I replay the captain’s words in my head over and over again as I walk in circles in his cabin.
“We have a bright day ahead of us,” I mock, imitating his grave voice before scoffing. “Yeah right. You’re the one having a bright day outside, while I’m stuck in this stinking cabin once more,” I grumble, glaring at the see through the window. “And not only that, but he wants me to continue what I did this morning, tonight? Nope. I’m not just some wench he can bed whenever he wants,” I trail on furiously.
Exhaling loudly, I stare at the sea once more before turning on my heel and sitting back on the cot. Action which I have been repeating for the last hour or so. My fingers dig in the small sheet over the bed.
“There’s nothing to do,” I mumble to myself. “Absolutely nothing,” I continue, standing once more.
My boredom was starting to reach its limit. My gaze travels around the small room once before falling on the bed once more. It isn’t made.
Out of habit from the time’s I’d made William’s and Alice’s beds, I bend down and remove the sheets altogether. Part of the fabric gets stuck under the mattress. Frowning, I pull and tug the material, but it refuses to remove itself. Shoulders slumping, I grab the small mattress and pull it off the wooden structure.
A cloud of dust fills the air as it falls heavily to the floor with a thump. Grimacing, I couch and wave my hand before my face, trying to get the dust away from me. Blinking a couple of times, I couch once more and pull the rest of the sheets off.
My heartbeat quickens as I notice a pile of paper sit right at the center where the cot used to be. Dropping the fabric, I approach the pile. Various maps are strewn here and there, along with numerous sketches as well as documents and letters in languages I can’t comprehend at first sight. I pick them up and place them on Zayn’s desk for further inspection.
Taking a seat at his desk, I start sorting them. I place the maps together at my left, the sketches at my right, and the documents and letters in front of me. I start looking at the sketches. As my fingers switch from one drawing to another, I realise that the same man is drawn over and over again, except he’s always at a different angle.
The sketches are messily drawn, and the papers are slightly wrinkled. One can tell that quite some time has passed and that this paper has been confided as well. I pause at one sketch, where the man’s eyes are gazing right at me, and I freeze. Goosebumps rise along my arms. Those eyes….they look startlingly familiar, like I’ve seen them before― but where? This man is a complete stranger...I think?
His face is sharp and angular, and he has a thick, dark beard covering his chin. But his gaze is sharp and intelligent, and with furrowed eyebrows, he has an inquisitive perception to him. I can’t stop looking, I feel like I’m staring right at him.
Finally breaking my gaze, I set down the thin pile of sketches and move on to the other papers lying about. There are more drawings, of many different things - plants, animals, sunsets, sceneries, and they’re all magnificent. When I stare at one with thick bundles of trees, I can smell the musky scent; when I’m looking at the drawing of a furry rodent, one I’ve never seen before, I can almost see how his eyes would normally move or the softness of his fur. The drawings are articulate and detailed, yet messy, with stray lines dotted along the more prominent ones.
I pause when I pull up a particular, landscaped sized paper, and squint my eyes. I have to turn it around a bit to finally understand - it’s a map. But a map for what? There’s writing in the top right hand corner, but it’s so messy that I can’t read it. All I can read is the first letter, R. Everything else is unreadable.
There are also various circles around places, as well as X marks and dots. I don’t understand what kind of map this is, but there’s a trail. And judging by all the markings, I can see that this paper has been used often, no doubt by the captain himself. Why is he hiding it?
But then my eyes notice something else.
I recognize the necklace instantly. It’s my necklace, drawn on a smaller, more wrinkled piece of paper. It’s just the necklace, and a strong pang of nostalgia waves heavily in my chest upon seeing it. The paper underneath shows the necklace on the frail neck of a woman, but I can’t see her face. The artist was clearly more interested in drawing the necklace slung around her neck.
I thumb through some more and am amazed at how many drawings there are of this necklace. All at different angles, but it’s the same one. This is perplexing. Why does my necklace have anything to do with a heartless pirate?
Why does he need it?
It’s just a necklace. I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. It’s always felt like it was a part of me, and whenever I touched it, I felt a wave of comfort, especially during harsh times throughout my life. Through my parent’s absence, it brought me consolation. So why does the captain want it? Clearly it has a huge role to him, but what exactly is that role?
