Mariah felt cold all of a sudden and her stomach lurched. “But I thought you were staying aboard the Fairweather.”

The Quandary

3

Marlen loaded the last of the barrels of sugar cane into the back of a heavy wooden cart. Mariah stood at the bottom of the gangplank just off to the side watching and waiting. She held the manifest for the shipment in one hand and a graphite pencil in the other. A short, balding man in a dirty tunic waddled up with a drooping coin purse hanging from his fat fingers. Mariah held out the parchment, unfurling it so the merchant could sign it. Once done, he handed over the pouch of coins. She opened it to do a quick count.

“A pleasure doing business with you again, Master Fenlock.”

“And with you, my dear.”

Mariah watched as he was helped up into the cart by two other men. The cart rumbled away, the driver crying, “Make way. Make way,” as it entered the traffic heading deeper into the city.

Venik came down the gangplank. Mariah went over and handed him the purse. “Take this aboard and put it in the strong box.” As the sailor turned, Mariah added, “Do you plan to venture into Theras?”

Venik shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe for a drink of ale at the pub. I plan on staying aboard for the most part, Captain.”

Mariah nodded. “You’re sure?”

“Aye. Someone has to keep an eye on the old girl,” he said, pointing up at the Fairweather.

Mariah smiled. “Very true. I could think of no one better to watch over her.”

Venik knuckled his forehead and climbed the plank back onto the ship. Mariah stood there for several moments listening to the bust of the wharves. The smell of the sea mingled with the scents of the nearby markets where exotic food with their pungent spices permeated the air. It was strange, heady mixture. Mariah looked back at the Fairweather and took one step before a voice stopped.

“Mariah… uh, I mean, Captain Hand. Wait!”

Roderick appeared out of the crowd, followed by two men—strangers. They walked right up to Mariah, who noticed Roderick’s satisfied smirk.

“You will never believe my luck. This is Tan and Orvo Falkirk. I bumped into them on the way back from the dockmaster.” He held out the new manifest which Mariah took. “We sailed aboard the Dreamcatcher together under Captain Shathaway.” He slapped one of the men on the back. “I didn’t think I’d see these bastards again. Now, they’re telling me about lucrative little venture they have in mind—and they’re wondering if I’d like to climb aboard. Lots of coin to be had, I guess.”

Mariah felt cold all of a sudden and her stomach lurched. “But I thought you were staying aboard the Fairweather.”

“Well, I was… but listen. You need to hear these lads out. The prize is big, Mariah. Come on, I was about to take the two of them for a drink. You come with us.”

Mariah overcame her shock enough to nod. “Okay.”

She let Roderick drag her into the crowd.

Produced by Eugenio Zorrilla.

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