Chapter 1: Luke Skywalker
Heavy waves breaking against a sandbar echoed faintly in the back of Luke’s mind, accompanying the lonely ringing of a ships bell, as his eyes flickered open and he stared up at the slanted roof of his bedroom. Outside the small window, bright green leaves rustled in the heavy breeze, occasionally tapping against the window.
“Luke!” He blinked a few times, turning his head to glance at the bedside table and then at the curtain that separated his small loft room from the rest of the cabin. “Luke! It’s time to get up!”
“I’m awake, Aunt Beru,” he sat up, yawning and stretching his arms above his head.
“Your uncle wants you in the south field today. There are weeds in the corn rows that need pulled.” Pots and pans clattered in the small kitchen beneath him. Luke rolled off of his bed and yanked off his nightshirt. “And then go to town to check the post office for our new equipment. We sent out for it months ago.”
“Yes, Aunt Beru.” Luke dressed quickly, the smell of breakfast lingering tantalizingly in the air, drawing him down the ladder and into his aunt’s arms for a quick hug. “That smells delicious.”
“Good to see you up, sleepyhead,” she kissed his cheek and handed him a plate of food.
“Thanks for letting me sleep in,” Luke told her earnestly as he dug into his breakfast.
“You had a long night last night. I’m very proud of the work you did yesterday, Luke. Your uncle and I really appreciate it.”
“It was nothing.” He ducked his head modestly and laughed when she smacked the back of his head with a flour covered apron.
“That wasn’t nothing,” he glanced back at his aunt as she turned around and set a bundle of food on the table. “Here’s your food for you both for today and a little treat for while you’re in town.”
“Yes, Aunt Beru.”
“I’ll have your nice clothes set out, so you can go in without looking like you just got out of the fields.”
“You are the best,” Luke told her, “are we still going to the Darklighters on Sunday?”
“Absolutely, hurry up and eat so you can go help your uncle.”
“I’m going; I’m going.” Luke shoveled down the last of his food and handed his dirty plate to his aunt. “Do you still need help with the canning tonight?”
“If you get home early enough then you can help.” She shooed him out the door, and Luke glanced around for his dog. He gave a sharp whistle, and the ragged old pitbull came lopping around the corner of the cabin.
“Morning, Arturo.” Luke let the dog lick his heads before giving him a stiff scratch around the ears. “Looks like you got yourself some breakfast before I did. You greedy mutt.” Arturo woofed at him, nudging his pockets for treats, the small tag on his blue and white collar clicked against Luke’s belt buckle. “I don’t have any snacks for you, but if you come with me to the field, I might have some for you later.” Luke glanced up at the early morning sun. “I’ve got to go,” he told the dog. Arturo barked once and returned to whatever he was doing.
“You’re late,” Uncle Owen greeted him as he jogged up.
“Sorry,” Luke handed his uncle the bundle of food, “Aunt Beru wanted you to have this.”
Uncle Owen gave a terse nod, “the south field needs to have to damn ragweeds pulled out. It shouldn’t take you too long. Your aunt wants you to go into town.”
“She told me,” Luke kicked at the dirt as his uncle took a chunk of bread and ate a piece. “Uncle are you sure you want me to go to town?”
“Why not? I’ve got work to finish, and you’re not as good as your aunt at cooking yet.”
“No, sir, but my birthday is soon, and I know that.”
“Luke,” Uncle Owen gestured sharply, cutting him off. “You cannot live your life in fear of one man. I know that that little weasel frighten you, but he’s got no control over you.”
“I know,” Luke kicked the dirt again, anxiety coiled in his stomach as he glanced up at his uncle. The man’s usually stern expression softened.
“You’re a good man, Luke. You’re kind, and you’re compassionate, and you always lend a helping hand. There is no one in this town who would ever take his words for truth. The facts speak for themselves.”
“Alright,” Luke gave his uncle a smile. “I’m not so much afraid, as I’m worried.”
“Any man that speaks against you can talk to me,” Owen said gruffly, “I’ll set them straight, and then we’ll leave the bits for your dog to snack on.”
“Arturo might like that,” Luke laughed, “I’m off to the south field. Thanks for letting me sleep in.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Owen grumbled, returning to his work and Luke grinned and left his uncle alone.
He worked as quickly as possible, pulling up the ragweeds and dragging them by the armfuls to the burn pile. The afternoon sun beat down on his neck and shoulders, and he sweat furiously until he finally dropped the last pile down, and brushed his arms clear of dirt and grass. Behind him, the cornfield was clear of anything that might choke off the crop.
“LUKE!” He turned his head to the muffled shout of his aunt. She stood atop a nearby hill, waving at him. “LUKE!”
“COMING!” He shouted back and picked up his hoe to jog toward her. “What is it?”
“You need to go into town as soon as possible,” she told him, “Mrs. Sunstrider just came by, and she said that there are several ships in port that are going to setting off at the evening tide.”
“If you want to see the ships,” she nodded meaningfully in the direction of the road. “You need to go now.”
“I love you, Aunt Beru.” He kissed her cheek, hugging her tightly. “You are the best aunt his whole world.”
“Go get changed, Luke. Don’t you dare break any of that glassware you have to bring home.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He gave her another kiss before sprinting toward the cabin. As soon as he was within the yard limit, Arturo barked at his heels. “Come on, Artoo! We’re going to see the ships!” Arturo barked some more and waited outside as Luke rushed into the cabin to clean up a bit and change. He ran out, stuffing his hat on his head and toward the barn where the horse was already saddled up and was waiting impatiently. “Uncle Owen!” He skidded to a halt beside Bantha, “um, Aunt Beru wants me to go now.”
“I know,” he handed the reins to Luke, “don’t you go making a mess, understand?”
“And you don’t get scared of the useless preacher. He’s not good for anyone’s soul.”
“I won’t, Uncle Owen.” Luke put his foot in the stirrup and mounted the horse with a smooth motion. Batha tossed his head, apparently eager to be off.
“Oh,” Owen held out a small bag. Luke took it and felt the familiar shape of coins. “Get your aunt some of that tea she likes, understand?”
“I will.” Luke gave a sharp whistle, summoning Arturo to his side. “I’ll be back before dark.”
“You best be,” Owen said sternly but smiled as Luke as the blond kicked the horse into a trot.
Luke whooped in excitement as their drive met the road. He didn’t need the road to find the town. Luke always knew where the ocean was. He was pretty sure that if they stuck him in the middle of Ohio, turning him around three times, he could still point to the ocean. The closer he got to the sea, the more his blood burned with unbridled joy. As if his own body could match the power of the tides as if he could speak to the water itself. The road was empty, and he had six miles before he reached the edge of Espa. Bantha, sensing his glee, broke into a run.
Luke made it to the outskirts to Espa and stood up in the saddle to catch a whiff of the sea. As always, he felt its call. The rumbling of the ocean, the creatures that lurked beneath it, it’s rise and fall with the tides. He could feel the pull and push of the moon, even as far inland as their homestead was. There was something heady about getting closer to the ocean. He directed his horse through the streets, waving at the few people who were still out and about. As soon as he reached the town proper and the town square; Luke dismounted and tied Bantha up in front of one of the stores and nodded a the few men waiting on the steps, smoking. Arturo gave a woof and settled down next to the hitching post, glowering at the men in front of him.
“It’s been a while since you’ve been in town,” Biggs Darklighter said, standing up and holding out his arms. Luke hugged him, his excitement rising. “What brings you here?”
“Just running some errands for Aunt Beru,” he said, grinning up at Biggs, “and it’s my birthday!”
“Happy Birthday,” Biggs threw an arm over Luke’s shoulder and guided him into the store as the other men glared suspiciously at him. “How old does this make you?”
“A good age for marriage,” Biggs laughed as they pushed through the door and paused to adjusted to the dim light. “don’t tell anyone, but my sister’s angling for your attention.”
“I couldn’t be happier than having you as my brother-in-law,” Biggs told him seriously. “Since father died last year.”
“Yes,” the older Darklighter had died suddenly last year, and Biggs had inherited his enormous holdings, several servants, and the responsibility of his sisters and mother. The fact he still spoke with Luke always surprised him.
“Biggs, I can’t marry Camie,” Luke blurted out, he glanced around the store. No one was in earshot, except for the woman who owned it. She would be able to hear them, but her direction was always ensured. “I don’t have any money. I don’t have any land. I don’t have a household.”
“You’re going to inherit your uncle's farm,” Biggs told him, letting his cloak fall over Luke’s shoulders. “It’s a good farm, and you take excellent care of it. You are a good man, and you’d be a fantastic match for Camie.”
“Camie doesn’t like me, friend. You know she agrees with the rest of the town. Luke Skywalker is bewitched.” Luke untangled himself from his friend and stepped away. “You shouldn’t even be bringing this up with me. This is a conversation you need to have with my uncle.”
“Your uncle lets you do whatever you want, and you know it.” Biggs watched Luke examine the barrel of sugar. “Luke, Camie needs to be taken care of.”
“Camie doesn’t like me. I could never make her happy,” Luke sighed, crossing his arms as he leaned against the counter. He glanced down at the small open jar sitting beside him and then at his friend. Biggs had grown in an impressive mustache, against the fashion at the moment. His clothes were fashionable and perfectly clean. Luke felt a little foolish to be still wearing his Sunday best and still look frumpy and dirty. At least he hadn’t tried to wear his hose and had stuck with his trousers. Biggs looked rich. “She would never want to live a life as a farmer’s wife.”
“You are a respectable farmer. There’s nothing wrong with working.”
“I know that, but Camie doesn’t want to be wash clothes or do dishes or hoe a field or feed pigs. I know you want to take care of your sister but think about her happiness. If we got married, we would be miserable and unhappy for the rest of our lives.”
“Camie needs to get married before some cad comes riding into town looking for her hand because of her dowry. Luke, you don’t even have to stay a farmer. I would support you and Camie.”
Insulted, Luke glowered at his friend. Biggs didn’t even notice that he’d spoken out of turn. “That would still leave the problem of being married to a witch.” He snapped, “and by association, with me, the preacher would never let her in the church again.”
“I’ll talk to the preacher. I’ll do a better job than your uncle did. God knows that your uncle can’t keep his patience long enough to get anything accomplished.” Luke blinked. “You can come to Sunday service when we’re done.”
“No,” Luke felt his blood all but boil in his chest, furious as Biggs finally stopped talking. “Even if the priest did allow to enter through those doors, I wouldn’t. I want nothing to a God that would condemn me for the way he created me. I don’t want anything to do with the town that set me as an outcast when I was a baby. I don’t want to marry Camie; it would make us both unhappy. You have insulted my uncle and myself and completely ignored the existence of my venerable aunt. You may have money and power, Sir, but never operate under the assumption that that gives you any authority over me.”
“Luke!” Biggs leaned away, absolute shock on his face. Luke wondered bitterly if he’d forgotten how people spoke to him when they weren’t groveling. “I can offer you protection.”
“You’re offering me unhappiness and compliance with everything I abhor. Marriage without love, obedience to a false preacher, and the opportunity to be shunned and despised up close.”
Affronted, Bigg glowered at Luke and whirled around. The door slammed shut behind him, and Luke was left behind feeling like he’d spent the entire working and not eating. His knees shook, and his heart thudded in his chest even as ice slid down his spine.
“Don’t say that you shouldn’t have done that.” Luke turned around to see the shop owner making an appearance. Dhara Leonis held out a rock, smiling. “You did the right thing.”
“He’s going to be furious,” Luke said weakly, and he accepted the rock. Dhara set a lid on the jar and smiled at it. “What’s this?”
“A rock, Skywalker,” she said flatly, “Darklighter is stepping into his father’s role, but still is unsure how to. He sees you as he wants to see you, not as you are.”
“He also never listens to his sister.”
“No, most men do not.”
“Uncle Owen would hate me forever if I married Camie Darklighter.”
“Who wants to marry a girl who threw eggs at you once?” Dhara set a bag on the counter, and Luke turned the rock over and over in his hands as he tried to find something to be happy about.
“My family is already outcast from the town,” Luke muttered and glanced up at the shop-owner. “My aunt and uncle could be a part of the social scene if they hadn’t kept me.”
“Do not insult your aunt and uncle like that,” Dhara shook a hand at him. She dumped the bag on the table and gestured him closer. “What does this say?”
“It’s a few rocks,” Luke wondered if he could find any latin letters and didn’t. He knew about Arabic, Hebrew, and some of the oriental writing; but not enough to see any words.
“There is a typhoon coming,” Dhara told him calmly, “and we have not had a typhoon in Espa in nineteen years.”
“We’ve had storms. “
“Storms, yes, but never like this. This could damage everything. Storms that would decimate others towns have always died out before they reach Espa, the pass us over without harm. Rainstorms, blizzards, but never anything this strong.” Luke shivered in the dim light, tugging his hat off and turning it over in his hands. “Are you going on a trip?”
“No,” unsettled, he poked at the rocks. Dhara shook her head, sending the jewelry in her hair jangling together. The bright gold and silver gleamed in the background of her black hair, all but glowing in the dark. “What’s this got to do with me?”
“You have the sea in your veins,” she said simply and turned around and started assembling packages.
“I’ve never been to sea,” Luke told her, ignoring how wistful he felt. “How can I have an ocean in my veins.”
“You do,” Dhara set the first of the packages on the counter. Luke blinked a few times, recognizing what he’d never asked for. “And there is nowhere to go when this town floods.” Luke continued to stare confused as she set the last of the packages on the counter, including the tea. “Here.”
“I didn’t,” Luke stuffed his hat back on his head.
“I know,” Dhara told him, “but it might be wisest that you take these home after you take a look at the ships.”
“Erm,” how Dhara knew things that Luke hadn’t spoken them. “How?”
“Do you really want to ask?”
“No,” Luke shook his head, “should I leave Bantah here?”
“Yes, but not Artoo.”
“He likes it when you call him Artoo, not Arturo.”
“Alright,” Luke left the packages behind and stepped back into the sun. The men on the steps were gone, and Batha seemed happy. Luke could hear people talking and laughing not too far away, and his heart sank. “Come on, Artoo,” he snapped his fingers, and the dog waddled up to him. He set off toward the docks, knowing how out of place he knew he looked.
Even the sight of the ships docked at Espa, their huge sails furled, their masts rising proudly into the sky, and the neverending expanse of the sea beneath them could make the sinking feeling in his stomach stop.
The closer he got to the water the louder the roar in his ears was. The more he had to force himself to not fidget. He could feel something enormous, wide and eternal pressing down on him. Luke took a deep breath; the fresh breeze mingled with the shouts of the crews, the smell of fish and sweat; rolled over the farmer until he could feel as if he was standing among them. At the end of the biggest dock was a British warship, its union jack snapped in the breeze. Luke grimaced and stuck his tongue out at the ship, feeling a little gleeful at the cargo stamped with American identifiers being loaded onboard.
Drowning in the sensations of being this close to the sea, Luke head someone slip on an uneven cobblestone too late. He turned around, yelling in surprise as someone he couldn’t identify threw a heavy grain sack over his head. Kicking out, his foot connected with a thigh. Somone cursed and three sets of hands seized him. Luke tried to untangle himself from the ruffians, only to yelp as someone buried a fist in his stomach. He doubled over, hissing in pain, and the attackers hoisted him off the street and dragged him away.
By the time Luke had regained his breath enough to struggle more, they had stopped walking over stone, and the rattle of wood beneath their heavy footsteps warned Luke he could be walking off a short dock to a swift death. He bucked in their grip, managing to grab a few fingers of one man holding him, and twisting them viciously together to break the man’s grip. He kicked down, stomping on a foot, and threw his head back; it connected with someone’s nose. There was crunch as the bone broke under pressure. He could hear Artoo barking, biting at his attackers. Then a yelp of pain from his dog as someone kicked at him.
This didn’t deter the pitbull. Artoo attacked again, barking and growling until the noise faded. Terror shot through Luke as he heard a high-pitched yelp
“Keep him under control!” Despite his brief relief, Luke received a knock to his head, leaving him stunned. He recognized the voice of Espa’s priest, and wondered what the hell the man thought when he was dragged upward and then dropped unceremoniously onto a wooden deck. Luke didn’t need to be able to see to know he was on a ship.
“Well, Captain Ozzel, a crewman you needed.” Luke struggled to realign his thoughts.
“Very good, young?”
“Nineteen, captain.” The two oily voices were the only thing that made sense at the moment. “Very good health, he can read too. Very eager to visit the sea and learn it wonders.”
“Excellent, and I’m assuming his American spirit will have to be dealt with,” someone nudged Luke’s shoulder, and he groaned. “That is just as well; I have my own ways of dealing with boys such as these. Here’s your payment, don’t forget to give Darklighter his share as well. Men! Take this brat to the brig.” Luke shouted furiously as someone else grabbed his jacket and dragged him away. “Well let him out when we’ve cast off.”
