Success at Any Cost

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Writers Rift

It feels like this chapter took forever to write. Please feel free to comment opinions are always needed.

Chapter 6 (v.1) - Dinner

Submitted: August 26, 2017

Reads: 60

Comments: 1

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Submitted: August 26, 2017

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Brooke awoke to the sight of a 12 year old powder girl shaking her quite violently. “Miss Gains, wake up, wake up.” Brooke’s headache was gone thanks to Smythe’s efforts but I this girl was now threatening to bring it back in force. 

“SSHHHHHHHHHH!” Brooke unceremoniously placed a finger on the girl's mouth. “Where did Smythe go?” 

“She had to attend to the officer's dinner, she wanted me to wake you.” 

“The officer's dinner! Shit.” Brooke shot up and out of her hammock with a practiced grace. Once she was completely standing the bruising on her back threatened to drop her yet again. She staggered back the young powder girl leapt under her and supported her with all the might she could muster. 

Brooke found her feet yet again with some effort. She produced a single gold coin with a ship stamped on it. Not worth much on land but on the ship it was precious. Sailors could redeem it once their contracts were up they could be redeemed for cash, land, or even a ship. A girl her age wouldn't have earned more than one in a whole year. Brooke handed it to her and said “thank you for your help, and send my regards to Smythe.” The girl took the coin and bounced out of the cockpit clutching her new coin. 

Brooke spun back to her foot locker and saw her dress uniform had been hung up and made ready for her. No doubt Smythe had taken the liberty. She got dressed as quickly as she could changing out of her blood soaked duty uniform in favor of a fresh and clean dress uniform. She started with gold breeches and a matching vest with a high collar. She followed by throwing on a long black great coat lined with fox fur. The fox fur indicated her rank while the black represented her birthplace in the city of Fesipt, capital city of the nation of the same name. She pulled out gold stocking which were complimented by black leather shoes with heels that added another three inches to her already impressive 6,4 height. To complete the ensemble she put on a fox fur hat with ear flaps tied at the top. The center of the hat’s fore flap had a four pointed star in front of crossed anchors. Each part of the hat was made of a distinct gem; ruby on top followed by sapphire, diamond, and lastly emerald. In the center was cut piece of black jet. That star represented the four clans who unified and founded Fesipt. 

As this was a full dress affair she was expected to arrive in full makeup. For Brooke that entailed; emerald green eyeliner with a light red eyeshadow to compliment her brown eyes. She applied a red lipstick. As powders were difficult to keep at sea the navy was exempt from the strict uniform regulations that the army was required to maintain that entailed full face coloring. 

Brooke gave herself one final check before grabbing her pistols and running for the door. The underdecks were filled with sailors as today was cause for celebration the cook was permitted to cut down on the water in the rum ration meaning they were now getting half rum and half water. The decks were alive singing and dancing, already there were smaller women and girls tucked in between cannons clutching empty cups. The two sailors she had seen complaining were dancing furiously until one with close cropped hair fell over laughing with tears in her eyes. Brooke shook her head and smiled as she ran up the to the captain's cabin.

The top decks were no different from the bottoms with women drunkenly singing and dancing the only two who hadn't joined in on the fun were the captain's own honor guard. Two stern faced women who rarely spoke to anyone besides themselves. Brooke made her way towards them but was stopped by Starling. Her vest was buttoned improperly, and one of her socks had fallen down. Her blue wolf lined jacket was covered in stains and she lacked any kind of make up save for some poorly drawn eyebrows. Starling pointed a stern finger and Brooke and announced. “Hooray you made up to the rest of us. You know normally you wouldn't be allowed in this dinner. The only reason you're allowed in there is cause I held those spell shitters at bay. I lost my eyebrows to those freaks. ” Her breath reeked of alcohol. 

Brooke kept herself composed and in her most cordial tone said “I was very aware ma'am and I sought you out to thank you for the heroic sacrifice of your women in the under decks. I only wish I could have done something to help you load those cannons without incident.” Brooke thought she may have made her last comment a bit louder than was necessary. But after Starling showed her disregard for the lives she lost today Brooke figured her bruised ego deserved a few kicks. 

