Authors: Lexie Stewart
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Josephine rolled away from him and cried herself to sleep.
Josephine devoured the breakfast she found waiting for her. The cheese was hard, the bread was stale and the grog was pungent but Josephine was famished and would have eaten her own sneakers if there’d been no other option.
She wiped her mouth and looked around, unsure what to do next.
This was the second pirate Captain’s bed she’d woken up in in as many days.
Of the two cabins, she much preferred Lance’s. It was surprisingly neat and clean and the odour, which was salty and male, wasn’t overpowering. In fact, it was quite nice.
Josephine noticed that the covers were smooth on the other side of the bed. She’d slept alone.
Actually, she was completely alone. Lance was nowhere to be seen. This was her opportunity to escape, Josephine thought. She’d managed it last night. Of course, it would be much more difficult in broad daylight and without a battle going on to distract everybody.
Josephine’s heart fell when she realized she had nowhere to go. Little Bounty was gone and Katie with it.
The thought of Katie made tears well up in Josephine’s eyes. She tried to think of something to distract herself from her grief. Something promptly presented itself.
“God, I need to pee!” she said.
“Good morning to you too,“ said a voice with a smirk behind it.
Josephine looked around, startled.
A back and forth movement called her attention to the floor behind the table. Lance lay there, cocooned in a blanket, waving at her.
“You have two options,” he said. “The chamber pot under my bed or I could rig you up a seat-of-easement on deck in the open air!”
“You’ve got to be joking,” said Josephine.
Lance gestured towards the bed. Josephine peeked underneath it and sure enough, there was something that looked like a large casserole dish.
“Oh, yuk!” said Josephine, sitting back up. “I haven’t used a potty since I was a toddler! Maybe I can just hang on.”
Lance laughed, rose and threw his blanket onto the bed. “I’m surprised you didn’t try to escape again,” he said.
“I don’t have anywhere to go,” muttered Josephine, kicking the blanket off onto the floor.
“I told you, the chamber pot’s under my bed,” joked Lance, earning himself a death-stare from Josephine.
“Now, you might remember,” Lance went on, collecting things from around his cabin and placing them on the table, “last night after you tried to claw my face off- for which you’ve yet to apologise, I might add- I told you that we needed to have a little chat. That time has come, lass.”
Josephine was surprised to see he was preparing to shave. The sea was fairly calm this morning but the ship still swayed about unpredictably. Surely shaving was too dangerous? He’d slit his throat!
“What I need from you, lass, is information,” said Lance. “There are two Lightning Circles and I got one of them last night. I want the other one too.”
He stripped out of his clothes and dropped them on the floor beside the door, except for his shirt which he hung over one shoulder. Then he sat down, naked, to shave.
“Even if I knew,“ said Josephine, “why would I tell you?”
Really, he was completely starkers. Josephine tried not to look shocked- or impressed.
“Keep in mind, lass, that my good nature is all that’s keeping you alive,” said Lance, pointing at her with the razor. “You’re on my ship, eating my food, under my protection- for only as long as I want you as my guest.”
“Guest? I thought I was your captive,” said Josephine.
“It’s a fine line,” said Lance with a shrug.
Josephine had glimpsed the strap around his neck before. Now she saw that a large key hung from it.
“You expect me to help you steal this Lightning thing so that you can do to others what was done to me, Katie and everyone else on Little Bounty? Not likely!” Josephine was surprised to hear what she had said. Sometime during the night she must have become a believer.
Josephine watched him shave with a grimace, waiting for blood to be shed but it never happened.
Lance scraped the razor over his jaw, chin, cheeks and throat with steady, skilful hands; the same hands that had undressed Josephine last night.
When he finished, he patted his face with the shirt then dunked it into a second bowl of water and rubbed himself down.
He stopped and looked up thoughtfully.
“What if I told you there was a way to save Katie?” he said.
“I’d say you were lying,” said Josephine coldly. “You’re just lying so I’ll tell you what you want and you can go chasing your treasure.”
“Maybe I am,” said Lance. “But just as before, you’ve got no winning cards, lass, so why not take a gamble?”
He had a point, Josephine had to admit.
Lance started grinning before she’d even answered him. He could see that he’d won her over.
He tugged on trousers and a shirt that clung transparently to his wet skin and approached the bed.
“Our friend, Captain Bloody, made a bargain with someone else, and together they created that portal between times that brought you here. This ‘someone else’ has the other Lightning Circle. I need to know who it is.”
Josephine waited for him to continue until she realized he was waiting for her to speak.
“Well, I don’t know,” she said.
“But you were right there! You were in the beam. There was a ship on either side of that beam. One of them was The Bloody Throne, but what was the other one? You must have seen something of it.”
“I didn’t even notice Bloody’s bloody ship until I was hauled up the side of it!”
“Keep in mind, Josie, this is the only chance you have of saving your dear, sweet cousin.”
“Her too,” said Lance dismissively. “Now think!”
