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The Riddler

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There she was. The captain.
Oh, how much have I heard about her. What will my destiny be? Will my journey end before it even started?
I wish I knew nothing of her, that all I have heard were stories in taverns, so I could dwell in mystery – the hope of her to spare my life.
What a majestic creature. The black cloak was covering her body like it has been painted on, but her shoulders gave it volume; she both looked as scary as a warrior in armour and yet as elegant as a crowned swan. I now know how a queen should appear.
The man behind her was even more curious, if that was possible. His cylinder hat was such not a pirate’s style.
“Marko, is she the girl?” – his voice was too far away from a pirates stereotype.
I mustn’t get fooled: they are on the ship, they have captured you, therefore they are pirates – and you know better than to trust pirates.
“Who else could it be? You are the only woman allowed, here” – the crew abandoned itself in laughter, but the captain only let out a giggle.
“Tuomas, please, reach the wheel” – that was hell of an order. It was kind. Calming, even, but it did not lack a tiny bit of power.
My hope has been - partly - restored: not enough to make me trust her sympathy, but enough to make my heart beat a little faster as the chance of getting my life spared just seemed to have gotten closer. She looks like a fair woman, but as said, my hope was not there yet.
As I’ve seen her taking slow, short steps towards me, both of my thoughts increased their intensity – and so did the contrast they brought along. I could feel my heart about to burst out of my chest, but I stood still. I was waiting.
If she didn’t stare in my eyes so strongly, this await would surely be more bearable – but she got closer, bowing on one knee, leaning her arm on top of the other, then stopped.
I could not anticipate any sort of move, I could just keep on waiting.
She looked like she both wanted to study me and curse me with her stare, but she appeared calm.
I wasn’t in the right position to think rationally, as this all around mystery was forcing my mind to think of any possibility, catch some sort of hint to figure how it would turn out for me, every thought was passing by at an extremely, terrifying speed – but it was all pointless. It was just me and her stare, waiting for my verdict with no way out.
On the outside I could clearly see her intention; intimidating me with just a look, amuse herself as she sees my own mind turn into my weapon. A clear proof of authority, but I somehow did not believe it:
There was a clear divergence between obvious, objective reality and my own deductions: she looked stonecold, and terrifying – one word and my life would be blown away, but I forgot about our surroundings as I was entirely caught by her stare. With no track of rationality in me, the thoughts running through my mind gradually slowed down, blurred the edges between them, one overcoming the other, but they were all covered by quiet, laying on the back of my mind like they were fading under a sheet. My mind was mostly blank. I was living in details.
Through metaphors and questions I was learning life through that stare – and I couldn’t help the urge to know what that woman has come from.

As she smiled, I awakened – she stood back on her feet, offering me a hand to raise me up.
The situation has not changed, but something definitely did.
“We hardly ever get a clandestine, which surely comes with reasons.” – she said as she approached the edge of the ship, leaning her back on it before looking at me again.
Every movement was so calculated that it was difficult to catch a sign. She moved her hand has she talked, but that didn’t made it any different.
“That is exactly why I don’t feel the need to go through how I have formed my crew as it is, but everyone knows - and can be sure as hell, I chose it with extreme care. To forbid me of that kind of choice isn’t exactly a welcome ticket” – her words left little to the imagination.
“There is one thing - and only one - I do appreciate about an intruder. Especially on my ship” – she has clear reasons to hate this and she is not stepping back from showing it.
“Simply, courage” – she suddenly came back to her warm, calm voice.
Same, old contrast.
“Our name has been speaking before us for quite a while, now. You’re surely a surprise” – everyone laughed along with her, her sarcastic grin hid something I did not have the time to elaborate, for she spoke again:
“As you can see, I am the only woman on this ship. Not only I won’t tolerate any clandestine, but I will not accept any other woman on board. That has to be very clear, to everyone, once again” – has her men agreed in silence and she looked around to assure it, it has been quiet for a moment.
“As said, you chose quite a ship. Probably a mistake, surely a mislead, but you’re not the fighting type – and it doesn’t matter how stupid you could be, no one would come here without a sword and at least the conviction of being able to use it. So, why are you here?”
All the eyes were on me, waiting for a valid answer. I could never make my reasons seem valid, but my standard is now higher: I need to convince her. It has to be valid enough.
I could think of no description for such a cause. I needed to think fast.
“It wasn’t random, nor a mislead. I chose this ship” – her expression changed suddenly, opening her eyes a little wider.
“Well, that surely strengthens my question”
“It wasn’t an easy choice. This was the only ship that could lead me where I need, so it was a leave or take” – I could almost see the corner of her mouth lifting. A detail, almost unnoticeable, but if there’s something I can work well with, is details.
“To answer your question: I believe in responsibility, alongside with duty – but I believe it’s strictly attached to anyone’s true nature. To ignore it and let it fade I see it as the greatest crime to life. Regardless whatever it is driven by.
I don’t think you will find my reasons valid, but are worth risking for”
“And what were you expecting of me? Welcome you on the ship like nothing?”

“No, I wasn’t expecting anything. I heard a lot about this ship, both the crew and its captain - I was surprised to see a woman walking down the stairs, but everything made more sense, after.
A part of me hoped there would be some tasks you’d want to take off your men’s shoulders for a short while – surely a low chance, I’m aware, but what I heard about you differs a suicide from a hard risk” - her face was unreadable. Even for me.
“How did a woman being a captain made sense to anything?”
“I never heard of a woman having one of your men forced upon her” – she froze. Still as cold as a stone, but she arrested her unperceived movements too fast.
“It’s an old story. Little girl escapes her village to take her own destiny in hands” – she mocked.
“Same story, nicer words. Everyone wants to escape their fate, search for something more until the day they die – and yet everyone is resigned to the reality in which life is not a book, resettling their priorities. What would make you different? More entitled?”
“Nothing?” – she was surprised, but amused at the same time.
“People tend to justify the risks they don’t take, which is not hard if those have a high chance of failure. Everyone should pursue the life they’re made for, if they have the guts to do it and leave everything behind - or lose it, even”
“Are you calling a great part of the population, a coward?”
“Yes.” – I have nothing to lose, now.
“That’s quite a dare” – a smile was a little more evident, now. She is surely amused, but I would dare say a little proud, even.
“I don’t find it illogical” – I continued.
“It is logical, but don’t you think it is braver to stay true to your duties when it means to renounce to the life you were aspiring to?” – she clearly wants to make me fall. She is testing me.
“Don’t you think everyone would leave wherever they wanted to, if they could?”
“But if they could, would they?
You said it yourself; people are hardly ever happy with what they have”
“I see you’re a fast learner” – her look was warmer.
“I am” – she didn’t contain it this time. She smiled – and there’s no doubt, now: she did look proudly at me.
“One month” – as I was struggling to contain my own smile, her eyes were smiling with me.
“Reach Tuomas at the wheel, meet me in one hour. We’ll discuss your tasks”
Before anyone could say a word, she turned back
“Dismissed” – she ordered, as she walked away.
She turned away one more time, calling for my attention without even knowing my name:
“I am sure you know this ship never has a precise route”
“Exactly!” – I yelled in response, while Floor kept walking away, finding herself smiling once again, next to no one to hide it from.