by Dana DeVries
Sean McCorley knocked on the door of the cabin. The only response was a grunt, so he opened the door and entered. The Falcon's Roost's cabins were more spacious and comfortable than the Hanged Man's had been, but the room was stacked to the rafters with cannonballs. There hadn't been time to stack the gear properly in the rush to get off the Hanged Man. Now that they were underway, everyone was too busy arguing to store the gear properly. No matter, Sean thought. The cannonballs would keep.
Jeremiah Berek sat alone at a small table rubbing a doubloon between his fingers. He seemed oblivious to McCorley's presence, focused on the gold coin.
"Ye asked te see me, sir?" The "sir" seemed odd coming from the grizzled old Inish marine.
"Sean." Berek didn't look up. "Were you at the Gull's Drop when I flipped coins against Mark Scars?"
"No sir. I think I'd left the Dogs by then."
"Hmmph. I'd gone out slumming with some of the men. We're drinking at some pit, and this mountain on two legs covered in tattoos was shouting that he's as lucky as Berek. So without telling him who I was, I challenged him. We flipped for it. Loser bought the winner a drink. We both flipped coins and I won.
"That wasn't good enough for Mark. He wanted to do it again. Double or nothing. Fine. We do it again. He lost. And again. He lost. We flipped coins almost a dozen times. And Scars was getting madder and madder. Finally, he pulled out a pistol, put it on the table and said that we're going to do it one more time. If I won, then I was cheating and he was going to shoot me. And if he won, he would know for certain that I had been cheating and let him win. In that case he would shoot me. Either way, I was dead, because not even Berek was as lucky as I had been.
"So I tossed the coin high and as his eye followed it, I reached back and grabbed a bottle of wine that was on the table behind me. Then coin landed. On end. It just sat there, perfectly balanced on its edge. Scars stared it with his mouth wide open until I smashed the bottle over his head. The coin fell over. Heads. The whole crowd was staring at us, so I told them that Scars was wrong. I was just as lucky as Berek because I was Berek. I grabbed his purse and bought the house a drink with it. Left him with the rest of the money and went back to my boat. I miss those days."
"Bein' with the Dogs ye mean?" Sean asked.
"I miss the Dogs like no one's business, but no. It's the confidence I miss. I used to live on luck like it was water. Call it Sidhe magic, call it the blessing of Theus, whatever it was, I had it. I just knew that every time I flipped a coin it would go my way. Now..." Berek flipped the coin that he'd been rubbing into the air. It spun lazily in midair and then landed flat on the table. "Tails. Alesio said that I'd used up my luck getting away from that bastard Reis. It was something that I knew, but it was the first time I actually heard the words. I've used up my luck." Berek brooded at the porthole into the darkness outside.
"Do you know how hard getting this boat was? Before I'd have just grabbed it and sailed. Trusted to my luck to get us out of there and it would have. Now I have to think of everything that could go wrong. Take every possibility into account. Second-guess myself for hours before I was ready. Worrying every moment that I'd forgotten something and we'd all die grisly deaths because of it. Fear is a horrible thing, Sean."
Sean narrowed his eyes and snorted. "Ye bastard. Ye've 'ad it easy yer entire life. Every break has gone yer way. And now when yer havin' te make decision like everyone else, ye complain? Because yer afraid? Everyone is afraid. No one jumps from one boat to another knowin' that an entire crew worth of men are waiting to kill him without bein' crazy er afraid. An' I'm not crazy. All ye can do is the best ye can, an' trust yer mates te do the same."
"I know all that, Sean. I know. But that doesn't make it any easier." Berek shook his head wearily. "So have the men decided on a new captain? Will he throw me overboard or leave me marooned?"
A thoughtful look crossed Sean's face. "Ye saved us from the fire, an' that counts fer a lot. Still, about a third of the men have... questions. Yer an outsider, meanin' they don't know ye an' they don't trust ye. They formed under Hoggins. They suggested droppin' ye in a rowboat an' lettin' ye scull back te Castille. When the rest of us refused, they decided te get off at La Bucca; they'll take up with a different ship."
"You need those men."
"I know. But we're the Brotherhood. We're free to make our own mistakes."
Genuine concern crossed Berek's face. "The rest?"
"The rest know a good captain when they see 'im. They know what ye did an' they saw ye get us outta that harbour slicker than a greased pig. Alesio put you in charge, an' we don't see any reason te disagree."
"Me? I don't even know all their names!" With an angry sweep of his arms, Berek knocked the coin onto the floor. "I didn't save them to become captain. It was just something I had to do."
"That's another reason. Like I said, they know what ye risked. Ye could've cut an' run after that business at the inn. Nobody woulda blamed ye. But ye stuck around. They know what that means. They're not loyal te ye yet, but they're willin' te give ye a try. An' the stories o' yer fabulous luck dinna hurt."
"I don't have that anymore, Sean."
"I know that. But they don't. An', they need someone te lead them."
"What about you? Or Reggie?"
"No. We'll help ye, but we ain't leaders. You are."
"I don't want to lead, Sean." Berek's voice was quiet in the room crowded with cannonballs.
Sean smiled crookedly. "None o' the best captains ever do." He bent over and picked up the coin. "Heads. If you don't like what fortune hands you, change it. Any man can do that. Ye've done that already. We're a good crew, Jeremiah Berek. Give us a few weeks an' we'll follow ye into the mouth o' Legion."
Berek nodded slowly as the words sunk in. "You'd better. That's where we're going."
"For Allende. I saved his crew. Now it's time for him. I don't know where they're taking him or how we'll save him. But I'm sure it'll be the next best thing to hell. just my luck, I guess." Berek's familiar grin returned at that thought.
"And Alesio?" Sean asked.
"Alesio's gone. Her last wish was to save your captain. Wherever she is, she's beyond our help and I'm not going to abandon the task she gave me."
Sean nodded silently. "So our new captain's gonna help save our old."
"That seems to be the way things are going," The first signs of confidence could be heard in his voice.
"I may know someone who can help. An old friend of Allende's. I'll lay in a course. We can drop the men who want to leave off at La Bucca on the way."
"Thanks Sean for everything. Can you light the lantern on your way out? If your friend can't help us, I'm going to start planning our next move."