I Am Known To Night and Horses and the Desert
Finished 19 August 2005
Midway into his second year in Dusith, Vincent figured that he was very probably going to go down in history as some kind of folk hero. For one thing, the ten-year-old son of one of the Dusith merchants had wandered up to him during a function wearing an expression of intense curiosity and asked if it was true that he had really fought desert demons for three days and two nights before emerging triumphant.
Vincent had replied, cheerfully, that if he had, he certainly didn't remember it.
And the boy had frowned, and countered with: "But I was told that you ran off with the beautiful daughter of the desert demon king on a white charger and – " before his father clapped one hand over his mouth.
"No, it's all right, I'd like to hear the rest of it."
The man had blinked a few times in faint panic. "It would not be polite."
It'd finally fallen to one of his bridge officers, who spent a bit more time in the city than Vincent did, to give him the rest of the story, and then only after a lot of surreptitious nudging by the rest of the crew. It had taken three minutes of hurried and embarrassed whispering, and when he was done Vincent had gone a curious shade of pink, to general amusement.
There were other stories like that, apparently.
You really knew you'd become part of popular culture, Vincent reflected, when people started making up inventive stories about your sex life. He didn't know where they got them from. It was common knowledge that he'd been on a battleship for half his life; where was he supposed to have found the time to do all the scintillating stuff they seemed to think he'd done?
And only two years ago the Dusith had been puzzled and then faintly shocked by him. It was as though after decades – possibly centuries – of pragmatic repression, they were finally making up for their lack of imagination and weren't quite sure where to stop.
He only hoped Sophia wouldn't get to hear about it. She'd already written once to ask after his 'disciples', and observed that for some reason he seemed to be the only captain fascinating enough to attract all this interest in Anatoly.
They weren't disciples, Vincent had written in reply, equally placidly. He'd only been talking to them, and he had no idea why some of them had appeared to be taking notes.
It wasn't his fault all the men here had practically never heard of chivalry, except that it was a system followed by what had once been the enemy and hence automatically foolish. All Vincent had done was be his usual self, and suddenly there were women in love with him, some of them were already married, and then all hell had broken loose.
That had been a while back. The story had evidently grown somewhat since.
It wasn't as though he'd even set foot in the desert before, let alone ridden across it on a white charger. He'd flown over it quite a bit, but evidently that wasn't nearly romantic enough.
The funny part was that nobody seemed to believe the one story that really was true: that he'd challenged the Silvana and survived. He hadn't won, of course, but where Alex was concerned it was probably noteworthy enough that he was still alive.
People told stories about Alex Rowe and the Silvana, too, although of a different sort. Vincent personally felt it was slightly unfair that Alex got all the impressive horror stories, while all he had was the stuff of cheap romance. He would have complained to Sophia, but she would probably have said the same thing as when he'd protested about the disciples, which was a single sentence: Don't pretend that you're not enjoying it.
He'd sent back: Only because it amuses you. But he'd received no reply, and so he'd quietly changed the subject in the next letter.
Well, Dusith? How do you like your Anatoly captain now? Defeated by his queen. And my white charger is kept here at her command.
But he was patient, he could wait, and meanwhile Dusith seemed to be doing its best to keep him interested, if only by sheer force of egotism.
He rather suspected that at some point there would be books.