A Peculiar Tete-a-Tete
Chapter 4: Storm Brewing
Location: Captain Daenelia's Cabin
Timeline: Post Storm Brewing
Ciprian stood in Captain Daenelia's quarters, unable to conceal either his admiration for ecclectic collection of objects and equipment adorning the chamber or his nervousness about the conversation about to transpire, "Madam Capitan," he began, "I am most grateful to you and your crew for my rescue."
Daenelia cleared her throat, while pulling her belt up a little, putting her pistol in easier reach. "Yes, quite right, you should be," she said. It was hard to conceal her disappointment about finding another useless passenger on her trip. "We will bring you to land, and then you can go your merry way, ... after paying your passage." She looked the man straight in the eye. "You do have money, don't you?"
For the barest fraction of a second, the Captain could see the wheels in the Gaul's mind turning. Then, after a flash so quick most people would have missed it, his look of concentration was replaced by a wide grin. Ciprian began to energectically pace around the cabin, one hand absent-mindedly twirling his moustance, as he began speaking in rapid, enthusiastic tones. "But I have already paid, and paid well. Madame Capitan is of course familiar with ancient maritime tradition known as the Law of Salvage. When I landed my lifeboat on the Amethyst, according to the Law of Salvage, I took possession of her. Giving the Steamhawke full possession of her secrets and whatever goods they chose to carry off is a most generous fee for my rescue, no?" Ciprian paused, his expression clearly indicating, although he was pleased with himself, he knew this line of reasoning was horseshit -- and would have had serious doubts about the competence of the Captain if she did not know it as well.
Noting that the Capitan's expression seemed to reflect a mixture of amusement, disbelief and irritation at the audacity of his cliams, Ciprian immediately moved to the second part of his pitch.
"However, I also have a more tempting offer for Madame Captain," the Gaul continued, "I have need of a vessel that will transport me around for the next 12 months. I do not care where we go as long as it is ... interesting. I can pay, shall we say 100 Francs a month, for passage, room and board? As my purse remains in the care of my previous associates, I would have to have the first month's payment transfered to a regular port of call. After that, however, I can pay as we go."
"Besides," Ciprian smiled confidently, "I can be of great assistance to Madam Capitan and her crew."
Daenelia lifted up her head and looked down her nose at Ciprian. "Assistance?" She frowned and the shook her head. "No, no. There is nothing we need 'assistance' with." But the offer of 100 Francs a month was tempting. If he could so readily offer that, maybe she could get some more out of him. She was not very good at haggling though. "115 Francs. And can you read and write?" Not a great many crewmates were literate. Finding someone who could read maps, instructions, handbooks, journals... now that would be handy.
For the first time since their conversation had begun, the Gaul's expression grew more serious, "I do not wish to contradict Madame Capitain. But I have seen your crew in action. What they do, they do spectacularly well. You must be aware, however, that are a few ... unoccupied niches ... from which the Steamhawke could benefit." Ciprian paused for a moment as if gathering his thoughts, "First, some extra savoir faire might be a welcome addition, no?" Again he paused, "Second, there is the issue of languages. Most of your crew seems to speak Britannian of either the original or Old West dialects. A few of them are practically speaking pidgin. Have you asked yourself (and he assumed she had), how many opportunities has the Steamhawke missed and how many avoidable problems have you had because of that? I do not, of course, know every language on Terra. And even in those I do know, I am not always fluent. But I can get by in the major tongues and have a ... comment dites vous ... smattering of several others. And, yes, I can read and write most of those as well as speak."
"That may or may not be true," Daenelia replied, "but my price is still 115 Francs."
Ciprian had been surprised when the Captain attempted to haggle over his passanger fee. He would have expected that out a fellow Gaul, someone from one of the Italian City States or even a Slav. From a Britannian, which he took the Captain to be, he had expected a simple yes or no. It suggested either a diliberate effort to accomodate the norms of his world or a cosmopolitian streak and a willingness to think outside the box. Either way, Ciprian was impressed. "One-hundred five Francs," he countered.
He was good at haggling! Daenelia thought. Which should not have surprised her. The low offer almost made her forget the slight insult, however true, he made to her crew. And to her. Of course the crew spoke mostly pidgin, it was the common tongue on ships where many nationalities met. And granted that sometimes it lead to Babylonian confusion, where people said one thing that was taken to mean another. And yes, it lead to problems. She knew a fair amount of common words in a few languages, but not always enough to ease things along. McGinty always said he spoke 6 languages fluently, but because of his mumbling no one understood him whatever language he spoke. Daenelia took a deep breath to argue with Ciprian, when she realised she was being put on the defensive. And if there was one things she had learned, it was to always be on the offensive. "110. Final offer or I will have you put out in a little boat when we get out of the fog." She allowed for a very brief silence before she said. "Or 105, and you make yourself as usefull as you can. Including helping McGinty mop the deck if I say so." That made her grin, even though she did realise she had just contradicted herself.
Ciprian pantomimed being shot through the heart and let out an exaggerated groan. "Madame Capitain has found my weakness," he said, "One-hundred eight Francs ... but no deck mopping or such tasks. The more time I have to write, the more time I have to earn my fee."
Daenelia stuck out her hand and said: "Agreed then." She waited for Ciprian to shake her hand, before turning and picking up a book she 'borrowed' from the Myposian Library. "And maybe you can start by going over this with me," she said as she leafed through the pages. "I am certain this is about the treasure we are after, and the civilisation it belonged to. But," she stopped as she put the book on the table, flattening the pages as she pointed to a passage she had trouble with, "this has got me... confused." She frowned at Ciprian. "You do read Elladian, don't you?" Part of her hoped she was calling his bluff, but she desperately needed to know if she was on the right track. Because if she was wrong, there would be no treasure, no money to keep the crew happy... and she could face a mutiny if that happened.
Ciprian's eyes again sparkled as he saw the ancient tome in Daenelia's hands and beheld the elegant flourishes of the old Elladian script stretching, right to left, across the page. Ciprian again spoke with more focus and seriousness than was customary for the Gaul, "I find the case structure of old Elladian very ponderous. And it would smooth the process if I had a lexicon, even a simple one, to which to refer as needed. But, yes, we can do this as is. When does Madam Capitain wish to begin?"