“The Wandering Velogriff. Cargo ship, correct?”
Darkel grunted in the affirmative. The human looking over his paperwork had one magnifying lens in his right eye that he was using to study the documents.
“The previous owner was human?”
The human looked up from the papers. His magnified eye seemed to study Darkel for a moment.
“It says here he once owned you?”
The human turned back to his paperwork. Darkel suppressed the urge to smash that lens into his head. Instead, he folded his arms and began looking around the room. Several onlookers quickly turned back to their work at his glance. Darkel let out a sign of frustration.
This was the last place he had to go to re-register the ship. He had grown used to the questions, but the looks never became easy. Not that he hadn’t always been given looks, being so tall and covered in fur. But now they carried the unspoken question; did you kill him?
“Everything seems to be in order. Dienorta’s blessings on our future business, Captain Darkel.”
He held out the paperwork. Darkel took it without a word and headed back to the dock. Now that the bureaucracy was over with, he could get to business. He already had some business lined up. Legal business in fact. It was one of his former captain’s contacts.
Darkel had been to most of the meetings with clients in the last few years. It seemed so strange at the time. Captain Roeburne had said that he was just training him so he wouldn’t have to do them anymore. “Let’s face it Darkel. You’re the charismatic one of the two of us.”
Darkel let out a little chuckle, thinking about the joke from all those years ago. His laugh seemed to scare a cargo worker who jumped across the dock, but then quickly returned to his work as if nothing had happened.
Captain Roeburne seemed to be an oddity among humans. His crew was a mix of all kinds of beings from across the galaxy. He had bought Darkel from a slaver market when he was young. Slavery was illegal in this part of human controlled space, but Roeburne still kept the laws of other kingdoms to avoid conflicts. He was never cruel, but he did keep Darkel’s status as a slave until he was 18.
“The laws created in these barbaric lands only help the worst this galaxy has to offer. If I free you now, any slaver king could eat your head if he desired it. But this kingdom respects the rights of slavers in an otherwise lawless place. It’s a twisted world.”
Darkel arrived at the ship in which he had spent his formative years. It held many a fond memory, but it also held echoes of dark times.
One of the crew members sold them out to a band of raiders. They survived the betrayal, but Roeburne couldn’t trust anyone after that. For two years they continued on until they were attacked again by some of the crew that had betrayed and their new pirate friends.
Roeburn and Darkel gave them the fight of their lives. The ship still bore the scars from the encounter. But in the end they took Captain Roeburne’s life.
“Never turn into this Darkel. These were once our friends. But they let their anger and greed destroy everything. Be kind Darkel. Be better.”
Darkel began loading crates onto his ship. The captain’s last words were forever etched into Darkel’s head, though he never knew how to act on them. After all the things he’d been through, he had grown a very tough skin. How would he help others if his very presence scared them away?
As Darkel continued loading he noticed one of the crate’s tops was open. He let out a growl of frustration. Was it the cheap help around here? Or had some creature broken in to get at the contents inside? Darkel lifted up the lid and stared the creature right in the eyes.
It was a young human boy with fruit in both hands and a mouthful of food. They both looked at each other in shock for a second before the boy hurled the fruit at Darkel’s head. The hard unripened fruit dazed Darkel for a moment but with his years of experience he reached out blindly and grabbed the back of the kids coat. The boy’s legs ran frantically in the air as he struggled to escape.
“Let me go!” The boy shouted as he tried to hurl his last fruit. But Darkel caught his hand and held it there.
“Why are you eating my food?!”
“You have more than enough! Even for a big fatty like you!”
Darkel cracked a slight smile. “Oh, so that means you get to rob me?”
“Better than starving. I haven’t eaten in days!”
The smile faded. “I’m going to put you down. Do not try to run away.”
“What are you going to do if I do?”
“I’ll eat you.”
The boy froze and stared at Darkel with wide eyes.
“Are you going to behave?”
“Okay, I’m going to let you down.”
Darkel lowered the kid down but he didn’t let go. When the child didn’t resist he released his grip.
Darkel looked over the straggly child before him. “Who takes care of you?”
“No one. I can take care of myself.”
Darkel raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Are you sure about that?”
The boy looked like he was about to cry but then clenched his fists in anger. “I don’t need anyone else!”
Darkel lowered himself down on his haunches before speaking in a softened voice. “No need to shout. I have big ears.”
Darkel took in the sight of the skinny, dirt covered little boy in front of him. For a moment he thought of how he must have looked when the captain first saw him. An idea began to form, one that just might begin to pay back an old friend.
He pointed to the crate of fruit. “You like them?”
The boy looked at him a little confused. “Yeah… Why?”
“Obviously I can’t eat them all. So I’m offering you a deal. Help me out on my ship and you can eat all the fruit you want. ”
The boy began to look more confused. “Are you offering me a job?”
Darkel nodded, “Yes.”
The boy smiled for a second but suddenly stopped, took a step back and folded his arms.
“Why would you hire me? I just robbed you!”
Darkel Scratched his chin as he thought for a bit. “True, you did rob me. But you only did that because you were hungry. That means you get things done no matter the risk. That’s the kind of crew mate I need.”
The boy still looked a little confused but nodded his head.
Darkel pointed back to the ship.“I’ve been trying to run this boat by myself but it’s too much work for one person. I need help from someone like you.”
“It’s true. But don’t go telling anyone. Could ruin my reputation.”
The boy nodded his head. “Okay, I will give it a try. But I leave if I want, okay?”
“Hopefully that’s while we’re docked. But you have a deal. What’s your name boy?”
The boy stood up straight and stuck out his hand. “Senryn Callidus.”
Darkel grabbed his hand firmly, but tried not to crush it. “Darkel. Just Darkel. Let’s get to work.”
Senryn grabbed the side of the fruit crate and tried with all his might to lift it. Darkel shook his head and picked it up by himself.
“Don’t worry about this one, I got it. Just head onto the ship. We’re heading out soon”
The boy nodded and ran to the ship. Darkel followed after. “I can’t help everyone, but I can try to make a difference. I can be kind.”