Chapter two of the fiction story I have been playing around with lately.
|Chapter Two; On Board the Deceit|
The only reason that Catherine was aware night had once again crossed the ocean and consumed them was that she had awoken to a cold she barely believed. The air was rank with the stench she was still unable to locate, though it seemed to be getting stronger every day, and her clothes remained damp from the ‘wash’ she had been permitted earlier, whereby her master had come forward with a bucket of sea water and thrown it at her, leaving the salty tang on her lips. She couldn’t force back the shivers that flexed and tightened her muscles painfully with every breath, nor the tears that ran along her cheeks as she huddled herself up against the bars of her cage and pulled her knees into her chest.
It was possibly a week or even a little more since she had first been sent down to The Brigg, and two days since she had accepted food from Max when he came with her meals. She had long since stopped singing to herself, it had once soothed her but she felt no need for the melody any longer, her mind had resolved that if her master did not kill her he would cast her out, and leave her to die slowly and alone on the streets of Madrid. Her mind wandered freely much of the time to some sort of alternate life in which she had never been a slave, simply a servant who had left her master’s employ to return home and tend to her gentle husband. The life she would now be grateful for, but would never have.
Suddenly the ship lurched and her dreams were thrown almost completely from her head as she struck the floor and blinked, breathing in the smell of damp and hay. All around her the men were calling out and running, she heard the thunder of their feet and the urgency of their voices. Curiosity spurred within her for a moment and she lifted her head eagerly, hoping to catch a little conversation. So eager was she to find out what was going on up on deck that she didn’t even notice Max come in with her breakfast on a tray.
“There’s a pirate ship approaching,” he explained making her jump backward and scramble through the hay to move away from the door.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he said softly as he approached carrying a small bowl.
“You didn’t,” she growled fiercely.
“Aha! She speaks!” he laughed gently, approaching with the steaming bowl sending a whiff of some pleasant aroma towards her.
Catherine glared at him, though she confessed herself mildly impressed by his joy at her speech, and his rather sly manner of having which acquired it.
“You have surprising spirit for a slave, and surprising colour of skin.” He said offering her the bowl of soup and watching her move forward to take it quickly from his hands and back away to look into the steaming bowl. “Such spirit requires energy I am sure. You must eat.” He encouraged lightly.
“My spirits have never required anything.” She growled, looking hopelessly at the bowl.
“Then eat to give yourself strength. You may need it should the pirates decide to attack.” His voice remained nothing but light encouragement.
She cast him an uncertain glance, “what would pirates want with a ship that carries no valuables?”
“Not everything considered valuable by a pirate comes in the form of silver or gold.” He muttered with his eyes cast down.
“You mean that they may seek out the women?” she asked, placing the bowl down at her side and once again ignoring the food. She watched him nod and nodded herself with a small smile across her lips.
“Why do you smile? Are you not worried?” There was surprise and concern in his questioning.
“Pirates seek out captives so that they might receive a ransom for her return; they would get nothing for me and would therefore take no interest in my capture. Any other sort of captive is nothing but an expense and a liability.” She spoke with a cold factual tone; her eyes alight with a challenging glitter.
“I am sure even pirates can appreciate a beautiful young woman.” He flashed a smile at her, but she did not smile back, she only looked at him levelly the challenge never leaving her eyes. “What’s your name anyway?” he asked with a questioning sweep of his eyes across her figure.
“You might as well call me Girl. I’ll answer you,” she muttered with clear distaste.
“Come on,” he pleaded encouragingly, “you can’t like being called Girl all of the time.”
“It’s Catherine,” she sighed reluctantly and at once he beamed at her.
“Catherine! A beautiful name, more than befitting of you I am quite sure!” His voice tilted with admiration making her glare at him. “Friendly aren’t you?”
“I have no reason for friends,” she growled lightly.
“Well then. If you’re quite sure about that I had better be on my way. Pirates and all, I suppose I should be getting back on deck.” With these gentle words he gathered himself up and left, leaving the bowl of soup sitting beside her and still untouched.
Catherine watched Max leave while still listening to the sounds of the crew hurrying about on deck, their frantic calls to one another, and the thunder of their feet battering from one place to another above her head. Then suddenly all went silent, the footsteps stopped completely and the voices ended. She sat, looking up at the ceiling and straining her ears, hoping to catch some signs of what was going on, but it all remained completely still.
With a sigh Catherine reached down and took the bowl up from beside her, there was some truth in what Max had told her after all. If there were pirates about it was quite possible she would need her strength, even if it was only so that she could swim to shore after they had burned The Duke Remorah into cinders. Both hands held the bowl at either side as she lifted it up to her mouth and drank the thick warm soup deeply.
