|Sally Hawkins was covered in soot, on her knees scrubbing the steel grates of the noisy, vibrating, broiling hot engine room. She wore a dulled out black and red striped crop top and a gray bandana that was once some other color. Her gaucho pants were torn and sewn back together in several places. She walked amongst the machinery with her bucket and mop and scrub brush in dingy, bare feet. Two large engine rats played with each other near her, keeping her company and occasionally making her smile with their tomfoolery.
The wheel on the large iron door squeaked around in circles and stopped with a clunk. She looked up and watched the door swing open. Her father, Bloody Henri Hawkins, pushed into the engine room several terrified women with hoods over the heads, hands tied behind their backs, and chained together with shackles. He pushed them into the brig and slammed shut the iron gate. He was followed in by Keelhaul Vanessa Coldbane and her daughters Scarlet Carolina and Ruby Angel.
“Father,” Sally asked, tugging on the ruffled cuffs on his white linen shirt. “When may I be allowed t' privateer wi' ye?”
The white haired man was muscular and towered over her. Bloody Henry Hawkins took a knee and shook his head. “That be a question fer yer mother, as she be th' decision maker o' th' family. I be jus' th' muscle, wi' me sword an' me hook an' me laser musket,” he said, slashing the end of his sword against the shiny hook on the end of his left arm. The collision of steel threw a spark into the air, and he giggling gleefully at the colorful display.
“She ain’t me mother,” Sally snarled quietly, looking away at the floor with a furled brow.
Henri Hawkins stepped out through the hatchway to attend to other matters as the Coldbane women terrified their victims, rattling their swords against the iron bars and cursing threats.
“Stepmother,” the dainty soot-covered girl spoke up loudly to get Keelhaul Vanessa’s attention. “When may I join th' family in plunderin’ cargo an’ seizin’ prisoners fer ransom an' takin’ ships as prizes?”
The wretched old hag turned around and laughed, tipping her head back so far that her tri-corner hat nearly fell off. Her daughters laughed with her, whispering disparaging remarks to each other and pointing. “How’s ‘bout ... never?,” the stepmother proclaimed. “Privateerin' requires strength an' fortitude, o' which ye be havin' shown ye lack. Ye be weak like yer mother, which be how I bested ‘er an' tookst yer father as me prize.”
“You nerewould ben able t' outduel her,” Sally scoffed. “Her skills wi' th' sword be second t' none. Ye must be havin' ambushed th' lass' an' had these two wretches aid ye on yer assault on ‘er against th' space pirate tradition. Fer that, one day I will run ye through.”
Keelhaul Vanessa Coldbane laughed again. “I welcome th' day ye try, girl.” She extended her arm and put the point of her cutlass to Sally’s neck, but the filthy young woman did not back down. “But until that tide arrives, get back t' work unless ye fancy takin' th’ plank on th' other side o' an airlock fer dereliction o' duty.”
Sally stood her ground, and scowled at Keelhaul Vanessa Coldbane.
“Slash ‘er throat, mother,” Ruby Angel suggested, then giggled.
“Aye, make ‘er bleed,” Scarlet Carolina laughed.
Vanessa Coldbane glared down at Sally. “Now!” she shouted.
Sally Hawkins frowned and lowered her head, returning to the mop and bucket.
As she scrubbed the iron tiles of the common quarters, Sally watched her step sisters in their lovely clothes, gold trimmed vinyl corset vests, gauze blouses, gold trimmed boot tops and colorful bandanas, while drinking rum and playing cards and laughing. Bloody Henri Hawkins entered through the hatch and announced a course change. He explained that Commodore Dangerous George BlackHeart himself, ruler of all the pirate clans, had announced a festival back on New Haven where he would allow himself to be taken as a prize by a worthy pirate maiden.
Scarlet Carolina and Ruby Angel cheered, and clanged their swords against each other to practice their sparring skills before the tournament. Sally Hawkins smiled and hopped up and down, clapping quietly. Keelhaul Vanessa sneered at her and forbade her from attending the festival as she would embarrass the family.
