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  1. #1
    Anne Radcliffe's Avatar
       Anne Radcliffe is offline Rookie
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    A Priceless Codex: A Virtuous Anne Radcliffe Story

    Leon de Chambray gave a quick wave to his lookout as he boarded his ship. The lookout nodded back, and returned to gazing outward. Leon whistled a fragment of a chantey as he headed towards his quarters. A con man and a pirate, Leon had made good use of his skills at charm and thievery this trip, augmented by the judicious use of outright violence on the skyways. Well laden with treasure, they had docked at the small island of Ilya, one of the numerous islands that dotted the Skull Island skyway, and thus under the easy watch of Governor Avery. As long as Avery got a cut of the profits, the governor typically turned a blind eye to covert dealings and the wide-scale fencing of stolen goods.

    Leon smiled to himself. One of those goods was a very valuable parcel indeed. He had given most of the eager crew leave to go on shore, sent a message to his prospective buyer, and now was returning to his captain’s quarters to await the buyer. The buyer would come to him, the transaction end with his own pockets all the heavier, and the crew none the wiser. None of them knew the value of a book, the illiterate crew of ruffians that they were, especially not this one. This book looked particularly unprepossessing, its leather bindings worn and tattered, and the ancient parchment pages rumpled with age and use. Some illustrations decorated its pages, but they were merely faded watercolor drawings of dull plants; no bright gold leaf here to catch a pirate’s eye.

    Smug in the satisfaction of knowing he was going to get away with gold that would not be shared, despite his own hefty captain’s portion of the other treasures, Leon entered the darkened chamber of his quarters, shut the door, and lit a lamp.

    He almost cried out in shock and dismay, but hurriedly stifled the impulse. Sitting at his own table, unsheathed sword across her lap, sat a young human woman.

    Leon took a moment to assess the situation. First, although her gaze was uncomfortably penetrating, she obviously meant no immediate threat. That made him relax a fraction. Secondly, who was this intruder? There were plenty of humans – comparatively – in the Skull Island skies, many humans finding Skull Island a better place to make a life than in other places in the Spiral where their numbers were few, and thus regarded with distain or suspicion. However, young female human pirates were not nearly so abundant, and even fewer who would be so reckless as to confront a pirate captain with Leon de Chambray’s reputation in his own quarters. Alone.

    He only knew one pirate with such absurd daring. Well. Time to make use of his considerable charm, then.

    “Captain Anne Radcliffe, I presume? To what do I owe the pleasure of your lovely company?” Leon drawled, his eyes twinkling with entirely false good humor. He bent forward as if to kiss her hand in the finest courtly fashion, but a shift of her sitting position and the point of the sword shifting slightly towards his direction convinced him otherwise. He smoothly shifted his movement into a handsome bow, not displaying the mild annoyance he felt. Had the silly girl fallen for his courtly maneuver, he would have seized her wrist, broken her hold on her sword, and pinned her. It would have been all over with then. But no mind. He simply had to await his next opportunity.

    Anne quirked her lips in an ironic smile, as if she knew exactly what he was thinking. “Captain de Chambray --”

    Leon smiled, showing perfect teeth. He gave an artful toss of his head that displayed his tawny gold hair to good benefit. “Please, call me Leon.”

    An expression he could not quite read flitted across her face. It was either admiration of his masculine beauty, or she was trying not to laugh. Leon hoped it was the former, but if the latter (he reflected with a certain chagrin), he could at least use that to lower her guard.

    “Leon, then,” she replied firmly. Her gaze on him was cool. “I believe you have a valuable work in your possession, a codex you have stolen from a Monquistan monastery.”