Starlings mouth fell open, had this been any other night Brooke could have been beaten for insubordination. But as it was Brooke was at a much higher standing with the captain and Starling had to tread lightly. Starling’s voice began to raise “I could manage it myself!” Several women on deck, the honor guard included turned to look at them. Starling noticed and quickly shrank back down to say “But your offer is appreciated midshipwoman.” She placed a hand on Brooke shoulder very tightly and pulled to the captain's cabin.

Walking in Brooke saw the captain sat at the head of a large ornate table wearing a black jacket of her own only her’s had a polar bear lining. To her left and right were Lieutenant Frost and Commander Cyprus, the other two officers aboard the ship both wearing red jackets with wolf and leopard linings respectively. Frost had the distinction of being one of the largest women Brooke had ever seen at sea. Normally sailors were kept underfed and maintained strenuous physical activity that weight gain was impossible. Somehow frost broke that stereotype. 

Meanwhile Cyprus who was a wholly inoffensive woman save for the constant smell of garlic that pervaded her entire existence. Some sailors whispered that she had a run in with vampires early in her life and fell into a common belief that garlic could conceal one’s scent from the bloodsucking fiends. 

Brooke reached up to salute when Maccavern interupted her. “Gains please we are all equals at my table no saluting and no rank tonight.” Brooke lowered her hand and blushed slightly. Sat down next to Frost who handed her a flute of blackberry champagne.

“Thank you ma’am, I mean Maccavern...” She took the flute “and thank you very much Frost.” Brooke clinked her glass against Frost’s. 

The captain rose “Now I'll be sending a runner a runner to brig to bring the Orks up. Gains that's why I've invited you. Since you got them to surrender, I want you to help us work them down and build a rapport, they can give us vital intelligence that could make the difference in a coming war.”

“Ma'am- Maccav-”

“Prudence, please” the captain interrupted. She placed her glass on the table and walked over to Brooke. 

“Prudence… I don't know, I managed to convince one to surrender but that's not the same thing as betraying their entire nation.” 

“I'm not asking for you to get them to defect just admit some things could give us the advantage. I believe in you Brooke just try for the sake of the navy.” She rubbed her hands down Brooke's shoulders. 

Brooke shivered and nodded. The captain's faith in her seemed rather forthcoming. Brooke worried that she was expected to take the fall should this plan fail her low rank would bear the brunt. Regardless if it went well she could climb the ranks at an incredible pace “Okay, Prudence.”

“Fantastic! I knew you wouldn't disappoint.” She clapped her hands on Brooke's shoulders and walked to the door. She whispered something to her guards and shut the door. “I've sent for our honored guests. I hope everyone will be on their best behavior.” She shot a look to Starling. Starling failed to notice and threw back another flute of champagne and walked over to the seat next to Cyprus. 

Brooke drummed her hands on the table. Just this afternoon she killed their captain and almost beat their first mate to death, and now she was expected to somehow cajole them into revealing information about their own people. She considered pouring another glass but thought better of it, if she was going to use this to finally climb the ranks in proper. 

Her meditation was interrupted by the sounds of heavy feet walking up to the door. The door opened with one of the captain’s honor guard leading in the four Ork survivor following them were two humans no doubt invited in as interpreters the second honor guard walked in and closed the door behind them. One at a time the honor guard pulled a chair out for each of them starting with the skinny ork who was now their acting captain. The other Orks continued to sit down on alternating ends of the table ending with the interpreters sitting in between between the officers and the orks. Both the orks and their interpreters were wearing heavy furs just like they had been when the fighting began. Brooke surmised that they needed that for protection against the cold. 

The captain stood up and nodded to Frost who pour a flute of champagne for everyone in attendance. Three of the Orks, the bookish one included, refused to even touch their drinks while and Ork with hair that had receded well off the top of his head took the drink and downed it before the captain could even say a toast. Without being prompted interpreter next to Brooke coughed and said in thick accent “Wih all respec ma’am orks refuse alcohol in all forms.”

The captain blinked and nodded “Very well then I shall send for some tea and coffee. I cant promise it will be up to the caliber of their climate but I hope we didn’t offend them.” She waved for a girl in the corner to run and get the aforementioned drinks. 

The interpreter relayed that to the orks, Brooke could visibly see them all relax save for the one who had started clawing up his compatriots drinks. Brooke elbowed the interpreter and whispered “Why does he drink if they won’t touch the stuff.” 