Josephine closed her eyes. She could remember Little Bounty, hovering above the water, a beam of light coming out of the dark clouds above, the passengers, Katie, Katie’s face, frozen in a scream, her terrified eyes…
Josephine opened her eyes and blinked away the tears.
“Just think about the other ship,” said Lance. He squatted down beside the bed and took Josephine’s hands in his own. “Come on, lass, you can do it.”
Josephine closed her eyes again. This time, when she pulled up the memory, she focused on the background. She saw… dark shapes high in the air, swaying from side to side. Sails and masts! And there were… ghostly letters, floating in the darkness…
What did those letters spell? Josephine squeezed her eyes shut tight, trying to bring them into focus.
“What? What?” urged Lance.
“I can see them.”
“There’s more than one word.”
“Good, good! And?”
“The first word starts with ‘P’. There’s a ‘d’ near the end of it. Prude or pond or proud or something. Then there are two short words. The fourth word starts with an ‘S’. It’s a short word, only three or four letters long.”
Josephine laughed suddenly and said, “This is like playing hangman!”
“Proud,“ said Lance. “Proud to be Sunk? Pied and a sock? Pond with a Swab, Sniff, Suck-”
“Pride of the Sea!” cried Josephine.
“Pride of the Sea?”
Josephine nodded. “Yeah, I’m sure of it! Pride of the Sea.”
“Pride of the Sea!” Lance punched the air with joy. “I know that ship! That’s old Billy Blackheart’s ship! He’s just the sort to be making deals with the likes of Bloody!”
There was a knock at the door.
“Enter!” cried Lance.
The door opened and Curry stepped in.
“Cap’n, you’re wanted,” said Curry. He dutifully picked up the clothes Lance had left on the floor and then his eyes fell on the woman in his Captain’s bed.
“Have a good night, Cap’n?” Curry asked, perking an eyebrow.
“Mind your manners,” snapped Lance.
“Sorry, Cap’n,” said Curry.
His suggestive tone made Josephine realize that under the covers, all she had on was her underwear.
“My clothes!” said Josephine. “Where are they?”
“Drying up on deck,” said Curry. He turned to Lance. “Shall I get them for the lass, Cap’n?”
“No,” said Lance.
“I can’t go out in my bra and undies to get them,” protested Josephine.
“Exactly,” said Lance. “This is my way of keeping you in my cabin so you don’t run off again.” He turned to Curry. “I’ll be out shortly.”
Curry nodded and shut the door.
Josephine watched in fascination as Lance finished getting dressed.
He buffed up his boots with a sleeve, adorned himself with gold and gems and even ran a brush through his hair.
He turned to Josephine, eyed her matted locks critically and handed her the brush. “Perhaps you’d like to make use of this, lass,” he said.
Josephine had reached a new low, she decided. Not only had she lost her niece and become stuck in the wrong time period but she was getting grooming tips from a pirate.
Lance stooped down to look in his shaving mirror as he tied a bandana about his head then put on a tricorne hat, making minute adjustments.
Finally he straightened up, looking satisfied.
“What, no pedicure?” asked Josephine.
Ignoring her, Lance swung open both doors of an ornate cupboard.
He took out two waistcoats- a red one and a blue one- and held them up, looking from one to the other.
“The red one,” said Josephine from the bed.
Lance considered the red waistcoat and then put it back.
“Red is the colour of blood, fire and passion. When I wear that, people know that the day of reckoning has come. Today is not that day. Not yet.”
“Why are you all dressed up?” asked Josephine.
“We took a mighty blow last night,” said Lance grimly. “Men wounded. Men killed. Ripple Thief damaged.” He shook out the blue waistcoat and shrugged his broad shoulders into it. “And we only achieved half of our mission, which as far as I’m concerned is the same as failure. Spirits are low. The men need to see that their captain hasn’t lost hope.”
Washed, shaved and dressed, Lance looked every bit the captain. There was a gleam of determination in his eyes and a firm set to his jaw.
When he turned his head to look at Josephine, she almost saluted him.
He gave her a nod and strode outside to face the day.
Lance had Curry set up a hammock and he slept in that while Josephine remained in his bed.
While Lance was out, Josephine snooped around his cabin. She tried on his velvet waistcoats, his boots and his jewellery. She browsed his bookshelves, searched through his drawers and read his log.
The time she spent on Ripple Thief was a terrible mix of boredom and anxiety for Josephine. The view out the cabin window stayed the same, day after day: Water. Horizon. Sky.
That time became a blur to Josephine. She remembered the highlights: watching the sun set, gaining a new appreciation for plumbing and her encounters with Ripple Thief’s captain.
“The shantyman seems to have fallen overboard,” announced Lance, walking into his cabin and dropping onto a chair. “Sing for me, Josephine.”
It had been two days since Josephine had become the guest- or captive, she still wasn’t sure- upon Ripple Thief.
Two long days of hanging around in Lance’s cabin alone, listening to the ship creak and groan.