Chapter 7 - Alex

211 29 70

Before Alex got her hands on any drink, Len found it necessary to introduce his fellow sailors, who were sitting in the shadows of the ratlines leading to the crow's nest. He rattled on as though the God of Gluttony would eat his tongue the second he stopped talking, making it impossible to match the many names to the many faces. Four men with names she didn't catch and a stout woman called Cici were playing a game involving three dice and a deck of cards.

Then there were two broadly muscled men, both with the same gilded beads in their curly beards, who went by the rhyming names of Fellan and Stellan. The twins were taking turns swigging a bottle of palm tears, while a man with fewer teeth than Master was muttering unintelligibly until Stellan (or was it Fellan?) threw the bottle in his lap.

"The grump over there is Krill," Len said as the man sucked the booze down. "Snaps regularly, but doesn't bite—not anymore." He chuckled.

"You think you're the funniest lad to ever sail the Jade Sea." Krill's lisp was heavy, even for a Jade Islander.

"Better a failed jester than a grump," Len retorted. He pointed at a younger boy with a patch of white in his otherwise dark hair and who was called Boy.

His real name was lost on her when Jorn, one of the men who had helped hoist Billy up on the ship, popped up before her and waved a bag under her nose, its spicy content instantly making her eyes water. He tore off a piece of the strip of meat in his hand. "Want some hausa?"

"What?" she asked.

"Hausa," Jorn repeated, shaking the bag. "Dried mutton seasoned with herbs. I thought I'd get you acquainted with the finest of the Jade Islandic cuisine."

Alex played with a strand of her hair, then tucked it behind her ear. "Is that so? In that case, I'd like to learn how to drink palm tears."

"That's not very hard, but alright—watch me." Jorn fished one of the dozen bottles from the floor and bit into the cork, spitting it out on deck. He set the bottle's mouth to his lips and took such a large gulp that his throat bobbed up and down. The liquid sunk beneath the label of the palm tree crying tears of gold. He let out of a triumphant burp as he handed her the palm tears. "Your turn, little lady."

"I'm no Lady." 

The bottle was heavier than she expected it to be. She sniffed at the liquid, the strong and tangy scent instantly burning both her nostrils and throat. As she coughed, laughter erupted from the group, mostly from the man with the missing teeth, but also the woman snorted mockingly. "Wouldn't have expected any different from a Greenlander lass."

Alex's knuckles turned white as the Gods of Pride and Wrath took control over her. Determined to prove she was a force to be reckoned with, she downed the remaining palm tears in one go. Her throat was on fire. Actual salty tears sprung to her eyes. By the time the last drop had gone through her throat, her head felt light and her stomach bloated, like she had just swallowed the entire Jade Sea.

But she had done it. Throwing the empty bottle at Jorn, she cracked a smile of her own. "Like this?"

"Pretty much," the tall Jade Islander said with a shrug.

Cici didn't spare her a glance. The woman with the smallest bun she had ever seen put a card on the growing pile and rolled the red die. She hummed as the die landed on three eyes. "Two copecks she's gonna hurl within the hour," she said as though it was part of the game.

"I'm game. Make half an hour!" One of the men turned the hourglass that hung from a chain on his waist.

"Fifteen minutes," added Stellan.

The Midnight Storm (A New Dawn #2)Read this story for FREE!