Born on the island of Mediogalti to a human mother and an elven father (possibly of the Ekujae in the Expanse) Jocques (Jocque) grew up without his father who left his mother just after Jocque was born, probably to continue on his Wanderings. His childhood was tortured because the young Jocques was extremely sensitive to the continual tauntings and insults he was subjected to as a half-breed.
His “home” was on the outskirts of the port city of Ilizmagorti. By the time he was entering his teen years Jocque was spending most of his time on the street with a handful of other ruffians who he had come to terms with. It was okay for one of them to call him “Breed” but a lot of others found out it wasn’t okay. Jocque got famous for not getting mad but getting even. Usually in some dark alley and from behind.
The problem started when their group was asked to open a couple of doors and clear a path one night. The guy who asked them to do this was a low-level enforcer for one of the families and you just did what they asked. But that night Jocque had seen the face of one of the men exiting the back of a dive in the neighborhood. And the guy had seen Jocque. The next day news got around that one of the local merchants had had an unfortunate encounter with a poison dart and Jocque was identified as the guy who had introduced the two of them.
He knew he was being set up and that he had to disappear because one of the other things that he had seen that night was the tatoo on the killer’s neck. He wasn’t some low-level scum bag. He was one of the Red Mantis, a group that Jocque had wanted, in his heart of hearts, to eventually join. But Jocque knew that the “take him dead or alive” order that was on the street for him might really mean “take him dead” if the Mantis people thought it would be to their advantage.
Jocque dug up his limited cache of stolen money and loot, burrowed into a cargo cart headed for the docks and found a ship just getting ready to sail. He presented himself to the boatswain’s mate as Juan Svette, a boy wanting to travel south. He had paid for passage to the next port at least and took to his small cabin and stayed there until the ship was at sea for a day or two.
Being penned up like that was like being an animal in a cage so Jocque/Juan started taking to the deck. He watched the seamen working the rigging and started to study the way they reacted to orders. Before a week was out he was getting the lay of it and during a squall, when one of the crew went up a ratline to adjust one of the mid sails the crewman slipped on the wet lines and fell a few feet before one of his legs caught in the lines and saved his life. Without thinking too much about it Jocque/Juan went up the wet lines, trimmed the sail and then decended to help the sailor get disentagled and down the lines to the wet deck. The sailor’s leg had been badly hurt and Jocque/Juan had helped get him to the forecastle and into a hammock.
The First Mate came to see Jacque/Juan the next day. He thanked Juan for his help and said that the sailor had told everyone around about how this boy had come up the rigging like an experienced sailor to not only set the sail that was going bad but to keep him (the sailor) from eventually falling from his upside down position in the rigging. The Mate wanted to know if Juan was a seaman and what they could do to make things right with him. Jacque/Juan explained that he had been watching and learning as they went along and that, to tell the truth, he was almost broke and would have to leave the ship pretty soon. The Mate read between the lines and offered Juan a job with the crew for as long as he wanted it.
When they made port near the Shackles things took another turn. The sailor he had helped out of the rigging offered to buy him a pint at one of the local beer and grub places. While they were there Juan/Jocque could not pay for anything. His companion not only bought every round, he started regailing the bar about how this kid had saved his life. Other sailors joined in and the next thing Jocque knew he was waking up in a dark place to the sound of straining timbers and the roll that told him he was back aboard ship. But he was in a hold or something with no clear way out.
Jocque was still trying to find an exit when a hatch opened above him and he found himself looking up into the face of a man he would come to know very well over the next few months. The man was the Free Captain, Lars Keventyn, and Jocque was his latest acquisition. The ship was the “Morbid Gale” and Jocque had two choices; go to work or swim.
He decided to go to work. It was only later that he found that the “Morbid Gale’s” First Mate, an ambitious wench named Kassata Lewynn, had been in the bar that night and had heard enough to know Juan/Jocque might make a good seaman, that he had a short history, and that nobody was likely to miss him. It had only taken a word and the next time Juan had stepped out back to get rid of some of the beer he had been drinking a sack was dropped over his head and one of the Gale’s best blackjack handlers had gently put him into dreamland.
Over the next few months Juan (he had stuck with that lie and later realized he was probably not the only one with more than one name aboard the Gale) had shown his metal in the high rigging and he became another of the Gale’s crew almost as easily as falling off a log. She was a pirate ship and he had participated in three boardings of other ships. That wasn’t the part that was so bad. It was the executions and rapes that sometimes followed that told Jocque he had to get off the “Morbid Gale” as soon as he possibly could.
As things worked out, that opportunity came soon enough. Captain Keventyn got drunk and decided that he would give the Captain of the last ship they had taken a shot at freedom. It seemed they had some kind of prior history together. A duel with cutlass and buckler took place on the Gale’s main deck with the whole crew watching. Everyone thoght Lars would win easily but that was not the way it worked out. He made a wrong move and the captive Captain buried his cutlass all the way through Lar’s heart and out his back. Keventyn dropped like a lead weight to the deck. The victorious captain claimed the pirate’s right of pillage and claimed the Morbid Gale as his own. He disbanded the crew when they returned to port and recruited a new crew that was loyal to him alone. That didn’t include Kassata Lewynn or Jocque.
The crew came apart like a flock of crows. Jocque eventually went with them but spent some time with Kassata on the beach. She was looking to find a new ship of her own and Jocque/Juan almost joined her before he had another nightmare about one of the boardings. By this time, he had acquired quite a bit of booty and he used it to bribe enough people to get him on the next ship leaving the port as a “legitimate crewman”. That ship turned out to be the trading ship “Jenivere”.
A mutual contact recommended him to the First Mate of the “Jenivere” and it so happened that they needed a top-sail man. Inside of days Juan was bedded down in the forecastle of the trader and started to get to know the ship and the rest of the crew. The work was hard sometimes but a trading ship wasn’t constantly shifing her rigging to catch another ship and Juan spent more time on the deck of the Jenivere than he had in the upper rigging of the Gale.
He planned to get off in Corentin in Cheliax but one night on the beach convinced him that he was going to have a hell of a time living there with what skills he had and so he signed on with the crew again for the trip back south. What he was hoping was that in the intervening year or so since he left things might have quieted down back in Ilizmagorti — that maybe it would be safe to come back home. One night on the beach there was long enough to convince Juan that it would be safer to just keep on going to Sargava.
In the meantime he had overheard several conversations by some of the passengers about plans they had when the ship got to Sargava and he had absorbed enough wild tales about the Expanse and even about the Ekujae who lived there that he had decided to leave the ship there and seek his fortune and maybe his father. After the ship left the Shackles behind it he went to see the Mate and told him about his plans to leave the ship. The Mate promised to pay him his accumulated wages when they hit port and told him that he wished him well.
Juan had never seen Desparation Bay before but as the ship entered that huge expanse of watery grave (its bottom littered with the dead and sunken ships of the old Corentin invasion fleet) Jocque/Juan wondered what was to come.
He had been keeping a wary eye on one of the more exotic passengers named Sasha. There was someting about her that worried at him. A lady named Drasheen Rettig, who Jocque had been seriously avoiding since her boarding with a prisoner, had caught his eye as had a couple of others. In these final few days Jaun/Jacque had to make up his mind who to throw in with wnen they hit the beach, or to strike out on his own. One way or the other Juan Svette/Jocque Tarr was about to become a land dweller again.