AUTHOR'S NOTE: So, funny thing... I just now realised, I messed up... I kinda mixed up two of Louis' sisters – Daisy and Doris... Originally, Doris was supposed to be the youngest of the missing Tomlinson's along with her twin brother, Ernest (which they are IRL). Except that... Doris was found on Bunetta's estate and Daisy took her spot on the Seafarer... I must have somewhat got confused, when writing earlier chapters and just... changed their places.
Upon consideration and advice from my friend(s) (thanks, Matt), I decided to just go as is, without changing it. Most of my readers wouldn't notice anyway.
„So, are these your quarters?”
The four companions, along with Charles and Daisy – hers and Louis' younger sister – entered a spacious room on the upper deck in the aft of the ship to talk. Lou couldn't stop peppering his little sister with affection, having been worried sick over her for years, ever since the slavers kidnapped his entire family. He wasn't the only one focusing his attention on her though. Harry was staring at the youngest Tomlinson with interest, though he kept silent throughout.
„If you're asking, if I sleep here, then the answer is no. I do spend most of my time here though, both day and night, so I do have a small bunk to rest in, behind a curtain over there.” the pirate captain replied to Liam's question, sitting behind a large table in the middle and pointing towards a red drape roughly seperating a corner from the rest of the room. „This is the chart room, where we plot out navigational routes and plan our course.”
Charlotte rolled up a few maps from the table and put them onto a rack on the wall, before clearing out other clutter and inviting the others to sit around the table. Louis took his place between his two sisters. He was about to start a tireless inquiry into both his sisters' histories up to this point, but Charlotte stopped him in his tracks.
„I'm sure, you have a lot of questions Boo Bear, but we need to adress more pressing matters first.” The pirate said, earning an irritated sigh from her brother. She then turned towards the door of the cabin and shouted „How's the preperations to set sail coming along?”
A sailor's head peered inside for a moment. „Not long now, captain. The ship is ready to sail whenever you say, we're just checking, if all our boys are accounted for and securing the treasure and provisions for the trip.”
„Good. Make haste.” she nodded, as the sailor left and closed the door behind him.
„You're really in a hurry to get out of here, aren't you?” Niall asked, quirking an eyebrow. „Worried about a Neverwinter garrison popping up for tea or the Luskanites?”
„The Brotherhood. I won't feel safe in any one place for too long, before I find out, how they were able to lay that trap on us.”
„Which leads us back to the events in Ruathym.” Liam butted in, his brows furrowed in concern. „You were about to tell us, what happened. How did... the burglary go?”
„Surprisingly smoothly... initially.” Charles chuckled slightly, though it was easy to tell by her expression, how perplexed she was by it. „I guess they didn't exactly expect us to return so quickly... and planning on stealing the same tome, we've just returned to them days earlier. That said, there were a lot more guards this time around and the holes in their security, we've used for the previous heist were all patched up to some degree. So, we've, and by that I mean mostly me with a little help from Daisy, hatched up a new plan.”
„Didn't quite expect a girl so young to have insight in planning thefts from high-security magical libraries.” Harry blurted out, his eyes still fixed on the youngest Tomlinson, not even blinking.
„I assure you, she's full of surprises. As am I.” Charlotte replied, not paying much attention to the wizard's tone. „Living through slavery amongst pirates does that to you... We've split my crew into three groups. I lead the diversion, the best men in my crew, into the island, trying to wreck as much havoc and get as many sentries onto us, as possible. The other, smallest group, was to sneak into the library and steal the tome. We knew, that they'd quickly realise, what we were planning and so Daisy was in charge of protecting the ship along with the rest of the mates, keeping it ready to sail at a moment's notice.”
„Making sure, they don't cut off your escape route? That's rogue 101.” Louis chuckled.
„You can laugh, but you'd be surprised, how often elaborate plans fall apart at the basics.” Charles replied, then continued with a sigh. „We were blindsided regardless. Taken by surprise twice, actually... after the diversion went exceedingly well, my team and I ran into Raegar.”