“Balil was one of the first of his kind to serve on the continent he developed a taste for drinking that some of the more recent travelers haven’t.”

Brooke smiled and thanked the interpreter, that information would prove useful soon enough. There was an awkward silence while the captain waited to perform her toast. Cyprus and Frost continued exchanging glances between themselves and the Orks. Brooke wanted to break the silence but she couldn't find anything to cut the air. The orks muttered a few things between themselves. An interpreter went to translate but was interrupted by the skinny ork quickly shushing him. The captain sat down and stayed quiet herself. Brooke opened her mouth to say something but closed it when no words came out. Starling started drumming her finger arythmicly on the table like a broken clock. A cycle began to show where Frost and Cyprus made comments to themselves the Orks would do the same Brooke was left silent while Starling kept tapping incessantly. 

When the door finally opened with the girl and Piper holding a tray of tea and coffee for the entire room. Brooke had to bite her lip to resist the urge to shout her out her thanks the ancestors for their arrival. She mouthed the word thank you to Piper, who responded back with a wink. The Captain had a warm smile on her face at the sight of the drinks. “Now we can finally begin. I toast to our guest and the hope for peace between our two peoples.” The women all toasted on time while the orks had to wait for their interpreters to relay the captain's words. Piper slipped out of the cabin to return to the kitchen, Brooke watched her leave. 

Kaylt the bookish ork spoke directly to the captain in orkish, the translator stepped in with an accented translation “honorable third sword Kayl would like to commend your choice of coffee, he also wonders where it comes from.” 

“We have it imported from the west, the magicians in Axiun have found a way to grow crops in any climate.” One ork scoffed at the idea. 

Brooke chimed in “I used to hear stories about coffee from the Orkish islands, I could never imagine something like this comparing to the real thing from home.” 

Kaylt smiled and responded, the interpreter explained for him “The honorable third sword Kaylt believes this is superior to the coffee from his home. He considers it so much sweeder.”

“I believe there’s sugar in it actually.”

Without being prompted the interpreter replied. “The orks don have ready access do sugar, do waste it on something like coffee seems almos hereical do them.” 

There was knock on the door, and Piper came in with another cook's mate. The captain announced “Ah here is our dinner for the night. She pointed at Piper Miss… Miss.”

“Smythe.” Brooke interrupted the captain's fumbling.

“Ah yes Smythe, thank you Brooke, please tell us what the chef has prepared tonight.”

Smythe put down the last plate down and locked her arms behind her back. “We have maple cured turkey bacon over a toasted almond, cranberry, and currant salad. Topped with nutmeg.”

Brooke was not all that excited by the prospect of the meal. It would seem Smythe's superior had to throw together a meal that looked ostentatious on short notice. Brooke had been eating turkey bacon since week three of the voyage, and toasted almonds were usually a sign that the ship was running out of food reserves. But since the orks probably haven't educated themselves on Fesiptn naval rations this dish probably looked exceptional. 

The orks and Starling ate very quickly, Brooke and the officers took their time eating for the sake of dignity. Brooke starting making small talk again by saying “What do orks normally have for dinner?” 

Kaylt started to speak Orkish but he stopped and switched over to Fesin “We have crab” he looked at the interpreter who nodded back at him. “Crab often with sweet… tree...eggs” 

The interpreter popped in “fruit, honorable third sword.”

Just then Starling stood up and announced “With all due respect, Prudence.” She said the captain's name staring straight at Brooke. “But my drinking has left me averse to bullshit.” She dropped her flute on the ground and stormed out.

Cyprus looked at the captain in disbelief. “Should we go after her?”

“No I'll have her flogged tomorrow when everyone can actually remember.” Maccavern sat back and reached for a fresh drink. She pulled out a clear bottle with an artistic corn ear drawn on it.

Suddenly a splash rang out from the top deck. It wasn't followed by an overboard call. Everyone in the room knew that meant a tragedy had just struck Brooke leapt up and ran to the door. Her mind was filled with thoughts of Starling flailing in the cold water. When she opened the door she stopped dead in her tracks. 

 

 


© Copyright 2018 Chris K.C. All rights reserved.

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