Pirate Lady: Part Five
Ari could have sworn she heard someone calling her name. She struggled through the thick layers of sleep, clawing her way to the top. She was so warm, so comfortable. She really didn’t want to wake up...
Her eyes snapped open, and met those of another’s. A brown-furred face was looming over her.
“Ouch,” Errol remarked, clapping his paws over his ears.
“Errol,” Ari gasped, sitting bolt-upright and yanking the sheets up to her chin. The room was swaying with the motion of the ship, and the bright sunlight streaming in through the porthole hurt her eyes.
“Sweet Fyora, what are you doing here, Errol?”
“Surprise.” Errol grinned. The Zafara knight was looking as sprightly and cheerful as Ari had ever seen him, dressed in the rough clothes of a common sailor. His dark hair was braided and tied with a piece of rope. “Isn’t it a good one?”
“Jhudora take me, you scared me,” Ari moaned, closing her eyes briefly. She was exhausted still; she had not gotten to bed until late that night, when she finally stumbled into her cabin and practically toppled into bed. “Get out of here so I can dress, will you?”
“Why certainly, My Lady,” Errol said promptly, and with a mocking grin excited the small cabin quickly.
Ari sat for another moment on her cot, and then slowly got out, placing one foot carefully on the floor. When she was certain she could walk without falling over, for the room seemed to be swaying perilously with each step, she made her way across to the washbasin. It was full of clear water, and she splashed it quickly on her face and scrubbed her teeth before searching for clothing. The contents of her trunk had been brought aboard and transferred to the sea chest that was bolted to the floor.
Ari chose britches and a suitably long tunic. She added her plainest surcoat, and then struggled for a few minutes to plait her salt-ridden hair. Ari’s mother had believed in her children being independent, and had taught them at a young age to care for themselves so that they might not be like most nobles, and need the aid of a servant for even the most mundane tasks.
Her dressing complete, Ari exited her cabin, and found Errol lounging against the outside wall.
“There you are!” he greeted her, his eyes gleaming devilishly. “I was beginning to think I should never have seen you again.”
Ari sighed and rolled her eyes. Errol could be so dramatic.
“Now, what on Neopia are you doing here?” she asked, trying to fix an expression of sternness on her face. She almost succeeded.
“I am chastened most severely, I am sure,” Errol said, his eyes twinkling. “If you are finished scolding me, however, I should think breakfast might be agreeable. I could murder a kipper.”
“You always do think of food before all,” Ari said disgustedly, but she couldn’t keep the smile off her face as she took her friend’s proffered arm.
Tamzin breathed in a deep lungful of salty air, and let it out again in a laugh as she leaned far out over the railing of the crow’s nest. The plunging blue of the ocean surrounded her on all sides far below, and dawn sky was purest cerulean today. It was like being inside a globe of blue all around. How good it felt to be back on a ship. The feeling of joy was so profound it almost hurt with a physical ache; as though she had eaten too much. Tamzin’s hair blew wildly in the wind that fluttered the pennant tacked above her, tangling it around her neck. She leaned back to view it, unable to stop from grinning. The whole expanse of the ocean and sky filled her view, and it was as though there was nothing else; it went on forever. Giddy with the space, Tamzin leaned farther back, letting herself soak up the space. Oh, the space. Nothing like the confines of dry land, where there were always buildings, always fences, always something blocking her view.
The dim sounds of the crew awakening reached Tamzin’s ears, and she reluctantly directed her gaze downward, to the deck below her, on which the figures were mere pinpricks as they scurried about. With a slight sigh, Tamzin swung herself over the edge and began to descend the ratlines, moving with a swift surety that came from years of being on ships. Tamzin chose not to remember a time when the rigging had been as alien to her as it was that lady knight.
Tamzin had found the crow’s nest a good place for reflection in previous times, but today, though she had tried, she had found no place for her thoughts. She had been too consumed with the pure joy of being back up in the rigging. With her hasty descent onto the deck, Tamzin tried to reorder her thoughts. The Gelertess knight was clearly one used to being in-charge; she was having a hard time with her authority being tried aboard this ship. But then, she didn’t belong here. Here was Tamzin’s territory. And Tamzin knew the knight would never trust her. She might treat Tamzin with politeness, but deep down, Tamzin could see that Arianwen did not get her. The knight thought of Tamzin as a pirate, and a strange one at that. She was wary and closed around Tamzin. Tamzin was going to have to gain her trust.
