Passing the Knife
Chapter 4: Storm Brewing
Location: Steamhawke, the deck
Timeline: After the Amethyst exploration
Dottie leaned on her elbows, her chin resting on her hands, as she looked at the ship floating not too far from the Steamhawke. It was eerie, the ship floating even though it looked dead. Why had it not crashed? And why had the captain not told her to join the crewmates that were out there right now, exploring the ship? Dottie straightened up. Maybe she should have volunteered. Yeah, that's what she should have done. Captain, I'll lead this expedition, is what she should have said, as if she was still first mate. That brought a scowl on her face, as she turned dark eyes to the First Mate Aelous. She stared at him so intently that she did not notice someone walking up to her.
"Hey," said Niles approaching a human woman, "Looking at that creepy ship, too, huh?"
She stood next to the woman, facing the side of her. She leaned, balancing her hand on the railing with her other hand on her hips. She smirked.
"Why aren't you out there?" Niles asked, nodding in the direction of the ship, "Terrified?"
Ironically, Niles was terrified herself. Not of the strange, spooky ship but of the ocean. It was strange that someone of her ocean dwelling species would be but she had a good reason.
She left her harpoon with Wren to repair at the workshop. She felt defenseless without her harpoon near to the sea since it was the only thing she had that could kill the one after her. Although she had a rifle in her possession, elphins had tough skin and were not easily killed by bullets. The person she was trying to hide from was in fact her own uncle who had got away with kidnapping her once, before she escaped. That same day in the past, she was no where near her harpoon and failed to defend herself properly.
The Steamhawke seemed to be a good place to be since it was a sky ship but now she was regretting joining the crew. It had only been a few weeks they spent stuck in the waters but it felt like months to her. She felt that it was too risky being out there even with her fellow, tough crewmates. Her uncle was a demon of an elphin and she couldn't take any risks.
"Do you think it's haunted with ghosts?" she said with a chuckle.
"Ghosts? I don't believe in ghosts," said Dottie full of confidence. Sure she'd seen strange things happen in this fog, but Dottie had done her best to explain it with sensible reasons or to ignore it. Ignoring worked well with foggy fingers closing doors in front of her, or time pieces stopping for no reason. Ignoring Niles was different, and Dottie didn't mind some conversation.
"I guess I am here because the Captain wanted me close by," she said a little boastful. One furtive look at Niles showed that her remark did not impress her much. She hesitated and then decided to confide a little. "The Captain doesn't seem to have much use for me, to be honest."
"You don't seem so useless," said Niles.
"No. No, I am not. I can fight, there is no one I know that is better at throwing knives. And I am a more than fair shot, and I don't even like guns. I am very usefull, and all my previous captains have said so. Well, most of them. The ones that didn't throw me off the ship." Dottie was patting her pockets trying to find that cigar stub, and when she found it, and stuck it between her teeth, she continued searching for a match. "Dammit." she whispered.
She looked at Niles, while grinning around the cigar. "What's it like being a gunner?"
Niles frowned at little at her question. She honestly hadn't done anything relevant to her job since boarding the ship. Being stuck in the fog and not having a battle made things boring. She had stepped out to search a sand bank with other members of the crew before but she didn't have the confidence to go out there without her faithful harpoon. She had showed off her skills with guns which wasted her bullets and wrecked her harpoon.
"Pretty awesome," said Niles baring a grin, showing off her sharp, small elphin teeth, "There's a lot of action at every corner waiting for you."
She hadn't used the ship's heavy artillery in the face of attack yet but she already figured out how the machinery worked.
"So, you don't liked guns, you say?" Niles asked, finally remembering the woman's comment, "Why not?"
Dottie grinned. "They're loud, aren't they?" A knife could swoosh by and hardly be noticed until it hit the mark. "Big noise, makes people notice you." She shrugged. "But yeah, they're useful, I suppose. You use a harpoon, right? I heard people mention it," she said quickly, "because everyone thinks it is unusual." Well, not everyone, but Julian Robinson mentioned it and thought it odd. But then Julian Robinson found everything odd.
"True. They're loud," Niles said wincing at the question about her harpoon, "but if you kill people really quickly, you won't have to worry too much about noise."
She wondered if she could avoid answering a question that was personal. The woman had only asked if she used a harpoon but eventually Niles would have to justify why. She was right. People have been aware of the strangeness of her weapon choice of a harpoon. Harpoon spears rarely came by and it took more time to reload than any other gun that used bullets. When she fired it, she always had to collect the spear, clean the blood off of it and reuse it again. She never fired it at anyone or anything too far for her to reach to retrieve the spear.
She thought to create a lie that she could use in case anyone decided to ask her about it. The proximity she was to the ocean made her uneasy which was starting to drive her almost insane. She had barely been much of her arrogant self lately. Lying was a bit harder that time so she decided to direct the line of conversation towards the woman after answering briefly.
"Yes, I do use one. You throw knives?" she asked quickly, remembering what the woman said earlier, "That's... actually not lame. How did you learn?"
Hopefully she'd not bother to say anything about the harpoon again and prefer to talk about herself.
"Oh, I always had a knack for throwing things and hitting things. One day, it happened to be a knife and my brother's best friend." She smiled wryly. "The boy had kicked my dog, and I threw a knife at him. I hit him too, in the arm. He screamed like a little girl." She remembered that was just before she left home, at 13. Briefly she wondered what had happened to her brother, but she had such little attachment to her family, it didn't linger in her mind long.
She looked at Niles. "I could teach you. If you can shoot a gun or a harpoon, you can learn to throw knives. It's easy." Dottie thought Niles looked unsure. "No, really," she said with a chuckle. She pulled a knife out of her belt sheath and showed it to Niles. "Look, how this is balanced. It will spin around itself as you throw it. You gotta get a feel for it, see in your mind's eye how it wil hit your target. Then throw it, and ..." Dottie spun around and had the knife whistle past an unsuspecting deckhand, before it hit the wall below the poopdeck. "There you go."
Dottie grinned madly at Niles. She was looking forward to passing on some of her skills.
Niles raised her head in scorn and glared at the knife. If she attempted that, she would have killed the deckhand. She had tried her hand at knives before, years ago. The man who introduced her to guns tried to teach her to use other weapons. Guns was just what she was used to and what she was solely good at using. She had been told that she would one day suffer the consequence of only being taken with one category of weapons.
"Thanks, er...I didn't think I got your name-"
"It's Dottie," the woman cut in.
"-but I think my harpoon is a close second," Niles insisted, "It can pierce through things. And knives are only good for me where cooking and cleaning fish is concerned. It's a great skill for you, though. Keep it up."
She tried to leave but the woman didn't want to let her go.
"Wait!" Dottie called out, "What will you do when someone knocks your gun out of your hands? How will you defend yourself?"
Niles paused. With her harpoon in Wren's hands being fixed and her shortage on bullets, the woman did have a point. She didn't have much to defend herself at that moment. The ship's artillery, which she was hired to use in the first place, was not to be used to defend herself, but the ship and her fellow crewmates.
She sighed and turned to face the woman. Dottie grinned. "I knew you'd turn around!" Dottie said as she pulled out another knife and handed it to Niles. "Now, we just need a place where you can't harm anyone." She looked around. There were few crewmates hanging about on the deck, and the wall below the poopdeck was an enticing target. Even with McGinty sleeping next to the door to the captain's quarters.
"Now, let's get started. If you don't hit old man McGinty, I'll buy you a good meal next time we're in port."