I let out a happy hum as my hammock swung to and fro with the ship's motion. Closing my eyes, I almost felt the ocean, the planks creaking, and the various men running across the deck as if the vessel was an extension of my own body.
“Jackson! Get up to the main deck and start cleaning! Can’t have you dilly-dallying here, can we?” I groaned at Ethan’s voice, shaking me from my relaxation time and got up slowly stretching a bit and nodding.
I fingered the locket on my chest, the cool metal reminding me why I was doing this. Family came before everything else. I cracked my neck before walking through the dark decks of the ship, but I could tell where everything on the boat was anyways.
“The waters are mighty fine today, I don’t think any storms are on the horizon.” I grunted a bit, we had already had to avoid two of those on this journey after setting out a few days ago! I climbed the stairs to the top deck, taking a deep breath as the fresh, salty air of the sea invaded my nostrils. Caribbean sun shining down on my face, banishing the chill from below decks that had invaded my being.
“Well, let’s hope you’re feeling is right again Jackson. We are already running a bit late with this shipment.” I nodded a hum, I set out to grab a bucket and mop to start swabbing the deck. Then taking a moment to look out at the vast ocean, enjoying the green-blue water churning beneath us as far as the eye could see.
As we got up on the deck, I could hear howling wails of pain from some poor crewmate of mine. The sharp crack of a flog causing me to flinch each time. “That’s what you get for trying to sneak an extra piece of bread you piece of trash!” Another crack of the flog. “You should be glad to work on a ship like this, but still you try to take more than you should!” I cringed, my fist tightening, I wanted to...Help him somehow, show up the flogger, and Tabern’s rules but... If I lost this job, my family would go back to begging quickly. Everything was for them, mom gave her everything raising us. It was high time I pay her back with an easier life now.
I dipped my mop in the bucket to start the cleaning job a shanty tune under my breath. “Hey!” one of the sailors said. “Better not let the captain catch you doing that.”Not that the captain could actually stop me from enjoying an upbeat sailing tune but whatever...Looking up and back at sea, just to soak in the image of seabirds flying alongside the ship, I noticed something on the horizon. A small black spot, getting bigger by the moment. Pausing for a bit, I squinted to see what was there, and coming into view, the sea-blue and orange standing out against the azure sky. I gulped, recognizing the flag but, I had a bad feeling about the ship. It didn’t look like a normal merchant’s. Why would an Aethiopian ship be after a Greek merchant’s? They were sailing much too fast to just be passing by us...Crap!
“Pirates!” The shout alerted everyone around, who started to rush towards their various battle stations while I was panicking a bit. This was just supposed to be a simple merchant ship! I wasn’t supposed to be engaging in battles! I had to do something though, didn’t I? The ship on the horizon was closing in on us fast, and I could feel our own ship creaking under the force of various people running around on top of the deck, loading up the few cannons we had for some reason.
I rushed up towards the helm, where Tabern looked down at everyone with a condescending smirk on his face. “What are you doing, sir?! The way they are preparing, we won’t be able to escape!” My exclamation was met with a harsh smack across my face from the cruel blond man as he stared down at me with a laugh.
“Jackson, who are you to be questioning your superior? We are not going to run from these heathens, no, we are going to fight them off, not lose a single spice that is supposed to go to the crown!” That word, the crown, almost made bile come from my mouth, but I managed to contain myself and simply nodded.
“Of course, sir, what do you want me doing? I just signed up as a civilian seaman, I haven't been told of a battle station yet.” I tried to suppress my disgust for the royalty I now served as I slowly got up, only for Tabern to shift the wheel a bit while I was unsteady, making me lose my balance and go sprawling down the stairs. A sneer on Tabern's face the whole time. My nose bloodied, the blood clogging my sinuses and the head trauma making everything a little dizzy.
“I heard that tone, Jackson! You should know who is in command of this ship! You follow my orders, and if I hear more of that attitude, I will have you keel hauled faster than you can say Pufferfish!” I wanted to growl, to show him up, I glared at Tabern, wanting him to hurt, to say he was sorry when suddenly, an old, splintery plank snapped up from underneath Tabern’s legs, slamming into his back with a thwack before he fell over, and the wheel smacked him across the face quickly.
“Do you want a little aid for that, sir? Or will you be fine?” I had to really suppress my laughter, Tavern stared down at me with a glare, a bruise starting to form on his eye. He looked at me with pure contempt.