I jump, my heart thudding painfully in my chest, when the door slams open behind me. Heavy footsteps ensue. It’s him, I can feel it. I freeze, unable to know how to act. I wonder if he’ll be furious that I found all these maps and drawings. Are they personal to him? I doubt he has anything personal - he’s a heartless monster. I’ve never seen him writing in a journal or reading any books.
There’s an angry shout on deck, making me jump. It’s the captain. Clearly, he’s yelling at the crew. The sound of his boots on the wooden surface is enough to frighten me. Hastily, I grab all the papers and shove them back where I found them, before lifting the mattress and dropping it over them. More dust escapes, but I ignore it, focused on getting the bedsheets back on the bed properly.
Zayn barges in as I finish. He’s fuming, his eyes almost murderous and his whole body tense.
I’m about to say something when I notice I forgot one of the maps on his desk. I rapidly shift my gaze elsewhere, praying he won’t notice. I decide to speak before he can do anything.
“Don’t say a word, Roselina, or I might just kill you,” he snarls, approaching me. “Useless. That’s what you’ve become,” he continues, his body suddenly pressing mine against the wall. “Because my crew is too bloody stupid to save the man most important to our quest!” he booms, stepping away from me.
My eyes widen as I see him approaching his desk. My hands grabs his arm, and I tug him back to me reluctantly.
“No!” He shouts, his face turning red. “Don’t call me that, you wench! I don’t even need you anymore,” he continues heatedly. “I can simply fuck you and make you walk the plank afterwards, and it wouldn’t matter!” he storms.
His words chill my bones. I can’t help the tears forming in my eyes. Of course I don’t like being held captive, but he’s talking about ridding me of my dignity then feeding me to the ravenous ocean!
He cuts me off once more.
“That boy. Niall. I can rid myself of him. I don’t care about your deal anymore. It’s worth no more because my sailing master is dead!” he rages, tugging at his black hair in fury.
“S-s-sailing master?” I stammer.
Instead of replying, he storms back outside his cabin. I follow him.
“Bring the prisoner on deck,” he shouts to his men from the upper deck. I stay a few feet behind him, too afraid to be near that monster.
The crew starts moving out of fear, forming a messy jumble of bodies. Niall is brought up in front of Zayn seconds later and forced on his knees before him.
I shake my head rapidly and start crying, seeing the blonde boy with his wrists tied behind his back.
“Zayn, please,” I persist, my voice hoarse and throat thick with panic. My hands tremble at my sides, and it takes every ounce of strength I have to tear my eyes off of Niall and look at the captain.
“Get the plank ready!” Zayn shouts, ignoring my voice.
Tears stream down my face, blurring my vision. In my blind panic, I grab onto his arm and pray that he has any ounce of humanity left in him. What I see next terrifies me even more. He’s furious - livid, and to the naked eye, beyond any form of reasoning. Niall’s death is plain in his gaze and intentions. It’s up to me to save him and to keep me from losing everything I have.
“I’ll do anything,” I choke out, my voice trembling. “A-Anything you want, I swear...please, don’t hurt him. Don’t do this. You don’t have to. I―”
His lips curl into a malicious smirk. Before I know it, his hands are tangled in my hair, and I scream and writhe from the burning in my scalp as he drags me across the ship. He forces me on my knees, his hand still knotted in my hair, but he lessens his hold so I can look up. Though my bangs hang in my face, and my scalp throbs in excruciating pain, I can see Niall being led towards the plank. He has a blindfold over his eyes, and the men guide him, smirking and laughing, teasing him about his death. He takes small, baby steps, and I can see his knees shaking in raw fear.
“Watch as he walks,” The captain murmurs, watching my face closely in muted silence. His face is a mask again; it’s not sadistic or furious. It’s empty, blank. It frightens me more than anything.
A pirate finally shoves Niall onto the plank and rips off the blindfold, so he can watch as he plunges to his death. Niall’s entire body is trembling, and I can hear his ragged breathing. His cheeks are glistening, too - is he crying? I know that if I was up there, knowing I was going to die in a few minutes or so, I’d be choking on my own tears the entire way. But he’s trying to stifle them, and he keeps his head held high, despite the bickering and belittling of the laughing pirates.
