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I Like Big Boats, I Cannot Lie [Closed]

Isabela

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#1
[[OOC: 22nd Firstfall, evening]] Celeste Monroe

Isabela was bored. This was a dangerous state of affairs.

It wasn’t as though the coin hadn’t been flowing recently. In fact she’d been doing pretty well for herself, but almost legitimately. She was introducing people to each other and they were paying her a commission for the new contact, and that was enough to float on top of the roiling shitstorm that was this city. She hadn’t even been out on an adventure with Josc lately. It was starting to get tedious, and when Isabela was bored, she made her own fun. But throughout today, she hadn’t been able to concentrate on much, and most of her usual playmates didn’t come by the Hanged Man.

She’d been sitting in a corner, boots up on the table, a few glasses of rum in and halfway through a game of bloody solitaire when she decided enough was enough. If fun wasn’t going to come to her, she was going to go find it, and no matter which seaside town you happened to be in, you could usually count on finding it down by the docks. She’d been avoiding the area ever since the qunari arrived – that and she didn’t entirely trust herself not to attempt to make off with a ship on her own, no matter how disastrous that might end. But she was willing to take the risk this evening.

Walking down there after dark was a bit risky, but after gleefully doling out a couple of black eyes and one pommel to the teeth (not hers, obviously), the shadowy denizens of Kirkwall obviously decided she wasn’t worth the effort and left her alone. She’d taken along a couple of bottles of rum, as a present, and was swigging out of one as she put a little more sway in her step than usual on the way to the quay.

There she was. The Wicked Grace was a beautiful ship, even denuded as she was of masts right now. Isabela raised up both bottles and hollered as she reached the gangplank. “Ahoy! You’re being boarded! Bring out your captain!”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#2
“Ahoy! You’re being boarded! Bring out your captain!”

Isabela’s bellow was audible all the way to said captain’s cabin, and was most welcomed by the lone occupant. Just that afternoon, a messenger had arrived with a note from the shipwright bearing the unwelcome news that the ship bearing the replacement masts for the Wicked Grace had been sunk in yet another Maker-damned storm. Replacements for the replacements would be brought overland, which would take still more time … which meant that they would be enjoying the dubious charms of the City of Chains for at least another fucking month.

Nicolette had been sympathetic and offered to stay, but she had a paying gig at a decent tavern that night, and Celeste hadn’t wanted her lover to give up the opportunity to do what she loved and make some good coin in the process just to watch her mope. She’d actually been considering going to watch, because the minstrel took such joy in performing that invariably lifted Celeste’s spirit. But the armchair in her cabin had been a bit too comfortable, and the bottle of whiskey just a bit too handy, and she had settled in for a sedentary evening of alcohol-assisted self pity when the pirate made her appearance.

She pushed herself out of the chair, keeping hold of the neck of the bottle, and was met by Bailey at the door, grinning ear to ear.

“Cap’n -”

“I heard.” She ducked past him, striding (with only a faint list to port) to the gangplank, giving a whoop when she saw what Isabela had brought. “You read my mind!” she called back, lifting up the whiskey triumphantly. “Time for a drink!”

“I’ll start on the hangover remedy,” she heard Brannigan mutter to Kalindra. Said remedy was a thick sludge of a concoction that tasted like fish guts strained through a dirty sock, but it could cure a hangover with one glass. If he made it, he’d make sure that she drank it, so she might as well try for a hangover that would make the taste worth it. She snatched the open bottle of rum from Isabela as soon as she set foot on deck, giving her the whiskey in exchange and taking a long pull. “Who’s on watch?” she wanted to know.

“I am.” Kalindra was regarding her with an expression of amused resignation.

“No booze for you, then.” Celeste tossed the rum to Baliey. “Stubby, trot out some grub! Tonight we eat, drink, and make merry, because tomorrow … we are still fucking stuck here!”

“Aye-aye, cap’n.” Tucking his crutch under one arm, the cook headed for the galley.
 

Isabela

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#3
A few familiar heads popped over the railings like rabbits out of a burrow, wearing a variety of expressions ranging from amusement to the exasperation that accompanies just knowing that somebody was going to be throwing up later. Isabela grinned and started making her way up the gangplank, throwing a quick wink at Piotr as per her usual custom. And as usual, he responded by looking equally pleased and terrified before scooting over to another area of the deck to play with his mop.

Celeste made an appearance a few moments later, beaming. “You read my mind! Time for a drink!”

By the time Isabela made it up to deck level, Brannigan was already making arrangements to help them recover the next day, and they’d swapped bottles. The whiskey sat on top of the rum like a pair of badly-matched lovers, but it had exactly the desired affect and the fumes rolled up from her stomach to cause the first pleasant cloud in her brain. In the meantime, Kali pulled the short straw for watch. “No booze for you, then. Stubby, trot out some grub! Tonight we eat, drink, and make merry, because tomorrow…we are still fucking stuck here!”

The cook ambled off towards the kitchens and Isabela slunk an arm around Celeste’s shoulders. “To being fucking stuck here!” She clanked her bottle against the one in Bailey’s hand, then passed the whiskey back to Celeste while keeping a firm grip on the rum, knocking back a few long swallows. “And being done with it soon!”

Although not that soon, apparently. The walk down to the docks had kept her sober enough to notice that there were not several long poles lying in wait on the quay, ready to be painstakingly installed on the Grace. Ah, balls. For whatever reason, the masts had not shown up, otherwise Celeste would be over the moon right now. No wonder she’d wanted a drink as badly as Isabela had.

Well, no time like the present! “Where’s that minstrel of yours? I think we need some loud music to go with this stuff.”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#4
The rum barreled its way down Celeste’s throat, hitting the whiskey in her belly and churning up a right proper storm in her blood that washed the notion of an evening of quiet inebriation right over the side. This was more like it!

