The Captain stood on the raised deck near the wheel and waited for the crew to settle. Wesley stared around, still shocked by all the missing faces from the Dispatch’s crew. He’d known that the battle had killed many of his friends and shipmates but they had been so busy during the trip back to Waterdeep that the deaths had seemed unreal. But now that they were all huddled together near the mast, waiting for the Captain’s announcement, the truth was evident even for the most dull-witted sailor. And Wesley was no dimwit by any means.
“I don’t see Walters,” a voice said nearby.
“Nah,” another voice replied. “He went up like a candle when them dogs breathed fire. So did Little Dan and Big Dan.”
“Shar, that’s bad.”
Wesley turned to stare at the sailors behind him. His new Lieutenant’s uniform, as ill-fitting as it was, chaffed his neck.
“Silence,” Wesley hissed. “The next man who speaks will be on a charge.”
The men were even more ragged than usual. They had been working on the Seasprite and making repairs to their own ship, during the last few days. He waited for a moment and then turned back around when there was no response.
The Seasprite bobbed at anchor in the next slip. Wesley could make out a handful of Mooring guards scattered across her decks. Another handful of dockyard workers labored to repair the damage the ship had suffered. Wesley still couldn’t believe what had happened during the fight. It hadn’t been his first fight. He’d helped drive off another pirate ship from a convoy last spring. But this fight had been so different.
It had been different before her. His mind wandered and her face filled danced before him. She was so beautiful. He thought of her often. Too often. He didn’t dare share his thoughts with any of the crew, especially the other Lieutenants and Midshipman. They were the worst gossips and would tease him mercilessly if they knew how he felt.
The Captain was talking now. They were to receive three days paid leave. All expenses paid! The crew yelled themselves hoarse and Wesley yelled right along with them. He knew exactly where he would go.
Two hours later he’d found a quiet inn far from the docks and settled in. It wasn’t as luxurious as some of the places the others were staying. His friends, Quath and Petrin especially, had tried to get him to stay with them. They wanted to help celebrate his promotion and return to full rations but he had declined and now rested in the highest room in the Bucking Boar. He opened the window, enjoying the warmth on his face from the afternoon sun. The window was perfect.
He was used to standing watch for hours on ship. He also had excellent eyes, an inheritance from his father, a bowman in the City Watch. He ordered fine wine and a chicken from the innkeep, who was only too happy to take the Mooring family mark as payment. And then he ate, drank and waited. He waited for a long time. But he was rewarded.
She emerged from the orphanage gates, her lithe legs gliding across the cobblestones. Wesley felt his heart clench. Alora. She was even more beautiful than he remembered. He watched her, without blinking, until she disappeared down a side street. Then he slumped onto his bed, her face floating before him, and fell asleep. In his dreams, she danced and danced and he danced with her.