Authors: Lexie Stewart
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“You want me to sing to you?” she said.
“Aye, earn your keep. Even the chickens lay eggs.”
Josephine glared at him, sat up straight and sang, waving a hand in the air to conduct herself.
Why are we sitting here doing nothing at all?”
“You’re the only one doing nothing, lass,” said Lance, tugging off his boots and setting them neatly in their place. “The rest of us are working our hearts out. We’d love to swap places with you and just laze around like a big, fat seal.”
“I don’t like lazing around,” said Josephine. “I just want to save Katie and go home. Why is it taking so long?”
“The Pride of the Sea’s not just going to sail up to us and hand over the Lightning Circle, you know. We must hunt her.”
“So why aren’t we?”
“Because I don’t know where she is!” Lance’s confession was followed by a sigh. “Look, lass, I’ll find her, but it’s going to take a few days. Try to be pleasant company till then, alright?”
They sat in tense silence for a while then Josephine muttered. “I’m not singing to you.”
“Good!” said Lance. “If that wee demonstration you gave was anything to go by, I don’t want to hear any more.”
Josephine drummed her fingernails on the table in the hope it would annoy him. She stared at him as he brushed off his vest and hung it neatly. He had other habits she’d noticed that didn’t fit her idea of a pirate. His alphabetised library contained not only the expected books of navigation and such but also fiction, philosophy and poetry. And he sometimes clasped his hands behind his back and gave a small nod to mark the end of a conversation and other gentlemanly habits. He hadn’t been born a ruffian, Josephine was sure of it. He had fallen from grace and landed on his feet- at the wheel of a pirating schooner, no less.
“Why do you speak so well?” Josephine asked, hoping to catch him off-guard.
“If you must know,” said Lance stiffly. “I was born a nobleman.”
“Tell me about it.”
And that was the end of that.
“Yummy,” said Josephine. “Hardtack for dinner again.”
“I’ll have you know, lass, I had the cook select the finest biscuits for your supper.”
“This isn’t food,” said Josephine. “It’s a hockey puck!” She tapped it against her plate. “Do you at least have some sauce?”
“Sure!” said Lance brightly. He picked up Josephine’s mug of grog and poured it over her plate before she could stop him.
She glared at him.
“Ach! That stare of yours, woman! I swear, you’ll burn holes in me!”
“Gentleman, my arse,” muttered Josephine, nibbling at her supper.
Josephine liked browsing Lance’s library. She’d pull out a book, flip through it, wrinkle her nose and put it back-
in the wrong place
. She knew this drove Lance crazy.
He’d hover behind her and as soon as she’d gone, he’d swoop in and put the books in order again. It was their little dance.
“Swashbuckling movies are so exciting,” moaned Josephine, dropping onto the bed with her chosen book.
“I’m not exciting enough for you, lass? Bored, are you, lass?” said Lance. “I could always send you back to Bloody. I’m sure he’d find plenty for you to do.”
“You wretched piece of-”
“Now, now,” said Lance. “Remember you’re manners, lass. If you’re going to insult me, at least say, ‘captain’ at the end.”
Josephine shut her mouth. Nothing ruffled the man, which made Josephine furious.
“I don’t think you realize how lucky you are, lass,” said Lance, “to have found yourself a berth in the cabin of Captain Breakheart.”
“Lucky?” scoffed Josephine. “Why should I feel lucky?”
“Because,” said Lance, a dangerous tone entering his voice, “other pirates aren’t so nice. Other pirates wouldn’t be sleeping in a hammock on the other side of the room. Other pirates-”
“Okay! I get it!” said Josephine.
He had been towering over her, leaning closer and closer, his menace building like a thunderhead. Now, he straightened up and his manner changed as suddenly as a shifting sea wind.
“Of course,” said Lance, “Other men have to force their women because they can’t find any who are willing to lay with them! I’ve never had that problem.” Lance tugged his shirt straight and raised his chin. “I never lay hands on a wench until she asks me to. I’ve yet to meet a woman who hasn’t eventually begged me to make her my lover!”
“Well,” said Josephine, settling back with her book, “there’s a first time for everything.”
“The sea is too choppy for reading,” said Josephine, putting down her book and rubbing her aching temples.
“I’ll tell you a story then, lass,” said Lance.
“Okay, tell me about the Lightning Glass.”
“As you wish. There was once a mirror made of a magical stuff called Lightning Glass. This mirror was greatly prized as it could transport someone through time. It belonged to a Queen who guarded it fiercely but her protection wasn’t enough and one day the tower in which it was kept was raided and the mirror stolen.
“Now, those who had done the thieving were less than honourable and once they had their prize they turned on each other. During their quarrel, the mirror shattered. The thieves scrambled for the broken pieces and went their separate ways.
“Now it turns out, the glass retained its power, even though it wasn’t whole. Smaller mirrors called Lightning Circles were made and these worked to transport entire vessels or buildings through time, as you’ve seen for yourself, lass. But they are difficult and dangerous to use. A Lightning Circle must make direct contact with two bolts of lightning, reflect them back up towards each other so that they hit. From that connection the beam of light and a big, fat bolt of lightning is born.A portal in time is opened and everything freezes.”