“To being fucking stuck here!” Isabela proclaimed, dropping an arm around Celeste’s shoulders as bottles changed hands and more bottles began appearing. Drinking on board was generally kept on the down low unless the captain declared a shindig … which she was damn well doing. “And being done with it soon!”

“Not soon enough!” Celeste countered, adding another healthy swig of whiskey to the heady brew swirling in her gut and passing the bottle off to Piotr, who regarded her with big green eyes and took a hesitant drink, then a larger one. It wasn’t Daniel’s favorite; that one was not for this kind of drinking, but she didn’t keep rotgut in her private stocks.

A clay jug was slapped into her hand. She grinned at Sorcha and tipped it up, giving an approving hum at the taste of the mead within. “Try this. Good stuff.” She passed it to Isabela.

“Where’s that minstrel of yours?” the pirate demanded. “I think we need some loud music to go with this stuff.”

None of the crew batted an eye at hearing Nicolette referred to as hers; neither did Celeste, though admittedly, the growing buzz she was cultivating wasn’t leaving a lot of room for introspection.

“She’s got honest work tonight, poor girl,” she responded, shaking her head in commiseration. “We’ll have to make our own loud music.”

“Oh, Maker,” she heard Kalindra mutter, not without reason. The captain’s tone deafness was legendary, and most times she contented herself with keeping her voice low and blending with more able singers. Tonight was not most times, however, and she snatched up another bottle, took a drink (the rum again), opened her mouth and bawled out, utterly and unashamedly off-key:

“They say life has its ups and downs.
“That really now is quite profound.
“I’d like to push the capstan round,

“But it’s pump me boys before we drown!”

Nordstrom leaned up against the rail with his squeezebox, and the rest of the crew joined in with gusto on the chorus:

“Pump me boys, pump her dry,
“Down to the Void and up to the sky
“Bend your back and break your bones
“We’re just a thousand miles from home.” *


(( * - Pump Her Dry))
 

Isabela

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#5
A little more sober, Isabela might have taken the opportunity to do some teasing. She’d had an opportunity to watch Celeste and her latest playmate on a few occasions, and two things were obvious; Celeste was more than a little sweet on the minstrel, and the minstrel was head over heels for Celeste. But that might lead to a conversation about feelings, and Isabela didn’t want to be discussing or feeling anything other than getting so riotously drunk this evening that she woke up and took twenty minutes to work out where she was. And there was nothing like a little music to work up a drinking appetite.

Unfortunately, Nicolette wasn’t around to indulge them at the moment. But Celeste was happy to supply, even if the rest of the crew might consider it a pretty poor substitute. Celeste’s inability to sing was so legendary that Isabela had once suggested that if the Wicked Grace were ever to run up against sirens, they could put Celeste at the bow and have her sing in response. That would send the slippery little sailor-drowners running. Or swimming. Whatever. Daniel had been present for that conversation, and he’d laughed so hard that Isabela wouldn’t have been surprised if Celeste had made him sleep on the floor for a week.

Nonetheless, music was music, however bad it was, and Celeste had volume. Isabela added her own voice to the other captain’s, successful scaring a few gulls from the rigging as they launched into ‘Pump Her Dry.’

“The ocean we all do adore
So come on lads let−s pump some more
Don−t worry if you−re stiff and sore

I−m sure we−ve pumped this bit before!”

Isabela was on her feet again, and decided to encourage everybody to dance. This was done by slamming her hip against Celeste’s repeatedly, trying to shift her, before grabbing Kali with the hand not holding the bottle and leading her on a jig around the deck. Kali took it well, as Isabela knew she would. Celeste’s crew were almost all easy-going sorts, and it made it easier not to think about the people she’d lost when the Siren got battered.

Except that stray thought had occurred. Refusing to let even a shred of maudlin mood take her, Isabela dumped some more whiskey – or rum? Either way she was getting through it quick – and the burn successfully distracted her. “C’mon, Celeste! Move your ass!”
 
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Celeste Monroe

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#6
Just as well that Nicolette was not about. Celeste didn’t think that her lover had heard her actually sing yet, and it just might be enough to send the honey-voiced minstrel running in horror. Isabela had a decent voice, but she wasn’t overly concerned with anything besides loud right now. Fortunately, the crew’s singing covered up the worst of their sins; Dax had a decent baritone and took over on the next verse”

“The captain’s daughter I suppose
“Could be called a Kirkwall Rose
“What you think when I propose

“The pox she gave to me a dose?”

They all whooped into the chorus and Bela snagged Kalindra for a dance, tipping the bottle that she held back far enough to make it clear that it was close to running dry. “C’mon, Celeste!” she bawled as Sorcha and Bailey joined them. “Move your ass!”

“Somebody’s got to show you how!” Celeste shot back, snagging Piotr, whose eyes were big as saucers. This was the first time they’d all cut loose in front of him, but he followed suit gamely and proved a fair dancer. A bottle hit his hand mid-spin; he took a drink, but a look of almost comical dismay washed across his face when Celeste reached for it.

“Empty?” He nodded, but before he could apologize, she had snatched it from him and pitched it over the rail, slung an arm round his neck and planted a kiss on his forehead. “Plenty more where that came from, boyo!” she announced with a grin before roaring, “More booze!” Dax and Bailey vanished in the direction of their berths, and Celeste handed Piotr off to make her unsteady way back to her own cabin, pausing to snag a handful from the tray of sausage and cheese that Stubby had set atop a barrel, stuffing her face as she careened onward. Below, she bypassed the wines, coming up with three more bottles: more whiskey, more rum and -

“Tequila!” she crowed triumphantly, holding the hefty clay jug high. Some of her best nights of bad decisions had begun with the Antivan spirit, as evidenced by the fact that she generally had to have said decisions relayed to her the morning after by eyewitnesses. Torgun took the whiskey (no, not Daniel’s favorite; that one wasn’t for swilling) and Sorcha claimed the rum, leaving Celeste with her prize, and she wasted no time in breaking the clay seal. After all, it wasn’t as though she had to be up and ready to sail the next morning, right? She had a whole month to sober up.

