A cold splash of water shocked me out of dreamless reverie. A splutter escaped my lips as the sea water trickled into my mouth and nose, and I choked, gasping for air as the salt burned its way down. Instantly, I bolted upright, trying to cough the water back up, but the burn remained. I opened my bleary eyes, rubbing the water away first, and I looked at the source to see an unfamiliar man holding a bucket in his hands.
Confusion swirled around my thoughts, and I was unsure as to what was happening. The room didn’t look familiar, different from my plain white room in our cottage. The room was bright, sunlight streaming in through the multiple windows. Wood planks made up the walls and floor, and a well-organized pile of scrolls and books surrounded a small table near the window.
A gasp escaped my lips, and the numbing haze escaped my mind, leaving me to my worst fear. Our cottage was gone. I looked around, desperately searching for something to tell me that I was back in our precious cottage, the savages having been a dream. But even without the verification, I knew they had been real, and my nightmare was confirmed as my eyes met those of the dark-eyed captain. Nausea roiled in my chest, and I almost felt like I would throw up, had I had anything in my stomach to do so.
I could see his face clearly, his face not covered by the hood of his jacket, but his chest was almost equally as bare, as he wore a shirt with puffed sleeves that was open at the front. He wore a bandana that held his dark hair away from his eyes and a tri-cornered hat, and I could easily make out his defined features. Sharp jawline, high cheekbones, sharp nose, almond-shaped eyes. Everything about his appearance was sharp, bringing out a dominant expression on his face, regardless of whether or not he intended to.
He eyed me with no expression on his face, but I could almost sense the smirk he had hidden away somewhere. My throat felt dry, despite the salt water dripping down my face, and my voice was lost in the dehydration. As though he could read my thoughts, the captain handed me a small mug.
Not giving a second thought as to what could be within, I drank from the wooden mug. Water. It was warm, probably starting to go stale, but I relished the liquid as my parched throat screamed for more. Making eye contact as I looked up at the captain, I pushed the mug back into his hand, and he put both the mug and bucket on the floor.
“Get up.” He instructed. I didn’t move. He showed no emotion, and for some reason, that made him all the more terrifying. I was petrified. Shivers ran down my spine, and I was almost certain they were from the fear that had wrapped its hands around my beating heart. He saw my shivers and stared at me, his eyes first glued to my translucent cotton dress. My shoulders and chest were bare. A blush ran across my cheeks as I covered myself with my hands, but almost immediately, he tossed a white shirt sitting on the little bed stand. His eyes met mine as he spoke.
“Get changed and come outside.” As I clutched the shirt to my chest, he turned around and left the room, leaving me to the silence. There was only silence as the door closed behind him. Climbing out of the surprisingly plush bed, I peeled the sodden cotton dress off.
Clearly, it was a man’s shirt, as it was much too long and wide, but it was clean and smelled vaguely of soap and more so of salt. Thank the lords, I was still wearing my linen corset and undergarments, neither of which had any water on them. I pulled it on and couldn’t help but blush in embarrassment. It was long enough to cover my bottom and thighs, but it didn’t quite cover my knees. Thankfully, I was wearing my stockings, which covered my legs and ankles, but it wasn’t exactly ideal. Still, I didn’t have much of an option.
As I searched around for something to wear on my feet, I realized there were none, so grudgingly, I walked towards the door and reached out to the handle. I froze halfway as I realized that my hand was shaking furiously. Clenching my fist, I tried to calm my nerves and took a deep breath. Before I could actually push the door to leave, it was ripped open. My eyes met those of the captain as he loomed over me.
He looked me up and down, his eyes lingering my relatively bare legs, but he then turned. “Follow me.” He took large, powerful strides, and I scampered after him, trying to keep up as I quenched my never ending fear.
The smell hit me first. Never before had I come across such a stench, and my eyes stung as my entire body rejected the scent. I flinched, blearily blinking my eyes while stumbling after the captain. The pirate ship that had looked so majestic from the above turned out to smell so rotten below. I chased the broad-shouldered captain up a flight of surprisingly clean steps.
Sunlight had never been brighter. Instantly, I closed my eyes, unable to look ahead as my eyes adjusted to the bright light. The heat hit me too. As expected of the summer, the heat and light were immensely strong. Thankfully, the stench wasn’t as strong above decks, which was a relief considering my eyes had been stinging. Unfortunately, they were now burning due to the sun that beat down on us.
