Captain Márden's Tale: Part 5 - Ships' Papers

When Tárenis was woken the next morning by the cries of someone selling bread in the streets outside, it took him a few moments to remember where he was. The window over the canal was open once more and the light of the early morning was streaming in. He then realised that neither Márden nor Kélas were in the room.

He rose, splashed some water on his face from a basin on a nightstand, and went in search of his companions.

He found them both in the dinning hall, where they were finishing their morning meal. Orténis was with them, but didn't appear to be eating.

Márden looked up and signalled to his friend to join them; but he said nothing; instead it was Kélas who spoke.

"Good morning, m'lord. You seemed to need the rest, so we left you to sleep; I hope you do not mind?"

Tárenis shook his head, and joined them, helping himself to the bread, butter and cold meats provided.

"Orténis has news, Tárenis, of Márden's ship", Kélas continued.

Tárenis glanced up at the merchant, who nodded.

"Yes, and of other matters, less pleasant".

Márden frowned. He knew instinctively he would not enjoy whatever news it was that their host might share with them.

"Go, on", said Kélas, pushing away the remains of his meal.

Orténis, however, appeared to be in no hurry. He studied the two young men carefully for some time, then began.

"Very well, my friends. This is what I have discovered, from my various contacts across the city".

"Lord Márden's vessel is, as I told you last night, still tied up at the northern docks. She is registered here in Eilýria, but not in the name of your clan, Lord Márden, but in the name of a well-known merchant of this city. I presume you were aware of this, m'lord?" Orténis looked impassively at Márden.

"I was. My ..." Márden hesitated for a moment, then continued,"... father was disinclined to share his trading ventures with his peers".

Orténis simply nodded, and continued.

"This merchant, Sérales, is known to me, but not well. He has a reputation for, shall we say, 'shady dealings'? In any case, I also discovered the name of the ship's master. He is Kesél al Mârthsen, apparently originally from Chélemby, although from what I have heard, he has not lived there for many years; he is well regarded, apparently, by his fellow seamen. Do you know this man?"

Márden thought back, trying to remember the names of visitors to his father. He couldn't recall the name, but he did seem to remember a group of sailors visiting when he was last in Telégah.

Márden shook his head. "I can't be sure. I may have met him, but I don't recognise the name".

Orténis frowned briefly, but moved on. "We shall have to see what we can do. That, however, brings me to the other matter..."

"This makes it much more difficult for Lord Márden to take possession of the ship, certainly openly. Unfortunately, there was an... 'incident' at the docks yesterday".

"Incident?" said Kélas.

Orténis nodded. "It appears, from what I can discover; and I have to say that matters are quite confused, that someone connected to House Telégah was discovered on the docks. It caused a small riot, as a number of groups attempted to apprehend this person, in hope of a share of the reward that has been offered".

"Someone? Who?", said Márden, urgently.

Orténis shook his head sadly. "I'm afraid, m'lord, I do not know. But, even if I did, it would do me, or them, no good. It appears that during the disturbance, the person involved was pushed into the harbour, and apparently drowned. I am most sorry to be the bearer of such bad news, m'lord, and to be unable to provide further details".

Márden went rigid, but then found he felt simply... numb. He was becoming, he found, less affected by the ongoing tales of disaster afflicting his house; it was as if it were all happening somewhere else, to someone else.

Orténis, carefully watching Márden's reaction, continued. "M'lord, we cannot even be sure that it was, indeed, someone connected to your house; but the fact is, the mob is hunting for anyone with any such connections, and the city authorities seem unwilling or unable to do much about it. It doesn't help that the Count of Malpýnia is at present in Quârelin".

"But, what all this means, m'lord, is that you must be very careful in how you go about claiming your clan's ship. While, as I have said, the ship is not registered to your clan, no doubt Sérales, the merchant with whom it is registered knows who the real owners are, and that may mean others do as well. I advise the greatest caution... m’lord".

"That is good advice, Orténis", said Kélas, who turned to Márden. "Lord Márden, how should we proceed?"

Márden had been thinking rapidly, and quickly came to a decision.

"We need to make contact with the master of the vessel, directly. We need to deal only with people my father trusted, and take, as good Orténis suggests, the greatest caution".

"Orténis", Márden leaned forward, "could you arrange for us to meet Master Mârthsen, at some secure location; either here or some other place if you would prefer?"

Orténis simply nodded agreement.

"And, can you find out, if you can, what the merchant Sérales has been doing lately. I need to know if I can trust him before we approach him. In any case, need to do whatever we can to get the ownership papers for the Fûren; I have no desire to add further hooks for the Duchess and her ilk to trap us".