A whole sodding month.

She tipped the jug back, letting the fiery golden liquid roll down her throat and join the party sloshing in her belly. Dax and Bailey were back with their own stashes, and Stubby had laid out a spread of drinking food: easy to eat with hands alone. Meat bread had joined the sausage and cheese, and from the smell emanating from the galley, fried fish balls would be soon making an appearance. Life was good ... or it would be in a few more swallows, and Celeste joined in the final chorus with gusto:

“Bend your back and break your bones
“We’re just a thousand miles from home.”


“Your turn!” she challenged Isabela, passing her the tequila. The pirate knew every drinking song worth singing, and wasn’t afraid to make up her own lyrics to suit any occasion.
 

Isabela

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#7
Celeste was up in seconds and in order to show Isabela how to move her ass (like she needed a demonstration for that) enlisted poor, pop-eyed Piotr. Who looked even more pop-eyed after manfully trying a slug of whatever Celeste had handed him, and then panicked again after realising he was about to hand his captain – horror of horrors! – an empty bottle.

“Plenty more where that came from, boyo!” Celeste gifted him with a kiss on the forehead that he’d probably be writing about in his diary before retiring to his hammock, and then demanded more booze. Before going to get some herself. Isabela remained on deck to pull Piotr into a spinning circle with her and Kali, still stamping time to the song Celeste had set off. The stars shone overhead and the moon was glimmering off the water, boots thudding on the deck barely muffled the soft splash of the waves and a shimmery golden warmth was stealing its way through Isabela’s veins.

Maker’s balls she hadn’t felt so good in ages without stabbing somebody.

Celeste reappeared, bellowing triumphantly. “Tequila!”

“Yes!” Isabela roared, letting go of Piotr and Kali. The momentum sent all three of them sprawling across the deck but Isabela was back on her feet with her usual cat-like reflexes, wending her way straight to her friend for a drop of that sweet Antivan fire. After stuffing both cheeks with some sausage and cheese, of course. If she passed out too soon it’d ruin all the fun.

Spitting crumbs, she joined in with the last verse and then took the tequila from Celeste, who demanded another song. Isabela took a long swallow, felt the liquid burn the entire inside of her skull, and laughed as she kicked her foot in rhythm against the floor.

“Well tell me crew what do I see?
A lusty strong lad fit for me!
Bring him to my berth boys and we’ll all join in
A crew works best when together they all sin!

Round and round the horn we go
Sometimes fast and sometime slow
Up and over the falls we go

And soaking wet we’ll come back for another show!”

It was one of hers, and it wasn’t one of her best, but the crew seemed to appreciate it, although sadly she doubted there would be any spontaneous orgies caused by it. The rest of the verses were of equally dubious lyrical ability, but the crew seemed to be getting into the swing of it when Isabela was distracted by the appearance of a try of – “Fish balls!”

She darted over to the cloth Sorcha had laid down and grabbed a handful. “Mmm. Celeste. You know mermaids? Now, they’re pretty, but a little useless in some ways. But what about reverse mermaids or mermen? If you were at sea, long enough, feeling a little desperate, do you think you’d try some-” unattractive sniggering followed. “Fish balls?”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#8
The tequila was enough of a distraction that Isabela lost her grip on Kali and Piotr’s hands mid-swing, sending all three tumbling asses over elbows across the deck. Heedless of the other two, the pirate popped back to her feet and made straight - more or less - for the food, shoving her mouth full and spraying the deck with bits of cheese and sausage as they bellowed their way through the last lines. She swayed over to Celeste, grabbing the jug and tipping it high, drinking deep before breaking into a raucous song that had to be one of her own creations and slamming her foot into the deck in a general approximation of time (she was only off by half a beat or so).

The crew kept time with claps and stomps, and the chorus was easy enough to pick up, but before Bela could launch into a second verse, she got distracted by more food.

“Fish balls!” she crowed, darting to the tray and snatching up a bunch. Celeste followed, snagging three and juggling them to let them cool (she only dropped one every other pass or so, but that probably helped cool them faster) before popping one in her mouth. Flaky cod inside, crispy batter outside and plenty of grease to soak up the booze. Perfect.

Isabela hummed her approval as she ate, a smirk playing about her lips. “You know mermaids? Now, they’re pretty, but a little useless in some ways. But what about reverse mermaids or mermen? If you were at sea, long enough, feeling a little desperate, do you think you’d try some-” Even half drunk, the crew knew where this was going, hooting and hollering like the glorious hooligans that they were in the loaded moment before she uttered the words, “Fish balls?”

“And who’s to say I haven’t already?” Celeste shot back, waggling her eyebrows, tossing a pair of said balls into her mouth and snatching back the tequila to wash them down before belting out her own impromptu verse that might have been to the same tune that the pirate had sung … if the listener was drunk enough.

“Well tell me crew what is that sound?
Why, it’s the merfolk gathered ‘round!
You take the maids and I’ll take the men
And we’ll show them how the landfolk sin!”


Judging from the shouts rising further along the docks, not all of their neighbors had drunk enough to appreciate the sheer genius on display, but Celeste didn’t give a damn. Inspiration had struck, and she rolled on:

“Oh, I had me a merman one stormy night
All through the gale ‘til the morning light.
But I’ll never do it again, my lads.
The sex was great, but he gave me crabs!”
 