There was jeering and shouting from the crewmembers as Luke was yanked out for sight and into the belly of the ship. Soon after he was shoved through a narrow door, and the bag was yanked off his head as he fell. Luke landed on his hands and knees in a small puddle of seawater. The room was near pitch black, but Luke could make out the metallic gleam of iron bars surrounding him.
“HEY!” He shouted, kicking the door, jangling it until the two sailors turned around. “Get me out of here!”
“Welcome to Her Majesties Navy!” One of them called, “you best learn how to behave, boy. Captain’s free with that whip of his!” They left, and Luke kicked at the door again, trying to figure a way past the prison. First, he tried to test the strength of the bars. They were anchored into the bulkhead and floor with professional skill. There were signs of rust, but not enough to break or bend. Luke cursed heavily, using language his aunt would surely yell at him for.
After a moment of hopeless kicking, Luke sat down on the small bench in the cell, furious.
What the hell had the priest been thinking? What the hell did Biggs have to do with this? There had been reports of British ships pressing Americans into service, but Luke had never thought that it would have happened to him.
If Biggs and the priest had collaborated on getting Luke out of Espa. He paused and glanced down at his hands and wondered if Biggs had actually arranged this to happen if he turned down his offer of Camie’s hand. That sounded a little too vindictive for Biggs, and Luke didn’t want to think that he’d lost his best friend over a disagreement.
He perked up as he heard shouting increase. The ship continued to sway, wood created and bowed around him, and Luke knew that if they got out to sea before he escaped them, he was doomed. He tried to undo the locks, hissing as his fingers slipped against the cold metal, and it bit into his skin. Blood dripped from his fingers, and he stuck them in his mouth, hissing. For a moment, he glowered at the lock and tried his other arm.
For a moment, terrified out his mind at the prospect of being forced into service of the British Navy, there was a small part of him. A primal, animal side of him that crowed with glee at the idea of being at sea. Luke pushed that thought back. His stomach clenched as the ship continued to groan heavily around him.
They were going to sail on the evening tide.
“LET ME OUT!” He threw himself against the bars, tears blurring his eyes as he thought of Bantha being abandoned at the hitching post. Artoo being left behind while his Aunt and Uncle where he was. “LET ME OUT!”
Dhara Leonis leaned out the door of her shop, glaring up at the clear blue sky. The only horse left in front of her store was happily letting a small boy patting her nose.
“Have you seen Luke Skywalker?” She asked, the boy shook his head, and Dhara considered what might have happened. She was just considering going back inside and recasting her bones to see if the forecast was the same when a crack of thunder boomed. Years of exposure to battle and fighting had her throwing herself down on the porch, every instinct screaming danger.
When nothing else happened, Dhara looked up, brushing her braids from her eyes as she stood. The sky was still clear, and none of the ships in port would dare fire a cannon this close to a town.
Thunder on a clear day.
She sucked a heavy breath in and stormed over to the placid horse and untied her. “Come on, horse, we need to get going.” Bantha let her climb on. Dhara kicked the horse into a trot, directing her down to the docks and scanned the crowd for a familiar tow-headed boy. Luke’s distinctive blue coat was nowhere to be found. The horse tossed her head, yanking on the bridle as she pushed her way through the crowd.
No one. Seven ships still in port. Five American ships, two French ships, and one. Dhara looked at the mastheads, trying to find the Union Jack. Unluckily she spotted a crowd of familiar faces, thugs she’d beaten before. Several of them were bruised, and blood oozed. They were laughing and drinking and beside them was a tall man in a black suit.
Dhara leaned closer to the horse and guided it closer to them to catch what they were saying.
“That brat sure knows how to make himself a pain. The last one wasn’t that much trouble! How much did we get this time?” Dhara hobbled slowly, drawing her shawl over her head.
“A good amount, 20 pounds.” The laughing and excitement were echoed by the shock the shopkeeper felt. 20 pounds was a lot of money.
“Just for that brat?”
“Oh yes,” the priests cold, unfriendly voice dimmed the heat of the afternoon. “I sold the idea that he was an experienced sailor and could easily make officer material. As well as being a good luck charm.”
Dhara turned her head to the sea and swallowed down her heart which had lodged itself in her throat at the sight of a three-masted battleship halfway along the horizon. She didn’t wait around to hear anything else but pushed the horse along until she was out of eyesight of the thugs and climbed back on.
Green energy sparked along her fingertips as Dhara urged Bantha back toward the town proper. The angrier she got, the bright the sparks were, the more they seemed too long to be free. As she passed by the church, Dhara glanced around to see no one looking at her.
Thunder boomed again.
Dhara held out a hand, green fire gathered on and dripped from her hand. “Burn!” The green fireball arched gracefully from her hand, landing on the church roof and began to spread, fading to angry orange and red as it moved outward. She turned Bantha toward her shop, ignoring the screaming erupting behind her.
Nothing would stop that fire, and she knew that she had to leave before anyone tried to stop her. As soon as she reached her stop, she took all of the packages that Luke had bought and secured them to Bantha’s saddle. As soon as the horse was ready to go, Dhara pointed in the direction of the Lars Homestead.
“Go home,” she ordered, and the horse gave a single nod. Dhara glanced around, smiling at the confused boy who hadn’t moved. “Hello, young one.”
“Hi,” he blinked and she patted the top of his hat as she stalked back into her shop. Twenty minutes later she emerged from the shop carrying a pack and a heavy purse of money. “Where are you going?”
“I just burned down he church,” Dhara told the small boy. His mouth fell open, and he stared wordlessly at her. “And I’ll give you this,” it was a handful of money. More than he’d ever seen probably. “If you go an tell everyone.”
“Sure,” he tucked the money into his pocket and a few pounds into his hat to hide a few coins. “Where are you going?”
“North,” she lied. “Tell them that too.”
“Want me to tell them that you’re flying there?”
“If you think it’ll sell the story,” Dhara told him, and she turned around and walked the direction opposite of the Lars homestead. By the time she made it out of the town limits and successfully into the woods, search parties of angry townspeople were already hunting her down. Chuckling to herself, Dhara made a wide arch through the forest and circled around back to the Lars homestead and deftly climbed an enormous tree that loomed above their small cabin.
All the while she knew Luke was being taken further and further from Espa, closer to whatever destiny laid in front of him. Thunder continued to boom across a rapidly darkening sky, and by the time Dhara had climbed the tree, listening as searchers thundered down the path to Lars home; the sky overhead was so overcast that the only light was from the torches that the search party carried.
From her spot, she watched as the priest followed by the thugs from the docked knocked against the wooden door. Their dangerous expressions and obvious weaponry were meant to intimidate. It failed spectacularly. Beru Lars opened the door and stared out at the assembled mob.
“What’s going on?” She had to have known something was wrong. Bantha had probably made it back before Dhara had snuck up on the house. Carrying Luke’s purchases and their money.
“Where is Owen Lars?” The priest demanded, he looked over her into the house. “
The man himself appeared around the corner of the house, covered in dirt and green stains. “What do you want?” The man demanded gruffly.
“Where is the witch?” The priest hissed.
“What witch?” Owen wiped off his hands, moving to join his wife. “I don’t know any witch?”
“That witch from the store! Dhara Leonis! She had burned down the church with her magic! Where is she? We know she sent your horse back to your homestead. What magic potion has she delivered to you?”
“There’s no such thing as magic!” Owen snapped, “I don’t care about some witch. I want to know where my nephew is. What did you do to him?”
“This isn’t about your nephew, Mr. Lars. This is about the witch!”
“That witch could have burned down the town, and I wouldn’t care! I want to know why my horse came back without my nephew! What did you do to him?”
“Nothing,” the priest adjusted his cloak as brilliant spiderwebs of lightning flashes across the sky. The wind had picked up, and Dhara knew it was only a short time before the storm broke. Being up a tree was the worst place to be in a storm like this. “He decided he wanted a drink. He went to the tavern, and last I saw him he was drowning in a tankard.”
“Hmph,” Owen obviously didn’t believe him. “I haven’t seen anyone. When you see my nephew tell him he needs to come home.”
“Hmph,” thunder echoed again, and the thugs were getting nervous. Their horses nickered unhappily, tossing their heads and stamping in place. “There is such a large storm coming. Might I?”
“You can’t stay here,” Owen snapped, he glanced back at his wife. She nodded in agreement. “You get yourselves back to town and don’t bother me again. I haven’t seen Leonis; I don’t know where she’d go. You get off this property.”
“Not my problem,” Owen commanded, and the men began to muttered unhappily. The threat of violence loomed, and Dhara held up her hand, ready to defend the couple.
“Very well,” the priest cast a look of utter loathing at the pair, and the door was slammed shut in his face. Dhara waited until the crowd was past the bend in the road before sliding down the tree branch until she found one level with a small window. It would be difficult to make it, but she felt confident that she could fit through. Getting the window opened as no trouble, and she tossed her bag through first, and began to difficult process of managing to get her skirts stuffed through the window. She shot Beru Lars a smile as the woman came to investigate the noise.
“Evening, Mrs. Lars.”
“Where is Luke,” Beru glanced back down the ladder at her husband.
“Kidnapped,” Dhara yanked herself free from the window and tumbled harmlessly onto a neatly made bed. She rolled off the other side and stood despite the relatively low height of the ceiling. “The priest has been taking bribes from British officers in exchange for seamen. I burned down the church.”
“You what?” Owen’s voice echoed up the ladder, and Dhara leaned over. “You actually burned down the church?”
“It was exactly what it deserved,” she told him. “And I’m not sorry.” Owen Lars glared up at her, hands on his hips. Eventually, he shook his head.
“Where is Luke?”
“Out at sea, he’s aboard the HMS Devastator. It’s the only British ship in the port right now, well, it left this afternoon. I’m here because I need to flee. I did burn down a church.”
“Luke was pressed into service? On a British ship?”
“Yes.” Beru climbed back down the ladder, followed quickly by Dhara. “I don’t know where they’re going.”
“Is Luke going to be alright? Is there anything that we can do to stop them?”
“I doubt it,” Dhara looked around the small cabin. “There is a typhoon brewing, and it’s going shove the ship too far for anyone to catch them.”
“It’s just a storm,” Owen said, “we could still catch them.”
“It’s a typhoon,” Dhara told him gently, “and you know why.”
“It’s not,” Owen stared at his wife and then shook his head. “He’s always been different, but Luke couldn’t do something like this.”
“Yes, he could. You know that I’m a witch, and I’m a green witch.” She held up a hand, green fire blooming on her fingertips. “Luke is more powerful than I could ever hope to be. He’s the strongest witch I’ve ever met. He has more power than most covens.” She watched their eyes. “But you knew this?”
“There had to be a reason why our creeks never went dry even when we had a drought,” Beru said quietly.
“Or why Espa never suffered such a storm of this magnitude ever since he was brought here. Or why we always had rain when we needed it. Why the farm always did so well.” Dhara told them. “I don’t know if he’ll be alright. I’m sorry, if I’d known something was going to happen, I would have stopped it.”
“If I’d known anything was going to happen I wouldn’t have let him go into town.”
“There’s nothing we can do about that now,” Owen was clutching the table, to keep himself from falling over. His usually stern was face was wrapped in terror and worry. “We have to get you out of here.”
“You don’t seem very angry that I burned down a house of God,” Dhara observed. It might have been inappropriate to bring that up at a time like this, but she was curious.
“That wasn’t a house of God,” Owen snorted as he straightened as best as he could. “Probably burned out some of that evil. What do you need?”
“If she stays they’ll hang her. Where will you go?”
“Lousiana, the city of New Orleans. I have family down there.” Dhara watched the pair. “I am sorry to put this burden on you.”
“I’m just glad you didn’t steal our horse and take off earlier,” Beru told her, “and that you actually sent our packages back with Bantha. The poor horse was absolutely frantic when she came back. Do you know what happened to Arturo?”
“I couldn’t say,” Dhara sat down on one of the only chairs, sighing heavily. “I’m sorry.” Outside the cabin, thunder made the entire building shake down to its foundation and lightning forked across the sky. All three looked up at the roof as the rain began to pound against it. “That will hold, correct?”
“Luke helped rebuild,” Owen said gruffly, “it’ll hold.”
Luke woke up from his fitful sleep when someone slammed a length of metal against the bars.
“Morning!” He blinked at the sight of the two sailors just outside the bars, smiling unpleasantly at him. “The captain wants to see you. Get up.” Reluctantly, Luke obeyed and followed the two men from the brig and upwards into the ship. Down one narrow passageway and up a staircase until they were at a heavy wooden door. The taller sailor pushed it open and all but shoved Luke through. Three men waited inside, the Captain, the First Mate, and the ships chaplain. Luke swallowed heavily, and he adjusted his hat.
“What is the meaning of this?” He demanded, not giving any of the men a chance to speak.
“Do you always insult your betters?” Captain Ozzel asked, watching Luke with narrowed eyes. The expression on his face was exactly like one most of the gentlemen in Espa usually had. They sneered at him and his shabby clothes and his older horse. He was absolutely assured of his own superiority, that even a polite disagreement would be taken as an insult. Luke could already tell that they wouldn’t get along.
“I have no betters,” Luke replied, reminding himself that he was a gentleman farmer and he owed no man anything. “I demand an explanation.” The men behind him chuckled, and Luke ignored them.
“I’ll set him straight, Captain Ozzel,” the first mate glowered at Luke. “Teach him some respect.”
“That won’t be necessary, Mr. Toms. Mr. Skywalker should be very well behaved. After all, this isn’t his first time on a ship. Any experienced sailor knows how the wind is blowing.”
“Then we’re in for trouble, Captain,” Luke spat. “I am not an experienced sailor and my first time on the sea is now. I have never stepped foot on a boat until I was kidnapped!” This seemed to give the men pause. They exchanged a series of looks, and finally, the captain spoke.
“That damned preacher told you I was an experienced sailor. He lied. I have never been on a ship before today. I am a farmer. I don’t know the first thing about sailing!” Which wasn’t necessarily true. Luke had done enough reading about sailing that he felt confident he could learn the practical side quickly. None of them had to know that. “Whatever you offered him was too much.”
“You can’t sail?” Ozzel’s voice was soft and dangerous until he glanced at the two men behind Luke. “What can you do?”
“I am a farmer,” Luke seethed, “not a sailor.”
“So you’ve said, but what can you do?”
“I can,” Luke blinked a few times, “I can cook.” Someone scoffed behind him.
“Then you’ll serve as a galley boy. The cook has needed assistance for some time. Perhaps you will learn other duties as well.”
“Hold on! My family.”
“Will have to muddle on through without you. You are a member of the greatest Naval force this world has ever seen. A subject to the venerable Queen Amidala. Young men dream of such things.”
“I am an American citizen,” Luke ground out. “I recognize no queen holding sovereignty over me.”
“You are well educated for a farmer,” Ozzel observed, and Luke wondered if he could get away with punching the man in the face. He didn’t think he’d survive the attack, but he was sorely tempted. “Mr. Smith, Mr. Holmes, escort Mr. Farmer here to the kitchen and tell the cook he has new help.”
“Skywalker,” Luke snapped as the sailors grabbed him again. “My name is Skywalker.” Captain Ozzel waved a lazy hand as Luke was pulled from his office.
Chapter 2: Enter Han Solo
Now a sea cook, Luke faces the dangers of the sea and the dangers aboard the HMS Devastator.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
In the weeks that followed his kidnapping, Luke learned the best way to navigate a ship that rolled with the waves, how to carry hot coffee from one side of the ship to the other without spilling any, how to cook for the shifts of sailors and officers without being thrown overboard for serving inedible food. He learned under the disinterested tutelage of the head cook, a deeply unpleasent fellow named Jack Davies who would rather be off with the other off-duty sailors than making sure Luke didn’t burn the ship to cinders by accident.
He learned that he loved the ocean. The rolling of the ship didn’t bother him in the slightest. He loved the smell, the winds that pushed the Devastator further and further from home with each passing day. He loved how the ship felt, the creak of ever timber, and groan of each panel. For reasons, he couldn’t fathom, considering he’d been kidnapped, being aboard the ship felt a great deal like coming home.
So he itched to learn how to sail properly, even as he was holed up in the kitchen for hours on end. Even as he refused to interact or work with the rest of the crew; and wouldn’t give any more than the necessary manners to the officers.
Most of all, while aboard the Devastator, Luke worried. He worried for his aunt and uncle, and their little farm. He worried what the town might do to them. What Uncle Owen might do to the town and what would happen if Captain Ozzel made good his threats?
Luke yawned into his shoulder and wanted nothing more than to fall into his bed at home. Wrap himself in the blankets and fall asleep to the quiet mutterings of his aunt and uncle.
“You fallin’ asleep, farmboy?” He glanced up to see one of the petty officers standing just inside the galley door.
“No, sir.” There was an unpleasent smirk on his face, and Luke wondered what he could be doing down here.
“Yer, not a sailor, Mr. Farmer.” Luke searched for the petty officer's name, trying to remember what Captain Ozzel had called him. “Yer a disgrace.”