All companions, except for Louis, who wasn't there to hear about the initial deal from Lord Bunetta, looked at Charlotte in shock at the mention of the previous captain of the Seafarer.
„Did... did Raegar work with the Ruathenians? The Arcane Brotherhood? Did he sell you out for the mutiny?” Liam asked inquisitively.
„No...” Charles lowered her head a bit, holding back the few tears that formed in the corners of her half-closed eyes. „He saved us.”
Charlotte collected herself, determined not to show any form of weakness and continued, albeit her voice still slightly shaken. „After we abandoned him on an island, he was picked up by a passing ship and made his way to Ruathym. There, he lay low, worried he'd be executed for the previous heist, if he was captured. He of course recognised the Seafarer, when we made port and furthermore, realised exactly what we were planning, based on our movements. He kept watching it, possibly waiting for a chance to steal the Seafarer back for himself. The moment he saw Ship Baram pull into the harbour though, he ran in search of me. They must have attacked soon after, as he told me, he could hear cannon fire and spells going off, as he headed to where he thought I would be.”
„Ship Baram? One of Luskan's Pirate Lords warships?” Liam blurted out in shock. „And they opened fire... in harbour?!”
„They were careful with the cannons apparently, opting for single precise shots, rather than a full volley... otherwise, there wouldn't be much left of the port itself.” Charlotte nodded in agreement. „Probably, why the ship was still mostly intact, by the time I reached it.”
„That doesn't explain, how it survived the barrage of magic missiles it probably was subjected to by the Arcane Brotherhood wizards onboard Ship Baram.” Harry interjected, his gaze incessantly fixed on Daisy. „The magical wards wouldn't have withstood such an onslaught of arcane energies for too long... not without any magical backup. You would've reached a smouldering wreck at best.”
„That was my doing.” Daisy said shyly, raising her eyes to meet Harry's and enduring his piercing glare. „I kept recharging the magical trinkets to hold the shield up, for as long as possible.”
For a second time, the companions looked stunned, none more so than Louis, while Harry simply smiled smugly. „My senses didn't lead me astray then... you're a sorceress.”
„My sister is a what-now?” Louis asked, his head turning from Daisy to Harry with an ever-growing puzzled expression on his face.
„A sorceress. Wizards get their magical power through years of studying the arcane, learning how to bend the everflowing energies of the multiverse to their will. A sorceror's power is innate... it comes from within, generally manifesting wildly until tamed and trained.” the Elf explained handily.
„How do you become a sorceror?” Niall asked, still dumbfounded.
„You do not.” Harry chuckled. „A person is born a sorceror, usually as offspring to a naturally magically-gifted ancestor, though the powers sometimes take a few generations to fully manifest.”
„Wait, hold on. Magically-gifted ancestor?” Louis asked, even more perplexed than before. „Charlotte and I are both Daisy's siblings... We literally have the same ancestors and neither of us are magical!”
„Can't argue with that.” Charles nodded. „Neither was mom or dad... nor any other of our siblings, as far as I recall, including Daisy's twin brother, Ernest.”
„Well... dad technically worked for the Arcane Brotherhood, so...”
„He, WHAT?!” Charlotte blurted out in rage at Louis' comment.
„I did too. Briefly. We had both cut all ties, when we've learned, they were no good... It's a long story.” the rogue replied sheepishly.
„And when were you planning on telling me this?”
„Later. In private. Just family. I've found him... his corpse... in my travels.” Lou hesitated a bit, but figured he'd spare them the gruesome details about the way their father died. „There are some things you ought to know about him, for the sake of his memory.”
„Fine. I'll leave it for now.” Charlotte replied, calming down a bit. She then turned back to Harry. „I'm not dropping the magically-gifted ancestor though. What exactly do you mean by that?”