Isabela

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#9
Celeste might have the worst singing voice this side of a druffalo’s arse, but she more than made up for it with her skills as a lyricist. She took Isabela’s interrupted song and worked the mermen into it, and Maker help her if Isabela wasn’t laughing so hard she thought she might lose a lung. By the time Celeste reached the final line of her contribution, Isabela was wheezing. To clear her throat she grabbed another swig of the tequila, which mysteriously did not help much. When she was able to straighten up again she applauded, then carried it on.

“And I had me a mermaid one sunny day
She explored each crevice of my bay
And I’d do it another dozen times my girls,

For just how well she polished my pearl!”

Piotr was now so red his head might explode – but the lad was grinning, albeit shyly. In Isabela’s inebriated state she found it quite sweet, and she slung an arm around his neck. “Try some of this, sweetheart. Put some hairs on your chest.”

“He needs a few below decks as well,” Sorcha called over with a raucous burst of laughter, clearly on her way to a close relationship with the floor. It was amazing how comfortable decking could be after a drink or eight. Isabela was nowhere near considering it yet, though. The night was still young! And there were people to corrupt.

Piotr gamely took a mouthful or two of tequila and instantly looked as though he regretted it, but thankfully for his reputation and her blouse he didn’t immediately throw up everywhere. Isabela slapped him on the back. “Good lad!”

More food seemed like it would be a good idea. Isabela scarfed down a few miscellaneous mouthfuls before sauntering her way over to Celeste and planting a kiss on her. “That’s for the song! Now. How about a wager or two? Knots and Shots! Bet my fingers are faster than yours." There were other ways to prove that but she didn't want to drag Celeste away from the fun when it could be shared with the crew for a bit longer, and she always did like showing off.
 
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Celeste Monroe

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#10
From the corner of her eye, Celeste saw Kali descending the gangplank on an intercept course with a couple of guards. Coin changed hands, and the guards did an about face and marched back up the docks, ignoring Isabela’s howls of laughter and her contribution to a song that it was a shame neither of them was going to remember in the morning. Maybe Kali would write it down.

Celeste hit the deck, one foot slamming against the boards as she rolled from side to side, braying like a damn donkey, and shit, did it feel good!

Then the pirate was pulling her up and giving her a kiss that was lightly spiced with sausage and fish balls. “That’s for the song!” she announced with satisfaction. “Now. How about a wager or two? Knots and Shots! Bet my fingers are faster than yours."

Oh, there were a variety of ways to test that claim, and Celeste gave her a wicked grin, rolled to her feet … and promptly sat back on her butt. “You’re on! Bring the rope!” Sorcha and Bailey darted off, and she rolled her eyes to Piotr, who was still clutching the bottle of tequila. “Ever done Knots and Shots?”

He shook his head, eyes huge. Celeste grabbed Bela’s hand and hauled herself to her feet. “You hold the booze,” she said, tapping him in the chest. “No fair drinking it all,” she admonished him. “They’ll bring us some ropes.” She flapped her hand in the direction Bailey and Sorcha had gone. “You’ll take turn calling different knots, and Bela and I have to tie them. Last one to tie it right has to take a shot. Got it?”

He swallowed and nodded, looking nervously at Bela. She grinned at him. “Play it right and she might let you practice your knots on her later,” she told him with a wink, and he blushed clear up the sides of his scalplock. He looked anything but fierce, but neither did he look afraid, and that was a good damn start for a kid who’d spent five years as a slave

“Ropes!” Sorcha came bounding back with ropes clutched in each hand, tossing a handful each to Celeste and Isabela. Behind her, Bailey had two shot glasses, the better to keep one - or both - of them from cheating.

“All right.” Celeste settled her ass against the rail, waited until Isabela had found a perch. “Fire at will!”

“Bowline!” Sorcha called out.

It was one of the first knots she’d learned as a child, and she could still hear the voice of the old sailor who’d taught her as her hands flew through the motions:

The sailor comes out of the hold, goes around the mast, back in the hold …

She finished and pulled it tight. Piece of cake, and Bela should have managed it with no trouble, too. A few shots down the hatch would change that.
 

Isabela

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#11
Celeste grinned, tried to get up, and fell back down again, prompting further hoots of laughter from Isabela. Her eyes were properly watering now and her feet drumming on the deck; lying back like this, she couldn’t see the dock and she could barely hear the sounds coming from the taverns along the quay. It was almost like she was at sea, and she wanted this sensation to last, dammit, which would involve more tequila, more games, until she forgot that this was all temporary.

Piotr was cordially invited to bring over more booze and had the game explained to him. “No fair drinking it all.”

“Although if he does, I’ll lay him myself. Fair reward for a mighty effort!”

Piotr looked in every direction but hers…but the corner of his mouth curled upwards. Ohhhh, he might be interested!

They’ll bring us some ropes. You’ll take turn calling different knots, and Bela and I have to tie them. Last one to tie it right has to take a shot. Got it?”

He nodded, blushing again, and then even more furiously as Celeste offered the option of practicing his knots on Isabela. “Only to see how fast I can wiggle out of them, darling.” Isabela shimmied her shoulders, setting off a brief quake in the Bay of Bosom. “You and me do this thing, we do it unfettered, alright?”

Even drunk, she hadn’t quite forgotten Piotr’s history. He shot her a grateful look, although it was pointed a few degrees south of her chin. Poor lad, he didn’t have the subtlety of a rock.

Sorcha returned with a pile of ropes, and the challenge was on. First was a bowline, one that no sailor worth anything didn’t know how to do, and both of them could do drunk, in their sleep, and hanging upside down. This was more about speed than ability.

If there was one thing Isabela would admit (although not out loud) it was this; Celeste was, technically, the better sailor. She’d been around ships all her life whereas Isabela had only been on her first one on the way to that prick’s home; she’d been a fast learner but Celeste had the edge on her in years of experience. They were both great at steering, fighting, and commanding a crew and Isabela didn’t think either of them would bow to the other on that one. But Celeste had known ships inside and out since a child and could do anything in seconds. Isabela lost out by a fraction, but a noticeable enough one that she took her shot without arguing.

