Back to this blog now.
The votes for Zeeb's Zephyrus were a bit of a war. Basically a war against me, wherefore I have tried my best to start the story on a happy-ish track. *hopes* So, I'm hoping that, even if I haven't shaken off one of two titles (such as 'Jane the Cruel'), maybe I have partially atoned for my meanness. :P
So, on to-- Oh, I never actually got around to saying what option won. In the end, it was number three. But it was close. Very close. I may have forgotten several verbal or uncommented votes so...sorry about that if I have. But anyways! On to the story!
“Louise? Great whales, they caught you too?” Gripper’s voice came muffled in the still air.
I hunched my neck around, peering into the shadows through a mist of tears.
A scuffle of movement came and Gripper’s familiar features appeared at the edge of the square of morning light coming through the grid of the hatch.
His brows drew together in a look of furious concern and he shifted forward, raising his bound hands to untie the gag over my mouth. “Cowards they are,” he snarled, expression dark with rage. “Ambushing people to take them as slaves.” He spat on the floor. “Did they hurt you?”
My throat was tight, and I couldn’t get the words out. Tears of pain and fear blurred over Gripper’s face until he was just another shadow.
I couldn’t do this.
“Louise.” Gripper’s arm went around me, pulling me to his side.
I buried my head of his shoulder, letting the tears come.
How had I ever thought I could do this?
The hatch crashed open and I flinched awake.
How long had I slept for?
Only a bare glow of light came in through the lifted hatch, at least a day had passed.
The Zephyrus lay still. Waves lapped against the hull but the ship itself was dormant.
We’d reached the main land.
Brushing the sticky marks of tears from my cheeks, I straightened, swallowing hard.
A pirate bearing a lantern shuffled down the ladder, followed by half a dozen more. He bared his teeth at me in a harsh smile. “Ye ready missy?”
I clenched my barely feeling hands behind my back. No.
Gripper’s arm tightened around me for a moment and then he stood, stepping in front of me. “Were d’you think you’re taking us? We’re not slaves, ye know. The Captain is coming for us.”
“Us?” the pirate repeated, stepping close to Gripper, hand on his dagger. “There’s no us about it. You’re staying right here.”
Gripper lashed out, grabbing the man’s right hand before he could draw the dagger. “What are you talking about?” he snarled, voice dangerously low.
“Get the girl,” the man nodded at his companions. “Take her up to the Captain. I think we’ll have to deal with this one.”
A sob of fear caught in my throat, as two men drew knives and stepped toward Gripper.
“Don’t hurt him,” I heard the words come from my mouth before I realised.
“Hah. Don’t worry about that missy. Just you tell him to be a good boy and we’ll leave him in one piece.” The pirate’s eyes met mine.
Gripper gaze flashed on me with a wild anger. “Don’t do it, lass,” he said. “Don’t worry about me.”
One of the pirates grabbed my arm.
I looked from the knives to Gripper.
I couldn’t make a decision like this.
A knife edged into the skin on Gripper’s arm, a small drop of blood trickling down the sun tanned skin.
“No.” The word came out wrenched with pain. “Don’t hurt him.”
“Gripper, the Captain will come for you, I know.” A sob welled up, blocking the words. Choking it down, I continued. “I’ll be fine. Please, just...” I couldn’t finish, the words catching on the lump in my throat.
Gripper’s shoulders slumped, the anger draining from his frame. “We’ll come for you, lass. You wait for us.”
“I will,” I squeaked.
The knives slid back into their sheaths, and I was dragged toward the ladder.
I didn’t look back.
In the west, a red glow of sunset tinged the sky with its light, giving the deck an eerie fire.
The Zephyrus was secured to a long wharf, and even in the dim sunset the dockside bustled with people.
“Welcome to Levonel.” Captain Zeeb’s voice in my ear made me freeze.
Stepping around in front of me, his hat tipped up jauntily, he curled the corners of his mouth into a mocking smile. “It seems your captain was too slow, eh?” he said. “I’ll grant, it was a good story. Almost took me in.” He dismissed it with a wave.
