The Happy Couple

It took me a quite a while to locate the Cadabera estate. In fact, a few hours into my search some helpful young men in Cadabera livery turned up to escort me there. I was given to understand that my continued well being was dependent on my going with them.
They led me to a quite charming rose-quartz villa, set in a formal water-garden made from a series of interconnecting fountains and pools, broken up with flower beds and tropical shrubs. my escort marched me past all the splendour and into the house and then demanded that I hand over my sabre and pistols. I didn’t see that I had much choice, at least if I wanted to sort out Jash’s situation, so I unbuckled my belt and handed them over.
“You look after those,” I said with a wink and a grin “we’ve travelled a long way together.”
“Of course, sir. Please go through that door.”
I was shown into a well tended courtyard, where Lord Cadabera was drinking something gold and sparkly from a crystal glass. He was a large, athletic man, handsome, in a severe kind of way. He was dressed in a suit of sky blue silk with detail in yellow, his dark hair tied back in a tight braid. As I approached, his bodyguard withdrew to a discreet distance, but I had no illusions. This man was in no danger from me, at least here and now.
“You are Captain Karl Stormcrow of the Broken Heart, which is incidentally quite safe at the south dock and neither sunk or in flames. My people tell me you were looking for my house. What do you want?” He spoke without any obvious anger, or any emotion at all. I thought this extremely odd, given the passion evident in the damage to Jash’s face.
“I am responsible for Jash, the young man you beat up and dropped in the river this afternoon.”
“In what way are you responsible?”
“I’m his captain.”
“Ah. And you came here because…”
“Jash is concerned for the safety of the Lady Abra,” I said.
“And what business is that of yours?”
“When one’s people fear for their loved ones, one is compelled to act,” I said, trying and failing to find any flicker of recognition in the Lord’s face.
“Really. Forgive me if I am sceptical. What do pirates know of love? Of loyalty? You are cut-throats and thieves, nothing more. What is the scam?”
“There is no scam, sir. If I can simply speak to the lady, so I can convince my crewman she is safe and well, I can be out of your way.”
“Oh you can be gone much quicker than that if I wish it.” He hesitated, making an exaggerated performance of coming to a decision. “No, I don’t think I’ll let you talk to her. She is confined to her rooms and will have no visitors today. You can talk to her tomorrow, when she is placed in the stocks in the town square.”
I was momentarily speechless.
“You mean to do what?”
“That is the prescribed punishment for her crime. It is my right to demand it.”
“But…”
“When one’s people break their sacred promises, one is compelled to act.” His smile reminded me of a cobra I’d seen in the market the day we first saw Lady Abra. “There is one more thing. Jash escaped before I was finished with him. Tell him I will have satisfaction.”
“A duel? No, I will not allow it.”
“Tomorrow at sunset, Jash will come here and we will fight to the death, or I will take your ship. My ships and my soldiers are already in place, believe me you cannot escape. Your crew will be hanged as pirates, and you, Captain, will burn.” For the first time I heard some passion under the practiced control. This was a man who hated to be crossed, and enjoyed killing. He waved me away. “Sunset tomorrow, after he has seen what his antics have earned his lover. Now get out of my house.”

I returned to the Lily and gave Yoko instructions to prepare the Heart to sail, and as darkness fell I returned to the Cadabera villa. I gained entry with judicious use of a blackjack, some silk gags and some lightweight rope. Once all the night-guards were safely out of the way I retrieved my sword and pistols from a cabinet in the study, and began the search for Abra. Two of the guards had been posted outside one particular door, and I’d taken a key from one of them, so I thought it likely that the lady was behind it.
I turned the key and knocked softly before easing the door open. Predictably, she was hiding behind the door, holding something heavy over her head.
“Who are you,” she said in an urgent whisper as I darted out of danger and held up my hands.
“I’m Karl Stormcrow, Jash’s captain,” I said. Even in the darkness, her smile lit up her face.
“Captain Karl, yes, he speaks of you often. I’m sorry I let him get hurt. How is he?”
“He’ll live. You should know you’re not responsible, though.”
“I know,” she closed the door and showed me to a chair. She lit a lamp, turned it down low, and took the seat next to mine. “My Lord’s men?” she asked.
“Unharmed. For the moment they’re tied up in the study.”
Her eyes widened, and her smile returned. “You are a dangerous man, Captain Karl. Why did you come?”
“To offer you a way out.”
“No, sir, I have to stay.”
“I have met your lord, and I know what you and Jash were doing on your barge. You can’t possibly love this man.”
“If I leave he will kill Jash, and all of you as well. I will stay here until you have escaped. Then I will follow you.”
“Actually he’s challenged Jash to a duel.”
“No! Tell Jash he must not!”
“Don’t worry, I will not let him come to harm. Now, I have an important question.”
“Yes?”
“How would you feel about sailing with us?”
“Oh, Captain Karl, I would love to!” she said, almost clapping her hands like a giddy schoolgirl.
“It will be hard work, and dangerous. Life aboard ship is not easy.”
“Do you imagine it is harder than living here?”
“Well, now you put it like that, probably not. The hardships will be different, though. Are you sure you want to do this, for a man you have only known for a few days?”
“I am,” she said, nodding her head and beaming.
“Then we will see you tomorrow. Hang in there, Lady Abra. You’re one of us now.”