“I heard a shark can swallow ye whole, mate!” Louis Tomlinson shouts into the salty air, smirking from ear to ear while cleaning a gun. A few other pirates chuckle in agreement, finding amusement. I’m appalled at how they can possibly find it entertaining, to kill someone. How? I can’t fathom it.
I glance up to where the mast hangs high over the ship, and the dark pirate flag flutters violently in the wind. It’s then I have an idea, and I don’t have time to think it through before the words blurt through my mouth.
“Niall can navigate! He can be the sailing master!”
At first, it’s like nobody hears me. Niall’s still walking across the plank, and the pirates are still laughing at his trembling and crying.
My voice is shriller, laced with desperation. “I’ve known him for years, you have to believe me! He knows maps like they’re the back of his hand! He’ll be able to navigate this crew, anywhere you need to go! Having him walk the plank will waste time and effort because afterwards, you’re going to have to find a new sailing master, right? You don’t have to - you have one right here!”
“The lass has a point, Captain,” Harry mumbles next to me, and his cheeks flush when the captain fixes him with a silencing, steely glare. Clearly he didn’t think before speaking his thoughts, which is something you should do around a pirate captain.
The captain and I lock eyes for a few moments; his are determined and unwavering, and mine are desperate yet just as determined. He’s determined to get somewhere, I’m not sure where exactly, but it’s laced in every movement he makes, every order he gives to his crew. He wants to go somewhere; those maps in his quarters prove that assumption. And I know I have the upper hand, and I’m so glad for my quick thinking. He needs someone to navigate the ship, and it will cost him time to find someone new. And time, sadly, isn’t something that lasts forever.
“Bring him here,” Zayn shouts suddenly, breaking our gaze, and I fight back a smile of relief when a pirate pulls Niall off the wooden plank and drags him in front of the captain.
“If you’re lying to me, I will put a bullet through his chest then send him over the plank.” The captain tells me with a hint of warning, raising an eyebrow and giving me one last chance to take back my word. My breath hitches, the image of Niall stumbling down the plank with blood seeping through his shirt. I’m not for certain Niall’s very good with maps, but I suppose the risk is worth it.
I nod firmly and, without blinking, say, “It’s nothing but the truth. If you don’t believe me, test him.” I can cringe from my words, knowing that if Niall doesn’t have any knowledge of navigation and the captain asks him to prove it, this can end in disaster. But it’s all I can do, to prove to him that my word is genuine.
Niall is brutally shoved forwards, nearly landing on his face in front of Zayn’s boots.
Zayn crouches down so he’s nearly at Niall’s level, his finger slipping underneath the blonde’s chin so he can look him in the eyes.
“So mate, today can either be your lucky day, or the day where you meet your doom,” he starts.
The pirates around us snicker, muttering to themselves.
Niall keeps his eyes fixed on the captain, but doesn’t say anything.
“Do you know your cardinal points?” he mocks. “If you don’t, you’re off to a bad start.”
“Of course I know them,” he snaps, his gaze fierce. I’m surprised. If Niall doesn’t know a thing about navigating, he certainly doesn’t show it. “The sun rises at the East, which is over there,” he explains, motioning behind Zayn, “and it sets at the West, which is right across” he continues.
“So which way is the ship heading now?” the captain continues.
Zayn rubs his chin thoughtfully.
“What about the stars?” he enquires. “A good sailing master can navigate through the night using the stars to guide him. And I’m not only taking about the North star here,” he warns.
“I do know about stars,” Niall huffs. “But certain tools are needed while working with celestial bodies,” he continues, voice irritated. “Maps, a compass, and maybe a sextant could be nice.”
The captain looks down at Niall, before roughly lifting him up to his feet by his collar.
“Lose the attitude, boy. If you end up being useful after all, you can be bloody certain I won’t let you mouth off like this to me. I’ll slice your tongue out. I’ve done it before,” he threatens before dropping him.
Niall falls to his feet. His eyes meet mine briefly. Zayn obviously notices because next thing I know, I’m forced to turn away from him.