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  3. #2
    Anne Radcliffe's Avatar
       Anne Radcliffe is offline Rookie
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    Re: A Priceless Codex: A Virtuous Anne Radcliffe Story

    Captain de Chambray was surprised at the accuracy of her information, but the knowledge of why she was here relaxed him further. He laughed, going to his cabinet, unlocking it, and removing a stumpy green glass bottle. “Perhaps I do. And this surprises you?” He uncorked the bottle and poured a purple stream of Yum into a golden goblet. He offered this to Anne, but she refused with a shake of her head. He shrugged, corked the bottle, put it back and sat down across from her with the goblet himself. “I am a pirate, after all. And so are you.”

    I don’t attack defenseless communities of holy monks,” Anne replied severely.

    “Well, aren’t you a righteous little girl,” Leon sneered, his mask of charm slipping a trifle. “And you call Monquistan monks ‘holy’? Didn’t you ever hear of their Inquisition? Much of what Inquisition does would put an honest pirate to shame,” he concluded, taking a sip from the goblet.

    “These monks were of the unworldly sort, dedicating their lives to preserving the knowledge of the past,” Anne replied softly. The Inquisition was indefensible; she did not argue that.

    “And they were remote,” Leon agreed affably. “A protection of sorts – and all the more sweet to win their prizes. Thus, since I worked for the prize, I won it fairly.”

    The ironic quirk of her lips twitched once again. Leon was sure he was winning her over. “The monks would not agree. But I am not here for all your prizes. They are sorry to lose the copies of the great works you stole, but that knowledge does exist in other sources, some of which they possess. They now understand that isolation is not always protection, and although it troubles their solitude, they have employed protection against future raids.”

    “I thank you for the warning,” Leon interjected with a winning smile.

    “What I am here for,” Anne plowed on undeterred, rising to her feet for emphasis, “is the Dioscoredes Herbal. That tome is perhaps the most complete copy in existence. The monks had not yet finished making a full copy. They consider its loss inconsolable.”

    “Ah.” Leon took another sip of Yum. Now they were getting to the heart of the matter. “And you want me to pay you off so –”

    “No. I want the book.”

    Leon ruffled his blonde hair. “Be reasonable, captain. It is my loot, fair and square. I’ve got a buyer all lined up for it. Now I can spare a small percentage of the take to encourage you to take off and let me be…”

    “You don’t understand. Your buyer will horde this treasure and its knowledge will be silenced. The copies the monks make will enable its knowledge to be shared around the Spiral.”

    He burst into harsh laughter at her eager words. “Great Spiral – you really are a prissy Champion of Virtue, aren’t you. I had heard the rumors, but I did not credit you actually believed such nonsense. You are wasting my time. Get out -- unless you have more to offer than my buyer – and I doubt, despite the rumored successes of your exploits, that you do,” he added with a sneer.

    “We could duel for it,” Anne offered coolly.

    “Why? It is mine. It is in my possession, on my ship. It is you who are in danger here,” he added, his tone no longer light, but dangerous.

    “Perhaps.” She gave her little half-smile once again. “But to leave your cabin, you have to get past me.”



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  5. #3
    Anne Radcliffe's Avatar
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    Re: A Priceless Codex: A Virtuous Anne Radcliffe Story

    Leon regarded her thoughtfully. This girl captain was just a little slip of a thing, hardly deserving of the reputation she had. And while he expected that she might be quick and agile, those attributes would not play in her favor in this confined space, while his greater reach and strength would. She had the present advantage of her sword already in first guard position (he was not fooled by the seemingly careless posture she showed), but, hmm, well, he could throw the Yum bottle at her, and have his sword out readily while she was ducking the missile. It was a tempting notion, to best this little upstart in a duel, but… no. A battle would leave him disheveled and perhaps with a sword-prick or two. That would hardly be the way to impress his client.

    No, it would be far easier and safer to cheat. “Now, now, I am sure we can still come to some agreement,” he continued to chat affably as his right hand surreptitiously slipped under the table, seeking out…

    A sleek energy pistol dropped on the table. “Is this what you are looking for?” Anne asked sweetly, her eyes sparkling impishly at the other pirate captain’s startled expression. “Oh, and I disarmed the charge. Very dangerous, leaving loaded weapons around like that.”



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