"So, do you already regret coming, Princess?" He asked, trying to sound careless and ironic, after all, he was a pirate and was supposed to look and sound rough and tough, even though was the youngest around the ship.
She turned to look at him and to his surprise, a small but truthful smile appearing on her lips. Mabel wasn't even bothered by the pouring rain on her beautiful ball dress, she had a lot of them in the palace anyway and she never liked it how she felt squeezed into them.
"Nope." Her answer came calm and dry before she looked back at the shores.
Dipper's mouth was agape. He was sure she'd say something like she wanted to go back by the serious way she was staring at the shores. That was her home, after all. Yet, she didn't say it. And she didn't even look scared or frightened. He couldn't tell what she was feeling or thinking. And he didn't like it. He didn't like unpredictable things or situations. He was more of a stick-to-the-plan kind of guy and he couldn't help it.
In fact, he also didn't like to admit to himself that they probably wouldn't have gotten out of there if it wasn't for spontaneity. Then again, if she had stuck to his scheme and acted the way he predicted, they'd probably have gotten out the way he planned.
"By the way," she called him out of his reverie. "You don't need to call me princess. Mabel is fine."
"Sure, Princess." He ignored her and kept his voice a bit sarcastic at the 'princess' part, as if he didn't like the word or what it represented. She didn't really care about that detail, so she wasn't bothered by his tone.
"Your name is Dipper, right? Or so I heard the captain call you."
"Yeah. You can call me Dipper." She nodded in agreement before looking at the horizon again, the washed over village was now so far away she could barely even see it.
"This ship is very fast, isn't it?"
"One of the fastest I know of." He answered proudly.
"I see…" Mabel mumbled happily looking around; she always wanted to know how people worked on a ship to make it move.
Without noticing, she braced herself, trying to ward off the cold wet night. However, Dipper saw her gesture, he knew she wasn't used to this. In fact, he was still getting used to having to go through long nights without sleep and barely eating, soaked from what seemed to be a never-ending storm. A pirate's life was not an easy one.
Someone bumped into her and just told her to get out of the way as he ran off to pull some ropes or something. He had straight black hair and the most piercing, dark blue eyes she had ever seen. The young man was quite skinny for a pirate, but she imagined he probably had a lot of techniques to survive through piracy.
"Don't mind him. He doesn't even know what the word 'polite' means." Dipper said, rolling his eyes.
"He was one of the guys who pulled me up into the ship, right?"
"Yeah. His name is Robbie. He's a pain but works well at least. The other one who pulled you is called Soos. He's that one." He pointed to the other side and she followed the direction. "Soos is someone you might like to talk to. He acts a bit dumb but he's the one who always knows how to fix stuff around here and his conversations are always nice. Besides, he can make some really good stew."
"How nice. I'll remember that. And he does seem like a nice guy."
"Yeah. Now I'll take you to your chambers. Just don't expect anything fancy." Dipper told her with a hint of irony.
"I wouldn't dream of it." Mabel said jokingly, smiling joyfully and sauntering after him.
"The captain wanted you to be comfortable during the time you stay with us, so you'll have a room, he also managed to put some dresses in there for you, nothing elegant, though, just commoner stuff."
"Oh, okay." She mumbled as if it was nothing, but the truth was that she wanted to try out different kinds of clothing instead of the boring, if pretty, dresses in there she was always forced to wear.
Dipper led her to a door beneath the sterncastle. There were five doors inside, two on each side and one at the very end of the small corridor that wasn't more than 1 meter wide. He showed her the second door to the right.
"This is going to be your room. And you know, you should keep the door locked most of the time if you don't want to be disturbed."
"Okay." She said as he opened the door revealing the room. It was small and rustic, but neater than she expected. Her eyes widened and she put her hands on her cheeks to exclaim. "It's beautiful!"
Dipper raised an eyebrow. "Seriously?"
"Yeah. Why not?"
"It's like 2.5 meters long and 2 meters wide. Your bed was probably bigger than that." (around 98 inches long and 78 inches wide)
"I said beautiful, not spacious, Silly." She said, laughing and touching the tip of his cheek with her index finger. He rolled his eyes. How could she be so… cheerful? She had just been kidnapped, for crying out loud!
"Anyway, you should change into dry clothes before you catch a cold…"
Mabel lifted her drenched dress so she could walk better inside the cabin. On the left side, there was a thin bed, probably only 80 centimeters (31 inches) wide and on the other side, a drawer. She could see that there were compartments like a cupboard high on the wall where the drawer was. There was a hatch-like window in the space between the bed and the drawer. On the bed, she found a simple, commoner style dress for her. She turned to look at Dipper.