Not that she minded, mind you. She slammed back the drink and passed the bottle back to Piotr, who – good man – took a tiny swig of his own. He was starting to look a bit flushed around the gills, and for different reasons than the one he’d had a few minutes ago. “Next!" She roared.

“Clovehitch!” Stubby this time. Cheeky bugger. It was impossible to do a clovehitch without a rail, so she and Celeste had to scramble to the side to tie theirs off. Isabela, ever the fair player, decided to go for the same section as Celeste so their limbs got in the way of each other. Of course, that meant Celeste was slowing her down as much as she was her.

This plan hadn’t gone very well.

Nonetheless, she thought she won this time. “My round!”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#12
Isabela had been through some dark years, but she had left them behind, and Celeste had long maintained that the Queen of the Eastern Seas kept a heart of gold well hidden beneath the fitted chemise. She proved it now, miming freeing herself from ropes with a jiggle that made Piotr’s eyes pop.

“You and me do this thing, we do it unfettered, alright?”

Good woman; she hadn’t forgotten what Celeste had told her of the lad’s history. He certainly wouldn’t be forgetting it any time soon, though he’d largely lost the whipped dog look that had been his default those first weeks. He gave Bela a bashfully eager smile now, though his eyes remained riveted to the show going on at bodice level … which was admittedly worth appreciating. How the Rivaini was as agile as she was with such impressive … tracts of land was a mystery, but she’d proved it regularly on both sides of the sheets.

The first round went to Celeste, and she knew quite well that in a head to head contest, she had the edge. She could remember teaching Naishe most of them herself. But she had been fearsomely determined even then, hellbound to never need to depend upon anyone ever again, and that had not changed in the least. She’d picked up everything she was taught, gathering knowledge and skill like a dragon hoarding treasure. The edge would have been a slim one, and the booze complicated things … which was after all the whole point.

“Clovehitch!” Stubby called cheerfully, and Celeste dove for the near rail, not terribly surprised when her opponent chose the same direction.

“My round!” Bela crowed.

“That’s because your left tit was in my right eye,” Celeste retorted as she righted herself, not really complaining. There were definitely worse ways to lose a bet, and Celeste tossed back her shot with gusto.

The next few knots went quickly, victories accruing on both sides (and maybe Celeste lost one or two on purpose, because getting drunk was after all the whole point), and the process taking progressively longer as the level in the tequila jug dropped.

“Carrick bend!”

“Bitch!” Celeste screeched at Kali, though she was laughing, because that one required two ropes, and her eyes were currently insisting that they saw four. She screwed her eyes shut and opened them again. Better, and she went to work: over, under, through and - “Done!” she announced, pulling tight, then, “Sonuvabitch!” when the knot slipped, leaving her with one - no, two again, dammit - ropes hanging loose in each hand while her crew laughed their asses off.

“Double shot for that one, Cap’n,” Dax reminded her. Celeste grinned and complied, realizing only after she was done that she hadn’t even confirmed that Bela had lost. Fuck it. Getting drunk was, after all, the whole sodding point, and in that, she was succeeding quite splendidly.
 

Isabela

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#13
It was unusual to feel Celeste’s face squashed against her breast from this angle, and Isabela probably didn’t help the other captain’s situation by roaring with laughter. Celeste took her loss with honour (and a small grumble), and tossed back the shot quickly. The rest of the crew were in on this now, bawling names, laying wagers on who would win – or who would hit the deck before the other one. Reality took an interestingly wobbly quality and while Isabela would normally be overjoyed to see two of Celeste – or two and a half, depending on where her vision was settling – it was messing a bit with her ability to tie the knots.

They finally ended it at the carrick bend when Celeste’s usually flawless manual dexterity failed her altogether and the two ropes slipped apart easier than a virgin’s first attempt at bondage. Isabela laughed, and held up her effort, which was decidedly not the right knot. It looked like two snakes had twisted themselves together several times and got stuck, but it had held, and that was the important thing, though. Never a poor winner (except when playing against an asshole), Isabela joined Celeste in a double shot and felt the world slide a few more inches to the left.

Oh, that was her doing that. She was leaning on her elbow on the deck, unsure when she had migrated to the floor, and shut one eye as she worked out which part was down in order to lever herself upright again.

As she did, something wavered across her gaze. A mast. Two masts. She grabbed Celeste’s arm and shook it. “Look. Look, Celeste. Two masts. That’s two more than you have.”

She wriggled her way over to the railing and peered at the ship that had entered her awareness. It was barely more than a boat, but it was anchored, it was unattended, it lay only a bit out into the dock, and it would only take a couple of people to sail it. She beamed. “Celeste! S’scow! We can get out of here tonight!”

There was always a small rowing boat tied up somewhere on the docks, and they could use that. The people who owned it wouldn’t mind. Or they would, but she and Celeste would be long gone by then. She tugged at the captain, heading towards the gangplank, and suddenly Kali loomed up in her vision. She was saying something discouraging.

Isabela simply flopped past her, rubbery limbs making it difficult for the other woman to get a grip, and then went ass over tit down the gangplank. She landed at the bottom with a bellow of laughter. “ Get down here, we’ve got a ship to steal!”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#14
Bela’s Carrick bend looked like two octopuses - octopi? Whatever - shagging, but it held, which technically made her the winner … but she swiped the bottle as soon as Celeste was done with it - and when had they switched from tequila to whiskey? - and chugged her own double shot, ending up flat on the deck in the process. Because that’s what friends did. It was pretty comfortable down here, and Celeste closed her eyes; the booze-induced wobbles magnified the faint rocking of the ship at dock to the point where she could almost imagine that she was back at sea -

“Look.” Isabela, yanking on her arm and pointing out into the harbor. “Look, Celeste. Two masts. That’s two more than you have.”

