The Harpooned Whale

'The Harpooned Whale' is set on the high seas and follows the adventures of Erin, a steely young woman with a violent streak, and Scarlet who is thrown into her world.

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1. Chapter One: Erin

 

      “Stand still unless you want to lose another eye.”

      One Eyed Derrik stopped shaking, his Adam's apple bobbing as he gulped.

      I raised my pistol with a smirk, aiming at the apple resting on Derrik's bald head. A loud crack resounded around me as I pulled the trigger, sending the seagulls that had been resting on the ship scattering and squawking.

      Nigel cried out in disgust when one left him a present. “Bloody, 'ell, I just washed this.”

      “Is Derrik dead?” Ryall asked eagerly from where he was perched on a barrel, swinging his lanky legs with gleeful eyes. He was a year younger than me, making him the youngest member of the crew.

      One Eyed Derrik slowly opened his good eye and lifted the apple from his head with a trembling hand. The bullet had gone straight through the middle of the apple. Derrik sighed in relief.

      “Well, gentlemen,” I said, blowing the smoke from the barrel of my pistol before spinning it around my finger and returning it to the holster tied around my waist. “It looks like you owe me sixty dollar-pounds.”

      Nigel and Ryall groaned.

      “I told you Erin wouldn't miss.”

      Turning I saw Alderman, the ships sorcerer stood at the helm. He was short with a bulging belly. His long navy hair was pulled back into a ponytail and his clothes were crumpled, like he had slept in them, which he probably had.

      “Need any help?” I asked, walking over to him. I had always found sorcery fascinating, not that I knew how to do any.

      Alderman shook his head. “I've nearly finished.”

      He was casting enchantments on the new wheel, dipping a quill made of jabadee feathers into a pot of charmed liquid. I watched as he wrote on the wood, the letters blazing brightly before disappearing.

      “There,” he said beaming. “All done. She will steer true.”

      I rested a hand on the hilt of my cutlass. It was a habit of mine. The touch of the cool metal was calming. “What about the wheel? We're not gonna have to replace it any time soon, are we?”

      The last one had been blown to bits, and since Alderman had been knocked unconscious in the blast we had been forced to row to shore. It was an experience that none of us wanted to re-live.

      Alderman patted the wood fondly. “It's not going anywhere in a hurry.”

      “Good,” he carefully returned the quill and pot to his bag of tricks, and I asked. “So when are you gonna start teaching me magic?”

      He froze and gazed up at me with worried eyes. In the background Nigel, Derrik and Ryall stopped talking and focused on me, waiting to see how I was going to react.

      “I'm old enough now, aren't I?” I demanded. “You swore that you would teach me.”

      “I will, I just need to talk to your father first,” Alderman smiled but it didn't reach his eyes.

      “Well you know what happens to people that don't keep their promises to me, don't you?” I growled threateningly as I towered over him.

      He nodded, backing away in fright.

      “You two,” I cried, whirling around and striding over to Nigel and Ryall.

      Their eyes widened in terror and they quickly scrambled to their feet, standing up tall. I hid a smile. I liked to see them sweat.

      “Where's my money?” I drew my cutlass, driving it into the wooden deck at my feet.

      They jumped and hurried to search their pockets.

      Nigel's ginger hair was wild as he handed me thirty dollar-pounds. “Here ya go, sir. I mean, ma'am.”

      “I was gonna get new boots, wi' tha',” Ryall told me reluctantly giving me the rest of the money I was owed. I could see his toes peeking out of his current boots.

      Derrik was leaning against the main mast, looking drained and scratching absently at his black eye-patch. I flicked him a coin before putting the rest of my winnings in my money bag and away somewhere safe (down my top. No one was gonna go there), not bothering to count it. Nigel and Ryall wouldn't dare cross me.

      “Maybe you'll win it back later,” I grabbed my cutlass, sheathing it and jumped up onto the side of the ship. “I'm goin' to town. See you at the pub.” reaching out, I took hold of a rope and slid down it to the docks below.

 

      The port of Lyttle Haven was, as its name suggested, a haven. But only for pirates. The Navy didn't control it. It was too close to the Border Lands for their comfort and who knew what would suddenly appear out of the mists? There had been rumours circulating that a whole Navy fleet had been swallowed up in the unpredictable, and ever shifting mists never to be heard of again. People said that the mist was alive. That wouldn’t have surprised me. I had fought many creatures from the Border Lands, and all of them had been strange. I was glad to be back in Lyttle Haven, not that I often preferred being on land to the sea, but the ship had needed a lot of work and the shipwrights of Lyttle Haven were among the best in the country. Lyttle Haven wasn't pretty to look at. Its streets were narrow and filthy and the buildings weren't much better. Luckily it was summertime, which meant that it would be months until the snow and torrential rain, that the town was well known for, would arrive. The bad winter weather was an unfortunate side effect of living so close to the Border Lands.

      I opened the door to the doctors' surgery and sat down in the queue. There were only two people in front of me. One was a straggly bearded man who was hunched over, and the other was an elderly woman whose hands wouldn't stop shaking as she knitted. The wallpaper on the walls was peeling and there was a mildewy scent in the air as well as the smell of chemicals. Picking that days newspaper off a nearby table I waited until it was my turn. The articles I read were of the usual variety. There were stories of Navy raids at several ports, cargo ships being attacked by pirates, and warnings that the mists of the Border Lands were getting worse and moving closer. My blood boiled when I read an article about a man that I had the misfortune of knowing. He had saved another princess, no doubt stealing her virtue in the process. I screwed the paper up wishing, not for the first time, that I had never met the kaiing son of a hydra.

