Harald's Story

Bargaining with Soren

Captain Soren glowered at the three men seated in front of him in his cabin. He studied each of them in turn before turning to the oldest man. "All right, Delling. What brings you to my ship at this hour of day?"

The young monk accompanying the abbot spoke abruptly. "You will refer to the abbot as Father Delling! He has served God and this community well and deserves better respect from one such as you!"

Father Delling placed a restraining hand on Brother Jens's shoulder. "My son, please be still. We are not at the monastery, but in the captain's own abode. This is not the place to lecture him on manners. Rather it is the place for us to display our own to the best of our ability." Soren noticed that the other man smirked at this, but kept his attention on the two holy men.

"I don't normally like men of your profession, Father Delling," the captain said, emphasizing the abbot's title while glancing somewhat sardonically at Brother Jens. "However, you have always been good to me. And you've never lorded your holiness over me like so many in your position are inclined to do. So perhaps the lad has a point."

"I appreciate whatever respect you choose to show me, but I will not demand it of you," the abbot said kindly, removing his hand from the now steaming Jens. "As for your question, both of these gentlemen require passage overseas. It is my understanding that you might be able to accommodate them."

Soren looked both of the would-be passengers over carefully. "Neither man looks dangerous, though I suspect the young monk might irritate a few of my crew with his sermons." He turned to Jens to address him directly. "You might want to keep that in mind. Also, you might want to keep in mind the number of accidents that can happen on a ship that would end up sending a man overboard."

"Are you threatening me?" Jens barked, almost standing.

"Not at all, young monk. I'm merely pointing out a potential occupational hazard if you choose to indulge in your vocation too often during the journey. Naturally, I would never approve of such an action. In fact, if anything did happen and I suspected it was intentional, I'd see to it that those guilty were severely punished. However, that will be small comfort to you as you drown." The captain was sure he heard a snicker escape the third man in the abbot's party at that. He turned his attention to this otherwise silent figure while the abbot tried to soothe Brother Jens's anger.

"You're the one I'm more concerned about, however. You look tired and hungry. If I didn't know our friend the abbot any better, I'd suspect you were a thief."

Harald faced the captain impassively. With an eerily even tone, he replied, "Actually, your suspicions would not be unfounded. Prior to my recent association with the abbot, I am a thief."

"I see. Are we running from trouble, then?"

"Actually, I suspect I'm running towards more trouble than the trouble I might be running from." The captain was about to ask Harald to explain himself when the man waved him off. "Never mind that. Actually, I'm embarking on a quest to rediscover myself and earn back some measure of honor."

"Ah, then you would be a reformed thief. Well, I have no problems transporting a man seeking to mend his ways. However, be aware that my crew is no kinder to reformed thieves who have a relapse than they will be to a monk who becomes overzealous with his sermons."

Harald nodded in understanding. "I will behave myself."

"You'd best. Because if you're caught stealing from me, my men, or any other passenger, I won't punish the person or people who toss you overboard."

Father Delling interjected at this point. "Excuse me, Soren, but I think we should negotiate fees now that you've established what constitutes a drowning offense during the voyage."

The captain glanced at Delling, unsure whether the abbot intended any malice in his words. "I assume that Harald here will be paying for his passage through labor?"

Harald nodded. "I'm no sailor, but I can perform simple tasks well enough. And I'm not allergic to hard work."

The captain nodded. "Hopefully, you're not allergic to dirty mop water either. There's plenty of unskilled work on this vessel. However, you will have to sleep in the crew area of the ship. It's a tight squeeze and drab."

"That will be fine," the reformed thief replied.

The abbot spoke up again. "The monastery will cover Brother Jens's fare. If possible, I'd like to negotiate a reduced rate in exchange for Brother Jens's assistance in keeping your records and logs up to date during the voyage."

Soren's eyebrows shot up. "So he's a chronicler, then?"

Delling nodded. "He does excellent work, too, probably one of my best students in that discipline. It's one of the reason's he's going with Harald on this journey, to record his voyages."

Soren smirked at the abbot's comment, wondering if the old man realized that he had just made it clear that the thief was on more than a simple spiritual quest. "I see. Well, I'm willing to cut twenty five percent off your pupil's fare for his services."

"I believe that's fair. Also, I would appreciate it if you would quarter Brother Jens in with the crew as well."

"That won't save you any more on the fare, Father. And it's liable to increase the likelihood of the young man having an accident."

Father Delling held up a hand to stem any further objections. "I'm not asking this to get a larger discount. I'm asking this because I think that Brother Jens would benefit from further contact with the crew, even in spite of the friction that might arise."

Harald spoke up at this point, "Captain, bear in mind that I can help keep things from getting out of hand between your men and Brother Jens. I can be quite cunning in handling tough situations like that."

The captain smirked at that. "I suspect you can. I imagine your previous profession gave you a considerable amount of practice."

Father Delling said, "So are we agreed, then?"

Soren nodded. "We're agreed. Your men should report back here in seven days. We'll set sail the next morning at the crack of dawn."

The abbot nodded. "Very well. However, we will be back in two or three days from now for another visit. A young woman will be joining these men as well. She will need to negotiate her own passage when she arrives."

Soren scowled at that. "You should have mentioned the lady before now. She cannot stay in the crew quarters with these men. And I'm not sure she would be well off traveling alone anywhere else on the ship."

Father Delling smiled. "Captain Soren, I think you will be able to negotiate suitable accommodations for this young lady. She's not your typical passenger.

Soren grinned at this. "I see. Well, I suppose it won't hurt to talk to her about what possible arrangements we could make."

A strange smile crossed Father Delling's face as he stood. His companions did likewise. "Thank you for your time, Soren. As always, it was a pleasure doing business with you. I will see you in a few days. Until then, may God bless you."

Soren grimaced at that. This abbot was not nearly as objectionable as most holy men, but he was still a holy man. "Good day to you too, Father."