PESKY Pirates

Donatello looked out across the sea and took a deep whiff of the salty air. It smelled of stormy weather. Not many men would pick it up so soon but he'd been born and raised on ships and had learned to pick up the clues. If he were a legitimate captain, he would guide his ship to a sheltered harbour. But something in his blood pulled him to the dangerous, clandestine side of things. His crew could get by on the work they got from Dawn Castle and the island settlements. But he and his crew came from pirates, ruffians and rebels. Regular work just didn't fill the need for adventure these men had. 
Currently the crew of the "Chubby Lady", who despite her squat appearance was a sturdy and fast-faring ship, numbered a dozen. Usually the crew shifted frequently. People got caught up in schemes and hauled to jail, others found work they liked more while others left to travel again. And then some died, either swept away by the water or killed in fights or during their special expeditions. 
"Stormy weather's coming." he told Vittoria, the dainty young woman with the pixie haircut who was standing beside him.
"Want to get a special expedition in?" she asked, knowing what her captain was thinking. 
Though not official, everyone regarded her as the second in command. With her quick, flexible thinking, she usually kept them out of trouble while Donatello navigated them seemingly effortlessly through the treacherous waters surrounding the islands. 
"I have something in mind." Donatello nodded, "But we'll need Frederico and Rafaello and they haven't returned."
Vittoria considered the late arrival of the two other core members of the crew. Both men enjoyed the nightlife, but the sun was already nearing it's Zenith and it wasn't like them to stay away from their jobs so long. Which could only mean one thing.
"I'll go bail them out." she sighed. 
"I'll get the cargo loaded." Donatello nodded and left his second to do what she did best. 
The exact nature of the goods that they moved during these special expeditions was always hazy, but Donatello could mostly guess. Bottles of liquor sounded different than stashes of illegal riches, even when both were obscured in crates. Which was why he was a bit surprised when he heard neither telltale rinkle when moving the boxes. If any the cargo felt solid yet supple. Heavy linens perhaps? Maybe their contractor had gotten smarter. Or the contents was so fragile it needed to be wrapped? Curiosity warred in Donatello's mind but his moral code denied him a peek inside. 

Frederico woke up with a splitting headache. That in itself wasn't unusual. He'd been on benders before. The place he woke up in was sadly familiar. The grey walls bare and rough, the cot he was laying on hard and narrow. There was only one small window letting the light in. It was too narrow for even a young boy to slip through.
"Good morning." the familiar voice of Rafaello said loudly.
"Quiet, I've got a hangover." Frederico snarled.
"I see you can lose your charm." Rafaello quipped, "What would the ladies say if they saw you like this?"
"I sure as hell don't need to charm you." Frederico said as he got up and gingerly tried not to loose whatever he still had in his stomach.
"What happened?" he asked Rafaello.
"On your end? I have no clue. You were already here sleeping like a log when they brought me in." Rafaello shrugged.
Frederico remembered playing at the Dun Keiba races and winning big. He had gone out drinking afterwards and the rest of the night was a big blur. He looked over to the other man and noticed some cuts in his shirt, a black eye and a split lip. 
"Did you get knocked out by some husband returning home to find you in his wife's bed?" Frederico asked.
"I wish." Rafaello sighed, "I didn't even get to her bed. All it took was one dance with a pretty lady and afterwards a group of five ganged up on me. I might be a good fighter but when there's that many." Not to mention he'd left his knives in the "Chubby Lady". He was only going to have a little fun at a local fair after all, he hadn't believed he'd find himself in the middle of a fistfight. It might have been for the best though since that would mean that the charges against him would be minimal.
"So where are the others?" Frederico asked.
"They got off with a warning." Rafaello said darkly, "Apparently I danced with the chief's wife."
Frederico laughed heartily, clutching his head right after. 
In the small office at the front they heard Vittoria open with her usual act. 
"Gentleman, I've come to get back my crew." she said.
Vittoria had been here before. Sadly. She knew the clerk at the desk and he knew her too. The guy must probably think that she was a pushover who should just employ some better people. Maybe today she should play the disgruntled underling a bit. The idea appealed to her.
"I know you must think I'm stupid for coming here and bailing them out all the time. Well I'm just the messenger. My boss is the one who keeps paying these two. For all  care they can rot away in this fine prison." she emphasized those words so the guys could hear her. It wouldn't hurt to get them to shape up a little. "You see they're like the boss' kid brothers and he's hung up on family."
The clerk nodded and sighed, "My wife's brothers are absolutely useless. I'm surprised I haven't seen them here."
Vittoria smiled sweetly, "Maybe she keeps them in line. Maybe she can teach me a thing or two."
The clerk grinned, "I think it's their mother who has that affect on them."
"Did you hear that boys? Next time I'm getting your mothers to bail you out."
"Do you think she's serious?" Frederico asked, not at all happy with the prospect.
"I doubt my mother would yell at me." Rafaello shrugged, he'd grown up in a tavern where men could pay for love.
"I remember my mother could be very scary." Frederico winced, though it had been over a decade since he'd last seen her. 
"Let's just look like we repent." Rafaello proposed.