“Am I?” Luke grasped for one of the ladles, hiding the motion in an easy shrug. “I am inexperienced; I didn’t think I was so terrible at the job. A few other sailors appeared behind him, all of them just as mean and just as ugly looking as the first one. He realized, with a sinking heart, that he wouldn’t be able to fight them all off with a ladle. “What brings you gentleman to the galley this late? If you’re here for a bite to eat, I did save some of the dough from the biscuits yesterday, and made some pie.”
“Pie?” One of the more aggressive men in the back paused, “pie?”
“The ship picked up fresh produce when it last made port,” Luke told them, “the apples you picked up,” Luke reached into the rapidly dwindling barrel of apples and pulled a few out. “Are one I grew myself. I tended the apple trees these grew on.” He tossed one toward the petty officer who seemed deeply confused. “My aunt taught me how to make different sorts of pie.”
“Apple pie?” Another man edged around the first, his accent as thick as his beard. “Where?”
Luke didn’t turn his back on the men but moved around the galley enough to pick up the pie, a bit of a mess from how it normally turned out, from where he’d stored it in the fuel. Carefully moving the logs out of the way until he revealed his creation. He set it on the table, and the men stared down at it, visibly watering. The sort of food was reserved for the captain’s table.
“Would you gentlemen like some?”
“Yes,” ill-intent abandoned, the four men surged forward, and Luke abandoned the pie to its fate. Better they gorge themselves on a rare treat than beat Luke senseless and throw him overboard.
“Yer aunt must be a great cook,” one of them said, licking juice off his fingertips. “Never had a pie on voyage before. You steal some of the officer's supplies?”
“Didn’t need to,” Luke told him honestly, watching the pie vanish alarmingly fast. “My aunt taught me how to cook with everything and anything available.” Which wasn’t a total like. His aunt and uncle had taught him though. He offered a silent apology to Uncle Owen. This wasn’t a pie like they would make. He didn’t have most of the ingredients. “I’ve tried to improve the soup that I make, but we’re missing a few things. I suppose a long voyage might not make it so easy to transport.” Luke kept up the chattering, adjusting his apron in the style more like what he’d seen his aunt wear, rolling up his sleeves and opening his shirt enough to show off his collarbone. By the time the pie was gone, the four previously aggressive attackers had mellowed considerably. Lounging around the galley and watching Luke work as they smacked their lips and licked their fingers for the last bit of sweetness they could scrounge for.
He’d even managed to get a few stories of England and Ireland out of them, learning names and names of family members and hometowns. Enough conversation had passed that when the petty officer cleared his throat, discomfort was obvious.
“Captain Ozzel doesn’t like you,” he said, and he grunted when Timothy kicked him. “He doesn’t.”
“And I suppose you’re here to?” Luke swallowed nervously, tapping the heavy ladle on the table.
“Teach you a lesson,” Jamie said from the door, a quarter gunner who had yet to actually man a gun in battle.
“We’re not doing anything,” Jack Turner told the group, “we’ll have to go eating that slop Davies serves up. Taing a piss out of the captain or not, I ain’t willing to give up the first decent cook we’ve got.”
“Me either,” Jamie said, “we’ll just tell the captain we taught you a lesson and you gotta pretend to be all punched.”
“We can’t lie to the captain! He’ll want to know. We’ll get flogged for not doing what he wants.”
“And get beat by the rest of the crew for ruining the cook,” Jack exclaimed, “I ain’t getting punched for bruising this boy.” He reached over and gave Luke a friendly pat. “Looks like my baby brother, God rest his soul.”
“He did make us pie,” Jamie told them, “we’ve been a sea for over a month without anything sweet. Coffee, tea, and meat, and we didn’t stop in America long enough for a drink. I say piss the Captain and keep the cook.”
“Aye!” the rest of the men agreed, and Luke ducked his head, trying to hide his smile.
“You’ll make someone happy,” Jack told him, crossing enormous arms over his chest, “the prettiest wife. You leave a sweetheart behind?”
“No,” Luke told them wistfully, “but I did leave my dog behind.”
“The dog? Little one with a blue and white collar?”
“You saw him?” Luke perked up, and Jack avoided his eyes.
“Saw one of the bullies kick ‘em off the pier.”
“What?” Luke covered his mouth, horrified. “But Artoo is just a…he doesn’t know how to swim!”
“I bet he’s fine,” Timothy said, reaching over to pat Luke’s shoulder, he smeared dirt and grease over his shirt. “Bet he’s back home on that little farm, sitting in front of the fire with your aunt and uncle.”
“I hope so,” Luke swallowed down the sudden lump in his throat. Just half an hour ago he’d been on the verge of getting violently attacked by the same men who were trying to comfort him. He was leagues from home, aboard a foreign vessel, and totally alone. He surreptitiously wiped a tear from his eye, sniffling.
“Yeah!” Jamie said awkwardly, nudging the rest of the men out of the galley, “we taught you a lesson!”
“Don’t you forget it,” Timothy shook a fist at him, staring at the space above Luke’s head.
“A message from the captain,” Jack added and gave Luke a nudge as he walked by.
“We’ll just tell the captain we left him crying,” the petty officer told them, and in minutes Luke was left alone. He tried to not cry into the food he was preparing, but it was a hard thing.
Giving up his secret treat was worth it to see the expression of shock on Captain Ozzel’s face when he brought the man his breakfast. He molded his expression into one of appropriate contriteness and affected a limp, but the captain was visibly confused.
“You seem well this morning,” Ozzel’s watery eyes focused on him, trailing up and down to see if there were any visible bruises.
“Thank you, Captain,” Luke turned over the teacup, “you as well.”
“Hmm, and how are the animals?”
“Doing well,” and that was something else Luke had been surprised to learn. A ship like this kept animals. There were chickens and ducks and sheep, as well as two goats and a cow. He had always labored under the impression that these ships only carried preserved foodstuffs. It was good thing that Davies took care of the captain’s food most of the time because every time he ate something he thought was made by Luke he complained nonstop. “Plenty of fresh eggs from the chickens.”
“Hmmm,” Ozzel glowered as Luke gave a polite nod, the necessary salute, and made his escape.
That captain was getting fat; Luke thought to himself as he made his way back to his bunk. Davies had relieved him half an hour ago but kept him around to complain about the state of the galley even though it and all of the dishes were clean.
His hammock was already occupied by a smug looking chicken and Luke recognized her as the one who kept biting him.
“Listen, Soup,” he told her, careful to not jab his fingers within range of her beak. “Out.”
“You named the chicken, Soup?”
“Yes, sir,” Luke kept an eye on the chicken and glanced over to the sailor climbing into his hammock. “Clear skies?”
“Hmmm,” the man groaned and fell asleep as soon as his thin blanket was pulled up. Luke glowered at the invader but climbed in any way. She screeched in annoyance, fluttering over to another sleeping sailor until Luke had settled into his hammock. When he was covered, she flapped back over to settle on the edge and hissed at the shadows.
The more time passed, moving further and further south toward a destination no one saw fit to tell Luke; the more the crew began to speak to him. He was liked, having a supernatural ability to make better the oatmeal taste better than Davies. The coffee and tea was always hotter and stronger when Luke made it, which endeared him to the night watches easily. Officers started being kinder as well, considering Luke was like by every midshipman, corporal, gunner, and watchman on board. Only Captain Ozzel and First Mate Toms maintained any sense of hostility.
For them, Luke had unwittingly adopted an attack chicken. No matter how often he locked Soup in the coop, no matter who watched him and reinforced the lock, she kept escaping to waddle up to the berth and sleep on him. Hissing and pecking anyone who wandered too close to him while he was asleep. She’d escaped the butcher's block a few times as well, taking to hiding in the galley on top of some kindling when Luke was cooking.
It was a shock when halfway through the night watch, when most of the crew was asleep, that two able seamen marched into galley.
They were two Luke recognized, but hadn’t spoken to much. “Here for tea?” He gestured to the water he was boiling. “I’ll have the new batch finished and up on deck soon.”
“We’re here for you,” the larger one said.
“Why?” Unlike the four who had come in his first month, these two looked mean as snakes. “On whose order?”
“Captain’s orders, Mr. Farmer, come with us.”
“Captain’s orders?” The Captain would be asleep for hours yet. What could he be doing up this early? “I don’t believe you.” Luke braced himself as the ship rolled, heaving across suddenly choppy seas.
“Come with us,” the second ordered, and Luke wrapped his fingers around his ladle and brought it up as soon as the man lunged. It caught the man across the jaw, sending him cross-eyed and flopping gracelessly to the floor.
“You little,” the first one went the other way, dodging the ladle and tackling Luke around the middle.
“GET OFF!” Luke struggled to get free of the arms now wrapped around his shoulders and felt panic rising as a hand clamped over his mouth. The first man climbed to his knees but staggered sideways as the ship rolled again, tilting the entire ship even more steeply than before. Distantly he could hear Soup squawking and screeching, probably waking the entire berth.
Luke twisted and turned, fighting the hands on him even as they dragged him out of the galley and up toward the deck. The callused hand over his mouth didn’t budge, but Luke managed to kick the bulkheads and doors, shattering a lantern.
As he was dragged onto the deck, he caught sight of Captain Ozzel, the First Mate, and the Chaplain all waiting, Captain Ozzie's cabin boy, a nervous young lad, held a lantern almost as tall as he was.
“Mr. Farmer,” the two seamen dragged Luke before the captain, holding him upright even as he struggled. “You were on trial for a conspiracy to commit mutiny.”
Rage bloomed in his chest, fury all but sparking at his fingertips. He tried to throw the men off, but they were stronger and larger than he was.
The ship gave another unexpected roll, and lightning forked across the sky. Thunder followed swiftly after, sounding like a hundred cannon going off at once. The cabin boy held the lantern close, obviously terrified. Even the Chaplain glanced nervously toward the sky.
“How do you plead?”
Luke seethed in his forced silence; he would have screamed if he could.
“Ah, silence gives consent,” Captain Ozzel raised his pistol just as five men burst from belowdecks chasing a screaming chicken.
“GET THAT BIRD!” Someone shouted, and Soup flapped her fastest to the nighttime trial screeching all the way. She landed at the feet of one of the seamen and began to peck and scratch. The sailors chasing her collided heavily with the two men restraining Luke, and the group fell to the deck.
“GET OFF ME!” Luke wormed his way free, kicking one man in the genitals and shoving the other over. As soon as he was standing, he turned on Captain Ozzel and punched him. The blow sent the portly man reeling. Within moments a brawl had erupted.
“Murder me in the middle of the night!” Luke kicked Ozzel while he was down, not caring that this might qualify as mutiny or not. “Mutiny? You kidnapping son of a bitch! Coward, you cling to your power and authority, using it to abuse others even as you hardly lift a finger!”
“Murder?” The fight seemed to die down as Luke stood over Ozzel, seething. Lightning crackled in the air around him, sparking along his fingertips and through his widely mused hair. “Wots goin’ on?”
“Captain Ozzel was attempting to murder me!” Luke shouted, jabbing a hand at the whimpering officer. “Under false pretenses! Without trial and without an opportunity to defend myself.” The silence rolled through the small crowd as Soup screeched once and fluttered to stand at Luke’s feet.
‘You were conspiring to commit mutiny!” Ozzel shrieked.
“I was kidnapped and brought unwillingly aboard this vessel,” Luke glowered, hands tightening into fists. Behind him, thunder rumbled long and loud. “I have never been on a boat before! I don’t know enough about sailing EVER to try and mutiny!”
“What do you call this?” Ozzel gestured wildly at the men around him. The sailors who had come to Luke’s aid unwittingly shuffled to stand behind him. “These men fought for you.”
“You tried to murder me,” he snarled, “abusing your power to have me killed because you are a coward! Your dislike of me has pushed you to foul, evil actions.”
“Is this true, captain?” Someone asked, and Luke identified the voice as belonging to Timothy.
“Obviously he is lying. He is a rebel! He is American! He is a filthy farmer. He struck a superior!”
“I did not strike a superior,” Luke stood tall before Ozzel’s glare, “I struck a higher ranking officer.”
“He is lying!” Ozzel screamed, “he is leading a mutiny! Stand back fools, unless you all want to be hung for mutiny!”
“You lying,” Luke wasn’t sure what was happening. “Pig,” he spat, the storm erupted around them. Lightning going crazy, webbing across the sky endlessly, refusing to fade as the thunder continued to rumble. “You scheming coward.” He jabbed a hand downward and was only faintly surprised when a fork of lightning branched out of the sky to strike the mast.
It seemed like a natural progression of events.
The explosion that followed threw Luke and the sailors back, sending splinters into every available surface, including that hand Luke raised to cover his head.
“WITCH!” Ozzel screamed, clawing his way from the ruined mast, now tottering dangerously to the side, “WITCH!” Fire crackled up and down the wood, burning brighter with each passing moment.
Men pounded onto the desk, brought up by the noise of the storm and the following explosion. Rope creaked as the mast continued to lean dangerously to the side. The men who had been standing too close to Luke and the mask began to pick themselves up, each one more stunned and confused than the last.
Confused, Luke shook his head to clear the ringing from his ears. He pushed himself up from the deck, pulling himself up the railing until he was standing. He wasn’t even sure he was standing straight, the shouting around him was reduced even further as rain poured from the heavens above.
He clutched his bloody hand to his chest and scrambled toward the longboats. Frantic in his attempt to escape the violence erupting around him. Behind him, the shouting and punching was occasionaly punctuated by gunfire. The commotion probably summoning more guards and the bu’son.
Luke wasn’t entirely sure what was happening. He could feel his heart bounding, blood roaring in his ears; but something else was prowling around his head. A monter that had lurked beneath the surface of his skin. Occasionally, as he struggled to unhook the longboat, lightning would arch off his fingers and brush over the rope and wood.
By some miracle, he managed to shove the longboat over the side. Fire was burning meerily behind him, somehow impervious to the rain.
“STOP HIM!” Ozzel shouted. “STOP THE TRAITOR!” Luke rolled into the longboat as the Devestator rolled on another impossibly sudden swelling of waves. As the ship tilted back, ropes snapped and Luke held on for dear life as the longboat plunged toward the water.
It landed with a violent, jarring motion, that rocked Luke back into the floor of the longboat; slamming his head against the wood and knocking him unconcious. He was unaware of the shouting aboard the ship, or of the gunfire theat peppered the ocean aroung him, a few bullets catching the edges of the boat. He didn’t see how the ocean rose independently between the two boats, pushing Luke further from the British vessel with each swell.
Captain Han Solo wasn’t used to dealing with ornary passengers. He grumbled mightly as he shoved another goat out of the way as he proceeded up the ladder toward the deck. The goat, unhappy with the manhandling, snapped at his shirt tails.
“Shut up,” he smacked the goat on its nose before scampering up the ladder before it could properly retailiate. “CHEWIE!” He shouted as he emerged on deck, “those damn goats are loose again.” The smuggler paused as he caught sight of his first officer consulting a map and scratching one of the smaller goats between the ears. “I hate goats.”
“You’ve said that,” his friend anwered, not looking up from the map. “We are being a great deal to smuggle these goats duty free.”
“You’re money,” Han told one of the goats, “nothing else. I preferred it when we were smuggling aristos out of France. They at least knew how to shut up.”
“Han,” the older man stared pointedly at him, dredging up the guilt that Han like to pretend didn’t exist. He shrugged his shoulders to ignore the faint sense of shame crawling up his spine. “The storm blew up off course.”
“How far off course?”
“Far enough,” the Turk adjusted the map and pointed towrd a small island, “we’re closer to Port Royal now.”
“British territory,” Han scoffed, “the storms cleared out and we just finished pumping the last of the water out of the hold.”
“The trouble is with the wind, Han. The ocean has been more still than a corpse.”
“Right,” Han squinted at the blinding blue water around them. It was so still it could have been mistaken for glass. There was hardly a break on its surface, save for a peculiar blob toward the north “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” The longer he stared northward, the closer the object seemed to be. He reached around for the eyeglass and trained on the blob. White breakers around it, followed shortly by enormous fins and wide belllies ,“Whales,” he muttered.
“I see three, no, four whales.” Han stared a little longer, “there’s a longboat.”
“A longboat?” He handed the glass to Chewie, frowning to himself. “It is too far away to see if it has passenngers.”
“Do you think the storm could have damanged any other ships in the area?”
“It must have,” his friend answered, “perhaps their ships caught the worst of the weather.”
“We’ll investigate,” Han paused when Chewie held out an arm to stop him from moving. “What?”
“I have heard of sudden storms that give way to silence. Damaging ships and then leaving them stranded so Vader can attack.”
“We are near Port Royal,” Chewie reminded him, “Vader only obeys the British Crown.”
“Just because Vader is a sea-witch, doesn’t mean that every sudden storm is his,” Han responded, but he looked faintly nervous. “We aren’t sailing under a Spanish banner.”
Chewie nodded and lowered his arm. He watched as Han shouted orders at the crew. They shouted back cheerfully, some of them pushing goats out of the way. Whatever tension that might have existed in the wake of violent storm, faded under the bright sun as they waited for the longboat to get pushed closer and closer with each minute. Riding on the wake of the whales, which, against all logic, seem to be pushing the longboat toward their smuggling vessel.