Once, again, Orténis nodded. "Yes, m'lord. I suggest you remain secure, here, and do not travel around the city. Perhaps you might find the library in my solar a sufficient distraction?"

"That is most kind, master Orténis", Márden acknowledged.

"Very well. I shall be about these tasks. My servants are at your disposal, m'lords. Good day". Orténis rose, and left them in the charge of the housekeeper.

After they had finished their meal, the housekeeper showed them to the upper storey of the merchant's house, into his solar, where he did, indeed, have a splendid library, and a balcony overlooking the canal. Kélas indicated he would go out and see other contacts he had in the city, and Márden and Tárenis browsed the books and scrolls in the library for the morning. The housekeeper brought them refreshments on the balcony, and both young men were able to relax for the first time since their arrival at Òdelýn keep.

It was mid-afternoon when Kélas returned, and found the young men at rest in the solar.

"Comfortable, m'lords? Orténis is an excellent host, yes?"

Márden and Tárenis both agreed.

"Well, I have news, and so does Orténis. In fact, more than news... Master Mârthsen is below. He is eager to see you, Lord Márden...." Kélas grinned.

"He is? So soon!" Márden leapt to his feet.

"Yes", said Kélas. "Apparently he has been growing increasingly anxious as the rumours sweep the city. He was considering leaving the city altogether; but I will leave that to him to explain..."

The three companions made their way down two flights of stairs to the hall, where Orténis and a rough-hewn man in his thirties were sitting. Both rose to meet the companions.

Orténis introduced the newcomer.

"Lord Márden, this is Kesél al Mârthsen, master of the Fûren. Master Mârthsen, this is Lord Márden al Telégah, of House Telégah, and rightful owner of the Fûren".

Kesél bowed, acknowledging Márden, Tárenis and Kélas.

"Enough of the 'master', Orténis. I am only a ship's mate without a captain. M'lord Márden, you have your father's look, and though it was several years ago, I do recall seeing you from my last visit to Teléged, although I was just a simple member of the crew. It is a great pleasure to meet you m'lord, although the circumstances could hardly be more dire".

Márden let out a sigh of relief. He couldn't recall having met this man, but he was very pleased he didn't need to convince him of his patronage.

Márden took charge, as he realised he was expected to.

"Come, Kesél, sit with us, and tell me about the Fûren, and our situation".

Everyone moved to the hall tables, and food and drink were once again brought. Orténis was indeed an excellent host.

"M'lord", said Kesél, when they were settled, "things are no good. We have heard many terrible rumours of the events in Kolârè, and I have had a devil of a time keeping the small crew we have from jumping up and running off. And our contact, the merchant Sérales, he's been acting strangely too; keeps visiting and asking me if I've heard from anyone from your house. We have also hear rumours he's been talking to those involved in the sale and purchase of ships. Then yesterday, there was that 'incident' at the docks. I've kept everyone on the ship since then, and was seriously considering leaving the city. Something about that merchant's questioning, just made me feel... uncomfortable..."

Tárenis shook his head. Hadn't Márden had enough difficulties without yet another betrayal? But Márden seemed to take this in his stride. He nodded to himself, considering.

"Thank you, Kesél. I am grateful for your faithfulness, and for your insight. We shall have to do something about this merchant...."

"But first", Márden looked up and examined Kesél intently as he spoke. "You say your were considering leaving. How soon could you depart?"

Kesél screwed up his face, but answered. "We could leave today, m'lord. But we are sorely under-crewed. But I don't think it would be wise to search out additional crew members right now..."

"No", agreed Márden. "We must leave as soon as practical... but only once we have dealt with this Sérales..."

"Indeed, I think you do, m'lord", Kélas interjected. "I have been asking around about master Sérales, and it appears he's been making discrete inquiries about the possible sale of the Fûren..."

"Sale?!" Márden exclaimed. "But its not his ship!"

Márden turned to Kesél. "It seems your intuition was correct; Master Sérales has no intention of honouring his arrangement with my clan".

Márden sat quietly for a moment; no one dared interrupt him. He looked up, and round at the group.

"We need to deal with this merchant. I cannot allow this further betrayal to pass". His tone and expression were equally grim.

"Is that safe, m'lord?", said Kélas.

"Safe? Probably not. Necessary? Most definitely. For one thing, as I said previously, I want the ownership papers. But, equally, I've had enough of running from those who have done wrong to my house. At least someone must pay, and if this merchant has indeed betrayed us, or intends to, then I will see at least that much justice for my clan..."

