Outsider Within: Cap'n Barlow
“Pirates are the great sea dogs, masters of the briny deep, rebels, fighters for freedom—definitely not tea drinkers.”
“So why are you here?”
“We also like our dubloons, and if tea gets us there, so be it.”
The blue Zafara chuckled at her friend. “Captain Barlow, I have known you for a while now, and I still have no idea how you came to own a tea tavern on Darigan Citadel.”
“Aye, that be a puzzle,” responded the Lenny pirate as he swept the wooden floor. “Ye sure I’ve never told ya the story, D.A.?”
“I think I would remember something like that,” she said and sipped her tea. “Come now, you are not too busy to share your tale, are you?”
Barlow looked around his empty tavern with a scowl. “Arg, it be that festival o’ theirs, only drinkin’ Braku Berry Juice all day long. Who ever heard o’ such a thing?”
D.A. shrugged her shoulders. “You understand their customs as well as I. Now, Captain, how about that story?”
With a faint smile, Barlow sat down beside the fireplace with his friend. “Alright then, but don’t be interruptin’. I hate it when people are interruptin’.”
“Well, it all began ‘bout three years ago when I was a lone pirate, not a care in the world, Cap’n o’ me own boat, the Roslyn. She was a fine little ship, her hull a checkerboard o’ barnacle-ridden planks and repaired patches of cedar wood. But Roslyn’s cargo hold hadn’t been holdin’ much o’anything for a long while. Jack’d been chasin’ Spyders down there fer at least a couple o’ weeks; too bad Spyders aren’t worth their weight in sand—”
“I’m sorry, ‘Jack?’” interrupted D.A.
Barlow blinked vacantly at her before processing her question. “My Petpet, Jack. He’s a Barlow, if ye must know. A Barlow’s also a Petpet species, a strong an’ loyal breed. Didn’ I say no interruptions? Now, where was I? Ah yes, we were in poor straights fer a while there, with nuthin’ but Spyders in the cargo hold.
“Then one day a Nimmo gent came aboard me Roslyn while we were docked at Krawk Isle. I could tell straight off he was no pirate, maybe Neovian. Haha, Jack scared the liver out of him. Stocky little thing, Jack was, with his dreadlocks bouncin’ up and down as he jumped up on that Nimmo. Anyway, the Nimmo, Jacob I think his name was, offered me three hundred dubloons to deliver some crates o’ tea leaves to Meridell in four days. But the thing of it was that ol’ Cap’n Dreg and the Tempest had been patrollin’ the waters between Krawk Isle and Meridell those past few months.
“She was a fine boat, the Tempest, but with a rotten Cap’n if there ever was one! No courtesy even to his own kind. Why, Loretta at the Golden Dubloon once told me she served Cap’n Dreg’s entire crew food one evenin’ and not a single dubloon tip! Scallywag. If Dreg couldn’t find his own job, he’d steal another honest pirate’s livin’. Like mine, fer example. I wasn’t about to risk me life and ship fer three hundred dubloons! So I talked the Nimmo into five hundred.
“Now understand that I didn’t usually go doin’ other people’s work, but this was an irresistible offer; five hundred dubloons fer deliverin’ one load o’ cargo! Can you imagine? Anyway, I did as I was told. I picked up ‘bout fifty crates of tea leaves; the weight alone nearly sank poor Roslyn. I left port from Krawk Island with simple instructions: get the tea to Meridell’s harbor in four days or not at all. Four days! That’s nothin’; it takes barely three to make the trip. Aye, ‘twas smooth sailin’, just me and Roslyn. ‘Til the Tempest hit, anyway.
“I was standin’ in the crow’s nest, hopin’ to make out Meridell’s shores through me telescope. But I knew we was too far away to see land. I didn’t want to scare lil’ Jack by sayin’ I was lookin’ fer the Tempest, ya see. So when he was nappin’ I’d climb up the crow’s nest and take a look around. It was all clear blue those first two days.
“No one except the sailors of this world understand what’s that like, D.A., that empty blue all around. Empty blue sky, deep blue water, unbroken blue horizon. It’s liberatin’ and frightenin’ at the same time. There’s no one to bother ya, but no one to save ya neither. It’s both magic and dread in the heart of any pirate. But that’s not the point.
“In the afternoon o’ the third day, I spotted red sails on the horizon. I’m tellin’ ya, lass, it was like spottin’ a great crimson sea monster. Me an’ Jack did our best to speed up Roslyn by throwin’ the unessentials overboard, but any efforts me an’ Jack made only delayed the inevitable. A lot o’ good cutlery was lost that day. Anyway, Jack could tell I was upset and he started runnin’ around the ship lookin’ fer things ta do, but he had ‘bout as many ideas as I.