“Damn strange,” Han muttered, finally collapsing the eyeglass as the boat was close enough to throw a line out capture it. The whales stayed clear of the stranded ship, but stayed close. “There’s someone in it.”
They waited in silence as the crew pulled the longboat up. Only exchanging a glance when a chicken fluttered out, screeching angrily and nipping at the fingers of every sailor who tried to grab her. When they pulled the boy out, there was an uneasy muttering from the crew.
“What is it?” Han pushed some of the sailors aside and came to a halt. The boy laid out on the deck looked impossibly young. Bright blond hair, matted with salt and blood, was splayed out behind him; a thin ribbon was tangled with a few strands. Dark bruises lingered under his eyes, and his right arm was bleeding sluggishly. Han could see slivers of wood. He was dressed like a British sailor, but his shoes were well-made and obviously fitted to him, and certainly not in the British style. “Chewie! he’s injured. Men, get him below decks. Stick him in my cabin.”
“Your cabin, captain?”
“Aye,” he turned to his friend, but turned back when there was a slight groan. The men shuffled back a few steps. “What’s wrong with you?”
“ ‘s’not natural, Captain,” one of them muttered, and Han stared at them, shocked.
“He’s not right,” someone else spoke, “something about him. He’s got to be a sea-witch! The whales brought him here!”
“Sea-witch!” Han pinched his nose, taking a deep breath. “He’s a young man who has been drifting at sea! Sea-witch or not, he needs help.” He decided to ignore the fact that the whales had seemed to bring the boy directly to his ship.
“Isn’t it wise to curry favor with sea-witches?” Chewie asked, appearing behind Han, frowning at the fluttering crew members. “If they favor you, they bring good fortune.”
“Look,” Han gestured to the chicken, who glared at him with such fervor, he shrugged, “he brought a chicken. Chickens are good luck.”
They muttered in assent, and Han sighed to himself. Silence fell as the young man between the moaned, his eye flickered open for just a moment. The crew froze as the bright blue eyes focused on them before sliding shut a moment later.
“He’s got witches eyes,” some grumbled, but at Han’s deep glower, they picked the boy up and carried him to the captain’s cabin.
Han went to smooth over ruffled feathers, ignoring the actual ruffled features on the chicken from Hell. Chewie stayed in his cabin to make sure the young man survived the day.
Luke woke to the creaking timbers of a ship, and a hushed conversation a few steps away. Slowly he opened his eyes, and found himself staring at brightly covered fabric that seemed to be drapped around the bed; keeping it closed off from the cabin beyond. Two figures moved, their forms indistinct through the gauzy red fabric. He strained his ears, and could make out two languages he didn’t understand.
He glanced down at himself, his right arm was heavily bandaged, and his clothes and boots seemed to be missing. Thankfully he seemed to have his underclothes on , but someone must have undressed him. His vision span as he tried to sit up, he groaned and reached back to feel a bandage wrapped around his head.
Too late he noticed the shadows approaching, and had no time to adjust the blankets when the fabric was pushed back, and the two men were revealed.
“Ah,” the younger man, holding a roll of bandages, smile. “Guten abend, Herr. Seemann.”
Luke held onto his head as pain spiked through, he squinted but nodded. “Guten abend, Herr…. Kapitän?” His eyes slid over to the tall man standing behind him. Since they both nodded, he supposed he’d been correct. “Herr. Arzt?”
“You have a strange accent,” the younger man switched to English, handing the roll of bandages off to the other man and sitting on the edge of the bed. His English was heavily accented.
“I’m American,” Luke frowned, “where am I?”
“You are onboard the Millennium Falcon. I am Captain Solo, this is my first officer, Chewie”
“Thank you for saving me, sirs.” Luke settled back onto the pillow, sighing. “What happened?”
“We were hoping you could tell us,” Captain Solo said, “we found you drifting at sea on a longboat with a chicken.”
“A chicken?” Luke muttered, “Soup, is she alright?”
“You named your chicken Soup?”
“I thought it was amusing,” Luke could hear the ocean through a nearby porthole. “Is she alright?”
“She’s fine, what happened?”
“I,” Luke shivered, “he was going to murder me.”
“Captain Ozzel,” he closed his eyes, but he could see the hateful stare on the inside of his eyelids. “I was kidnapped, pressed into service on a British ship. He didn’t like me, he was going to have me murdered.”
“How did you end up in the longboat?”
“I escaped,” Luke clenched his hand, rememebering the surge of power that had sparked through his body and made his heart pound. It didn’t seem wise to tell them the details of his escape. “Under the cover of the storm.”
“Hmm,” the older man, Chewie, and Luke was almost positive that was not the mans real name. “How do you feel?” His accent was unfamiliar, and heavier than Han’s. His eyes were darker, but kind, if tired.
“Thirsty,” Luke admitted reluctently. “Where are we?”
“We’re in the Atlantic,” Captain Solo told him, “headed toward the Medditeranian Sea.”
“Oh,” despair swept through him, and Luke felt his eyes burn with unshed tears.
He wasn’t sure how long it would take to get back to his aunt and uncle
“What is your name?” Captain Solo asked, obviously confused by Luke’s distress. He shifted his weight on the bed, and Luke swallowed the lump in his throat.
“My name is Luke Skywalker.”
“Welcome aboard Luke Skywalker.” Captain Solo cleared his throat awkwardly and helped him sit up. When he was sitting up, he disappeared for a moment before reappearing with bowlful off water. Lue muttered his thanks as the captain helped him drink.
“Don’t try to get up,” Chewie advised as Luke gulped down a mouthful of water and fell heavily against the blankets. The two men turned and Luke’s eyebrows rose from shock as Soup appeared at the edge of the bed and hopped over the blankets until she was nestled between his arm and thigh.
“That is a strange chicken,” Captain Solo said, but didn’t try to shoo her away. Luke offered her a weary scratch under her chin.
“We’ll leave you to rest,” Chewie said, finally pulling the captain away from the bed. “And will bring food later,” but Luke had already fallen asleep.
This work is not abandoned, I have just been busy.
Chapter 3: Monsters
Luke Skywalker, now sailing with Captain Solo, begins to discover his true power.
The Millennium Falcon was faster than the Devastator. The later which had seemed to slow with each passing day. Captain Solo’s ship seemed to fly, somehow catching the best winds and pushing further and faster toward the Strait of Gibraltar. Luke spent the entire first day he could remain conscious mourning the fact that he was further from home than ever wanted to be.
“Mr. Skywalker,” he was distracted from his mournful thoughts by the entrance of the captain. His lanky stride was somehow piratical and gentlemanly. If he had landed in Mos Espa, Luke knew that Camie would be the first to throw herself at him. He was the very image of a romantic sailor. Luke was honestly a little jealous and starry-eyed. “How do you feel?”
“Better, Captain.” He sat up, grunting and wincing. Solo was across the room and helping him in a second. “Thank you.”
“If I’m not caring,” Solo said, scoffing, “then your chicken tries to eat me.”
“Soup can’t eat you, Captain. She isn’t so terrible.”
“Any more nips,” Solo showed off a few bites on his fingers, “and she’s your next meal, Mr. Skywalker.” He laughed a moment later, helping Luke stand and keeping him from falling over.
“Captain,” Luke wobbled by stabilized himself after a moment. “Where is your final destination? I know you said that you are planning to head to Spain, but where next?”
“After Spain, I plan to pick up cargo to take east. Hopefully to Palmero. Why?”
“I appreciate your help, Herr Kapitan. My aunt and uncle only know that I was in danger. I’d like to be able to get home soon.” Luke sighed when the captain shrugged a bit. “I…is it possible that you’ll hire me? I have a little sea-faring experience. I have no money to be a passenger. I don’t want to be a burden.” Luke frowned as Captain Solo looked shifty for a bit.
“Herr Skywalker,” his accent sounded thicker now. “Why don’t you recover first. Meet my sailors, come see the sea without the stain of the English.”
“Thank you,” Luke paused as the man opened the door and they stepped through. Up through the ship until they were on the main deck. It wasn’t a large ship compared to the Devastator, but it was big enough. For some reason, there were goats running around on the desk, getting underfoot and baaing at various people. “Goats?”
“Cargo,” the captain grumbled, “how is your hand?”
“Stiff,” Luke told him, it was still heavily wrapped which was for the best. He wasn’t sure if he could look down and see the limb that had managed to command lightning. “Thank you,” Solo muttered something in German that he didn’t catch, and waved at a nearby sailor.
The man was taller than Han or Chewie, towering over Luke by almost a full foot and a half. His hair was violently red, and his eyes were a bright green. He also seemed cautious, staring at Luke like he was the threat. Luke wasn’t sure he deserved such attention. Injuries notwithstanding, he wasn’t sure he could fight the man on a regular day.
“Mr. Skywalker,” he pulled his hat off his head. “Sir.”
“Luke Skywalker,” he held out his left hand, the sailor took it gently. “I want to thank the crew for helping me. Captain Solo said that you were more than willing to help.”
“Aye,” his accent was unfamiliar, thick and rough. He seemed shifty, glancing away and nodding a few times. “Your head, how’s it feel?”
“And yer arm?” He gestured, almost touching but not quite, Luke’s bandages. “Looked bad when you were brought up.”
“It feels better, thank you,” Luke frowned when the sailor nodded a few times before skittering away. “Captain Solo, did I say something?”
“No, Mr. Skywalker,” Han Solo shook his head, turning around to see Chewie standing on the quarter-deck, manning the wheel. He shouted to his friend and the man waved them up the stairs.
“I’m not sure how I could have offended them, Captain Solo,” Luke said, still climbing. “Or frightened them.”
“They don’t fear you,” Solo laughed, frowning over his shoulder at the sailors and seaman who glanced away at his frown. “You’re new. Chewie! Look who is up and about!”
“Mr…Chewie,” he held out his working hand, “thank you very much. I…I don’t think I would have survived if you and your crew hadn’t pulled me aboard.”
“Hmmm,” the man nodded, speaking quietly to the captain for a minute.
“Please,” Luke surveyed the ocean, basking in the stiff breeze and enjoying the bright sunlight. “Call me Luke. I’ve taken up your cabin for a few days.
“Luke, Chewie wants to know if you’d be willing to take the position as the cook.”
“Cook?” He glanced back over; the captain was grimacing. “I…was previously a cook on my last ship.”
“You mentioned,” Solo said slowly, “but our cook is terrible. Doesn’t know his saffron from his salt. I can hardly eat without feeling that I need to kill it a second time. You said you wanted to earn your passage.”
“I’d hoped by being a regular sailor,” he said mournfully. “Until my hand heals, I suppose I won’t be able to manage very much. I’ll do it on the condition that no one touches Soup. She is my chicken…Herr Kapitan, have you seen Soup?”
“I…I haven’t.” They were quiet for a minute, and Luke nodded.
“I suppose that I should go see the galley.” He wouldn’t deny the faint irritation that clawed at his heart, but it was fair enough. He had ended up on board the ship by accident. They had saved his life. They had wrapped his hand. If Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru had taught him anything, it was to be grateful and to take things as they came. Besides, Captain Solo hadn’t ordered him, and he might be able to survive this trip.
Luke Skywalker was no sooner belowdecks when the closest sailor dropped his rope and scurried over.
“Captain!” He hissed, his Moroccan accented English loud enough for everyone on deck to hear. “Why did you ask him to cook?”
“Do you want to keep eating Mulligan’s food?” He asked, “Mr. Skywalker said he can cook and he offered to work for his passage. We’re leaving him as soon as we reach port.”
“Captain, he’s a sea-witch!”
“Aye!” Another sailor bounced up the stairs, looking wildly around to see if someone was listening. Everyone was. “He’s a sea-witch! He needs to be happy to keep the skies clear and the breeze strong! If he’s angry, then he’ll bring a storm down on us.”
“No! No!” Han paced around Chewie, glowering at his crew. “No! He won’t tantrum for cooking a few meals. He’ll be the cook; he’ll manage. We’re not accusing him of mutiny,” he gestured sharply at sea. “We’re not trying to murder him. It is very simple! Be your usual selves.” He pushed past the assembling crowd, “that’s an order!” Some dim muttering followed him into the corridor, and he reached his own bunk, utterly exhausted.
He’d forgotten how spoiled to have the only bed on the ship. Sleeping in the hammocks with the rest of the crew had been utterly exhausting. Not to mention he’d worried greatly over Luke’s injuries. A criminal, smuggler, and pirate he might be. But he’d never lorded his authority over another and used it so cruelly. It made was little sense of justice he had curdle in his stomach.
He tossed his hat onto his desk, slipping off his jacket and unbuttoning his vest as he stared longingly at his bed. The curtains he’d hung around it, right after he’d met Chewie, made the whole assembly more comfortable and it had been before. When he tossed his boots to the side and slipped through them and under his blanket, he was surrounded by an unfamiliar scent.
He stared at the wood above him and the pins that held the curtains in place — turning his head to sniff his pillow and bask in the comfortable smell, almost like home, dirt, and grass mixed with the heavy scent of greenery. Luke had been from home for almost a month, and still, the scent of it clung to him. It was amazing. Sea-witches were supposed to be able to stand life on shore. They went crazy without the ocean.
If he was a sea-witch, and Han wasn’t entirely sold on the idea, it was a damn good thing he seemed to amiable. He woke up a few hours later to someone banging on his cabin door.
“Captain! Come quick!” He was up and across the room in a second. Yanking the door open to find himself staring at Mulligan.
“Captain, it’s the mess!”
“What?” There was an awkward moment while he tried to pull his boots on, not bothering to dress properly as he followed the former cook down the into the mess where most of the crew was packed in and eating. No sign of a struggle or a fight. The only thing that was out of place was the smell. It smelled out of place, bizarre, and delicious.
“Mr. Skywalker!” He shouted, shoving through the crowd to the galley where the delicious smell was coming from. “What?” At the door, he paused all but drowning in the scent. “Oh, God!”
“I don’t understand, Captain Solo,” Luke turned away from the stove, wiping his hand on his apron and shaking his head. “I’m just making the food that I made for the Devastator. You have more food and fewer people,” he said, “and quite a few more spices. It is easy.”
“You’ve worked a miracle,” he said gruffly, swallowing down spit. “This might be the first food we’ve eaten since we left port. Mr. Skywalker, you’re promoted to head cook.” Cheering broke out at this announcement, each crewmember more than happy to be provided with decent food. “Of course,” he said, leaning in closer to only Luke could hear him. “We’ll be paying you…teaching you to sail too.”
“Thank you, Captain Solo,” the relief and gratitude could not have been clearer, and Han had a feeling that they’d have clear skies and smooth seas for a while.
The eighth day that Luke spent on the Falcon, he woke up to something enormous, tugging on the back on his mind. As he lay in bed, Captain Solo sleeping heavily and almost snoring, he wondered what had woken him. From the deepest sleep to total wakefulness in just a few seconds in the middle of the night?
He sat up, careful to avoid nudging Solo and climbed out of the bunk. Used to his comings and goings, the captain slept on. Out the porthole, he could see smooth seas and brilliant moonlight that glittered off the breakers. There was still no explanation for why he was awake.
Cautious and curious, he slipped from the captain’s cabin and out onto the quarter-deck, trying to avoid the night watchmen. The hollow noise echoed through his head again, and he staggered against the railing as his head rang.
“Ow,” he muttered and sucked in a breath of salty air before straightening up. In the cloudless night with the moon shining so brightly, he could see a fair distance — lights from the ship casting yellow shadows against the inky sea. Something was nearby; something didn’t feel right…but it also didn’t feel wrong. The ship swayed a little too far to one side, and Luke jerked as the tug on the back of his mind came again, this time more gently. “Oh…hello?” He leaned over the railing, trying his damnest to see what was happening below the water.
A churning whirlpool to the side had the breath catching in his throat. Nothing happened for a moment before the water surged upward, followed by an enormous tentacle. Terror had him frozen in place it sank below the water, drenching him and the deck.
Luke turned to survey the mess, not realizing that his eyes had become electric blue or that lightning was beginning to arch off his fingertips. Luke turned again as another ship-sized tentacle rose from the depths and slapped the surface of the water. Sea-spray drenched them and most of the lanterns on the deck. Luke himself could hardly believe what he was seeing. He could feel the warm tropical air against his skin and hair, and still felt the sensation of water surrounding him and being pressed by the depths that no human could reach naturally and the cold bitterness of the dark. Noise didn’t reach him the same away either, distorted and muffled by the distance of the source and actual noise. He could make out the creaking of a ship, water sliding past the timbers and barnacles grown to the side — Whale-Song in the distance, and the feelings of fish and dolphins nearby.
Feelings and memories came through too. The sensation of crushing an entire ship with a single limb, the taste of sailors and wood in a single bite. A cold, frozen presence worse than even the arctic dives. Controlling and strong, dominant on its mind the single purpose of commanding. He knew the Falcon was above him moving steadily eastward. Keeping pace with the ship was easy; all he had to do was follow the lights.