“Liam, bring the boy to the map room,” he orders to one of his men. “I’ll be back in a few,” he pursues, tugging me away. I dig my heels into the floor when I realise he’s taking me back to his quarters.
“No!” I protest, trying to pry his fingers off my skin. “I’m not going back in there! I’m tired of being locked up!” I state, attempting to free myself.
“Miss Aldrich how many times will I have to tell you that a pirate ship is no place for a lady like you,” he chuckles darkly, obviously undisturbed about my struggling.
“I’m tired of being treated like this! I’m not a defenceless creature you can lock away all the time!”
“Oh really? You’re not a defenceless creature?” he pulls me harshly forwards, his face now inches away from mine. “Then please, darling, tell me something: would you dare sleep below deck amongst my men?” he questions, his fingers gripping my chin tightly.
My eyes drop. No of course not.
“Exactly,” he snaps, opening the door of his cabin and pushing me inside.
“But I still have the right to be there! All of this involves me and my necklace, after all!”
“You’re still not going.”
I open my mouth once more as the captain turns to leave. “I know about the maps and sketches under your bed!” I blurt. He very visibly stiffens.
“What?” he says, his eyes slits as he turns to look at me.
I stiffen, cursing my inability to keep my mouth shut up at times. I’ve kept it shut properly for my entire life, until I met this infuriating monster.
“What. Did. You. Say?” He repeats in a hissed whisper, grabbing my forearm tightly, so tightly, that I fear it’s going to bruise. I hold back a wince, but my lower lip trembles, showing how I truly feel.
“I noticed them - under the bed.” I whisper. “I saw them...the pictures, maps, everything. What are those for? And who was that man?” I silence myself as soon as I see the fury delving in his eyes. His tight hold hasn’t let up on my arm, and the temperature in the room seems to drop 10 degrees, the tension suddenly thickening between us. Clearly he didn’t want me finding anything - but why?
“You little wench. You went snooping, didn’t you?”
“I didn’t mean to. I was only making the bed, which is something I’m so accustomed to...I only noticed something underneath, and― ”
I’m cut off when he forces me on the bed, his body towering over mine and hands holding my above my head in a deadlock. I can only wriggle my hips and legs, to no avail. I’m trapped under his unrelenting hold and can only look into his eyes.
“You are a prisoner on this ship. You are not one of my crew or my mates. I can do whatever I want with you, and I have stressed this long enough. I can make you sleep outside when it rains, I can have you down in the brig again, I can keep you from getting any water or food. You’re mine to do with whatever I want. But let me make this clear: this room is not yours. Nothing aboard this ship belongs to you. This ship is mine, everything ranging from the sails to the buckets sitting on deck. Including you. If I catch you snooping again, we will have some trouble that I will have no trouble resolving. Answer me, wench. Tell me you understand.”
I shakily nod my head, and he sneers.
“English, ay. Verbal. Answer me.”
“I understand,” I relent, instantly regretting wandering across those maps. I only regret it because I’ve been caught; had I not spoken so rashly, it would’ve stayed my little secret, though I would’ve spent more time wondering about those maps and drawings. Even so, I’ve angered the captain, and I still probably won’t know who that man was.
His smirk widens, and his eyes soften into something other than anger. Fascination? Curiosity? It’s not innocent, however. His finger softly trails along my lower lip. “Your eyes are like an open book. I can see fear as plain as day. You may think you’re strong against my men, but you’re no match for me.”
I remain quiet. I hate it, but he’s right. He has the power in this situation. A fool wouldn’t acknowledge that. So I have to play my cards right.
“I apologize for coming across things that don’t belong to me,” I murmur, feigning obedience as I lower my gaze. The first act of submission. “It wasn’t my place.”
He hums in approval, and my stomach churns as his hand trails from my lips to the curve of my hip, resting and grabbing a firm hold. “It seems you’re starting to learn who’s in control here.”
“Of course.” I nod and close my eyes, leaning back my head and exposing the outline of my neck, another act of submission. The neck, being the most vital part of your body, in full vulnerability. I fight back a smirk as his caressing continues. He’s approving of my submission, but he doesn’t know I’m doing this for an entirely different reason.
Is he really the one in control? I doubt that.