The Bandits of Goldharbour:
A Tale of Realmgard
To the Carleton University College of the Humanities Class of 2013.
Please, don’t take this dedication of a book
about pirates and burglars as an insult.
Kat Darkstone would like to tell you about her family’s vacation.
Mostly, she hates it.
They’re spending a week in the Free Mercantile City of Goldharbour. Since Goldharbour doesn’t feel very different from her hometown of the Free Mercantile City of Porthaven, Kat doesn’t really feel much like she’s even on vacation.
She doesn’t have to leave home to spend her time wondering just what the heck a Free Mercantile City even is.
The locale isn’t the only reason that Kat has been less than enthused about this vacation.
The truth is, the vacation isn’t even for her sake.
The Darkstones have come to Goldharbour for the ninety-third annual general meeting of the Brotherhood of the Coasts, the pre-eminent association of Realmgard’s pirates. Which is yet another reason why the vacation doesn’t feel like one. She’s surrounded by pirates back in Porthaven, too.
And that is precisely why her plan for her time in Goldharbour is to be as far from the Brotherhood’s meeting as possible.
On the other hand, her dad and sister, Admiral Dorian and Captain Dunstana Darkstone, being firmly engrained in the Darkstone tradition of piracy, will be spending their every waking moment cavorting with the other members of the Brotherhood.
The highlight undoubtedly will be the annual Brotherhood Award ceremony. They call the awards the Sharkies, on account of their being shaped like sharks. Back at Darkstone Manor, the Admiral has a whole row of little golden sharks lined up across the mantel.
When no one’s around, Kat uses them for target practice.
The one upside Kat can see to this whole expedition to Goldharbour is that her best friend, the ridiculously rich Amara Valda, is also vacationing in the ridiculously rich city of Goldharbour, visiting her ridiculously rich relatives.
They’ll be meeting up in the morning.
If she can survive until morning, that is.
Tonight seems to be lasting forever, thanks in large part to Kat finding herself sleeping in the worst bed that has ever existed.
Actually, Kat reflects grumpily, ‘sleeping’ is probably the wrong word. So is ‘in’, for that matter. Thanks to her sister’s sleeping habits, Kat has been forced off the bed and onto the cold, hard floor.
“Move over, Dunstana,” an exhausted Kat tells her sister, pulling herself back up onto the bed.
“Snoooooooooooore,” goes the sleeping Dunstana. On top of everything else, Dunstana snores, too.
This is precisely why Kat hates vacations.
The bed isn’t even that small. There’s no reason why they can’t both fit. Except, of course, for the fact that Dunstana insists on stretching herself out like a starfish in the middle of the bed, with a Princess Moonflower doll on either side. There’s probably enough space left on the bed for Kat, just not in any shape she could possibly fit herself into.
Unless, perhaps, she were an octopus, or some kind of eel.
“Move over,” Kat says again, striving to push Dunstana towards the far side of the bed.
Still sleeping blissfully, Dunstana goes “Snrrrk” and promptly rolls back to the middle.
Even in her sleep-deprived state, Kat recognises that she isn’t going to win this fight. She wrestles a pillow and a sheet free from underneath Dunstana and sulks over to the couch.
Flopping down on the couch, Kat soon finds to her misfortune that it is upholstered in the itchiest, roughest material in the world and that her long legs dangle over the armrest.
She is left bathed in the moonlight streaming through the window, staring at the shadows at play on the ceiling, trying to fit on a too-short, too-itchy couch while trying to cover herself with a too-short, too-thin sheet.
Dunstana, meanwhile, continues to snore away on the bed.
On the plus side, Kat doesn’t have to share the couch.
Much to her surprise when she wakes up, Kat realises that she did somehow manage to fall asleep.
With the sunrise comes the realisation that whether in Porthaven, or Goldharbour, or anywhere else in Realmgard’s farthest reaches, there are some things in her life that will never, ever change.
She would find some consolation in that, in the fact that there exists some certainty in a shifting, changing world.
She would, if that certainty didn’t take the form of a certain little sister.
“Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!” comes the call, as sure as— and at the same time as— the sunrise. “Get up!”
In reply, as sure as the sunrise, Kat rolls over and tries to ignore her.
“Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!” Dunstana calls, urgently shaking her sister’s shoulder. “It’s time for breakfast!”
The promise of breakfast is enough to make Kat roll back over towards Dunstana and regard her cautiously through half-closed eyes.
“Come on! Mom and Dad are ready already!” Dunstana says, grabbing onto Kat’s arm and trying to dislodge her from the couch. Due to being significantly smaller and five years younger, she is not particularly successful.
“Gimme a minute,” Kat says, finally willing herself to sit up.
Kat does her best to go down to breakfast with a sense of cautious optimism. However, her fragile hopes are soon violently dashed when the breakfast served at the inn turns out to be smelts and a burned piece of toast.
As Kat morosely nibbles on it, she decides that the toast tastes like disappointment and insomnia. The jam, though, tastes like elderberries, and is actually rather nice. Her mood is made even worse by the fact that no one else in the family seems to be having nearly as bad a morning as she is. Dunstana is devouring everything in sight.
The Admiral is grumbling from behind a copy of the Goldharbour Post. Her mom, Estelle, is staring thoughtfully at her across the table, peering over her glass of orange juice.
“What’s wrong, dear?” Estelle asks.
“I didn’t sleep very well last night,” Kat answers, with a sideways glance at Dunstana.
“Ah,” Estelle says, taking a sip of her juice. “I see. Still, you should eat something.”
“Listen to your mother, Kat. A real pirate’s day starts with a hearty breakfast,” the Admiral says from behind his newspaper, before promptly finding something new within its pages to grumble at.
Kat feels like she should object, as she isn’t any kind of pirate, real or otherwise, but she doesn’t get the chance.
With a decisive final grumble, Dorian puts down his newspaper and turns to Dunstana. “Are you ready to get moving, Captain Kid?” he asks.
Dunstana nods and through a mouthful of smelts says something that sounds like “Ymph”.
“Before we go,” Dorian says, reaching under his chair. “I have a present for you.”
“What is it? What is it?” Dunstana asks eagerly.
Dorian sets a small notebook and pen down on the table in front of his favourite daughter.
“It’s a book. But there’s nothing in it,” Dunstana says, stating the obvious. She looks up at her father. “What’s it for?”
“This is the first time you’ve been to the Brotherhood meeting, so I figured we’d make it special. If you ask nicely, I’m sure the other pirates would give you their autographs in there,” Dorian answers.
“Cool! Awesome!” Dunstana exclaims. “Thanks, Dad! You’re the best!” She scoops up the book and pen and starts for the door. “What are we waiting for? Let’s go! I want everybody’s autograph! Come on! Let’s go!”
“Well, we’re off,” Dorian announces, pushing himself up from the table.
As he follows after Dunstana, he stops to give Estelle a kiss on the cheek and Kat a pat on the back.
“We’ll be at the Red Admiral’s Groghouse in the dock district. You can’t miss it, it’s got a bright red roof and it’s the biggest building in the district. And it, uh, smells like grog,” he explains. “Meet us there tonight after the meeting and then we’ll head out to grab some dinner.”
“Have fun at your little club meeting, dear,” Estelle says with a wave.
“It’s not a club, Mom!” Dunstana protests, rolling her eyes with enough force to push a cart up a small hill. “It’s the Brotherhood of the Coasts! It’s the Sharky Awards!”
She follows Dorian out of the inn’s dining room still shaking her head at her mother’s ignorance.
After Dorian and Dunstana are gone, Kat and Estelle are left alone at the table amid the remnants of breakfast.
“So,” Estelle asks, setting down her juice. “What are you and Amara going to be up to today?
“Getting breakfast, I hope,” Kat answers, staring wearily down at her largely-untouched alleged breakfast. Which, she does not fail to note, stares back with weird fishy little eyes.
She looks up at her mother as a sudden thought occurs to her. “You know, you could come with us, if you want.”
“Thank you, dear, but I don’t want to be a bother,” Estelle answers.
“Mom, you’re Amara’s favourite person in the world, she’ll be happy you’re coming with us,” Kat notes. “Besides, don’t you want to have a real breakfast?”
Estelle glances down at her own mostly-ignored piece of toast. “That sounds nice, actually,” she decides. “There are supposed to be all kinds of lovely cafés here.”
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