As my eyes adjusted to the light, I was able to open my eyes completely. However, I was unable to admire the clean and majestic deck. Instead, I stared at Beth, unable to push my legs into chasing after the captain who hadn’t noticed my lack of movement.
My best friend, my mistress, my constant savior, Lady Elizabeth Taylor, was tied to the mast. She looked faint, her face a bright shade of red due to sunburn, but she held her head high, her green eyes glowing in stubbornness. Her blonde hair was plastered to her forehead and neck due to the sweat that trickled down her face, and she looked exhausted. But that pride of hers kept her head up. The ropes were tied around her torso and stomach, completely securing her to the large mast.
I ran towards her, ignoring the burn I could feel on my feet. As I approached her, her eyes met mine, but it took her some time to recognize me. Clearly, the heat had gotten to her, and it was only getting worse. I raised my hand to her forehead, and I flinched, almost immediately ripping my hand away. She was burning up.
“Grace. You’re... alright.” She slurred, and worry filled my every pore. Beth barely looked conscious.
“Beth, can you see me?” I waved my hand in front of her face, trying to grab her attention as she struggled to keep her head up. Her eyes were unfocused, unable to keep her attention on me for too long.
“Grace...” She murmured before going silent. Every last bit of her energy was going into keeping her head and pride up.
“You are to leave her alone, Lady Grace.” The captain. “She is undergoing punishment. It was an easier choice over being flogged.”
“Why?” It was the only word I could let out. I was at a loss for words, and the fear the captain imposed onto me was immense. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from Beth, as never before had I seen her so vulnerable. She was my anchor, my confidence and strength, and seeing her so exhausted left me dry of hope. She stared ahead blankly, her green eyes not meeting mine, as though she looked right through me.
“She assaulted two members of my crew and threatened another. She was trying to escape, so I had to teach her a proper lesson.” He spoke smoothly, as though punishment were so easy to undergo, as though there wasn’t a dehydrated lady tied to the mast of his ship. Unable to bear with the pain Beth had to be going through, I made my decision. Turning to meet the eyes of the captain, I stared up at him, and he looked down at me as though I weren’t worthy of his presence. Fighting through the initial sense of fear and submission, I kept my head held high, copying the barely conscious Beth.
“Captain, please.” A note of desperation entered my voice. Fighting the urge to look away, I pleaded. “Please get her down. She’s burning up with a fever.”
“What would you pay for her to be let down?” He asked, a note of interest trickled into his eyes, and he took a step closer to me. It was strange how his interest changed the way he looked almost instantly. A spark lit up in his eyes, and he looked ready to negotiate. But I too was ready.
“Anything.” I said quietly, but my words were firm. “Just get her down. Please.” Staring down at me for a few more seconds, he nodded, before a smirk spread across his lips. He must have realized how desperate I was, as he took me seriously. He took a final step closer, standing right in front of me now, and bowing down almost mockingly, he took a strand of my hair and kissed it lightly.
“Anything, Lady Grace. I accept your deal.” He murmured. With that, he stepped away and called for someone to cut down Beth and left me a blubbering mess. I didn’t know how to react, only knowing a blush had spread across my cheeks. I was left paralyzed as the captain issued the orders.
The one who came to bring Beth down was that boy who had lugged her here in the first place, and he was so recognizable, with fiery red hair that stood up to attention. Gently, he cut the ropes that held her up and caught her as she collapsed into his open arms. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought they looked like lovers, as he held her in a questionable embrace.
From behind me, the captain spoke. “Take her to my chambers, and take Lady Grace with you. Get her some water and a cloth of some sort. Do what you need for her to get better, and you are to stay with them in my chambers. To ensure they don’t try to escape.” He gave me a little push, making me stumble after the red-haired boy who swiftly carried Beth back to where the captain and I had come from.
However, I turned back around and stared at the captain. This time, I held strength to words and actions. Copying Beth, I held my head high and my shoulders straight as I spoke.
“Grace, Captain, not Lady Grace.” Then, I turned, hurrying after the red-haired boy who held my mistress in his arms, and I didn’t stay to see the captain’s response. That was the best I could do for now.