She objected to her father who would not listen to her. “Your place be here on this ship and in the galley, servicin' th' engines an' clistin' our quarters an' cookin' our meals,” he said. “An' how could ye conquer th' greatest Buccaneer in livin' memory when ye haven’t e'en taken a sword?”
Sally retreated into the engine room, as she would not show tears to her family. She sat down on the floor near a bulkhead with her friendly engine room rats as she cried. And although her stepsisters shouted for her to come and cinched up their corsets, Sally ignored them as she knew they would not come looking for her in the dirty engine room. Hours later, after the ship rumbled through the atmosphere and landed on solid ground, she watched them through a tiny port hole leave and travel to the festival.
“Oh my friendly rats, Raving Mad Fargloom and Scurvy Grimbeard, help me,” she cried, collapsing onto the iron deck. When she lifted her head up, even the rats had left her, and her sorrow was complete. But to her surprise, they returned dragging with them a black leather dress with a short pleated skirt, black boots, and a mask.
“You wee thieves,” she scolded them with a smile and a sparkle in her eye. “This be 'ere me mother had lost ‘er favorite raidin' gown to?” The rats scurried away as Sally lifted up the dress and pressed it against her own form. It lined up perfectly with her shoulders and her hips. She was awakened from her daydreams as the rats returned with a clatter. Across the diamond plating with the screech of metal grinding against metal, they dragged to her feet the most magnificent golden cutlass she had even seen.
Sally gasped, as she picked up the sword, tilting it, and examining the fine etching along the blade that bore her mother’s true name and the nickname that she had given to Sally. No one knew what these strange words meant, and Bella Corsair Hawkins never told anyone but her only daughter. As she held the sword she was infused with strength and determination, as if the sword was imbued with her mother’s love. “Thank ye, you wee bastards,” she roared, as she tied tight behind her head the leather strings of her mother’s raiding mask.
One after another, Commodore Dangerous George BlackHeart embarrassed the pirate maidens that had come to defeat him in a sword fight. He easily disarmed them and put his large hand over their face, pushing them down onto their backsides, where he mocked their attempts to take him as their husband.
As the most recently defeated pirate lass crawled away, he gave her a swat on their ass by the side of his sword. The girl cried out from the indignity but was otherwise unhurt as she left the ceremonial competition platform and merged into the crowd of maidens that surrounded him.
He picked the next maiden, pointing his sword at her, and she happily climbed the three steps and slashed at him with a wicked and ambitious smile. The other maidens in the crowd cheered disingenuous encouragement. Hopeful parents and family members stood in packs at the back of the vast courtyard.
After defeating his newest courter, Blackheart’s attention was caught by the mysterious pirate maiden in black, standing by herself just outside the crowd of maidens. The tip of her sword was in the grass, and gleaming golden sunlight reflected off it.
He put this woman out of his mind, and pointed to the next maiden nearest to him, but his patience for these unworthy opponents had disappeared. The next girl was humiliated and his attention again returned to the pirate in black. The corseted leather dress was a sight to behold, as were the knee-high leather boots. She piqued his curiosity, as she was the only attendee who had hidden her face behind a mask.
“You there!” he shouted, pointing his sword at her from the distance. With his other hand, he beckoned her with a finger. She pulled her sword from the grass, pushing the other maidens aside and approached him with swagger and confidence. He smirked as he thrusted and cut at her, an opening maneuver that disarmed most of the young women he had encountered. Sally parried and easily deflected his attack.
He backed off while she attacked, sending him to the back of the platform. He sidestepped and she slashed at him as she spun around. His sword blocked hers as her back pressed up against his chest. He grabbed her shoulders and held her against him. “Why do you wear a mask, woman?” he asked, as the fragrance of her perfume brought him an unexpected pleasure. “Have you been beaten by an ugly stick?”
“Nay,” Sally responded, elbowing him in the guts and breaking free. She spun around again and held out her sword. He pressed the side of his cutlass against her golden blade, hoping for an elaboration. “I am more lovely than these wenches you have chosen before me,” she declared.
