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Down At The Sailor's Rest [Solo, Complete]

Celeste Monroe

Shenaniginstigator In Chief
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
((OOC: 25 Solace, 34 Dragon; Late morning, The Anchorage))

“It was ninety-three Blessed, I tell ye!”

“I went through that storm myself, y'daft bastard, and it was ninety-five Blessed!”

Celeste paused at the door of the card room, an affectionately amused smile touching her lips as she listened to the squabbling. Captains and mates getting testy, and if it wasn't this debate, it would be another. After lifetimes at sea, a steady deck under the feet and no watches to stand made for restless sailors. Arguments passed the time and warmed the blood, and there was not a soul among them who would dare Little Mary's wrath by actually throwing a punch.

Pale blue eyes all but lost in the crags of a weathered face focused across the room, and a mouth stretched into a grin that revealed more teeth missing than present. “Oi, Celeste! Yer a sight fer sore eyes, lass! Come'n tell this fool that the Great Storm of Ninety-three took place in ninety-three Blessed!”

“It was ninety-five Blessed, damn it!”

“Actually, it was ninety-four Blessed,” Brannigan spoke up confidently as he and Gideon followed Celeste across the room. “I'm quite sure of that because it was the same year that we launched the Wicked Grace, and that storm very nearly made landlubbers of the lot of us again.”

Both of the combatants eyed the healer suspiciously, but then one uttered a barking laugh. “I guess y'would remember it clear, poncy-boy. I damn sure remember how green the lot of ye were. Didn't know yer arses from a sextant or a bowline from a batten! 'Twere the Maker's own doin' that ye didn't fetch up on the rocks of the Wounded Coast yer first week at sea!”

“The Maker's doing and the generosity of a number of more experienced seamen in sharing their knowledge with a ship full of pollywogs,” the 'poncy-boy' replied with a slight bow. They'd been calling Brannigan that for nigh on forty years now, because of his unfailingly neat dress when he wasn't stripped to the waist and helping out on deck (and for a man of over sixty years, it was still a sight worth seeing).

“All right, lads and lasses, lunch is on the table in the mess.” Little Mary took charge of the room with ease, herding a dozen crochety old men and three just as crochety old women away from their card and domino games with the sure knowledge that anyone who was late to the meal would have to wait until the next one to eat. Little Mary's cooking being the marvel that it was, that didn't happen often.

Brannigan watched them go with more than a trace of sadness in his eyes. These had been the experienced sailors when three young men from Starkhaven had first taken to the sea in a boat they had built themselves. The years had narrowed the apparent gaps in age, but seeing them like this: some blind, some lame, some missing arms or legs, all of them seeming to have shrunken from the towering giants that had fearlessly sailed the seas of Thedas, was undoubtedly a reminder of his own mortality.

Which was something that Celeste herself preferred not to consider. Brannigan was in excellent shape for his age; the time when he might take his place at one of these tables was well away in years.

Little Mary was back within minutes, carrying a tray with a steaming bowl of fish stew, a thick slice of bread with butter, a mug of ale and a slice of apple pie. “He hasn't been able to make it down for meals for nearly a month now,” she said sadly. “You'll likely have to feed him … and the sheets will probably need changing.”

Celeste simply nodded, letting Gideon take the tray from the woman who stood barely half his height. Some swore that she was a dwarf, and though she'd never confirmed or denied it, she was certainly short enough to make it a plausible theory. Her age was just as much a mystery; she'd opened the Anchorage over thirty years ago, and she hadn't been a young woman then, but she seemed ageless, her steel-grey hair always kept in the same neat bun, her green eyes still clear. The care that she gave to the men and women left in her charge was always impeccable, but the crew of the Wicked Grace took care of their own.

“We'll see to it,” Celeste told her before turning to follow Gideon up the stairs, with Brannigan and his bag bringing up the rear.

((OOC – Inspiration for the Anchorage and this thread found in Sailor's Rest by Stan Rogers))

Celeste Monroe

Shenaniginstigator In Chief
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
Douglas Spivey had been one of the original crew members of the Wicked Grace, and had still been hale and hearty when Celeste had first come on board. He'd been tall and wiry, strong enough to labor on the deck all day and still have the energy to dance a hornpipe after supper.

Brannigan had never figured out the source of the fever he'd caught in Rivain; it had spread to no one else on the crew, but it had nearly killed Spivey … and it might have been kinder if it had done so outright. Instead, it had ravaged him, leaving his mind wandering between past and present like a wayward child, his eyes all but blind and his joints prone to bouts of painful swelling that left him bedridden.