How much time had passed was not clear to her, after drinking her soup she had set the bowl down at the front bars of her cage, and though some noise had bustled about again above her there was only a little of it, and the scuffing of boots and shifting of feet sounded nervous and hesitant, like noises that didn’t want to be heard. Catherine rested herself against the bars at the back of the cell, where the rocking of the ship lulled her gently into a state of sleepy submission.
Her eyes opened suddenly to the sight of four men, standing on the other side of the bars and watching her. Sharply she sat upright and pinned herself against the bars she had been resting against, allowing her eyes to slowly take focus. There, at the front of the group and looking on with concern was Max. To either side of him, both looking rather pleased with themselves and malicious were Lord Caver and Baron Byron. Then, standing behind and looking as though he did not know what to think, was The Captain. She looked at them a few long moments, not sure what to do but certainly not relaxing at all.
“What do you want?” She demanded, glaring particularly hard at Lord Caver. But it was her master who took up the conversation.
“You will not speak to your superiors like that girl!” he spat indignantly.
Max shot an uncertain look back at the captain who looked equally as uneasy. Then he moved a little further forward, “Catherine, The Baron has something he wants to ask of you. It was Lord Caver’s idea, and if you agree it would get you out of this cell, The Baron and his family would be in your debt.”
At this point Lord Caver interrupted sharply, “right Girl! We need to do something that will protect your mistress, do this and I’ll forget all about what you…what you did.”
Her eyes widened for a moment as though shocked by his mere words, and then suddenly they shrunk and narrowed on him as though she were a cat about to strike. “Still maintaining that the wild child attacked without cause are you, my lord?” Her voice was laced with such sudden venom that no one would have believed it was the sweet young woman who spoke it.
A guilty look crossed the Lord’s face as each man turned to look at him curiously. “I have no idea what you mean,” he growled unconvincingly, trying to sound confused. The faces turned back to look at Cat, who’s expression had not changed in the slightest. The silence stretched out for a few more long moments before the Baron pushed forward and crouched at the bars, peering in at her expectantly.
“Listen girl, if you do this for me you will keep your position in my household for the rest of your life.” There was a reassuring tone to his voice that she could not bring herself to trust.
“And how long might that be?” she asked with a single raised eyebrow.
“Too clever for your own good girl!” he countered, laughing deeply. The other men smirked a little but seemed to take the question more seriously than The Baron, but none took it so seriously as Catherine, who had not smiled or changed in any way.
“I tell you this my dear, should you complete my request the way I tell you to, you’ll live long enough to see my grandchildren wed.” His voice was gentle and coaxing, but her gaze had snapped onto Lord Caver, glaring at him. The topic of grandchildren could mean only one thing, and he seemed to notice and just smirked at her. “Well?” prompted The Baron.
“What is it you want me to do?” she sighed, turning her attention back to her master.
Two men’s faces erupted in joy, but the other two remained looking uneasy, and she felt a sense of the same emotion running through her at the sight of their faces. She couldn’t help herself; she tried to catch Max’s eye, even if just for a moment, she needed his gentle features to offer her that feeling of trust and safety that they always had. Max dropped his gaze the moment she caught it; there was no reassurance left in him, only pity.
“You need to pretend to be Isabella.” Said Lord Caver, and at once she looked at him in pure surprise, but before she could question what he had said Baron Byron jumped into an explanation.
“There were pirates. A great black ship that sailed out of the waters of nowhere and drew up close to us, she chased us down until it seemed hopeless, but she didn’t fire. They just sent a little messenger in a row boat, and he came on board and read a letter from their captain. He explained that we have a choice, you see, he knew this ship would be carrying Isabella, and he intends to take her and escort us through the waters until we reach Spain, at which point he will ransom Isabella back to us.
“The trouble is that, while I am more than happy to pay the ransom, Isabella could not take care of herself on a pirate’s ship. Lord only knows what could happen to her, and I don’t wish to take any risks when it comes to my daughter. She is simply too young and inexperienced to take care of herself out there.
“However, if she is not handed over by the time the sun sets the pirates will attack, and no doubt sink the ship, killing us all. If you accept you will be free, you will be dressed properly and handed over to the pirates in the place of my daughter. You will then proceed to play the part of Lady Isabella Byron until our arrival in Spain, at which time the ransom will be paid and you will be returned to my employ.”