Once upon a time, the girl Tamzin had been terrible at this sort of stuff. She was shy and awkward and frightened easily. She cried at the slightest hint of trouble. But those times were past. This Tamzin was good at this sort of thing. This Tamzin was cocky and self-assured, always ready with a quick retort and a witty comment. This Tamzin knew what to do in any situation; she unsettled people with her control and astounded them with each new turn. No-one could really claim to know Tamzin. And sometimes, she wasn’t sure she knew herself anymore.
Before a fortnight was out, Ari was feeling quite comfortable aboard the Eternal Saviour. The Gelertess, who had known she was in over her head, swallowed her pride and demanded that she be taught how to become a proper sailor.
At first, the crew treated her with reverence and respect, and hesitated to call her missteps. They were overly polite and for a few days, Ari learned practically nothing. It was then that the Second Mate, a husky brown Kyrii who claimed he’d been at sea his whole life, grew frustrated and yelled at Ari to get it right when she’d tied a knot wrong for the fifth time that afternoon.
Surprised into finally getting it right, the Gelertess had done as he bid her, and from that day on, the Kyrii, who was called Rohane, spared her nothing, and taught her as if she were his own daughter, shouting at her and reprimanding her if she made mistakes, praising her when she got things right. It made Ari feel faintly happy and surprised to be taken under the wing of this sailor, who was easily old enough to be her father. She had a brief span of feeling young and girlish again as she came to learn of this whole new world. The sea did seem to be a whole new world for her; it was certainly nothing like land, and it took her breath away with its spectacular beauty. She often found herself lost in the mesmerising colours of the waters through which they sailed; hanging over the railing, she would count the number of hues she could see. They were always too many, and she usually gave up and lost count. Sometimes, Errol joined her. But to Ari’s surprise, her friend wasn’t much of a sailor, and he got seasick easily. She laughed secretly at his pallor and greenness. She herself had experienced not one drop of nausea, and was walking around with ease in a couple days.
Ari had seen little of Tamzin during the voyage, and she had begun to relax and ignore the Lupess’ presence when she did encounter her. Ari made a point to treat her politely, as the King’s spy and a colleague, but refrained from having any real conversations. There was no way she was going to get involved with this young pirate’s life. Tamzin, for her part, seemed content to treat Ari respectfully but distantly, with a professional air that Ari found slightly disturbing, though the Gelertess tried to tell herself she didn’t care.
The days passed with little incidents as the Saviour sailed toward Stonesun. The winds were favourable, and the ocean stayed calm. It was more than the small crew could have hoped for, and the more superstitious sailors were heard giving small prayers to Fyora and the Sea Gods.
It was on a clear afternoon that they met with the coast of the island of Stonesun. Immediately when the land came into view, preparations for port were made. Sailors ran to and fro, yelling things at each other, and even with her newfound knowledge, Ari found herself merely in the way. The Gelertess retired to the stern of the ship, where she wedged herself in-between two barrels and watched, alert. She was clad in light breeches, tunic and leather boots, with a simple ribbon tying back her hair, a style she’d adopted as good for this climate. The warm air made most of her Brightvalian clothes unsuitable, and she was glad she had brought something lighter and better suited to this environment.
“Land ho?” a hopeful voice enquired, and Ari turned to see Errol making his way toward her. The Zafara looked distinctly unwell still, though he had had more than enough time to get used to life aboard a ship. His clothes were ruffled, and his sabre hung askew on his swordbelt.
“Yes,” Ari told her friend, somewhat amused by his state.
“Thank Fyora for that,” Errol groaned, holding his stomach. “Could this voyage have been any worse?”
“I’ll admit, I found it quite pleasurable,” Ari replied, her mouth twitching into a grin. She felt more carefree than she had in weeks, and was content at this moment to shed her title of King’s Champion, and simply be Ari. She tossed her hair over one shoulder and grinned impishly at her friend. “You really should learn to take things more lightly, Errol.”
“I could if I wasn’t busy being ruddy sick.” Errol let out a heartfelt sigh.
“You are quite the sailor, My Lady,” a new voice piped in. Ari raised her eyes to see Tamzin standing in front of them, grinning slightly. The Lupess’ blue fur was spiky and standing up in all directions, and though her hair was yanked back into a tight plait, tied with a brilliantly red ribbon that Ari almost envied, tendrils had escaped and were curling themselves around her face. She was wearing her usual shirt, vest, britches and boots. She put her paws on her hips and tilted her head cockily. “Ready to go ashore, My Lady?”
To be continued...