„Well, anything really.” the wizard replied, scratching his head. „A fey? Hag? Dragon? Devil... or Angel, if that makes you feel any better... could be any magical creature that's either humanoid or a shapeshifter able to assume anthropoid form in order to... you know... proceed with mating. Hells, could be even an Elf.”
„Hang on, Haz. That just makes Half-Elves and those aren't any different from other mortals... apart from the longevity thing.” Louis remarked. „I know a Half-Elf personally and he doesn't have any special magical powers.”
„Technically, when compared to a regular human, I could be considered a sorceror – a creature with innate magical power – however, the powers I was born with are possessed by most other Elves, thus making them un-extraordinary... although they do help augment the arcane energies I command as a wizard.”
Before anyone could continue with the conversation, there was a knock on the door and a sailor walked in.
„All men reported back. We're still packing the treasure... didn't quite anticipate there being that much of it... but we're set to go, whenever you give the order.”
„Thank you, sailor. Back to your post.” Charlotte nodded and turned to the others. „I assume you'd like to get back to shore?”
„First, I'd like you to finish telling us, what happened in Ruathym, if that's okay.” Liam replied.
„I've already stretched my time here...”
„I know... but any information you give us, might help us out in the long run. If the Brotherhood has found a way to track you, despite the protective wards, there's a chance they can get by Harry's anti-scrying spell as well.”
„Fine.” the pirate sighed and continued. „I was sceptic at first of Raegar's words, but the sound of battle soon reached us too and... well, you don't exactly go about choosing your allies in situations like that. When we reached the harbour, we found the Seafarer under fire, our crew making a stand on the pier to stop Ship Baram sailor's from boarding the vessel and the group, who was tasked with retrieving the tome locked in battle with the ruathenian garrison.”
„They must've realised, trying to blast the ship to pieces with magic would take too long with someone enforcing the wards, so they decided to simply kill the spellcaster the old-fashioned way and be done with it.” Harry concluded grimly.
„Possibly.” Charlotte nodded. „In any case, I had to choose, what to do – either try and break through to the ship or help to defeat the ruathenians and secure the tome. I had too few men to try both at the same time and before we'd be able to help one group, we risked the other already loosing to its adversaries... That's when Raegar proposed a third option.”
Charles paused for a bit and suprisingly smiled slightly, though again, a glint of a tear could be seen sparkling in the corner of her eye.
„Raegar knew, how Luskan pirates thought and acted. He was one himself after all. He gathered the bravest of my men and led them to board Ship Baram.”
„He attacked the enemy ship? The one with Arcane Brotherhood wizards on board?!” Harry asked in bewilderment. „That's mental.”
„Most great ideas are... And it is as you said yourself, Elf. Kill the spellcaster and be done with it.” Charlotte chuckled. „The luskanites acted just like Raegar knew they would. Faced with the possibility of losing their own ship, their pride... they all rushed to its defence. I joined with the crew at the pier and together we routed the ruathenians, allowing the rest of my men to get back to the ship with the tome intact.”
There was a brief silence, during which everyone felt uneasy, the unvoiced ending to the story lingering in the air. Finally, Niall mustered the courage to ask the question.
„Why... why isn't Raegar here to tell us this himself?”
Charlotte turned to Niall. There was no malevolence, no anger at him for his inquiry. Just a tinge of sadness and maybe helplessness.
„I tried. I had the Seafarer be turned around, so we'd be sailing right past Ship Baram. Too close for the wards to do any good, if the Brotherhood wizards decided to blast us, but also close enough, that Raegar and those of my crew, that were with him, could jump and grab on to the railings and nets along the side... And then I noticed it... Ship Suljack, another one of Luskan's warships... closing in on the harbour... turning starboard side to block the mouth of the inlet and the only way out of the port. I had to rescue my crew. We sailed full canvas, barely making it out, before Ship Suljack blockaded the harbour. Trying to maneuver in the inlet is a delicate matter, cost them too much speed and time to try and pursue us, while we already had wind in our sails. I had to leave Raegar and the bravest of my crew to die, so I could save the rest of us.”
