"Miss Alex, let me introduce you to the one and only Captain Ivar."

"No silly army Captain. A real one." Ivar grabbed one of the ropes hanging from the mainmast and slid down. He jumped down the last few feet, landing without as much as a moan or a groan. "Pleasure to meet you, Alex."

She refrained from bowing, unsure how much the Jade Islandic Captain knew about her real identity, so she gave him a short nod. "Likewise. Good jump."

A gold tooth shone brightly as he smiled. "I like you already."

"I take it you received my letter." Lord Simon looked to over his shoulder, first to his left, then his right. "She must be at Boylar Laszlo's feast. From there, she knows what to do."

The Captain narrowed his eyes, throwing her a suspicious glance. "Does she now..."

Alex kept a stoic face. No smile nor frown, just the fluttering of her eyebrows. In just a few days she would introduce herself as an orphan girl in search of her relatives. Anyone offering work for a few pennies was interesting, and possibly a step closer to finding the Pirates.

General George had advised to play no other role but herself since it would be the easiest cover to maintain over a longer period. She was never allowed to mention Laneby or the Greenlander royal family, which was fine. Her bow would be her real weapon to show the Jade Islanders what she could do. Her past didn't matter; she was only looking at the future now.

"A future in Father's footsteps," whispered the God of Pride in her mind.

"Shall I take your friend to my mansion?" Lord Simon had gotten off his own stallion and was now holding Billy by the reins. "He can stay in my stable until your return. Plenty of mares to keep him company until then." 

"No, he's coming with me." She bit her lip as she turned back to Billy, petting his long white mane. Knowing Nick, he would strangle her if she left him in a foreign place where he knew no other person or horse.

"Are you sure?  Horses aren't too keen on ships—they scare easily," the Lord insisted.

"Not Billy. He's the bravest horse I know." She planted a kiss on his nose. "I would only agree if he were to be taken back to Sundale. He either belongs with me or back there."

"I'm not travelling to the capital until summer. And I hope to take you back with me when I do." Lord Simon eyed the Captain. "Are you fine with having a horse on board?"

"There's too little time to let him grow accustomed to the darkness below deck." Captain Ivar rubbed his hand over his spiralling salt-and-pepper beard. "You did foresee a small stable on the deck, but the lads and I have claimed it to store storm lines, wood, and some extra anchors."

"Please!" She clasped her hands together, pleading. "I won't leave his side. He's very dear to me."

Lord Simon peered into the horizon. "Clear sky. Not a cloud in sight. The nights have been bright and warm, even up north. Leave any supplies you don't need, Captain. Take the horse with you to Mora."

"It's an extra risk, Simon. I have to think about my men..." He gesticulated with his shoulders, barely moving his arms.

Lord Simon sniffed dramatically. He reached for his saddle bag.  Coins tingled as he fished out a small velvet red bag and presented it to the Captain. "Perhaps this will change your mind."

Captain Ivar tucked the bag into the side pocket of his dark baggy pants. "Always a pleasure doing business with you Greenlanders."

"Likewise. You may not be Pirates, but you lot are still robbing us blind," Lord Simon said with a cheeky grin. He turned to Alex and put his hand on her shoulder. "This is where I leave you, Missy. May the Gods aid you in your quest. Each and every Porter is counting on you. Keep Aunt Bertie posted when you can."

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