“A pirate, Midnight!”
“I know, Khadir,” I groaned for the hundredth time.
“Of all people, a–”
“You can stop any time now,” I snapped.
“I think an earfull is exactly want you need, actually,” said Khadir, “that kind of irresponsible behaviour is just–”
“I never should have made you learn English.”
“Good morning, lass,” Thomas stepped down from the helm and approached us, he nodded to me and Khadir, “Good morning, Khadir.”
Khadir glowered at the man – it was a look that could kill any normal person – and moved off.
“What’s his problem?” Thomas muttered.
“Same as mine,” I said, “Your shamelessness.”
“Oh, come on! Will ye stop being mad wi’ me?” he laughed.
I gave him a look, “No.”
“Would it make ye feel better if I let ye kill someth’un?”
“Quite, if it were anything. Immensely, if it were you.”
Thomas rubbed the stubble on his chin, “Well, this ship still needs a captain, so I’ll have t’pass on that second offer,” said Thomas, bemused, “But have ye e’er harpooned a whale?”
* * * * *
The thrill was exhilarating.
Thomas helped me back aboard as the sailors dragged the corpse of the whale on deck and began hacking at it. It could provide us food for weeks, if dried. I remember my father once telling me that hunting whales was banned before, but since the sea was full of pirates now – endangered species were the last thing on the mind of the man who came up with international law. Not that anyone paid heed to that man, anyway.
Thomas took the harpooning spears from me and handed me my armour. As I put my garments on, I began to wonder how long it would take me to drown if I were thrown overboard with this protective material strapped to me. I left the buckles a little loose, shivering at the thought.
“A fine catch for an ill-experienced person,” he said, sitting down next to me, and drinking from a bottle of rum. He handed me the bottle but I waved away the offer. He shrugged and took another drink.
“In your favour, I feel a little better,” I replied smiling.
He patted my shoulder, “Good t’know,” his smile crinkled the scar on his face.
I touched it – ignoring the way he flinched at the touch – and ran a finger along the groove of the scar. It was a deep, ugly cut.
“Don’t worry yourself o’er it,” he murmured, pushing my hand away.
My hand touched my own scar, marking the bottom of my lip, “I’m sorry for giving you that,” I said, “If it makes anything better, it was nothing personal.”
“Despite the fact that ye hate sailors?”
I took his chin and looked at the scar from a different angle, “I don’t hate you all this much. A little less, but still – I try not to cut anyone’s face. Not unless I mean to kill them. You got lucky, Thomas.”
He smirked, “Aye, that I did.”
“Damn it,” I said, laughing at the mistake, “how did I let that one slip?”
“Clearly ye’ve put our adventures outta mind,” he stood up, smirking his way back to the helm and barking, “Let loose the sails! We’re movin’ on, lads!”
The look-out called from his high post, “A ship’s approachin’, capt’n! It flies a British flag!”
Jeremiah took the wheel as Thomas pulled out a spyglass and spied the tides. He swore profoundly, as he put that glass away. He passed by me and called for the sailors to arm the ship.
“I am so glad I didn’t place a wager on your claim,” he said, pulling me to my feet.
“What?” I said.
“Marigold,” he said, scowling, “He’s comin’. That’s his ship,” he pointed in the general direction of it, “flyin’ a British flag.”
“And you don’t think he’s coming for tea and biscuits?”
He glared at me, “Shut up,” he said, clearly agitated, “A British flag is ne’er a good thing on these waters.”
I folded my arms, “And what exactly is it you want me to do?”
He furrowed his brows and frowned, “Excuse me…?”
“You called me a perjurer, Thomas. You beat me and then you bedded me. I’m slowly losing my train of thought, so I’ll make this quick – I don’t see why I should help you.”
“Because ye’re on this ship?”
“I’m fairly certain that after Marigold is done and dusted with you and your crew, I can ram this thing into his ship, climb aboard, threaten him and such nonsense – and then sail home to Normandy, right as rain. I might not like sailors,” I stared out at the sea, “but, when needs be, I can make myself quite a fine one.”
Thomas stared at me, “Okay,” he said slowly, “so I owe ye.”
“And what is it that you owe me?”
“An apology? I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry, hardly cuts it, Captain Rogue.”
“I’m sorry, ye were right?”
“Getting slightly warmer.”
“I’m sorry, ye were right, and I’ll give you half the booty aboard that ship?”
I smiled, “There’s a good lad.”
He muttered a curse, “Bloody mercenary…”
“Oh, shut up. You’d’ve done the same thing in my place,” I laughed and then turned away from him, “Stations, lads! There’s a fight coming, so warm your knuckles, eh?”
I tightened the buckles on my armour, and pulled up my hood and fixed my veil. I went into my cabin briefly, arming myself with the remaining weapons in my pack. I walked out and Thomas handed me a pistol. They weren’t my favourite kinds of weapons – I’d always considered all guns cowardly – so I looked at it with distaste.
“And this is…?” I said.
“Blunderbuss. No range, but excellent accuracy. E’er used one?” asked Thomas, arming himself in the process.
“No… but I suppose I could do with a spare weapon,” I said, sliding it into my belt.