“Fuck you very much for reminding me,” Celeste groaned, opening her eyes and staring up into the gaping vacancies overhead that should contain two masts and full rigging. She rolled over as the pirate flop-crawled to the rail, squinting to try to bring her vision together. It did indeed have two masts - but did that mean that it really only had one? Shit, now it had four. Maybe if she averaged it? Four plus two plus one divided by -

“Celeste!” Isabela’s face was blazing with joy. “S’scow! We can get out of here tonight!”

Tonight? On that? That … was a fucking brilliant idea!

“Oh, no. No, no, no.” Kali tried for an intercept, but Bela slipped by her like a greased seal and tumbled out of sight down the gangplank. Mildly alarmed, Celeste reared up, waiting for a splash, but none came, and a moment later a roar of laughter rose up.

“Get down here, we’ve got a ship to steal!”

‘Ship’ and ‘steal’ were the magic words that brought Celeste surging to her feet. She took two unsteady steps forward, realized she was pointed the wrong way and did an about face that nearly took down Piotr.

“Captain.” Kali, looking determined. All three of her. “You can’t just -” Celeste grabbed the middle one, spun about with her on deck a few times, then used the momentum to twirl herself free, careening down the gangplank and landing on top of Isabela.

“Maker's balls. Take this to the guard, tell them we’ll make sure everything is returned -”

“But I wanna watch!” Sorcha, pouting.

“NOW!” Kali didn’t roar often, and another time, Celeste might have been tempted to look and see what had caused it. At the moment, however, she had a mission, and she grabbed one of the pilings to pull herself to her feet, then held out a hand to Isabela. The middle one.

“Come on, woman. Let’s get you a ship!”

Because that was what friends did, dammit!
 

Isabela

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#15
The cobbles on the dock looked different this close up. All pitted and scarred. Isabela noticed that the mortar in between was a bit sparkly. What was in it? Glass? She ran a fingertip over the rough mineral, previous thought about finally getting a ship completely forgotten for a moment as she was absorbed by the strange shiny material –

Right until Celeste landed smack on top of her, driving all the breath out her lungs with a whoosh. Isabela started laughing again, which was difficult to do with no air, so what came out was a sort of frantic wheezing. When she could speak, she swatted at Celeste.

“You know the rule! I’m always on top!”

She thought she could hear Sorcha giggling. Sorcha was good people. A fun person. Not like Kali who was doing her best impression of a general under fire. Kali was usually more fun. Everyone on the crew was fun. Where was Dax? They could use his perfectly toned backside on their new ship as well.

The weight on her back lifted, and Celeste’s hand wobbled into view. It was joined by a second, one which crossed with the other a few times and it took a bit of concentration, and one shut eye, for Isabela to decide which one was real and grab it. “Come on, woman. Let’s get you a ship!”

“Aye aye! And once we’ve got that, we can get another! We can make an entire fleet! There’s enough boats about.”

True, they were fishing boats. But from something something humble beginnings makes profit or words along those lines. She got upright (good), stayed on her feet (excellent), and sighted a rowboat lashed to the dock only a few feet away (best!) “There! We’ll take that over. S’fine, nobody’s watching it.”

There was, in fact, somebody watching it. Several somebodies. There was a lot of yelling and gesticulating going on from a man who had come running from the nearest tavern. He really needed a drink. Alcohol made everything so much better. Kali had somehow transported herself from deck to quay, talking too quickly for Isabela to follow, pressing something into the man’s hand. He stopped yelling but he didn’t look happy.

Isabela didn’t care. She was so close. “Fuck Castillion! Let’s see him try and catch up with this, in one of his heavy-bottomed tubs!”

It was one of the worst insults she could think of for a ship. Raiding ships were meant to be light in the water, enough to almost dance across the waves, at least until they were filled with plunder. Castillion got greedy and all his ships were massive, empty things waiting to be made pregnant with the spoils of every merchant ship from here to the harbour of Val Royeaux. But it meant he didn’t actually catch a lot of them, not on his own, without using the fleet to barricade them in.

All she needed was one ship, thank you very much, and she could live like a queen.

She rolled off the dock and landed in the boat, grinning as it bobbed heavily in the water. She’d missed that sensation. She pulled herself upright, arranged herself at the oar, and bellowed upwards. “Celeste get in here! Need you to row too!”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#16
Isabela cushioned Celeste’s landing nicely, the curves beneath her jiggling with the pirate’s laughter.

“You know the rule! I’m always on top!"

“Only when you earn it!” Celeste retorted, rolling off. Their trysts were never less than spirited, with the competitive natures that meant they’d never be able to share a ship long term keeping things lively. She’d been considering broaching the idea of a threesome to Nicolette, in fact, though the notion was currently sidelined by liquor and larceny.

“We can make an entire fleet!” Isabela roared, staggering to her feet. “There’s enough boats about.” Her eyes rolled in their sockets briefly before focusing unsteadily on a tiny skiff bobbing on the water beside the dock. “There! We’ll take that over. S’fine, nobody’s watching it.”

‘Nobody’ was being awfully loud as they headed for the tiny boat, but Kali took care of it, Piotr hovering behind with huge eyes.

“They’re gonna steal it?”

“No, no. Just … borrow it for a bit, that’s all.”

“What about the ship?

“They’ll never make it that far."

“Says you!” Celeste screeched indignantly. “Thatsh a pish -” She stopped, rolled her tongue in her mouth, tried again. “ - a piss poor way to talk about your sodding captain! You ought to know -”

“Celeste get in here!” Isabela’s shout brought her around mid-tirade. Where was she? There! In the boat! “Need you to row too!”

