Previous Chapter - Storm of Misfortune
Several days had passed since the crew of the Valles Marineris had been escorted back to the capital of Bantia, the city of Lowindell. Having lost it's main mast, the ship was left at the dry-docks while the crew was taken to the Magic Council to stand trial. Waiting in their cells seemed to make just a few days feel like a lifetime, but Hanna arrived in the early afternoon of the fourth day to call Marlynx and Noreen away.
She escorted them to a large room with three older mages waiting for them behind a desk. to their left was a gray haired woman who mostly sat silent through most of the preceding, apparently having something more pressing on her mind. To the right was a man, almost eleven feet in height, who sat cross legged on the floor. He too said nothing through the whole ordeal, but his eyes where squinted closed to the point that one might have suspected he was asleep. The man in the centre however had done all the talking, another old man with a thick mustache and cold eyes who Hanna had introduced as Zephyr Odinshire.
"So you opened fire on the other vestal, believing it to be the creature you had been sent to hunt?" He spoke in a smooth, authoritative tone, reading off a report Hanna had submitted. "At which point, Ms. Andrews boarded your vestal and placed you and your crew under arrest under suspicion of poaching, correct?"
Marlynx was sitting directly across from Zephyr with Noreen as his right side. His hands both on the table and tethered by handcuffs, Marlynx replied grudgingly, "Yes."
Noreen looked at Marlynx, noticing the way by which he answered the moustached man's question. Noreen became very nervous as she knew that Marlynx was not the best when it came to respectfully talking to others. Before Zephyr had a chance to speak, Noreen whispered in Marlynx's ear, "Let me do the talking, please?" Marlynx looked over at Noreen and huffed, as if he was grudgingly answering yes but not wanting to vocalise it.
Zephyr was silent for a while longer, continuing to look over Hanna's report. Eventually he placed it down on the desk and addressed the two personally. "Before we begin, Mr. Marlynx, I have to ask. This monster you where supposedly hunting; what makes it so important that you would brave a storm like that? Damaging your vessel and risking the lives of your crew in the process?"
At this point, Noreen know that she would have to remain silent and let Marlynx answer. She started to get extremely nervous, fearing Marlynx might say the wrong thing. Marlynx opened his mouth with his eyes closed. "The Royal Lamiatona has a very high commercial value. It's materials are high quality and go for very high prices on the markets. The monster is also big enough to provide the whole crew with enough materials to make the enterprise worth undertaking. Plus, the monster itself is pretty rare, but they tend to appear commonly in storms." He said with a hint of disdain in his voice. "Besides, our crew is used to sailing in storms, so I thought we would be fine within the storm that was forecasted to come."
Hearing this, Noreen's face began to show contempt as she piped in, ignoring her . "Well, did you not listen to me when i told you that the forcasted storm was huge?" She snapped. "Just because our crew knows how to sail in a storm safely doesn't mean we always should, you know!"
Hearing this, Marlynx got very defensive and began to raise his voice saying, "Why the hell are you talking? The judge wasn't talking to you!"
"I am talking to anyone who will answer. And if I did not wish to hear from her, then she would still be with the rest of your crew." Zephyr said sharply. A moment of silence followed, after which he continued with his questioning. "So, you are under suspicion of being poachers; anything you feel we should be made aware of?" He waited a moment, then glanced at Noreen. "Either of you?"
Marlynx seemed to have been shut-down at this point, refusing to answer the question and refusing to look at neither Zephry nor Noreen. Zephyr's words seemed to have calmed Noreen down. Noreen noticed Marlynx's obstinate response and as a result, she took it upon herself to answer Zephyr's question. "Our boat is designed specifically to hunt monsters out at sea, which explains why our ship was heavily armed. That also explains why our ship had a gratuitous amount of harpoons and miscellaneous fishing equipment." She said calmly. "Also, I don't think we have made this clear, but our entire crew hails from a Hunter's guild based in Joya known as the Orion's Belt Guild."
"Joya?" The tall man on the right repeated in surprise. He began filling through a number of papers on his side of the desk, all documents taken from the Valles Marineris. "That's quite a ways away. Why would you come all the way to a different country just to hunt a single monster?"
"That's a good point. Somewhat rare for you, Yog." The woman huffed. "I find it rather suspicious that your quest has brought you so far from home, considering you seem to be doing your best to avoid many of our questions."
"Payla, please..." Zephyr interrupted, trying to stop thing's from moving too quickly. The point was already out their though, so he remained silent and waited for an answer.