All in all, the plan sounded rather simple as far as Catherine was concerned, she would have taken any opportunity to leave her cell and this seemed the perfect chance. Affirmatively she nodded and The Baron broke into a toothy grin, he then ordered the door opened and the rest of the events flustered by quickly. The three oldest men left, the captain had other matters to tend to and was only glad to be out of The Brigg. The Lord and The Baron had no doubt hurried off to tell their women, Isabella and Mary, of their success in persuading the little slave girl. As for Max he hung back and was the one to open the cell and enter, offering Catherine help in getting to her feet.
“Why do you accept? Lord only knows what those pirates will do to you.” He muttered softly as he took her arm and guided her from her cell.
“I’m not afraid of the pirates.” She said, sounding so much stronger than she felt.
“Then you’re a fool Catherine!” he snapped suddenly, his voice sharp as he turned to face her and stepped back a little so that his arm no longer guided her from the space they had been occupying in the corridor outside the room that had been host to the slave girl these past days. Catherine turned on him sharply and glared for a moment, how he could presume to judge her, the pirates brought her safety in the promise of her master, and they would surely treat her right if they believed she was a lady.
She turned sharply and marched away, remembering much of the direction turning this way and that in the corridors until she reached the door she had seen on her first day on board The Duke Remorah, the large wooden door into Isabella’s cabin. She entered without knocking and the occupant of the room spun with a jerky gasp and took in the unkempt slave with her pale green eyes. Isabella was, as the rumours told, a beautiful young woman; she had long, wavy black hair that was so silken smooth that it shone with a silvery moonlight quality, like the black waters of the sea. Her large eyes were heavily lidded with powder and liner, bringing out the pale green as though it were pure emerald, and her skin was the colour of fine white porcelain, there was no more delicate looking woman anywhere to be found.
“Oh lord girl! Look at you, if you’re to play the part of a lady before sun down we must hurry.” She sounded exasperated, and yet there was something in her voice that Cat wasn’t sure about, something she couldn’t seem to place.
“We must do nothing My Lady; I am more than capable of taking care of myself. I have, after all, taken care of you for many years.” Her voice was again laced with venom, but she was in no mood for Isabella, or her vanity, she only wanted to dress herself and deal with the situation, getting herself off this ship and onto another, where she could not be sure whether she would be happier than she had been in her cell or not, though she suspected she would be happy enough aboard the pirates’ ship.
Isabella, however, was not deterred by the discouragement she received, she simply set about at once collecting up some of her smaller dresses and admiring them individually while glancing at Catherine at intervals as though to judge the dress against her. In appearance the two were similar, so as far as Catherine could tell the deception would not be noticed by the pirates, even if they had a few details of Isabella’s physical appearance.
Their hair was the same inky black, with only two real differences. The first was that when the light hit Isabella’s hair, it’s sheen was more of a silver, but Catherine’s hair reflected light in the same manner as a raven’s feathers, with a sheen of deep, navy blue, but this was very rarely noticed, if ever at all, so it was hardly likely that the pirates would ever know any different. The second difference with their hair was the style, though the length was almost the same, with Catherine’s a little further past the shoulders than Isabella’s, Catherine’s hair was straight and not so carefully kept as the wavy locks of Isabella’s hair, but this of course could be changed relatively easily. Another difference was their bodies, though it was more likely the pirates would know about this, there was little Catherine would be able to do if they discovered it; but Isabella’s body had a little more to it than Catherine’s.
The truth of the matter was that Isabella was a high class young woman; she had never needed to work and was free to eat as much as her gluttony desired. She had treated herself well and been more than welcome to do so, doted upon by her father, adored by every man she met, educated in all the female arts by her mother; it was not surprising that Isabella was who she was. Catherine had never had the chance, her childhood had ben simple enough, but food was not in large supply, and when she had been sold the only way to gain a meal was to earn it by serving a spoiled girl. She had worked hard for what seemed forever, the skin on her hands and feet was more toughened than Isabella’s would be expected to be, in the place of rich, soft fat she had toned, smooth muscles.
It was time to conceal the differences, time to become Isabella in every way she could think of, her life would require a convincing act after all. She glanced around the room slowly, and thought, only to turn and leave again. She had decided on a plan of action, and first to be tended to was a bath, after all she had spent much too long in a cell, only with a cold splash of sea water thrown over her. She went at once to the kitchens, not quite sure how she had located them so directly, but thought it most likely that she had followed the rich, wafting aroma of steak, sizzling in thick, hot oils over a fire.
