Lesson 5

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When Benedikt awoke the following morning, his hands burned like fire

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When Benedikt awoke the following morning, his hands burned like fire. His pulse throbbed in the tips of his fingers, and the red welts on his palms had turned to white blisters. The crew had readily accepted his willingness to help the previous day and had kept him on the lines until he could barely hold them anymore. Sleep had no trouble finding him that night, but he had missed dinner. With a grumbling stomach, he headed to the galley for a bit of breakfast.

When Benedikt entered the galley that morning, Moose was fretting over the lack of spices available in the ship's stores.

"We might be on a boat, but that doesn't mean we have to eat like barbarians. A little bit of turmeric and ginger root would make this gruel much more tolerable." He threw handfuls of chopped dried fruit into a steaming pot.

Benedikt took a seat beside Berne, and Yorick soon joined them. Benedikt glanced over at the massive human who leaned his head against the wall and dozed with his arms crossed. Berne had a scraggly beard and rust-colored hair that hung over his eyes. In such a tiny space as the galley, he seemed to fill half of the room with his large form.

Moose was equally large but he was much more kept in his appearance. His loose black curls were tamed and styled in the long, swept-back fashion of the Dankert court. The fine satin vest with and starched white cravat he wore under his apron looked remarkably well put together for having been slept in.

Benedikt accepted a slice of apple from Yorick to placate his grumbling stomach. Ludvig passed around a supply of grey biscuits that didn't look much more appetizing than the gruel. As Benedikt suspected, the biscuit had little flavor and the dry consistency of compacted sawdust. It took a couple swigs of watered wine to get the first bite down, but it was still food.

While Benedikt choked down his tasteless breakfast, Grielle, Reyn, and Ludvig soon arrived. Everything about Grielle confirmed her position as the crew's leader, from her ramrod-straight posture to the way the others moved around her. Her greeting was short, efficient. Before eating she pulled out an ornate stiletto blade, honing oil, and a sharpening stone. Each stroke of her blade against the stone sounded a perfect rhythm as she perfected the keen edges of her knife. Benedikt didn't let his eyes linger too long, but he couldn't deny the way she drew him in.

Moose paused his stirring as they heard the sounds of commotion above them.

"All hands on deck," the boatswain yelled.

"You heard him, everyone up!" Grielle shooed them all through the hatch.

When they emerged from below deck, they saw that the crew had been whipped into a full frenzy. Benedikt's head swiveled back and forth until he caught sight of the red sails on the horizon. He started when he realized Grielle was at his side. She took a step forward to place herself between him and whatever threat loomed before them. Her blade was drawn, still slick with oil.

"Friendlies?" he asked. "Don't the ships of Andor have red sails?"

"No, they have blue sails." Grielle grabbed Benedikt by the arm and pushed him back towards the hatch. "Get below deck. I'm not losing my fee because some pirates took you as a hostage!"

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