Noreen put on a solemn look on her face. "Please forgive us if we seem to be dodging your quistions, your honour. See, we were not after just that monster. We came here on what we call an 'Expedition.' This world is big, so we know that there will be monsters which are not distributed close to our home in Joya. Though members of our guild seem to be content with hunting close to home, other hunters group up with other members to embark on self-made quests to hunt for extended periods of time within foreign lands. Our crew would be of the latter category. Our initial plan was to stay and hunt off the coast of Bantia for one month. The Royal Lamiatona was simply one of the monsters we planned to hunt. Consider it an economic venture of sorts." She explained. She paused for a moment, but then she remembered that her crew attacked the Magic Council's fleet.
"Also, i know that a simple apology will not suffice for what we did, but we sincerely did not mean any harm to your subordinate's crew when we attacked her vessel. We truly mistook it for the Royal Lamiatona because we mistook the ship's lighting for the bio-luminescence of the monster." She explained with a face showing remorse. "Given that the visibility was low and we assumed that no other ships would be in the area, we chose to fire." Hearing this, Marlynx put on the same face of remorse as Noreen, albeit with a more stubborn flare to it.
"Well, if I set's your mind at ease, Ms. Andrews quick action saved her crew from harm." Zephyr mumbled, looking again at the report. "And just to be clear, I am no judge. My and my associate's jurisdiction extends to those who use magic; and seeing as how you employ mages on your crew, here we are."
"Understood. Also, we are truly grateful for the graciousness of Ms. Andrews. Now, are there any other questions you meant to ask of us?" Noreen responded.
Having sat quietly for the last little while, Yog pushed a paper towards Zephyr and said. "Well, here's the request for their little monster hunt. It does list Bantia as a place it could be located, so suffice to say I believe'em."
"This can't be the end of it." Payla interrupted with a scornful look growing on her face. "We can't just brush this off, they fired on a Magic Council ship. There should be some sort of retribution taken."
Zephyr leaned back in his chair with a long sigh, but before he got a chance to rebut anything a knock came to the door. "Sir?" One of the guards that had been standing outside the door stepped in. "Someone's here to see you. They say they are acquaintances of that ship crew we arrested a few days ago."
"Send them in." Zephry said quickly, thankful for their convenient arrival.
The guards swiftly opened up the single door to the office they were in. Through the doors walked three more guards, escorting a rather short man, clad in a two-piece black suit. The man walked in with a visage that carried himself as a professional of sorts. He walked in, aware of Marlynx and Noreen's presence, but not looking at them, with the hopes that they would not pay much mind to him. However, being in a small office, it was hard for Noreen and Marlynx to ignore his presence. When they saw the man, were both met with shock. "L-Lars!?" They both exclaimed.
Lars sat down next to Marlynx, as if to ignore the presence of both Marlynx and Noreen. Looking intently up at Zephyr, Lars said with both his hands on the table, "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Lars O'Ryenne, a colleague of both Marlynx and his first-mate, Noreen D'Agostino. Like the two aforementioned, I hail from the Orion's Belt Guild. Thank you for allowing me to sit and speak with you, Mr. Odinshire."
Marlynx, looking at Lars, had a scornful look on his face. "Oh God, what the hell is he doing here?" He thought to himself. Meanwhile, Noreen seemed to be relieved. "Thank God he is here!" She thought to herself.
"Well, today's been a bit of an odd day. I don't see why that should change any time soon." Zephyrstraightened up in hi chair a bit, to the chorus of Payla muttering complaints under her breath. "I'll assume you're up to date with the situation, so what did you have to add?"
"Well, i couldn't help but notice that when Marlynx prepared his crew for departure, he seemed rather... excited. Therefore-" Lars was interrupted by an irritated Marlynx.
"Are you implying that I rushed the departure?" He said.
Lars looked at Marnyx, raising one eyebrow, then turned his whole body in his seat to face Marlynx. "Yes. I am, actually. Given that your crew was put on trial under the suspicion of being poachers, it is clear that you did not take the steps necessary to understand Bantia's laws regarding fishing and hunting. And, if you were too busy prepping your crew to do that reasearch, did it ever occur to you to entrust Noreen with that task? She is second to none when it comes to stuff like that, you know?" He said, unintimidated by Marlynx's attitude.
"He's right, you know. I would have done that research in a heartbeat had you asked, but instead you only wanted me to research the ecology of this continent." Noreen said to Marlynx.
"Sheesh..." Marylinx hissed, looking down.
Lars moves his head to the left so he could see Noreen directly. "Also, Noreen, I am aware that you have a propensity to act on behalf of Marlynx without his consent. What stopped you form exercising that boldness when it came to researching Bantia's legal environment?" He asked.
