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Last Watch [Solo, Complete]

Celeste Monroe

Shenaniginstigator In Chief
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
((26 Solace, 34 Dragon; Gwaren Docks; Sunset; Follow-up to Down At The Sailors' Rest))

((Inspiration for this thread from Last Watch, by Stan Rogers))

Maker, but the salt air was sweet in his nose! He’d been able to smell the ocean from his room in the Anchorage, but it hadn’t been the same, blocked by the buildings that crowded around and tainted by the stench of sewage. It had felt as though he’d been dead and buried, like they did in Nevarra, but here, with the breeze off the harbor kissing his face and the gentle sway of the deck beneath him, Douglas Spivey was reborn.

He’d argued long and hard to be allowed to take this watch; his eyes might not be what they’d once been, but a night of sleep on board – even if it had been on the cot in the infirmary instead of his old hammock – had done wonders, and he knew the feel of the Wicked Grace as well as he knew the rhythms of his own body. Knew the feel of feet coming up the gangplank, knew the difference between movement caused by incoming swells and that of someone trying to climb the anchor chain.

The cap’n and Brannigan had agreed, and even though they had bundled him in blankets like a swaddling babe and set him up in a chair next to the rail, it felt fine to be back where he belonged. Working one hand out from under the blankets, he reached out to touch the rail, seeing the polished wood in his mind’s eye, as beautiful as the first time he had laid eyes on her …

((94 Blessed, Starkhaven))

He strode along the docks, trying hard to look as though he knew what he was doing, as though the massive boats tied up at every slip weren’t an utter mystery to him. At the age of seventeen, Douglas Spivey ‘d had his fill of scouring pots in his father’s tavern, listening to the sailors tell tales of their grand adventures as they downed their ale and whiskey. It was high time that he had some adventures of his own!

He passed by the river barges without a second glance. They were squat, ungainly things that would never travel past the mouth of the river. The Minanter ran deep and broad from just east of Hasmal all the way to the ocean, and it was the seagoing vessels that traveled upriver when the winds were right, then rode the current back down again, that he sought, and one ship in particular.

The town had been buzzing for weeks about 'Monroe's Folly': how wealthy merchant Quinton Monroe, gone mad with grief after the death of his wife in the plague of Blessed 92, had spent his entire fortune letting a dwarf – a dwarf! - build him a sailing ship from scratch. Common wisdom had evolved over the ensuing two years, from the dwarf taking the money and running to the project being abandoned half done to the ship sinking to the riverbed as soon as she was launched, with the current dire predictions all some variant of ship and crew being lost in the first storm at sea, right down to Monroe's wee son, Daniel.

Spivey thought they were all full of shit. The ship looked seaworthy. More than that, she looked beautiful: her sleek lines and graceful profile a stark contrast to the barges; the polished wood on her decks and the whiteness of her sails setting her apart from the more weathered sailing ships, her name carved into the planks of the bow, stained for greater contrast: Wicked Grace. The card game was played often in his father's tavern, and he'd learned it at an early age. Luck decreed the cards that you were dealt, but it was the skill with which you played what you had and read other players that determined the outcome. A fine name for a ship, Spivey thought, and made for the Wicked Grace with all the confidence he could muster.

Celeste Monroe

Shenaniginstigator In Chief
Post DAI Timeline
DAO/DA2 Timeline
“You were a beauty even then,” Spivey told the ship affectionately. “I knew when I saw you that I'd do whatever it took t'sail on you.”

The Wicked Grace was abuzz with activity: casks being hoisted from the dock by block-and-tackle; men carrying crates up the gangplank; others aloft in the rigging. Spivey stood staring up at them for a while, wondering what it would be like up there when the boat was at sea.

“Need something, lad?”

Spivey looked to his right at the man sauntering towards him. Tall and lanky, with an unruly mop of blonde hair and beard, and blue eyes that gleamed with good natured interest; it could only be Quinton Monroe.

“Looking for a berth, ser,” Spivey replied, as confidently as he could. He’d spent hours listening to the sailors in the tavern, absorbing their talk. “She’s a fine looking ship, and I heard that you’re filling out a crew.”

“That we are,” Monroe confirmed. “How much time have you spent on board a ship?”

Spivey's stomach bottomed out. He knew that he didn't have enough secondhand knowledge to bluff convincingly. “None, ser,” he admitted, then dared to blurt, “But they say that you haven't either!”

By all rights, such cheek should have gotten him sent packing, but Monroe regarded him with more amusement than insult. “They do, do they? And what else do 'they' say, pray tell?”

“They say you've gone mad, ser,” Spivey replied, figuring that he might as well be honest, since the man surely knew about the gossip. “They say that losing your wife unhinged you, and that you've thrown your fortune away on a delusion, that the ship will never stay afloat.” He took a deep breath, plunged onward. “I think they're wrong, ser!”