"Is there another girl in the ship, by any chance?"
"Well, it's just that the infernal thing about this dress is that it closes in the back, so I can't take it off by myself…" Her voice trailed off as she tried to hide how embarrassed she was saying it. He blushed a bit and coughed to hide it, cursing himself for he was not supposed to blush, he was a pirate, after all.
"Okay, I'll bring her to help you." He turned, closing the door, and left with quicksteps.
Mabel looked through the hatch; dark seawater ahead was all she could see. She couldn't believe she was free. Finally free from the huge walls that kept her prisoner. Part of her still feared she might wake up back in her enormous fancy bed with all that fancy stuff in her boring life with expectations, restrictions and responsibilities she never really asked for. But then, she knew her dreams wouldn't be so real.
And she didn't say that because of the handsome pirate that rescued/kidnapped her, she dreamed of pretty boys all the time; it was normal. What was new was the smell. She was pretty sure she never really paid attention to the salty sea scent and it was good.
Soft knocks on the door woke her from her reverie and she turned to open it. There was a dressed up pirate girl on the other side, with red hair and a green shirt, a dark brown bandana over her head. Mabel guessed she was in her 20's. Like Mabel, she was terribly wet as well.
"Hey, there. My name is Wendy. Dipper told me you needed some help. May I come in?"
Mabel backed away so she could enter and then Wendy closed the door behind her. The princess turned her back to the pirate girl and pulled her soaked hair out of the way so she could untie the dress.
"You know, I think you'll like to use the commoner dress, you can it on put and take it off whenever you want to. From what Dipper said, you didn't like this one that much…"
"Not at all…"
"By the way, he also told me you could use the drawer as you wanted to. The bottom has some sheets and covers, maybe you can use some to help dry your hair. I know how it sucks to have it wet all over us. There was some other dresses inside as well, a simple nightgown and matches for you to light the candles or the lamp over the drawer. Just be careful with them, you know, it's a wooden ship." She joked and Mabel laughed.
"I'll try, I'm a bit clumsy though, and so I better not leave them lit up for too long, just in case I end up letting them fall…"
"How could you cope with that freaking dress? It seems so tight and uncomfortable…" Wendy said as she tried to open the threads that were binding the clothing at the princess's back.
"Why do you think I hate it so much?" Her voice came joking, but there was truth in the words. Wendy nodded and lit the lamp so she could better see what she was doing, it took her some minutes before she could finally say the dress was opened. "Thanks."
"Any time." She replied. "Whenever you need me for stuff like that, I'm just on the other side of the hall. Literally. My cabin is the first on the right when you enter the corridor from the Main Deck."
"Okay. I'll remember that." Mabel said before Wendy exited so she could change. The princess hurriedly dried herself and put on the nightgown she found, then she covered herself to block away the cold night and warm herself up. She drifted off to sleep quite quickly, feeling her hair only slightly wet.
Knocking sounds at the door woke Mabel up. She sat up rubbing her eyes tiredly and looked around, almost jumping in surprise when she realized where she was. For a moment, she had forgotten everything from the previous day, but it all hit her by the second knock.
She jumped out of the bed and opened the door just a bit to see who was there. Dipper was waiting impatiently, holding a simple white plate with a round bisket-bread on it, not too big or too small, and a cup of water. Embarrassed, Mabel quickly tried to tidy her messy hair with her hands.
"I brought you breakfast. Were you in bed all this time?"
"Hum… Yeah… The bed was kinda comfortable and the movement of the sea was a delight. I didn't even notice it was already morning…"
"You actually like your quarters?" He asked in disbelief.
"It's not that bad."
"Anyway, here." He said handing her the plate and cup. She took it and blushed as her stomach showed how eager it was for the food.
"Eat and get dressed, than meet me outside." He told her before she closed the door.
It took Mabel some time to figure out how to get the peasant-like bodice on, but she finally managed to put the dark red bodice, simple white shirt and light pink skirt into place. Then she made a braid over her head and put it into a bow, keeping her long bangs out of her face. The sun was so high and bright, she had to cover her eyes to let them get used to it the moment she stepped out of the commissioned officers' quarters.
She found Dipper supporting his arms and elbows on the taffrail, gazing at the bright blue ocean, the wind softly blowing his short chestnut hair that were the same color as his irises. He didn't notice her, and she was glad for it, because she was taken aback as she realized her heart had skipped a beat. He was handsome, very handsome. And there was nothing more to it than that, nothing but looks. After all, she didn't really know him, though she did know he was one of the kindest men she had ever met.