Noreen looked down. "Marlynx has been getting on my case for doing stuff like that, so I decided to back off and give him enough room to make decisions without my input. I honestly wanted to do the research and I should have, but i was afraid Marlynx would snap at me." She said, .
"I see." Said Lars. "So the root of this problem lies in the lack of trust you two have between each other, it seems." Lars then turned to face Zephyr. "That is a problem that I believe should be resolved outside of this office. For now, I am sure that Mr. Odinshire would like to address other issues such as my colleagues accidentally firing upon his subordinate's vessel. Am I right?" He asked.
Zephyr interlocked his fingers and rested his hands on the desk. His cold eyes fixated on the point on the floor between the two parties, apparently deep in thought. After a moment, he glanced at Hanna standing in the corner. "Ms. Andrews, how was it that you came to find their ship in that storm?"
"Huh?" Hanna remarked, having spaced out in the brief moment Zephyr took to think. "Well, we followed a tip from the harbourmaster. Then just followed the radar until we found them."
"So at what point did you actually see their ship?" Zephyr added.
"Uh..." She crossed her arms and looked at the floor to think. Things had happened so fast that smaller details had become a little difficult to recall. "I guess it was only a minute before they fired at us. The weather was so bad that we were practically blind out there."
"So it's fair to say visibility was limited." Zephyr muttered. "I see."
Marlynx sat there, with his eyes closed, as if he was in a pensive state. Hearing Zephyr's response to Hanna's question, he seemed to be relieved that his case seemed to have some validity in Zephyr's mind. As he sat there, he seemed to have calmed down from his bout of stubbornness from earlier, though there was still a trace of tension in his body due to Lars' presence. He looked at both Noreen and Lars, then to Hanna and back at Zephyr. Marlynx cleared his throat and said, "Umm... I have a question for Ms. Andrews. Did your ship suffer any damage from our fire?" with a more moderated tone of voice.
"No, no, we where fine." She said quickly. "I deflected the one shell, but you guys missed us with a lot of your shots." Hanna leaned back against the wall, covering her mouth in a thin attempt to cover a small chuckle she let slip out. "You might want to work on that."
"There will be time for that later." Zephyr cut on, organising the numerous papers that had been strewn about in the course of the trial into one neat pile. "For now though, you are cleared of the poaching charge. And seeing as how no injuries where sustained, and that Ms. Andrews failed to identify herself beforehand, you are forgiven for firing on them."
"Well, Isn't that a relief?" Lars asked both Marlynx and Noreen. Noreen seemed to be relieved as well, looking at Lars and Marlynx. "Well, that's good." She said with a smile and a sigh.
"However, the reckless endangerment of your crew isn't something I can so easily overlook." Zephyr cut in, the firm glair returning to his face. "It was my understanding that your vessel was severely damaged in the course of your little adventure. So I say it's fair to assume had Ms. Andrews ship not arrived when it did, you'd all be in a fair bit of trouble, would you not?"
Marlynx looked up at Zephyr. "Well, while i do think that Mrs. Andrews' help prevented us from getting into further trouble, our crew is trained in storm-sailing. On top of that, we are also trained to hunt monsters in storms, so though the risk of casualty was certainly lessened by your subordinate's aid, I wouldn't go as far as to say that we were utterly helpless without her." Marlynx said.
Noreen glanced over at Marlynx. "It's too bad that he can't be this way all the time instead of only in situations where he is in a pickle." She thought to herself.
"That is not what I was referring too." Zephyr followed. "While it worked out alright for you this time, thing's could have ended up much worse for you and your crew." He glanced to Yog and Payla one after another, having come to a decision. Yog nodded in agreement, while Payla roller her eyes in exasperation. "Marlynx; for the reckless endangerment of your crew, you are sentenced to twenty-four hours in prison, after which point you are ordered to remain on your ship for the duration of your stay." Marlynx grumbled, But Zephyr rising to his feet was enough to stop him from voicing anything. "Ms Andrews, if you would escort these three out? I believe this mater has reached our conclusion."
"Yes sir." She said quickly, making a quick solute and hurrying them all out the door. "This way please."
A few hours later, Hanna had taken to walking Noreen and Lars back to the Valles Marineris. The crew had been released ahead of them and had made their way back to the ship on their own; apparently Zephyr had this in mind from the moment the trial had began. Marlynx had been led away by a small squad of Rune Knights before they departed, and despite complaining bitterly about the whole ordeal, said nothing to the three of them directly.
