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The Pirate King

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"For I am the Pirate King," Miles sang, leaning back in a dramatic pose against the heap of gold. He nudged Ivan, who rolled his eyes and chimed in reasonably tunefully considering how much he'd had to drink, "You are! Hurrah for the Pirate King!"

"And it is, it is a glorious thing to be a Pirate King."

Miles looked like he was going to start another verse. Before he could, Ivan said, "Don't you think Gregor will notice his money's missing?"

"They're just symbols," Miles said, flicking a small tower of the coins. They clattered onto the parquet floor, sounding heavy and rich. Ivan winced. "He still got all his taxes. And it will be hours before he can get away from the crowd. We'll put them back before then and he won't notice. Meanwhile--" he sat back on his pile of gold "--I am the Pirate King..."

"I am an orphan boy," sang a voice from the archway, quieter and clearer than Miles's.

Ivan sat up straight and accidentally kicked over another tower of coins. The crash seemed extremely loud. One rolled mesmerisingly across the floor to come to a rest by Gregor's left boot. Miles blinked, swallowed, and sang, "He is! Hurrah for the orphan boy!" Ivan joined in at 'hurrah'. That at least felt right.

"And it is, it is a glorious thing, to be an orphan boy."

Ivan scrambled to his feet, but Miles stayed where he was. "Sire," he said. "I thought you were stuck shaking everyone's hands all evening."

"I escaped," Gregor said. He stared at the coin by his boot, and Ivan reached to pick it up and put it in one of the bags. "No," Gregor said, and Ivan stopped.

"I wasn't allowed to play with these when I was little," Gregor said. "I see you've managed it at last. But all pirates bow before the Crown, do they not?" He nodded to Miles, who relinquished his golden seat. Gregor sat down, to more muffled clinking as the pile of gold rearranged itself under his greater weight.

"I don't think you'll pass as Queen Victoria," said Miles, hunkering down at Gregor's right hand.

"Ivan's Frederick, aren't you," Gregor said. "An unwillingly drafted pirate." He tried to lounge against the gold coins the way Miles had, and there was a much louder clatter. "I think you should share some of your wine."

Ivan passed him the bottle. "It's the good stuff," he said.

"Of course," Gregor responded. "I don't expect pirates take the stuff we serve out there." He grimaced and shook out his hand. "I think Count Vorpatril was trying to crush my fingers."

"Sorry," said Ivan automatically. "He does that to me as well."

"Won't they be looking for you out there?" Miles asked.

"I'm sure they are, but I can have five minutes. I think." Gregor picked up one of the gold coins and tossed it in the air and caught it. "Is it fun, being a pirate?" he asked Miles.

"I'm not a pirate!"

Ivan and Gregor looked at each other, and then at Miles.

"I'm not! It's your fleet."

"As I said. Pirates are loyal to the Crown. Or the Camp-Stool."

"Yes," Miles said, tossing another coin to Gregor, "sometimes it's fun."

"Thought so." Gregor sipped from the bottle and passed it around. "I am the Pirate King," he essayed after a few minutes, and Ivan and Miles joined in again.

When they finished, a short, stocky man standing quietly in the doorway cleared his throat. "I am the very model of a modern Major-General," he sang in a rough bass. "And this looks like a much better party, but I'm afraid I must break it up. Your guests are getting restless, Gregor." He looked at the gold coins and at his son and nephew. "It would be as well for this to be back where it belongs before the Lord Guardian comes to collect it. I don't really want to have to deal with you being arrested again. Especially not for piracy."