Sorry for the wait! I just really didn't want this chapter to end up crappy because it's honestly one of my favorite moments in the story.
Oh, and before I write the next chapter, I'm probably going to write a short deleted scene from this chapter that I really wanted to include, but it just didn't fit in.
Anyway, on with the story!
For dinner that night, Zisteau brought Kurt the salted meat and hardtack biscuits from the mess deck, which was a level lower than sick bay. Kurt was reluctant to just sit and wait with Vechs, but they both agreed it was for the better. Who knows how the crew would react to eating with a man from the enemy ship?
With all that happened today in mind, Zisteau was still a bit taken aback when he entered the mess hall and all the conversations stopped for a second. It wasn’t until he grabbed two portions of meat and biscuits from the cook, Mhykol, and shut the door that the talking resumed. There was still talk of Kurt amongst the crew, but it was clear that no one had heard that Kurt was going to, essentially, try out to be a part of the crew. Except for maybe Pause, he might have known. Damn guy always has such a smug look on his face.
Zisteau had his hands full with dinner, so he ended up having to knock on the door with his elbow. Kurt opened it quickly. He nodded his head in thanks and placed the food on the table in the middle of the room where Vechs was sleeping.
“Get off, ya freaking cat,” Zisteau said, pushing Vechs slightly. The cat didn’t move a muscle.
“Fine,” Zisteau mumbled, and then turned to Kurt, “Hope you don’t mind not being able to sit and eat.”
“No, no it’s fine. Um, do you have any liquor?” Kurt said, breaking off a piece of the biscuit.
Zisteau couldn’t help smiling. “Of course.” He put down his food on the table and reached into one of the cabinets below the counter. “Hope you don’t mind scotch,” he said, pulling out said bottle.
“Not at all. What type?”
“Single malt scotch.”
Kurt snorted lightly, which Zisteau mentally high-fived himself for making him laugh a bit. “I used to be the only one on the ship that liked that type of scotch.”
Zisteau didn’t say anything in reply, just took a quick swig then passed the bottle to Kurt, who took a significantly longer drink. Zisteau didn’t mind at all.
They ate their meal in silence, the only noise coming from the sea outside and Vechs, purring when Kurt gave him bits of his pork.
Hmm, he usually doesn’t purr for anyone but me… Maybe it’s the smell of fish on him.
After they had finished their dinner and drained what had been a half-full bottle, Zisteau helped Kurt set up the spare hammock in the opposite corner after Kurt had turned down his offer to sleep on the floor while Kurt took his hammock (“If anything, I should be the one on the floor.”). Zisteau’s dreams that night were filled with blue, purple, and white clouds covering a golden sun.
Breakfast went much the same as dinner, but with less staring from the crew when Zisteau got breakfast (it was the same as dinner).
Guude never specified exactly how “early” to meet with him, so when they had finished their bread and taken one last drink of a new bottle of scotch, they walked straight up to the deck.
When they emerged from below deck, Zisteau was immediately taken back by the stillness of it all. There was no wind filling the sails; The Mindcrack was drifting aimlessly at sea. There were also not a lot of crew men working. Zisteau only recognized Etho, Baj and Avidya as well as 3 other men working around the deck. Guude, Pause and Beef were also on deck, but they weren’t working, they were waiting. For us, obviously. All three were standing behind a simple wooden table covered in weapons; pistols, revolvers, and cutlasses of all types.
Guude was as immaculate as he was before, looking ever the captain. His first and second mates however were significantly less clean. First mate Beef had on a dark gray shirt with a white vest on that was covered in blood stains and dark blue trousers. His sword was strapped to his leather belt, hung loosely on his waist. Second mate Pause had… significantly less on than Guude or Beef. He had no shirt on and rarely ever did, unless it was extremely hot or cold. He was wearing light brown pants with red and blue accents, although most were hidden in dirt.
When Kurt and Zisteau had reached the table, Beef had locked eyes on Kurt and was examining him closely. After Kurt had nodded his head in hello to the captain, a sudden look of realization had dawned across Beef’s face and he burst out laughing.
The other men looked to the first mate, who by now was laughing so hard, he was gripping on to the table for dear life.
“What? Did I miss something?” Kurt asked hesitantly.
I think we all missed it.
