Everything was darker than I imagined it might be. Also more than a smidge too wobbly, I must say. When I pictured how this whole scenario might play out with the captain, I really let the boat thing slip my mind. You’d think I’d remember a thing like my brother being a pirate, but alas, the mind is a fickle master.
The prisoner hold sat on the lowest level of the ship, just above the cargo hold. The scent was illustrious, but not in the way a summer afternoon or the scent of a woman’s hair. No, it was like a swamp in mid-July or a horse after a romp in a particularly foul mud-pocket. Well, the hold smelled worse than the horse would. As I pondered this unpleasant odor, the smell of blood and sweat and other things of a bodily nature swirling through the air, I heard footsteps on the stairs. It seemed that the delightful crew of the ship were paying us lowlifes a visit.
Voices soon came within earshot and my encrusted companions lurched toward the bars, eager for food or water or the opportunity for a bath, however unlikely. Indeed, the crowded prisoners seemed to sag in unified dejection as the crewman’s voice filtered through the din of pleads and threats.
“You. In the back. The captain will see you now.” As the man spoke, the guard turned the key and brandished his sword, scattering the other prisoners.
“What if I am not in the mood to see my dear brother?”
“He’s not offering you a choice.”
“Well, how rude of him.” This prompted a burdened eye roll, the tell-tale sign of someone well-versed in the family brand of humor.
“Just come along.”
“Well, if I must.” I stood, holding the bandage more tightly against my body, trying to envelop it into the wound. If they noticed, I was toast. The crewman heaved a sigh and started toward the stairs, nodding at the guard before leading me through the ship.
The Captain’s Quarters were warm, bright, and vanilla-scented. He sat behind Father’s desk, pouring over a map, his once-cropped sandy hair falling into his eyes. The focus made his brows furrow like Mother’s, not that she’d be caught dead and rotting on the ship she’d thought she’d lured Father off of.
As the door opened further, he snapped to attention, taking in the sight of me. It was surely something, given the state I was in. I’d been on quite the, shall we say, adventure? Anywho, it would be a kindness to say that I hadn’t bathed in more than a week and I certainly hadn’t slept in a true bed in well over a month. And then, of course, there was the small manner of the injuries, self-bandaged. My talent is not bandaging and my brother knew it, knew everything in a glance.
“You’re hurt.” At this, I swore and the crewman’s eyes went fearfully wide. I tucked that little reaction away in the files of my mind before turning my attention to how in the name of the Goddess I was going to fool my brother into believing he was mistaken.
“See the way she holds her arms to her body, Kel? Normally, she moves with Father’s swagger, shoulders wide and back.” As he spoke, I tried to shift my stance, to ease back into the comfortable posturing. I didn’t even realize my mistake until the world turned upside down, my brother rushing toward me as the world went black behind him.