“Damn straight!” Shooting Kali a final triumphant look (that may have included a tongue stuck out), Celeste swaggered - or maybe staggered - to the edge of the dock and over. The dinghy rocked wildly, flirted with the idea of capsizing, then decided against it. “You two!” she called to Piotr and Dax. “Don’t jus’ stand there staring! Give us a push!”

Dax glanced at Piotr and shrugged, and both of them came over. “Be careful, Captain,” Piotr told her worriedly.

“Y’ can’t be careful when you’re running with this wench, boyo!” Celeste informed him with a grin, jabbing a thumb in the pirate's direction. “Best you remember that if you’re wanting to get below her decks! And give me that!” She snagged the bottle of whiskey from him as they bent to push the dinghy away from the dock, then struck a grand pose in the bow, bottle held high. “To the Queen of the Eastern Seas getting a ship!” she proclaimed at the top of her lungs, taking a drink and dropping back onto the seat beside Bela. Grabbing her oar, she gave an almighty pull, caught nothing but air and wound up on her back on the deck. “Who the fuck moved the water?”
 

Isabela

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#17
“Only when you earn it!”

Celeste was one of few people who could get away with challenging Isabela on that, and it was because she made the fight for dominance worthwhile. Men who pushed on it tended to think brute force was the answer, and that was a good way forward to a knee in the bollocks and the rest of the evening getting friendly with a sack of ice. Celeste knew where to tease and tickle and almost cause her to forget the battle of her own volition. Until she found Celeste’s special spots herself, that was. As she wriggled free, she wondered what the minstrel was like between the sheets. She had to be good at the very least. Celeste didn’t give out free rides.

But speaking of being thrown about a bit, there was a rowboat to steal! It was bobbing around in the water and Isabela had to close one eye to focus on it, but it was there, and she even landed in it. Once sure she wasn’t about to capsize, she bellowed for Celeste to join her. Celeste did, heavily, causing the boat to rock sharply for a moment. But they were both skilled hands even when blind drunk, and it didn’t take much to coax it back to steady. Celeste ordered her crew to give them a shove. The younger lad was wringing his hands.

“Be careful, Captain.”

“Y’ can’t be careful when you’re running with this wench, boyo!” Isabela gave him her best shark-like grin. There were many teeth on display. She’d made it clear that she could be approached, but he needed to do the walking; she liked her partners willing, thank you very much. “Best you remember that if you’re wanting to get below her decks! And give me that!”

Of course, they shouldn’t set off without provisions. Celeste now had a bottle in hand and gave a toast as they pushed away. “To the Queen of the Eastern Seas getting a ship!”

“Too sodding right, and at long sodding last!” Sure, it wouldn’t be much, but she could make it work. A couple of the old ‘I was hit by a storm and need help’ ploys, and she could get a much bigger ship. Men remained reliable in not asking questions when sufficiently distracted by tits in a wet tunic, until they had a sword at their necks.

She grabbed her oar, just as Celeste fell over beside her. “Who the fuck moved the water?”

“S’further down, sweetheart. You forgotten already? You need to dig deep down and really get in there. Otherwise you’re just skimming the surface and you might make some ripples but you won’t really get anywhere.”

It wasn’t a perfect innuendo but it still had her sniggering as she grabbed the oar, pulled back, and the boat started to move – way too far to starboard. “Get up your ass, Celeste! Need you to row or I’m just going to spin!”

She thought she could hear Dax chuckling. Cheeky git.
 

Celeste Monroe

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#18
Dax and Piotr gave them a shove, and they were off, Celeste bellowing a toast across the water, neither of them noticing Kali sneaking forward to loop a rope around a transom cleat just before they cleared the dock.

“Too sodding right, and at long sodding last!” Bela roared her agreement as Celeste dropped back onto the bench, grabbed an oar and promptly tipped backwards because some sick bastard had moved the surface of the water. Had to be.

“S’further down, sweetheart,” Isabella slurred at her with a lecherous smirk. “You forgotten already? You need to dig deep down and really get in there. Otherwise you’re just skimming the surface and you might make some ripples but you won’t really get anywhere.” Then, “Get up your ass, Celeste! Need you to row or I’m just going to spin!”

“What if they fall overboard? They could drown!”

“Those two? Pfft.” Celeste could hear Kalindra’s eyes rolling from here. “They’d have to be unconscious and tied to an anchor for that to happen.”

“Damn right, and don’ you forgeddit!” Celeste growled as she struggled back upright, plopping onto her seat with a defiant glare at her shipmate … all three of her. “An’ don’ you be tellin’ me how to handle my oarsh,” she declared, grabbing the whiskey bottle and taking another swig. “B’sides,” she added smugly. “Sometimes skimmin’ th’ shurface ish fun. Jus’ ashk Nico.” Nothing wrong with a bit of teasing, as long as you made good on it. “Shame she’sh not here … she coulda written a song about this.”

Gripping the oar, she began rowing with a will, water churning up on either side of the boat, periodically looking up to squint toward their prize … which didn’t seem to be getting any closer. “Dammit, they must’ve seen us!” They were making a run for it. “Row harder!” How in the Fade were they moving that fast without raising their sails?
 

Isabela

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#19
Isabela could hear Piotr panicking from here. Kali had more faith, declaring that it would take bondage and unconsciousness to sink either of them. Celeste vehemently agreed with her first mate, while Isabela began to hiccup amiably. It was quite warm out here, actually. And the wooden seat of this third-rate rowing boat was pretty comfortable…

No! To the ships! Isabela renewed her effort as Celeste slurred at her. “An’ don’ you be tellin’ me how to handle my oarsh.” The bottle in Isabela’s hand disappeared, and reappeared in Celeste’s with no indication of how it had travelled the distance. Isabela stared at it.

“I think that bottlesh magic.”

