front of them, and back down to the map, sighing again. “Months? This area will take us months.”
Jage nodded, unfazed. If it was to take months, then he had plenty of time to figure out just how to be a Pirate Captain.
“Then, let’s begin.”
Unruly people were not lost on Jonathon James of Quakenfalls, and as he stood in the Great Hall listening to the battle that was growing in the Village of Fortis, and the Kingdom that was going to ruin before them, he knew, as everyone was giving their own theories on what should be done, that only he could really do anything about the situation. Only Jage belonged to two places at once. Only he has started from the bottom but by the end, earned the trust of the people he commanded.
To JJ, there was only one thing that could be done.
“I will go to the Village of Fortis with Juba. I will talk with the people there. Get them to reason. Stop this war.”
The room went silent and everyone looked at the boy, with the sun bleached white hair, the body with hardly an ounce of fat, the skin which was more red than tan. Despite his appearance as a person who should be apprenticing of some sort, Jonathon stood ready for battle. His fists on his hips, his head held high, Jage looked at them all and dared them to tell him that he didn’t know what he was doing. And despite his own certainty that nobody would trust him to do this job, they all seemed to think about the possibility that this was the right move.
“Good idea, Jage,” Brynn replied, and Jage smiled. “I’m coming with you.”
The smile immediately left the boy’s face.
“No, Brynn. I’m going alone.”
“No, you’re not.”
“I am, too!”
“No, you’re not!”
“Stop!” Kyrstin shouted from her stage, and Jage could feel his cheeks reddening with anger and embarrassment that his sister made him look so childish in front of his first mate.
“Brynn,” JJ said, trying to keep his voice even, “you said yourself you have too much to do here with all the spirits you saw. Besides, they need you to find the Queen, the Witch, and everyone else disappearing. Obviously the royal children can’t go, because, one, they have to stay here, and two, the last time a royal was in Fortis, he was tied to a chair. That leaves me. And because I commanded The Hampton Chase, I could easily pass as a Villager to get me in, and from there, I’ll reconvene with my crew, and we’ll try to find some way to squash this rebellion before it gets to Springborough’s walls.”
“But, Jage,” Brynn started. “We’ve only just been reunited. Don’t leave.”
“There’s no time to waste, Brynn. And once this is over, and Springborough is at peace again, we’ll be able to rest and relax at Quakenfalls and wait for our parents to return.”
Brynn looked at Jage, doubt in her eyes. She didn’t like this at all, he could tell, but he also knew that she didn’t know just how much he had overcome on the seas. He might still look to her as her brother, who disembarked that sunny day to go to the docks, indecision weighing heavily on him. But, he had grown exponentially on the Waters of Cornwall, and he was ready for this task. While it seemed dangerous, it did not seem as if he should be especially worried that he would never return. In his mind, he might be able to return by night.
Juba knew this wasn’t going to be the case, but he did agree that having Jage come back to Fortis was everyone’s best hope, and he was proud his Captain had made such a dangerous choice so selflessly.