Skull and Shackles

Interlude: Ezikial Hands, Apprentice Therapist

Posted by Gurtchmann

Ezikial checked that set of the sails and the state of the sea; the ship was running well and could spare him for a few minutes. As he was to be, at least partially, responsible for the ship’s armory, he decided to do a little more work below deck making the armory fit to use again.

As he swung down from the main deck, he could see that he wasn’t alone on the armory deck: a figure knelt before a bench, apparently praying. In the dim light, Ezikial recognized Sandara. She didn’t seem to notice him as he moved and when he got closer, he realized that she was weeping.

Concerned, Ezikial moved up to her and cleared his throat.

She started, looked over her shoulder at Ezikial, and wiped her nose on her sleeve. She squeezed tears from reddened eyes, drug the back of her hand across her face.

“Oh, aye. Cos I needed t’ find ‘nother way t’ embarrass m’self.” She stood up, shaking her head.
He raised an inquiring eyebrow at her and offered her his flask.

Sandara accepted the flask and took a long swallow form it, she held the flask out to Ezikial, but he waved his hand indicating that she should hold on to it.

“Need to talk?” he grated out.

“No,” she said, sharply.

Then, quickly: “Wait. Sorry. Yes.”

Thinking of the ship and work to be done, and his current state of inebriation, “Can it wait ’till after dusk?”

“I suppose…?” She smirked. “Are yer duties so pressin, or d’ye jist not care t’hear ’bout all my girl problems?”

“Better at talking when I’m more sober…” Ezikial replied, a little ruefully. He knew that he was a poor choice to come to for any kind of comforting, but Sandara was a true shipmate and deserved all the focus he could give her.

“I reckon it’d help me more if’n I say m’ piece now.” She leaned back against the bench to help herself to stay upright.

“Your call, Sandara. The ship can wait for a bit,” he said and pulled up an empty cask to use for a seat.

Her smile became warmer, “Thanks, Ezikial. Yer a real ’mate.”

She raised his flask at him and drank off at least half of it a long chug, then sat back down and clanging the steel flask on the bench, maybe a little harder than she meant to.

Ezikial sat down on the cask. “Tell me.”

She leaned back against the bulkhead, "Welp, I went t’ see Chopper ‘bout that note I gave ye t’ give ’im…”

Ezikial raised an eyebrow in an “I’m listening” way, letting her know that she had his attention.

“I mean, that first night up at th’ stockade, he tol’ me we’d hafta talk after things settled down.” She sighed and went on; “But I already knew, if’n he felt the way I did, we wouldn’ be waitin’ t’talk ’bout it.”

Both of Ezikial’s eyebrows rose in surprise at this. He’d thought that Chopper had similar feelings for her.

She shook her head. “I had plenty time t’ dwell on it, y’know. Them grindylows tried interrogatin’ us, but they didn’t speak Common, y’know. That devilfish knew a little, but it was random shite, like a parrot…” She ran down for a moment. “I knew you’d come, though.”

Ezikial nodded. Once they knew where to look and that she was likely alive, nothing, save death, could have kept him from rescuing her.

Sandara spoke in a frustrated voice, “But t’ have ye save m’ life, an’ t’have no’’ so much’s a kiss from ‘im… aye, I knew wha’he was gonna say. But I still hadda have ’im say it.”

Ezikial leaned forward a little to make sure he caught every word.

“So I blamed m’self an’ my foolish heart, that fickle bitch. An’ Chopper said ‘e was the one at fault, that ’e coulda been less ’friendly.’”

Hearing that, Ezikial rubbed his hand across his face in exasperation. Even he knew that was a poor choice of words to offer.

“An’ then I offered t’ leave when we git t’ Rickety’s. Y’know, if things was just too weird betwixt us.”

Alarmed, Ezikial stood abruptly. The thought of losing a true shipmate so soon after finding them almost caused him to panic.

Sandara looked up at him expectanly.

Taking a deep, calming breath, Ezikial sat back down on the cask; “And then…?”

“‘E said ’e don’ want me leavin’ on ’is account.” She sniffed, hard. “That I’m ‘one o’the good’uns, all too rare on this treacherous sea.’ That ’e’d rather have me here, than wi’ someone who wouldna have m’back.”

She looked across, directly into Ezikial’s eyes, “’E’s like no-one I e’er met, an’ no mistake.”

Not being able to cope very well with what he saw there, Ezikial just nodded. Chopper was unlike most pirates he’d ever met or even heard of.

“So I guess we’re all right. I jist… fucked up, I guess.” She takes another drink. “I gotta be runnin’ out o’ ways t’ humiliate m’self on this damn ship.” She sighed again.

Ezikial cocked his head at her, waiting for her to continue.

When she did, it was a little more rueful, “I was jist here tellin’ Besmara I’m done with men… again…”

Ezikial snorted in wry amusement at this.

“But I decided this ship IS where I wanna be. Ye saved m’ life more’n once, but yer ‘MATES, now. An’ I ain’t gonna turn m’ back on that just ’cos… Well, just ’cos.”

Ezikial nodded in agreement and sympathy.

“I’m sorry, Ezikial. I know this is a lot for ye.”

He cleared his throat uncomfortably.

He shifted on his cask for a moment and cleared his throat again, worried that his lack of social skills and inebriation would cause him to be misunderstood.

