Weeks later, Captain diUmbria sat in a tavern in Ragusa, his charts laid out on the table before him. A meal of rum and boullabaisse sat half gone to one side, and a squat lantern cast softly flickering illumination. For a long while he had sat there, resting his bones.
His bones were weary from a couple of weeks spent sailing with Captain Firebolt. The man had sent word that he needed his uncle’s help in fighting pirates in the Strait of Otronto, so diUmbria had sailed with all speed south from Pisa though he had only just arrived there. Only a few foolhardy pirates attacked the Ach Du Liebe, and these were quickly dealt with. The seas were fine and the winds blew favorably.
Sailing into the Strait the skies darkened and a quick storm whipped up. It last only a few hours though, and soon the skies were clear again.
A bit north of the Strait diUmbria encountered his nephew; his sail was painted like a pirate’s but he had his shipped rigged lateen style, which was rare among the pirates here. He was engaged in fierce cannon battle with two other ships.
As diUmbria approached, the two pirates sailed off, intimidated by the larger vessel. Soon the Magisty, Captain Firebolt’s ship, was hailed and identified. Then the two set out north for Venice; it turned out that the younger captain had just then completed his mission of cleansing the strait of pirates and was now heading back for his reward. diUmbria decided to accompany him, since he had come all this way now.
For a few days the two ships sailed alongside each other, one going ahead and then the other. Then disaster swept over the Ach Du Liebe so quickly that diUmbria could only bewail his own hubris and lack of preparation.
It happened in a matter of minutes; two pirate ships approached them, working with the wind that they were working against. One was smaller, like the Magisty, but the other was larger than the Ach Du Liebe. diUmbria thought he could handle it with his bold nephew’s help.
At first things went well; the smaller pirate was all but sunk in just a few cannon blasts. But then the larger pirate, which had banks of oars on either side, swung in close and boarded the Ach Du Liebe. diUmbria’s crew was no match for the hardened pirates, and they were quickly cut down. He could not escape, and his ship was soon seized by the invader.
The pirates had no usefor their ships, though, and took only what cargo and money as pleased them and also the inner jib from diUmbria’s ship, which was a fine piece of sail he’d had outfitted in Venice. Then they were left to themselves as the pirates sailed off.
After this they attempted to race yet faster up the Adriatic, but here diUmbria’s lack of foresight nearly killed him. First, he had forgotten to get more food and water after his long voyage from Pisa. Second, he had neglected to get anything to deal with fire even after his previous devasting encounter with it. So it was that just south of Trieste the flames broke out again, and the crew was near to mutiny or starvation. The ship was badly damaged from its many encounters.
They limped into Trieste.
Undaunted, diUmbria sprang from giving orders for repairs to the shipwright to trawling the tavern for sailors to make up for those that died. He quickly sold some goods at the market for a modest profit and didn’t even have to withdraw funds. In no time he was back to sea refreshed and restored.
Captain Firebolt, however, was nowhere to be seen.
He had not stopped, had not noticed the flames on the Ach Du Liebe. Where was he?
diUmbria hoped he was safe; there had been nothing he could do. He’d been forced to port, there was no other choice. The youinger captain should have waited. But perhaps he had been waylaid again by yet more buccaneers? Or a victim of one of the many mutinies rumored to occur aboard the Magisty. It was known in every port up and down the Adriatic as as rough a ship to sail with as you could like.
diUmbria tried not to listen, but you couldn’t ignore it. His nephew had so rarely put to port with as many sailors as he started with, that he couldn’t name a single time if you asked him. He was sure he’d been to sea and not lost men, but he couldn’t give you an example.
Cannonballs, pirate swords, starvation, mutiny, plague, all took their toll aboard the Magisty. Captain Firebolt lived through it all, and prospered as well.
Or had he finally met his match?
diUmbria sailed northward with haste, sweeping the horizon with his spyglass. There was no sign of the triangular black and white sail. There were many signs of pirates.
Days it took to reach Venice, tacking into the headwinds that seemed to always blow. The Magisty was moored here, he’d seen it as he docked.
But where was the captain? The crew didn’t know; they thought he had headed to one of the guilds, said he’d been doing business there. diUmbria ran off, eyes sharp among the many citizens of Venice.
And suddenly there he was, just outside one of the guild halls. diUmbria at once swung his lute off his back and began to play, so glad was he to find Captain Firebolt alive and well. The younger captain in turn danced a fine step to the strumming, then they both laughed.
The two of them had stayed the night there then, but in the morning Firebolt had remained in the city while diUmbria set sail with the dawn. He was tired of Venice, tired of the Adriatic. He closed his business with his guild there and set off.