Welcome to the New World
People dressed in tattered clothing rushed around me, preparing large ships to be sent out to sea for days- or even months depending on their destination. Captains dressed in finer clothing hurriedly ordered their crew around in an attempt to catch the oncoming winds. Currently, the air stood still other than being forcefully blown around by people running past. In the distance, where the only two mountains in the world stood, a storm brewed, preparing to spill down to the oceans below. An angry, wet, and windy storm at that. As I glanced around I knew things could become difficult. Not many wanted women aboard their ships due to superstitious reasons. Though I couldn’t afford to waste my time. Just like them, I needed off this island before the storm came.
My worn, turquoise dress swayed as I walked, and I tightly gripped my satchel of few belongings. I approached a few different captions whilst honeying my words and putting on a facade. None bought my words, chasing me away with slurs and harsh words. My experience and shared goals didn’t matter to them- though I wouldn’t let that stop me. I took a deep breath and approached yet another captain hollering commands in front of an exceptional looking ship. She bore black wooden boards and gold lettering that read Black Beauty. I approached the captain from behind, carefully observing every motion he made. He wore a slightly faded blue jacket, that appeared to be made of velvet, with golden buttons framing the edges. He had a worn cotton undershirt and golden cuffs, and his head sprouted a hat to match the uniform. The man stood out like a sore thumb compared to the rest, and I found myself repositioning my satchel in preparation if he became hostile. I assumed him to be wealthy, meaning that his ship must have room for lodgers.
“Good morning, Captain,” I spoke gently while maintaining my distance. The man turned, giving me a full view of his face. At first glance, he appeared to be fairly attractive. With a well-structured face, brown hair, tanned skin, and piercing hazel eyes, I could tell that he didn’t need to put much effort into making most women swoon. I took note of how he smirked at me, turning to quickly bark a few more orders at some crew members who had stopped to sit. This time, he turned so his whole body faced me.
The smirk continued to play on his lips as his eyes soaked up my appearance, his voice like a purr as he spoke, “g’ mornin’ lass.”
I didn’t hesitate to respond now that I had his attention, “I apologize for interrupting but I was curious as to where your ship was traveling to?” His actions made me uncomfortable, the way he grinned and rubbed his hands together. Not to mention the sudden change in tone his voice had when speaking to me compared to the crew. I began to doubt my decision but I needed off this island at whatever cost.
The captain simply chuckled as he replied, “Ta Northern Isles, why ya askin’?” I wanted to scowl at the fact that he just so happened to be traveling where I needed to go. It would save me time from island-hopping, though part of me didn’t want to even consider going with this man.
I softly took a deep breath and let out a light laugh, “how perfect!” I forced a smile and chose my words carefully, “I was hoping you would allow me to travel with you. I figured you were heading to the Southern Isles but-”
“Ah, o’ course. Yet another person to ask fer a ride. Well, ya see lass, we have a limited number o’ cabins and I can’ just be lettin’ anyone aboard ta ship, no?” I was annoyed by the interruption and his cocky laugh but I couldn’t let this opportunity go to waste.
“I have money that I can offer and plenty of experience sailing. I would be causing no burden to you or your crew,” I met his gaze, “that I can promise.”
He raised an eyebrow, looking down at me. My hand tightened around the leather strap of my satchel once more. I held my breath as he asked, “what type o’ experience?”
“I-I’ve been positioned in the crow’s nest many times. I am also aware of and familiar with the many different procedures that are to be completed during different disasters.”
The captain stared me down for a moment longer before humming a low, “really now?” I waited patiently as he rubbed his chin, once again looking me up and down while licking his lips in a predatory manner. Behind him, his crew members had taken a moment to stop and observe their captain conversing with a strange woman. He glanced back at them with yet another smirk, and they grinned while returning to their duties.
“Name’s Capt’n Douglas,” he spat in his hand and held it out with a grin that showed his surprisingly white teeth, “welcome aboard.” I took his hand without hesitation, causing his grin to falter for a moment before returning to a smirk. I made sure to match the firmness of his grip while maintaining eye-contact. I had no plans to allow him to intimidate me. His eyes continued to watch me carefully in an attempt to read me. I replied with my alias, Cerridwen, and our hands separated. Captain Douglas turned back to his ship, yelling out in a harsh voice, “aye! Someone git down ‘ere an’ show ta lass to a cabin!” Three men quickly scurried over, already being ready to rush to my aid, one pushing another into the third. The one who approached me sloppily bowed, offering his hand. He dawned a filthy, once white cotton shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his shoulders, revealing tanned skin with more muscle than necessary. I watched as his dirty blonde hair popped back up seeing as I didn’t take his hand.
