I wrote all of this except for Norrix's dialogue and his last actions. KMBCross was generous enough to provide those, as I was afraid I would portray his character differently than he wanted. I hope that is all right. I wanted to show Clare and Norrix first meeting since their history together was not too detailed until now. It was a lot of fun to write!
Oh, I couldn't find anywhere to put this without it seeming out of place. But later in the day, Clare would have used Mending to repair the tear on Norrix's coat. That explains why it looks as good as ever in the current day.
This could be a lot worse. I'm lucky to have gotten away at all.
Even though he tried to convince himself of that, Clare remained uneasy with his situation. It was true that he had successfully escaped the guards pursuing him. He had not wanted to become a stowaway, but there was no time to wait for a new ship or to buy a ticket. Only one vessel had been docked. In spite of his worries, he had jumped behind several crates and concealed himself below the deck. His idea had been to emerge after they were at sea and pay the captain whatever fee was necessary. It was not what Clare had planned on, but he hoped that the gold would be enough to pacify the ship's master.
That idea had been shot down when he overheard members of the crew talking. Their speech and words made it clear he was not on a regular passenger ship. As he heard them talk, his mind began to suspect where he had wound up. It was made clear when one crew member mentioned avoiding the military with their stolen goods.
Just thinking of that word brought back a stream of unwanted memories. Closing his eyes was enough to picture himself being in that dark cell once more. He could feel the shackles clamped around his wrists and ankles as if they had never been unlocked. The mere memory of the bitter chill in temperature was almost the worst part of it. Only the piercing gazes of hatred from his captors had a greater impact. It had happened three years ago, yet he still wrapped his arms around his upper body at the memory, as if to stave off the unrelenting cold.
The pirates he had been imprisoned by for a week had made their mark on him. No physical injuries were left. It was a mind-numbing fear that tormented him now, one that was impossible to shake off when in such a circumstance. One wrong move and he would be found by these pirates. He would be at their mercy, and this time nobody would be there to save him.
Picturing him was enough to calm Clare's rapid breathing. That man was the reason Clare had finally left a life he felt was not worth living. Not only had he freed Clare from the other pirates, he had freed him from a meaningless existence. That was why Clare had wanted to take to the sea. He had to find Saber, to thank him for all that he had done. And... to respond to some of his last words.
"You're someone I've fallen in love with."
Three years and Clare still had no idea of how to respond to that confession. His face became tinged with red at the thought of it. He might have thought Saber had been joking, if not for seeing his eyes. They had shown no aversion, and his expression was one of sincerity. Which meant that, if Clare did find Saber, he would have to answer his declaration.
Worry about that later.
Clare rubbed his forehead and resisted the urge to sigh. Nobody was around right now, but if someone were to walk in and hear him, that would be disastrous.
At least, he thought it would be. But he had noticed a different vibe with these pirates. None of them had the violent aura that his previous captors were shrouded in. If anything, they seemed almost jovial. The men that passed by his hiding spot exchanged friendly jokes, laughed earnestly, and discussed casual matters without a single hint of wishing for killings. Clare was still too nervous to risk revealing himself. However, these observations were promising. Perhaps these pirates were more like Saber and less like his kidnappers.
Clare continued to muse over this until two voices broke through his thoughts. He kept his breathing quiet as they passed by the crates. A stench hit his nose in the process. Only a quick covering of the mouth kept him from revealing his presence. After three years of treating so many wounded, the scent of blood was one he identified instantly. This was from a serious injury. He could tell without even seeing it. The words spoken only confirmed that.
"I'm so sorry, Captain! It's all my fault!"
"You are correct - it is all your fault. If you are fortunate, I might forget it, but for the time being, it does not look likely. Not with this."
"Is there anything I can do? Anything at all? Someone I can get, medical supplies you need-?"
"Unless you are a miracle worker, I doubt you can remove the rum rations from our current surgeon. In the meantime, while you debate on how you want to do that, you can go work in the bilges until after meals tonight - where your punishment will be swift." "O-okay. If you're sure, Captain. I'm sorry!"
The sound of running accompanied the younger voice as it left. Clare listened to the older sounding man sigh before continuing on.
From where the man-the captain, apparently-was located, Clare realized he could take a quick look without being spotted. His footsteps were beyond the crates and going deeper into the ship. Though it was risky, Clare decided to chance it. He leaned forward to look around the corner of the objects hiding him.
