Inheritance | 27 February 4/685

The door to the Captain's Quarters.
The Captain’s Door

Dearest Jowan, Cora, and patrons of the Unarkida

Continued from Extract №3

This will be the last we hear from our young friend for now.

Extract №4 from the diary of a young woman on the Whale Road – (circa 3/135).

Day 1 aboard the Baaldonar (formerly the Samssonar)

It’s been an eventful few days since my last entry. This is the first that I will write from my desk, in my private cabin, as the Third Mate of the Baaldonar.

We arrived back at port two days ago. Following our narrow escape from The Maelstrom (the crew has settled on this name from the seafarers’ legends), the return trip was uneventful. I spent most of my days on the bridge with Barran. He had to manage the ship and crew alone. I tried to help where I could and learned loads in the process.

After having gone missing for several hours it turned out Captain Baaldax had locked and barricaded himself inside his quarters. The crew, especially the older members, were incensed. They had wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but finding him in hiding put an end to that.

I was worried that they would turn on Baz once they realised they weren’t going to get answers from the Captain. In the end though, the more senior officers suggested that Baz take over and captain the ship home.

This was a lesson for me; in loyalty, respect, and the hierarchy of a crew. Even though he admitted to knowing what the Captain was up to—I, of course, knew he had objected—the others accepted that he had been in no position to have done anything more.

“We here have known you Barran, since cadet, and rating before that. You carry no burden for those whom Cyne has taken early, nor for the Captain’s treachery.” Erka spoke on behalf of the crew.

The younger crewmembers, myself included, quickly came to understand how strongly the others felt about what the Captain had done. Among Freefolk of a certain age and older, they speak of the Neutrality. On principle, they agree we should never involve ourselves in Daxian or Anaran affairs—beyond trade. Clearly, they considered secretive meetings with a Daxian warship in violation of this.

Their war has been going on since long before I was born. I do wish I understood it better, but so few speak openly of it.

Once we had docked we packed and went top side for the final briefing. We waited for some time, all curious whether we would see the Captain or not. Baz had mentioned earlier that he was going to radio ahead to the Protectors. When he did show, my brother was alone.

He dismissed the crew and said he would wait for the Protectors to arrive. The Second Officer, our Chief Engineer, stayed as well. I lingered to offer my support, but got waved off. Baz still wasn’t ready for anyone to know who I am to him, so I waited for him dockside so we could walk home together.

I saw the Protectors arrive a few minutes later with the Arakiists. Baz led them aboard and inside. I sat there thinking about all the questions I wanted to ask my brother when he felt freer to talk.

Then I heard a loud pop from inside the ship—a gunshot.

That is to say; I had no idea what it was until I found out later. At that moment, to me, it was just a strange and unexpected noise that echoed around the ship. I’d never heard or seen a gun fired. I did know the sound was bad, whatever it was, so I ran back aboard to check on my brother.

When I arrived in the Officers’ quarters, I saw Baz and the Second Officer frantically smashing at the Captain’s door with their shoulders. It gave way after a few heavy blows, the Captain had removed his barricade.

That was before he’d sat behind his desk, put the barrel of a small gun in his mouth, and pulled the trigger.

“Captain!” shouted Baz as he and the Protectors ran in.

I stood beside the Arakiists and stared. Captain Baaldax was slumped forward on his desk. The back of his head was a red, chunky, and matted mess of bone and flesh. The map on the wall behind him was spotted with lumps of the same and a fine scarlet mist.

“Freeling, look away,” one of the cultists suggested. I did, but only after a few moments, leaving the image burned into my memory.

With the Captain dead, there would be no Judgement needed, so the Arakiists were given leave by the Protectors. I left with them and resumed my wait dockside.

Hours later, Baz called me aboard. I hadn’t noticed the time passing while the image of the dead Captain still burned brightly.

He told me that the Captain had written him a letter. He didn’t tell me everything it said, but he did say that Baaldax had no family and that he had chosen to leave the ship to my brother.

On any other day, Baz would have been out of his mind with happiness. A ship of his own was all he’d spoken of since he had been given his first post.

But not like this.

The Captain may have been a fool to have done what he’d done, but I came to learn that he had been good to Barran. After we ran away from father, it was Baaldax who had given him that first job, allowing Barran to look after me. In return, my brother had come to see him as the father we’d never had.

I suppose, in the end, the Captain couldn’t live with the loss of the shuttle crew and his breach of trust on his conscience. Baz hasn’t been able to speak about it since. I still don’t know everything that went on.

The Protectors didn’t seem all that satisfied with the story, so they questioned the whole crew over the next few days. Today they finally cleared us all to return to our lives. Barran—now Captain—and I went back to the ship, our new home.

He re-christened the ship Baaldonar in honour of what the Captain meant to him, despite his final acts, and appointed me to Third Mate. This surprised me, but he said I had earned it with all that I had done and learned since our encounter with The Maelstrom.

Frankly, I am not sure I want to continue with a life on the Whale Road. For now, my future as sailor is unknown. I know that I have developed a love for Anaran soldiers that will be hard to satisfy. Also, I have witnessed an intervention that has challenged my grasp on reality. Finally, all this has led Baz and me into an inheritance neither of us expected in our wildest dreams.

Perhaps the Whale Road is where I belong for now.

I’ll write again soon.

But she did not, not in that journal. Perhaps one day soon we will identify our young friend and find more of her writings. I hope so.

Soon, we’ll bring you another story from Unara. Thank you for reading.

Illustration by Midjourney & G.G.B.

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