Alana's eyes fluttered open, she immediately seethed, scrunched her face due to pain and shut her eyes. Red tainted her closed lids, and the sun burned down fiercely on her raw skin. Her throat was parched, and her mouth felt as if handfuls of grainy soil had been forced into it. She felt as if her head were screws that were being laboriously tightened. She sighed.
Alana wondered where she was but did not dare to open her eyes and face the torture of the sun's burning rays. Something hard and smooth supported her aching back. Her skintight leather trousers stuck to her like another layer of skin, sticky with sweat. Her coat enveloped her. The illusioned feeling of being stuck in a clay oven was overwhelming
She weakly forced her hands up from the ground where they lay limp, like heavy metal. With her eyes still shut, she painstakingly removed her black cloak and coat. She breathed out a sigh of relief when a passing salty breeze hit her bare arms. The cutlass and pistol in her stash dug into her skin. She made no movement to remove it. The sound of thundering footsteps brought Alana out of her clouded mood and into a state of vigilance.
''Why isn't she in her quarters?'' a booming voice screeched. The voice was immediately recognizable, but the tone sounded alien.
Alana involuntarily flinched.
''Oh, Alana, you awake.'' Marina spoke gently now, but a sharp edge tainted her voice.
Alana heard footsteps approaching, stopping next to her head. A cool hand--Marina's hand--placed itself on her forehead.
''You need to get up,'' Marina said. She sounded exhausted and didn't bother to mask her voice like she commonly would.
A twinge of guilt crept up into Alana. She left Marina alone with Aunt Zelda last night and got drunk. Worse, she left her alone in Mourijmo, a place where people like her weren't welcomed. A place where she could have been harmed by mindless fools.
She felt hands grab onto the sides of her body, and she let Marina pull her into a sitting position. She ignored the pain, hung her head low, and opened her heavy eyes. When her eyes had properly adjusted to the light, she glanced at Marina.
''I am sorry,'' she mumbled.
Marina looked at her with her huge multi-coloured eyes and Alana read her soul like a book. The worry, the frustration, the exhaustion. Marina placed her hands on her shoulders and put her forehead against hers. She stared long and hard into her eyes.
''You are not leaving without me. Understand?'' Her voice was firm, but she could hear the undertone of distress.
Alana sat back and nodded. She did not feel like quarrelling. Instead, she looked up and recognized that she was on the deck of The Oceans Warrior. Of course. Standing not far from her and Marina was her sailing master and the ten crew members who were voted to come onto this voyage. Her vote for them hadn't counted more than anyone else's; they all had an equal say in the matter.
Alana acknowledged them with a half nod. She felt one specific intense gaze and looked up at her sailing master. His deep, dark eyes were staring her down, watching.
She looked away and took in the sight of her familiar and only home. Underneath her was the sleek brown wood of the main deck. Barrels of freshly bought fish, apples, and rum was placed in the corner. Mighty black cannons stood side by side on either side of the ship, pointing out towards land and open water. A plain white merchant's flag swayed slowly in the occasional wind. Mourijmo was a common place for pirates to birth, but the Alastinian capital wasn't far off. And while the likelihood of government officials roaming the old, dinky coastal town was low; it wasn't a risk she was willing to take.
Her family's legacy, the Oceans Warrior's flag, lay hidden in a barrel. It would be erected when they were far out enough to not be detected from land.
Alana turned her head and looked at the port. The peculiar workings of Mourijmo once baffled her. How were the conventionals so accepting of malevolent, crummy pirates? She learned that the answer was quite simple. Despite their ethical facade, the townsfolk were just as nefarious.
The salty ocean scent permeated the air, infiltrating Alana's nostrils and refreshing her system. ''Well then,'' she said, getting up and swiping a hand across her forehead, ''ye have one hour to get the rest of the supplies and te make ye final rounds.'' She looked at one of the crew members by the name of Red Nick hard in the eye.
''We don't want any trouble. We do everything by the book today. I don't want anything delaying our leave. Got it, mate?''
Red Nick swallowed, his adam's apple making a prominent appearance. He nodded and looked at his shoes. ''Aye.''
''Good. Now, what are ye scoundrels waiting for? Get a move on and meet me here by the next hour,'' she announced. Turning on her heels, she stormed down the gangplank.
She stopped when she heard Marina's footsteps.''No,'' she seethed as she turned to block her best friend's passage.''It's daylight. There is no way ye are leaving the ship.''
''Come on, I-''
''-I said no.'' Alana took a step closer to her until their bodies were almost pressing against each other. ''I am ye captain. Ye will listen to me, or face the consequences. I will not deal with ye stubbornness today. Go!''
