“How did she begin?”
“With a question.”
A year ago
In every child there lives a thousands dreams, in every adult there dwells a hundred dreams already dead, and one left to be explored. That was the overall truth, her whole story could be made up of that one sentence. When she was a child she had many dreams on which she hoped to live through, and when she was an adult the dreams once thought of were dismissed as readily as a flame come daylight. It stands to this day that the adventure of growing up is a great irreversible irony faced by everyone.
But if she used that one sentence to explain her story; she would have the same story as billions. She was an individual and that would not do.
So, once there was a girl who lost herself.
She had, in truth, been losing herself for a very long time. A time even she couldn’t, or simply wouldn’t, remember. It wasn’t a sickness, or an insanity that caused it. It was, instead, an undeniable, creeping question.
Do I want to die as a girl who was known for this?
At the beginning, when she was first losing herself piece by piece, she had a solid routine. She would always rise from bed by putting her left foot on the floor first, then her right. She would spend no less than thirty minutes in the house, preparing for her day, before she left. To start the week she would pick fruits in the forests, always collecting an even number of baskets, counting to twenty on a loop during the task. To end the week she would scavenge the beach for shells and other sea whatnots during most of the daylight hours, and then make jewellery out of what she found through the dusk to the night.
She started to lose herself because her life lacked any meaning besides the tedious chores. She didn’t want to be known as a person who did those tasks day in, day out, on a far Eastern island that demanded that only males would do the trading across the world.
She wanted to be known as a girl – no a woman – who was an adventurer. One with countless stories of battles and distant lands, one with inner strength and the ability to protect herself, one with intelligence of the history of the stars and the cultures of many places.
Adventures were different: they made people come alive in the telling of the stories. With a human voice to explain them, and with a heart who had lived them, they were like seeds in the beak of a bird, waiting to fall to earth. Once they descended, once they were told, they began to change and take root in the minds of those who had heard them. The stories were passed down from teller to teller, a life was preserved for years beyond death, lessons were learned from that adventure and hearts were quickened by the thrill. Lives were lived because of adventure.
She would always remember the day when she had had enough of losing herself. It was a night when the stars fell, the blinding streaks of their heroic sacrifice remarked something bright and magnificent. The spark of adventure was born in her chest, not a dormant, languid thing, but a fighting beast of sensation.
The days that followed were a blur of plans and preparations. First she told her mother, her secret no longer being able to be classified under that label, and held her while she cried. Her mother thought that she was losing a daughter, her only possible child to bear; however, what she didn’t know was that her daughter was finding herself and in fact had been lost from birth.
She planned until nothing more could be done but leave and sought after her adventure. She had no idea where her adventure would start, or where it would finally end, but it would begin.
For on one night, she finally chose the ship that would answer the flame in her gut. During her plans, she watched several ships come in and out of the docks. The Night Thief was the one vessel that made her covet and watch for days. Its hull and masts were carved from a dark wood, trimmed with copper, its sails shifting from a dark red to a purple depending on the light exposure. She could storm the fully-manned craft and remain unknown to the crew but she wasn’t that good. She couldn’t fight for it either, she had never been taught how to, had never had the experience.
She knew that picking a safe vessel was a possibility as slim as a single grain of sand. But she had to try. Actions were never committed if there were no motivation or movement behind them.
Leaning against a wall, she watched as the crew abandoned the vessel in favour of the sole tavern near the docks. The Compass had a reputation of dragging in men from all over the world, each with varying behaviours. The crew of the ship had the enthusiasm of the last night on land and were merry as they entered the tavern, all with the promise to drink well that night.
The girl pushed off the wall and followed them, swallowing down the sudden nerves. She had no disguise or plan, just wit and her own features, which she schooled into something sharp and confident. The smell hit her at once, the distant salt of sea and an overwhelming mist of ale. Her eyes were drawn to the company she was following, all were sea tanned, fit to fight with well sheathed weapons. They were from somewhere more important than the chain of islands they currently occupied. The rest were an assortment, one which she couldn’t afford to dwell on.
Steadying her shoulders and wrangling a quiet arrogance she sauntered up to the counter and tried not to look like the only female in the establishment. The girl had never truly had feminine features to be called stunning and she knew that, but she was far from ugly or looking definitely male.
