Mission: Chapter 8: Pirates and Cowboys
There was a certain swing in her step. Daenelia had a big smile on her face when she stepped into the Iron Buffalo saloon for the second time that day. As a matter of fact, when she left the ship, a lot of the crew had been smiling and grinning with her. Several times people had remarked how relaxed she looked. And she felt relaxed, for the first time in a long while. A drink would be nice, she thought.
"Beer?" she asked the man behind the bar. He handed her the drink and she put the money on the bar. She grabbed the bottle and turned, leaning her elbows on the surface behind her. Life was good, she thought as she took a sip.
The brown haired woman who'd thrown a bottle at Chago from the earlier brawl headed for the Captain. Glad to find Daenelia alone, she drew up a stall and the barman passed her a drink without even expecting payment. They exchanged nods, and the barman left to clear tables.
"So," She spoke up as soon as he was out of earshot. "The thing is, I didn't get why you'd brought your crew here. It's not exactly the best place to make repairs or whatever lame excuse you're feeding everyone else. But," She took a long swig of her drink, then put it down again. "Then I heard why you're really here, and it makes sense. You're looking for treasure." Satisfied, she sat back on her stall. "And that is when I realized: I have a proposition to make."
Inwardly, Daenelia groaned at the mention of treasure. She should have know word would get out. There had been a reason she mentioned Harling Pass. The young woman was right: this wasn't exactly a regular sky ship stopover. She thought quickly.
"Proposition, eh?" Daenelia took a long sip and swallowed slowly, as she studied the woman. "Well, assuming you're right, and I am looking for treasure," she said the word as if in quotation marks, "then let's hear it. What do you propose?" She put on a cocky grin, meant to intimidate.
The woman stared back at her, quite composed, and unfolded the piece of paper she kept up her sleeve - quite literally. "The answer lies with this." It showed the outline of shapes - land, sky, markings to indicate trails. "An ancient part of my heritage. And it shows the path to the X." She moved her finger along the red spiral. "The only problem is, I'm not willing to part with it. So. Let me come with you, and I'll let you see the way to the treasure." She smiled. There the offer was it.
The map was only visible briefly, before Katherine folded it away again. But Daenelia's eyes widened when she understood what she had been looking at. The paper and the markings were the same as the two halves she had of the map. She'd been so stupid! Of course there was a third part! One part to throw any hunters off course to Elladia, one part to lead them to the Old West... and the last part to lead them to the exact spot. But it must have been incomplete without the hints on the two parts that Daenelia had in her possession, or this woman would have found the treasure herself.
The captain swallowed. "I don't think we've been properly introduced. I... am Daenelia Bradley," she said as she narrowed her eyes to see the reaction her name might have. "And I am captain of the sky ship Steamhawke." She held out a hand. Her other hand was resting on her pistol.
"Katherine Solias." She nodded, and shook the Captains hand. "Daughter of the tavern owner, sister of Davad over there, and part time writer." She gazed over the other drinkers. "I am sure we'll be able to make a deal. I've grown up here, the center of social attention. You don't need me to tell you the sorts of people I can put you in contact with." She took another glug of the ale, looking smug.
"So you want come along, hm?" Daenelia had to admire that. But she also had to know if Katherine could hold her own. "What's the price? Think you can keep the treasure, or what? Or would you settle for the same cut I give my lookouts?" That would not be much. Each pirate was given a cut of loot according to their rank and their time served on board. Aside from that, loot changed hands quickly after the initial cut. Pirates were not always keen on being fair, when loot could be taken easily by force.
"You value this piece of map as the same as one of your mere lookouts? Listen. I do not believe there is another copy of this section of map. It is unique. Unless..." She smirked, and sat back in her chair. "Unless you want to waste your time testing that theory."
Katherine knew she was holding an ace in the hole. The crew of the Steamhawke had been in the saloon getting drunk and talking. They had expressed impatience at their captain's slow pace to this famed treasure that she had kept hinting at. They had been dragged from one end of the globe to another with nothing to show for it. That was when Katherine had pieced together what the captain had been after. And finally, finally, that piece of paper she had found when cleaning up one night, had come in handy. Katherine knew exactly what the map was about. Quazlatah. But she had never had the chance to go out and find it on her own. But with a crew of hardy sailors, she could at least try.
After a long silence, Daenelia nodded slowly. "Alright then." She held out a hand. "But I'll hold on to the map."
Katherine's smile faded. "As you wish," And passed her a folded piece of paper. She stood, fixed her appearance in the mirror, and held out a hand to shake on the deal.
It gave her confidence knowing that when the captain unfolded the piece of paper, she would not find the map but a scrap piece of paper with nothing of any value on it.