Good Watches, Evil Stalks
The next few weeks were fairly peaceful. I did my job in the crow’s nest during the day and I’d return at night to eat with Uncle Baird, occasionally watching a few fights and making bets with him. I knew it hurt him just as much as it hurt me to see each other every day without our original captain, but we made the best of what we could out of the situation. The storm in the distance inevitably grew nearer. The dread in my stomach steadily grew stronger. I knew it wouldn’t be long before we would need to prepare for the storm, but something told me that it wasn’t going to be a pretty one.
The other man who took the nest at night, who I learned was named Emil, asked to switch at some point. I didn’t mind, so we agreed, and it wasn’t long before I found myself staring out into the empty sea, the moon barely lighting the way ahead. I always had enjoyed being perched up high in the night, the peacefulness of it all. I felt at home once again, despite the feeling of homesick still lingering in my heart.
When morning came and I once again traded places with Emil. Down at the bottom, Uncle Baird waited for me, holding an apple that he presented to me. I took it with a thankful smile, and we began light conversation again. He asked for me to help him out in the kitchen, to which I agreed. I didn’t feel tired and ended up staying with him for the entirety of the morning. He and I ate before serving the food to everyone else for the afternoon meal.
As we were chatting at the front of the ship, a few men came out with wooden swords and began a mock battle. As always, Uncle Baird began attempting to make bets with me. I refused this time, having no knowledge of the men fighting before me. He and I watched from the distance, Uncle Baird made a comment, “I’m surprised ye ’aven’t asked to join t’em.”
I shook my head, “I would rather not.”
“Wa? Lass! Nonsense, ye ‘ear? Ye used te love sword fightin’ with Jones! Don’ go ’n tell me yer outta practice.”
I scoffed and mocked his accent, “ye peggin’ me a wee lazy lass now?”
He smacked my arm and laughed loudly, mocking me in turn, “and you always say that I sound odd.”
“Ha!” I exclaimed, “you’re terrible at impersonations, Uncle.”
“Don’ make me throw ye overboard, lass. I won’ ’esitate,” Baird began pushing me forward to the group of practicing men, and I huffed.
“You’re just looking to make bets you know you’re going to win, aren’t you?”
His face held a shit-eating grin, “yer damn right, lass.” He shoved me forward, announcing not so quietly, “aye, give t’is one a sword.” No one moved, watching Uncle Baird with bewildered looks on their faces. He tried again while I hung my head, “c’mon now! T’is might be yer only opportunity to fight Capt’n Jones Marshall yerself! He claimed ’er ’is legacy ’imself,” he began bellowing, “I ’eard ’im say t’e words, I was t’ere!”
Chuckles echoed in the distance, but, being quick, I caught the sword thrust upon me. They seemed both irritated and eager, so I didn’t hesitate. I heard Uncle Baird flee with laughter as the man nearest me began his attack. I swiftly knocked his oncoming sword aside, launching my own counterattack. I couldn’t help but smirk at his surprise after he found himself disarmed and on the ground. A stunned silence hung in the air, nothing unfamiliar to me. I heard Baird in the background, joyously collecting his bounty from the other poor sailors. I pivoted, taking their shock as an opportunity. They weren’t even sure how to respond to my movements as I brought them to the ground one by one. I stood tall in the midst of their little arena, feeling eyes on my back. When I turned, Douglas immediately pushed away from the wall to walk away. Something about him made my stomach drop, but there wasn’t much that I could do about it, finding myself swarmed by men asking to duel me. Boasting that they were better than the last. Nearly begging me to allow them to stroke their own egos. I declined, Uncle Baird even helping me push them away.
I returned to my room, collapsing on my bed after locking the door and closing the curtains. I dozed off until the sun began to set. I woke with a huff, sitting up and rubbing my face. My heart sunk as I realized I wasn’t the only one breathing in my room. I grabbed Gladius Invisibilis and snapped into a defensive position, seeing Douglas standing against the wall next to the door, bottle in hand.
“Yer quiet even in yer sleep.”
I felt disgusted by his words, sending a sharp glare as I repositioned my bladeless sword at my hip, “what do you want.” I didn’t dare phrase it as a question, I wanted him out.
“Why in God’s name is such a woman like ye headed to t’e Northern Isles, I must ask?” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a sort of cigar, “it’s such a barren place even for t’ose seeking goods.”
“It’s none of your concern,” I seethed, “and even if it was I’d never tell you.”
He casually lit his cigar, “why did the Jones Marshall teach you anything, hm?”
“Why are you here,” I asked in an attempt to redirect the questions.
His eyes met mine and he grinned, “curiosity I suppose?’
“I locked the door.”
To my disgust, he pulled a key out of his pocket and swung it around, “I’m the Capt’n, lass, I ‘ave keys to everything.” He took a puff of his cigar, “ye are a curious little thin’ ya know? With yer strange accent ’n all. W’ere are ye from? Clearly now’ere we’re familiar with.” When I didn’t reply he only grinned, “what do you know of Jones’s hidden treasure?”
I scoffed in shock at first, “is that what this is about?” I laughed, “I hate to disappoint you, Captain,” I hissed, “but there was no actual treasure.” His confused expression only made me laugh more, “I’m his treasure, Douglas. I don’t know where I’m from, I don’t know where I’m headed, he found me on some shallow island in the middle of nowhere.” The lies came easily. It wasn’t entirely false, washed up on some shallow island, sunburnt to all hell and starving to death, Jones found me and took me aboard. But I knew where I was from. Where I was headed. I knew what I needed to obtain and where I needed to go for that. Jones wanted to be a part of it but it wasn’t his to fight for.