“No need, Jackson, stay on the deck, help with the ropes, and no matter what, don’t leave it.” The slight snarl and smirk told me one thing, he didn't expect me to survive the day.The first wave of cannon fire soon hit our ship, shaking the deck around, and my hand whipped around to grasp onto any rope. Finding one quickly to steady me before I turned to face the enemy ship, managing to read the name. “Scylla’s Sabre.”
Looking across the deck, I saw a half dozen people smiling at me wickedly before they started cutting ropes and swinging across and onto the floor, drawing their blades, and I cursed a little bit. I only had a dagger on me. Turning away from them, I started to run through the deck as it exploded into battle. All around me, the sounds of blades clashing against each other rang through my ears.
Looking behind me, I saw two pirates who looked nearly identical approaching me their curly brown hair and pointed ears, paired with their sabers made them look like demented Elves. They seemed determined to chase me, so I kept running, ducking under and through the various fights, wishing for this to be over. Soon enough, though, I was trapped by the ship's edge with my two pursuers still there. Bringing out my dagger, trying to hold myself steady, I wasn’t trained with the blade at all, but it was better than nothing right?
“Well, dear brother. It seems like this one is a bit of a coward. Can’t blame him though, we do look rather scary.” The first pirate, who was slightly shorter than the other, snickered my eyes wandered around. Was there anything I could use as a better weapon?
“Maybe I do, but you don’t...Anyways he may be a coward, yeah, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t fast. Almost outran us there, but then again, we are stuck on a ship, there aren’t many places he could go. Though it looks like he only has that butter knife, should we make this a fair fight?” My hopes got up, I was decent with a sabre when I had one, it's just that none of the swords given to me ever seemed balanced right, but it could give me what I needed to survive here. Though in case, my eyes drifted to a metal bucket, some planks and the ropes above stretching down near me.
“Dude, we are Privateers now, remember? We don’t have to play fair.” The brother’s mocking smirk and nod killed any hope I had before they jumped at me, the taller one’s blade flashing out, slamming against my dagger, wrenching it from my grip and out into the sea.
The other brother was soon to follow up, his cutlass sicing through the air and I acted on nothing but adrenaline thrusting my hand forward and instinctively calling for something to catch them. Suddenly, the ropes from behind me seemed to snap forward and catch the two boys by their ankles before zipping up into the air, hanging them upside down, dangling in the sky like that. Did...Did I do that? Looking up at the two boys now dangling mid-air by their feet, I heard one of them sigh.
“Why couldn’t we even get the coward, Travis?”
“I don’t know Connor, why did you get caught up in the damn rope?” With wide eyes, I reached out and slowly lowered my hand, sort of commanding the ropes to lower as well, and to my surprise...It followed my command, it was doing exactly what I wanted. Holy crap! I looked among the various fights and smiled a bit to myself. If I could command all the ropes like that, even the cute ones, then...I could really help out my crew here! Smiling a bit, I raised my hands and started to focus more on the ship.
Once again, closing my eyes, feeling the Cadmus’ Deck, of the people running around on top of it, fighting, engaged in their own little wars around me before I opened my eyes and pulled downwards. Mentally commanding all the free ropes, everything wasn’t essential to fly down and pull up all the pirates by their feet. Catching them and hoisting each one up into the air on my command. Or at least that was how I imagined it because, in reality, only three of the ropes came forward to lash around a few of the raiders, when I opened my eyes to see it happen. I was met with the image of dark gray irises, looking at me with an intensity that made me shiver and step back instinctively, I saw her shout something, and the cannons emerged from her ship again.
Reacting quickly as I could, I dropped control of the ropes before splaying my hands in front of me and commanding the ship to brace, ready for a barrage of cannonballs. As expected, I could feel the iron balls slamming against the hull, ripping through the wood, but it seemed my bracing had done something, as we didn't take any significant damage.
As I did this, I could feel those gray eyes on me the entire time. She seemed to shout something else, and a large man, his skin much too dark for a simple tan, with a hulking figure and bulging muscles, took the helm.
The lady grabbed a rope and swung herself over to the ship, wind blowing her Captain’s hat back to Scylla’s Saber's deck and unleashing a cascade of blond curls flying behind her hair, glistening in the Caribbean sun before she landed, sword in hand. I knew I was the target once again, and all I had for a weapon was the ship, and I don’t even know how much power I had over that!