“Mr. Skywalker.” Everything faded away, snapping out of his mind until he was back on the quarterdeck and stumbling back into Captain Solo’s arms.
“Ow?” He pressed the heel of his palm against his head, muttering. Solo pushed him to his feet. “Captain? Are you asleep?”
“I was,” Solo muttered, his eyes were focused on the sea and the momentary appearance of a tentacle. I heard something.”
“I can’t imagine what it was,” Luke rubbed his eyes, “I’m sorry. I..think I was sleepwalking. I was…overcome. I had a very strange dream.”
“Dream?” Obviously disbelieving, the captain stared at him and then that water. His mouth flopped open for a moment before he shook his head.
“I think it was a dream,” Luke stared at the water, still churning in the wake of the sea-beast. “Wasn’t it a dream?”
“I…Solo pulled him away from the railing, “back to sleep, Mr. Skywalker…after you get into something dry.”
“Dry? Oh, yes, I should get something dry on.” Still wobbling on his feet, he followed Solo below-decks to the captain’s cabin. “Have I gone mad?”
“I don’t know,” Solo said grimly, “you need sleep if you’re going to be up for the first next shift.”
“Ah,” the blond changed quickly, shivering from a sudden breeze of cold air. “Captain…was I…dreaming?” It seemed almost like it was a dream, and yet it had felt so real. He crawled under the blankets and stared at Han’s face.
“Do you usually dream of sea-beasts?” He asked, turning his head to stare at Luke.
“I’ve dreamed of similar things at home…not very often though.” He said honestly. “A few time when I stayed at the Darklighter’s home. I would have those dreams. This is the first time I’ve had one at sea.”
“Hmmm.” That might be normal sea-witch things. Apparently, Vader could control the monsters of the deep, but most people didn’t even believe in the monsters. Han did now though. How could he not? He had watched a Kraken; he was almost sure it was Kraken, rise from the water. He’d seen Luke’s eyes glow blue and he’d seen lightning rising from his hair. It was…unnatural. The power of witches and of the old world. It was the sort of power that had given the British Empire the dominion over the seas. He hadn’t believed his men before tonight, and now he could help but realize he was sharing his bunk with the son of the sea. A long lost descendant of Poseidon?
The blond dropped off to sleep pretty quickly, apparently exhausted by his nighttime wanderings and Han considered his bunkmate. He didn’t seem like he could or would make the sea rebel against the natural order of things. He didn’t even seem to know he had the power. Han turned onto his back, watching the wood above his head before closing his eyes and falling asleep.
Two Months Later
Captain Solo was dressed properly for the first time since Luke had met him. His hat secured on his head, adjusted properly, his jacket and cravat almost acceptable. His breeches were cleaned, and his boots were polished.
Luke wasn’t as well dressed. Every piece of clothing he’d owned was stuck on board the Devastator so he was wearing a bit of a patchwork outfit and he wanted, more than anything, a decent hat.
First, cargo the customs official had to be bribed. A process that took almost no time since Chewie was standing behind the captain, looming with the promises of violence. Then the goats actually had to be unloaded, a process that took a while because they had spent the last few weeks of the trip getting into absolutely everything. With the sole exception of Soup’s little nest, where she was now faithfully defending a clutch of eggs against goats, sailors, and an overly curious sea-gull. She only allowed Luke to get close long enough to bring fresh food and water.
Luke, with the help of most of the crew, rounded up the goats and herded them down the gangplank. He didn’t have time to be amazed at how different Ceuta was from Mos Espa. The crowds were colorful and noisy. Sailors and people from all over the world. Beautiful, tall, dark women dressed in vibrant gowns, children racing through the busy streets and occasionally tugging at an adults coat. Men in clothes so colorful that Luke couldn’t help but stare in admiration.
“First time, eh, Luke?” He turned around to see Mulligan wrestle one of the grumpier goats back into the herd. “New city?”
“I’ve never been outside Mos Espa,” Luke said, nearly tripping over a busted cobblestone. He caught sight of Captain Solo slipping out of the crowd and into an alleyway. Luke had never seen so many buildings so close together. “Where are we taking them?”
Captain Solo waved from the alley, and they ushered the goats, Luke watching a few women on balconies laughed at him as he tried to wrangle them, into an enormous wagon. It was difficult, his right hand was still stiff and giving him trouble, but they managed.
“Mr. Skywalker!” The captain ambled up to him, waving off the other crew-members who scattered for some entertainment and food. “Welcome to Ceuta. The door to the Mediterranean Sea. Not anything like you’ve seen at home?”
“No, Captain Solo,” the folks in Mos Espa were such a boring bunch, no colors and no humor. Dry and up-tight and Luke himself had acquired himself a taste for the fanciful. He’d been on the ship long enough that he knew at least a little of what he was looking at. “How long will we be here?”
“A few days, then I’m going to rustle up some contacts and see if there’s some cargo that needs to be put out soon.”
“That can’t be hard,” Luke muttered, “Morocco is a large place.”
“It is,” they ambled along the street for a few more minutes. This level of physical contact in Mos Espa would have have been suspect and inappropriate. Here it seemed normal. The city was too close, too tightly built together to avoid personal contact. Besides, he and the captain had been sharing the captain’s cabin for weeks. 3
“I know that it is at least a decent country,” Luke said, “it was one of the first countries to recognize the United States as sovereign in its own right.”
“Before the war even ended,” Luke nodded, gazing in amazement at some of the beautiful buildings. “Captain, I would like to see more of Ceuta. It’s…so beautiful.” He was dazzled and at the same time home-sick. True, Mos Espa wasn’t as beautiful as this, but it was still home. He could see families about.
“The Spaniards and Arabs have fought over it for centuries,” Han said, guiding him away from the port and deeper into the city. “All of the world comes through the strait. I’ve been here a few times.”
“I can’t imagine,” Luke paused as they advanced further into the city and caught sight of architecture the likes of which he’d never seen. Wide arches, intricate decorations, and mosaic; he circled around trying to take it all in. “I can’t imagine ever wanting to leave!”
“This is beautiful, yes,” Captain Solo nodded, still smiling as Luke adjusted his cap under the burning mid-day sun. “When you see Istanbul you will weep. There is no greater city in the world. I have been to hundreds. London is a disgusting mess, and Paris lacks any light, but Istanbul is the most beautiful.”
“Istanbul? I’ve…you mean Constantinople?”
“You’ll never hear an Englishman call it Istanbul,” the other man laughed, “don’t tell Chewie you think it is Constantinople.”
“I know he’s an Ottoman, but,” Luke shrugged, “he doesn’t speak to me very much. I’m afraid he doesn’t like me.”
“He likes you,” the captain smirked as Luke inched toward a wide-open area that was packed with stalls and stands. A mix of languages drifted from it. “But he believes that the city should accept its name. So many people don’t, and a few people do. They even call it a version of Constantinople in their own documents. I have a friend who trades out of the city.”
“What can he trade?”
“Anything…everyone wants something from the Ottomans. Tch,” Solo scoffed as he guided Luke over to a stall covered in fabrics, “the problem is that we don’t have much to trade with the Ottomans.”
“Nothing?” Luke marveled at the beautiful colors and wished he could get something a little nicer than the clothes he was wearing now.
“They don’t want what the continent can make,” he said, “to trade…you have to find something to trade that they really want. I think Chewie can think of something. There are a few of my French contacts that haven’t fallen out of touch that we should be able to reach out for a new cargo. Don’t worry about cargo, Mr. Skywalker. Let’s see what trouble we can get into.”
It wasn’t until the sun was far past the horizon that both Han and Luke stumbled back to the Falcon, more than a little tipsy and toting overflowing bag. They were giggling too hard to focus on a deeply unimpressed Chewie, who had to help them both up the gangplank.
Luke wasn’t sure what exactly was going on; he was too-warm and was holding his bag close to his chest. Han had drunkenly dissolved into German an hour ago. He stagged to one side, laughing and hoisting the bag into the air as he landed on the deck on his back.
“My clothes,” he cried, waving the bag at Mulligan, “I got clothes!”
“Goody?” The entire world twisted upside down as the other cook helped him to his feet, “Mr. Skywalker, you are drunk! Wooo!:
“Am I?” Luke giggled, pressing his face against the man’s shoulder. He could smell fabric and the ocean, as wells as the scent of “I’ve got new clothes!”
“New clothes!” Solo yelled excitedly, managing enough English to order another beer from Chewie. The other man shook his head, muttering back in Turkish. Luke caught a few words in German but focused on Mulligan’s beard.
“You’ve got a nice beard,” he said sadly, running a hand through the long bristled, “I want one.”
“Ah,” Mulligan held him at arm's length, grinning awkwardly at the first-mate. “How about some sleep, Mr. Cook?”
“I’ve got new clothes,” Luke repeated, letting Mulligan hustle him toward the captain’s cabin. “New clothes! So I don’t look so pathetic.”
“Don’t worry about your clothes,” Luke had to focus intently on the words to understand them through the accent. “We like you fine. No one cooks like you so who cares what you look like?”
“I care,” Luke muttered, “I care. I was poor; the others were rich. Were hardly even landowners….” He tripped ungainly over a spae bit of rope. “I want nice clothes,” he slurred. “Nice clothes to look nice.”
“Right,” Mulligan all but hoisted him over the threshold, hot on the heels of Chewie. The Turk tossed the captain down to the bed. Han splayed about, laughing. “Captain, your favorite!”
“I don’t have favorites,” Han grumbled seriously, still running his hands over the gauzy drape with an expression of wonder. “ ‘snot good captaining.”
“IS he drunk?” Another sailor stuck his head through the door, marvelling at the sight of Luke and Han. “Mr. Skywalker!”
“Shhh,” Luke waved a free hand, dropping his bag of fabric. “Shhhhh, don’t tell Aunt Beru. “
“Aye,” all eyes turned to Luke when his voice shifted, becoming a perfect echo of Mulligan. “No drinking, shhhhh. Beer….no drinking.”
“Yer aunt sounds fierce.” Mulligan marveled and dropped Luke onto the bed. Loose-limbed and utterly relaxed, Luke rolled over to snuggle Han. His brown eyes had glazed over, and he was occasionally muttering a few words in German interspersed with giggling.
“Bad…,” his eyes screwed up with tears, “she doesn’t like drinking, and I’m drunk.”
“No, no, no!” Another sailor piped up quickly; Luke focused blearily on him. “You aren’t drunk!”
“I’m not?” His watery voice made the assembled men wince, except for Captain Solo who had fallen dead asleep, snoring.
“Nooooo,” Mulligan said, quickly catching on. “You’re not drunk! You’re just a little tipsy-no need to cry, Mr. Skywalker. Aye, aye, your aunt wouldn’t be mad.”
“Yes,” the second sailor leaned over Luke, nodding furiously. “Not drunk, just tipsy. You went out to see Ceuta! No crime in that!”
“I guess,” Luke stare up at the three men. “I don’t even drink my grog ration…”
“We thank you for that,” Mulligan said earnestly, “Shhh, your aunty knows that you’re a good lad. No drunkenness here, just a bit of fun.”
“Oh,” Luke closed his eyes, sighing gratefully. “Don’t want to worry her.” After a moment of laying still, he too fell asleep. After a moment all three men sighed.
“That was close.”
“Nothing worse than a weepy drunk.”
Beru wasn’t sure if she was dreaming or not. No dream had ever felt this real, and no dream had ever taken place on a ship. She stared around, taking in the sight of a nearby city, lights sprawling over the distant hills until they were swallowed up by distance. A sailors were sitting at a low table playing cards with little wooden chips. Confused, but willing to let the dream take her, she followed the instinct pulling at her until she was wandering through the corridors.
She found Luke in a room that she supposed belonged to someone important. There were charts and maps all over the wall, a sextant propped up on a little desk, as well as a compass, and several pens. Her son was fast asleep, wrapped in a thin blanket and another man’s arms.
He looked well enough, but his clothes were in dire need of replacing. His boots were propped up on a beautiful pillow, scuffed and worn out, and his hair was longer than it had ever been.
“Luke?” His eyes snapped open, the blue replaced with an unnatural glow that illuminated the dark cabin.
“Aunt Beru?” His words were tired and a bit slurred.
“Luke,” she sat on the edge of the bed, wondering why it didn’t dip beneath her weight. “Oh, Luke, are you alright? Luke, I’ve missed you so much!”
“Aunt Beru!” He untangled himself from his companion, the man snorted but stayed asleep. The hug felt real though, the weight resting on her shoulders felt like Luke, “Aunt Beru, are you alright. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for anything to happen.”
“It’s alright,” she smoothed down his hair, catching a whiff of alcohol. “Are you alright? What happened?”
“The priest, the others, Darklighter. I….I wouldn’t marry Camie.” He shook his head, “I managed to escape the British…I’m safe right now. Oh, Aunt Beru. I’m so sorry.”
“Yes…I did.” He blinked a few times. “Where are you?”
“Fishing in the pond,” Beru didn’t remember falling asleep, but it was alright if she could somehow get an assurance that her son was alive and well. “Where are you?”
“The Barbary coast,” Luke yawned, shaking his head and leaning back on the other man. He snorted awake, browed eyes focusing on Luke with the same sort of affection she looked at Owen with. Then his eyes fell on her, and he shot upright.
“Was zur Hölle?” He stared, uncomprending, “geist?”
“My aunt is not a ghost,” Luke smacked his chest gently. He then paused and focused on Beru. “Aunt Beru?”
Over 5,500 miles away, Beru Lars woke with a start. Nearly upending her little rowboat into the pond, she was paddling around on. The sun was shining brightly in the early evening sun and the little farm was still flourishing. Owen was standing on the rickety dock staring at her, wondering why she’d woken with such a start. She was distracted when a fish tugged at her line.
Senseless joy filled her chest as she reeled the fish in.
Chapter 4: Leia's Message
Leia is in danger and Vader makes an appearance.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
By the time Luke was awake, the Falcon was already underway; breakfast had been made and served by Mulligan, and Captain Solo was standing on the navigation deck, pouring over charts and maps while Chewie manned the wheel. Both smiled when Luke awkwardly moved off the steps and waved.
“Herr Skywalker!” Captain Solo gave him a suspiciously, friendly smile. “How does your head feel?”
“Like I was hit over the head.” Luke coughed into his fist, avoiding the loud whistles from the men on the lower decks. “I’m sorry, Captain Solo, for my conduct yesterday.”
“Your conduct!” Han laughed, “don’t worry! I don’t remember much of last night, but I have the feeling you were the perfect gentleman.”
“I,” Luke didn’t manage anything else before Captain Solo sighed.
“Now, we’re underway. Hopefully, we’ll make it to Sicily without any incidents.”
“Incidents?” Luke jerked when Chewie spoke up, and Han translated.
“Corsairs, Herr Cook. Pirates and slavers that sail these waters. Dangerous and they will not hesitate to raid a smuggler ship; taking the sailors and their cargo.”
Incidents of the Barbary pirates had reached Luke back home.; and it was strange to think that Luke had crossed the huge ocean separating his home from the origin of those tales and now among such stories. He knew that the United States had gone to war against them not too long ago and that they paid a substantial tribute to Algiers to keep their ships safe. As far as he knew, the treaty was still holding.
“Captain, do you have an American flag?”
“Do I?” Han glanced at Luke, and then at Chewie; who shook his head. “No. Why would I need one?”
“To keep us safe,” Luke told him, and Han listened to his explanation.
“I don’t know, but do you think you could make one?”
“Make one?” Luke frowned, “it shouldn’t be too hard. Do we have the right colors?”
“We have the clothes we bought,” Han reminded him, “I think there is something there.”
“Then I can make a flag. Something quick and believable, we’ll need to switch out, though. I know that there are many on the continent that won’t be happy to see it.”
“A British ship would board us in an instant.”
“And I thought the British were concerned with France and the spirit of its revolution.”
“I doubt that would stop them,” the captain said dryly, “go make a flag.”
“This means I won’t have time to make supper.”
Han wavered between the need of the flag and his desire for Luke’s delicious cooking. It was a grand sacrifice when he nodded his head; settled a solemn hand on his shoulder. “I trust that you will do what is best for the ship and its crew.”
“I will, Captain Solo,” he only just managed to keep his stern façade in place for a moment before bursting into laughter. “I’ll go.” He missed how Chewie smirked and went below decks.
“Excellent,” Solo rubbed his chin, “this should work.” It had become difficult to travel in parts of the world, with so many Empires at each other's throats; one wrong move could get an unlucky sailor press-ganged onto a military vessel.
Leia Organa gripped the railing of the ship, white-knuckled beneath her gloves. It was the only sign of her fear, as she and Captain Antilles surveyed the enormous black ship coming up too-quickly on the horizon.
The wind had died to an unnatural stillness, the sails were slack in their rigging, and even the ocean current seemed to have slowed. It took a great, unnatural force to stall a ship as fast as the Tantive IV in less than five minutes as well as propel the HMS Devastator.