Before she went to speak to him, she looked around the deck; a few men were here and there, some working, others just sitting to enjoy the sunlight. And then her eyes found that Robbie guy. Apparently, he was lifting a barrel, but stopped to look at her. To glare at her. With despise in his eyes. Why did he hate her so much? She never even exchanged three sentences with him. She decided to ignore it for now. Maybe it was just some stupid impression she had, or a misunderstanding, either way, she'd not let herself be bothered by it.
Mabel boldly sat on the taffrail besides Dipper and started swinging her legs around mindlessly as she bade him good morning.
"P-Princess! Don't do that, you might fall into the sea!"
"Don't worry, I've got it under control. Besides, if I fall you can always throw me a rope or something."
"Do you have any sense of self-preservation?"
"Nope." She chanted happily, still swinging her legs like a kid with pudding. "By the way, where are we going?"
"To a safe city, right up north. It will take us about three days to get there. Now, should I take you to a tour around the ship?"
"I'd love that!" She jumped off of the taffrail, ready to follow him.
"And the captain told me you're not supposed to wander around alone, you should have me or Wendy accompany you, okay?"
"Sure, but why? Is not like you'd hurt me, right?"
"Well, accidents happen and stuff. You'll see pretty soon that the people here are not exactly good on being nice. We are pirates. Don't ever forget that." His voice was deep and serious. She only nodded, smiling. "Now, for the tour. As you can see, here is the main deck. At the front, you'll find the forecastle, where we keep stuff like water and wine, or other barrels at easy access."
She looked at the construction in front of the ship. For the first time, in daylight, she really observed the vessel. It was quite big, Dipper told her stuff about it and she heard him say it was a galleon ship, with three masts. Around 35 meters long and 7 meters wide. (A/N: Around 114'9" and 22'11")
"At the back, there's the sterncastle, the place you slept in tonight. Over it, there's the helm and the Poop Deck, where's a small navigation room inside."
And then Mabel looked at where he pointed and for the first time, she noticed the construction behind the helm, which was currently being conducted by Soos. The man waved down at them when he noticed Dipper and Mabel were looking up, the girl copied the gesture with enthusiasm. Dipper rolled his eyes and then led her downstairs.
"Most ships only have two floors underneath the main deck, but ours is a special one. It has three."
"And what do we have on this level?" She asked as they descended one story.
"It's the Gun Deck, where most of the cannons stay and at the stern part of it is the infirmary, there's a place to sleep in when needed."
She looked around, there were a lot of men sitting on nets, playing cards, resting and sleeping, most of them barely even noticed them walking around the deck. However, a few of them just stared at her. She was pretty, beautiful, actually. Extremely. It was hard for them not to notice that especially when all they had around were other stinky men.
Well, there was Wendy, but they all knew what happened when they tried to make a move on her. They end up not being able to walk for some time with a lot of pain in between their legs. So they got used to ignoring her. Except for Robbie. Though none of them would do anything to Mabel. The captain commanded so and his orders were absolute. He said no harm should come to her, or else it might affect the ransom they'd get.
"And what is down there?"
He lead her down another level of stairs. At the back, there was a large corridor, with a lot of doors on each side. And at the other side, a lot of tables.
"Here in the forepart we have the galley, which is the kitchen. Whenever you're hungry, this is the place to go. It doesn't have too much space, so we have to keep alternating the time of everyone eating here. And if it's full, you must eat and leave. Got it?"
"Sure." She replied. "And what are those doors?"
"The cabins. They're much smaller than yours and usually meant for two people on a berth. You know, in the smaller ships, the Gun Deck is also the Berth Deck, with the sailors sleeping on the nets all together. In fact, with really full capacity, we could take over 250 men in those two levels."
"Okay. And you said there were three levels beneath the main deck, which means there's another one, right?" She said in a playfully thoughtful voice. How she managed to do something like that was beyond him.
"Yes, the place where we keep our stocks and treasures. But sorry, you're not allowed to go underneath this floor."
"Okay. Then I want to go back up."
"As you wish." This mocking undertone was obvious, but she chose to ignore it and just sauntered back to the main deck being followed by him.
Stepping out under the sunlight again, she had to shelter her eyes one more time until they adjusted to it.
"So you're just going to follow me like a shadow or something?"
"Not really. I have some duties too besides babysitting you."
"Hey! I'm not a baby, I'm already a woman, if you haven't noticed." But he did. It was hard not to notice her. It was hard not to notice the beauty in the curves in her teenager's body.