“B’sides, sometimes skimmin’ th’ surface is fun. Jus’ ashk Nico.” Isabela sniggered. She could imagine the minstrel was fond of teasing. And it was pleasant to imagine, as well. Despite usually being modestly dressed, the way Nicolette moved suggested a lot about what she could be capable of in a less modest setting. “Shame she’sh not here…she coulda written a song about this.”

Celeste finally put her back into rowing and Isabela joined in, straining against the oars, but the boat in the distance wasn’t getting any closer. “Dammit, they must’ve seen us! Row harder!”

“Y’only git to give orders s’long as we’re in this boat! When we get there, I am in charge!”

But no matter how hard they rowed, the boat remained the same distance away. So, for that matter, did the curving arm of the bay at their left. And the ships nearby. And that floating duck over there…Isabela looked back and swore. “We got stuck! Hang on a moment – just gonna get this thing off…”

As she scrambled her way to the back of the boat to fiddle off the rope, she was vaguely aware that the figures on the dock had multiplied, and a murmured conversation was taking place. She didn’t focus at first, trying and failing to loosen the hard knot, but then she recognised a familiar lilt and looked up. “Celeste! You summoned her!”

Nicolette was wobbling in and out of focus. It was hard to make out what expression she was making, but she wasn’t screaming at them to get out of the water, which was something. Isabela looked to Celeste, grinned, and seized her friend’s arm. “Gorra idea.”

She grabbed the rope and started pulling them back in. Once they were near the dock, she held up a hand to Nicolette. “Here. Help me up.”

The trusting minstrel obligingly took her hand at exactly the moment Kali worked out what she was up to. “Nico, watch out-”

Isabela yanked hard. She was stronger than the other woman, and Nicolette toppled forward with a yelp. “Celeste! Now we can shelebrate with a three-”

She’d intended for Nico to land in the boat; instead the other woman went headlong into the water, her grasp slipping from Isabela’s on the way.

“Oops.”

Not to worry though; within moments, Nicolette’s head had bobbed back up above the surface and she caught the side of the boat, hair plastered to her head and looking for all the world like a startled otter. Isabela patted her. “Shorry.”
 

Celeste Monroe

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#20
“I think that bottlesh magic,” Isabela opined, peering unsteadily at the jug of whiskey. It had certainly made Celeste’s sour mood vanish - though it had received a big assist from the tequila, and the rum, and the - Celeste’s face screwed up in thought before the problem slid away in a boozy sludge at the realization that their quarry was getting away.

“Y’only git to give orders s’long as we’re in this boat!” the pirate declared in response to Celeste’s instruction to row harder. “When we get there, I am in charge!”

“Aye-aye, cap’n!” Her ship, her command. Celeste had no problem with that … except that there wasn’t going to be a ship for her to command at this rate. “Wha’ th’fuck is goin’ on?” she demanded irritably, glaring at the damn scow that remained just out of reach.

Isabela looked around, then behind them, and promptly blistered the air with oaths. “We got stuck! Hang on a moment – just gonna get this thing off…” She floundered toward the stern, and Celeste frowned at the rope that had snagged them. Bad sodding luck that was threatening to cost them their prize.

“Hurry up!” she said impatiently.

“Celeste!” Bela pointed to the dock with a grin from ear to ear. “You summoned her!”

Following the gesture, Celeste squinted and saw - “Nico!” Her face lit up and she waved, causing the skiff to rock precariously. “Heeeeyyy! We’re shtealing a ship!” She brought a finger to her lips. “Shhhh! It’sh a secret!”

Bela grabbed her arm, beaming. “Gorra idea.”

The pirate’s ideas were never less than entertaining, so Celeste was game, but - “You’re goin’ th’ wrong damn way!” she protested when Isabela began hauling them back toward the dock, erasing all their hard earned gains, but as Nicolette came into better focus, holding her veille and Thibault at her side,thoughts of the ship faded. “She’s boot’iful, ain’t she?” she asked her companion with a fatuous smile. “An’ she can sing, too!”

They pulled up to the edge of the dock, and Isabela reached out a hand to the minstrel. “Here. Help me up.”

Everything happened really fast then: Kali called out a warning, Bela pulled, Nico fell, and whatever the pirate was saying was drowned out - literally - by the almighty splash as the minstrel hit the water and the shouts of alarm - and laughter - that rose from the onlookers.

“Oops.”

“What the fuck??” Celeste came to her feet, wild eyes searching the water, the words ‘Oh’ and ‘shit’ bouncing off of each other within the sea of booze sloshing about her brain. “What did you do?” The water in the harbor wasn’t just filthy, it was cold. The splattering she’d taken was nothing compared to being dunked in it, and Celeste was preparing to dive in when Nico surfaced with a gasp, eyes huge, and grabbed the side of the skiff. She definitely didn't look happy.

“Shorry,” Isabela offered, patting Nico’s arm.

“Shit, babe, I’m sorry!” Celeste had a minor heart attack at realizing that the minstrel’s hands were empty, and she was on the verge of diving in anyway, because if Bela’s stunt had cost Nicolette her veille, it would be safest if they just rowed out to that ship and hightailed it anywhere but here. Fortunately, when her panicked but hopeful gaze turned upward, she spotted the precious instrument in Piotr’s hands.

“Good lad!” she shouted to him in relief. She had to shout, because Thibault was pitching a fit, baying loudly and racing back and forth along the edge of the dock. She saw him stop suddenly and crouch, but it took a crucial moment for the significance to penetrate the booze.

“Shit! Thibault, n-”

Too late. Better than seven stone of shaggy dog went airborne, landing on the skiff in a blur of flailing legs, head, and tail that quickly shifted the flimsy craft past the tipping point, sending them all into the drink with Nico.

And fuck, that water was cold!
 
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