“It is Lord Vader,” Captain Antilles said, more to break the unbearable silence than to point out the obvious.
“Yes,” she agreed and released the railing. “It seems that Queen Amidala’s attack-dog is unleashed. This will be the third of my father’s ships. I do not know how many other Spanish vessels he has destroyed.”
“Perhaps you should go below deck.”
“You are correct,” Leia pulled her manilla around her shoulders and hurried to her cabin. Even if she would fight, it would only ensure her destruction. Vader was a master swordsman, and he relentlessly trained his sailors. One normal girl could not fight a sea-witch. Instead, she hastily composed a letter. attaching it to the leg of a falcon she had trained specifically for this purpose.
She knew that she wasn’t far the Straits of Gibraltar, and it was possible that the flight might kill the bird, but she was desperate. If Vader sank the vessel…
“I’m sorry, my friend,” she kissed the falcon over the hood and moved to the portal. With a last pleasant nip at her fingers, the bird was gone. Sweeping over the waves before rocketing into the sky. The sounds of battle outside her cabin door erupted into chaos, and Leia ducked into the false panel of the bulkhead to hide. It was added a precautionary measure several years ago when Leia demanded to be let out to sea.
From her hiding spot, she could hear Vader’s furious shouting.
“WHERE IS YOUR PASSENGER!”
She couldn’t hear the reply and shivered in the sudden cold as a body thudded to the deck. She didn’t know who it could be. With a pistol ready, she watched through a sliver as two sailors barged their way into her cabin. They gave the room a brief glance before running out, and Leia followed them. Lurking behind them and watching for more sailors. Escape didn’t seem likely, but she wasn’t going to let an opportunity go to waste.
“Mierda!” Two sailors emerged from the darkness in front of her. The two she was following whirled around. She raised her pistol, squeezing off her shot. It was impossibly loud in the enclosed space, and smoke wafted back into her face as the sailor scrambled over their dead companion.
Leia ran down the corridor, already knowing it was too late. A few moments later, large hands seized her shoulders and arms and began to escort her down the corridor and onto the deck. She went more or less peaceably, furious and stewing in her hatred. She was a lady, and she was not going to be dragged, kicking, and screaming to her death.
Emerging on deck into the brilliant sun, left her squinting, but she could see the dark outline of Lord Vader standing amidst her father’s sailors. All of them kneeling, terrified and at his nonexistent mercy. At his feet, Captain Antilles lay still and boneless. She forced herself not to react and met Vader’s ice-blue eyes with every ounce of contempt she could manage.
“Leia Organa,” he growled.
“Only you could be so bold,” she cut him off, enjoying the faint surprise on his face, “or so stupid! This is a consular ship! How dare you attack a member of the Spanish Court!”
“Are you the consular?” A sallow-faced man to Vader’s right asked, disbelieving and mocking all in one. Leia bristled but didn’t have time to reply as Vader backhanded the man hard enough he fell to the deck. Shock rippled through the crowd, and Leia closed her mouth with a snap. Vader’s lean, handsome face was twisted into an ugly scowl. In time with his shouting, the wind gusted across the deck as he loomed over her, tall enough to block out the sun and cast her in an unnaturally deep shadow. His cape snapped at his heels.
“Enough, Princess Organa. You are not a consular vessel. You are a spy!” She refused to be distracted by the gasp from both the British and Spanish sailors. You will not succeed in delivering any secrets to that damnable Frenchman touting himself as emperor! Men! Take Organa to the brig!”
“The brig!” No one moved for a long second, except for the officer still trying to stem his bleeding nose at Vader’s feet. “My lord! She is a lady!”
“Organa is a spy,” Vader snarled, staring Leia down. She refused to give ground, glowering back with just as much contempt and hatred. “She will be treated as such.”
“Then where?” The portly officer asked, “will we put her men?”
Ice-cold horror swamped her stomach. She knew what Vader was going to say before he said it.
“There will be room,” he answered coldly. “Put her in the brig, and burn this ship.”
“No!” She shouted, surging forward. Only to be dragged backward by her escort. “You can’t!”
“Now!” Vader waved a long arm, and they began to pull her toward the gangplank.
“VADER! DON’T YOU DARE! You can have me, but you cannot murder my men!” Protests and shouting erupted from around the deck. None of which would do any good, Leia knew. Vader was ruthless. IT was the very trait that made him infamous across the seven waters. It was why his name was only whispered in pubs and brewhouses, and anywhere sailors settled in for a drink. The very reason the British parliament had ignored his past indiscretions and paid him handsomely to terrorize all of England’s enemies. “VADER!” She began to struggle as she was dragged aboard his vessel, an enormous ship that dwarfed hers in comparison. “VADER!”
She grunted as the sailors pushed her into the cell, the foremost one looking uncomfortable at the manhandling. Even this far into the ship she could hear the shouting of her own men and her own vessel.
“No!” She peered out the little port, trying to see what was happening. They couldn’t die! They couldn’t be burnt! She wouldn’t allow it! The ship would burn, but there was a chance. A slim chance at the flames would reach the gunpowder, and the ship would explode in such a way that the men would be safe enough. There had to be.
Leia bit her knuckles, pressing herself against the bulkhead as an almighty explosion ripped through the air. Her ears popped even as her eyes filled with tears. She could only pray that her message arrived in time.
Do NOT leave a comment to complain about historical accuracy. This is a fanfic.
Chapter 5: Rescue
Luke and Han rescue a bird and a princess.
Vader has a headache.
Do not leave comments complaining of historical accuracy.
“Captain?” Luke handed the man a biscuit as he surveyed the deck and the ocean around them. “What sort of cargo are we expecting?”
“Cargo that will get us paid,” Captain Solo replied, resting heavily on the wheel. “But we don’t move people.”
“Oh,” he squinted against the sunlight, “may I see that telescope?”
“Here,” Solo passed it over, and Luke trained the glass on a distant, struggling figure. “What do you see?”
“A bird.” Luke frowned at the sight. “A bird that...it is carrying a message.”
“I see a...a scroll tied to its legs.” He passed the eyeglass over to Han, “look.”
“I’m looking...I’m looking...that is odd. Mr. Skywalker,” he set the eyeglass down and set his hands on his hips. “Why is it, when something strange happens, it is usually around you?”
“Uncle Owen used to ask me a lot,” his cook sighed. “Things just happen!”
“I’m sure they do. Well, if the bird makes it to us, then we’ll see what happens. How is that coffee coming?”
“Strong as ever, Captain Solo. This Turkish stuff is strong.”
“That’s the way we like it,” Han glowered over at one of the sailors lurking just within ear-shot. His and Luke’s relationship had become the running joke of the crew. Everyone, including Chewie, was betting to see when he’d properly bed the American. Someone was betting that he already had. The sailor shrugged, winking unrepentantly at Luke’s backside, before shuffling off. For a crew that had been terrified of having a sea-witch on board, they had certainly adapted well enough. Han cleared his throat. “When are those damn eggs going to hatch?”
“A few more weeks, Captain Solo.” Luke’s attention was still on the bird. “You can’t rush these things.”
“We don’t have any other chickens on board, and we certainly don’t have a rooster.”
“I think she met a handsome cock in Cueta,” he replied and Han blushed a bit at the word choice. “Just leave her be.”
“I hate Soup,” Han grumbled, leaning against the railing beside Luke. There wasn’t much else to do right now.
“Then I won’t make it anymore!” Skywalker moved a foot away, scoffing. “If that’s how you feel.”
“No, Mr. Skywalker! That’s not what I meant!”
“I knew you didn’t like my cooking!” The sudden mood whiplash left the Prussian floundering. Han grimaced as soft cries escaped the hands Luke had pressed to his face. “You don’t like my soup! I try so hard and you mock me!”
“That’s not what I meant!” Han yelled, his voice rising loud enough to catch the attention of his men.
“What’s going on ‘ere?” Mulligan demanded, and Han’s mouth dropped open as Luke rushed to the other man. The man grinned as he wrapped his arms around Luke. “What happened, Mr. Cook?” He patted the shaking shoulders, winking at Han.
“Captain Solo doesn’t like soup!” Luke cried, voice shaking.
“That’s not what I meant! I just don’t like that damn chicken! Soup! That chicken named Soup!”
“Captain Solo,” Mulligan leaned away with Luke still sobbing into his chest. “For shame! All the work he does and you don’t even like his food!”
“That’s not!” Helplessly, he gestured and sighed. “Alright, I’m sorry, Mr. Skywalker. I didn’t mean to insult your cooking.” Han was turning to look back at the approaching bird when he caught a glimpse of Luke turning his head a bit and grinning. “YOU LITTLE!”
Chortling at his expense, Luke ducked around Mulligan and took off for the lower decks.
“How long have you been waiting to use that joke!” Han demanded before Luke could scamper away.
“Pretty much since the beginning!” The American disappeared below decks and Mulligan began to laugh.
“A dirty trick, eh, Captain?”
“You’re all corrupting him,” Han grumbled, leaning against the deck to watch the struggling bird.
“I think that’s all you, Captain Solo.”
“I’ve got it!” Luke reemerged with a length of smoked jerky and a teacup of water in one hand and a length of cloth in the other. “Does anyone know how to catch a Falcon?”
“I do,” Han grimaced as he accepted the cloth and wrapped it around his forearm. “I’ll get you back for that.”
“Sorry, Herr Kapitän,” Skywalker didn’t look repentant though. “Where did you learn to work with Falcons?” He asked, and Han decided not to answer. Instead, he gave a shrieking whistle, which caught the bird's attention. Luke waved the food as it adjusted course, no longer sweeping for the mast, but for Han’s outstretched arm.
“Give me the meat,” Han ordered, and Luke passed it over just as the falcon dropped heavily onto Han’s arm. Against all common sense, Han brought the shivering, shaking bird close to his chest. Its wings flapped around his shoulders as if hugging him, and Han lifted the piece of meat up, letting go as the sharp beak ripped into it.
“Poor birdie,” Luke crooned, holding the tea-cup up and grinning as the bird dipped it’s head down and drank. “Did you get the message?”
“Ja,” Han hand Luke the paper as the bird finally gathered itself. “What does it say?”
“Hold on.” The three men turned as familiar screeching and clucking reached them. From the hatch, emerged Soup. She fluttered onto deck, hissing and swiveled her head around. “Oh, dear.”
The falcon tilted its head as Soup stalked around across the deck and then fluttered against Han's shoulder.
“Soup is...strange,” Luke said as his chicken stalked back toward the hatchway and then screeched at them. “Han, I think she wants us to follow her?”
“Mr. Skywalker, I am not following a chicken,” Han grumbled but obeyed nonetheless. Down the three of them trooped into the lower decks, following the huffing chicken. They reached the section of the hold Soup had quarantined for her still incubating clutch. She hopped back onto her nest and glared imperiously at the three humans prepared a comfortable nest for the drooping, exhausted falcon.
“Not the strangest thing I’ve done,” Mulligan said, as he watched his captain settled the struggling bird onto the blanket and packing materials. Luke set the tea-cup and kissed the top of its head as it almost immediately fell over asleep.
“Mulligan, do get the falcon some more meat for when it wakes.”
“Aye, sir.” The man left and Captain Solo turned to him
“Alright, Mr. Skywalker! What does that note say?”
“Perhaps we should get out of here?” Luke suggested as Soup puffed up, hissing at them.
“Agreed,” Solo said automatically, and they hurried back up the steps and retreated to the captain's cabin.
“It reads,” Luke scanned the letter, confused. “It’s for...Obi-Wan Kenobi, of the East India Company. They’ve asked for us to deliver this letter if we find it.”
“Well, read it!”
“Obi-Wan Kenobi, I will not be able to bring this message to you directly. I only pray that my falcon reaches you. Know that my ship has been intercepted by Lord Vader, and I will be unable to bring the support and aid needed for your mission. I pray to God that your endeavour finds success. Signed, Princess Leia Organa. hmm, she’s Spanish.”
“Scheisse!” Han slapped his knee. “If Vader has her, she’s dead.”
“Because she’s Spanish! Spain and England have been fencing for control of the oceans!”
“We’ll go rescue her!” Luke blinked a few times when Han’s’ disbelieving gaze turned to him. “What?”
“Do you know who Vader is?”
“He’s a privateer! Hired by Queen Amidala to destroy all ships, not English! He is a,” the man halted and Luke tilted his head. “He’s a...a...dangerous man. Very dangerous. You don’t just attack him! We don’t even know where he is!”
“How far can that kind of bird fly? It must have been trying to cross the strait, so it should have come from the northern side. It was flying from the north and must have gotten blown off track!”
“No!” Han waved him off. “Too dangerous.”
“But she’s a princess! They come with money. If we can save her, then Spain will pay you!”
“I’m not getting involved! It’s too dangerous.”
“She needs help, Captain Solo,” Luke implored. “If Lord Vader is as dangerous as you’ve said, then we should rescue her!”
“If they’re headed toward the north, chances are they’re hit a British friendly port in Portugal since they can’t land in Spain.”
“If Lord Vader landed in Spain, they’d have him hanged.”
“Exactly. So where would he go?”
“Probably...Lisbon,” Han rubbed his jaw. “Friendly with England... and money.”
“And then we can catch up with that ship! Get the Princess!”
“We can’t reach Lisbon in time to catch him! That’s insane! The Falcon is fast, but not that fast.”
“Yes, it is!” The conviction in Luke’s voice was almost enough to convince Han to try. “Captain, this woman is in danger! We have to help her!”
“This is insanity!”
“It isn’t, ask the crew! Ask Chewie! I know they’ll agree to it too!”
“Fine!” Han exclaimed. “We’ll ask the crew!”
Together they moved to the mess and Luke rang the meal bell. It brought confused sailors running, Chewie slipped into the room toward the end.
“Alright!” Han whistled. “We intercepted a bird today. A bird not normally used to deliver messages.”
“Princess Leia Organa of Spain has been captured by Lord Vader.” Whispered fear broke out amongst the men. “Probably being transported to Lisbon before taken to London, if she’s still alive. We know what Vader does to ships he catches.” Fear hung heavy over the room. “Mr. Skywalker,” the all turned to stare at him. “Thinks that not only can we catch up with Lord Vader, we can also rescue the princess for a substantial reward.”
The silence following was deafening, but Luke didn’t let it deter him.
“We can rescue Princess Organa, gentlemen. We have to!”
“Why?” Someone asked and Luke swallowed had.
“She needs help. I cannot imagine a privateer like Vader ever arresting anyone that we could find to be our enemies. I cannot imagine that he would show any justice to the delicate princess at his mercy. You all helped me when I needed it. You brought me aboard and you didn’t leave me in Ceuta. You’ve trusted me so far.”
“But...how can we get there fast enough? It’s.” Another man asked, and then grunted. It sounded like someone had kicked him.
“It isn’t impossible!” Han interjected hastily. “I thought I’d ask the crew before risking their lives...on a mission to assault Lord Vader...a very...dangerous man.”
For some reason, the rest of the crew looked back at Luke.
“Do you really think we can catch up to Vader before he leaves Lisbon?” Mulligan asked Luke. The weight of their stares threw him off, but he nodded.
“Yes, the winds will be with us.”
Looks were exchanged and then Mulligan nodded.
“I’m in, Captain Solo. Anything to fuck with the British and anything to fuck with Vader.”
“Aye! Captain Solo, we’ll sail straight and true and we’ll get that pretty princess.”
“AYE!” The mess rang with shouts of agreement and Luke’s excitement swelled even as Captain Solo’s expression turned sour.
“Fine!” He glared at Luke, “she better be rich!”
The brig of the HMS Executor was as nice as could be expected but still cold and the damp of the water around them was soaking through her dress. Chains had been foregone entirely, the officers seemed reluctant to put in the brig, much less chain her up.
Screams and cries still haunted her nights, and when she closed her eyes she could still Captain Antilles body, laying on the deck. She could still see the bird, never intended to be a message carrier, swooping over the water and flying into the sun.
“Princess Organa.” She was broken from her reverie as a man approached. This officer was new, shorter than the last with a mousy disposition and a look of perpetual exhaustion on his face. His uniform was impeccable, and his bearing, genteel. There were two sailors behind him. “A moment of your time, if you please.”
“What does your Lord Vader want?”
“Princess Organa,” the man opened the door and stood to the side. “If you please.”
“Very well.” With every dignity, Leia lifted her skirts out of the water and moved across the cell. “Who are you?”
“Captain Piett, your royal highness.” He bowed and Leia wondered if she ought to correct his assumption.
“Very well, Captain Piett,” she gestured down the dingy hall, “lead on.” His gray eyes searched her face and he was silent for a moment before nodding. They went down the hall, and then into one of the upper floors to an enormous office. Seated at an enormous desk was the sea-witch, Lord Vader. His sinister disposition hadn’t lessened in the few days since Leia’s capture, and his ice-blue eyes made her tremble minutely as they rose to meet hers.
She remained silent as the captain guided her into the chair. For several minutes the princess and privateer stared.