“Crap! Crap!” I looked around and found the fallen cutlass of one of the pirates, and I dived to get it. Picking up the blade, with hope, I cursed, feeling it was unbalanced again! It was too heavy by the hilt, still. It might let me survive as the woman was on me in moments, dancing elegantly through the battlefield, her blade coming out in a flash and I could barely raise my sword in time to block it.
The metal clang rang out before we engaged with our blades, the girl’s intense glare burning into me as I danced around the deck. With each blow I felt like something was off... The way she moved, she was clearly highly trained for this, but then, why wasn’t she ending it now?
The woman’s silent glare was unnerving as I was made to back up more. My eyes flashed around, and I tried mentally commanding the ropes to lash around her. She just avoided those with some fancy footwork, pivoting and spinning around to deliver a slash to my side. I gulped, looking for anything that could help me...There! I noted the grate on the deck, which we used to lower cargo into the hull
“You know, it’s pretty surprising to see a woman on a ship. Especially manning the helm, I thought it was supposed to be bad luck?” I spoke, time to keep her attention on me and way from the surroundings for once as I backed up that way.
“You think you’re good enough to talk while in a fight? My my, aren’t you cocky for a lowly cabin boy. But if you must inquire about me, the ship couldn’t sail very well without its Captain, could it?” I gulped, Captain?
This woman was the captain?! No time to dwell on that though, I had to keep up the meager defence that I could. I continued my defensive dueling, the weight of the sword starting to exhaust me swinging it like this and using it as a brace while approaching the grate.
“How does a woman become a Captain? I thought that the navy didn’t allow for any female captains. Women are barely allowed on ships as passengers as is.” With every graceful slash that the Captain made, I took another few steps backward, towards my goal. She chuckled a bit at my question, completely confident and assured that she would win this battle handily.
“Maybe, but Pirates aren’t exactly known for following the law, are they?” Almost there, almost... I took a few more steps back. I really was focusing on where we were going.
I smiled, “I suppose you are right there, It is still impressive though, you must be pretty tricky to get into a position like that.” I dodged as her blade lanced out, “Tricky like this!” With a flex of my will, the grate beneath her feet opened, and we fell into darkness.
“You know you have blinded us both in here, right?” I heard the girl speak from around me before I chuckled and closed my eyes, focusing entirely on the ship's feeling, focusing it around me, and I could sense her weighI focused on the ship around me, feeling a weight on a floorboard to my left.
“Maybe you are.” I brought my sword up defensively as the girl charged in. It sucked that I could only tell where she was positioned, but that was fine. It wasn’t like she could always tell where my blade would be either.
Soon we started our clash again, my sword meeting hers easier this time. I was able to keep up with her blade in the dark at least. It took a lot of my focus to keep up my sensing and this swordfight at the same time though, it was exhausting with each sword swipe.
I could feel the off-balance of the sword wearing down on me more. Each swing had the blade feeling more substantial and cumbersome. It took more stamina to bring it up and block. But the Captain’s blows were relentless as ever.
“You know, I never expected you to last this long honestly; you're using those powers of yours to help you some time, right?” That took me by surprise, what the heck did she know about...Whatever was going on? What the hell did she know about me? I just grunted a bit and decided to focus more on maybe tiring her out. The break-in focus was enough for my sense to vanish for a moment.
“No answer? Shame, but I guess that I’ll have to find more about you later then.” As the girl was invisible to my detection for a moment, she stepped in silently. as I recollected myself, found her place and raised a blade to block an expected blow. Her body suddenly went on one foot, and the last thing I felt was the heavy flat of a blade knocking into my temple, pushing me over the edge into unconsciousness.
I woke up feeling the gentle creak and groan of a ship beneath me. I let out a sigh before slowly opening my eyes and looking around, blinking at the low light coming in from the candles, slowly adjusting to the view. At the same time, I concentrated, spread out my feeling like I did beforehand to the ship. It was strange, doing this intentionally, devoting my entire being to it instead of doing it in a panic. Once I did, I could imagine the whole ship around me: the walls, where the candles were, the floorplan, and...It was all different, not like the Cadmus. Where was I? The view, extending it that far, the feelings, was all vague, I couldn’t really tell anything about the people up in the various decks, only that they were there.
“Well, that's concerning.” I focused the feeling back onto my surroundings again, shrinking the area of feeling to a few feet around me, everything became clearer, including the door in front of me, made of iron bars, well it seemed I was in the brig.
