As far as landdwellers went, Cabre Daylor wasn’t bad. He was tall, hands callused and skin tanned from hours of work in the sun, even if his clothes looked like he spent most of his time sitting behind a gilt and carved desk. He had brown hair, fashionably long, so that it absently curled back from his forehead and stopped just below his ears. His beard was kept short, and he smiled with the sort of charm that was molded, not bred, but was still easy to fall into. It left room to wonder if he wasn’t hiding something, but never pointed to any shadow.
He owned a ship. It was just large enough to ride the waves of the open ocean, out where land was no longer in sight. He had made the trip to the islands twice. He arrived with all hands, and it was assumed that since there was no mutiny between voyages, the passings had been tolerable.
He played tricks in business, and everyone knew it. He himself seemed to do it more for fun than for greed, and when he was caught, he laughed. He didn’t mind being called a cheat, because that’s what he was. He wouldn’t stand for smuggler, thief, or idiot, because he wasn’t.
Cabre had two sons. The older, Callan was a known bounty hunter, taller than his father and with shoulders that looked like they were meant to hold the hefty long sword that always seemed to be slung behind his back. The younger, Des was a gambler with his father’s same magnetizing smile.
Dealing with the three of them was sort of like a game, seeing if you could outrun the intelligence of all three, and Lady Irune enjoyed the game. Especially on days when she could inform him on things that made his head spin, like the fact that if she and her entourage were going to meet him immediately, mid-ocean, they would be arriving in his cargo hold, and he’d better make room.
They slipped into the curved hold with a hiss as the heat they brought with them met the wet air. The five of them, took a quick step forward, almost at the same time, adjusting to the swell of the water beneath them, but it sounded like a deliberate clap, and Irune watched Cabre, his son, Des, and his ship’s Captain pull back at the sound. She resisted a smile, and checked over her shoulder to make sure the others had come through safely.
Cabre collected himself quickly. Stepping forward, he offered her his hand and gave her a winning smile. “Good morning, my lady,” he said.
She took his hand, squeezed his palm and let it go. “Good morning, Mr. Daylor.”
“I believe you know, my son, Callan,” he said. “And this is Captain Terrent.”
Irune watched them as they both bowed. “This is my daughter, Lady Sorne,” she said. Sorne stepped up beside her as soon as she heard her name, nodding toward the three men. “And Naiara, Mikel, and Gotzon.” Each of her companions nodded as she named them, a little deeper than Sorne and stayed where they were, scattered in a vague half circle behind them.
“Welcome,” Cabre told them all. “I assume your trip here went smoothly.”
“Very,” Irune said, chuckling to herself.
She glanced around the dim hold. The air stuck to her skin as the heat she’d brought along dissipated, and even in the dark she could see a wet shine along the floor. The cargo shoved to either side to give them space, tied down in messy lines as if they’d thrown everything into place. Something with very small claws was running somewhere behind her, where the lamps they’d brought down refused to reach.
“The arrival is a little more interesting than I thought it would be,” Irune said, smiling sideways at Cabre.
“Strange for us as well. We usually receive our visitors on the upper decks,” he said.
“I can see why,” she said.
He tilted his head, considering her in the shaky yellow light, blinking as if he couldn’t decide if that was a joke or a judgement. “Perhaps next time, I can entice you to see them first,” he said.
“We couldn’t meet you on the top deck if we tried,” Irune told him. “Strange as our abilities are, they come with the rules of gravity and force, the same as the rest of the world. But there’s really no reason to stay here.”
Cabre blinked again. “Please,” he said. Taking a sharp step to one side, he extended an arm to usher her toward the ladder behind him.
Sorne let out a quiet breath beside her, hiding a laugh. Irune held an even silence, following his hand with a sweep of her skirts.
She was quite likely to win today.