In a distant part of his mind, Clare was surprised at the captain's appearance. The crew that had previously captured him had been filled of people with downright filthy clothing. The captain here wore clothing that could compare to a noble's. His black coat with gold trim was a beautiful article, one that complimented his dark and neat hair well. From a back view, there was little else Clare could tell of his outfit, but that coat alone was enough to make an impression. He might have thought more of it if not for how the captain's right arm looked. The sleeve had been stained a deep red, and judging by the way the captain was holding it, he was in severe pain. When he let go of his arm to open a door with his left hand, he let out a soft hiss of agony. He quickly turned the handle and staggered inside, leaving the door hanging open.
I could help him.
The thought nearly caused Clare to stumble. He had not expected it at all, even though it was the natural conclusion to come to. His desires to help heal anyone who needed it made this idea inevitable. In any other situation, it never would have gotten to come into his mind. He already would have been moving to offer his assistance. It is only his fear that causes him to hesitate.
If I heal him, I can't hide again. He could capture me, or throw me overboard, or... take me back.
That last concern is enough to make him sick to his stomach. Even being a prisoner to pirates again was more appealing than being brought back to his parents. The risks of helping the captain were huge. He could not expect gratitude from a pirate. Not after what he had seen them be capable of. It was not as if the captain's life was on the line. That was a wound that could heal on its own.
It could. Or it could get infected.
Clare winced at the thought, but he knew it was correct. People rarely died from blood loss when they survived an injury. More often they would become diseased from contamination of the injury. That in itself was not always fatal. Even so, it took enough lives to not be taken lightly. Clare considered this while coming to the inevitable realization that he was going to show himself. He closed his eyes and shook his head, which did nothing to change the words running through his head.
I'm a healer. I would be failing my duty if I did nothing for him. I have to do this, even if there are consequences.
Clare straightened, looking at the door. With a deep breath, he stepped forward. Fifteen long paces was all it took to reach the room. With a boldness that had seemingly come from nowhere, Clare stopped in front of the open door, staring straight ahead.
His eyes met the captain's instantly. From this angle, Clare saw that his white laced shirt, brown vest, and perfectly centered cravat were just as well made as his coat. He also saw, out of the corner of his vision, that the captain had grabbed a roll of bandages. Seeing the stranger in front of the room had made him pause, which led to Clare's eyes locking with the captain's aqua ones. Their lovely shade was so reminiscent of the sea that they nearly took Clare's breath away. Those eyes alone spoke of someone who was, without a doubt, a captain. Even if nobody had called him Captain, even if he had worn rags instead of his wealthy attire, Clare would have pinpointed him as such for the emotions and color of his eyes.
Only for a moment was Clare allowed to think of this. Then the captain spoke.
"It appears to me we have a stowaway. Something tells me you've a reason to reveal yourself, since you obviously had not been noticed until just now. So, let us hear it, eh?"
The words were accusatory ones, yet he did not sound angry. It was more of a puzzled tone, which was a relief to Clare. That meant the captain might hear him out. He approached while holding out his hand. Inside it was a silver holy symbol of Valkur, which he was certain any captain would recognize instantly.
"That wound is not one you can simply bandage. Let me help with it. I am a healer."
The captain tilted his head.
"I see. A healer. That makes you a surgeon, but you do not appear to be drunk - whether by choice, or lack of options, I do not know - and that is generally a good thing. Why do you offer this, healer? Do you expect me to become indebted to you?"
Clare thought through his next words carefully before saying,
"I don't seek payment, nor do I request forgiveness for being aboard your ship without permission. This is just who I am. I can't let someone who is injured go without healing."
What would have been a shrug turned into a wince as the captain's injured arm was moved.
"Right, then. You have one chance, one only - if you fail in this, you will be in for a punishment you may never forget."
He put his arm forward on the table before him. Only then did Clare get a good look at the room he was standing outside of. There was a table and two chairs with little else besides a cabinet to the side. It was fine for what was needed, so Clare stepped in and sat in the empty chair. The captain's threat intimidated him, but he was determined not to back down.
"Here, let me see your arm."
The captain had laid his right hand on the table with his palm facing down. This gave Clare an unobstructed view of the long gash on the outside of his arm. To those unused to blood, it would have been a stomach-churning sight. For Clare, it was all part of his job. He reached over without hesitation to place the fingertips of his left hand on the wound. Familiar words formed in his mind and were softly spoken. Light seeped from his fingers and trickled into the cut. The light faded moments later. Blood remained to show that the captain had been injured. If not for that, nothing would have given it away. His skin was closed and lacked any sort of a scar.
The process done, Clare drew back his hand. The captain did a similar action with bringing his arm up and examining it. He nodded in approval.
"Seems like you have a talent with magic. I hardly notice the wound anymore, though the pain will reside in time."
