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Chapter Five ◇ Unwanted Company

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-Mid Redwind-

Kane was the youngest captain present at King Rathborne's funeral. He wouldn't have felt as out of place if Flynn and Csilla had bothered to attend, but neither they nor their crews were anywhere to be seen. The young captains were thought of as children by the elders, but at least the three of them together were a strong tide against their judgment.

He didn't think to worry about what kind of trouble Flynn and Csilla might be in because that was the entire point-trouble. Just as long as it wasn't between the two of them, then they'd be fine. They bickered enough as it was.

Yet somehow, the two of them couldn't stay away from each other. He remembered the first time the three of them met at the last king's funeral ten years before. They were all children then, Kane on course to inherit captainship, Csilla always a step behind her sister, and Flynn just a recruit with the hope of adventure twinkling in his eyes. Kane only watched them, not speaking to them because his father had trained him to perceive the two as a threat.

"Don't let their age fool you," the man had whispered harshly in Kane's ear, the reek of rum on his breath still lingering in Kane's memories. "They'll turn on you faster than a pirate spends their gold."

He followed his father's orders. He always followed them. While he avoided speaking to Csilla and Flynn that day, he still watched them from afar. He found it odd how they unknowingly searched for each other in the crowd of recruits, like flowers searching for sunlight amidst an overgrowth of weeds. It would be a lie to say Kane had never felt an inkling of jealousy.

But the clear attraction between Csilla and Flynn didn't mean the two got along in the years to come. Barking at each other became routine. Attending Captains' Councils with both of them soon became meetings that Kane had to brace himself for beforehand. Yet, even with their arguing, at least he had the two of them on his side against the two elder captains, which included Dominic Rove. Having them at this funeral now would have been nice, even if he didn't prefer companionship.

King Rathborne's funeral at the palace was just as extravagant as the Rathbornes before him. Gold scattered across every table, a drink in every hand. There weren't as many tears as Kane had remembered-this funeral was more of a celebration of the man's life. Truthfully, they all needed this moment away from the bloodshed and turbulent seas. A brotherhood among crews was rare, but witnessing them all come together to celebrate the life of King Rathborne, was a sight to see.

The festivities were so immense that tables scattered through the main hall, into the foyer, and out into the courtyard. Kane and his crew preferred the outdoors, where they weren't blinded by the palace décor, and where, even from the center of the capital, there was a scent of brine on the breeze. The sea ran in all pirates' veins-his father taught him that a true pirate could find their way back to the water from anywhere, even if stranded in a desert.

Kane scanned the courtyard from his perch on a comfortable chair he'd stolen from the main hall. The crews of the Scarlet Maiden and the Anaphine were still missing from the bunch, but he recognized the other crews that were scattered about. The men of the Bonedog-a terrible name for a ship-lumbered around, snagging drinks that didn't belong to them. A few members of the Wavecutter crew had stolen the stage from the band and were attempting a rendition of a depressing sea song about a barmaid in Sarva. At events like these, all qualms against each other were put aside. But this wasn't just a celebration of the king and casting away differences would be a difficult task tonight. This king had no heir to take his place, which meant they would soon be at each other's throats, vying for the crown when the Trials began. For he who ruled the islands, ruled over the sea. No one crossed the Silver, Bronze, or Gold Sea without the king's knowledge, meaning he controlled the most valuable thing in this evolving world-trade.

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