A Knight Without the Shining Armor
“Well, let’s see,” Jared pondered for a moment before beginning his tale. “I guess I’ll have to tell you a bit to have this all make sense.”
You see, I’m on a quest, of sorts.”
He nodded, shifting her in his arms, looking for a more comfortable arrangement. “Aye. I needed something to pay back my captain for savin’ my skin the last time out. He suggested that The Maryellen would recompense him for the loss of his ship.”
“The Maryellen?” Julia questioned.
Jared sighed. “There’s so much to this tale, it’s hard to decide where to begin.” He looked down at the girl in his arms, “You wanted to know about Socrates. I’ll tell you that. I’ll save the tale of The Maryellen for another day. Bargain?”
Julia craned her neck around. The pirate blinked. She smirked, “As it looks like our travels will take some time, it’s a bargain.”
“Our party had just arrived in Port Orin. Things bein what they were at the moment, I hung back from the captain, waiting for him to head towards his chosen lodging house. I thought it best that I choose a different one, seeing as he was a bit irate over the loss of his ship, the Sarajane. I figured apologies could be made in the morning.”
He paused as Socrates navigated a steep, gravel covered slope. Once the horse was on even footing again, Jared resumed his narrative.
“Well, I wandered up the hill away from the docks looking for a hospitable establishment. I noticed a dray standing on the cobbles. You could say I noticed the beer kegs on the dray,” he chuckled. “Socrates here was hitched to that wagon. His master came out of a shop carrying a keg and tossed it on that old battered cart. I guess it was one times too many for that cart, though. The axle gave way under the extra weight.”
“Well, go on!” Julia pleaded.
Sure of his audience, Jared continued, “The beer went everywhere! A river of golden ale poured down the hill towards the docks. I guess you could say there was quite a to do then. Sailors and workmen chased after the treat with mugs, cups and anything else they might scoop a bit o’ refreshment up with.” Jared chuckled at the memory.
“Socrates here, clever fella that he is, simply waited for his master to set things back to right. I offered my assistance in rolling the kegs out of the street. I mean, there would probably be a small liquid reward if I ingratiated myself to the poor man.” Jared sucked in a heavy breath. “But that man didn’t know help when he saw it. He cursed his poor luck, declared the end of his business and walked away. Just walked off!”
Jared shook his head. “Can you imagine? There were still ten or so kegs that had not been breeched. As far as I could see, his business was still a good thing. Well, there is that old saying, isn’t there? About gift horses? I sold the good kegs to a nearby tavern, at a fairly reduced rate and took Socrates to the nearest stable. He weren’t nothing more than a dusty, grey animal. But the hostler, he cleaned my boy up nicely and gave him an extra feeding of oats. Damned if this here horse didn’t smile at me the next morning when I asked his if he felt like going on a quest.” Jared slapped Socrates’ neck fondly.
Julia stared at the horse. “So, you stole him.”
“What? Didn’t you listen? His master walked off! What was I to do?” Jared blinked.
“Take him back to his rightful master.”
Jared clucked his tongue. “Can’t you see that that don’t make any sense, Miss? He would be owned by a man with no means to care for him, since the business was a bust. This means that brewer’s burden is lightened. He doesn’t need to feed this fine steed anymore.”
Julia crossed her arms. “He could have sold Socrates and fed himself with the proceeds.”
Unable to stop, Jared bickered back, “Then he shouldn’t have left such a useful asset alone on the street at the docks. Heck, miss, if I didn’t take him somebody else would’ve made glue out of him.”
Julia sat silent. The pirate’s logic nearly made sense. Except that Socrates really did belong to some poor man in Orin. She stewed as the horse continued on its way.
Jared remained silent as well.
Finally Julia could bear it no longer, “Do you steal things often?”
“Stealing is such a negative word.”
“Well?” Julia would not be put off.
“A pirate looks at it as the proper reallocation of assets.”
“Proper? How could it be proper?”
Jared grimaced. Arguing with idealists was not his strong point. “Well, as in things get to where they will be used and appreciated.” He smiled. She surely couldn’t argue that point.
A scowl colored her cheeks, “Have I been ‘properly reallocated’?”
Jared ran his hand through his hair. He seemed to remember his father sayin’ as how arguing with a woman was a good waste of a man’s day. He grumbled, “I’m working on that. Now hush.”
She sat silent for some time. At long last the tension flowed from her shoulders. Jared tried to get a look at her face, to fathom what she was thinking about now. She shrugged to loosen his grip on her. “I’m hungry.”
Jared sighed. The road to Ritrain would be long and tiresome. He only hoped he would be able to “reallocate” the chit when they arrived in the city.