Everyone could see that Márden was absolutely determined, and no one tried to gainsay him.

"Orténis", Márden turned to their host, "you say you have some knowledge of this merchant? Could you arrange a discreet meeting with him?"

Orténis looked at Kélas, who simply shrugged.

"Yes, m'lord. It could be done. I would rather, if your lord pleases, that it was not here..."

"No, there is no need for us to impose on you further, my good host. You have been more than generous. No, I have a better idea". Márden had a cold flinty look in his eye, that Tárenis had not seen before; but then he smiled, as his friend had often smiled when he had mischief planned. The combination was, Tárenis felt, somewhat disturbing.

"Orténis, can you suggest any neutral locations we could meet? I'm interested in a location not too far from where the Fûren is docked, and which has more than one entrance or exit", Márden inquired.

Orténis pondered for several moments, and the group waited. "I think, m'lord, that the best option might be the Pilots' Guildhall. It is near to the north dock, and has private rooms for hire. Since I know the Guildmaster, I believe he will be willing to let us use one of them, even though we are not pilots. Will that suffice?"

Márden smiled. "That sounds exactly like what I was looking for. I think we have enough funds to hire a room. Orténis, can we trust this Guildmaster?"

Orténis nodded once more. "He is well known for his trustworthiness, but more importantly, he jealously guards the neutrality of the Guild of Pilots in all matters. He will have no dealings with the schemes of nobles nor of merchants".

"Excellent", said Márden. "Orténis, can you send word to Master Sérales that someone with interest in the Fûren would meet with him at the Pilots' Guildhouse? Make it clear this person will want to see proof of ownership and registry. And yes, please see if we can hire a private room, preferably near the rear exit of the Guildhouse...."

As Orténis indicated he would do this, Márden leaned over and whispered something in Kélas' ear which Tárenis could not hear. Márden continued to whisper to Kélas for some time, and as he spoke a broad grin spread across Kélas' face. When Márden was finished, Kélas got up and indicated that the ship's mate should join him, which he promptly did.

"Master Orténis, I shall retire to our room, if you please. I need to rest". Márden turned back to Kélas and Kesél, who had been conferring out of Tárenis' earshot.

"All good?" Both nodded, and both were now smiling. "Good. Tárenis, lets rest up while these good men go about their business".

Tárenis followed Márden up the stairs to their room. He was completely perplexed, but Márden seemed oblivious to his confusion.

Márden simply washed up, then began to prepare to rest, even though it was only late afternoon.

"Márden...." Tárenis said cautiously.

"Yes?" Márden responded.

"What was all that about?"

"Nothing". But Márden's smile indicated otherwise.

"Oh. I see". Tárenis knew his friend too well to try much harder. When Márden had a plan, and didn't want to share it, it was useless to try to get it out of him.

Instead Tárenis followed his friend's example, and rested on his bed.

Márden, surprisingly, then spoke up. "Tárenis... don't worry... its a good plan... but... its best if you don't know... all right?"

"Ummm.... yes." That was all Tárenis could think of saying.

The two young men rested for several hours, until there was a knock on the door, and Kélas entered.

"It is all arranged, m'lord", he said to Márden. He glanced at Tárenis, to gauge his reaction.

"Good", said Márden. "Tárenis, now I can tell you your part in this, if you are willing, my good friend". Márden seemed quite serious, and a little melancholy.

"The time has come, I'm afraid, for us to part ways", Márden added.

Tárenis tried to interrupt him, but Márden held up his hand.

"Come, now, you knew this was coming. You must go to Quârelin, and I must leave on the Fûren".

Tárenis reluctantly nodded. He had been avoiding thinking about this, but he knew Márden was right.

"Very well", Tárenis said. "What do you want me to do?"

"I need you to report to the port authorities, that Master Sérales has been seeking to fraudulently sell a ship that he is holding in trust, and that he will be meeting with the person he intends too whom he intends selling this ship tonight at the Pilots' Guildhall..."

Tárenis thought that Márden had taken leave of his senses. "You want me to go to the Eilýria port authorities and lead them right to you?"

"Yes", Márden grinned. "You don't need to tell them that I am there, in fact, I'd rather you didn't. But nothing you say to them need be anything other than the truth - that the merchant Sérales is seeking to sell a ship he doesn't own..."

"Are you sure about this, Márden? It seems very dangerous... Wouldn't it be better for you to just slip away?" Tárenis asked.

"Maybe. But I've taken enough on the chin. This one individual at least will not go unpunished". Márden seemed absolutely determine, and Tárenis was sure he could not be dissuaded.