It was to the cook that she made her conversation, and she soon discovered that everyone on the ship was aware of the arrangements, in fact, while Catherine was pretending to be Isabella; Isabella was to be pretending to be a kitchen boy. An amusing thought that would, no doubt, keep Catherine a little more in her spirits while she was away. The cook was a nice man, friendly enough to talk to, and he was more than happy to offer her a basin and hot water with which to bathe. He had soon tended to it and set her up a small area of his kitchen, with towels brought and a robe borrowed from the captain. She washed with what little privacy she was given, washing her hair with particular care, allowing her hands to tenderly roam her skin as though inspecting it.
Her time in confinement had taken some toll on her, light bruising had appeared in several places where she had slept against something, or fallen in her sleep and found herself confronted by some object. As well as scars down her shoulders and back, some old and some a little more recent but all vividly white against the sun bronzed olive of her skin; reminders of her master’s lessons. She thought briefly about the restriction this would put on clothing, not being able to show too much of her back, it certainly meant taking more of Mary’s clothing than Isabella’s. Before lifting herself from the hot water Cat managed to soften the skin of her hands and feet with the use of a rough stone that Max had managed to find for her, though he did so begrudgingly; still not entirely pleased with her for agreeing to go.
Finally she dried herself and wrapped the borrowed robe around her naked body, turning to face the kitchens at last and thanking the hospitality of the men who had assisted her there. Catherine moved quickly because she had to; time was running out and afforded no extra, she had to get back to the room and upon her arrival there she made for the table of Isabella’s things at once. First the powder, which she used to take the colour from her sun kissed face and give herself the ghostly look of her mistress. Then was her hair, which was pinned up and badly curled; which turned out a success as it became wavy rather than curly. She selected a more conservative dress for her abduction; a long, short sleeved, soft blue cotton, trimmed with ornately decorative white lace. It concealed the entirety of her back, so for that she could not complain, however it did hang rather lower at the front than she was accustomed to; the tight bodice of the dress pushed her breasts up and compressed them a firmly against her chest, while at the same time revealing enough of their upper extremity to show their size. Not at all something she was comfortable with, and yet it was one of the highest cut dressed she had to choose from.
Catherine was standing in a corner, putting a selection of folded dresses into a travel case when Isabella appeared again, it seemed she had gone to The Captain’s cabin while Catherine had been bathing and preparing herself for the occasion. “Doing alright Girl?” she asked in a rough, mocking voice. Catherine spun around to face her and took in the flitter of shock that crossed her mistress’ expression. She almost knew what was going through Isabella’s mind, come landing in Spain Isabella would be able to claim that she spent time among pirates, as their captive, she could probably even get away with claiming she was seduced by a pirate, and yet she would never be able to experience the things she would claim to do, because she was going to be safely tucked away in the kitchens.
Isabella’s resentment was almost expected, after all it had been specified that the whole idea had been Lord Caver’s. Catherine only sighed, fully aware of the fact Isabella’s eyes were now sweeping the slave’s body and looking for some imperfection that could be pointed out later as means of mocking her.
“You seem to have forgotten one small detail.” She purred silkily.
Catherine raised her brow questioningly, “sorry,” she said softly with a half concerned face. “You should understand though, stuck up bitch is a hard look to pull off.”
Isabella gasped and stepped forward, for a moment she looked as though she would strike Catherine across the face, but slowly her hand drew back and she sighed. “My father would not forgive me if I struck you; it would be harder for the pirates to believe that you are me if you show up with a black eye.” Her hand clenched into a fist and her anger was painfully clear, but thankfully on this occasion it caused no pain. “I was only going to say that your eyes are not right; mine are green, yours are blue.”
Catherine sucked in a sudden breath and hurried to the mirror over the dresser, staring into her own vibrantly bright blue eyes. It was true; her eyes were the clear blue of a sky recently cleared of storm, greatly contrasting to the pale green of Isabella’s eyes.
“I suppose I just have to hope they don’t notice or don’t know.” She muttered, touching the area around her eyes nervously, this certainly wasn’t sounding like a brilliant idea. Just having to go to the pirate’s ship and pretend to be someone she’s not, and with the chance of death should her act fail. There was too much at stake, she had to try, at the very least, but if she wanted to live she had to try, and succeed, and that would be no easy task.
Catherine was of course nervous when she turned away from the mirror and returned to the bedside, to continue packing the few belongings of Isabella’s that she would be taking with her. Her mind had long since strayed to the pirate ship, wondering what it would be like there, what sort of treatment would befall her there and in particular the sort of men that the pirates would be. She had convinced herself that they were criminals, ugly and twisted men with no understanding of honour or respect, however deep inside herself she feared that this was not the case, it would have been so much easier to hate them if she knew what to think of them but she was sadly unaware of their true nature and this frightened her more than anything else had up to this point.