The Wicked Grace had been paying into the Anchorage since Little Mary had opened the place, and Spivey would not be the first of her crew to be retired there. The concept was simple: a captain or company owner paid an annual or monthly stipend, and any sailor on their crew who had no family to take them in when they grew too old or injured to keep sailing would have a berth at the Anchorage until they died. Mary had expanded a couple of times, building onto the tavern she had inherited from – well, like her age, that was up for debate. Some said a father or mother, some said a husband, but what had never been in question was her abiding love for the sea and those who sailed it. Every sovereign that she took in went toward the care of the men and women that she took in, and she always managed to scrape together enough to cover a charity case or two: some poor bastard that an uncaring captain left high and dry when they could no longer pull their weight on deck. And when she ran out of rooms, she'd manage to cajole one innkeeper or another to put up the extras for a fraction of what they normally charged. Very few in Gwaren could say no to Little Mary.

“Good morning, Spivey,” Brannigan announced as they entered the room. It was small and neat, the bed situated beside a window that was open to let in a bit of a breeze. The sunlight fell gently on the wasted figure who lay on the bed beneath a quilt.

“Brannigan!” Spivey's face lit up, blue eyes turning toward the door, though the grey haze that almost obscured the corneas made it unlikely that he could actually see any of them. “It's really you? Is Daniel with you?”

“He's stuck dealing with customs,” Celeste stepped in smoothly. Even when his mind was in the present, he couldn't seem to hang onto things that he hadn't experienced firsthand. He knew that Quentin was dead, but he hadn't been on board when Daniel had been swept over the side. On the last two visits, trying to get him to grasp that fact had very nearly broken all their hearts, and they had agreed that this time, they would let him keep believing that Quinton Monroe's son still lived. “He sent me and Gid instead.” Bending, she kissed the top of his balding head, ignoring the acrid scent of urine.

“Celeste! Ah, I've missed you, lass.” He tried to sit up, but the act of speaking seemed to have exhausted him, and there was a strident wheeze to his breathing that she didn't care for in the least as he sagged back to the bed. “And the hornhead, too?”

“None other, Spivey,” Gideon rumbled, one massive hand taking the one that reached out, gentle as it closed around the gnarled fingers. “Little Mary treating you right?”

“If you call no rum and bedtime at sunset right,” Spivey groused. “This is no life for a sailor! Tell Daniel I'm ready to come back on duty!” Another painful conversation they had each time they visited; each time before, they'd had to tell him no.

“Let's have a look at you, then, old fellow,” Brannigan said, setting his bag to the floor and opening it. “Gideon, can you assist him to the chair?”

“And who are you calling old, you relic?” Spivey demanded. “I can make it myself!” But he didn't struggle when Gideon drew the quilt back and lifted him from the bed to the chair that sat against the opposite wall. Celeste sucked in a breath: his arms and legs had dwindled to little more than sticks, with melons at the knees and elbows. She likely could have lifted him.

Giving him his dignity, Celeste kept her back turned as Brannigan examined him and changed him out of his soiled clothes. The bed was indeed wet, so she stripped the sheets and pulled off the oilcloth-backed pad that protected the mattress, rolling it up and setting it beside the door, retrieving another from the closet and making the bed back up with quick efficiency.

Spivey kept up a steady stream of complaints about the bed, the food (though he ate readily enough when Gideon fed him), the boredom, occasionally interspersed with a ribald recollection or joke, but the words began to slow and slur, then ceased entirely as he slipped into one of his vague periods: eyes dull, mouth ajar, body slack. He might remain that way for a few seconds, a few hours or the better part of a day, and when he emerged, it would be even odds as to whether his mind was in the present or visiting some long ago port of call.

“Well?” Celeste asked Brannigan quietly.

The healer shook his head somberly. “A week, maybe a bit more,” he stated. “Or maybe less. His heart's giving out, and he's got fluid on his lungs.”

She considered this. “We can keep him comfortable?”

“At least as comfortable there as here,” Brannigan agreed. “I can give him something to help him breathe a bit easier, but the real damage was done five years ago, and there's not a damn thing that I can do to reverse it.” His frustration at the admission was plain; Oliver Brannigan was second to none as a healer, but sometimes even that was not enough, and he hated losing as much as Celeste did.

She med Gideon's eyes, and her first mate nodded. “All right, then,” she said, decision made. “Go let Little Mary know, and I'll get his things packed.”