      A scruffy nurse came to get me when it was my turn to see the doctor. I was led to a simple but dated office. There was an examining bed in the corner and a desk, sat behind which was a plain man who couldn't have been much older than me. He smiled when he saw me and gestured that I should settle myself on the bed.

      “Where's Dr Frost?” I asked once the nurse had gone, closing the door after herself. I had been here several times before and had always been seen by Dr Frost, a kind man who was one of the few people that I actually liked.

      The new doctor stood up, coming over to stand beside me. He was dressed in a suit, though his jacket was strewn over the back of his chair. Washing his hands he replied. “Dr Frost died a few months back from a heart attack. I'm his replacement, Dr Sheldon. What's your name?” his dried his hands, his eyes running up and down my body.

      “Erin.”

      “Well, Erin, what seems to be the problem?” Dr Sheldon took his stethoscope from around his neck. His fingers brushed my skin as he pressed the cold metal to my chest.

      “My heart's fine,” I told him, moving away. I considered leaving, feeling uncomfortable. I didn't like this new doctor and I didn't like being touched. My wound needed seeing to though. “It's my side.”

      Dr Sheldon nodded. “I'll take a look at it, but you will have to remove your weapons.”

      Glancing down at my belt, which held my pistol and cutlass, among other things, I replied. “Is that really necessary?”

      “It would make me more comfortable,” he answered.

      As a doctor wasn't he the one meant to be making me more comfortable? With great reluctance I removed the belt, feeling naked without it. I placed it on the floor, so that I could reach it easily if I had to. I then lay down on the bed, hitching up my shirt as I rolled onto my side. The doctor's fingers prodded at the wound, making me wince.

      “How did this happen?” Dr Sheldon asked.

      “My ship was attacked.”

      I definitely preferred Dr Frost. He knew not to ask questions. Of course I could have asked Alderman to heal it, but the crew thought I was invincible and I wanted it to stay that way.

      “How long ago was it?”

      “About a week,” I replied with my eyes fixed on the wall. I examine the cracks in the paint without interest.

      “There's wood in it,” he said in shock.

      That would be from when the wheel had been blown into thousands of pieces.

      “You should have gone to a doctor sooner. You're lucky the wood hasn't travelled any further and damaged your organs,” Dr Sheldon told me, clicking his tongue.

      Gritting my teeth and wishing that he would just get on with it, I asked. “Can you get it out?”

      “Yes, but it's going to hurt,” he warned.

      I didn’t care. “Just do it.”

      I was silent and stayed still for the whole time as Dr Sheldon removed the splinters of wood from me. It was painful, but I'd had worse injuries. Once he had finished, he cleaned the wound.

      “You'll need to change the bandage every day,” he told me, covering the wound with a bandage made of rough material.

      Dr Sheldon's fingertips brushed my belly and my blood ran cold when I realised his intent. He moved his fingers to the waistband of my trousers, before slipping them underneath. I punched him so hard that he staggered backwards, clutching his bleeding nose.

      “You kaiing bastard!” I snarled grabbing him by the throat and pinning him to the wall.  “You don't know who I am, do you?” I lowered my voice to a whisper. “I'm Keelhaul Erin.”

      Recognition flashed in his eyes as well as terror. “Please don't hurt me,” Dr Sheldon begged, blood running down his chin and neck. “I... I wasn't going to do anything, I swear.”

      “Sure you weren't. You men are all the same,” I spat, increasing my grip on his throat. “You're pathetic.” head-butting him I watched as he slithered unconscious to the tiled floor. I rolled my shirt down and strapped my belt around my waist. “What a yaeler. I need a drink.”

 

      The rest of the crew were already at the Rogue's Reward when I got there. Everyone except the Captain. I wondered where he was.

      “Evenin', Erin,” the bartender greeted me, grinning a toothy grin. “The usual?”

      “Make it a bottle,” I told him, sliding some notes across the counter.

      Turning around I examined the pub. It was smoky and I could smell sweat and alcohol. A light flickered overhead, making it hard to see the worn carpet and dated furniture. I liked the Rogue’s Reward. I had been there so often that it felt like a second home.

      The room was full of pirates and apart from the barmaids that were walking around, their dresses revealing a lot of cleavage, I was the only female.

      I grabbed my bottle and walked over to where the crew were seated in our usual corner. They saw me coming and Nigel gave his chair up for me. I sat down in it and swigged from the bottle before leaning back and crossing my legs. “Evenin' lads,”

      Callum offered me a smoke but I shook my head.

      “Is the work on the ship all done?” Drew asked his shaven head covered with a beanie even though it was sweltering.

      Moving my gaze to rest on Alderman I nodded. The sorcerer wouldn't look at me. Had he talked to the Captain yet?

      The door to the pub opened, letting in some of the cool night air.

      “Who's tha' wi' the Cap'n?” Ryall asked taking a gulp of his drink.

      I twisted around. Stood with the Captain at the bar was a young man. He was a few years older than me and dressed in plain brown trousers which were tucked into expensive, black leather boots. The sleeves of his white shirt were rolled up and a fancy jacket was slung over his shoulder, covering a bag. I noted with approval that the stranger carried a pistol and knife in his belt. He was tall and lean with tidy, dark green hair and bright, topaz eyes. The way he held himself told me that he was used to fancier establishments. Suspicious and uneasy at the stranger’s presence I stood up. “I'm going to the cards table,” I muttered, grabbing my bottle and slipping away.       

 

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