“It’s probably just a matter of breaking it in,” said Haulings. Damian could see the unbelief in his face, hear it in his voice. He looked long and hard at his first mate’s scarred face, then shook his head.
“Don’t be blowing sunshine up my ass, Haul.” He lifted his glass, glared at the remains, then threw it back and slammed the glass down on the table.
Haulings shrugged. “Just trying to look on the bright side, Cap.”
“Tell you what, First. Go look in on the crew.” He took a breath, blew it out, and raised his glass to the bartender. “Another one over here!” He put the glass down and turned back to Haulings. “Get them… crap. Doing something. Keep them busy. We’re supposed to set sail tomorrow, and they’re all being good little scamps. They find out we’re stuck in port until I can find a magi to work the hull, and we’ll be peeling them out of every last lockup between the Fenders and the Flash.”
“Cap…” Damian could hear the warning in his voice. He waved his hand at his first mate, but didn’t turn to meet his eyes. Instead, he fumbled in his pockets and pulled out a coin, sliding it across the table to sit beside his empty glass.
“I’ll be fine. Another to lubricate the thinking parts, First. Then I’ll be back with you, and we’ll figure this out.”
He kept his eye down, looking at his glass. Haulings reached out, put a hand on his shoulder for a second, then slid out of his chair and vanished into the crowd.
Damian waited a second, then let his shoulders slump.
“Hard being optimistic, isn’t it?” said the man sitting next to him.
Damian jumped and glared at the fop who had snuck up on him. He and Haulings had been alone at the table… he was about to unleash his extensive vocabulary when he noticed the man’s eyes. Piercing blue, verging on unnatural.
He slumped back, the fight gone out of him, and snarled. “Sayel.”
The man shook his head. Long curly blond hair framed a thin face with a button nose and full lips. He’d never seen him before. His lips quirked up in a shadow of a grin. “You always seem to know it’s me,” he said. His voice was low and syrupy.
Damian snorted. “The eyes. Fae can’t change the eyes.”
The man’s grin faded. “I have told you before. I am not Fae.” There was an edge to his voice.
Damian grunted. “Good. Now we’re both in a bad mood. Misery loves company, or so I hear.” The bartender came around, collected his coin, and slid another drink towards him. He pointedly ignored the Sayel and took at slug, feeling it burn it’s way down.
Sayel leaned back. “That stuff will kill you, you know. Is that what you would be known for, in death? ‘Here lies Captain Damian Black, dead from drinking the juice of a rotten plant?’”
Damian stoped with the mug halfway to his lips, and turned his head slowly to look at Sayel. “You told me last time that you did not know my fate.”
“Still don’t,” Sayel said cheerfully. “I’m speaking in generalities, of course.”
Damian sighed. “Of course.” He set his mug down anyways, perhaps a bit carefully. The anger was gone, replaced with weariness. “What do you want, Sayel? I’ve got things to do.”
Sayel raise a single eyebrow. “Like drink yourself into forgetting that you’ve spent far too much money on a completely useless keel?” He wave at the mug. “Please, don’t let me interfere.”
“Screw you,” he said, but his heart wasn’t in it. “Come to mock?”
“Little bit, maybe,” said Sayel. “Come to help, is more like.”
Damian couldn’t help it. He laughed out loud. “You? Help? Right.” He lifted his mug, took another belt, and started coughing. Crap. Maybe Sayel was right.
“Oh, I can’t help you.” Sayel lowered his voice. “I can direct you to someone who can, though. Someone who could take that badly-woven keel of yours and tune it for the Weave.”
Damian stared at him. “Sure you can.” He grit his teeth. Damn it all, but there was a spark of hope here. He owed it to his men to search out the truth of the offer. “What price, though, adruch? What would you have of me?”
He furrowed his brow and stared at Sayel. “Crap. There is always something.” He was surprised at how bitter his own voice sounded in his ears. “Always.”
Sayel’s eyes seemed to flare brighter. “I swear to you, Captain. On my Name, and the Name of the one whom I serve. There is nothing I ask of you, save that you hear me out.”
He looked at Sayel for a moment, then nodded quickly. “Speak.”
“In the Touring Quarter, you’ll find a poor ayloshea working on aristo’s hulls for a pittance. He does what he does for the love of his craft, and has sworn an oath to not make a coin from his labors.” Sayel tilted his head. “He has never done work on the scale you require.”
“Then what good is his name?”
Sayel winked at him. “I have it on the highest authority that he can do the work you require.”
To Damian, it was if the entire room had suddenly gone cold. A feeling of dread crawled up his spine.
Sayel smiled slightly. “I do believe that’s what I said.” His voice grew cold. “Do you want evidence?”
“No! No.” Damian waved his hands. “Not needed. You word, as always, is impeccable and unimpeachable.”
“Excellent!” Sayel said, cheerfully. His smile was back. He reached into his doublet, and pulled out a thick envelope. He tapped it on the table, then laid it flat and slid it over to Damian, who looked at it as if someone had offered him a snake.
“You will find all the details in there, along with some suggestions of mine on how to approach him.” Damian could swear there was a twinkle in his eye. “The man himself may not be interested in money, but I think you are going to find this will cost you enough to make it hurt.”
Damian cursed, but his heart really wasn’t in it. Sayel got up to leave, and he reached out and laid his hand gently on his coat. Sayel stopped and looked back at him.
“Why?” He shook his head, leaned in. “We’re smugglers, Sayel. Why? Why would he help us?”
Sayel shook his head slowly, a slight smile on his face. “Honestly, Damian? You should know by now. He loves you.” His mouth quirked up in a slight grin. “I’d be lying, too, if I didn’t admit a bit of affection for you and your men. You’re a rebel and a rogue, by the standards of the world… but there are different and better standards, and by those, you are nothing if not an honorable man.”
Damian let his hand drop. Sayel smiled. “Jamal Jamar, Damian. Read the letter, and look him up.”
Damian glanced down at the cream-colored envelope on the table, then back up to Sayel. Or, rather, when Sayel had been standing. He was gone. Damian resisted the urge to look about. It would serve no purpose.
He sighed, considered his drink, then pushed it away. Instead, he picked up the envelope, slit it open, and pulled out the pages inside. He started reading, then shook his head, reached over and grabbed his drink anyways.
He raised his glass towards where Sayel had been sitting, before tossing back the last of it and settling down to read. After a while, he grunted. Sayel was right. This was going to hurt… but if he could pull it off, he’d have the only ship outside of the Empire and Fae that was capable of sailing the Weave itself.
He bit his lip. Sayel said there was no price… but there always was, when dealing with angels.