The day seemed to vanish before she had even the chance to use it; she had packed a single case of things which included the more conservative dresses she had selected alongside some of Isabella’s less frequently worn jewellery and perfumes. She had managed to make herself appear adequately lady like, in her opinion at least, and she was feeling strangely optimistic about the prospect of finding herself free of this ship and captive of another.
No one was entirely sure what would happen next, but the sun was beginning to set, swallowed by the vast emptiness of the ocean, and the majority of the crew had gathered on deck to wait. Catherine stood with The Captain, who had introduced himself that same hour as Captain Harold Daniels, to one side of her and Max to the other. Meanwhile The Baron and Lord Caver hung back slightly, both looking strangely anxious, the real Isabella was hidden away below deck waiting for the all clear before assuming her new identity as a kitchen boy.
The last ray of sunlight vanished and suddenly the dark shape of the second ship, the pirate ship, was dappled with light that appeared to be coming from lanterns. There were swarms of shadows all moving towards The Duke Remorah, all looking strangely malicious in the empty dusk of the gathering night. They were there in what felt like moments, the entire crew watched them approach, mesmerized by them and intrigued by their stealth and grace. Catherine tensed where she stood, watching as The Duke Remorah was suddenly full of men, all moving forwards and, she realized fearfully late, drawing themselves in a ring around Captain Daniels and his more important passengers.
Lord Caver moved unexpectedly towards Catherine and put a hand on her shoulder, the touch was, in some strange and disturbing way, comforting to her, reassuring. The Baron moved forward and stood as close to Catherine as he could, looking protective and sharp. She understood now, they weren’t comforting her; they were simply pretending to care so that the pirates believed the act. Still, at least they were helping.
The men who formed the circle mostly consisted of large stocky and frightening looking gentlemen, though there were a few smaller men involved and some not looking quite as stocky, they were consistently frightening. Captain Daniels demanded that the pirate captain show himself, and at once a young man stepped forward. At first Catherine thought it was the captain, presenting himself and about to take his prize, but after a moment of brisk and unhappy conversation between him and Captain Daniels she understood him to be the messenger who had come previously.
The events of the evening didn’t really seem to matter anymore, she was going to be taken away and in the end there was a high chance she would die, either at the hands of the pirates or the hands of her master, it didn’t matter who killed her, the point was that there was a good chance of death involved in her situation, and it made her understandably uneasy. The two men spoke for what seemed forever, it became clear that Captain Daniels hoped to talk them out of taking the girl, offering various other treasures that he had on board his ship in her place, but the messenger was persistent. In the end The Captain sighed heavily and turned slowly to Cat, his head hanging and his eyes cast low; clearly he had nothing more to offer.
He held out his arms and slowly she went to him, only to find herself embraced tightly, “I am sorry my dear. It was never my choice to put you in this situation,” he whispered softly in her ear while he held her. She smiled and took in a deep breath of him, the smell of pipe tobacco and port, not something she would forget all too soon. He released her and looked on past her, at Lord Caver and Baron Byron, the two men moved forward and attempted to make a good show of their farewells. Lord Caver was first, he pulled her into his arms roughly and held her backside rather deliberately, anger flushed through her but on this occasion she managed to force it back, “when I have you back, my love, I intend to make you my wife. Think of that while we are apart.” He made his voice clear and loud, ensuring that every pirate on the ship heard, then he stepped back and allowed The Baron to say his goodbyes. He took her more gently in his arms and kissed her brow, “be safe my dear. My thoughts will always be with you.” His voice was gentle but much like Lord Caver he projected it to be sure that the pirates heard.
Finally Catherine was free of the embraces of those men who would pretend to care so easily, only to find herself engaged by another pair of arms. Max. He had run forward almost the moment The Baron had let go and now had his arms wrapped around her shoulders, his lips against her ear, his breath brushing against her neck so tenderly it made her quiver. “I will see you again,” he whispered in an almost conspirator like manner, “I’ll not let them forget their promise to get you back.”
“Thank you Max, you’re a real friend.” She whispered in return, kissing him lightly on the cheek before pulling away and walking toward the messenger. She picked up her case then stood in front of him, waiting patiently and looking up into his eyes calmly, there was something crooked in the smile he gave her and she felt helpless to shake the feeling away, the feeling like a mouse caught in a cat’s trap. She took in the features of this messenger, the short and roughly cut brown hair, the stubble across his face, the generally unclean look to him and she sighed. Clearly this was going to be a very long imprisonment.
