As expected, Madam Ka’ was not intimidated by Captain Dakar’s visit. She considered the Star Flyer her own private sailing yacht and intended to greet Dakar with imposing graciousness. There was no arguing with her. However, she was agreeable to allowing the boys to act as her personal servants. The thinly orchestrated cover-up was destined not to fool Captain Dakar one bit. Besides as Madam Ka’ was quick to point out, she might be the cause of Dakar’s interest in the first place.
Tommes had no further argument. He would stay in his cabin out of Captain Dakar’s sight while Madam Ka’ and Captain Tarr entertained their guest. The boys would bring a tray of refreshments and then Madam Ka’ would send them off as if they were merely her servants. Tommes had made other plans for delaying the Sea Dragon when the Star Flyer slipped out of the harbor.
Meanwhile, the boys were dressing up as royal servants with uniforms that Tommes had conjured up for them. They looked ridiculous! Their pants were red with gold stripes down the sides. Their shirts white and ruffled at the collars while a jacket made of red cloth and adorned with gold tassels made them look like dolls. Each had a hat with even more gold tassels and to add further insult their faces were smeared with white gooey paint that when dried made it difficult to move their lips. Their hands were covered with white gloves and if it were any indication of how they looked, Madam Ka’ was delighted. The boys howled and protested, but it was to no avail.
The entire ship had been hastily made ready for the visit. The men were forced to wear their formal uniforms. A table and some chairs were brought out onto the deck and placed under a makeshift canopy. Captain Tarr did not want Dakar to have a glimpse of the ship’s interior.
There was no time for a rehearsal and while the boys sweltered in their servant doll outfits, Madam Ka’ spelled out their roles. She doubted that they could perform even the simplest task with any sensibility and changed the plan at the last moment. Hanta now would carry her trailing gown, while Deki would carry a pillow. They would help Madam Ka’ to her seat, bow and without any word spoken would vanish from her sight. They were not to be seen for the remainder of the visit.
“And you will say nothing,” Madam Ka’ scolded. “Not one word from either of you. Not even if spoken too!”
Mister Doran commanded the men and lined them around the ship’s railings. He placed four armed men near Madam Ka’s chair. Several others were hidden in the corridor. The boys were to return to the corridor, and be whisked back into Tommes cabin immediately after completing their tasks. The cook had prepared a light snack of crab cakes, salted biscuits, and set out a chilled bottle of the Captain’s best grog. Per Madam Ka’s orders, Captain Dakar would not be staying for dinner. She agreed to see him on deck but she did not intend to dine with such a renowned degenerate.
Captain Dakar arrived promptly in a small boat oared by two men dressed in uniforms. Captain Tarr met him personally, as a net ladder was dropped over the side of the ship. The bearded, dark but graying haired Captain climbed aboard, while one of his uniformed men carried a bouquet of flowers and a small wooden box. The box was not very big and was engraved with a simple crest. The Captains shook hands and then bowed ceremonially. Escorted by Mister Doran, the Captains walked a short distance around the ship allowing Dakar to inspect the sailors as was traditional.
“My good man,” Captain Dakar said after the formalities were complete. “How many years since we last visited?”
“Twelve, I imagine,” Captain Tarr replied.
“What has brought you to Haletown, might I ask?” Captain Dakar asked, as the men proceeded across the deck.
“Ah, just acquiring a few supplies,” Captain Tarr answered.
“Imagine my surprise to see the Star Flyer anchored as we came into the harbor.” Captain Dakar answered. “I did not know that King Otto ever allowed his prized ship out of his harbor.”
“Not very often,” Captain Tarr replied politely. “He tends to dote over his little ship.”
“I have heard that, too,” Captain Dakar answered cheerfully with a grunting laugh. “And a fine ship is the Star Flyer.”
“The very finest,” Captain Tarr said. “Shall we sit and talk of old times?” He motioned towards the chair that Mister Doran was holding for the pirate.
“By all means,” Captain Dakar said and sat with a little awkwardness in the stiff wooded chair. Directly across the table he noted the larger chair covered in fine leather.
“Madam Ka’ has taken to sailing around the world,” Captain Tarr said.
“Madam Ka’ has decided to travel,” Dakar said without tipping his hat. “I find that most remarkable.”