“The winds were especially strong that afternoon, and the Tempest made good time to me poor lil’ ship. My Roslyn was too small fer barrel-size cannons, just a lil’ one that shot nuthin’ bigger than a apple. But I still had me sword at me side, and Jack was a stocky lil’ guy with a mean bite. We decided to go down fightin’, like real pirates should!
“Just before the sun went down, the Tempest came into firin’ range, and I let my lil’ cannon loose. Roslyn’s shot howled like a wave crashin’ on the sand when she shot; caught ol’ Dreg off guard too, haha! The scallywag never expected lil’ Roslyn to have such a bite! Ah, well, it was short lived. With one roarin’ cannon fire that woulda struck terror into the hardest heart, the Tempest put my lil’ gun outta commission; and me boat was takin’ on water. The Tempest came alongside me and laid down a plank between us. With me sword drawn and Jack at me feet, we waited.
“Dreg ‘imself came strollin’ across the plank ta me Roslyn with a smug look on his Kyrii face and without the courtesy o’ even drawin’ his sword! The nerve o’ that pirate. Gives all o’ us pirates a bad name, he does!
“Anyway. He comes strollin’ onta me ship with a stupid grin and he says to me, ‘Cap’n Barlow, I’ve come fer ye barrels o’ Desert spices. Hand ‘em over and we’ll leave ye with yer life and ship.’
“Now this surprised me as ye can imagine, so I said, ‘Look Dreg, I ain’t handin’ over me cargo, and ye should least know what yer talkin’ about if yer gonna steal an honest pirate’s goods. I got tea, not spices!’
“Hah, D.A., ya shoulda seen the look on ol’ Dreg’s face! Haha! He had no idea I was carryin’ tea. He thought I was carryin’ rare spices from the Lost Desert worth ten times the tea I was carryin’. Then he laughed at me, the thief. He drew his sword and told me ta take him down ta me cargo hold, I guess ‘cause he didn’t believe me. I told him I wasn’t goin’ to take him into me ship. Dreg was too much of a coward to fight hisself, so he whistled and sent four pirates against me while he went down into me cargo hold! Jack n’ I fought tooth and nail against Dreg’s men; ye shoulda seen us. Jack leapt about the deck like a pup, bitin’ at ankles and trippin’ ‘em up. Me sword flashed like lightnin’, striking me enemies. I even knocked out two o’ Dreg’ pirates before three others could stop me. I woulda fought all eight of em off me ship, but then that scallywag Dreg came back up and called his pirates off me.”
“I’m confused, Captain,” interrupted D.A. “How many pirates did you fight, exactly?”
“Oh at least a dozen, and I don’t think I’ll ever know how many Jack took down before they could reach me.”
The Zafara raised an eyebrow but said no more.
“That’s twice ya’ve interrupted me, D.A., I hope it won’t happened again.”
She mimed zipping her lips.
“So Dreg came back outta me cargo hold, apparently convinced that I was tellin’ the truth about me cargo, ‘cause he called his thugs off o’ me.
“‘Cap’n Barlow,’ he said, ‘I have no need fer tea leaves. I leave ya with yer life and yer ship and yer worthless, shriveled up leaves. May the sea have mercy on your soul.’ And he left me there.
“I was steamed, I can tell ya that. The nerve o’ that pirate, insultin’ me the way he did. But that was the least o’ me troubles. Sure, I still had me cargo, but my Roslyn was leakin’! As the Tempest left, I broke out a bucket o’ tar and tried to seal the smaller leaks. Even Jack knew we were in trouble. I assigned ‘im to bucket duty, and that brave little soul carried the pail in his mouth and tossed water outta the ship that evenin’ and all through the night. I gotta tell ya D.A., I was worried we weren’t gonna make it that day! With a lot o’ hard work, we got Roslyn to Meridell port the next afternoon. I grounded Roslyn on the beach, seein’ as there was no way she’d stay afloat sittin’ in the docks.
“We made it t’ Meridell with the cargo, but three hours too late. The port master told me that my tea buyer had left that mornin’. So there I was with a leakin’ ship, no dubloons, and a bunch o’ tea in me hull!
“I tried to sell the tea to the merchants in Meridell for almost a week without sellin’ a single box. Them Meridellians made it clear in no uncertain terms that they wanted no part o’ me, being a pirate an’ all. But I had to make some profit somehow if was goin’ to repair me ship and get back to Krawk Isle! The port master, a Brightvalian, was kind enough ta tell me that I should try Darigan Citadel. They’re not a real tourist-friendly bunch, he said, but they’ll trade with just ‘bout anybody.”
D.A. leaned forward in her seat. “But Captain, I do not understand. You sold your cargo after you had already been paid for delivering it to someone else?”
