Friday, November 9, 2007

Chapter 1: And so it begins

I could hardly believe my luck. My life was about to change, and obviously for the better. Who would have thought that a day that began with me waking up late would lead to this!

I awoke this morning to the sounds of people already in the street, men and women working and stores beginning to open. It was nearly a half hour after dawn, and I was supposed to be up nearly an hour before! Deroone Verthur, the odd little man on the street of the crooked hill who hired me to run his errands would likely be annoyed at the delay. He rather liked his hot vressa to be delivered before he opened that musty old curiosities shop of his, so I would have to run to Damal Hessein's pastry shop and skip my own breakfast in order to mollify the old man.

In spite of my late start I pulled on the somewhat boyish costume I was accustomed to wear and leapt down the stairs and past my parents, who were even then leaving for their own jobs, hers as a scribe and his as a stevedore. Saying a hurried farewell I ran down the street and turned right up the road of the split anchor, pushing myself to get to Damal's shop before the morning rush. The streets were starting to get crowded and the number and variety of people out and about were impeding my steady progress. Another typical day in the massive trading city of Dahlon.

Hurriedly ordering the two hot vressas and a pair of sweet rolls with nuts for the princely sum of seven florins, I tucked the bag with the pastries under my left arm and carried the two steaming mugs in my right hand. One had to bring one's own mug to Damal's bakery, but the taste of her hot vressa was worth it, especially when you could leave the shop with you mug instead of sitting around. It usually allowed me the freedom to enjoy my vressa while looking out over the harbor at the coming and going of the ships in Dahlon's busy harbor. No such luxury today, though.

Making my way quickly up the street of the dropped solido to the street of the crooked hill, i was jostled no less than four times by passersby. The crowds were getting thicker, reminding me of the main reason I left for Deroone's shop so early most days. I was within sight of the old man's shop front when my luck for the day dramatically and radically altered. Seeing my destination a bare hundred feet away, I allowed myself to be distracted for one crucial moment, and so I missed the movement of the Varyag who was about to back right into me.

We collided in a glancing manner, the Varyag and I, and the vressa on my right hand splattered up and all over the merchant's eye-searingly yellow shirt and merry purple scarf. The Varyag looked down at the stain the vressa with an expression of shock, which quickly turned to amusement. Anger I could handle, but laughter? I had ruined what was obviously a very nice, though viciously ugly, shirt, so why wasn't he mad?

The Varyag chortled briefly and looked at me steadily, "Perhaps I need to work on my land legs a bit more, eh?" he said wryly, "I am very sorry to have cost you most of your cup of what must be very expensive vressa, but unfortunately neither of us seemed to be keeping ourselves under proper sail."

I gushed out apologies, knowing I sounded foolish. Having nothing else to use I tried to blot up the stains with my sleeves, though the Varyag batted away my attempts at assistance with a friendly wave of the hand. Unsure of what to do next I waited for him to make the next move.

"What is your name young lady," asked the Varyag with a twinkle in his eyes.

Not knowing what esle to do I responded somewhat shyly, "Arissa, Arissa Uliera, sir."

My meekness elicited another peal of baritone laughter from the stranger and I took a moment to examine the unwitting target of my mishandled beverage. He was a full head shorter than I, slightly less than 5'6", with a stocky, poweful build. His dark hair was worn long and fell unbound to his shoulders, and his face sported a delicately manicured moustache. The man was obviously a Varyag seaman and his brightly colored, almost gaudy, outfit put an exclamation point on his obvious heritage and profession.

"Well, I am Vigo Polinoy of the Polinoy Wavestrider. It is not often that I have the chance to leave my clan's ship, and to find myself in this circumstance... Well, it is obvious that Marlena is having a little joke on me. Anyway, in payment for my costing you a cup of vressa I would like to invite you aboard my ship for a meal."

Flabbergasted, and noticing that Deroone was standing at the door to his shop staring at me with an odd expression, I quickly agreed to come to the Wavestrider for dinner that evening. When I finally got to Deroone Verthur's shop and explained the situation, he was overjoyed for me. Knowing of my obsession with the sea and my desire to leave Dahlon and ply the waves, Deroone insisted that I take some money to buy a new dress to go aboard the ship, muttering something about first impressions.

That evening I shared a simple meal with the Polinoy clan, meeting the elder shipmaster, Savago, and his family. They seemed to like me, and after the meal we spoke of ships and the sea and the various ports the Wavestrider had called at. After hours of talking and swapping stories, Savago offered me a position on their happy ship. It was rare, he said, for a Varyag clan to take on outsiders as crew, but his nephew had died recently and he needed another pair of hands.

I excitedly accepted the offer and within a week I found myself finally setting off to sea. Granted it was in in a boat with a yellow and purple hull fitted out with vibrant green and yellow sails, but still I was at sea! We sailed up and out of the harbor, with Vigo laughingly providing me instructions on what to do the entire time. It wasn't until we were well out of sight of the harbor that I learned the truth of my new occupation. This was not just any ship, the Polinoy Wavestrider was a pirate vessel, and I was about to become an outlaw.

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