“Indeed,” Captain Tarr said knowing fully Dakar was bluffing. “We have been sailing for several weeks now.”
“I see,” Captain Dakar said. He casually pushed the small hand carved box onto the table and then leaned back in the chair. “I imagine staying at home has become rather stuffy, perhaps the sea air appeals to her.”
“Indeed,” Captain Tarr said. “Why, here comes Madam Ka’ now.” Both men rose to their feet while Madam Ka’ proceeded elegantly across the deck. Hanta held up the train of her dress, while Deki carried an embroidered pillow. As the procession arrived, the men bowed to her in the proper fashion with Captain Dakar making the grandest gesture.
“My dear, Madam Ka’,” Captain Dakar spoke. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance.” He handed her a bouquet of flowers that Madam Ka’ accepted graciously.
She smelled the aroma by fanning the flowers gently with her hand. Then she took her seat in the leather chair. Deki stuffed the embroidered pillow behind her back. With a rude flick of the wrist Madam Ka’ waved them away. Deki and Hanta quickly stepped away, but not without first noticing the curious glare from Captain Dakar. Mister Doran quickly took the flowers from Madam Ka’ and stood by her side holding them like his hands were a makeshift vase. He looked uncomfortable and remained stiffly standing at full attention.
“Captain Tarr informs me that you are the Captain of the Sea Dragon.” Madam Ka’ said curtly.
“That is correct, Madam,” He answered politely.
“And what kind of commodities do you trade?” Madam Ka’ asked, as if she were not already fully aware of the pirate’s illicit trade.
“Fine jewels, gold and silver.” Captain Dakar answered. “Prized artifacts and fine antiquities—discreetly, of course.”
“I see,” Madam Ka’ said stiffly.
The cabin boy arrived with a tray of freshly prepared crab cakes and salted biscuits. While a second came with tankards and a bottle of spirits, which he ceremoniously uncorked. Drinks were poured while the plates of crab cakes and thin biscuits were delicately laid out on the small table.
“What an unexpected surprise,” Captain Dakar said, as he waited for Madam Ka’ to take the first sip from her glass.
“Indeed,” Captain Tarr said.
“I find traveling to be good for my health,” Madam Ka’ said.
“A toast to your health,” Captain Dakar said while holding his glass up in another grand gesture.
The cabin boy arrived again with a glass vase. He plucked the flowers from Mister Doran’s hands and planted them in the vase. With elaborate care, he set the vase down on the table and fluffed up the flowers a bit before scurrying away. Relieved Mister Doran put his hands behind his back and stood motionlessly next to Madam Ka’.
“The sea air is refreshing,” Captain Tarr said.
“Indeed,” Madam Ka’ said. “I have seen so many new and interesting places.”
“Indeed,” Captain Dakar replied. “I have brought my dear old friend Captain Tarr a gift that I would like to present to him, if it pleases you Madam?”
“Certainly, you may,” Madam Ka’ said. She poked delicately at the plate of crab cakes with her fork.
“A debt repaid,” Captain Dakar said, as he presented the box to Captain Tarr.
Inquisitively, Captain Tarr took the box, peeked inside, and while trying not to gasp said. “My—what an unexpected curiosity.”
“I thought you might like this. I have been saving it for the longest time now with just you in mind.” Captain Dakar said with a grin that caused his dark bushy mustache to rise ever so slightly.
“I believe you have far overpaid your debt, Captain Dakar.” Captain Tarr said, as he laid the open box on the table. Madam Ka’ caught the expression he made as he looked up at her.
“Why a pearl handled dagger,” Madam Ka’ said. She recognized it immediately but without the slightest flinch maintained her graceful composure. “How thoughtful, I imagine men like having such things as this in their collections.”
“Indeed,” Captain Tarr answered quickly. “I have several others very similar. This one is quite valuable you I can tell so by looking at the handle.”
“I am afraid I do not know much of such things,” Madam Ka’ said demurely.
“It has truly been a pleasure Madam,” Captain Dakar said, as he began to rise from his seat. He finished off the spirits and laid the glass down on the table.
“Captain Dakar,” Captain Tarr said. “Must you leave so soon?”
“I have urgent matters to attend to in Haletown,” Captain Dakar said politely.