The Lenny blinked a few times before replied. “Well when ye put it that way it sounds like yer accusin’ me o’ stealin!”
“I would never accuse you, Captain. I only ask for clarification.”
He folded his wings. “Ye’ve never been a sailor, lass, or else ye’d know. There’s an unspoken code among us seafarers. Ya snooze ya lose. Me buyer forfeited all rights to my cargo when he left Meridell. End of story. So, after he left me there in Meridell all by me lonesome, I had to make some dubloons or neopoints or gold or anythin’ ta get me back to Krawk Island.
“I got me crates together and hired a team o’ Eyries to carry me an’ me tea up to the Citadel real quiet like. Bein’ the nice Lenny that I am, I didn’a want to bother the Darigani with minor details like business licenses an’ all that, so I just got dropped off in a quiet corner of the Citadel. I was no more than a few yards into the city when a guard pointed me in the direction of the Customs Department, where they insisted on helpin’ me become a respectable businessman. Forced a business license on me is what they did. My first step toward the death of me piratin’ career, it was. And a blow to me ego, too! Business license, indeed. A disgrace! Anyway, I managed to dig up an ol’ cart from an abandoned field and started sellin’ the tea as a drink.
“Apparently, the Darigani’d never seen tea in their lives! They loved the stuff; I couldn’t make it fast enough. So, I doubled the price—just so I could keep up with the orders, ye see—but that didn’t stop ‘em. So I doubled it again, and they kept on comin’! In just sixteen days, I’d sold every last bit o’ that tea. Made a very nice profit indeed; more than I’d been promised fer the crates. Haha! I sure showed him fer leavin’ me crippled at a port. Proved ol’ Cap’n Dreg a fool, too.
“So, I headed back down to Meridell a richer pirate, paid ta have me ship repaired, and set sail for Krawk Island with me pal Jack.” Barlow leaned back in his chair with a satisfied sigh.
“That’s it?” asked the Zafara woman.
“You set sail for Krawk Island and that’s how you ended up running a tavern on the Citadel?”
“Well, I came back, obviously,” said Barlow.
D.A. raised an eyebrow at him.
“Alright, fine. I was headin’ fer Krawk Isle when I realized, hey, why give up a goldmine like tea? I sailed down the coast a bit to Brightvale, where they’re much nicer than them Meridellians, bought a bunch more tea, came back to the Citadel, and here I am three years later, a tavern owner. Me! Once a pirate captain, now the owner of a tea house. Such a disgrace.” He shook his head.
D.A. smiled. “I wouldn’t worry much about it, Captain. You’re well off financially, I hear.”
“Aye, it’s true, but what do I do with the money? I buy more tea. What I really want to do is commission me own ship to rival the Tempest! But it’s going to cost a lot more than I got.”
D.A. put her hand on his shoulder. “You’ll get there one day, Captain. Then you will be a glorious pirate Captain once more with a ship so full of gold and dubloons you won’t know what to do with it all.”
“You’re a sweet ‘un, lass. When I do have me ship, I’ll take ye travelin’ if ye want. I’ll take ya anywhere in the whole world.”
She smiled back at him. “I might take you up on that someday, Captain, but not just yet. There is still much for me to work out here.”
“Well D.A., I don’t know where you’re from or what you really do on this here floatin’ hunk o’ rock, but it makes me heart glad to have ye around.”
She patted his knee. “And I don’t think I could survive without your green tea and friendly voice. Now, Captain, I am afraid I must leave.”
“Even on holidays, the government never sleeps. By the way, what happened to this Jack of yours? I have never seen him with you.”
“Yeah, he’s rather fond o’ sleepin’ in his old age. He rarely leaves the stock room. I’ll wake ‘im up one o’ these days to meet ya.”
She nodded in approval and stood to leave. “Thank you for the story, Captain; I enjoyed it very much.”
“You’re welcome, lass. And now I’m expecting to hear the story of how ye ended up on the Citadel.”
She looked down as she replied. “I am afraid that must wait for a much later day, Captain. Goodbye.”
Barlow picked up his mop and swirled it across the floor. He could hear the wind pushing against his tavern’s walls, a sound so different when heard on the open ocean. He walked outside his tavern, down the empty streets, to the walled edge of the Citadel, where the wind blew harshest against his feathers. Leaning on the railing, he closed his eyes and breathed deeply, savoring the faint scent of salt from the sea.
Author’s Note: Thank you for reading “Outsider Within: Cap’n Barlow.” This is the second piece published under the “Outsider Within” title, so if you would like to read more about Captain Barlow and D.A., please see the five-part series “Outsider Within: Web of Deceit” in issues 287-291, and look for more “Outsider Within” in upcoming issues! (Special thanks to phsychoticdancer for making sure my pirate talk is comprehensible.)