It turned out that Lady Lilith had been very busy herself while we chased the Sea Lion. The Kuriokaze had managed to track down half a dozen pirate ships, whose captains had varying degrees of interest in talking to me. I left Kel in charge of the ship and divvying up the shares of loot. Then I took Rowan with me and once again let Lilith lead me to the other side of the island.
The small, misfit village didn’t look much different than it did the last time I’d seen it in daylight. There was, perhaps, a bit more buzz of activity and it took a few minutes for me to realize that it was for Rowan and I. The realization hit when we walked into the pub and found it full of people who were actually awake.
Rottenbite was there and I gave her a nod as she raised a flagon to me. I glanced around the room, which appeared to be populated mostly by a lot of drunken, burly men. A part of me hoped that these weren’t the captains I’d come to talk to, but I also knew that wasn’t being fair. Plus, I probably needed all the help I could get. Some of them must have recognized me too. As we crossed the rooms, I received nods of appreciation and slaps on the back here and there.
Finally, as we reached the sofas I’d recruited my cook from, the scene started to look a little different. There were a couple of burly old pirates, but the rest were definitely something else. Sitting next to them, and definitely making them uncomfortable, were what looked like a couple of kids. They couldn’t have been much older than Jack and the thought of them having their own ships already irked me a bit.
I pulled Lady Lilith to the side and whispered in here ear, “Those two are captains?”
She sighed and whispered back, “Not exactly. The one called himself a representative of his captain and the girl…well, she has her own ship, but she’s the only one on it. It’s more of a dingy really.”
My eyebrows shot up, but I composed myself and stepped closer to the group. Out of the corner of my eye I could see another figure standing in the shadows at the back of the room. I turned my head and looked at him. He was tall and dark and leaned against the wall with his arms crossed. The shadows of the dimly lit pub were too dark for me to make out much more, but he seemed to be watching the rest of us.
To say that the conversation didn’t go very well would be putting it mildly to say the least. The older captains were perfectly happy with the status quo. They were fine with leaving things alone as long as they were left alone. And I have to admit that the younger ones unnerved me as much as I unnerved them. They had piercings everywhere and lots of charcoal make-up. They reminded me of Gaston only…angrier. They made it clear that they didn’t want to get involved in anything that might get them killed and that I was much too old to be leading a rebellion. Old, at twenty-eight. I caught Rowan, chuckling on the sidelines.
With that settled, he and I joined Rottenbite and a few others at the bar. There was something different about her today, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I introduced the two of them and then we took up a couple of stools and ordered some ale.
She hadn’t introduced the men she’d been talking to and I didn’t ask about them. I assumed they were either casual acquaintances or she’d been making shady deals. Either way, it was none of my business. When the ale came, we raised a toast and it was then I noticed her voice sounded a bit lower than usual.
I finally realized what was going on, though I didn’t know if it had anything to do with the men at the bar. I looked her over discreetly to see if I could tell how she’d done it. At least, I thought I was being discreet.
“Are you alright?” Rowan whispered in my ear.
My mouth opened, but I wasn’t sure what to say. I’d met a few people like myself, who lived as a different gender than the one they were born with, but I’d never known anyone who went back and forth. Besides, at that moment, Rottenbite turned her gaze toward us and I didn’t know if she’d want me to say anything or not.