Jonah’s father had been a navy man. That was all he knew and—as far as Jonah’s mother was concerned—all he needed to know. On the rare occasions Jonah managed to wrangle new information from his mother, it was often contradictory. He’d had brown hair, or maybe it was black. He smiled a lot, or maybe he laughed a lot, or maybe he was very serious. He was a charming, sensible, solemn, jovial gentleman of a rogue. He was kind and he was a bastard. He was missing, or he was dead—but either way, it didn’t matter because he wasn’t here, so why was Jonah asking.
But he was always a navy man. And so Jonah was going to be a navy man too.
Jonah spent his childhood on the shore, dreaming of the sea, collecting sand dollars and starfish. After his mother married a fish merchant, he spent his youth with his brothers behind a push-barrow, peddling food other men had caught. He dreamed of adventure and exploration, of having a family of his own and being father the navy man, only not going ‘missing or maybe dead’ like his own father. He left to sign up when he was fourteen, and his brothers were old enough to push the barrow and sell the fish on their own.
By the end of his first year in the King’s Royal Navy, Jonah knew he’d stay. He was a fast learner, and very capable of following orders (since his mother had always been very capable of giving orders), and loved the sea like some sailors loved the drink. His captain was as a man of low birth himself, before rising to his rank, and he had no qualms about recommending Jonah for officer’s training. If a man could sail, he could sail, in the captain’s opinion, and Jonah soon found himself serving as Third Mate on the king’s new warship, The Maelstrom… along with a certain young prince named Balthasar Rey.
The two soon became fast friends. Although Balthasar was Jonah’s superior in rank and status, he was far from what Jonah expected of a noble. Balthasar rambled on in a fancy accent and used large words on occasion (whereas Jonah didn’t talk much at all, unless he had something worth saying). He was a prankster (while Jonah minded the rules) and a friendly sort (while Jonah mostly kept to himself), and somehow, even the most outlandish ideas sounded possible when Balthasar spoke of them. But, like Jonah, the prince had his serious moments, and his thoughtful ones, and he taught Jonah a lot about the more technical aspects of tactics and warfare. The two became close friends, and served together for nearly all of Balthasar’s four years in the navy.
Balthasar’s influence lingered long after the man’s return to the palace. The quiet, serious Jonah joined his men on shore leave. He explored exotic cities and bustling ports. He drank and laughed and found solace in the arms of anyone who would take him (or his coin). He earned money, and spent money, and fell in love with the diverse city states of the Endigan Confederacy almost as much as he had loved the sea… and then he fell in love with a woman.
Mireia Bunkara never entirely loved him back, as far as he knew—but she was beautiful, and evidently interested in him, and it was hard to resist such alluring smiles. She took him as her lover, and he stayed at her family palace when in port, reclining on silk and dining in luxury while most of the men slept in their taverns or brothel of choice. He was handsome, and he’d learned charm as well as tactics from Balthasar, and Mireia didn’t seem to mind that his hands were calloused or his face was sun-dark. She didn’t love him, but he left her with no regrets, either.
He did, however, leave her with a daughter.
As the threat of war with Omnium grew more serious, the royal navy’s presence in the Endigans became less frequent. Monthly, then bi-monthly, then quarterly. He saw his daughter a handful of times—Mireia was never cruel enough to deny him a visit—but he was more a guest than a father to his little girl. (Jonah wondered if maybe his father was a man like him, a sailor who met his mother, but who never bothered to reappear.)
Soon after leaving the Endigans, the war began. Greater Corstorphinian fleet tore through Omnian warships. Though casualties were relatively few, most wounds ran deeper than flesh and bone. Some sailors, like Jonah’s old friend Balthasar, began to crack under the strain. Some grew hard. Some grew quiet. Jonah sailed. The years following the Omnian war kept him largely north of the Endigans. He visited the girl and Mireia fewer than four times in fifteen years—he saw his daughter become a girl, and a girl become a young woman, and saw fond memories dance in Mireia’s eyes where passion used to reign. But his daughter was cared for, better than Jonah could have done himself (Jonah was a navy man, and that was no profession for a father)—and that was what mattered.
Only… the Assarians have now swept have across the Endigans like a wave over the sand, leaving smoke and destruction in their path. And the Bunkaras have been torn away from their beautiful city-state, left with nothing, refugees or prisoners or dead. And his daughter, his beautiful, graceful daughter (with the air of a queen and a smile like her mother’s) has only just arrived alone in Corstorphine on the last merchant ship brave enough to venture into such tumultuous southern waters. And Jonah’s never been a father before. He spends his life sailing under Captain Faulkner, disguising himself as a pirate, and roaming the sea to hunt pirates.
It’s no life for a lady.