“Captain Piett,” Vader waved a hand carelessly. “Bring in some tea and lunch.”
“Yes, milord.” Piett departed, but the soldiers did not.
“Your accommodations have much left to be desired. I’m not sure what else I expected, from English hospitality.”
“Oh?” He seemed amused. “Guest quarters are for guests, not for spies.”
Her retort died on her lips as the door opened and a delicious scent reached her nose. As she watched, Captain Piett began to set a beautifully arranged meal on the desk. The fine china and the silver gleamed in the lantern light, and steam wafted from the freshly poured tea that Piett immediately handed to Lord Vader.
“When you left Spain, Organa.” Leia didn’t balk under the disrespect but kept her expression cool and calm. “You left on a mission.”
“I have been appointed to an ambassadorship position.”
“Your ship was carrying a great deal of gunpowder for one simply making a delivery of an ambassador.”
“Haven’t you heard, Lord Vader?” Leia asked, tugging her manilla closer and glaring. “There are dangerous privateers out on these waters. Attacking and murdering innocent sailors. My father.”
“You are not innocent, Organa. Your efforts and intents are criminal.”
“You are acting out of bounds, Lord Vader,” Leia hissed. “I know the purview and scope of Queen Amidala's attack dogs, and you are far out of your jurisdiction. I was headed to my new posting, given by.”
“What were you transporting, Organa?”
“You murdered my captain on a foolish pretext!”
Vader sipped his tea and then gestured to the plate. “Princess, you have not eaten since you were brought on board. Would you like something to eat?” The abrupt turnaround made her blink and Leia straightened herself even further.
She remained silent, even if her stomach did not.
“What were you transporting, Organa?” Vader asked again, and the delicious smell tickled her nose.
“I have only told the truth of the matter,” Leia said softly, seething with rage. “I believe we’re finished.”
“I will discover what you’re hiding, Princess Organa,” Vader warned her, “and I do not have to be so polite the next time I question you. Why not eat?”
“It is,” she whirled around, her flying manilla forcing him to lean back a bit and Leia snatched up her teacup. “A matter of principle!” Vader’s cool smirk at the sight of the tea aiming for his face faded into a sputtered outrage as the liquid splashed against his face. “Escort me back to my cell, Captain Piett.” Leia stalked from the room, forcing Piett and the two soldiers to jog to keep up as she left.
Lord Vader blinked tea out of his eyes, staring at the liquid dripping off his face and onto his desk and the food.
He hadn’t wanted the water to touch him, and normally it obeyed his commands. It would have stopped halfway to his face. Princess Organa had thrown water in his face, against all odds.
Han didn’t tell Luke that reaching Lisbon just behind Lord Vader and his ship was impossible, and he made sure no one else did either. So long as he thought the winds and currents would be in their favor, they would be.
As it was, they were making excellent time.
Against all odds.
Leia couldn’t see much from her small porthole, just a high congestion of ships and eventually her view was blocked by another British warship. This ship was ruined, its mast looked as if it had been blasted off. She squinted at the name etched on the side, but it looked as if it had also been burned away.
The whole ship stank of bad luck, not that Leia was inclined to believe in that. Something whispered into her ear that this ship was doomed.
“That is the HMS Devastator, my lord.” Captain Piett detested the ship, having once spent near a year at sea with the slimy Kendal Ozzel at command. Even without the name visible, he could recognize the ship anywhere, from the mast to the barnacles clinging to its sides.
“Damaged,” Lord Vader’s blue eyes narrowed at the sight of the ship. One of the longboats was gone, and lighting scars riddled the side. “What happened?”
“A lightning storm perhaps, sir.”
“Perhaps.” The man didn’t look convinced. He had been pensive since Organa had come aboard, going so far as to collect a few drops of her blood. Whatever uses he had for the princess's blood, Vader hadn’t bothered to elaborate, but it made Piett’s stomach churn, anticipating a hurricane rising from the ocean depths to destroy their ship. But they had only smooth sailing, and Piett was hoping the man's suspicions were baseless. “Cody!” Piett jerked back as another man snuck up behind him, somehow managing to appear without Piett nothing him.
“Find out what happened to the Devastator,” Vader paused and then added, “discreetly.”
“Yes, sir.” The man moved away and Piett wondered who he was.
“Something,” Vader sniffed the air, sucking in a deep lungful of air. “Isn’t right.”
“Yes, my lord.” Captain Piett knew that Vader had a temper as temperamental as the seas themselves, and didn’t want to do anything to get himself drowned.
Luke was entranced by the sight of Lisbon. The city was beautiful, colorful, and almost sparkling beneath the perfect day. There were so many boats, and hundreds of people crawling all over them.
“Mr. Skywalker,” Captain Solo came up behind him. “If your princess is on one of the British ships we’ll need a plan to get her off.”
“Do you still have the British naval uniforms?”
“I have French too, but a little old.”
“We’ll need to distract the crew,” Luke said, “they’ll be onshore, getting drunk and enjoying leave. The best thing to do would be to get them extremely drunk, drunk enough that if this doesn’t work the way we plan then they won’t be able to immediately take off after us.”
“That’s,” Han rubbed his chin, staring down at the unassuming blond cook. Skywalker was still staring at the city getting closer and closer. “A good plan, but Vader’s men don’t get drunk on shore leave. They’re famous for it, tipsy, yes, but I heard that last man that got sopping drunk on leave was flogged to death.”
“Hmmm, then there must be a way to distract them.” He mused.
“I don’t know, but if they’re busy on shore-leave.”
“I know!” Luke turned around, startling the men surrounding him. “We don’t have to get them sopping drunk! Listen, they just need the company and to be distracted. Mulligan, Lord Vader’s crew will want company. Fellow seamen!”
“You mean to sit with those privateers and push stories?”
“Exactly, interesting ones! Ones that will keep them distracted. Captain Solo and I can go aboard the Devastator and fetch Princess Leia.”
“What about Vader?”
“Bringing a ship into port, a privateer ship even, will not make the local governor happy. Lord Vader might have the power of the sea, but even he has to deal with politicians.” Han nodded. “Men, you don’t have to do this, but.”
“Give us extra money for drinks, Captain Solo,” Mulligan exclaimed, “and we’ll spin those Storm Troopers tales wild enough to keep them chasing their hair!”
“Storm Troopers?” Luke whispered to Han as the other sailors began plotting their different stories, electing unanimously to avoid talking about Luke at all.
“Vader summons storms,” Han replied, “his men survive them. That is why they are called Storm Troopers.”
“But we don’t have a plan to get the princess.”
“We need those uniforms,” Luke said firmly. “And we’ll have to come up with a plan on the way there.”
“So what happened?” Vader stared down his favorite sailor and long-time companion. “Commander Cody?”
“Mutiny,” Cody responded, handing Vader a shortlist. “These sailors were executed by Captain Ozzel.”
“Twelve?” Twelve was a lot to execute.
“Twelve men and the scuttlebutt says that the longboat missing was the one they were attempting to steal.”
“This is a cover-up.” Vader stared out the carriage windows at the passing cities. He hated politicians and he hated meeting governors and such who demanded to meet the infamous sea-witch. If it weren’t so politically inadvisable, he could call a hurricane to drown out the city, a tidal wave to ruin its buildings. It wouldn’t do anything to those hated, except create even more hardship on the poor.
“My thoughts exactly.” Cody leaned away from the window in case anyone else saw him. “The stories matched too perfectly. Every sailor on board is terrified. The man’s been free with his whip on all of them.”
“Find the cabin boy,” Vader ordered as he mused over the reasons that Ozzel would hide something under the guise of a mutiny. “Move guards from the princess if you have to.”
“Make sure that Ozzel never notices that he’s missing,” the sea-witch stressed the order. “Bring him to my hotel.”
“Yes, sir.” Cody grinned at Captain Piett’s confused expression. Vader leaned toward the window as they passed through a narrow street.
“You’re clear,” Vader said, and within seconds, Cody was climbing out of the window and on the roof. Within moments the carriage felt lighter as the man jumped off the carriage and disappeared. Even as Captain Piett leaned out the window and looked around for him.
“My lord,” Piett's confusion wasn’t evident, but Vader knew him and this close, he could feel the man’s blood pumping. “I don’t understand.”
“What?” Though one corner of his hat covered his damaged eye, Vader could see the man lick his lips faintly and then shake his head. “Captain Piett?”
“Why stay in a hotel?” The man asked, and Vader smiled faintly, allowing the swaying motion of the carriage to bring him closer to the man. “You’ve stayed on board the ship in every other port we’ve been to.”
“Well-noticed.” He hated being away from the sea, and away from the ocean. The saltwater ran through his veins as much as blood, and he could spend an entire evening swimming and never tire. Today though, he had a headache. A pounding pulse between his eyes that had worsened over the last two weeks. Every moment carriage drew him further from the ocean, the looser the grip the headache had on him. As he had never experienced this before, Vader had no idea what was wrong. When he didn’t elaborate, Piett spoke up again.
“My lord...forgive my questions, but why did you execute Captain Motti?”
“I did not execute Motti,” he replied, reaching up to rub his temples.
“Forgive me, my lord...did you not feed him to the sea creature.”
“I did feed him to the Kraken.” The carriage rattled over an uneven cobblestone. “I murdered him.” He had to hand it to Piett, the man seemed steady as he continued his explanation. “Because he was a fool.”
“A fool?” Now the man’s voice was soft, trembling faintly. Vader grinned as the man gathered himself. “What made him such a fool, my lord?”
“He ignored the danger in front of him,” the sea-witch responded.
“He did not believe she could be a spy.”
“Which meant he was dangerously stupid, too stupid to be left alive and to captain my ship.”
“Yes,” he heard Piett swallow hard. “My lord.”
Vader smiled again as the carriage turned onto the road that would take them to the Palace of Queluz.
“Oh damn.” Luke, Han, and Chewie were all dress in nondescript clothes and carrying bags with their disguises. Their trek through the city was echoed, and altered, by the men that had followed them to distract Vader’s Storm Troopers.
“What is it?” Han asked, and Luke pointed to the damaged ship drawn up on the pier beside Vader’s.
“That’s the Devastator!” The boy looked haunted, drawing away from the ship and pressing into the space between Han and Chewie. Sailors were milling about and it was only a matter of time before someone noticed that the three of them weren’t moving. Han shoved an arm over Luke’s shoulder and directed him away from the crowds and into a small alley.
“That’s Ozzel’s ship!” Luke gulped, “that’s the ship that kidnapped me! That’s his ship! That’s the ship they wanted to murder me on!”
“Alright, alright,” Chewie stared at Han and then at Luke. “Looks like you did some real damage, Mr. Skywalker. The mast is missing.”
“That would be the lightning bolt.” The American cradled his right hand to his chest, the phantom pain from months ago echoing through his muscles. They spasmed horribly against his shirt and he leaned into the hug Chewie wrapped him in. “They’ll notice me, Captain Solo. I think they’ll recognize me.”
“Then we’ll make them not.” Han nodded grimly. “I know a few tricks to hide you.”
“They’re still loading the ship,” Luke noted, dimly ignoring the captain. “They won’t go on leave until that’s finished.”
“Which gives us plenty of time to make sure,” Han flicked his hair a bit, “that this is not noticeable.”
An even longer evening of dealing with royals and their other assorted guests, all hastily called together to oogle the sea-witch, was begged off by Lord Vader’s claim of a headache. Piett didn’t believe a word of it, he didn’t think the man could get headaches.
Nonetheless, by the time dark rolled around, they were headed back into the city proper. Piett was even more curious about Lord Vader than ever. He had been polite but strained. Clearly he had practice dealing with nobility, being noble himself, and he wanted to be free of the interaction.
The man didn’t like being away from the ocean, Piett knew that much. He also wasn’t sure what they’d find out from the cabin boy. He was slightly afraid of how Lord Vader would handle a young man, a terrified young man, in his current condition.
Ozzel’s cabin boy was younger than most cabin boys, only looking to be about 10 or 12, with a crooked nose and wide brown eyes that were soaking up the entire hotel room. He was clutching his little blue cap between grubby fingers, worrying the fabric around as he rocked back and forth on the couch. He was skinnier than Piett expected, with a narrow face that spoke of underfeeding.
Piett made himself unobtrusive and took up a shadowed corner of the room as the boy was distracted by the arrival of Lord Vader. The lad jumped to his feet, offering a snappy salute, but too terrified to speak.
Vader didn’t acknowledge the boy, but gave an appraising glance and then opened the door to a startled servant. She had her hand raised, as if to knock.
“Come in, then.” He ordered gruffly. Captain Piett didn’t understand why he went through the charade of offering the boy tea. A good cabin boy and member of Her Majesty’s Navy would never attempt to hide secrets from an officer and a gentleman. Vader could simply order the boy to speak and be done.
It wasn’t just tea, it was tea and scones and there was a pitcher of milk. Piett watched as Vader waved the servant woman out, and set about steeping the tea himself.
“Sit down,” Vader said, not looking up from where he was focusing on the water in front of him. Immediately the boy plopped back down onto the couch. “Do you know who I am, lad?”
“Lord Vader,” the boy swallowed hard as Vader set the leaves in the water, and then settled into the couch on the other side of the tea-table. “Um…”
“What is your name?”
“My name?” The dark eyes were focused on the scones, but he didn’t dare reach for one.
“It’s Jamie, my lord. Jamie Faber.” Several minutes passed in silence, and Piett stifled a yawn into his shoulder. Too much wine with dinner was putting him off. Vader finally poured two cups of tea and set one in front of Mr. Faber.
“Have a scone, Mr. Faber.”
“Have a scone, Mr. Faber,” Lord Vader ordered. Fine bone-china rattled as the boy jumped forward to grab one. He cowered on the couch, clutching his crumbling scone and his rattling teacup.
“Thank you,” Jamie blurted out before scarfing down the scone greedily, crumbs flew about and Piett resisted the urge to scoff. Disgusting.
“What happened to your ship?” Lord Vader sipped his tea, watching over the gold-rimmed cup as the boy gulped down a mouthful of scalding tea in his surprise.
“My ship, milord?” His eyes darted around the room, looking for an escape. Only to see Piett at the window, and Cody at the door. “Erm...there was a mutiny,” he parroted faithfully. “They meant to seize the ship. Captain Ozzel and his first officer fought them off.”
“Really?” The word was silk wrapped iron, Piett gulped on reflex about just hearing it. Mr. Faber leaned away from the sea-witch, mouth wobbling.
“I...wouldn’t lie,” Mr. Faber gulped.
“Not to an officer and a gentleman?” Lord Vader asked.
“No, my lord?” Faber shook his brown hair, just beginning to curl at the ends, bounced around his head.
“You wouldn’t lie to a sea-witch?” The enormous man leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and his chin on his fists. He wasn’t attempting to loom, but Piett didn’t think the man could do anything else.
“Would you...lad?” Jamie’s reaction to the emphasis on the last word nearly off-put Piett from his outrage at the idea he would lie to Lord Vader about the nature of the Devastator's ruination. The cabin boy leaped onto the couch, getting mud everywhere, he noted and hurled his teacup at Lord Vader before diving over the side and making a run for the door.
He didn’t make it past Cody, the older man sweeping the skinny boy into his arms and clamping a gloved hand over his mouth before he could start screaming. Cody hoisted him up and turned around just in time for Mr. Faber to see Vader set the teacup back onto the table. The tea, floating in an undulating blob sloshed into it a moment later. The single drop making its way to the floor floated back up the join the rest.
Vader’s thunderous expression was echoed by Piett’s and reflected in the wide-eyed terror on Jamie’s face. The boy thrashed in Cody’s grip, trying to bite through the glove.
“Calm down, boy.” Lord Vader barked, “you’ll work yourself into a fever with all that panicking. If you agree to not scream, Cody will move his hand and we’ll discuss things. Agreed?” Wide brown eyes closed ones, grieving Piett thought, and the boy nodded. Cody lifted his hand away and Jamie blubbered.
“Please, my lord. Please! I’m sorry, please don’t kill me!”
“I’m not going to kill you, boy.” Vader scoffed, but Piett wasn’t too sure. “I simply want to know what happened to the ship.”
“I,I …” The boy sucked on his lower lip, enormous tears leaking from his eyes, and he shook his head. “It wasn’t a mutiny.” Vader nodded to Cody, who let the boy slid back to the floor and then guided him back to the couch. The manservant (?) handed Jamie a thick mug of tea instead of a delicate cup. For a few seconds, the cabin boy didn’t speak, he just held the mug between his hands. “It started when we went to America.”
“That’s the last of their new cargo,” Han said, passing his spyglass to Luke. “And two guards on the gang-plank. Our uniforms won’t work, Vader’s men all have their own uniforms.”
“They’ll get us on the British docks,” Luke said, his head was still wet, and water was dripping from his hair onto his collar. He hadn’t known that tea water could be used as a cheap hair dye. Getting used to having brown hair was taking a bit of time. “And we can get one of the rowboats over to the Devastator, pretend to be inspecting the damage. Since the Executor is so close, we’ll just have to go over.”