“I regret that I am not a man of many words, Sandara. But I shall endeavor to make myself clear to you…” he began. Sandara tilted her head and looked squarely at him, smiling a little.

Ezikial cleared his throat yet again, then spoke, his voice rising a little as he tried to force sincerity into his words, “If no other being on this ship or sea cares enough to say so, I will: You are a true shipmate.”

At his words, Sandara’s smile broadened until it seemed like every tooth was visible.

“I do not want you to misunderstand me, though. With my ways and my tastes, I am not a man for you in any way.”

“I thought that might be th’ way of it, aye,” she spoke quietly. “But a true ’mate is worth ten beaus.”

His voice rising again, he continued, “But I can count the number of people that I let share my whiskey from the flask or bottle on one hand and have fingers left over.”

At this point he stood up and in a louder voice, went on, “For the true shipmate that you are, I would swarm the deck of The Seawraith and cross blades with Besmara herself!”

Pulling himself to his full height, he said between clenched teeth: “I want you to stay!"

Sandara stood up and suddenly wrapped Ezikial in a fierce hug. “I ain’t goin’ nowhere,” she said, as Ezikial hugged her back, in awkward surprise.

“Good!” he rasped out as she released him and he slumped back down on the cask.

“Hells,” she went on, “I’d serve yer sentence in gaol.”

“And Besmara knows that I’d blast the walls to get you out.”

“An’ suren my Queen knows I’d take a bullet in th’ tit for ye.” She said as she drank the last of what’s in the flask.

Ezikial grinned a real grin at her last comment.

She sat back down and mused, “I ne’er had a brother, y’know. I bet it’d be like this.”

“If your brother was mad, maybe,” he muttered ruefully.

“Oh, I got a touch o’madness,” she climed, “an’ make no mistake. My Da said it was my Ma’s side o’ the family. An’ she blamed ’im.”

“My Ma told me I was just like my Da’: Israel.” Ezikial motions for her to give him the flask.

“He was a mad sailor, too?” She passes the flask back to him. Her normal wicked sparkle was back in her eye.

“Aye, a mad gunman the same as I,” he said, refilling his flask from the bottle. “Or just a temperamental pirate. She was less than clear on the subject.”

“Did ye not know ’im, then?” Sandara asked.

“He went back to sea before I was actually born, leaving behind only a journal and a gun.” Ezikial offered her the refilled flask.

She takes it, raised it in a salute and asked, “Did th’ journal no’ shed any light?”

Ezikial shook his head, “Just notes on guns and cannons, and the name of his ship; The Relentless.”

She tapped her chin. “I know most o’ the names on th’ Pirate Council, an’ a fair number o’ Free Captains… I canna say I know that name, though.”

He gave her a rueful grin; “I’ll ask him about his reasons if we should meet.”

“I hope ye get that chance, Ezikial. I well an’ truly do,” she told him as she passed the flask back to him.

He nodded at her, drank, and passed the flask back.

She paused to look at the holy symbol hanging from her neck. “I canna imagine wha’ my life’d be if my Da ha’ ne’er been innit.”

Ezikial cocked an inquiring eyebrow at her.

“I took a boat from th’ harbor a few weeks ago, so’s I could bury m’ Da at sea, like ‘e woulda wanted. It was cos he were nearly lost at sea that I became a priest, d’ye see.”

He made an inquiring noise.

“There were a storm, an’ I prayed through th’ night fer ‘is safe return… Besmara brought ’im back t’me.”

This received an impressed look from Ezikial.

“I swore m’ life t’her after that. Opened a little shrine an’ everythin.” She looked Ezikial in the eye. “Besmara favors th’ bold. An’ bein’ around brave, crazy ‘mates like ye helps me t’ find courage.”

Ezikial grinned again; a little of his madness showed in it.

“Keep it up, an’ I warrant she’ll take notice o’ ye. If’n she hasn’t already.”

“Aye,” Ezikial allowed, “ I think we suit, she and I.”

“Ye ain’t wrong, no. I kin teach ye more ‘bout ’er, when e’er ye like.”

When Ezikial nodded to that, she continued, “Maaaybe we should get back t’ work.”

“Aye.”

She pushed up from the bench and wobbled just a bit as Ezikial also stood.

He put a hand on her arm to steady her and asked, “Drinks and cards tonight?”

“I wouldna miss it. And, Ezikial…? Thanks fer listenin.”

He nodded and grinned at her, “Aye. Any time.”

She wobbled a bit more as Ezikial let go and turned to the stairway.

“Mebbe I better catch a nap afore I git back t’ rat-chasin.” She paused, then: “Too bad I ain’t a druid, or I could jist TELL ‘em t’leave!”

The got an amused snort from Ezikial.

Ezikial grinned to himself as he started towards the steps and began singing, badly and off-key, but with a good deal of humor: “What do you do with a drunken cleric, What do you do with a drunken cleric, What do you do with a drunken cleric, er-lai in the mornin’…."

He pretended not to hear the faint singing from Sandara; “Put ’er in the bed with Mr Chopper, Put ’er in the bed with Mr Chopper…” as he stepped back onto the deck.

Haroun, looking up from his work with one of the lines, started at the faint smile on Ezikial’s face and paled when he heard the singing.

“Now, that was creepy,” he muttered to himself as he watched Ezikial swing up into the rigging.

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