Peino and Jeneyeru both stared openly at Lafitte and his crewman — Jeneyeru stunned at both of them, Peino with a deepening grimness. Let both these men be as odd as they like, he thought, I’ve had enough of their smiling rudeness.
“This is not my boat, Captain Lafitte,” he said. “It belongs to that man, there. Oarsman, what say you — does he stay dry or get wet?”
The owner-operator of the town-boat, whose daily occupation was to carry people up and down the crowded canals of Sesus and whose entire livelihood floated or sank with the delicate craft he called his own, hesitated over the dilemma. On the one hand, he would not want to dictate to such noble customers, but on the other, he would be happy to crack that idiot eorman over the head with his oar for nearly damaging his boat.
In the end, he passed the responsibility up the chain. “Milord may do as you please, so please you,” he said, “but I know what I’d do if he were my apprentice. Aye, sir, indeed.”
“A happy coincidence. I know what I’d do as well,” said Peino. “By your leave, Captain Lafitte –”
A simple enough move to push back on the shoulder with one arm while flipping up the knee with the other and thus tip the man over. Beau hit the water in the manner of a diver rolling over the side, and the town-boat slid by while he was bobbing to the surface.
“Aye, thank you kindly, milord,” said the oarsman as Peino resumed his seat.
“I wonder if that might have been excessive,” said Jeneyeru, looking back after Beau for a moment.
“Oh, I think not,” Peino answered. “It was the judgment of three captains, one the master of this vessel, and one the man’s own, plus a neutral third.” He winked. “Surely there can be no complaint of unfairness. Besides, look how far we’ve come since he jumped on. If he’s running from the guardians, he’s got a head up on them now.”
“Oh, Pei,” Jeneyeru chided smilingly, “you are quite incorrigible.”
Peino Starhand grinned at his brother, at Lotye O’Tulvar, and finally at Jean Lafitte, well aware of the trick he’d just pulled.