I knew, I didn’t know how but, I knew where we were, not far off from where I was knocked out, but headed south towards Colombia. I better brush up on my Spanish then. Suddenly, the room was flooded with more light as a door from above opened up and down and walked the hulking black man from before, it wasn’t unusual to see a sailor with his skin tone, I knew that. What surprised me was the natural confidence with which he carried himself.
“So, you’re finally awake. Didn’t know the Captain hit you that hard.” Ok, so I was probably a prisoner on the ship that attacked mine, but then I had to wonder...Why was I on this ship? Why was I taken prisoner, I wasn’t a noble of any kind. I had no status, and no one would pay a dime for my ransom, well I had no one that could afford a ransom. My family would probably pay for me in a heartbeat if they knew I was in trouble.
“How long was I under?” I spoke to the man, his dark complexion standing out against the flickering light of the deck, making him look like some sort of muscle-bound pirate ghost. The man shrugged.
“A day at least, you’re lucky that the Captain decided to give you medical attention. Otherwise, you probably would have died from all those cuts.” The man spoke kind words, but in a slightly cold tone, and with an accent I couldn’t quite place. The chill in his words, the slight edge to what he spoke, it unnerved me as I sat in the brig.
“Well, it seems that paying the dear lady compliments ended well for me after all. Don’t you think, sir?” I grinned at him, maybe the guy was a bloodthirsty pirate, yeah, but that didn’t mean he was deprived of a sense of humor, right? From The slight curling of the man’s scowling lips, I knew I was right and gave him a double snap. Maybe if I befriended this guy, I could convince him to let me off with my life!
“Maybe, though, I wouldn’t get too concerned with that. The Captain doesn’t like suck-ups.” I nodded, no fake flirting with the Captain, whoever she was. Good to know, still I had to wonder, sitting here, on a sailing ship rocking in the waves, What was he doing guarding the brig? Surely there were more important things for a guy like him to do. He was the helmsman when the Captain was away after all!
“I’m gonna warn you because it’s only fair. The Captain took an interest in those powers of yours, She is probably going to ask you questions. I recommend that you answer her honestly and concisely. She will be kind and respectful if you are kind in turn.” Ah, so that's why I was captured. I guess I didn’t blame the Captain for that. Anyone would be curious about the boy who could seemingly make a ship respond to his every whim.
“Thank you for the advice, though...I don’t know much about the powers myself, so um...I am guessing your Captain will be disappointed in me. Hopefully, that doesn’t get me killed though, I’ve always wanted to see Colombia. I wonder how different it is from Jamaica.” The black man raised an eyebrow at that, and I just gave him a smile. I didn’t know why I had these powers, or why I was only really noticing them now, but I wasn’t going to complain.
“That’s another question, I guess. The Captain should be down here to start in a little-” He was interrupted by a loud crash and a curse from the upper deck, and I heard them loose a loud groan. I knew that look on his face, it was the look that the first mate on the Cadmus had whenever I messed something up. He looked at me and shrugged. “I have to go take care of that. Remember my advice, be honest, stay true, and the Captain will probably be fine with you.”
I nodded, I had no idea how that was supposed to really help, but whatever. He was pleasant and decided to give me his advice on not dying on a pirate ship. I decided I liked that guy already. Hopefully, we would have many conversations like this...If I wasn’t thrown off the ship in the next day or so.
Once the first mate was gone, I decided to sit where I was and started to concentrate inwards. Trying to feel out everything I could about the ship, suddenly. I felt a familiar weight approaching the deck above where I was, and sure enough, the Captain was there. She climbed down to take a good look at my face. I stared back, noticing a few things I wasn’t able to during our fight, like the scar going across her left eye, the white, discolored tissue standing out against the tan as she blinked at me. Though, whatever caused that scar didn’t mar her vision clearly, as that eye wasn’t milky or clouded over, as she stared right at me I felt both pupils studying me as I did her.
“Alright, I’m going to make this quick. In the raid, you displayed some weird...Control over the boat you were on. I want to know everything about it, how does it work? Are only you in command of it, and most importantly, how were you able to do that?” I gulped, feeling those stormy gray eyes staring right into my soul as I squirmed under her gaze. Unsure of how to answer her... The first mate said, be honest, right? Then, let’s be honest and hope it works out.
“Honestly, ma-am, I don't know."