There was that familiar feeling again, a hand grasping her arm firmly and pulling her in the desired direction. The messenger was not gentle in his treatment of her; if anything he seemed rather resentful and pushed her sharply ahead of him, holding her arm much tighter than she would have considered being remotely comfortable.
It was as she was being pulled away by the fierce grip of the messenger that the other pirates began to withdraw from the ship, forming a group around her and her escort where there was no chance of being reached by anyone who might attempt to assist her, not that she was believing for even a moment that they would. She was surrounded by the hostile enemy, faced with an unknown time of uncertainties.
Her boarding of the pirate’s ship was unceremonious, she was all the time grasped tightly in the hold of the messenger, who was apparently of some status among his fellows, as they kept their distance and offered him the appropriate respect that might have meant a captain in army standards, but no more than that. On deck the ship lurched and distance appeared between it and The Duke Remorah. Catherine was dropped and failed in catching herself before she struck the floor, first her lower back then her head. She could only groan and close her eyes to the gathering faces above her. How could she have agreed to this?
“Back!” a strong, deep voice called across the ship and suddenly everything fell silent, she could hear the pounding of blood in her ears, but even the waves seemed to have fallen to a whisper in respect of that ominous voice. All around her feet started to shuffle, but they were moving away from her, definitely, but why? What was it they were letting go to her, a single pair of boots approached; the step of them was light and soft but this only added to her fear.
The sound of the boots stopped only a pace away from her head, but she kept her eyes closed, fear thrilled through every part of her body, her mind reeled at what disgusting man was now examining her, then there was cold laughter above her face. “You seem to have frightened her lads. Shame on you!” the crew joined in his laughter, it was so cold, so dark, she could not help but to shiver and feel the goose bumps rising on her skin. “Welcome to The Dark Deceit lass!” she supposed it was the captain of the ship, the light footed, deep voiced man that had approached and now welcomed her to the ship, The Dark Deceit. What a strangely fitting name.
“Jess, take her to me cabin.” He called sharply and instantly a man rushed forward and grabbed her arm, he pulled her sharply to her feet and dragged her away, when she finally opened her eyes she found it was the messenger who was dragging her to the cabin, Jess? An odd name for a man to possess, perhaps it was simply some sort of nickname, and did it matter? He was the enemy; she shouldn’t be standing and wondering about his slightly unusual name. He took her to what felt like the other side of the ship, opened a cabin door and threw her in without entering himself. She heard the click of the door being locked and tensed sharply, spinning this way and that to look around the room nervously. She was, for now, the only occupant, it was a damp, dark and dusty room that smelled strongly of… well men. There was the aroma of sweat, of dirt and grunge, meat and drink, and something else that was terribly like wet dog.
The captain had a large cabin; one side was something like an office, the other like a bedroom, one large bed spread with fresh white linen. She was more than happy to ignore that and move towards the other end of the cabin to examine it a little closer. The table was large and strewn with maps, each showing some different place of the world and in all different sizes and scales. On top was a map that showed Spain and the area of ocean around it, the ocean they had not yet reached.
There wasn’t a lot to do in the cabin, or much to look at; it took only a few minutes to look across the papers on the desk which meant that after only a few moments there was nothing to do but wait. Once again she became accustomed to the sound of feet drumming above her, of voices calling around her, at last she moved to the bed and perched on the edge, watching the door with a pounding fear beating traitorously in her breast.
She never heard his footsteps approaching, only saw the door suddenly open and a handsome young man enter. He looked cleaner than the other members of the crew she saw, his long dark hair was tied back, accept for a small collection of strands that fell down the left side of his face and ended in a slight curl. His eyes were a strikingly vibrant green, they gazed at her intensely then he smiled, “please, don’t look so awkward on my account,” he purred in a deep, gentle voice, “rest, make yourself at home.”
“Am I to suppose that you expect me to share a room, with you?” she demanded sharply, though she instantly wished she hadn’t because she saw that his left brow lifted unusually high and his head tilted slightly to the side giving him a surprised and curious look.
“I was on the understanding that my dear little guest would be a polite and obedient young woman, the sort of lady who would not be found refusing a gentleman’s kindness.” His voice had a dangerous lilt to it, threatening and dark, but she was to play the part of a lady, no one had told her she had to become some obedient, easy little girl, no she was going to fight him every step of the way.
“I see no gentleman here, only a thief who has been greatly misinformed.” She spat in retort. “I have no intention of submitting to your will sir, none at all.”
