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A Night on the Docks

brown wooden dock on sea during daytime

Duncan laughed as he raced to the docks in Bayside on the northeastern part of the capital city. He’d pulled it off. He’d finally done it.

Andre was going to flip.

He ran through darkened alleys and quiet cobblestone streets, keeping the heavy bottle close. Duncan kept looking over his shoulder, half expecting to hear his employer yelling for him to return the prized bottle of gin.

So far, the coast was still clear.

He reached the northern bridge that connected North Town directly to the docks of Bayside over the Mantaga River before it split into its three arms. Duncan gulped in air as he leaned over, one arm on the bridge as he caught his breath.

He kept the gin beneath his coat and gave himself one more minute to breathe. His side hurt from running and he winced as pain bloomed beneath his ribs. He rubbed it and looked up at the mighty Mantaga, small waves lapping at its shores in the moonlight. The river was gorgeous, but between the waves, deadliness and danger hinted.

Duncan shuddered at what could happen if a person forgot the danger the largest river in Kamore posed. It didn’t matter who you were or how many years you’d been on the river; the Mantaga came for anyone arrogant enough to try to tame her.

Lucky for him, Duncan would never have to set foot on one of those boats again. The merchant he worked for, or at least used to work for if she ever figured out he’d taken the gin, tried to send him out on one about a year ago.

And she’d needed it thoroughly cleaned for her trouble.

Turned out seasickness wasn’t limited to the open ocean. Duncan got queasy thinking about it. He leaned against the bridge, looking away from the river.. After taking a deep breath, he smiled at some passersby before heading towards the docks.

Duncan took a more leisurely pace as he walked across the expanse of Fernwen’s largest bridge. Looking to his left, he saw the Keep’s shadow, where the President of Kamore lived and ruled.. Andre will make it there someday. He thought to himself with a grin. He and his best friend were only teenagers, but Andre was like a pitbull when it came to his future. Come hell or high water, Andre would sit behind that desk and make Kamore a better place for everyone.

As he reached the end of the bridge, he glanced back to check for pursuers one more time. Seeing nobody, he stepped off the bridge and hustled to the last dock on the left; their meeting place since they were kids.

“About time you show up.” Andre shot him a lopsided grin to soften his accusation.

Duncan responded with a smirk. “You’re lucky I didn’t decide to cut and run, keeping this all to myself.” He opened his jacket to reveal the prized gin.

Andre’s eyes widened, and he reached for the blue glass bottle. “Goddess damn. You stole this from Mel?” He waited for Andre to nod before letting out a manic laugh. “Goddess, you’re getting canned. I didn’t think you had it in you, Dunc. Glad to see I’ve finally rubbed off on you.” Andre winked and thumped him on the back. He offered the bottle back and inclined his head. “Makes my half-filled jug of firewater pale in comparison. Well, go on. You get first pull.”

Duncan popped the cork and took a deep gulp of the juniper flavored liquor. Too late, he realized he drank too much and coughed as the fire raced to his belly.
Andre hit him on the back again and chuckled. “Don’t hurt yourself there. The gin ain’t going anywhere.”

Duncan recovered and passed the bottle to him. Andre took a slow pull and used his sleeve to wipe his mouth.

“Ah. That shit tastes good. At least when you don’t inhale it.” His eyes sparkled, and he walked to the end of the dock. Sitting down, he offered the bottle behind him.
Duncan grabbed it and took a smaller sip this time. He sat down and caught where Andre’s gaze drifted. Duncan set the bottle between them and leaned back on his elbows, letting the fuzzy feeling from the gin take hold. The two friends sat in silence for a bit, listening to the sounds of the river and the dock crews finishing their night shifts.

“You’ll make it there someday, Dre. And you’ll be the leader Kamore needs to make it through the upcoming storm.”

Andre shifted his gaze from the Keep to his friend’s lavender stare. “So the rumors are true. There was another riot in the Rookery?”

“The people in the Rookery are starving, and blaming the Magicae for their misfortunes is the easiest thing they can do. They injured four Crafters and one Herbalist in broad daylight. The victims got out before the riots started, thank the Goddess, but they may not the next time it happens. President Peters needs to address her people’s basic needs if she wants to heal what’s broken between the Magicae and the Mortals of this city.”

Andre frowned at his words and sucked in a breath of air. He seemed like he was going to say something, but drank from the gin bottle instead. Duncan noticed the tension in Andre’s shoulders and concern knitted his brows. He knew the riots and distrust between the Magicae and Mortals made his friend uncomfortable. But as a wind Crafter, Duncan had to bring it up.

Despite President Peters’ efforts to improve city infrastructure, Fernwen’s residents saw little improvement in their daily lives. Duncan kept pushing his friend to look for ways he could bolster the economy and help the city’s poorest at the same time.

Duncan held his hands out, palms facing up, and let some of the wind from his core dance around his fingers. Andre took one more gulp and passed the bottle to Duncan. The Crafter took it and let one of his winds wind around his friend, ruffling his blonde hair before disappearing into the night. Andre laid down and put his hands underneath his head, letting his legs still dangle over the end of the dock.

Duncan took another sip of gin and followed his friend’s lead, feeling the warmth from the worn wood on his back.

“President Peters needs to go. She’s nice enough but has no real ties to the Magicae. We need a leader to unite everyone, not cater to one side. Her term’s up in two years and I intend to run.”

Duncan’s eyes widened as he shot up into a sitting position. “That’s ambitious, Dre. Do you think you can win?”

Andre kept laying on his back but flashed a wicked grin. “Hell no. But it’ll get my name out there for the following election. And that one I’ll win by a landslide.” His voice was warm from the liquor as he held out an arm for Duncan to grab. His friend pulled him into a sitting position with a grunt. Andre’s eyes were dead serious as he looked Duncan in the eye. “But the only way that happens is if you agree to be my advisor.”

Duncan felt his pulse race at the thought. “I’m not qualified for that,” he stuttered.
“Bullshit. You possess the sharpest mind for politics and balancing the needs of the rich and poor. You’re my greatest asset in becoming the leader Kamore needs. And you are my best friend and the brother I never had. We move up together or not at all. So what do you say?”

Duncan took a huge gulp of gin but didn’t cough this time. He narrowed his eyes. “I say I need time to think about it.”

“Take all the time you need.” Andre held his hand out, and they shook on it.

This time, Duncan turned to the Keep, standing tall on the largest of the three islands in the middle of the Mantaga. Advisor to the President is quite the jump from living in the South Bank. Duncan knew he’d say yes but wanted to let it stew before he allowed himself to dream.

The two teenagers leaned back on their elbows and let the night and liquor wash over them.

Duncan let out a sigh. “So, how close are you to getting Naomi Douglas out on a date?”

Andre rolled his eyes. “Not close at all. I keep trying to convince her we’ll be married someday, so she has to let me take her out, but it’s not working.”

Duncan laughed. Did you think she might not respond well to being told what to do?”
“It’s fate, Dunc! I can’t help it that the Goddess predetermines so much of our lives. Some things cannot be changed after all.” Andre insisted.

Duncan shook his head and laughed again. “No wonder she said no. You’re insufferable.”

Andre punched his shoulder and joined him in laughing. “You might have a point. Guess I’ll have to find a different angle.”

They dove into a conversation about how Andre could woo the woman refusing to give him the time of day and lost themselves in the easy conversation shared between friends. The pair passed the bottle back and forth until it was gone, staying out all night talking and dreaming about what the future could hold. They finished the firewater Andre brought and stumbled home as the light of dawn peeked over the horizon.

It was the end of the night that triggered everything.