The powers Clare had from Valkur were beyond simple medicine and bandages, but they were not flawless. Lingering pain often remained after his work. This was something common amongst clerics, so he doubted the captain held it against him.
"I don't use magic alone. I'm familiar with many ways to treat people. But for injuries like that, using the power Valkur has bestowed on me is most effective."
Clare went silent after that, unsure of how to continue. He had done the healing without trouble. Now what would the captain do? Nervousness struck him once more as the captain finally spoke.
"I see. There were reports of a man who had these capabilities, who matched your description. They say he is consistently running, but from what, I know not - merely that there is a fine sum of cash my boys might like, if they were to know."
Clare froze at these words. Whether he had heard from a guard or some other source, he must have come to the conclusion that Clarence Godfrey was the man standing before him. And a reward such as what had been offered would have tempted anyone, gold-loving pirates or not. Clare's eyes closed, and though he tried not to show his anxiety at this identification, his breathing became faster, and his words had a trembling quality to them.
"I know I'm not supposed to be here. I know you alone are strong enough to do whatever you wish with me, let alone calling on others aboard this ship. I'm willing to accept whatever you decide to do. Captivity, slavery, being thrown into the sea, any of that I am prepared for. But please, I beg you, don't take me back there."
The captain did not respond, nor did he show any traces of what he was thinking. As the silence drew on, Clare found himself speaking again.
"My life, until now, has been one of a noble. I do not know how nobles in other cities operate. But for me... I was empty. I existed to be a figurehead, a person that stood for the name 'Godfrey' and brought honor to a wealthy house. Icons do not need personalities, characteristics, or souls. Clarence Godfrey was an image to be looked at, to be envied by other houses. But that is not who I am."
He put a hand over his chest, passion seeping into his tone as he continued.
"For the past three years, I have been Clare, a man who cares greatly for those who are injured. I heal anyone in need of it, offer help where I am able, and strive to learn more all the time. I worship Valkur, a deity whose convictions are ones I admire. And I have my own wishes, wishes that have no relation to owning gold. This is the person I have become. I do not want to change from Clare back to Clarence Godfrey. So please... if you must see me off... then at least let me die as Clare."
More thick silence met his words. Clare remained still, as if petrified, while waiting for a response. He feared the worst, that the captain would dismiss his words without a second thought. These worries had such a grip on his mind that it took Clare a moment to realize the captain had reacted. To Clare's shock, he was laughing. It was a quiet laugh, one that spoke not only of amusement, but also of approval.
"You are truly something else, Clarence Godfrey. Your boldness is more than you might give it credit for, and I have a feeling you inherited it from your past. No, I will not be sending you into more shackles than you deserve. Such things are beneath a man of my stature."
Relief rushed through Clare, to the point that he fell back into his chair. That was slightly confusing to him, as Clare did not remember having gotten up. He must have when doing everything he could to convince the captain of his feelings. Clare looked up and said, in full sincerity,
"You have my utmost gratitude."
"No, I do not. What I have now, is a new doctor. I cannot have a man who sways more than the ocean's caress tending to my men. If you refuse, I can land you at the next port, and send you off."
Clare blinked at the statement. He had never considered becoming an official doctor of a ship. Yet the idea made a lot of sense. By staying with a ship, he would constantly have patients to look after, and he would find more every time they stopped at dry land. Not only were wounds a problem on the sea; sickness was a serious issue that a doctor was needed for. And by staying on the ship, his chances of someday running into Saber were far greater. It was with those ideas that Clare said,
"That is more than I ever hoped for. To be the doctor on this ship would be a great honor. Thank you, Captain." "No, thank you, Clare. But do not forsake your past - it is what makes you the man you are today, and is written in stone. Embrace it, and you may find more doors open than you ever imagined."
Here the captain winked, and moved slowly off from whence he came.
Clare remained seated as he thought over what had just happened. It had been a risky move, and it had paid off generously. Now he no longer needed to hide on this ship, or to worry over what would happen if he was discovered. He had a way to travel and continue performing his job. And while he might not have the captain's full trust yet, that would be obtained with time. From what he had seen of the captain, they were certain to become close comrades. Clare was not sure of what a perfect situation would be, but this seemed as close as he would get. The only thing that could make it better was if this led to him finding his friend.
Saber, I'm becoming the person you always thought I could be. I hope you will get to see that soon.
A shout from above pulled Clare out of his distracted mindset. It was probably nothing serious, but it caused Clare to rise and leave the room swiftly. If he was to be the doctor of this ship, he was determined to do the job right.