Vol 2: Chapter Twenty – A banquet fit for a prince

True to her word, Captain Tidescreecher had her crew set up a feast in a matter of minutes. The tables were already set up and the fire that was mainly used for heat was quickly converted into a grill. Cobal finally managed to place some of the noises he was hearing earlier, there were some animals in a fenced off area. They’d brought out a pig and butchered it for the occasion. Apparently Ferla and the crew had also been questioned by the Captain while Cobal and his friends had been separated and they’d also hesitantly agreed to coöperating with the pirates. Cobal reckoned they weren’t given much of a choice to begin with. He was seated between the older gentleman, Majar on his left, and Mana on his right. He saw mana fidgeting with one of the knives on the table. “Are you doing a bit better now that things seem to be resolving themselves?”
Mana looked at him, searching for the right words, before laughing. “I appreciate that you’re getting better at learning how this anxiety works, but there’s still so much to learn. Nothing is more scary than things going well when you really feel like they shouldn’t be going well. It’s that feeling that everything could go horribly wrong at the flip of a coin. We don’t know what these people are like. They could be lying to us. They could be planning to dispose of us once this is all done, we don’t know any of that!” She realized her voice had gone up in volume from the whisper it started in and quickly quieted down again.
“I see what you’re saying, but these things are baseless. Things could also go really well from here on out.”
“It doesn’t matter that fears are baseless, the whole point is that a lot of these fears are baseless. That’s what makes them so difficult to deal with. If all my fears were based on logic I could just prevent the problems that cause them. But that’s not how these things work, unfortunately. I once had a woman explain this to me, a long long time ago. She used lions as an example. We have lions in this world as well, so the analogy works well. She said that when we were still living as nomads, before we started cities and civilizations, we would sometimes run into wild animals like lions. We would fear these lions and they would activate our fight or flight response. Fighting a lion in our world is pretty much certain death, so flight is the right choice. For people with anxiety like me, that fight or flight response isn’t working as intended. For starters, it tends to pick flight over fight almost every single time. And adding to that, it activates much more often. Being scared of things that can harm us is not a bad feeling. But being scared of things that can’t harm us is not helpful. So we need to try and think in certain ways that help us realize that we’re not really in any danger. There are no real consequences to certain problems. Having said that, there can definitely be consequences to working with strange pirates that we don’t really know.”
Cobal thought about it for a little bit. He was well aware that there were things about Mana’s world that he didn’t really understand and that that was okay. But this was something he really wanted to try and understand, even though it was quite different from the way he saw the world. He was about to give a response when the Captain loudly proclaimed her presence and everyone cheered.