Not that there was much to be packed; most of it was stowed in the sea chest that he'd brought with him: keepsakes from ports around Thedas and mementos from his younger days. A deck of cards with naked women drawn on them; a couple of dog-eared journals; a Rivaini fertility talisman; a battered spyglass; a dried wreath of flowers. But the quilt was one that he'd once told her that his mother had made for him when he first went to sea, and she folded it carefully, laying it atop the rest and closing the lid.

The faint snick of the latch clicking home was enough to startle Spivey awake. “Brannigan?” he asked querulously, staring around with sightless eyes, hands gripping feebly at the arms of the chair.

“He'll be right back,” Celeste assured him, but his expression screwed into bafflement.

“Celeste? But – but we're waiting for Quentin, aren't we? Or was it Daniel? I can't – can't -”

“It's all right,” she soothed him, crouching beside the chair and wrapping her arms around his shoulders as tears began to roll from his eyes. “It's all right, Spivey. We're bringing you home.”

Celeste Monroe

Shenaniginstigator In Chief
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
“Captain! Captain, might I have a word with you?”

Celeste glanced over her shoulder. “Go on,” she told Gideon and Brannigan, leaving them to take Spivey to the Wicked Grace while she turned to meet the hurried advance of the earnest faced young woman in Chantry robes.

Little Mary had already intercepted her. “I’ve told you you’re not welcome here!” she growled in a tone that had backed down men more than twice her size, but the Sister didn't flinch. Exceptionally brave or exceptionally stupid; time would tell.

“You have made it more than clear that the Maker’s light is not welcome in your establishment,” the priest replied in a patronizing tone, “but that poor soul is no longer in your establishment, and does not appear to be long for this world. It is my duty to try to make him see reason. He must have a proper pyre once he has died.”

Oh. That one. Celeste exchanged a glance with Mary, who looked ready to light a pyre on the spot, then turned to the prig. “I take it that you’ve never spent much time around sailors, Sister …?” she asked mildly, deciding to give her a sporting chance. Or at least, the illusion of one.

“Sister Amelia,” the woman supplied readily. She was pretty enough, with fair skin, blue eyes and wisps of blonde hair escaping from beneath her headdress, but the appeal was somewhat mitigated by the prissy moue of her rosebud mouth. “I was born and raised in South Reach, but the Chantry saw fit to assign me to spread the Chant of Light here,” she sniffed with a martyred expression.

“Your devotion to duty is admirable,” Celeste replied, playing out the line a bit more, “but I’m sure that Little Mary has explained to you that sailors as a group are not fond of fire?” A fire at sea, with everything from the canvas sails to the pitch-smeared planks available as fuel, was the nightmare of nearly every seaman. You had two choices: burn or abandon ship and take your chances in the open ocean. Either was near certain death.

“I have,” Mary said, glowering at Amelia. “Repeatedly.”

“She has,” the priest agreed, ”but such foolish superstitions should not be allowed to supersede the need to properly deliver a deceased soul to the Maker’s embrace.”

Foolish superstitions? Oh, game most definitely on. “Proper by whose estimation?” Celeste shot back, her affable tone growing brisk. “Exactly where in the Chant of Light does it require a pyre for the dead?”

The priest gaped at her. “It is not explicitly commanded,” she responded at last, trying for a lecturing tone, “but it is a centuries old tradition intended to honor the memory of the Maker’s Bride and her sacrifice.”

“Makes sense, I suppose,” Celeste mused, “but if you’re following that logic, why wait until they’re dead?”

“I … beg your pardon?” Amelia said, blinking and looking uncertain.

“Andraste was lit up while she was alive, wasn’t she?” Celeste replied. “If it was good enough for her, it ought to be good enough for those honoring her memory. Tie ‘em up, toss ‘em on the woodpile, and once the flames are good and hot, have somebody run ‘em through with a sword.” The delivery was accompanied by a spirited pantomime that had the sister shrinking back in horror. “That’s the way it went, right? First the fire, then the sword, then cook to well done, a sweet aroma in the nostrils of the Maker, blah, blah, blah?” Celeste shrugged. “Personally, I prefer my meat medium rare, at most, but He’s the Maker, so who’s going to tell Him that well done is much too dry?”

“Blasphemy!” Amelia was staring at her as though she’d sprouted another head, and a bit of a crowd was gathering to watch the fun. “You dare to mock holy Andraste and our Creator?”

