A Gentleman Born: The Unlikely Life and Times of Gene Kirby
Chapter I: Young Gene Kirby
as related to Mukta, wizard, and fellow captive
The tale of “Gentleman” Gene Kirby begins in a small tavern down a cramped alley in the Andoran capital of Almas. This particular tavern, The Mere Maid, was only a stone’s throw from dockside, and, small place that it was, catered mostly to sailors and salts familiar to the port. It was here, in a back room, behind the turnips, that Gene came squalling and squealing into the world. Whether it was the strain of the proceedings, the hot air of a Sarenith afternoon, or the shame of a bastard that did his mother in there’s no real telling. But what’s for sure is the little Gene was born baptized in warm blood and hot salt air, and there wasn’t a soul breathing who could bend young Gene’s disposition away from those particular tastes.
Fat Lemin Tuckberry tried, bless his heart. The somewhat spherical halfling bar-keep was Ms. Kirby’s employer prior to her somewhat unexpected and ultimately fatal maternity. He took Gene in and pressed him on the staff of the tavern to raise up as best they all could. By the time he was a lad of six, he worked part-time at the tavern. His full-time employment, however, was getting into trouble with his best friend and Fat Lemin’s nephew, Salamon Tuckberry. Along with their band of merry troublemakers, the poor boys from dockside made holy terrors of themselves in the name of adventure.
By the time Gene was a lad of twelve, he and Salamon (scarce 17 himself, which is not-so-impressive in halfling-years, mind you) thought themselves quite ready for a proper adventure on the high sea. The two had taken odd-jobs shipboard, and fancied themselves destined to become young Privateers. Both had grown lusty for the dramatic life of a Free Sailor: liberating slaves and making breakneck escapes from Okeno’s vicious raider-captains. Gene gathered Sal and their closest cronies together and hatched the bold and daring plan to stow away on the next ship bearing a Privateer’s standard that stopped to port. Their plan was a tremendous success, and the friends left Almas behind aboard a ship called “Beverly’s Berth.” Between Salamon’s resourcefulness (Gene himself nicknamed the young halfling “Savvy”), Gene’s unflappable morale, and some easily pilfered fruit stores it was on toward a full week before the stowaways were discovered and brought before the captain’s mercy.
The captain proved affable, if annoyed, and commanded the friends to make themselves useful aboard deck until they could be put to shore. But shore was never again to come easy to Gene Kirby, and so he soon found himself on the wrong end of his very first death-defying chase; a chase that would dash any hope of seeing shore any time soon. What the youngsters hadn’t realized when they stowed themselves below decks was that the very official looking Private Signal Beverly’s Berth was flying, signifying the ship’s good standing as a marque-bearing ship of Andoran, was not quite as official as it might otherwise had been. Captain Beverly, the right and legally registered captain, had died some long months prior, and the first mate had seized on that opportunity to lay claim to the ship, maroon any loyalists, and go pirate. Almas was their last stop to take on supply before making a break for the Arcadian Ocean and putting the charade of legitimacy behind them.
The ship made it as far as the northern coast of Rahadoum before the Andoran navy caught up with them—three ships rising out of the east and gaining fast. What followed as a tremulous three days’ chase: at times the Andoran ships were so close as to skirt within shouting distance. Gene and Salamon always took those opportunities to taunt their pursuers mercilessly. On the dawn of the fourth day, the alarm was sounded. The swiftest of the Andoran ships had come up astern during the night and a fight was at hand. Three times the Andoran navy tried to board the Berth, and three times they were repelled. But each time significant damage was done to the ship. Limping more than sailing, things looked grim and hope of escape seemed fleeting, until rising in the West came the Arch of Aroden and with it the indomitable port of Corentyn.
The Andoran’s chase broke off as Beverly’s Berth made for Port Indomitable and the Chelaxian Fleet there, and the day was saved. A quick change of course under the cover of night gave Corentyn a miss altogether, however. The would-be-pirate’s lacked a courtesy and harbored a powerful unwillingness to answer questions about why one Andoran ship might be chasing after another. And so young Gene was treated to the sight of the open ocean for the first time in his life. Likewise, he was treated to many long weeks helping to limp a half-sunk privateer-ship-turned-pirate-ship through the open Arcadian Ocean in a half-cocked attempt to avoid certain peril.