One of the things noted by a reviewer recently was that Kris and I failed to make it clear why Germaine would go to such lengths to rescue Tosh when he seemed to be so indifferent to her in his youth. Sure we told about how Hagen took Germaine in and taught him the trade, but we didn’t really show it.
After thinking about it, I realized that a scene we cut very early on might have helped to explain it, so here it is for your perusal. It’s very rough (from the very first draft of The Trident of Merrow, which is also why The Gallows Jig is called The Banshee’s Wail — we changed the ship’s name early on) so keep that in mind.
Germaine’s hourglass was three quarters full when the Banshee’s Wail went from listing violently to gliding over the storm-spawned ocean waves. At least Burston had managed to do something. Saul was at Germaine’s desk, mumbling to himself as he pored over his collection of blueprints to better understand Blüd’s ship. Germaine felt caged. Out of the rear window of the cabin, Germaine stared at the roiling ocean, rubbing his hands together in a vain attempt to warm himself.
He’d promised Hagen he’d bring her back, even if he had to sail beyond the horizon to find her. More than just a promise, he owed it to Hagen and Tosh. They were his family. Germaine was only thirteen when his father was sent to the hangman as a traitor to the Crown of Sturmwald. He remembered the gray sky, the rattle of the snare drums, and the birds squawking with anticipation. He had pressed his face into Hagen’s rock-hard chest; the man smelled of salt and wind.
“Don’t look, boy,”Hagen growled.
He felt the warmth of small fingers entwined with his own and dared to look down into Tosh’s shimmering eyes. Though she was only five, Germaine could see the understanding and sadness for his loss reflected in her large dark blue irises. That same day, Hagenhad taken Germaine into his household.
“This be yer bunk, boy.”
Germaine stared at the cot tucked away in the corner of the attic. He set his sack on the floor and a small cloud of dust puffed into the air.
“It’s not kittens and clouds, but it’ll do,” Hagen said. Flickering shadows danced across the man’s grizzled face as he set a lone candle down on the floor next to the cot. Hagen had served under Germaine’s father for years, then alongside him as captain of his own ship, Grendel.
“I don’t need much,” Germaine said, his voice a dull monotone. “Do you know what they did with his boat?”
“Suspect the Crown took her. They’ll sell her to privateers, no doubt, who’ll have her splintered and broken in the space of a few winters. You hungry, boy?”
“Need to talk?”
“Right, well, if yer needing for anything, you holler.”
Germaine plopped down on the cot, lifted the sack onto the bed and emptied the contents. This was all that was left of Germaine’s father, Valas Billings. There was a map, a compass, and an astrolabe for navigation. Beside them was a weather-beaten flintlock pistol. He raised the gun sideways in front of his face and pulled the trigger. The hammer popped.
“Hagen,” he said, never taking his eyes off the gun. The older man was already halfway through the trap door.
“How many good men did my father murder with this pistol?”
Hagen gave Germaine a cold stare. “How’s this?” he growled.
“The murderous dog! How many did he kill?”
Hagen climbed back into the attic, strode across the room, and stood before Germaine, his fists clenched. The boy scowled up at him.
“Young Germaine, I think it’s time you be nodding off before you say something you’ll regret. You’re tired and grieving, just like the rest of us.”
“To The Harlot with grieving!”
“Mind your tongue!”
“How am I supposed to grieve for him? He betrayed us all. That lying cur’s son!” shouted Germaine.
Hagen’s backhand hit him like an iron plate and he pitched sideways onto the cot.
“Don’t ever you talk about Cap’n Billings that way, boy. He was the finest sailor and Cap’n I ever did sail with and he was an honorable man. There was more to him loosing those pirates than you and I will ever know.”
Germaine allowed the loss of his father to squeeze his heart. He erupted into a sobbing fit. Through the blur of tears, he could see Hagen’s features soften. The older man had to be right, Germaine thought. His father wasn’t a pirate, and he wasn’t a cur. He’d always taught Germaine the difference between right and wrong. But he had betrayed Germaine. He’d left his son behind.
Hagen nudged the last of the dead man’s possessions aside and had a seat on the cot next to Germaine. “It’s a sad day, boy,”Hagen said, “a sad day indeed when a Cap’n can’t do right in his country’s eyes, though he do right in his heart.”
Germaine didn’t answer, he buried his head in his cot and sobbed until his exhaustion outweighed his sorrow and he fell asleep.
The next morning, Germaine came to breakfast with a grim look of determination on his face. “Teach me,” he had said to Hagen as soon as he’d finished his sausages.
“Aye. I want to learn to sail, I want a ship of my own someday. You learned under my father, which means you learned under the best. You’ll teach me.”
Hagen took a puff off of his ivory meerschaum pipe and leaned back in his chair, rubbing his chin. “Awful sudden of you to ask, isn’t boy?”
“You’ll teach me,” Germaine said again.
“And supposing I do teach you,”Hagen asked, “what’s in it for me?”
Germaine frowned. He didn’t have any money. All he had was his father’s belongings and the clothes he was wearing. He couldn’t part with either of them. He looked around the kitchen and then down at the greasy plate in front of him.
“I can cook and clean,” he said.
“Bah, Maddie already comes by to do that in the mornings after I’ve left.”
“Maddie,” Tosh said. Her mop of chestnut hair could barely be seen over the top of the table.
“I could look after Tosh,” Germaine suggested. Tosh laughed and Hagen folded his arms across his chest.
“Indeed, boy? And how am I to teach you if you’re not on ship, but rather here playing nursemaid to me little angel?” Tosh climbed up in her father’s lap and made a grab for his pipe. He tilted his head back and steered her small hands clear of his face.
“Oh,” Germaine said, his voice dropping. “Didn’t think of that.”
“Tell you what, Young Germaine. You let me take your father’s tools. I’ll get a pretty dubbie for them, I will, and we’ll call that payment.”
Germaine had looked less surprised when Hagen had struck him the night before.
“You can’t mean?”
“Aye, boy, I do. Now which will it be? Hanging on to your old man’s memories or following in his footsteps?”
Germaine’s heart sank. He bit his lower lip and stared at the tabletop for a long moment of silence before meeting Hagen’s stern gaze.
“It’s done,” he said.
Hagen set Tosh on the floor and she ran off in search of other mischief. He put his large, calloused hands palms down on the tabletop and pushed himself to his feet. Germaine gave him a hollow stare.
“You’ve learned your first lesson of the seas, boy. When dealing with salts like meself, don’t ever you think that you’ll get something for nothing.”