Madam Ka’ remained firmly in her seat. She smoldered at the sight that lay on the table in front of her, the dagger of King Orr the Second. It was an antique lost ages ago. A replica of it was on display in the library at the House of Orr. She knew exactly what Captain Dakar was hinting at, but remained determined not to allow him to see the slightest expression of her behalf.
“My dear Madam Ka’,” Captain Dakar said with a bow. “I do hope that we shall meet again. Perhaps I can bring you some jewels for your inspection.”
“Of course,” Madam Ka’ replied. “I will be happy to view your offerings.”
“Very well then,” Captain Dakar said and strode off briskly with Captain Tarr while Mister Doran escorted. A moment later he was down the ladder and aboard his own dinghy. Then his men rowed him away back to the Sea Dragon.
Captain Tarr returned, “I apologize,” he said while he viewed the pearl handled dagger.
“For what? Might I ask,” Madam Ka’ snipped. “The man thinks we are fools.”
“Perhaps,” Captain Tarr said and then scooping up the box, “but he is apparently aware of matters, regrettably.”
The Star Flyer left Haletown almost immediately after Dakar’s short visit. The boys had been confined to their cabin while watches were posted on deck to keep a vigil out for any movement from the Sea Dragon. Clearing the harbor, the ship’s sails were raised and catching the wind, set off in an easterly direction again. Other ships were seen, however, none had the specific flagging of the Sea Dragon. Tommes felt confident enough to let the boys loose and delighted they shed their stiff and scratching toy servant uniforms. For now, the danger of crossing paths with Dakar was over. Dakar would be waiting for a more opportune moment to strike. Attempting to overtake the Star Flyer at sea would be a daunting task that even he would never dare. The King’s ship was too heavily armed and the Sea Dragon would be no match, besides with a loud crack the main mast of the Sea Dragon mysterious cracked and fell. Captain Dakar’s ship would be detained in Haletown for the time being.
Tommes remained in his cabin inspecting the dagger. While not convinced of its authenticity, he was sure of the message. Examining the dagger, he noted the special marks of King Orr the Second scratched faintly into the butt of the ivory handle. The mark of the knife maker was deeper and clearer. Still as Tommes said, a good fake would show these marks just that way. He levitated the dagger above his desk and let it drop. The blade slashed deeply into the solid wood desktop.
Trade in stolen antiquities was not beyond the scruples of Captain Dakar, but there was some question of how the knife had been lost in the first place. The dagger had been passed on until King Orr the Sixth. As a King noted for reckless gambling, most commonly believed he had lost the dagger in a wager. The knife’s presence on the rancorous antiquities market would be quite legitimate under the circumstances. In fact, who really knew how many times the dagger had changed hands over the centuries. Tommes placed the dagger back in its case, muttered some incantation over the carved box, sealing the dagger inside and whatever magic it might contain. In turn, Captain Tarr placed the case in a sturdy crate, which was to be placed in the hold of the ship. He intended to return the dagger to its’ rightful place, the House of Orr.
Meanwhile, Madam Ka’ was enjoying the sea breezes on deck under the newly erected cabana. When the boys returned they found her sitting in the leather chair sipping a glass of yellowish juice.
“Did you know our mother?” Hanta asked as he approached.
“Of course,” Madam Ka’ replied stiffly. “Your mother was my older sister.”
It seemed a silly question now that it had been asked. Tommes did say that Madam Ka’ was their aunt. But neither Deki nor Hanta had any recollection of their parents. They had grown up under the watchful eyes of the Madeiras.
Madam Ka’ was silent while a strange change of expressions crossed her face. Her heart was not made of stone and now while the boys were both sitting on the deck peering up at her she underwent a change.
“Not only am I your aunt,” she said with unusual sweetness, “I am also your Godmother.”
Deki nodded. “Can you tell us about our mother?” he asked.
“Of course,” Madam Ka’ replied. “Your mother was a few years older than I, but we looked very similar. She was the first daughter of King Otto the Fifteenth.”
“What happened to our mother?” Hanta asked.
“She died shortly after you were born,” Madam Ka’ said. “It broke my heart. I was willing to take you both, but then the terrible dragons attacked your Father’s Kingdom and you were both sent away.”
“Our Father, King Orr…” Deki muttered. “What dragons?”
“King Orr the Fourteenth,” Madam Ka’ answered. “You Deki are the next in line. Someday you will be King Orr the Fifteenth.”