I took a moment to admire Black Beauty that gently rocked in place at the dock. Her masts stood tall, the black-dyed sails rolled up. Some sort of dread formed in my stomach, but I pushed it away. I needed to go to the Northern Isles as fast as possible- and after three days of attempting to get off the Mainland, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity. The man spoke with a slight slur in his voice like a stereotypical drunken pirate, “may I take yer bag, ma’am?”
Hesitant and untrusting of the unfamiliar person I remained polite in my response, “I can handle it, thank you.” The crew member paused before turning around, leading up to the ship. I took once last glance at the captain, who had already moved past our exchange and had resumed bellowing at his crew members. I turned back to the ship that only grew bigger with every step. The man guiding me paused at a board that connected the dock to the ship, waiting as another crew member hustled down. I waited as he quickly made his way up the thin piece of wood and watched as he turned with a cocky smile on his face with eyes full of doubt. The board had just enough room to accommodate space for his feet if he walked straight. Below, a long drop down to the blue and white waves- the sounds of water crashing against the wooden dock filling my ears. I glanced back up at the man who was peeking over the edge, judging my every move with a smirk.
I didn’t give him the satisfaction of asking any questions and quickly made my way up after lifting the front of my dress. My leather boots softly thudded against the board as I made my way across at an even pace. My guide only grinned in response, pushing away from the wooden railing he had been leaning on and leading me across the main deck towards the stern. A set of stairs lead up to the upper deck with two doors on either side. We entered through one and I examined the halls. The black wood made the lights appear dim and useless, and if it weren’t for the golden doorknobs it would be easy to assume the hall was empty. I followed him quietly as he knocked on the wall as he went, humming a song unknown to me. We stopped at a door, and he gestured for me to enter first while following up with a sort of sweeping bow, “your room, m’lady.”
I nodded my head, putting my hand on the handle as I replied a short, “thank you.” I did my best to ignore the stench that emitted from his body as I stepped closer to open the door. Inside across the wall, a cot hung from the wall suspended by chains with sheets neatly folded on top. I plopped my satchel on it as soon as I entered after making sure I locked the door behind me. I could hear the man huff before making his way back up to the deck, humming a different tune this time. I noticed that the mattress and wooden frame weren’t attached, and I couldn’t help but smile seeing a chair stuffed away in the corner. I hadn’t been on many ships that had the luxury of having a bed that could be folded up into a table. Due to my neighbor’s washroom, the bed appeared to be pushed forward by part of the wall. Next to my washroom door, attached to the floor and the wall, and appeared to be the last piece of furniture in the room, stood a tall wardrobe. I returned to my satchel, undoing the latch and carefully pulling out my belongings. I had two different outfits bundled by belts made for life on a ship that I undid and put on upon the hangers in the wardrobe. I stripped from my dress, changed into the other outfit, and hung my dress in the wardrobe as well. The white cotton shirt, underwear, and leather belt were the same, and I only had one black jacket. I did own a pair of black and brown pants, however. Normally I would go without shoes, but since I knew of the storm fast approaching I simply tucked my pants into my boots that reached my mid-calf.
I returned to my satchel and strapped a knife to my waist and slipped a small dagger in my boot. I lightly tossed my small bag of coins to the side and slid out the last item of my belongings. The only thing I had left to remind myself of my homeland. The hilt of a sword. It had no blade, it simply had an intricate handle made of a material I doubted anyone had heard of. It appeared to be made of a solid piece of metal, resembling a sort of gold or silver though you couldn’t tell. There were small designs etched into it, and the handle itself had material resembling leather wrapped around it.
“Gladius Invisibilis,” I muttered under my breath, tasting the name I had given it as a child. It was the only proof I had that my past existed. The only item to prove to myself of the experience I lived. I closed my eyes and touched the back of the sword to my face, feeling the cool metal against my cheek. I took a deep breath and tucked it safely on my waist, finding myself touching it every so often out of habit to make sure it hung on my waist. I tossed my now empty satchel in the wardrobe before tying the doors together and exploring the last thing in the room.
By the cot, there were three drawers that I opened one by one. One had paper, a quill, and a small container of ink. Another had a key to the room that I quickly stored in my boot, and the last I found empty. I huffed and moved the chair to the cot, folded the mattress into the wall, and kicked my feet up on the table. I let out a deep breath, knowing of the long journey ahead and began to tally my days.