Black Sails of the Old Empire

Diary of a Southern Gentleman: Chapter 1

-By Kalboo Tatteredsail

For the true Southern Gentleman, there exists a compendium of unspoken rules – words by which to live, truths to uphold – guiding his actions, leading him forward, maintaining his progress down the path of spiritual satisfaction. A tip of the cap, a yes’uh no ma’am, or a kindly welcoming to a weary stranger all suffice in showcasing the pure well-bred Southerner within, no matter what the exterior may suggest.

I tend to follow a different sort of book.

Now, I must confess that I do consider myself a Southern Gentleman, and have that reputation to uphold amongst my many…admirers. However, there are slight deviations to my lifestyle that prop me up above those who strive for so much Southern goodness, and it is my desire that in offering you a slice of my life (we’ll save the pie for later), you might best begin to understand the true way to live a Southern life.

The first rule I’ve come to live by is that you mustn’t ever let your wellbeing be dictated by that whore, fate. We’ve all got fates being thrown our way: obstacles to overcome, hurts to bury, storms to weather, backstabbers whose throats need slitting. Facing off against these challenges, it is the man who harnesses the luck he makes for himself along the way to overcome the rolling tides who will lead a truly great life, in whatever form that may take. Though your ships may crash (and indeed, most of mine have been taken permanent hostage by the ever-greedy sea), there is always a way to escape, a route to survival. And as you climb from the icy bitch’s grasp, sand gritting in your teeth, shivering from water’s bitter grasp on your lungs and the fading adrenaline seeping out into the foggy night air, take what is rightfully yours – mementos, charms, souvenirs, whatever you wanna call it – and keep them close. Mine hang from fishing line around my neck, so that with every breath I take, they press against my chest, and I am reminded of fate’s inability to dictate my life.

The second rule to follow is this: there is no one, and especially no woman, who can resist a little charm in order to get what you want. Steal people’s hearts and you will have a puppeteer’s access to the strings pulling their flimsy arms and legs.

Third: Arrogance is the most underrated and underappreciated tool a man has in living a truly great Southern life. And though it can be downplayed by many guises and misdirections, confident flattery is the best filter through which to focus the appreciation you are really placing back on yourself. See also: rule two.

Finally, should life begin to get what seems like the beginnings of an upper hand on you, don’t be afraid to admit temporary defeat. Nothing is more disarming to an enemy than a false sense of satisfaction, offering the best chance for a retaliatory knuckle to his jaw, or better yet, a handshake sealing a new business partnerships. Former enemies make the best friends.

But what with all this blabbering on, I can see you getting confused, sidetracked. Truths are best demonstrated, not told, and so I shall begin, your humble narrator for a brief chapter of my life.

Betting on anything in a town as dismally named as Sigh seems self-defeating, as though the only reward you’re likely to find within is offered right on that rickety sign just to the northeast. Still, being stuck in port for several days leaves one little else to do to pass the time – the whores abound, of course, and there is always the manipulative maintenance of your reputation to undertake, but soon there seems little better to do than watch two idiotic young brutes smack each other silly. It is here that our story begins, tucked into a shadowy and dingy back alley. From my normal vantage point I stood and watched, head cloaked lest any undesirable Imperial idiots should nose around where they know they aren’t wanted, as Lysander and Tuck took turns amateurishly pummeling one another.

Though scrappy young gents, quite familiar in the not-so-underground fighting rings so prevalent within the squalid paths connecting wharves and piers, taverns and brothels, both boys lacked the killer panache needed to put a quick end to the fight. Though Lysander dominated damn near the whole three rounds, as I well knew he should, ol’ Tuckster needed just the one last swing of his unassuming left hook to send the ugly kid to his backside. The spray of bloody teeth spit from Lysander’s crushed mouth reminded me I was lucky only to be losing a few marks, but the sight of his cracked incisor and the emptiness in my pocket left a sour taste in my mouth.

It’s funny how sometimes in life you look around for something, only for it to come up and offer a handshake and beer when you least expect it. A young Dragonborn, looking just cocky enough for me to know that he must be new in town, stood in front of me. The boy introduced himself as Therion Khal, as he searched within the folds of his faded and bloodied armor for a spot to stick his winnings. I know me a good fighter when I see one, and I know me a green recruit to this gritty lump of a town whose cocksure offer barely conceals a bit of needing a companion who knows his way around, and a bigger bit of being scared and alone. I ain’t one to turn down an armored Dragonborn to watch my back, and certainly ain’t one to turn down a drink or three, and so we headed off across the bloodied cobblestones on our way to the finest establishment I knew who would still let me in their doors, the Crow’s Nest.