Beef finally stopped laughing, gasping for air. “S-Sorry for that, I,” Beef let out a small giggle, “I didn’t expect to see the guy who made me invalid for a while.”
Guude’s eyebrows shot up, “Wait, so Kurt J Mac-“
“Is the guy who shot me twice in the legs, even though he was all the way on the other side of the ship? Yep!” Beef held out a hand to Kurt with a large grin on his face, “Blood Baron Beef, at your service.”
Kurt shook his hand tentatively, “Um, Kurt J Mac, although you already knew that.”
Beef chuckled, “Yep. Did you know that I had to be bodily carried off the ship cause I could barely walk?”
Kurt shook his head as Zisteau groaned inwardly, thoughts from that day resurfacing. The Emerald had sprung an attack out of nowhere a couple of months ago, and the fighting had somehow moved from The Mindcrack to The Emerald. It had been an unfair fight from the start, so it was just short of a miracle that so many people left with their lives. However, there were a lot of wounded and it was ingrained in Zisteau’s memory (and muscles) the sound of Beef’s scream, having to carry him off the ship with the help of Paul Soares (and, looking back on the memory now, glancing over and briefly seeing the navigator who shot Beef), and then pulling out one of the bullets for his leg.
Yeah, not the most fantastic memories.
Zisteau shook his thoughts away just as Beef was closing off whatever conversation he was having with Kurt.
“Okaaaaaaaay, now that that’s over with, let’s get to the tests!” Pause said, obviously getting impatient.
Guude nodded, grabbed a sword off the table, and handed it over to Kurt, “First test, you against me in a free-for-all. We stop at the first draw of blood.”
No wonder he made me come along.
Kurt unsheathed the blade silently, moving toward the open space near the middle of the deck. Zisteau cringed inwardly when he saw that the blade looked like it was made of gold. Any self-respecting pirate knew that the golden blades were the most poorly made. They dulled quickly and were more likely to break in a fight. The best sword was, of course, like the one Guude had in his hand- the one with a blue hilt. However, those were the hardest to come by and the hardest to make, so most people on the crew had swords with a gray hilt. No way is Kurt winning this fight with that sword.
Guude grabbed his sword off the table, grinning, with the same thought probably going through his mind. He stood in front of Kurt, a couple of paces away. Confidence seemed to radiate off of him, as opposed to Kurt, who was gripping his sword in a white-knuckle grip. Guude lunged first, Kurt blocking the blow easily. He was able to block every swipe of Guude’s sword with ease. Guude never got a hit in. They moved like a well-oiled machine, with Kurt moving back a step every time Guude advanced. It wasn’t until a seagull swooped down and jostled Kurt’s sword that he was distracted enough for Guude to scratch him with the tip of his sword on his left hand.
Both men lowered their weapons and Guude made a small noise of approval. “Not bad, guy,” he said as he went back to the table, “Let’s see you with a gun.”
Placing down the sword, Kurt let out a small sigh. Zisteau was barely able to hear him mutter, “Finally something I’m good at.”
Guude handed him a flintlock pistol and the ammunition just as they heard a loud thump and Pause shouting, “FUCK!”
They looked to the second mate, who had slipped out during the fight and was now trying to pick up the bulls-eye he had dropped.
“C’mon Pause. We ain’t got all day!” Guude said.
“I’m trying, I’m trying, just hold on!” Pause yelled back.
With some help from Beef, the target was set up in the middle of the deck.
“Alright guy,” Guude said, moving over the stand beside Kurt, “Just hit the target five times.”
Kurt nodded and there was immediately something different in his eyes. The nervousness that had been there before was quickly replaced with full-on concentration and determination. He aimed the pistol and pulled the trigger. Bang! Hit the outer circle. Bang! Dead center. Bang! Just left of the last one. Bang! Dead center. Bang! Just outside the center.
“Impressive,” Zisteau mumbled. The other three men agreed.
Kurt lowered the gun and the determined look in his eyes scampered away as he turned around. “So, uh, how’d I do?”
Guude looked at Beef, then to Pause and then at Kurt, “Not bad, but are there any, I don’t know, special tricks you can do?”
Kurt raised an eyebrow, “Tricks?”
“Yeah,” Pause said, “Like I know my way around a bow and arrow and Beef can wield two swords at once.”
