Story for the Day: The Slave Galley - Part 1

While Captain Danaco Divelima is used to rescuing anything from being harmed, he has a soft spot for rescuing children:

The Slave Galley
                After accepting the charge from the board near the commissioner, Danaco went with all due alacrity to meet with the posting’s purveyor, an older man of stout means and nervous character, a
merchant by trade, a Marridonian by birth, a coward by coincidence, an affluant by accident, and solicitous by circumstance. He sat in a wreck of hysterics, fidgeting about in a darkened corner of the hall as he was approached by the publican, who was harassing him as to whether he was going to be drinking anything or if he meant merely to sit and fester in his own fever of frantic musings, staring at the glass of water untouched, which the serving attendant was so good as to give him—though he hardly merited half so much attention after forgetting to give any gratuity for the service—and at last, upon perceiving the Lucentian captain enter the hall in all his gentlemanly grandeur, with his neat appearance and stately air, his long strides commanding attention, his locks draped about him and rippling in a shimmering cadence as he marched, his carriage upright and well-muscled, his tattoos undulating across his chest and arms, and the purveyor was silent and still from the agitation of meeting such an impeccable commander. His bows too, formal and proprietous as they were, and his civil addresses were enough to sink any man into solemn unquietness. Here was no a guildlord or even a captain of a privateer’s frigate, the merchant conceived; the Lucentian looked rather image of a naval officer in the king’s service than he did a celebrated pirate.
                “I have not sat down these two minutes are you are already accusing me of being a pirate,” Danaco scoffed, with mild reproach. He shook his head. “By Myrellnos, how captiously condemnatory you tradesmen are. Why must every Marridonian who has never seen a Lucentian in his best attire think me a pirate? Is it my exquisite artwork?” looking at the tattoos festooning his arms and chest. “Do tell me what it is, sir, that warrants me this attitude. I do not speak as a pirate does, nor do I dress as one. No pirate in the world has my waistcoat, and none is so well-groomed and well-fitted up as I am. Come, you cannot think me a pirate there.”
                “No, captain,” the man whimpered, withering in his seat, “but do not pirates wear gold ornaments to secure funds for their funeral when they die?”
                He pointed to Danaco’s earring, and the Lucentian looked all the offense he felt.
“This is no a mere ornament, sir,” said he impressively. “This is Adiethian gold, from the Last Golden Age of Pelenopia, entrusted to me by an indebeted collector. This is no trinket, to be traded away for any price that might be offering. It is abominable of you, sir, to think so. I should have my old friend here, that he might beat you with his books for so mistaking one of Marridon’s national treasures. If I were to perish at sea, which is highly unlikely, such a priceless artifact should never be offered for a funeral service. It should be cared for by one who understands its value. Did not you learn anything in your seminars at the Academy about how to distinguish one species of gold from another? Are not you a trader, sir?”
“I am, sir, but—“ and there was a blush as the merchant spoke, “I have not dealt in gold or any precious metals and stones this long while.”
“My old friend would say you are out of practice and don’t deserve your license if you cannot tell Adeithian gold from any other. It is more than distinguishable. Look there,” taking the earring from his ear and holding it to the light. “The rose-tinted sheen makes all the difference. He is a simkin who cannot tell the difference, but you cannot tell me from a pirate.” He replaced is earring and grinned to himself. “Perhaps I should think you looking rather more a shepherd than an esteemed tradesman. Then we should be even.”
                The merchant supposed so, and hemmed and tugged at his collar, finding it difficult to draw breath under the raging superiority of such an eloquent and learned privateer.
                “Come, now,” said Danaco, with renewed cordiality, sitting languidly in his chair, “what am I to fetch for you? This posting promises a great sum for the return of something precious. I will judge whether the reward or the prize has more value.”
                “The prize, captain,” the merchant hemmed, “is my daughter.”
                Danaco canted his head and raised a brow. “Oh? Has some unwanted suitor whisked her away to an unwholesome family?”
                “Well—“ The merchant fidgeted with his fingers and stared at the table. “Not exactly, captain. You see, I have good reason to believe that my daughter has been kidnapped, and not for the reason you suggest.” He took the glass of water into his hand and began mechanically turning it about. “My daughter went missing two days ago. She has no suitors—at least, none whom I know about—and she has always been a very good girl. She is never remiss in her studies, has always been a very loving child—“ Here his voice began to falter, “—and when she did not come home—“ He paused, inhaled, and went on, but his nervousness faded into a wretched misery, one ingenuous enough to do away all the captain’s complacence and make him listen with unmitigated concern. “I called the guard immediately, and they were very complying, but all they could do was search for her around the capital. When their search proved fruitless, they were obliged to give up, giving me only a promise that they would continue to look for her over the course of the coming days, but I refused to let that be the end of it. I questioned everyone I could about my daughter’s disappearance, but there was little more than hope to go on. Yesterday, the docksmaster at the western port reported a strange galley that docked here unexpectedly. I know that the sight of a slave ship is nothing to the Sesternese, but when I heard, I thought to inquire in my panicked state as to whether there were any young girls brought aboard. The docksmaster told me that he had seen a girl being taken into the hold, a girl matching my daughter’s description.” He reached into his pocket and produced a small portrait, drawn in charcoal and watercolour, of a young and delicate looking woman, her features fair, her hair a rubious hue, her eyes a pale blue. “I know it is a shadow of a hope, having only the word of a docksman,” said the merchant, his voice somber, “but it is the only word I have, and the Sesternese guard would never look for a Marridonian girl on one of their own slave ships. If it is my daughter, she is being taken to Thellis, no doubt, to be sold as a servant to one of their dignitaries.” He turned the portrait toward the captain and stared at him with a most beholden look. “She is fourteen, captain,” he said, in a dreadful whisper. “She is my only child, my greatest treasure in life. I would hand over my business to you this moment if it meant having my child returned to me. As it is, I am offering the chief of my estate for her safe return. If you can bring her to me, captain, my fortune is yours.”
                Very earnestly did Danaco consider the man’s offer. He plucked the portrait from his trembling hand and studied the young woman’s face. “And the young lady’s name, sir?” said he sincerely.