“Aye, well it’s this again,” he said, “make sure t’count your teeth before and after, eh?”
“Sounds like a good idea. Just don’t pass out, okay? It’s embarrassing.”
We both smirked and Thomas went back to the helm, pitching the wheel to a side so that his ship turned right around.
I stood on the main deck, looking steadily at the prow.
There was silence as the two ships approached – and then the world shook as they collided.
Even having braced ourselves, a few men tripped over their own feet on impact.
I bawled a curse and ran up the banister to the fore and off the tip, landing in the thick of confused sailors in bright red livery. Cannon fire and burning pitch littered my path.
I knew which one was Marigold. I had a series of images attached to the file that the Chess Pieces had given me. But I didn’t go for him.
I unsheathed my sword to throw off the blow of a redcoat and stabbed him through his throat. Drawing out the blade again, I slashed through the throat of his friend standing next to him. He fell to his knees, gagging and choking on his own blood that bubbled in the gaping hole and spread through his jacket. I took his sword and fended the on-coming strikes of several crew-members. I saw Thomas, just a flash, stabbing a man through his back, the cutlass tearing through his insides. I saw a man’s head taken clean off by a cannon-ball. I saw a man run at me, but before I could raised my sword, he jumped – his shoulder knocking into my chest and throwing me back.
I fell heavily onto the deck, and rolled over as my assailant stabbed at me with his sword. The tip got lodged in the wood, so he pulled out a pistol and thumbed down the hammer. I kicked his shin, seeing him howl and pull the trigger, as he fell and the bullet shot harmlessly through the floor. I got on his back, pulled out a knife and tore through his neck. I stood up, and looked around. Thomas was up on the helm, stabbing his cutlass through a screaming man’s eye. Khadir was at the aft, tipping redcoats overboard when they missed him.
Then I saw him: Benedict Marigold, skulking his way behind Thomas.
I slashed my way through the thick of things, making for my target. I elbowed a redcoat in the throat and threw him onto another adversary, gritting my teeth as a sharp blade fell heavily on my shoulder. I turned sharply, and bashed the pommel of my sword on the man’s head. He crumpled immediately. Marigold was right behind Thomas now, a curved dagger in hand.
“Thomas!” I cried, “Your back! Watch your back!”
Thomas turned just as Marigold was about to stab, his frilled coat tearing, guarding him from the attack. Thomas stared at the traitor murderously.
He head-butted him, “You God-damn,” curse-word, “knave, Ben!”
Marigold stumbled back and tore out his own sword, “Fine mornin’, ain’t it, Rogue?” he muttered, fending off a blow.
“Oh, aye!” said Thomas, bunching his free fist, “The mornin’ that ye die, ought t’be a fine one!”
“This is new,” Marigold scoffed, “Ye know that no man can kill me, Tom.”
I grabbed his throat in my arm from behind, he gagged and his arms flailed in shock.
“I suppose we’ll never find out,” I murmured in his ear. I turned to the rest of the men fighting on board the ship, “I got your captain in my keep, Redcoats!” there was an abrupt pause, “Put down your weapons and you’ll be spared!”
“My, my,” came a voice, “if it isn’t the Lady of the Shadownights. Quite a surprise.”
“Lester Mild,” I muttered miserably, picking him in the crowd. He came with his hands raised and his sword sheathed, “Didn’t know His Lordship sent you to make pacts with despicable turncoats.”
Mild laughed. He was a handsome man – and I say that begrudgingly. Honestly, his good looks deserved a better person. Not him. He was tall as he was broad, his messy brown hair was glistening with sweat and blood.
“I didn’t know you were out here, picking your fights with My Lordship and aligning yourself to these mindless High-Sea robbers,” he said, nodding at Thomas.
“Well, I didn’t plan on it,” I said, shrugging, “But I am nothing, if not adaptable. I was paid nicely to murder this gutter-boy over here,” I shook Marigold and took out my sword. I sliced through his neck, purposefully missing his jugular and instead raising the cut upwards to that his jaw became separate from his neck. I stepped away as he died the way any traitor ought to – slowly and painfully – and raised my arms, pulling down my veil, “I was on my way home, to be honest. Just about to throw in the towel on my contractor,” I passed by Mild – I saw his smirk turn to a frown – and scoffed, “Thank you for bringing me my target.”
“See, I can’t allow what you just did.”
“It’s already done, Mild. You should have mentioned it before. Besides, Marigold has betrayed your crippling lot too.”
“Well, of course you’d say that,” he drew his sword, “You’d say anything to save your own skin.”
I gave him a side-glance, “You don’t want this, Mild.”
“My relationship with you has always been… tough. And not in a nice way either.”
“I work with death, contracts and money. I don’t really have time for playing with relationships and sorting out dalliances.”
“Let’s settle this then, one-on-one? I win, you give me anything I want.”
“You won’t win. You’ll die.”
“We’ll just have to see, won’t we? I’ve already made up my mind.”
“Change it. Else, your army won’t have a head,” I said, turning away. He grabbed my arm and pointed his blade at my throat, “And nor will your body, Mild.”