He chortled and pressed an attack against her. They fought spectacularly and George Blackheart was captivated. Her footwork was remarkable and he asked where she learned such exquisite swordsmanship.
“From me mother who sparred wi' me at ever' opportunity before she died,” Sally disclosed.
They sparred for some time, an eternity compared to the few seconds the other pirate maidens battled for. She became increasingly aggressive as he tired, and knocked the sword out of Dangerous George Blackheart’s hand. The blade wobbled as it arced through the air before landing, its point penetrating the wood platform and twanging back and forth. The crowd of maidens gasped.
He pulled her close, as she put a dagger to his neck. He chuckled at her enthusiasm and told her that he was hers for the taking. “Take off yer mask an' let me be seein' you now,” he ordered.
“I cannot,” she said quietly. Sally pushed him down and spun around to flee. He grabbed for her and could only reach the hilt of her cutlass, pulling it out of her hand. She turned and glared at him, but then lunged into the crowd and disappeared.
Commodore Dangerous George BlackHeart forbade that any ship should leave the world of New Haven as he searched each and every vessel for the mysterious pirate maiden that had conquered and captivated him. When he boarded Bloody Henri Hawkin’s raiding ship, he gave both Scarlet Carolina and Ruby Angel an opportunity with the golden sword. They were quickly defeated and pushed down onto the deck. Forever the opportunist, Keelhaul Vanessa made an attempt to the disappointment of her husband. She too was disarmed and humiliated.
"None of you wenches could be the mysterious woman in black,” Blackheart decided. “No woman shall take me as their prize except for the one who is fit the wield this golden sabre. Sir, do you have any other daughters?” Blackheart asked Hawkins.
"There is only deformed little Sally from my first wife,” Henri admitted. “But she cannot possibly be the pirate you seek."
“I shall see her now,” George demanded.
Vanessa Coldbane warned, "She is too dirty and cannot be seen."
Dangerous George observed her looking at the engine room hatch. “You are an unhelpful wretch,” Blackheart said to her, as he tramped to the steel door, spinning the wheel that fastened it shut. He pulled the door open and hopped through the bulkhead. Sally was covered again in soot from head to toe as she mopped the floor.
“Milord,” she said, dropping the mop. She knelt and bowed her head.
“Take this sword an' take me as yer prize, if ye can,” he demanded.
“'Tis impossible she be th' one who bested you,” Vanessa Coldbane asserted.
“Do ye be havin' nay courage, girl?” Dangerous George mocked.
“I be havin' a stout heart,” Sally whispered.
“Then take th’ sword!”
He threw the cutlass at her. Sally reached up and caught it while still looking to the deck. She lifted her eyes to him as she rose up. George impatiently slashed at her, using the same expedient maneuver that had disarmed every other pirate maiden. Sally deflected his attack and swiped back at him. He jumped back to avoid having his stomach cut open.
“So thar be fire in yer belly after all,” he said.
“More than you can handle,” she riposted. “I wanted t' save ye th' embarrassment o' me ‘orrible family, but now that ye be here, I shall nay longer let ye deceive yersef about yer mediocre swordsmanship.”
“Is that so?” he barked.
Once again, the sword infused her with the power of her mother’s love. She slashed at him and slapped the cutlass out of his hand. Surprised, he looked down at his hand expecting the sword to still be there, but it was spinning on the iron deck like a top.
“This sabre truly belongs in yer hand,” he said, dropping to his knees and pleading with her to take him as her prize.
“Aye,” she consented.
He lifted her into the air with a grand embrace, pronouncing this marriage will embark upon a new age where the space pirates will remind the Empire who owned the traffic lanes.
“My family, as awful as they be, must remain wi' me, 'tis me duty,” Sally demanded.
“Very well, we will need ferocious sea dogs on our offensive.”
“And we shall find them,” Sally agreed, “while these scurvy dogs tend t' th' engine room an' th' clistin' an' th' galley.”
2341 words - Originally written in under 1500 words for the "Fairy Tale Twist Contest" , but the contest sponsor went MIA a month before the contest ended so I revised and expanded it, clearly disqualifying this story from consideration when she returns.