I surfaced as I heard voices close by, and suddenly became aware of a shadow over me, I could not make out shapes, the smoke and shock had dimmed my vision. Curling into a tighter ball I defied the world, wishing with every fibre that death would claim me.
“Cap’n! There’s a girl here – I think she is alive” shouted the ‘shadow’
“I said no survivors – kill her.” Came the stone-cold reply
Just as I braced my mind and clenched my muscles in readiness for the fatal blow another voice joined the two,
“Cap’n, if I may be so bold, you needed bargaining tool, who else than a young, orphaned girl from the emperor’s home-country abused and wounded to buy you revenge?” This voice was deeper than the previous two with an underlying, persistent growl.
I hid my head in my arms and tried to press myself into the cobbles, hide myself from the view of those who murdered my parents.
The ‘Cap’n’ replied with a light tone, “Hunter, I was wrong; maybe you will still be of use one day. Very well, bring her, we can sort out the details later, but… you are responsible for her, one slip up, one mistake and you walk the plank.”
Footsteps approached and I was lifted from the ground and held firmly against a broad, warm chest. But this is not what I wanted, squirming I tried to push myself away, fighting those who took all I loved. The one called Hunter unceremoniously dropped me and after a moment I felt him wrap a cloak tightly around my body, allowing only my face and tips of toes to show. I was bound like a butterfly in a spider’s web, and I felt no less pitiful. Completely restrained and numb from the shock, I watched as my blurred vision gave me a last view of the coast I had known and loved as a child. The pebbles on the beach crunched under the quick steps of the pirates, and after a brief exchange, I was placed on a row-boat. Uncomfortably wedged between the seats like a sack of grain, I tried to think as the boat scraped on the stones and catching a wave carried us out to sea, out to the pirate ship that waited in deeper waters.
I tried to roll over to see as a dark shadow crept over the boat, but my tight binding did not allow. All I could see was the muddy, salt-crusted and water-stained boots of the rowing pirates. My sight had, for the most part returned, although it had a strange colourless hue, as if the colour had seeped out – leaving a watermark, and shadows flickered around the edges. A rope was tossed down that landed in front of my face, and a few seconds later I was lifted and swung, none too gently over a broad shoulder. Hunter, for it was he, then began climbing up the ladder that lay against the vast wooden side of the pirate ship. I was hanging with my head down, and as Hunter climbed, the boat and water seemed to be quite a far way off; I thought I felt myself slipping, and cried out, but Hunter placed his hand on my back, steadying me and continued to climb. I was taken from Hunter’s shoulder, hauled over the broad side of the ship and then tossed into a pile of loot that had been taken from my village. I recognized some of the drapery, crafts and tools that had belonged to the murdered villagers, all close friends and family. The tears came then, I did not wish to weep, for that pain was too deep, too close to surface now, I had locked it away deep inside. This sorrow was for the moment, for the feelings of weakness and sadness and fear that filled my mind.
“Steady on, Woody!” Came Hunter’s voice, “That’s a girl there, not a rolled up carpet or something!”
“Ah, strike me blind, so it is, Hunter! My apologies lad, but it was an easy mistake to make.”
“The cap’n says I am to keep her in one of the holding cells. I will take her there now, but then the cap’n needs me back on shore before our final departure. Make sure she has food, water and bedding, will you?” Said Hunter as he unrolled me from the cloak.
Woody stood to one side and said, “Of course, Hunter, I’ll look after her for ya.”
Hunter did not meet my eyes during any of this, but something in Woody’s tone made his cheek twitch as he clenched his teeth. Jumping to his feet and in one movement pushing Woody against the railing, Hunter pushed his forearm tightly against the plump pirate’s throat and said.
“You’re a good lad, Woody, but I must warn you. This girl is my responsibility, my neck is on the line here. You know what happened in Ferim, I have to prove myself to the cap’n. And if anyone… anyone, messes that chance up for me – I will make them pay… Do you understand me, Woody?”
This whole outburst was done in an almost friendly voice, but the underlying energy could not be doubted. Woody was sweating and in a nervous voice said,
“Of course, Hunter, don’t you fear, I swear she will be safe. No one will touch her.”
Hunter let go of the cook and nodded, “Good. Both our lives depend on it.”
While this exchange took place, I had a chance to study my captors. Hunter was tall, standing at around 6 foot 2, he towered over the short, plump cook. Hard muscles outlined his slender form and a head of raven-black hair fell to his shoulders. He wore knee-high boots with large overturned tops and large brass buckles. Faded maroon pants, that had an eastern look about them, a long brown jacket that swept the ankles of his boots, a gentleman’s frilled shirt and a thick black belt set with several dangerous looking objects including a long, curved scimitar completed his look. He had a matching pair of bronze cuff-bands and in his hair hung a few strange objects, cleverly plaited in or tied. A few small medallions, a feather and other things I could not make out from the distance. On the other hand, the cook was short, plump and had a face that I did not quite like. A scar ran from his right eye to the edge of his mouth, jagged and red. He wore less colourful and interesting clothing, only kitted out in normal ankle boots, long brown pants and a dirty, untucked white shirt. He did not look very piratey to me, but then again, all I had heard of pirates were from tales and fireside stories.