“Until that bolt of lightning strikes,” said Josephine, remembering the destruction of Little Bounty. “And everybody dies.”
“You’d best come smartly now Cap’n,” urged Curry. “Before there’s murder done!”
They found the cook pinning a man down, shoving a boot into his mouth.
Lance shouldered his way through the crowd and yanked the cook to his feet.
“What’s this about?” he demanded.
“He kept sayin’ eatin’ my cookin’ was like eatin’ boot leather, Cap’n” said the cook, dangling from Lance’s fist. “So’s I thought I’d give him one of me boots!”
“You gor-bellied, squid-suckin’ louts!” said Lance. He may have held onto some of the mannerisms of his genteel upbringing but he’d certainly adopted the pirate’s lingo. “You keep up this kind of behaviour on my ship and you’ll both be eating boots!”
“Aye, Cap’n,” the men said meekly.
“Aye! Now back to work, the lot of you!”
The men scurried away leaving Lance and Josephine.
“What are you doing out of my cabin?” said Lance, still using his captain’s voice.
“Aye, Aye, Cap’n!” yelled Josephine. She ripped off a salute and snapped her heels together before sprinting back to his cabin.
“Damnable woman,” muttered Lance, trying not to let his men see the smile tugging at his mouth.
“Here, lass!” said Lance. “I’ve a cure for your boredom!”
He took her hand and lead her up on deck. There were few pirates about to see them. Up in the crow’s-nest, Josephine could see a pair of bare feet dangling down and two men, both of them singing, slowly paced the deck in opposite directions. When they passed each other their voices harmonised before drifting apart again.
Another group of men were playing a drunken game of cards. A man lay on deck near to them, snoring loudly.
At the prow of the ship, Lance told Josephine to look over.
“Oh my God!” Josephine cried. “There are dolphins down there!”
“I know!” laughed Lance. “Why do you think I brought you up here, lass?”
“I thought you were going to throw me overboard!”
“Would I do something like that?” asked Lance with a grin that was anything but reassuring.
Josephine leaned out over the water until sea spray wet her face and glistened in her hair. It was wonderful to be out under the open sky. The salty wind swept her worries away.
Lance’s smile faded as he watched her. He’d never seen her like this. He’d only seen her afraid and defensive. Now he saw the sweetness of her smile and heard the music of her laughter.
“They’re so beautiful!” cried Josephine, her eyes sparkling.
“Yes, you are,” murmured Lance and then cleared his throat and said, “yes, they are, lass. They are.”
“There’s something I want to show you,” said Lance.
“More dolphins?” asked Josephine, getting to her feet eagerly.
Lance grabbed her hand and led her at a run through the belly of the ship. He stopped in front of a door.
Lance fished out the key he wore around his neck and turned it in the lock. There was a heavy click and the door swung open.
Josephine stopped breathing. Inside the room was a pile of treasure.
There were diamonds, gold, silver, rubies, and emeralds the size of chicken eggs. There were jade figurines, crowns and tiaras, goblets and thousands of pieces of eight.
“You like?” laughed Lance when Josephine let out a whimper.
The treasure pile reminded Josephine of a dragon’s hoard in a fairytale; the dragon in this case being Lance- a fearsome protector no doubt.
Josephine tore her eyes away from the glittering heap and looked at the man beside her.
The treasure glowed like fire. In its light, Lance’s already bronze skin had an extra lustre, making him look like a great, gold statue.
“Sometimes,” said Lance, “when one of the men has done something particularity good, I let him chose something from the pile as a reward.”
“That’s generous of you,” said Josephine.
“Not really,” said Lance, “I take out all the good stuff first. But it cheers them up. And sometimes, when it’s been a really bad day, I come down here and roll naked in it. Nothing lifts your spirits like a good roll in a pile of gold!” He cast a devilish look at Josephine and whispered in her ear, “You’re welcome to give it a go, lass- as long as I can watch.”
Josephine went up on tippy-toe and whispered in his ear. “I thought I wasn’t your type?”
“A few months at sea and anything female and breathing becomes my type,” laughed Lance.
Josephine gave him a look of disgust.
“Alright, lass. Ach! You’ve a stare that could boil the sea. How about I wait outside the door?”
Josephine bit her lower lip. When would she ever get an opportunity like this again?
“Oh, okay!” she said. “But you wait outside. And no peeking!”
Lance looked hurt. “Would I do that?”
Probably, thought Josephine.
Once the door was shut, Josephine shrugged off her clothes and took a slow dive across the treasure.
It was cold against her bare skin, making her shiver and giggle. The coins slide over each other and the entire pile shifted under her.
She sighed and stretched out her arms and legs in bliss. She picked up a string of pearls and trailed it between her breasts.
A husky moan called her attention to the door. Josephine could just see a sea-grey eye blinking through the keyhole.