Marina bit her lip but didn't scowl or utter a word. She walked up the gangplank and, upon reaching the ship, turned around and glanced at Alana before disappearing out of sight.
She didn't feel guilty. She knew she had done the right thing. Marina's safety came before her feelings.
She walked away from the port and along the same path as last night towards her Aunt's house. Opposed to the silence of Mourijmo the night before, the streets were bustling this morning. Children chased each other along cobbled pathways, and ladies gossiped away, dressed in their torturous corsets. There were a few beggars, holding hats and staggering along. Alana hurried under the scorching hot sun.
The still, dense afternoon air was in contrast to the trembling skies of the night before. Soon enough, she would be drowning in her own sweat. She was grateful for the loose, puffy white shirt she was wearing, but cursed her leather trousers and boots. Her black stash was tied tightly around her waist, keeping her weapons in place. She was thankful it was not a corset. At least she could breathe in this.
She went through the market and passed a cart where women were vying over bread. Men were busy bargaining, trying to make their coin for the day. Alana's headache was still there, albeit faint, but she refused to pay the pain any attention. She sped through the busy streets, not noticing her surroundings. She took a left turn into a quiet, almost deserted street. A man knocked shoulders with her bringing her to a standstill and back to reality.
''Oi" the man bellowed in her face, "I expect an apology for that!".
Alana ground her teeth and turned around. A sailor from the Alistinian navy stood before her. He looked ghastly in his bright white uniform, his brown shoes scrubbed to such perfection it was luminously reflecting the sun off of a steel overhang. His frock looked eerily big for his slender form, he looked as if he were being drowned in flour. His uniform was embroidered with a single-breasted coat and double stripes donned his cuffs. He was an admiral.
''Filthy pirate scum,'' the man spat. His cheeks reddened on his pale skin.
Alana snorted with a roll of her eyes. Out of all the days, for the navy to make an appearance, they chose today.
She was about to speak when the man pulled out a dazzling sword made out of rare Alistinia steel. A unique prize made only for the most influential of people. Alana eyed it unfazed. The officer pointed the edge towards her, his gaze threatening.
Alana raised an eyebrow and looked around the street. It was completely deserted except for the two of them. ''I really don't have time for ye-''
She was interrupted when the sailor swung his sword at her. When she swiftly bent backwards, the man swiped his sword again. She sidestepped him and grabbed the pistol from her stash, pointing it towards him.
''As I said, I don't have the time,'' she seethed.
The man growled but dropped his sword. A reverberating clang filled the empty street as the sword made contact with the hard ground. Alana stretched out her leg and kicked the sword to the side, her pistol stilled raised.
''Next time ye take a sword out on a lady, be better prepared,'' she cautioned vehemently. "Now, what do I do with ye?'' She looked at her surroundings. They were on a winding road surrounded by old and abandoned buildings. Various types of junk were sprawled everywhere. Why had she turned here?
''You'll pay for this pirate. A good hanging will do,''
''I would shut my mouth if I were ye.'' The man opened his mouth to respond, but Alana had enough. ''Turn around and clasp ye hands behind ye back. Scream or run, and I'll put a hole in ye,'' Alana spoke belligerently and the man immediately shut his mouth.
The man did as she said. Alana grabbed two ropes that were coiled around a piece of broken metal. Yanking his hands, she dragged him into a nearby brick building. The building had nothing inside but old machines, bricks, and cobwebs. An abandoned factory that would undoubtedly be torn down to make space for some rich merchants' business.
Alana tied the man's hands and legs to a peeling pillar that was barely holding up the dilapidated building.
''Now, what to do with ye?'' Alana repeated the same question as before, her voice was laced with pitiful humour. She clicked her tongue and shook her head at the man like she was talking to a child.
Alana pulled out a dagger from her sheath and twirled it around between her fingers. The sailor's face went pale as he watched her spin it with ease.
''What are you going to do with that?'' he asked. His voice was soft, but he did not tremble.
''Oh, this?'' she asked, pointing the dagger at him. ''There are many creative acts I can carry out. All slow and excruciatingly painful.'' With her free hand, she touched her pistol. Her thumb moved in a circular motion, feeling out the gun as she thought.
''Or...'' Alana trailed off. She didn't have much time to misuse. She could enjoy herself, and use her dagger to torture him and lead him to an agonising death. Or she could just put a bullet in his head, and swiftly end this endeavour. She knew that if she just left the man here, he would get out one way or another, and she couldn't risk it. Not when her entire crew's lives would be at risk. It was an easy choice.
Alana shrugged and without blinking, took out her pistol and shot the admiral in the head.
''That was to save time,'' she said, spitting at his feet.