Monroe cocked his head, considering this. “Well, maybe they are and maybe they aren't, but they're right about one thing: I've never set foot on another ship. Neither has Torgun -” he nodded toward a dwarf who was scribbling calculations on a slate, then a tall, sandy-haired bloke inspecting the contents of a crate, “or Brannigan.”

That surprised him. “Why you doin' it, then?”

“Always wanted to,” Monroe replied with a shrug, his eyes growing distant. “Ever since I was a wee lad, I dreamed of a life on the sea, traveling to distant places, having adventures. I let my da talk me into doing the 'responsible' thing, but I always promised my Catherine that we'd see Antiva, Rivain … maybe even Seheron.” His focus returned to the here and now, his smile sad. “Lost both of them in the plague. Nothing to hold me here now, nothing to keep me from chasing what dreams I have left, and I won't let my son be raised by a man afraid to do just that. Danny Boy! Come here, lad!”

A sturdy looking, dark haired lad of about five years looked up from where he was playing a game of marbles with a dwarven boy and scrambled to his feet, running to Monroe's side and looking up at Spivey with big blue eyes.

“This is my son, Daniel, and I'm Quinton Monroe, as you have apparently guessed,” Monroe told him. “Daniel, this is -”

“Douglas Spivey, ser … and young ser,” Spivey supplied with a bow. As bold as you please, the boy stuck a hand out, and Spivey shook it.

“I'm gonna be a cap'n!” the tyke proclaimed with a gap-toothed grin.

“In due time, laddie,” his father assured him, ruffling his hair affectionately. “Young Spivey, here, wants to join our crew. What say you?”

This was a first, but no less odd than any of the other tales that swirled around this ship and her captain, and Spivey found himself holding his breath as the boy looked him up and down, his tiny face screwed up in concentration. A minute passed, then two, before Daniel turned to his father, the smile back in place. “I like 'im, da!”

“Back to Young Torgun with you, then,” Monroe told him, watching as he returned to his playmate. “He looks so much like his mother,” he said quietly. “He swims like a fish, and he's been exploring every inch of this ship since her keel was laid. The Wicked Grace will be his one day, if that's what he wants.”

“And if it isn't?” Spivey asked, though he couldn't imagine anyone not wanting just that.

“Then he's free to be his own man,” Monroe replied easily, glancing back at Spivey with a grin, “And looks as though you've passed muster.”

“Ser?” Spivey could scarcely credit what his ears were telling him. “Just like that?”

“Just like that,” Monroe confirmed. “We've got a good complement of experienced hands. What I really want in my crew is folk who aren't afraid to dream, so long as they're also not afraid to work to chase that dream. My son likes the look of you, and so do I. What say you, Douglas Spivey? Care to have an adventure or two?”

He didn't have to think about his reply. “Yes, ser!”

“Then get your things and get your ass back here on the double,” Monroe ordered him. “We sail in three days, and you've got a lot of learning to do before then!”

“We had our share of adventures, didn't we, lass?” Spivey asked the ship. “Our share and then some! Thought that first storm was gonna do us all in, but you kept us safe. Ah, lass, I've missed ye!” He sank back into the chair with a contented sigh, his eyes drifting closed, then opening in surprise as his dimming vision cleared.

“No nodding off on watch, Spivey,” Daniel Monroe chided him. “Good way to wind up in the drink!”

“I ent nodded off on watch in forty years, Danny Boy!” he retorted, pushing himself upright as Quinton Monroe appeared beside his son, both of them tall and strong and young, one blonde and one dark haired, but their cocky grins nearly identical.

“What say you, Spivey, m'lad?” Quinton asked him, blue eyes twinkling. “Ready for another adventure?”

“Ready and willin' Cap'n!” Spivey exclaimed. “Just let me get my things! Just let me get ...”

Celeste didn't cry easily or often, and she never let herself wish for what she knew she couldn't have, but she didn't begrudge the wetness on her cheeks as she sat on the quarterdeck, Gideon at her side, and she allowed herself the wistful yearning that she might see what Spivey was seeing, just for a moment.

She waited for a bit after his voice had trailed off and his movement had stilled before rising and descending to the main deck. Brannigan came out of the infirmary, and the rest of the crew emerged from where each of them had been keeping this last watch with Spivey.

The smile remained on Spivey's lips as Brannigan closed his sightless eyes and nodded to Celeste, sorrow touching his patrician features. The healer stepped away, his work done, and the ship's captain stepped in, taking up one of the limp hands in both of her own, feeling the warmth that would soon begin to fade.

“Make ready to cast off,” she ordered quietly as Kalindra approached with the length of sailcloth that would serve as a shroud. She would sew it around him while they sailed out, and then they would give Douglas Spivey into the embrace of the sea that he loved, where Quinton and Daniel Monroe would be waiting for him.