“And he did save your life,” Venik added.

The Quandary


Bright open skies and fair winds drew the merchant sloop, the Fairweather, across the Caprian Sea, towards the the second of three stops among the Melari Islands. At the helm, Captain Mariah Hand luriated in the balmy breeze of the south, a contented smile playing on her lips.

“Venik, what is the newest member of our crew doing at the moment?”

A burly man with close-shaven hair but a unruly beard grunted then stepped up beside her. “He’s helping Marlen and Elayna to separate the cargo that we’ll offload in Theras.”

Mariah nodded. “Good. Any complaints?”

Venik stroked his beard a moment. “I suppose not, Captain. He’s an adequate sailor and we both know he has a head for numbers.” He stopped short of saying something.

Mariah caught his hesitation. “Something more?”

Venik sighed. “Are you sure about him, Captain. Given what he did—what he almost did—I was surprised you welcomed him to the crew.”

“Well, there weren’t many options at the time. His ship and fellow crewmen were killed. He was alone in the middle of the ocean.”

“And he did save your life,” Venik added.

Mariah’s eyes flashed and she gave the man a sharp look. “Yes. That too.” After a moment, she said, “Venik, take the helm.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Mariah flexed her fingers, brushed at her wavy red locks, then descended from the top deck. She walked across the Fairweather’s main deck until she came to the hatch and took the rungs below decks. In the hall, she encountered members of the crew busy about their duties. They knuckled their foreheads and she spared a word or two to each, while making way towards the bow and the ship’s cargo hold. Though she was several paces away, she could hear a distinctive laugh. When she came to the door, she found Marlen and Elayna doubled over trying to catch their breaths.

Roderick was smiling broadly, his eyes glistening in the lantern light. He nodded in Mariah’s direction. “Ah, Captain Hand. Did you come to check up on me?”

The other crewmen gaped and choked off their laughter. They stood up straight and saluted her. “Captain,” they spoke in unison.

“Is all ready for our arrival in Theras?” Mariah asked. Her face was smooth.

“Uh, aye, Captain,” blurted out Marlen.

“Good,” said Mariah. “You and Elayna can go above now. I’m sure you’ll find something to do.” The crewmen jumped into motion and left Mariah alone with Roderick. For a moment the two of them just stood there, not talking, not moving.

“So? I do something wrong?” Roderick tried to keep his face straight but the infernal grin appeared more than once.

Mariah rolled her eyes and unclenched her hands. “Apparently, you’re doing well with your new duties aboard the Fairweather. If you’ve gotten Venik’s grudging approval, that means something to me.”

Roderick bowed his head then looked up at Mariah. “I’ll certainly consider that high praise indeed, Captain Hand. But there is something else.” He pointed at her. “I know it.”

Mariah frowned. Her stomach was twisting. Ever since their paths had crossed again three weeks ago, she had struggled with her feelings fror Roderick. Having him in such close quarters complicated matters considerably.

“Yes… there is.” Mariah pursed her lips.

Roderick took a step closer. His blue eyes searched hers. “What?”

At that moment, a cry raised from the hall behind her. “Captain! Theras has been sighted on the horizon.”

Mariah cleared her throat. “Thank you, Daris.”

The young woman knuckled her forehead. “Aye, Captain Hand.”

When she was gone, Mariah gave Roderick a last look then said, “We’ll have to talk about this later.” She left the cargo hold.

Produced by Eugenio Zorrilla.

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