Suddenly his hand found my throat, catching me off guard. Quick to break from his grasp, I kicked him away and held Gladius Invisibilis in a defensive stance. I had knocked the cigar from his mouth and watched with caution as he went to retrieve it, “t’ere ain’t much ye can do with t’at shit sword, lass.” I noticed the sweat on his face, the scent of alcohol, and the slight slur in his words.
“You’d be surprised,” I replied, “and I don’t think you want to find out what I can do with this sword if you don’t get the hell out of my room, Douglas.” I spat his name out, wanting nothing more with this interaction. He stumbled to the door, murmuring something I didn’t care to pick up on. I slammed the door shut as soon as he stepped past the door frame.
I didn’t take long to gather myself, collecting my things, and reporting to the crow’s nest. With the moon overhead, I found myself pondering over what had happened. The storm occasionally reminding me of its nearing existence with soft roars. I just wanted to go home, why is that so much to ask for? I huffed, checking the horizons around me. Nothing more than the sea and storm.
The night marched on.
It felt like forever when the sun’s lights began kissing the skies, and at that time I noticed something far out in the distance. Another ship. No, two ships. Sitting where sea met sky. I scrambled, looking for the telescope. When I found it I peered through, sure enough sitting on open waters, two flagless ships. I snapped the telescope together. They were too far to raise alarm, but the fact that their sails were down and they appeared anchored had me worried.
Emil finally came up and I skipped the small talk, tossing the telescope in his hands and pointing in the direction we were heading. He didn’t hesitate to peer through it, huffing when he noticed the other ships.
“Likely raiders,” he commented, “lookin’ fer stay ships to drag back t’eir shit house.”
I sunk back, “you want me to warn the Captain?”
“If ye don’ mind.”
I nodded and hopped over the railing, rushing to find the Captain despite the disturbing interaction we had. I ended up needing to ask around to locate him, finding him hiding where the drinking water was being stored. Drinking, of course. He acknowledged me with a grunt, waving his drink in the air.
“We need you at the nest, Captain. There are possible raiders in our path.”
He began laughing, “pirates, lass!” I could only watch with mild amusement and disappointment as he stumbled to his feet, “t’ey be pirates!”
“How the hell do you even manage a ship in such a state,” I remarked, “you’re pathetic.”
Douglas collapsed at my feet, his bottle spilling everywhere. He began murmuring words that I didn’t bother catching and I kicked his hand away when he reached for me.
“Douglas,” I tried, attempting to get him to listen, “Douglas, your ship? It’s in danger. And you, our Captain, are leading us directly to them.”
“Oh, fuck off mate,” He rolled onto his back, “yer givin’ me a headache.”
“Oh Gods!” I ran a hand through my hair, “Douglas are you shitting me?”
I grabbed his collar, causing him to yell and thrash in protest. No escaping my grip, I dragged him up the two flights of stairs onto the open deck. People began rushing at the sound of their captain, confused at the sight before them. I threw him against the mainmast, crossing my arms, “don’t make me drag you up there.”
“Lass, ye couldn’t even if ye tried,” his words were slurred and even though he slumped against the mast he still swayed.
I grit my teeth and went to snap something but I heard Uncle Baird behind me, “lass, wha’s happenin’?”
“Your damn Captain is so drunk he doesn’t even care to address the threat that we are heading straight for,” I could feel the anger in my veins subside when Baird put a hand on my shoulder.
“Lass, calm down-”
“There’re two ships that are stationary on the horizon just like with Jones, Baird. Don’t you dare tell me to calm down!” My fists were clenched, teeth grinding.
I heard him blow out a deep breath, “lass, I trust ye. But t’is ain’ Jones’s ship no more. T’e crew-”
“I know, damn it, Baird, I know,” I rubbed my temples and turned to face him, “I just don’t want it to happen again.”
“Lass,” Baird began, “t’e fact t’at yer h’re guarantees our survival.”
“Baird, I can’t resort to that again,” I couldn’t stop the tears welling in my eyes, “it’s not safe- it’s not safe for me, I-”
Fear flashed in his eyes as he finally understood where I was coming from. We were merely a carrier ship meant for transporting food, water, supplies, and people. There were no cannons on this ship. No army that was battle-ready. No maneuverability, no mages, no defenses. We had nothing. I watched as the panic began to set in, those close enough that heard began to rush around, asking questions that no one wanted to answer. This was the harsh reality that this world faced. The consequences for the risks that everyone takes occasionally catch up too quickly.
“If we’re lucky,” I laughed helplessly, “the storm will hit us before we hit them.”
“Ah, it’s yer fault anyway,” Douglas slurred from his space, “shoulda ne’er let ye on-” he mumbled on things that no one understood. The crew was quick to start shifting the blame to me, people yelling and pointing fingers. Uncle Baird tried to diffuse the situation but to no avail. This ship is a mess, I thought to myself. And for once I had no guess what our fate would be. I decided to hide in my room since my presence only enraged those around me. I didn’t blame them, however. They were scared, trying to rationalize their fear and give it meaning. I couldn’t necessarily say I was scared, I was more concerned about making sure I made it to my destination on time.
I didn’t have much left in the first place.