“Is that so my lady? I’m afraid you can either choose to stay and obey me, or you can go where other captives would usually be sent.” There was a twist to his smile.
“Well then, I suppose you should show me to my cell,” she growled defiantly.
The captain seemed rather taken aback by her defiance, she was proud of that and yet suddenly concerned; he had said himself that her had expected someone more complacent. What if she really was giving herself away? There was much known about Isabella, but how much of it this pirate knew she was uncertain, she could only hope he was not privy to too much gossip. There seemed to be hope for her yet, why would a man who spends his time roaming the oceans and stealing the bounty of better men be aware of idol talk concerning one rich man’s child.
“I never said anything about a cell.” He gave a cold, sharp laugh that she recognized, indeed it was he who had first welcomed her on board the ship, he who had instructed that Jess take her below to his cabin, surely she was already aware of that, but this was just the confirmation she needed to justify her hatred of him to herself.
“So where is it that you send other captives? I doubt you are cruel enough to subject them all to your company.” Her voice was sharp and short, she couldn’t help it, she just wasn’t all that happy at the moment and he encouraged feelings of anger and spite in her.
“You might think better of my company after discovering that truth for yourself.” His tone held a sly note that she simply didn’t like, she watched him almost nervously for a moment or two longer before he complied in sharing a few more details of his intentions with her, though it could not be said that they appealed to her at all. “Most of my captives join the crew and work through their stay on my ship. Continue to disrespect me and refuse my company and you’ll be on deck, earning the right to have food and water just like everyone else.”
At first it seemed a threat, but then she thought about it and felt as though she had just received the life support she needed. Work was nothing she couldn’t handle, she could deal with the bad conditions he might make her endure, she could even pull her weight working about the ship among the men, and she could certainly protect herself from any advances they might make, or so she hoped at least. Catherine could no longer help herself; she beamed a smirk at this captain among pirates and nodded, “sounds only fair. When am I to start work?”
There was such a cheery ring in her voice that even she scarcely believed it, however the truth remained that this was ideal, she would work the time away, get by earning her keep and staying out of trouble and then she would be taken back to work in The Baron’s new household. This was turning out to be a lot easier than she had first supposed it would be, in fact it seemed as though she could manage to survive the ordeal no differently to how things would have been on The Duke Remorah, better in fact as she had been locked up and neglected on that ship.
“You’re surprisingly willing to work, for someone so unwilling to tolerate me.” His voice tilted suspiciously, Catherine felt suddenly out of place. How stupid did she have to be, she was drawing too much attention to herself; even a pirate would know that no lady would willingly work when a man’s company for one night could get her out of it. Things seemed more difficult and confusing than ever, but perhaps she could make this work for her. Cat watched him with determined calm, almost glaring into the depth of his storm tossed green eyes. He watched her in return, but his gaze was softer, he looked so relaxed the imagery of it was simply unreal.
“As you wish my lady,” said his smooth, deep voice in response.
The movement was so fast she didn’t really understand how it had happened, suddenly he was on his feet, he crossed the room and took her arm, but she had hardly blinked an eye in the time it took. His body looked so natural and fluid in its motions, not disturbed by the rock of the ocean below them but shifting with the waves to keep his balance perfect. He dragged her out of his cabin and back along the corridor Jess had pulled her down previously, but the captain took her down a previously unexplored route and shoved her through a dirty looking door at one side. She landed in a heap at the feet of a startled young man, but he ignored her for the time being and looked questioningly at the man standing and watching from the doorway. "A pet for you," The Captain was surprisingly amused judging by his tone of voice, but not even that offered apt enough indication to the young man that perhaps he should have better hidden the confusion, hesitation and indeed fear that showed in his expression.
"Don't worry Thumper," The Captain laughed catching these traitorous emotions in his man's eyes, "I don't actually need you to keep the woman like some sort of dog. However, for now, she will be in your charge, I trust you'll put her to work alongside yourself?" He raised a brow looking sharply at the young man he had now entrusted his prisoner to, waiting with determination for the response he wanted. The young man who had been addressed as 'Thumper' nodded respectfully and spoke in a thick accent that she was unable to place, "'Course Cap'n Wolf. Ye can trust the lass w' me." They nodded to each other and then the captain turned and left, closing the door to the small, damp cabin behind him.
"S'pose you'd be the lass, Isabella, they're all gettin' in a twist 'bout." His voice was soft, light and so heavily accentuated with that charming foreign tone that she felt suddenly obliged to smile at him, taking in the suddenly apparent handsomeness of his features. He was a tanned young man, his hair a sort of sun paled brown and his eyes a rich combination of chocolate browns. Eventually she found herself able to shrug and smirk.