Beneath the familiar salt-faded and failing beams, a tankard of broy nursing away any trailing bitterness, Therion entertained me with a nervous chatter, and as young men are wont to do, his boastful storytelling revealed more than was appropriate given the audience: a cloaked, bulbous, and mysterious creature, who smelled quite potently of just-spoiled fish. It seemed that the youthful Dragonborn, having no rightful writ of entry into the city, undertook a bit of magical tomfoolery as he temporarily transformed himself into a rather convincing ox. Hitching himself up to the wagon of a particularly brave (some might say idiotic, others opportunistic) farmer, Therion paraded on in under the nose of the guards, pausing, one would hope, to pile a might heap of shit beneath their Imperialistic boots. Safely in town, he had wandered around blindly, stumbling upon the back-corner brawl with what some might call luck, but what I call an opportunistic nose for gambling success. A true Southern Gentleman this kid may yet be.

Proving that as soon as you start relaxin’ a bit, letttin’ the sweet black numbness settle over your achey body, fate’s gonna come throw her shit your way once again, a couple of punk Imperials pushed their way into the tavern and began an abrupt conversation with smuggler who sat across the bar. I knew Rip from…business associations, and though as shady as anyone would expect from a man with perfectly good eyesight who chose to wear a blindfold around, I knew that any trouble he felt was likely to ripple on down my way. I pulled Therion into a quieter corner as we watched a molasses thick tension fill the rowdy bar.

Sure enough, Rip had had enough lip before the guards had even begun to open their mouths, and soon tables were flying and chairs crashing, and I found my hands gripping a garrote tight across the neck of some pasty-skinned Imperial. Proving that the Crow’s Nest houses some of the finest Southern Gentlemen to be found in these parts, a brash sailor stood up from the bar and proceeded to rearrange the choking fool’s facial features with a thoroughly vicious fist to the face. From there all hell broke loose.

An honest-to-goodness whirlpool seeped up from the floor, and I noticed Therion looking all focused-like, as I bounded about with my rapier and dagger in hand. As any Southern Gentleman is always prepared for a good fight, I had vials of my homemade poison ready to go, and soon the Imperial fools had a riptide outside and inside their bodies to worry them. With Rip’s help, and the hearty cheers echoing from behind the makeshift cover of the bar that now protected the tavern’s braver patrons, the Imperial scum soon perished a rampant and violent defeat. Just as soon as it had started, the fighting died down, and a crew of trusty smugglers came in to do the requisite clean up. Drinking resumed as normal.

Now, Rip, cognizant of the unrequested aid we had just provided for him, offered a fresh top up to my new comrade in arms and me, plopping his faded trousers down onto the weathered ash stool next to me. After the requisite thanks and commendations on a fight well-won, that perpetually present conversation thread “business” peeked its head in onto our buzzed tongues. It seemed that Rip had procured a bit of valuable information regarding some goods to be smuggled, and was looking for additional hands in moving the shipment. Unwilling to talk further at the moment (and preferring to drink, of course), we decided to discuss details under the rosy glow of sunset’s gaze the following morning on Dock3. Rip stood a bit woozily, post-adrenal and alcohol-fueled dizziness in full effect, lifted his blindfold to reveal two very active and twinkling eyes, and with a conspiratorial wink and grin, made his way out into the increasingly chilly evening.

Business opportunities, as you may begin to see, course throughout this odd world more pervasively than is immediately apparent. To an untrained eye, our chance encounter with Rip and the ensuing profitability might seem dictated by nothing more than blind luck. An hour sooner, a different tavern, one ballsy patron less, and I might have been riding the same shitwave of feeble cash inflow and inflating boredom that had been tailing me for a solid two weeks. But simpleminded reasoning like this strips away the ingenuity of my actions – it takes a smart man to be in the right place at the right time. An acumen for profitable locations, a social web of potential associates, and the deftness of fist and rapier to manicure any hangnails, so to speak, allow me to get what I want (and need) from this life. And if a kindly fellow Gentleman should take note of my proactive nature and offer a night’s stay in his worn down yet thoroughly comfortable lodgings, well, you certainly won’t hear me complaining.

As it happened, Ol’ Sam, bartender and proprietor of the fine Crow’s Nest and a Gentleman through and through, provided my bravura-fueled companion and me just such a place to sleep our bruises and boozes away. Therion, eager for more fire in his belly, opted to stay tippling for a few more hours. Aching for a fire somewhere slightly lower down, I sweet-talked a night’s romp with the dulcet gem prowling around the tavern for lonely and sad fools. Aptly known as Cherry, her juices are surely sweet. Though some fools would need to pay for such a tasty treat, my charm seems irresistible to women like her, just one more of the many benefits to living the truly Southern life. Plump like the best tarts, Cherry in bed is like the Surender wind in a skip’s sails: fierce, powerful, and liable to blow you all goddam night.


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