Kurt thought for a minute then said, “Well, I can do one trick, buuuuut it’s really more of a party trick…”
“Oh who cares, show us!” Beef piped up.
“Okay, um, anyone got a coin? One that you won’t mind losing?”
The other men fished around in their pockets. “I’ve got a doubloon,” Zisteau said, holding it up.
“O- Okay, um, stand, uh, there.” Kurt pointed to a spot on the deck a few paces away from him.
Zisteau nodded and moved there. Wonder what he’s going to do.
His thoughts were interrupted by Kurt’s voice. “Throw the coin up in the air.”
A collective “Huh?” came from the other men.
A small smirk grew across Kurt’s face. “Throw the coin up into the air,” he repeated.
“Alright,” Zisteau mumbled, “Want a countdown?”
“No, just whenever.”
Zisteau rubbed the coin in his fingers for a moment before flinging the coin straight up into the air. A second later, Kurt drew the pistol out and shot into the air. The deck was silent until they heard the coin land with a *tink on the deck of the ship.
Kurt lowered the pistol and motioned to where the coin landed, “Check out the coin.”
Zisteau slowly made way to where the coin had landed. It took a while (it was a big ship), but when he did find it, he was dumbfounded.
It was still smoking, but somehow, Kurt had managed to shoot the coin in midair. A large chunk of it was missing on the side. He picked it up, wrapping his hand in an old rag he happened to have in his pocket. He walked over to the captain and deposited the coin into his hand.
Guude’s eyes widened when he saw the bullet hole. He turned to Kurt. “How the hell did you do that?”
Kurt shrugged, looking sheepish again, “I was able to do something similar with a bow and arrow and-” but before he could finish, Pause was beside him.
“You can use a bow and arrow too?” he asked eagerly.
Kurt was slightly taken aback, but he nodded all the same.
Pause looped his arm around Kurt’s shoulder, making Kurt stiffen immediately at the sudden contact, but Pause didn’t notice as he shouted, “Fuck yeah! I’m not the only one anymore!”
Zisteau chuckled. Before, Pause was the only person on board who knew how to use a bow and arrow and whenever he got drunk enough, he would start raving on about how much better it was compared to a gun. He was obviously hoping he would have some back up now. As long as Guude allows him on the ship. Speaking of which…
“So Captain,” Zisteau said, “What’s the verdict? Is Kurt in, or out?”
Guude thought for a moment then, rather reluctantly faced Kurt, “Welcome to the crew.”
He held out his hand and Kurt quickly took it, as if he expected it to disappear if he hesitated too much.
“Thank you, I won’t let you down,” Kurt said breathlessly.
“See that you don’t,” Guude said, sternly. He dropped his hand and turned toward his quarters, his coat furling dramatically behind him.
Kurt leaned against the mast when Guude had left. He was breathing heavily as he scrubbed a hand over his face. Zisteau was by his side in a second.
“You okay?” he asked quietly.
“Yeah, yeah. I-I’m just glad I didn’t fail.”
“That was… pretty impressive,” he admitted. And it was. When he first joined the crew, Zisteau could barely hit his target three times in a row. Hitting the center circle four out of five times, would’ve been impossible back then.
Kurt gave a one-shouldered shrug, scratching his cheek with his other hand.
“Oh, wait,” Zisteau said, just remembering about the cut Kurt got earlier. He dug around in his pocket for the spare bandage he kept in his pocket. He pulled it out and Kurt took a step to the side.
“It’s fine, you don’t have to do that,” Kurt said, taking a step back. Zisteau rolled his eyes, already too familiar with similar protests. He grabbed on to his arm and pulled Kurt closer.
“Nonsense, it’s fine. Just let me…” He grabbed on to his hand gently and skillfully wrapped the bandage around the wound. “There,” Zisteau let Kurt’s hand fall limply down, “That’s not the bad now is it?” He looked up to Kurt and only then did he realize that they were pretty much chest-to-chest. If one of them leaned in…
Zisteau took a step back. Don’t take that risk again. Thankfully for him, Pause yelled for him to help fix something below deck. He was going to congratulate Kurt again, but he had slipped past and gotten in a conversation with Beef. He sighed inwardly, ignoring the part of his brain that had wanted him to lean in and jogged over to Pause.