She walked out of the factory and picked up the man's abandoned sword. She raised it and the sun's rays danced off of the pure blade. She grinned; this was just another valuable weapon to add to her collection. She put the sword in her stash and walked down the deserted street, knowing it would be too risky to make an appearance in the busy centre. She took a much longer path, now on the alert.
When she reached the familiar stoned building of Aunt Zelda's house, Alana was hesitant. The last thing she remembered from the previous night was her aunt's voice, a clear sign that her aunt wanted nothing to do with her. If she did, she wouldn't have woken up back on the ship. She lifted a fist but dropped her arm back down. She shouldn't have been reluctant. After all, she had every right to be here, It was her money that Aunt Zelda was taking.
The door abruptly opened, causing Alana to take a step back. It was Big Jack, one of her crew members. Noise spilled out from the open door. A mixture of laughing, shouting and talking all at once.
''Nice to see ye have made yers way safely here. Ran into any trouble?'' she asked.
''None, Captain. We used the back roads just as you instructed.''
She nodded, pleased. '' Is everyone here?''
''Aye, except for the ten,''
''Right. Is the lady of the house here?'' Alana walked past him before he could respond.
Approximately fifty pirates were jesting, telling exaggerated stories, and playing games while drinking ale. Aunt Zelda was nowhere in sight. She scanned the room once more. It was a miracle that so many people fit in here.
The entire room became silent as fifty pairs of eyes turned to her. Respect gleamed in their eyes, as they waited for her to speak.
Alana remembered the days when no one would even spare her a glance. A female pirate? Worse, a female captain?
''Blimey, she has gotten mad.'' They would jest and laugh at her like she was cow's dung under their feet. A few were forced to respect her after her father's death, but she earned everything she now had. Respect, fear, admiration. Everything. Nothing came for free in the world of piracy, especially if you were a woman.
''Ahoy. Good to see ye have settled in. Don't laze about too much aye. I got a ship for ye to voyage on,''
''And who will be r captain, ay?'' a man asked, before gulping down some more ale.
''None can come close to er,'' another man shouted.
She shook her head, flattered. ''My uncle. It's his ship, so he'll captain it all the same.''
''Why don't we get to vote on whose captain of tis voyage?'' another pirate with a purple headband asked.
''Ye don't need to embark on this voyage if ye don't want te. It's ye choice. If ye choose to do so, then it will be under my uncle's orders. Ye will be getting votes on everything else. It's just something to keep ye busy while I am away. But don't ye be forgetting that no prey, no pay,''
''Splice the Mainbrace!'' a lady pirate shouted in a cheery tone. ''We ain't forgetin that you gon make us rich,'' she continued."
The entire room except for Alana cheered. She needed her crew to be focused on something else while she was gone. If they knew she was going to avenge her parents, they would want to join her. They would do whatever they could to see the murderers of the greatest pirates that ever lived, dead. She couldn't risk it, so she chose to hide the truth and distract them instead. As for the other ten pirates, she just had to make sure that they kept their mouth shut.
''Avast ye!'' Alana shouted and the room fell silent once more. ''The navy decided to make an appearance in town. I just had an encounter with a son of a biscuit eater and I gave no quarter. Ye better keep ye selves hushed and low until they are gone, unless ye want to be at the end of a noose and dance the hempen jig.''
The pirates' eyes went wide, the expression of distaste crawled up upon their faces.
''No running rigs then aye,'' Big Jack grumbled.
''Ye make sure ye just stay put and eat ye cackle fruit. No leaving the house until Mourijmo is deemed safe again.''
A coherent and simultaneous ''Aye,'' was heard and Alana nodded in satisfaction. She used the opportunity to slip out of the house and into the street. Hopefully, nothing would go wrong while she was gone. If everything went well, her crew would depart Mourijmo safely and have nothing but easy sailing ahead.
She used the back roads to reach her ship. A sleeping figure caught her attention just as she stepped onto the gangplank. A young pirate was snoring away on a pile of rags between two barrels of rum. Alana shook her head in disbelief.
She hurried up the gangplank and looked at the empty deck. She narrowed her eyes, analyzing the scene, but then turned away.
Alana was walking to her quarters when a sound of something rolling against the floorboards caught her attention. She turned around and saw an apple rolling towards her from the barrels situated neatly in the corner. Slowly drawing her pistol, she crept towards the source of the noise.
All the barrels contained different contents, but her attention was focused on the one containing apples. A few strands of white hair were sticking out from behind.
She snatched the thief by the hair and yanked him to his feet. She wrapped one arm around his torso, putting her pistol against his head.
The sight of his face sent her reeling. ''Caspian?''