“Great idea!” Han nodded to Chewie, “we still need one person to get her out of the cell.”
“I’ll do it.” Luke nodded forcefully and Han wondered if all Americans were this stupidly righteous.
“The captain paid for a sailor, or...not really a sailor. A man named Luke Farmer,” Jamie gulped down his lukewarm tea. “Paid twenty pounds to find out he only knew how to cook, not sail. I thought he was worth the money, Mr. Farmer was the best cook I’ve ever served with.”
“How long have you been serving?” Vader asked and the boy scratched at his nose.
“Three...or four years. I don’t much remember London, just sailing.”
“What was wrong with this...Mr. Farmer?”
“Nothin’, he was a good cook. He was a nice man. He made the best coffee and the best tea, and sometimes he’d make up a little pie with some leftovers. Once, he gave me some and.” Jamie paused to suck on his lower lip, tears still dripping from his eyes. He sniffed heavily. “He was a good cook.”
“So, Captain Ozzel hated him.”
“I guess because Mr. Farmer was nicer than he was...smarter...and more handsome. All the boys liked him and one night Captain Ozzel sent four of his bully boys to teach him a lesson.”
“A cowardly attack,” Vader shook his head as Mr. Faber nodded.
“ ‘cept it didn’t work out. The next day Mr. Farmer comes out looking just a shiny and blond as ever, but he was limping and he was faking it.”
“How did you know he was affecting a limp?”
“I saw him, walking out of his office after bringing in breakfast. He walking normally and everything.”
“Did you tell Captain Ozzel?”
“He didn’t ask.”
“I see,” Vader stared down the still crying child. “Please continue.”
“Well, I heard the boys didn’t want to fight him...because he was nice and he made the best food. The rest of the crew heard, and they weren’t happy because they liked Mr. Farmer's food, not the other cooks.”
“So they protected him?”
“Yes, my lord.”
The damage to the Devastator was impressive, considering it had all been caused by one man. One sea-witch, Han corrected himself. One sea-witch had blasted the main mast apart, running lightning scars down the rest of the ship, and shattered all of the glass in the windows. It was amazing to see.
He watched from the rowboat, bobbing just beside the Devastator as he pretended to be, and actually was, inspecting the damage.
Han had been at sea long enough to know what a doomed ship looked like. The dark skies above kept their little boat covered in shadows, the oars wrapped in cloth kept them silent (though they hardly seemed to need them).
With Vader’s crew preoccupied, with generous help from Han’s own crew, the deck and unoccupied and the ship was under little guard. After all, who would be stupid enough to attack a sea-witches vessel?
“It was late at night when he decided he was done with Mr. Farmer. He got two men...and the ship's chaplain and the first officer...he was going to have Mr. Farmer killed and….and they had to drag him up. He was fighting. It was.” He fell silent for a single moment, and Piett watched as Lord Vader struggle to hold his temper. “Storming...suddenly.”
“It wasn’t storming when they went to get Mr. Farmer.” Vader straightened slightly, and even Cody frowned. “And then the seas got choppy...and the...and the sky got cloudy. The ship was rocking suddenly and that’s what woke up.”
Mr. Faber leaned forward as if to divulge a grand secret. Vader leaned forward, as did Cody and Piett and the cabin boy whispered. “The attack chicken.”
“The...attack chicken?” Vader repeated dubiously.
“Aye, milord. Mr. Farmer got one of the birds below to be his friend. Soup, he called her. The meanest chicken I’ve ever seen. She started up her fuss and the whole of the crew came on deck. The storm was picking up. I’ve only ever seen that happen when...you do that.” Mr. Faber gulped down the rest of his tea. “Wasn’t normal either, the sky was lit up with St. Elmo’s fire.”
“St. Elmo’s fire?” Vader mused and nodded for him to continue.
“Then...the started up, and Captain Ozzel...he got punched. Mr. Farmer got him, knocked him down and by then Soup had woken up most of the crew. They came running out on the deck. I don’t...then the lightning bolt hit the mast.”
“Green lightning, milord.” Mr. Faber nodded furiously, curls bouncing about. “Mr. Farmer did,” he made a wide gesture and then pointed down furiously. “That, and then the lightning hit the mast. Then it just kept coming. The men started fighting the first mate and when I could see again, Mr. Farmer was at longboat. I didn’t see what happened after that...but then the other men came up and started shooting. That night….” His lip wobbled again. “We got caught in a horrible storm, it ripped the mast the rest of the way off and Captain Ozzel had all the men who’d defended Mr. Farmer executed.” He looked away, crying again. “He didn’t even wait to listen to them! He just had them shot, and shoved overboard! No funeral, no nothing! They wanted to defend their friend and he just killed them!” He was comporting himself admirably for a boy who had witnessed his captain murder twelve men and then had to spend the rest of the time serving said captain. Piett could only assume that Captain Ozzel would take his anger out on the closest victim he had, one who couldn’t fight back. He wanted to sigh loudly and run his hand through his hair, but he didn’t.
Vader seemed to loosen the longer the boy cried silently.
“Mr. Faber, was there anything unusual about this Mr. Farmer when the lightning struck?”
He nodded, and Cody patted the thin shoulders awkwardly. The sea-witch handed his agent a delicate handkerchief who then passed it to the boy. After a few more minutes, his tears slowed and he regained more control. “His eyes were glowing like a lantern. He looked...horrible...nothing like before.”
“Hmm,” With a deep, rumbling sigh, Vader leaned back in his seat. “And then the ship limped to port, all while suffering Ozzel’s increasing paranoia?”
“I...what?” Mr. Faber looked up and Vader cleared his throat.
“He jumped at shadows? He accused everyone?”
“Oh, yes, my lord.” The boy scrubbed his eyes, “please, Lord Vader, don’t make me go back. Please, I can’t go back to that ship! It’s awful! I’m...I’m smart and I can read! I know how to sail and I.” The words were cut off as the man raised a hand.
“The seas have decreed that ship to be doomed,” Lord Vader intoned, and Piett felt a shiver work its way down his spine. “For tonight you will stay here. Cody will make arrangements for you.”
“But,” the wide-fearful gaze hadn’t abated and seemed to have increased. ‘My lord.”
“You have nothing to fear, Mr. Faber. Cody.”
“Yes, sir,” Cody stood up and Mr. Faber followed and soon Piett and Vader were alone in the darkening room. As soon as the boy was gone, Vader leaned forward and rubbed at his temples.
“Would you like me to fetch a doctor?” He asked and Vader shook his head. “Then?”
“You may retire for the evening, Captain Piett.”
“My lord?” he moved from his position at the window and halted as Vader tilted his head just enough for Piett to catch a sight of his blue eyes, now tinted with a dangerous amount of amber. “Of course, my lord...good evening.”
“Hmmm.” He left the man to stew in his headache and went to his own room. It was clear to him now, exactly why Lord Vader refused to allow cabin boys aboard his ship. They were young and impetuous and they knew everything.
But why bring Piett into this? Lord Vader was notoriously private and the fact that Piett had been allowed to witness the conversation was...alarming.
Piett wasn’t well-connected or wealthy, he had his name and his meager inheritance...but no real power. Did the sea-witch want Piett to be loyal only to him? Did he expect Piett to have insight into the situation?
What did the man want?
Climbing onto the ship was easier than Luke expected. A sudden swell in the water meant that he could reach up and grab the first handhold. Han and Chewie boosted him the rest of the way, and even with his pained right hand, he could manage the climb easily. Han climbed up behind him and Chewie stayed to man the boat to help with the runaway.
Luke was climbing on deck when the thought struck him that dense fog would be useful.
“You’re going to get a nosebleed, sir.” Cody was back. The front of his shirt was wet and Vader assumed it had to do with wrestling an angry child into a bath.
“The weather must hold.” Vader was stretched across the sofa, his hand resting on his temples.
“Holding back a storm isn’t any good.”
“Normally they dissipate,” the man admitted, “This one keeps building.”
“Aye, as if the storm is demanding to break free.”
“Maybe it is, you’re only going to make the inevitable worse.” Cody reminded him, wandering around the room. “Instead of a bit of rain, they’ll be drowned out.”
“I believe Mr. Farmer that the child mentioned might be another sea-witch,” he stood, reluctantly and then let out a deep breath. Almost immediately the air pressure changed, the wind picked up, and ominous rumbling came from the distance. “It is going to be a terrible storm.” He moved to the window, watching the crowds below begin to scurry.
“We’ve weathered worse,” Cody reminded him. “If Mr. Farmer was lost at sea, it is possible he’s dead?”
“No, if he were...the ship would have been destroyed.”
“You said it was doomed.”
“It is,” Vader turned from the window and continued to rub at his head. “Another sea-witch and Ozzel knew that if word got out then there would be hell to pay.”
“All sea-witches are to serve Queen Amidala or be destroyed.”
“Exactly, and he wouldn’t kill the cabin boy, because then he’d have to do his own work.” Vader snorted. “How is the… “boy”?”
“Just fine once I had to explain that you weren’t going to tell anyone their secret.”
“As soon as we take Organa, we’ll begin the hunt for the sea-witch.”
“Yes, sir,” Vader and Cody paused as the man began to clothes to curtains, admiring the dense fog rolling in ahead of the storm.
“Tch, I can summon fog twice this dense.” He shut the curtains, scoffing.
Leia stared out the tiny porthole at the dense fog beyond it. She could taste lightning in the air, the charge of an approaching storm. Once upon a time the sea had been a beautiful place to her, she had never feared the storms, the crashing waves, or any of the dangers that lurked below.
Now, in the dingy big of Lord Vader’s ship, the sea meant something else.
A noise caught her attention and she sat up. Most of the Storm Troopers had gone onshore for some leave, but it seemed that someone had stayed behind. Someone...was coming closer. Leia gritted her teeth, fear rising.
Who aboard this ship would dare to attack her? Who would?
The man rounded the corner, his uniform was different than Vader’s men, and he had his cap pulled over his eyes.
“Aren’t you wearing the wrong uniform for a Storm Trooper?” She asked, propping her head upon her hand, affecting calm.
“Oh!” The boy's strange accent caught her by surprise, and when he yanked the cap off his head, his smile was blinding. “My disguise! My name is Luke Skywalker, and I’m here to rescue you!”
“What?” She sat up as the boy pulled out the keys and began to unlock her cell.
“We got your message,” Luke said, and Leia jolted upright. “We came to get you.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he held the door open and gestured grandly. “We calculated that Vader would make landfall in Lisbon and we thought we’d come get you.”
“Did you send my message on?” She demanded and Luke Skywalker shook his head and damp brown hair, the same color as hers, bounced around.
“No, we have the fastest ship on the sevens seas, so we can still deliver you safely.”
“This ship is Lord Vader’s ship,” Leia hissed, “he is the Sea-witch dog that Queen Amidala commands.”
“And we can still out-run him,” the man behind Mr. Skwalker is different, his voice colored with a light Prussian accent.
“I need a gun,” she ordered and was surprised when the man handed one over without complaint. Usually, she had to fight to be awarded one.
“We need to get off this ship before Vader comes back,” Mr. Skywalker said pointlessly, and Leia nodded.
“We have a ship waiting,” the other made said, and Leia followed as they led her up through the ship. It seemed to be empty, and she stared in confusion as they ignored the deck and made their way to Vader’s office.
She shivered involuntarily as she remembered the times she had been brought in here for Vader to interrogate.
“Princess...are you alright?” She shrugged of Skywalker’s hand on her shoulder and spotted the damnable tea-set.
“Fine,” she bit out, tucking her pistol into her sash and wrapping every single piece she could manage to fit into her manilla. Setting it on a cushion and setting another on top, she slammed her fist onto the pillow. The sound of shattering china and glass was muffled, and the two men stared at her. She didn’t see them exchange glances as she opened her manilla and tossed the remains of the tea-set over his desk.
“Right,” Mr. Skywalker said, opening one of the wider windows. The second man tossed a bit of rope out. “Princess, we need to go.”
“Who are you?” She demanded as she ripped down every single one of his maps, charts, and his portrait of Queen Amidala, and tossed them into a large crystal bowl.
“Captain Solo of the Millenium Falcon, and we’re here to rescue you, Princess Organa. Get out that window.”
“Who do you serve?” She grabbed one of the matches she happened upon and set out striking it.
“I don’t serve anyone,” Han snapped, “I’m only in this for the money.”
“I am my own man,” the captain hissed as Leia set everything in the bowl on fire. “Are you mad?”
“I’m saving our skins,” she snapped, “unless you want Lord Vader to catch us!” She shoved the astonished man toward the window, grabbing the front of Luke’s shirt and yanking him along.
Behind them, the fire burned merrily.
Vader was jolted awake at a burst of lightning that was swiftly followed by a foundation-rattling clap of thunder. He stared at the dark canopy above him and wondered why he was awake.
Storms didn’t bother him anymore.
He sat up, relishing the fact that his headache had cleared and heard small footsteps about the suite.
“Hmmm.” Pushing the blankets back, he got up and found Jamie Faber wandering anxiously around the suite. “Child,” they jolted around, dressing gown flaring around them and stared up at him with wide, terrified eyes. “What are you doing up?”
“I….the storm woke me, my lord.”
“Indeed.” He was tired, too tired to think clearly. It was the only reason he beckoned them closer. “Why?”
“It reminds me of that night.”
“The night that Mr. Farmer escaped?” He ignored the startled gasp as he hoisted Jamie into his arms, and carried them back into his room. The curtains were pushed back to reveal rain pattering against the glass. There was little else to see.
“Yes,” Jamie’s grip on his shirt tightened, “my lord.”
“There is no need for formalities, my boy.”
“I thought you could stop storms?”
“Some,” he admitted, “many storms must happen. The energy cannot be dispersed, only redirected.” Bright white light filled the room, and thunder echoed a moment later. Vader set his scarred hand on the child’s back as they buried their face into his shoulder.
“Why do you call me boy?” Jamie asked as Vader yanked the curtains closed.
“For all intents and purposes, you are one,” Vader replied, carrying Jamie to the bed and setting him on the side.
“But you know?”
“You didn’t tell Captain Piett,” Jamie noted, scrambling to one side of the bed and staring as Vader slid back under the blankets.
“He’s lack of acknowledgment has been noted.” He closed his eyes, listening to Jamie shift around on the bed. “I presume Captain Ozzel never found out.”
“This isn’t proper, Lord Vader.” He snorted as if he’d ever cared much for propriety.
“For all intents and purposes,” he said, “you are my child. I will not take you aboard the Executor as a cabin boy. You will come as a guest. Until we reach London, consider yourself my ward.”
“But what?” The enormity of what he was offering didn’t matter to him, but the child seemed struck into silence.
“Won’t I have to...wear.”
“Trousers,” he grumbled, “go to sleep, child.”
“But I have my own room.”
“That you were out of and wandering about in a dressing gown because you couldn’t sleep” Vader yawned and listened to Jamie sidle under the sheets and settle down. “I would consider myself a poor parent if I could not provide comfort during a storm.” Memories of his own mother’s words running through his mind, echoing through the crash of thunder that brought the child to his side. “I am a sea-witch, child, you have no reason to fear a storm when you are with me.”
“Yes, sir.” Jamie Faber said quietly and realized the enormous sea-witch had swiftly fallen asleep again. After a few more minutes of listening to the rain, followed swiftly after.
Luke couldn’t believe the amount of rain that was pouring out of the sky. The choppy waters they were trying to navigate in a small longboat in the middle of the night, without lanterns, and without any possible visuals of the shore.
They rocked about in the storm, Leia clamping her hands on Luke’s arms as the boat was tossed about. He clung back, trying to keep his seat, even sitting on a part of her dress to keep her from accidentally falling out.
As the passed along the other side of the Devastator, Luke glanced up. A single light from a window shown down onto the water. Captain Ozzel’s eyes found Luke’s before rolling up in the back of his head and he disappeared from view.
Despite himself, he began to laugh. Leia’s dumbfounded expression of terror shifted too as Luke continued to laugh. He couldn’t explain what was so funny, and soon she was laughing too.
Soaked through to the bone, bobbing around in the worst storm that Lisbon had seen in decades, Luke and Leia were both laughing.
Han grumbled and did his best to keep rowing.
Despite every setback and the terrible weather, they made it back to the Falcon and were pulled onboard by several worried crew members. By the time Luke was dry and changed into some clothes, holding a cup of tea to his chest, he was almost too tired to do his nightly check on Soup and her new falcon friend.
“What is this?” Leia asked, coming up behind him and staring at the nest. Several bright yellow chicks were hobbling around, broken shells covered.
Soup was puffed over the chick, looking as smug as a chicken could.
“Soup, my chicken,” Luke waved at her, keeping his hands out of biting reach. “And her eggs seemed to have hatched.” As they watched the largest chick in the bunch, bright gold, lifted its head toward Luke and Leia and give off three tiny, nervous peeps. She said something in Spanish that Luke didn’t catch, and he blushed as the princess smiled at him.
Outside, the storm lessened.