The walk through the capital was fairly long, made worse by the midday sun beating down on them all. It was a fairly quiet walk for them as well; with everything on their minds, starting up a conversation wasn't very high on the priority list. Seeing the warehouse the ship was docked at in the distance, was the last straw though, as Hanna had long since grown sick of the awkward silence. "So... how are you guys going to fix your ship?"
Noreen gave a sigh. "Before we fix out ship, we are going to have to inspect the ship for any further damage. The mast may not be the only thing that suffered damage." She said. "Also, we are simply going to have to finance the repairs using the funds that have been prepared for use in this expedition. Depending on how much damage was suffered, we may have to cut our expedition very short."
Upon hearing this, Lars grabbed Noreen by the arm. "I am going to head back to the council see if i can speak with Marlynx. I don't know how long i will take, but if I do not come back before dark, you can find me at my lodging." Lars said while pointing to a rather extravagant looking resort in the distance.
Noreen looked back at Lars. "Very well. I would like a word with you later, though. That is, if it is okay with you." She said.
Lars looked up at Noreen (who was taller than Lars) and smiled. "Sure thing!" He said enthusiastically, as if he was looking foward to talking to her. After that, Lars began to walk in the direction of the Magic Council Building.
"You'd think if he was going to do that he'd just have stayed behind." Hanna murmured, though another thought slowly donned on her as he disappeared from sight and she grinned slightly. "But he walked you back to the ship, so you two must be close."
"Lars has his reasons for doing things. If anythhing, he followed us to make sure nothing went wrong." She said. Then, she began to crack a smile, looking at Hanna. "As for us being close, All our guild members are like that. Hell, Marlynx and I are even closer. Why do you think we fight so much?"
Hanna shrugged, spinning back to continue down the road. "I thought it was just because he was your boss." A few minuets later, the two of them had reached the warehouse and Hanna opened the door for them. "Anyways, are you going to be alright handling the rest of your crew without that cat guy? You've had sort of a rough few days."
As she walked, Noreen's face began to somewhat light up for the very first time since she arrived in Bantia. "Yeah, I might have had a my share of breakdowns but as the first mate, it is my job to fill in the captain's shoes when he is unable to perform his duties. Honestly, with Lars around to talk some sense into him, I think i will be able to actually calm down and focus on getting this crew to repair the ship. I care for Marlynx but his absence is much needed. He would be yelling at this shaken-up crew to the point where none of the crew members would be able to focus." She said with a chuckle.
As they were walking, Noreen said to Hanna, "Could you give me a second?" Before Hanna could make a response, she turned to Shogo who was walking with her. "Tell the crew that I will be the interim captain until this ship is repaired. Also, tell them to inspect the ship for further damage once we arrive." She said.
Shogo responded with a swift "Yes, Ma'am." before turning to the crew and relaying this information.
Looking back at Hanna, Noreen said, "But yeah, I'll be able to handle this with no problem. This is my job, after all."
"Long as your sure..." Taking another glance down the length of the ship, which looked as if it had faired pretty well in the storm all thing's considored, Hanna took half a step back towards the door. "Well, I've got stuff I need to get done, so I guess I should be getting back. I'll drop by tomorrow to check on you guys though, ok?" She said with a small, almost hopeful smile; as if she was asking permission.
"Sounds good! Thank you so much for escorting us. And also, Thank you for your grace and understanding... Hanna, was it?" She said with a smile.
"Yep, see you guys later." Hanna waved, then spun on her heel and made for the door. She stopped briefly before making her exit however, one last thought popping into her head. "I'll make sure to bring your boss and the other guy with me too."
"Thank you so much!" Noreen said cheerfully. She turned around to look at the rest of her crew. Standing upright with confidence, she commanded loudly, "Alright, I want an inventory of the damage and needed materials!"
Just outside the dry-dock, a trio of people looked over the harbor from the roof of a nearby building. Two stood back, looking board out of their mind, while a third watched Hanna depart and hastily scribbled notes in a journal. "Council lady's gone boss." He announced, rolling over to look back at one of his company. "We could make a killing off this haul."
"Good." The man crooned, sounding like the waiting was boring him out of his mind. "If we came out here for be nothin', I'mma be pissed!"
"Do you think we should have told your brother, Oran?" The third asked, nervously looking out into the distance. "If he hears we're out planning something in the capital, he's probably not going to be-."
Before he could finish, Oran through a quick elbow jab that connected square in the man's nose, stopping his complaint short. "Quit your bichin', man." He spoke as if he didn't know he'd just broken his companions nose, dispute the latter's grunts of pain. "He'll just be pissed for a while. Big bro's got to grow some balls anyways." He pulled the first man along with him, kicking the roof access door in and began his descent. "This'll be fun."
Next Chapter - Trouble After the Trial