„That is, if they were lucky...” Louis interjected. „If not, they've found themselves in the Brotherhood's dungeons by now for interrogation.”
The other three companions immedietaly shot him a stern glare. As the rogue looked around cluelessly, his eyes fell on his sister's even grimmer expression, the glint in her eyes having nearly disappeared.
„Sorry, I didn't mean...” he muttered hastily, then finally bit his tounge and shut up.
Everyone was quiet, the only sound being that of waves hitting against the squeeking boards of the ship. Finally, Liam broke the silence.
„You did your best. And you got the tome safely back to us... this is likely gonna save the lives of a lot of people.”
„Take it. Don't wanna see the bloody thing ever again.” Charlotte replied, pulling the book out of her bag and sliding it across the table to the warrior.
„What is this book anyway?” Harry asked. Both he and Niall leaned towards Liam. Even Louis walked around the table to get a better view.
„The Chronicles of Mirabar. Of Clans and Kings.” Liam read out the title out loud. „Written by James the Everbright.”
„A chronicle? Really? We're reading history books now?” Louis scoffed. „The dullest kind, I might add.”
„The Everbright? That's not a name... it's a title of priests of Amaunator, the sun god worshipped in Cormyr. What would a cormyrean priest be doing in Mir...” Niall interjected, when a thought hit him. „Hang on, isn't that St. James, the Valiant?”
„That legendary paladin of Tyr?” Liam asked, passing the tome to Harry, who seemed to be more interested in the contents, than the cover. „Why would anyone attribute a book to him and not name him with the title he's famous for?”
„Because he didn't have that title... yet, at least.” Harry replied quietly, skimming through the pages, his mouth slightly agape. „I don't think this is a copy... this might just be the original, handwritten by St. James himself.”
„He died a thousand years ago...” Niall said, lowering his voice, so that Charlotte wouldn't overhear them. „This was supposed to help us locate the real hammer that belonged to the dwarves in the present. Someone care to explain how?”
„I'm sure Zayn knows how.” Liam replied, packing the tome. „We'll just leave that to him. Speaking of which, we should probably deliver it to him as soon as possible.”
„Aye, and I should set sail as soon as possible. You can use a dinghy to get back to shore... no need to return it.” Charlotte said, standing up from the table and leading them out of the cabin. „You can peruse the tome at leisure, once my crew and me are away.”
As they got back on the main deck, the adventurers noticed, that the crew were still packing up the last of the jewels and gold, splitting them into small leather bags, a heap of which were piled nearby, presumably already filled to the brim. Except that, as they watched them fill another one of those, it seemed to hold a lot more valuables, than it should've been capable of.
„Are... are those bags of holding?” Harry asked, astonished, poiting at the sacks.
„Sure are.” Charlotte replied with a smile.
„Wait, you mean those bags with a demi-plane inside? That let you store anything, without ever increasing the bag's weight, as long as it can fit through the opening?” Niall asked, equally astounded. „Where'd you get them all? I heard, they're supposed to be very rare.”
„They are rare... mostly used by magicians, to lower their encumbrance.” the pirate captain explained. „So naturally, we've looted loads of them, back when we were raiding luskanite trading ships.”
„Think we could get some?” Liam asked sheepishly. „Those would really ease our journey. Literally take the load off our backs.”
„Help yourselves. We've got more below deck.”
The companions ventured below, indeed finding a whole stash of said bags in the cargo hold. They each chose one, placing what cumbersome items they had on their bodies inside, then strapped them to their belts. As they and Charlotte were about to return to the main deck, an out-of-breath sailor ran down.
„What is it sai...” Charlotte began, but the crewmate interrupted her.
„Ships, captain... On the horizon.”
„What colours?” she asked, her expression immediately turning stern.