Legal Theft Flash Fiction: Early as a Bird (517 words)

As quietly as the two men were speaking, he still heard them, and he was sure they didn’t care. Galen finished pulling his jacket over his shoulders and straightened his sleeves. It had been too warm below decks, but here it was just cold enough to want to button it up tight to his chest while it kept most of his still-waking rigging squad at the bottom of the ladder. Galen pulled his collar high against the back of his neck and risked a short glance behind him at Alrein and Danic, his squad leader and the Watch Commander. If they had wanted to cover their voices, they should have waited until the others dared the cold.

“He’s early,” Danic murmured.

“A little too stupid to take sleep when he can, I think,” Alrein murmured in return.

Danic snorted. It was a deep sound, coming from him. “He’s too stupid for a lot of things, I think.”

Galen wondered if the implied uncertainty of a thought at the end of their statements made what they had said more acceptable according to the way they were raised. He didn’t see much difference, seeing as he knew that both of them thought themselves well-educated and well-reasoned, but he supposed they were half as far from descent as they would have been without it.

He finished buttoning his jacket and shoved his hands in his pockets.

Behind him, the first creak on the ladder warned of the rest of the squad was coming up soon. Still, they didn’t quite put boots on deck.

“Has any word come out about how he got here?” Alrein asked.

There was a pause just large enough that Danic might have shaken his head or shrugged or just taken a breath. “Toar called in a favor. That’s all they’re saying.”

No pause. “I can’t believe that Lord Ryden allowed that,” Alrein said.

“Toar,” Danic said, as if that was all the explanation necessary.

Alrein let out something like a groan. “When he got his orders for boarding a seven-year-old had to read it to him.”

“He’s only twenty one,” Danic murmured. The sarcasm in his tone was thin and elegant. “It doesn’t get truly embarrassing until you need help from someone a quarter of your age.”

Galen swallowed a laugh. It was almost true.

“And Toar used a favor on him…” Alrein said. “I’d love to know why.”

Danic chuckled. Galen dropped his head and pushed his hands deeper into his pockets.

“I can start trying to get him transferred off your squad,” Danic said.

The next pause was a little sharper in its silence.

“Why?” Alrein asked. “He hauls line like a bull, follows every order, and is early as a bird. It’s like finally having a sailor around here.”

Galen hid his surprised laugh under theirs, and took his first deep breath in the cold air.

My friends are all thieves! They stole the first line of this piece from me to write pieces of fiction of their own blogs. Be sure to stop by and see the other gossips.

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