Only a little while later Donatello, Vittoria, Frederico and Rafaello were sitting in the captain's cabin. Dark clouds were appearing on the horizon and the crew waited to be given their orders.
"Tonight we'll be transporting some goods to a secluded bay at one of the tiny islets around Dawn Castle." Donatello started.
In the end he hadn't been able to figure out what they would be transporting. As long as it wasn't people then the crew of the "Chubby Lady" would transport the goods. Usually dealings around castles were risky. But Dawn Castle had a High Prince that seemed to actively promote piracy. Strangely that had made for less contraband. People were more open about what they traded and their crew had even become largely legitimate because of it. 
"The weather seems pretty bad." Rafaello commented. 
Rafaello had spent the least amount of time on the water and had a healthy fear of storms. He felt that if most of the fleet docked to ride out a storm then there was probably a good reason to do so. When the others grinned and started calling him derogatory names that involved his manhood and the state of his knees, Rafaello bowed out: "Just checking."
"This storm is bound to keep the draks inside." Frederico offered.
"And this is still a clandestine operation." Vittoria added.
Donatello handed out a few tasks each of the crew should do and told them they should get ready. Sure they would sail during the storm but he hoped to be in the bay before the worst of it hit. 
Donatello took the wheel while Rafaello and Vittoria raised the sails and Frederico hauled the anchor. Truth be told they should need at least two more people to operate a normal ship of this size but the "Chubby Lady" had been a pirate ship for several decades and adjustments had been made to ensure a minimal crew could handle her. Donatello deftly steered her to open water and set a random course until they were out of sight from land. It was nobody's business where they were headed. 
A little later Vittoria joined the captain, "Everything is going as expected. The joints are under a bit of stress but holding up."
She then returned to help the others with the sails and ropes that operated the different mechanisms. 
"I don't like those clouds." Rafaello yelled to the others.
The clouds were indeed moving in fast. Within minutes hard rain started falling and the winds shifted constantly. The mechanisms helped in that they kept the sails from tearing and the ship moving though Donatello had to use every bit of experience he had to predict where the wind would be blowing next so he could keep the ship moving more or less in the direction he wanted her. Those winds would lessen once they got closer to land but then he'd have to look out for shallows and sandbanks. But Donatello knew these waters and confidently guided them to the rendez-vous point.
Rafaello couldn't help but let out a relieved sigh when Frederico put down the anchor again. Frederico, Donatello and Rafaello then loaded the cargo boxes into a small dinghy and rowed to shore while Vittoria remained in the ship as insurance. 
A slender man approached them, cloaked against the rain. He had black hair and clever eyes. 
"Do you have the goods?" he asked.
"Certainly. And you'll get them right after we've gotten our payment." Frederico friendly reminded their customer.
"Of course." the man said and gave the charming pirate a wink along with a bag of money.
Frederico gave the bag to Rafaello who confirmed the amount that had been promised was there and they hauled the crates to land. The man instructed them to stash them away in some kind of furnished cavern, the interior plush and oddly luxurious, not to mention pink. But Donatello was not one to judge others' tastes.
"Now if you would." the man said and suddenly a silver-grey rain drak popped up from deeper in the cavern.
Rafaello tried to leave while Frederico tried to charm his way out of whatever mess they found them in and Donatello just waited quietly to see whether or not his luck had run out.
"Oh don't be frightened." High Prince Raf told them, "Nelladuar just wants to judge you."
"Don't forget the lady on the Ssship." the rain drak added. Her sense of smell had picked up the fourth crewmember despite the storm. 
Faced with the might of the drak and her mate who popped up outside the cave and wrestled Rafaello in submission, the pirates could only comply. Vittoria was called to shore and though she wanted to put up a fight, there wasn't anything she could do.
"You won't be in danger." High Prince Raf said as he introduced himself, "I quite enjoy pirate stories. But I must make certain that not too many bad elements are around. You know I've raised the prices so that sailors can make a decent living. And to be honest, after I put those new privacy laws into place, even delicate cargo will be able to be bartered legally."
There was a reason most of the pirates around Dawn Castle were pairing draks. After all they were fearless fighters and resourceful escape artists. What more could one wish from a knight? And if his actions brought peace to the seas then even better. 
"So would you four be willing to try your luck at one of the castles. Nobody will press charges."
"Just like that?" Vittoria asked.
"Certainly." Raf assured her.
"Tell me what was inside the crates and I'll do it." Donatello demanded.
Raf smiled and bend closer to whisper something into his ear after which the pirate captain blushed.
"Anything else got something they want to say?"




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