Chapter 6: Desperate Times
Location: Steamhawke, mess hall
Timeline: Day 5
It wasn't often that the Captain sat down in the mess hall, at the front end of the ship. But since the repairs and the remodelling, Daenelia had been spending some time on each new and improved bit of the ship. The new kitchen, with a stone oven no less, was at the front of the ship, in line with the main deck. The cook was new, but she seemed capable. With 5 sailors asking her for bread, fish, meat, drink and water she was running back and forth from the pantry to the kitchen to the table hanging from the ceiling. Daenelia sat down on one the the benches. The sailors look at their captain and started talking in hushed voices.
"Watch out!" a voice shouted on deck. Up on said deck, a young girl darted out of the way of equipment that she had very nearly been hit with, flashing a grin at the one who had warned her. Not that she'd needed the warning, of course. Ethel Haute was always aware of her surroundings and never got overwhelmed by big impressive ships, not at all. She had merely been admiring some of it, that was all, and she would kick anyone who suggested she was agitated and distractible in the shin.
"Thanks mate! Ey, can ya point me inna direction of ya captain?" She called back to the man, who gestured down and to the front of the ship. "Mess hall" he stated, before returning to his duties. The girl bounced on her toes before darting off the way she had been directed. Before long she had found her way to the correct room, but had little clue how to spot the person she was looking for. She hesitated in the doorway, glancing about.
The unfamiliar face caught her attention. Daenelia was sure there were no young girls aboard this time around. Laudine had ran off, Kanya wasn't on board anymore either and even the young kitling Grey had left the ship. So who was this girl? She can't be more than 14, Daenelia thought to herself, and that made her groan. She'd made it ab-so-lute-ly clear that no under 18's would be hired this voyage. The last sky battle had been more difficult knowing she'd put so many young lives in danger. She got up brusquely and walked over to the girl, while frowning.
"Can I help you, miss?" she said.
Haute was not perturbed by the captain's frown-- and she was quite sure it was the captain, matching the description she had heard and being the first to approach her. The youth flashed a bright grin and dipped in a little curtesy, which wasn't quite as elegant as it might have been if she was wearing skirts but appeared respectful enough.
"Cap'n Bradley, I presume? Ethel Haute, it's a pleasure. I was wonderin' if I might trouble ya f'r a posit'n on ya fine ship, if it ain't too much of a bother." She stood straight and respectful, consciously fighting the urge to slouch or lean on something. She was still significantly shorter than the woman before her, but she was pretty much used to everyone towering over her.
"I don't hire chambermaids," Daenelia said brusquely. The young girl looked fragile to her, too young, too innocent. Daenelia didn't see the brave grin, the cocky tilt of her head and the strength that was present in the girls body. "Why don't you run along, back to your mother, little girl."
"My mother is dead." Haute replied without preambled, shoving her hands into her pockets. "As is my dad." This second part was said with a slight wavering in voice and a quick gulp-- her father's death was still very sore, despite the time that had passed. But she quickly evened her expression into something a little more confident and a little challenging.
"I used to work with my dad in the smithy, till his unfortunate passin'. Landlord kicked me out of my home without so much as a by-your-leave, didn't even let me get to work an' try t' pay him meself. Since then I've been on th' streets mostly, squeezin' money outta drunks who think it'll be funny to brawl with some lass a foot shorter than 'em an' idiots with the worst pokerfaces imaginable. So, you tell me--" She leaned forward a little, head cocked.
"Where should I 'run along' to, ey? Honestly, I don't have an awful lot of options. Pub bets don't really make f'r a comf'table income, ya know? I figured I'd try here before resignin' myself to becomin' a lady of the night, but if ya really don't want me." She shrugged lightly, not appearing overly concerned. Sure, she didn't exactly want her first intimate encounter to be with some twat with not enough charm and too much coin, but if she had to then she wouldn't exactly hesitate.
"But..., no, there,... wha...," Daenelia was torn between anger and pity, and back again. Such a young child, an orphan, one of the many who were left to their own devices when family fell away. She also knew that though a ship full of pirates wasn't exactly safe for the innocent, a brothel would be more dangerous for one so young. Especially if no one looked out for her. It didn't take that long for Daenelia to firmly switch from annoyance to feeling protective, after a series of unhappy endings for this girl had flashed through her mind.
"Well," she said. "Hard worker, are you?" She took a longer look and saw the strength there. She'd probably break a man's arm before she'd allow them to touch her. Daenelia cracked a half-smile. "I just ran out of cabin girls. Can you run fast, remember orders, and do you have sea legs?" she asked, trying to sound as stern as before. "But think before you answer. Once this ship takes off into the air, we ain't landing until we're in the Old West. You'd be leaving everything behind."
"Yes to all, ma'am. And it ain't like I got anythin' to leave behind." Haute grinned wide, dipping her head gratefully. Damn right she could run fast and remember orders, and she definitely had sea legs. The Old West, ey? She'd always wanted to see what it was like there. "I shan't disappoint ya, Captain." Haute promised, and it was true enough for now. If a better option popped up further down the line? Well, Haute would be gone faster than you could blink.
McGinty the swabbie walked into the mess hall and pointed at Ethel. "There youm are! I told youm, no need f'r girls on the ship! Stop pestering the Cap'm!" Daenelia laughed and quickly stepped in front of the old man.
"No, McGinty! This is our new cabin girl!" She nodded to Ethel. "You're hired. McGinty, show her a safe place to sleep and stow her things. Then she can help clean up the hold." Daenelia looked at Ethel, curious to how she'd react at being hired after all.
Haute grinned wide, dipping her head and touching her forelock in a pleased gesture. "Thank ya kindly! I s'pose I'd best get sorted then!" She turned that bright grin on McGinty, nodding in greeting and following him off to where she needed to be.