"Well, as far as I know, I am the only Isabella on this ship." He smiled back, though he seemed to feel out of place, there was awkwardness to the way he stood; a crooked mark in his smile, a lean in his posture that made her think he felt uncomfortable. She could only assume that it was due to the fact he had been left in charge of a captive and was unfamiliar with that sort of task. "And I suppose you would be... Thumper?" There was a questioning lilt to the end of her comment that indicated the confusion and curiosity she suddenly felt, as to how he could have acquired such a name.
The young man nodded and gave a small smirk, "actually, it's Thomas; the lads call me Thumper.”
For a brief moment Catherine felt as though she might have made a friend, not necessarily someone she could trust, certainly not someone who could be told the truth, but never the less he seemed to be a nice enough man.
“What work can ye de me lady?” he asked, fixing her with a pair of soft hazel eyes.
“I do as I must,” she answered slightly hesitantly. She had a strange feeling that this Captain Wolf already suspected her of not being the lady she claimed to be. However she couldn’t be sure, if he truly suspected he would have surely indicated such, but instead he had simply given Catherine her wish and set her to work.
As it was already passed sunset there was very little to do, besides let Thumper give her the rundown of the ship and instruct her on her new duties. They spent that evening finding her a room, this was easy enough as the cabin alongside Thumper’s was vacant, apparently the last occupant had passed away rather recently but Thumper seemed slightly reluctant to share the details. Catherine was too sore and much too tired to feel much curiosity about this however and for now she let the topic die. The air was quickly turning cool as she was shown around the ship, not much enjoying their time on deck due to the cool sea air that brushed her skin and left sea spray in her hair. Catherine found herself introduced to some of the kitchen staff and could only be thankful that they all instantly called her by Lady Isabella, or else she would have blown her cover already.
The cook was a strange man, tall and skinny with a pale, long drawn face; he looked like the sort of man that never ate. Catherine was more accustomed to seeing plump, red faced chefs, so meeting this lanky ghost of a man was a little strange, but then much of the crew were strange. The cook’s assistant was a man that never spoke, it turned out Thumper carried a rabbit’s foot everywhere he went, the first mate hated everything (including the sea) and there was one particular crew member who looked wild.
It was a lot to cope with in one day, but Catherine got through her tasks of that night, helping in the kitchen to prepare food and then serving it to the crew in their largest cabin space. It was near the kitchen, so carrying the food through was easy enough. The area itself was large and had soft, small padded mats that the crew sat on while they ate. Strangely the captain ate with his crew, at first Cat didn’t even notice him; he blended in rather well and seemed to just fit into the crew.
“You seem to be managing the work rather well,” his deep voice was uncomfortably familiar; she turned away from a short, well built, man to face him. The colour drained quickly from her face and he had obviously noticed because he laughed.
There was a long, awkward moment where the crew fell silent to listen. Captain Wolf just sat, smirking at her; she remained still and silent while her mind worked for some sort of answer. Why did she freeze? This was no urgent situation. She didn’t have to make them all suspicious with her silence.
“Women have a tendency to pick these things up faster than men.” She was somewhat proud of herself, not only for managing such an answer, but even proud of the cold spite in her voice when she had answered.
“I have duties to attend, if you don’t mind.” She didn’t wait for him to object before setting a bowl down on the floor in front of him and leaving the large room.
Thomas was there picking up the last two bowls of broth, leaving one on the table. When she entered he looked up and smiled at her in his usually friendly manner.
“There’s ye supper there Lass. Ye be joinin’ the lads te eat?”
“No, thank you, Thomas, but I would rather eat alone.”
“Alright Lass,” he said smiling at her. “I gotta clean up the kitchen when we done eatin’. I wouldn’t tattle if you was to just get on down to ye room and sleep fer the night.”
“Thank you, you’re very kind.” She smiled back at him and he left to hand out the last bowl and eat his own.
Though she was aware she had eaten very little that day Catherine found she had no appetite for the food that was left to her. Certainly there was nothing wrong with it; it just seemed she was not hungry any longer. Silently she set about work, first cleaning the many utensils and pots that had been used during the preparation of the meal, then finding their places and putting them away. She washed the surfaces and floors and even put out the cooking fire before leaving the kitchen and retracing her steps back to her room. The bunk was small and not at all comfortable; it reminded Cat of the conditions she had always known and made her feel somewhat more at ease than she might have otherwise been. She slept well, but as always her sleep was light.