“Ladies, gentlemen,” she paused and looked around for a moment, silence filling the space. “The rest of you lot, welcome to a royal banquet!” She spread her arms out wide as everyone cheered. “Tonight we feast among the presence of kings, queens and heroes. Tomorrow, we will sail on Triban Island. There we will deal with our infuriating neighbors and we will reclaim ownership of these waters!”
Everyone cheered once more as she sat down at the head of the table and poured herself a drink. The banquet had officially started.
Initially things were tense, as the different people at the table had been tense only just a moment ago. But as soon as everyone had a few drinks in them, things seemed to change a little bit. Old Goof was one of the first ones to start talking and even Ferla started chatting with Fareh. After about an hour the sound of laughter and conversation filled the cover.
Cobal was talking to Mana when Mirgia walked up to them and tapped him on the shoulder.
“What’s wrong?” Cobal asked after seeing a serious expression on his face.
“Nothing as of yet, but I thought you’d find it interesting to know. I saw Ferla and Captain Tidescreecher talk off to the side for a little bit. I couldn’t catch what they were talking about, but it’s something to keep in mind.”
Cobal nodded. “Good looking out, thanks Mirgia.”
The elf smiled and went back to his own seat next to two of the pirates.
Cobal quickly got to talking to Majar, who was seated next to him.
“I’ve heard from the Captain that you folks are here to learn about the magic that they’ve been using on Triban island, why are you looking into this?” Majar asked. The old man had some very keen and bright eyes hiding deeply sunken into his head. His white beard and mustache covered most of his face so it was hard to gauge what he was thinking.
“That’s right, we’ve run into this magic several times now and a good friend of ours recommended meeting up with your captain for more insight into what is happening. And that’s more or less how we got here.”
Majar nodded. “Well it’s good to have some more folk on the team. We’ve been trying to figure this thing out for a little while now and we weren’t getting far.”
Cobal smiled. “Glad to be of help.” He was starting to get a little bit more insight into the situation they found themselves in. Mirgia tipped him off to this idea as well but once he started thinking about it it made a lot of sense. Mana had referred to the captain as a Theater kid. Understanding what this meant, he realized that a lot of the scary pirate captain demeanor was an act. These people weren’t cold blooded killers. They were just one step removed from smugglers probably. There were some older folks on this ship as well as some young pirates, maybe even as young as teenagers. None of this looked like a dangerous group. Now he understood why Dionil sent them here. These were people he could work with, he realized. Perhaps Mana was wrong after all in feeling anxious. Cobal chuckled, that was probably the point she was trying to bring across earlier.
“Something funny?” A voice behind him said. “Scooch over,” Captain Tidescreecher said to Majar as she sat down next to Cobal.
“Something Mana said earlier,” Cobal replied. “Made me laugh thinking about it.”
The captain looked around. Cobal followed her eyes to where Fareh was seated. The old woman nodded.
“Cobal, as a prince you have some sway in the Blueyerd Kingdom, right?”
Cobal nodded. “I do. Not a lot, mind you, but my father listens to my requests from time to time.”
“Could you pardon several old thieves?”
Cobal thought for a moment. He didn’t know if he had this kind of power. Probably not, he thought. “I would lie if I confidently told you that I could. But I will say that anyone who provides serious help in the retrieval of the crown prince definitely has a much better chance at forgiveness for their crimes.”
The captain sighed. “That’s the answer I was expecting, how diplomatic of you. No promises you can’t keep but just enough optimism to make it seem feasible.”
Cobal laughed. “I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. I would like to think that people can be redeemed, but I don’t speak for the law.”
“Here’s my proposal.” She hesitated. Her strong exterior faltering for but a moment. Cobal could feel Mana’s presence to his side, listening in on this conversation. “You help us with the raid on Triban island. We share all the information we have on this strange magic. I’ll then go along and help you retrieve your crown prince. In return, you’ll pardon my crew. Most of them just want to go back to living a normal, honest life. We don’t know how to do that while the law is breathing down our necks.”
Cobal felt Mana’s hand press into his side, as if to hold on to him and lean ever so closer.
“Here is what I can promise. We work together for the foreseeable future. Once the crown prince is home safe, I will do what I can to make it so you all are free in the eyes of our laws.” He held out his hand. There was a small pause before something seemed to bump into the captain. Cobal saw Majar behind her, pushing her forward as if to encourage her. He had a smile on his face and he nodded to Cobal.
Captain Tidescreecher reached her hand out as well and clasped his arm. “Then today marks the day that Eliana Tidescreecher teams up with Cobal Blueyerd.” She grinned. “Welcome to the team.”

Later that night Cobal, Mirgia, Kimi, Dylon and Mana all sat around a small fire. Even though they’d drank quite a bit and ate some good food, it was still quite cold. Winter was far from over and the storm was on its way out but not yet gone. “So what do you all think?” Cobal asked the group.
“I’m indifferent,” Kimi said. “But more help is useful after we’ve struggled to find out more information for so long.”
Mirgia nodded. “Don’t trust them, but working with someone you don’t quite trust isn’t always bad. It ‘s worse to trust them when they haven’t earned it.”
Dylon just nodded along. He was going to agree with whatever Cobal said anyway.
Cobal looked at Mana. “You know, sometimes you say things that really impress me. To me and you it might be normal to think that people deserve redemption. But where I come from there’s lots of people who disagree. Thieves and criminals should be shamed and locked up for what they did. No one ever thinks about why we have criminals.” She smiled. “I’m glad that you think this way, it gives me a lot of hope for this country.”
Cobal blushed. It was rare for Mana to dish out compliments like that.
“Well I think that settles it then. Tomorrow morning we will travel to that island and hopefully we’ll finally learn a little bit more about where my brother is.”

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