"Well, then, in that case, I will do as you ask", said Márden.

"Good! You should take Orténis with you; as Orténis will be known to the authorities, and will be able to vouch for your noble status", Márden added.

Márden turned to Kélas. "You, good ranger, you can accompany me as my retainer, if you will".

"I suppose I can be a retainer", Kélas grinned.

Some time later, Márden was waiting in a room in the rear of the Pilots' Guildhall, when Kélas joined him.

"The Guildmaster informs me that our guests have arrived. Shall I have them shown in?" Kélas inquired.

"Yes, please bring them in", Márden was stern faced.

Kélas disappeared, then returned shortly with the mate of the Fûren, Kesél, and tall, thin, rather distinguished man. Márden rose to greet them both.

Kélas introduced the newcomers. "Lord Márden, may I present Master Sérales, merchant of Eilýria, and Master Kesél, ship's mate of the Fûren".

Both of the guests bowed slightly, and Márden acknowledge them. Kélas noticed that Márden looked extremely agitated.

"Ah, good Sirs, I am...", said Márden hesitantly, " most... ah... grateful... to you for agreeing to meet with me under these... ah... difficult... circumstances.."

Márden sat down at the table, and the two guests joined him. Kélas stood back near the door. The table was bare except for a set of quill pens and a number of sheets of parchment.

"It is good to meet you, m'lord", said Sérales, his voice as smooth as silk. "Even, as you say, in such difficult times. I am pleased to see your lordship is safe".

Márden nodded vigorously. "Ah... yes... indeed... And it is all due to loyal retainers and persons such as yourselves".

Sérales smiled. "Indeed. Your good father, may the goddess' bless his soul, was most good to me. I shall do all that I can do to assist you and your clan in your hour of need..."

"What I ... ah... need most of all Master Sérales, is to leave Shôrkýnè... as soon as possible. I understand that you were holding the ship Fûren in trust for my father?"

"Yes, of course. Master Kesél has informed me that wish to reclaim the vessel, which of course, I am more than happy to do. I have brought the papers of ownership and registry with me. If you wish, we can effect transfer now? The Pilots' Guildmaster could witness the transaction, if you wished?" Sérales seemed very eager.

"That... ah... would be good, I think..." said Márden. "Could you ask the Guildmaster to join us?", Márden instructed his 'retainer'.

Kélas again left the room, and shortly returned with the Guildmaster of the Pilots of Eilýria. This wiry, elderly man with a hooked nose wasted no time with pleasantries. He made the barest of nods to Márden, and sat himself at the end of the table.

"You wish me to witness the transfer of a vessel? Then, let us proceed. I have many duties to attend to".

"First, I need to each of you to confirm your identities. You, Master Sérales, are you a mercantyler of the Guild of Merchants in the city of Eilýria?"

The mercantyler nodded, and added, "I am".

"And, you, m'lord, are you Lord Márden al Telégah, latterly of Kolârè?".

Márden also nodded, and confirmed, "I am".

"Taking a chance coming to the city, aren't you, young man?" said the guildmaster. "Still, its your business".

Márden smiled wanly, and Sérales looked uncomforatable.

"Very well then", said the guildmaster. "Let us get on with this. I don't have all night".

The Eilýrian mercantyler then drew out of his robes a set of papers, which he unfolded. Taking up the quill pen, he proceeded to amend the documents, signing them, passing them to Márden, who also signed them. Finally they were passed to the Guildmaster, who scanned them, made his mark, and handed the papers to Márden.

"There; it is done. Lord Márden is now in full possession of the vessel Fûren-Dyar. Lord Márden, if you wish to maintain registry of this vessel at this port, you will need to make arrangements with the Harbourmaster".

"My lord, guildsmen, my task here is done. I bid you good evening".

The Guildmaster rose, as did all in the room, and left.

Márden extended his hand to Sérales. "Good merchant. My thanks for your loyal duty to my clan. It shall not go unrewarded".

"Oh, m'lord, it is nothing! Simply my duty, as you say", said the merchant.

The ship's mate, Kesél, touched the merchant's arm, and whispered something in his ear.

"Well, as my ... or a should I say, your ship's mate has reminded me... I have business elsewhere. I shall take my leave, and bid you good fortune, m'lord. Let us hope that we shall meet again in... better circumstances". With this, the merchant bowed, and left the room.

He walked out of the Guildhall into the early evening. He noticed there were very many people in the street, many more than usual, and quite a hubbub of talking.