“Hello,” said the bartender, a lean man with hard eyes that reminded her of her father's. They were eyes that had seen some things in life that would rather not be remembered. She slid onto the stool and tapped an empty glass, and although the bartender knew what she was asking for, she didn’t get the sandy coloured liquid she thought of and instead got water. The bartender shot her a wry grin before ignoring her. Surveying the tavern, some of the crew had splintered and had joined a game she knew well.
It was game of Fate and her luck was in for her. Taking a large swig of her drink, she left it on the counter before leaving to hang around the game. The sounds of the men signalled who was winning or losing and before long a game was finished.
“Do you mind if I join?” She enquired and all eyes slipped to her.
“Beat it kid,” one participant growled, his voice low and arrogant far beyond that of his appearance.
“Indulge her Harry – “ One of the others shouted over,
“It’ll be an easy win,” another noted “Or a hard lose,” the occupants of the tavern all laughed collectively, sounding more like something resembling a bark.
Harry sighed and shrugged, his other participant moving to the sides to let the girl in. The game was one where there was a dice and the players would take turns to roll them. If the correct total of the dice was said then money would be put in their corner from their opponent. The one with the most money would win after ten rolls each. There were countless possibilities, the probabilities were few and far between.
“You go first kid,” her opponent rumbled. She tipped the dice in her left hand, closed her eyes and guessed.
“12…” she said, the dice hit the table.
Her opponent laughed as she lost and rolled his turn, cheering when he won and the girl had to choke up some money. She lost twice more while he won and lost.
“Let’s make it a bet, shall we?” She arched an eyebrow, appearing confident despite her losses.
“Sure kid, what you want?”
“If I win, I become a member of your crew. If I lose I pay for all of your drinks for the night.”
Free ale was something he didn’t want to miss and this game was easily winnable. What he didn’t count on was the girl winning the next roll due to experimentally rolling the dice in between her fingers and placing the correct numbers on each face.
When she won that game, the whole tavern went quiet. In amongst it all, she stood smiling, not quite believing her luck. Yes she had cheated but she was finally getting what she wanted and she could live with the consequences of her actions. It was her life and she was going to live it in her way.
Harry just stared at the table not believing that he had been beaten by a girl maybe less than half of his age. “We had a deal Harry,” she said, her eyes stern against his.
“It’s not up to me girlie,”
“But – “ she was startled, she had to get on that ship, there was no other option but this.
“It’s mine.” The voice that said those words was behind her, she could feel him looming. Turning her head and not her body she could finally see the Captain of the ship she wanted a ride on. The Captain held a gleaming sword at his hip and an elegant hat in his other hand, from where the hat had rested the rich brown hair had been flattened but his green eyes held firm.What caught her by surprise was how incredibly young he was, perhaps less than five years ahead of her age. She wavered and he could see that but what he could also see was potential.
“Why do you want to be a member of my crew?” he asked.
“I want an adventure,” she answered deftly, an untamed confidence evident in her tone. She would be willing to work for it, he knew that, but be shamed if he wasn’t going to take advantage all he could of it.
“Then you work, you earn your keep or you’re out girlie," he directed the next part to his crew, "She is not be touched or harmed in any way or you answer to me, got it?" His crew nodded somewhat reluctantly.
Her smile was the barest quirk of lips but still it showed that she had achieved her goal. The others were less than pleased, groaning in their displeasure. The Captain ignored them effortlessly and tapped his coat, “Captain Avery Blackwood,” he pointed at her in question.
“Turow.” That was all he was getting from her, for now. She had to find out if this journey was going to be a safe one, then he would be somewhat worth knowing her forename.
The girl became a crew member of The Night Thief that night and she proved her opponents wrong.
The stories that would be written from this decision would be old, old as people, and they had survived because they were very powerful indeed. These were tales that echoed in ears long after the recall was finished. They were both an attempt to scare children over campfires and an alternative reality to those who told them, and those who heard them.
Some would say that the stories told how she found herself once and for all.
Although some would question if she would ever truly find herself.
Did she want to be known for Cassiopeia Turow, the girl named after a boasting constellation that served as a label more than an identity? Or did she want to be known as the woman adventure made her to be?
Adventure brought trouble with it.
It caused all of the danger.
It gave the Sect the purpose and possibility to be born and continue to survive for millennia’s.