He drew his dagger, inspecting the edge and then reached behind me and sliced through the ropes. Not even a scratch touching my skin.
They needed me whole.
No one buys an injured slave.
Anger and helplessness clenched in my stomach.
I couldn’t do anything.
“Well, we’d best get going before it’s too late and all the good buyers are gone home.” Captain Zeeb clapped his hands together.
A pirate, his hand on my upper arm to stop any attempt at escape, pulled me forward after the captain. The boards of the dock echoed hollowly under our footfalls.
They were selling me as a slave.
I couldn’t let them do that.
If only Eumin and Leonora knew where I was.
A door opened and Zeeb stepped through, bowing to me mockingly as I had no choice but to follow.
Warin couldn’t be that far behind, could he?
The tavern was wide and packed with men, sailors, merchants, peasants, farmers. Zeeb pushed through to a table with one empty seat.
“My friend!” A man rose with a laugh and slapped Zeeb’s shoulder heartily. “I heard your message. A girl this time? We’ll find her a perfect mistress.”
The men laughed again.
Captain Zeeb dropped into the spare seat, returning the greetings of the other men at the table with a broad smile.
The pirate shoved me forward until I stood only slightly behind the captain, two hands resting heavily on my shoulders.
A reminder of the impossibility of escape.
The first man turned and ran his gaze along me, rubbing his beard between his fingers. “How did you come across this one?” he asked.
As casually as if I were a bundle of furs for trade.
My jaw tightened.
This wasn’t right.
“Oh it was the ordinary sort of occurrence,” Zeeb chuckled, nodding knowingly at those gathered around the table.
A shiver of anger tingled up my spine.
This couldn’t be happening.
“So how much are you thinking?” The words came cold and unemotional from one of the other men.
My breath came in gasps through the anger and frustration that built up inside me.
I wasn’t a bag of goods to be traded.
I wasn’t someone’s possession to be sold like nothing.
I wasn’t a slave.
Who was I?
Lady Louise De Corlette of Feâ Sirih.
Crew member of the Rift.
Why did it have to be me here stopping Marius?
What was so special about me?
“Twenty silvers?” Zeeb’s voice cracked. “I was hoping something far higher for such a sweet maid. I call eighty.”
“You hope to get eighty from that skinny wretch?” one of the men scoffed. “I wouldn’t pay thirty.”
“You must see the quality. She has manners of court in her bearing.”
I wanted to run.
As long as I could get away from here.
From these men who were discussing me like a prize animal they hoped to sell at the fete.
A scream welled in my throat, pressing higher every moment.
This wasn’t happening.
I would never be a slave.
I’d rather die than be someone’s.
My vision blurred with tears of frustration and helplessness.
The tavern door opened, the creak a bare sound hardly noticed in the rough noise.
“Sixty then.” The burly man threw up his hands, slapping his purse onto the table. “I’ll take her for sixty and no more.”
“Deal.” Zeeb thrust forward his hand and shook on the bargain, a wide grin plastered across his features.
Pain screamed through my mind.
It couldn’t have just happened.
I wouldn’t believe it.
I raised my eyes.
The entire tavern was dead quiet, not a breath of a whisper.
All eyes were fixed on something in the center of the room behind me.
I couldn’t turn, the pirate’s hands still frozen on my shoulders.
Then an achingly familiar voice spoke.
“I rather think I’ll be taking this one for free.”
1. Relief flooded out every other thought. Eumin. They’d found me.
2. Marius. No. He couldn’t be here.
3. “Cap—Captain Wielder?” Zeeb croaked, his eyes round and bulging.
Do you forgive me now? See, look how nice it ended! I mean, yeah, option number two wasn't too nice, but I'm honestly not expecting many votes for it because you're all such nice people and don't want to give me any more chances for being nasty. :)
Hopefully you liked it.
|| Jane Maree ||