Ignoring the common folk, he looked up expectantly. He saw what he was looking for - a group of the city watch, accompanying one of the Harbourmaster's officials. One of the officials pointed to Sérales, and they began to move towards him.

"Ah... there you are..."

Before he could say anymore, a voice cried out from amongst the crowd.

"There he is! Look, the guard have come to get him! Don't let him get away!"

Sérales spun around to see who they were referring to, but could see no one, least of all Márden. Then he realised, to his horror, that the crowd were running towards him...

"No! Not me... its...." He realised, suddenly, that the mob could not be reasoned with. He glanced quickly at the city watch and harbour officials, but the crowd was now between him and them, and in any case they seemed to be beating a hasty retreat.

Sérales panicked. He turned and ran, and as he did, the crowd surged after him, and more and more cries rose. "Get him! Its him! He's getting away!"

The merchant ran for his life, down the street, but as he ran, passers-by began to try to stop him. Suddenly he tripped, and fell, and the crowd were upon him. Hands grabbed him, pulling him this way and that. "He's mine! Get off him! I had 'im first" Fights broke out all around him, and for a moment he saw a gap, and darted for it. But then a huge figure loomed up in front of him, and something heavy and blunt came down on his head and he fell. The crowd descended on him, and all was blackness.

Tárenis watched in horror as the city guards he had accompanied backed away as quickly as they could, forming a defensive cordon around Tárenis and the harbour officials.

"Wait!", said Tárenis. "We can't just leave him!"

One of the guards flashed him a look. "M'lord, the mob's blood is up", said the guard, panting as they moved quickly away from the scene. "They will leave us alone... if we don't get in their way..."

The harbour officials were already long gone, and the guards half dragged, half-led Tárenis away. "There are too few of us m'lord. There is naught we can do..."

Moments later, the guards had bundled Tárenis a sufficient distance that the cries of the mob were but a dull roar. Tárenis made little further protest as he and the officials were escorted back to the Harbourmaster's offices. From there, word was sent for reinforcements, which arrived several minutes later.

A sergeant of the guard took Tárenis aside. "M'lord, it would best if you were away from this area. This time the mob has gone too far, and we shall have to act. It will not be safe in this part of town for some time".

Suddenly, Tárenis noticed both Orténis and Kélas were standing near the Harbourmaster's building. Kélas looked straight at him, and winked.

"I see. Then, I thank you and your men for bringing me back to safety, and I shall let you get on with restoring order. I see my retainers, I shall have sufficient escort back to my quarters".

The sergeant nodded, and hurried off to organise his men.

Tárenis also hurried over to join Kélas and Orténis. "What on earth happened there?" he hissed through his teeth. "And Márden, is he safe?"

In a hushed voice, Kélas replied. "Yes. We should go. Things are going to get very messy here. Orténis has a boat. We should get on the water. There is something you will want to see..."

Tárenis looked at him quizzically, but Kélas said nothing more. Instead he and Orténis led Tárenis to a nearby dock, where a mid-sized river boat was moored. Two of Orténis' servants were aboard, and they helped all three men on the boat, and quickly cast off. In minutes they were out in the harbour. Behind them they could see the soldiers of the city guard assembling and further up the docks could see elements of the mob, seemingly still well engaged in the hunt.

Kélas tapped Tárenis on the shoulder, and pointed out across the water.

There, illuminated by the lights of the city docks, was a ship, half her sails up, catching the evening breeze and moving slowly up the harbour towards the Benâmo. And standing on her stern, and holding aloft a lantern, Tárenis could see Márden.

Orténis lifted a lantern in response, and Márden waved. Tárenis left out a huge sigh of relief, and waved back. He continued waving until the lantern that Márden held became just a spot of light.

"Well", said Tárenis. "I suppose that is that. Now I must make the journey to Quârelin".

Kélas simply nodded, and Orténis made no response.

Back on the docks, the cries of the mob turned to screams as the city guards moved in. Orténis' crew guided the boat down the harbour well out of reach of the troubles.

As the river boat turned into the canal where Orténis' house lay, Tárenis took one more look back up the harbour, but he could see nothing of the Fûren in the gloom. He wondered to himself when he would ever see his friend again.

Read Part 1 of Captain Márden's Tale.
Read Part 2 of Captain Márden's Tale.
Read Part 3 of Captain Márden's Tale.
Read Part 4 of Captain Márden's Tale.
Read Part 6 of Captain Márden's Tale.

HeirophantX's picture

I hope they burned him

It's only what that snakey mercantyler deserves. It's reading well Jeremy. Keep it up!

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