Half her life ago
Chapter 2: The Map says 'Go Here'
Timeline: 18 years ago
"Outta the way!" "Coming through!" "To me, to me!" Shouts from everywhere, men and women pushing each other, goods being placed on deck. The eighteen year-old Daenelia Bradley was overwhelmed.
"Bradley?" a deep voice said. She looked around and saw the sailor who had been present when she had been hired as a cabin girl. She nodded and walked around a man sweeping the deck to get to the sailor. "I'm here," she said breathless.
"I can see that," the sailor said. "Welcome aboard, I take it you put your possessions somewhere below deck?" He didn't even wait for her to answer. "Good. I need you to take this message to the first mate. And tell him he needs to be on deck in half an hour." With that he pushed a note towards her. As he walked away, he shouted over his shoulder: "You'll find him in the captain's quarters!"
Daenelia opened her mouth to ask where the captain's quarters were, but the man had already turned to order some others around. She looked at the crumpled note in her hand. A man bumped into her. "Move it, snot rag!" She skipped and found her balance, as she headed towards the back of the ship's deck, towards a few doors that seemed ornate enough to lead to the captain's quarters.
The mood on board the ship was excited and rushed. There were plenty of the crew looking furtively to the pier, checking for officials or guardsmen. In the crow's nest, two lookouts were constantly scanning the skies and the horizon. A scuffle between two mates was quickly broken up, with reminders they needed to be ready to fly soon. Engineers were doing last minute repairs on the two propellors sticking out of the deck. Daenelia slowed down to look at the massive blades above her, thinking it would not be nice to be sucked up in them...
She quickened her pace and rushed into the aft quarters. With the doors closed the noise from the deck was muted. She walked towards the end of the room, passing a large table with maps on it.
The rear cabin was grand indeed and there was no doubt that this was the captain's quarters. A large window was letting plenty of sunlight into the room, and she could see the treasures in great detail. Pristine crockery, silver cutlery, priceless paintings in the wall and a collection of antique weapons in a display case. By now the young woman felt like she was in another world, far from the life she had left behind.
Try as she might, Daenelia couldn't hear the pirates running about on the deck any more. The only audible noise was a quiet splashing coming from a room off to the side. The door was open only a crack, and as Daenelia approached she could smell a slight fragrance in the air. It was musty, like ash, but also with a sweetness that was tough to identify. Daenelia pressed as close against the door as she dared without moving it, but could barely see into the room. She could see the edge of a metal tub, with splashes of water on the floor next to it. It must be a wash room, thought Daenelia. She could only sense the movement in the room and the curiosity was too much to bear. So she pushed the door slightly further open.
The first mate was crouched naked over the tub washing his hair. The smell was soap, surely a luxury aboard a pirate ship. It didn't quite smell like any soap Daenelia recognised. Perhaps this was a special soap for hair, although Daenelia hadn't heard of such a thing. The man pulled his head out of the tub. He had a dark complexion, with long jet black hair which he was now pulling away from his face. It fell well past his shoulders. It was then that Daenelia noticed that although the man's skin was mostly smooth, he also had some heavy scarring in some places and it looked like his left nipple was gone. The first mate's eyes were closed. Daenelia studied his face and decided that he was younger than thirty. He had high cheek bones and a strong nose. It was a little hard to see his lips because he had a thick moustache, although he was otherwise shaved. He was running a brush through his hair.
"How long are you going to stand outside?" he asked with his eyes still closed. Daenelia gulped and took a step into the room. "You must be new, otherwise I'd have already smelt you over the scent of the soap. You spend enough time with these men, and you'll smell just like them." His voice was quiet, with an accent that was difficult to place, but his diction was perfect. He opened his large brown eyes but didn't look at Daenelia, who was trying to ask a question. "How did I know you were there?" he interrupted. "Your heart was beating like a locomotive. You need to learn some self-control." his voice sounded totally neutral, yet at the same time Daenelia could hear a thousand different meanings in the words that he chose. She couldn't think of a reply, so instead she handed him the note, which somehow had become even more crumpled.
He made a dismissive grunt and reached for a towel. "No time for more luxury today." he smiled faintly, finally meeting Daenelia's gaze. "I'm Jack Stallion by the way. Welcome aboard the Sky Tiger."