“I am?” Deki asked somewhat startled by the revelation.
“And you will be Prince Hanta the Lesser,” Madam Ka’ said to Hanta.
“The Lesser?” Hanta repeated.
“Yes of course, you are the second born.”
“Oh,” Hanta said, somehow the title sounded insulting. Deki made a funny face at him.
“So what is our father like?” Deki asked.
“He is good,” Madam Ka’ replied. “But I afraid the Kingdom of Hadzi is in ruins. The awful dragons have seen to that.”
“What is Hadzi?” Deki asked again.
“Hadzi is your Kingdom,” Madam Ka’ said. “The people are quite good, just simple farmers. They are very loyal to King Orr and have always been so.”
“Why have the dragons ruined the kingdom?” Deki asked, his curiosity had been awakened but he was actually more confused now than ever.
“Well, now that is a long and complicated story,” Madam Ka’ said. “There have been hundreds of years of peace between the Dragon Empire and the Hadzis. One day, about the time Hanta was born the Dragon King, Hadrid lost his chick. That is what they call a dragon hatchling, a chick. No one really knows how, perhaps the wretched lizard gobbled the hatchling up. Hadrid is a wretched dragon and for some reason which no one can fully explain, he blamed the disappearance on the Hadzi.”
“Dragons,” Hanta mumbled with amazement. He had heard of dragons, but he never knew that any actually existed. There were none anywhere near the Madeira’s house, he felt certain of that.
“Yes, the dragons have always been associated with the Kingdom of Hadzi. The history is more complicated than I could possibly recite to you in one sitting.” Madam Ka’ continued. “Nevertheless, Hadrid having lost the dragon chick by whatever means, demanded that King Orr forfeit his own heir. That would be you Deki”
“Me?” Deki said as he sat forward a bit.
“Naturally, the King refused Hadrid’s ridiculous demand,” Madam Ka’ continued. “Then the Dragon Empire attacked Hadzi, burning their villages and destroying the crops and livestock.”
“Did not the Hadzi fight them?” Hanta asked.
“Of course,” Madam Ka’ said. “The Hadzi fought the dragons as best they could, but the dragons are stronger. Eventually they set fire to the House of Orr itself, while the Hadzis were driven into the catacombs deep down in the Adzes River canyon. They remain there to this day.”
“What are catacombs?” Deki asked.
“You ask too many questions, Deki,” Madam Ka’ said with a slight degree of cheerfulness. “I cannot explain all of this at once.”
“Sorry,” Deki apologized.
“You will learn everything,” Madam Ka’ said. “But not all today, in fact it will take years for you to learn everything. This is why we have come for you both now. We cannot postpone your education any longer.”
Madam Ka’ paused for a moment and her attention flowed out towards the endless sea. The ship was well beyond the Isles of Lost Fortune now and all that could be seen was the sea that rose and fell in endless swells. A few birds darted into the water just off the ship’s sides.
“I offered to take you both, but Hadrid was determined to capture you, Deki, and no one believed that Albaland could withstand the dragons any better than Hadzi had. You were just a baby Hanta and Deki you were but a year old. It broke my heart when Tommes took you away. He hid you with the Madeiras. They are distant relations.”
“Oh,” Hanta said now understanding why they had been raised by the Madeiras. Many times Senora Madeira had reminded them that she was not their mother, but she never once had said anything about where they had come from.
“Hanta the Lesser,” Deki jeered rather meanly at Hanta.
“That will be enough Deki,” Madam Ka’ scolded. “You are the oldest, but that does not necessarily mean that you are better. Besides, there is no heir to the throne of Albaland. Matters of succession can be fairly complicated, but it may very well be that you Hanta will marry a Princess and become King of Albaland.”
Hanta glared back at Deki. He made a funny face while squinting his eyes.
“Strife between Princes has always been troublesome.” Madam Ka’ said while raising her voice harshly. “I will not tolerate any such nonsense and you both will act properly. Although your mother is gone, I am still here to see to it.”
Deki nodded, while Hanta glared back at him. He had gained the alliance and protection of Madam Ka’.
“Does King Orr have any ships?” Hanta asked.
“No,” Madam Ka’ replied.
Having shown up his brother again, Hanta glared at Deki with a smirk. Deki pretended not to care.