"Anyway, why don't you just wait around here for a while? Stay around Wendy or Soos. Or inside your chamber. I'll escort you back to the galley at lunch time."
"Okay." She agreed and looked around, once again, her brown eyes met Robbie's and once again, the young princess saw the loathing glare towards her. Mabel turned to look at the other side. She was not finding Wendy, so she decided to go where she saw Soos the last time: the helm. Mabel went up the sterncastle, however, she didn't find who she thought she would.
The captain was there instead, maneuvering the wheel that controlled the whole ship's course. She happily greeted him, waving her hand. He nodded with a hint of a smile on his lips.
"So, Captain, Dipper showed me around. You have quite the ship, here."
"I know. She's beautiful isn't she? Though you don't have to call me captain, Princess. Roderick is just fine."
"But I'm standing on your ship, Captain. I can respect that."
"You'd honor me."
Mabel smiled. Apparently he was the only one who wasn't putting on a tough pirate façade. Maybe because he was so imposing she couldn't help but acknowledge that. Although he was imposing, he didn't have a really strong figure, the captain wasn't scrawny either, but he was not big, bulky, and full of muscles. There were stronger looking pirates in the crew or so she noticed when she was taking her tour.
So if the pirates weren't following him for his muscle strength, it had to be something else. She quickly noticed that his imposing feeling didn't come from his looks; it probably had something to do with his intelligence and sword fighting technique. Though he seemed to be experienced in piracy, he was clearly young, she guessed he was just around 35 to 40, definitely not more than that; with only a few gray locks mixed and partly hidden in dark blond hair.
"If you insist, I may call you Roderick. If you drop the 'princess' thing. I hate formalities. They're just another way to keep people away."
The captain laughed.
"You know, I once met someone that told me something quite similar to that. By the way, then what should I call you?"
"Well, the same way you call anyone else. By his or her name. I like when people call me Mabel. Not Princess Mabel. Just my name."
"Okay then, Mabel."
"Thanks." She said looking at him controlling the wheel dexterously. "It seems fun. May I try it?"
"I don't know… It's not that easy…"
"Please? You can teach me, right?" She put her hands in front of her, interlacing her fingers like a praying gesture and pleaded with her eyes. He laughed, but it worked.
"Alright, fine. Grab the helm." Roderick instructed as he backed away just enough to give space to place herself behind it. "The left side is called Port, the right side is Starboard. Now, why don't you turn the ship 20 degrees Port?"
Mabel said stirring the wheel to the left just about 20 degrees, feeling the entire vessel turns with it.
"It's like you were born for it. Now try to put back to the original position." And then she did. "You're quite good. Better than I was the first time I tried."
"I most certainly feel flattered." There was a playful tone in her voice and a bright smile on her lips.
There was a moment of silence and then the captain told her to try other directions, smooth turns here and there. And then he stopped. Saying she should go straight ahead.
"You know, you look like her."
"You knew her?" Mabel asked, surprised.
"Everyone knew her back in the capitol. I used to live there. She used to go in the village to look around. She really cared for her people. She used to go even when she was pregnant with you, but only at the beginning, then she fell ill at the end of her pregnancy."
"I've heard she used to do that."
"I never spoken to her then, but I watched her. She would have been a great queen. The people already loved her even before she married your father." Roderick said as he remembered his commoner's days at the capitol, before he became a pirate. "I hope for the good of the kingdom you'll turn out to be a good queen like her. The people can't bear your father as a ruler for much longer."
"Too bad I never asked for it…" She mumbled under her breath, and then she turned to the captain. "Do you know why Robbie hates me so much, Roderick?" She remembered calling him by the name in the nick of time.
"Why do you say that? Did he hurt you?"
"No. It's just the way he looks at me. If looks could kill, I'd pretty much be in the bottom of the ocean by now…"
"Oh, don't mind him. He despises pretty much everything, but on the top of the list is the king and the royal navy."
"You're pirates, don't you all have issues like that?"
"Robbie holds a grudge better than anyone I've ever met. He's obedient, though. He won't lay a hand on you. I ordered everyone to keep to their best behavior around you."
"But I never did anything against him. Why would he do that? I'm not my father. I don't even agree with what he does."
"Well, you're the closest thing to the king around here. So he channels his anger on you. It's not rational, it's not like he thinks about getting mad. He just does. Just try to stay away from him."
"Yes, Captain. I mean, Roderick."
"Right, Lass. Now, 30 degrees Starboard." And then, she turned the wheel.