Jerome Cuirse, as it so turned out, was a pirate.
After seeing me gut my husband and kick the dead body of his bad habit, he had to restrain me from mutilating her face.
He took me to a tavern and sat me down, ordering a drink for me. I wondered why this place was open so early, but all the people inside the place looked at me expectantly.
“Tima,” said Jerome, “This is my crew.”
I glanced at him, “You’re a captain?” I asked.
“Aye, that,” he laughed, “though, not your favoured bahjouns from the Navy. We’re marauders, robbers of the sea. We take what we please, be who we like, and live heartily – self-made men,” he turned to his crew, as their drinks arrived, “Tima, here, will join us. She’s a fine wench with a sharp cutlass!”
“I didn’t agree t’this, Jerry,” I said.
He raised his brows, “Oh, are you going to refuse now?” he pulled out a dagger and teased the point with the tip of his forefinger, “Because, I just want you to know, it’s nothing personal.”
She gazed at him with amusement, “I’m not refusin’ your offer, Cuirse. It’s just nice t’have options, like.”
He drank his flagon of ale, while I sipped at mine.
“Were you a full sailor before you decided to murder your husband?” he asked.
“Aye, I had t’act like a sailor. I know enough.”
“Know any ships with fine prizes? Gold or silver or rum?”
I thought about the captain I’d once served, and grinned at Jerome, “Aye, in fact, that I do.”
* * * * *
We’d a fine plunder.
We’d laid upon a vessel that had plenty of rum and gold aboard. There was also a man, of some value it seemed, from the way Jerome treated him, who we’d ‘rescued’ from the vessel we’d sunk. He’d been a traveller on-board, and was staying with us on his way back to Normandy. He said he’d pay us a fine sum for the journey. His face was aging, though not yet quite old. He was tanned and bulky – but perhaps not with fat, but with muscle. He looked tall and broad enough to be a soldier, maybe even better than that.
He was pensive for most of the journey, spending most of his time looking out at sea. He didn’t speak much, and looked as if he had a lot on his mind. When we raided other ships he rarely joined in, but I’d seen him kill a man by slamming his elbow into the man’s skull. Our passenger was defending himself, but it was impressive.
Today, I sat down next to him and asked, “D’ye live in Normandy?”
He paused, as if he hadn’t heard me, and then nodded.
“What’s there for ye?” I asked, “Are ye a French soldier?”
Pause. Shake of his head.
“Then what’re you?”
Pause. “I’m nothing,” was all he said.
“Ye’re annoying, that’s what,” I muttered.
Pause. “I used to be a gladiator, but I won my freedom.”
I hid how impressed I was, and said, “Well, that last bit was a wee obvious, sir.”
“My name is Bthash Shadownight, I’m nothing more than a famous face at this point. I have nothing of real value and I have no-one,” I looked at me, “Is that enough for you?”
I blinked, “Did you lose someone?”
“I lost my brother a long time ago,” he said, “He came upon me once, assigned to kill me. We recognised each other… I’ve been looking for him since.”
Pause. “I’m not going to dignify that with an answer.”
“Is that what ye were doin’ in the Americas, then? Lookin’ for your brother?”
“Then, why were ye a passenger on that ship?”
Pause. “I wasn’t a passenger,” he said, “I was a prisoner.”
“A prisoner? T’who?”
“You ask too many questions. Why can’t you be like the rest of your crew and just ignore me?”
“Because I’m not like the rest o’ my crew and I can’t ignore ye. You’re huge, sir, it becomes offensive t’my view o’ the sea.”
He scowled at me, “Go away.”
“I want t’know your story!”
I sighed, “Because I clearly have nothin’ else t’do. It’s been a while since I saw a new face, sir. Please, entertain me a while longer.”
Pause. “The ship belonged to the Chess Pieces.”
“Oh, them creepy fellas?”
He stared at me, not answering the question.
“Why would ye’ve anyth’un t’do with them?”
Pause. “My brother was indoctrinated by them since he was a baby. He went back to them, so I went to them to look for him. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been caught by them. Before, they would have me killed for being famous – because it would cause a commotion. They like that. But now – they’d kill me because I know too much. I’ve learnt of their ways and I came so close to getting my brother back… But, well,” he looked away.
“How can ye hold him so dear? This brother o’ yours? Ye seem to’ve ne’er known him.”
“I don’t know him. My family was torn apart, a long time ago. My father died before I was born, and my mother… I only found her after I had won my freedom. She looking for both of us – my brother and I. We were born of the same hour, twins. She told me that slavers had stolen us, when we were still babies. She died, last year.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
He looked at me, frowning, “How can you be sorry for anything?”
“I meant no harm by’t, sir.”
Pause. “I’m sorry,” he nodded, slightly, “It’s strange. Being alone, after knowing company all my life. I knew it when I was in my school, in Rome. I knew it at home with my new-found mother. But now… now I know nothing.”
“Aye, you’re lost, sir,” I said, putting a hand on his shoulder, “But give’t some time, eh? Ye’ll be found again, soon. Time heals all wounds.”
He grinned a little and said, “Please, call me Bthash.”
“And I’m Tima,” I said smiling, “Nice t’meet you.”
He raised his head, surprised, and looked at me, “You’re a woman.”
“Oh, for God’s sake!”