A Shortage of Watermelons

As promised, I kept the Heart in port for the next few days, but this wasn’t just so that Jash could follow his little head into trouble. I decided that the whole crew could do with a chance to spend some of our hard-won booty on … well I’m sure you get the idea. This was exactly the kind of place a pirate crew dreams of arriving at, especially if their pockets have been heavy and jingling for altogether too long. And, of course, now our business was complete, there was an acquaintance I was looking forward to renewing.
Unlike our chaotic and beautiful home, Aramine has no watermelons, which would be a terrible tragedy if they didn’t have lilies instead. And so it was that I found myself propping up the private bar at the Gilded Lily, where the rum is, legend has it, never, ever gone.
It didn’t take the news very long to reach her. Soon the rustle of silks and the scent of jasmine and sandalwood told me she had descended from her ivory tower.
“Oh my, look what the wind blew in,” said Andi, the owner and proprietor of this particular carefully crafted cliche.
“You always say that,” I said, taking another leisurely pull on the rum bottle in my hand.
“You want original lines, you gotta buy something,” she said, taking the stool next to mine and lifting an eyebrow at the bartender, who began the manufacture of some mysterious cocktail.
“I bought a bottle of rum and a plate full of oysters,” I said.
“You know what I mean, Karl.”
“I like things a little more … complicated. It’s more than a simple transaction for me, as you will remember.”
“So why come here? The drink and the food are not our speciality. Other places do them better.”
“As I tell you every time, I like the atmosphere.”
“Yes, you do say that every time. But, and I’m allowed to say this because I own the place and I did it on purpose, the atmosphere is cheap, tacky …”
“And discreet. Also you always do a bang-up job on my boots.”
“Ah, then you may be disappointed. The boy left a few weeks ago, took ship with one of your lot as it happens, and we’ve had some trouble training his replacement. I’d keep your boots to yourself and have that cute little urchin of yours clean them instead.”
“Roger has better things to do these days.”
“I’m sure he does. Quick boy that one. Now, much as I’d love to spend all evening sparring with you, old friend, you never come here unless you need something, atmosphere or no.”
“Well I did hope you could tell me something about a Lord and Lady Cadabera.”
“Not so much, I’m afraid.”
“Odd, from what I’d heard he likes things simple.”
“He came here once. He was … impolite.” I was wincing inwardly at all the connotations of that word, especially here among the Sisters and at the heart of their covert web of power, when her cocktail arrived. It was pink, and bubbling. Little wisps of steam blew around the surface, and it smelled of cherries.
“I’m not going to ask you what it’s called,” I said.
“Why not?” she said, with a chuckle.
“Because it’s one of those drinks. The kind people only order because they want to say the rude name.”
“Aw go on,” she said, nudging me with her elbow.
I chuckled myself. “No. So he’s a bit of a heel?”
“Nasty is how I’d put it. Lucky for everyone he never came back. You’d be surprised how many of them think they hold all the cards, but not him.”
“Which makes him clever as well.”
“Guess so.” She shrugged. “So what did he do to you?”
“Absolutely nothing.”
“Pull the other one. You’re working up to ruin his day, I can tell. You don’t do that for shits and giggles, Karl.”
“One of my lads has fallen for his lady.”
“How hard?”
“Like a concrete unicorn.”
“Ouch. OK, I’ll see what I can find out. You ok for the hard stuff?”
“Just tell the kid to keep it coming,” I said, setting the empty bottle on the bar. “And keep your eye out for a green and blue parrot.She seems to get lost every time we come here.”
“I remember. Don’t worry, you’re among friends here.”