“Who’s mocking?” Celeste inquired. “I’m just trying to get my facts straight. You do know that the Imperial Chantry in Tevinter has its own version of how things went, don’t you?”

“Those charlatans are not to be trusted!” Amelia countered indignantly. “They have annointed a man as their Divine!”

“Yes, but isn’t that another thing that the Chant of Light isn’t exactly specific on?” Celeste wanted to know. “I’ve got the perfect solution to that one, at least: what if your Divine and their Divine hooked up and had a kid? Wouldn’t that be the true Divine?”

“Hooked up and had a …” Sister Amelia’s mouth worked soundlessly, looking decidedly like a gaffed fish. “Most Holy Beatrix III is nearly eighty!” she managed in a strangled voice.

“Well, that would be proof of divine intervention, then, wouldn’t it?” Celeste countered.

Amelia’s face went pale, then red, then pale again, and the sound that escaped her open mouth was not unlike a teapot building toward full steam. “You …. you …. YOU…”

“Excuse me. Excuse me. Let me through, please. Sister Amelia, what seems to be the –" The older woman in slightly more elaborate Chantry robes paused, her quizzical expression shifting to resigned comprehension as her gaze moved from Amelia to Celeste. “Oh. It’s you.”

“Revered Mother Edith, good to see you again,” Celeste greeted her cheerfully. “Sister Amelia and I were just getting better acquainted. Nice girl, though she seems a bit high strung for this area.” Gwaren was not for the faint of heart or the easily offended, neither of which described its Revered Mother. Edith towered over her subordinate, and rumor had it that she’d been a logger before taking her vows. She was slowing down with age, though, and Celeste was almost positive that she could outmaneuver her if she decided to put her old skills to use.

Only almost, mind you, but that was what made it fun.

The Revered Mother regarded her for a long moment, and Celeste was sure that she could hear an axe being sharpened, but then Edith heaved a sigh. “So it seems,” she admitted ruefully, putting a supporting hand under Amelia’s elbow. “Come along, Sister Amelia; let’s get you back to the Chantry and let you lie down for a bit.” She glanced to Little Mary. “I hope her zeal has not made her overly intrusive.”

Mary snorted, a hint of humor gleaming in her eyes. She and Edith had been friends (and drinking buddies) for a good many years. “You're welcome to send someone to share the Chant, but tell them to leave talk of pyres at the door.”

Edith nodded. “Understood. Come along, Sister Amelia.”

“But Revered Mother,” Amelia whimpered. “She said … she said ...”

“I know, child,” Edith replied calmly, casting a final reproving look back at Celeste. “Believe me, I know.”

“That was fun,” Celeste remarked to no one in particular as the onlookers began to disperse.

“I do miss having you around, girl,” Mary told her affectionately. “When are you going to move down here and help me run this place?”

“When you figure out how to keep winter from coming,” Celeste replied, shuddering at the thought. Ass deep snow, ice building up in the rigging, winds that cut like a knife … no thank you. “How long has Sister Prig been stirring up shit?”

“A couple of months,” Mary replied with a grimace. “I don't think she's going to last, or maybe I'm just hoping she won't. I've tried, Edith's tried, but she refuses to give up on the damned pyres. She's almost triggered a mutiny a couple of times, going on like that.”

“Well, if that didn't run her off, nothing is likely to,” Celeste observed smugly.

“True enough,” Little Mary conceded. “Though I'll admit to expecting you to catch a lightning bolt somewhere around the medium rare versus well done part.”

“The Maker knows I'm joking,” Celeste tossed off easily. “And I'm far too entertaining to smite.” She fished a silver from her pocket and flipped it end over end into Mary's waiting hand. “Buy Edith a drink for me if I don't see her again this trip.” The Revered Mother was a reasonably good sport, and anybody stuck with Sister Prig could use a drink. Or three.

“I'll do that,” Mary promised. “Give Spivey a hug for me before …” She trailed off sadly. None of the stories at the Anchorage had happy endings, but Little Mary still held her course.

“I will,” Celeste told her. “Can you have his trunk delivered to the ship?”

“By sunset,” she replied, “and drop back by when you get the chance. Got something I want you to take a look at.”

“Oh?” Something in the other woman's tone piqued Celeste's interest, but Mary shook her head.

“It'll keep. Take care of Spivey first.”

“Will do.” Shelving her curiosity, Celeste turned and made her way toward the docks. If Mary said something would keep, it would keep, and she had a burial at sea to prepare for.