Two by Two, Out of Bind

In the early 1400s, there was once a man of China named Zheng He, an admiral of a giant fleet of ships the size of which has not been repeated until centuries later. This fleet traveled around the world from China to India, to Polynesia, to Arabia, Africa, Europe and even rumored to have seen the lands that Europeans thought nonexistent. Zheng He became known as the admiral of China’s treasure fleet. When China’s emperor was overthrown and a new emperor took the throne, he did not wish the glory of the former leader to be remembered. The treasure fleet was ordered to be burned along with the log books and any evidence of the fleet. Zheng He’s was on the run as a supporter of the former emperor. Only a few records remained of Zheng He’s fleet. It never existed to the rest of the world except through the few texts. When this great man’s grave was uncovered the only thing found in his grave, was a pair of sailors boots. This is the story of his legacy.

***

In the Spanish port of Santander, it was a hot, cloudless day. The glossy sun was beginning to rise. A Spanish sunrise would have been a beautiful sight had it not been seen out of a rusting set of bars from a moldy prison. Inside two soldiers argued while going down a line of cells. Each cell was only visible through a small barred feeding window big only enough for a plate to slide through and a face to be seen.

“I’m not going to ask you again! Which cell is he in you incompetent lout!” A tall greasy haired Spaniard commanded to the warden.

“Let’s see, let’s see…” A stout balding guard fumbled through the muggy dark cell block lit only by torchlight. “I’m telling you we lost his papers. “I’m sorry! We just didn’t expect the inquisition for him.”

“Lost! Unacceptable. Yasac was an imprisoned privateer captain! Of course the Inquisition wanted him!”

The warden looked around into the cells at the current inmates waiting for a reply. There was a curious hush among the prisoners. The inquisitor turned to one of the cells.

“You in there! Are you Yasac?! I’ll gut you and then every other prisoner until someone tells me where he is!”

The prisoner inside was illuminated only by a few cracks and holes in the dark stonework, sending rays of light shooting in. The man inside slowly nodded his head and put a finger to his lips. The inquisitor knitted his eyebrows curious. The prisoner then pointed through the bars at the cell diagonal to his own.

“Don’t tell em it was me,” The man whispered.

The inquisitor narrowed his eyes and then abruptly spun around. He and the warden strode over to the cell and looked inside and saw a figure hidden under a blanket inside.

“Open it! Yasac! Wake up! We’ve come for you!” The inquisitor shouted and banged on the cell bars.

The inquisitor burst into the cell as soon as it opened. The door crashed against the wall making a sharp clanging sound. A figure stirred under the blanket, his gangly, callused feet popping out from under it.

“Yasac! Get up!”

“Ahh, yes you got me I’m Yasac,” A man spoke from under the blanket.

“Finally!” The Inquisitor sighed and ripped the blanket off the man.

Revealed was a weathered old man, with a moldy, moist, gray beard entangled with dirt and strong smelling muck. The inquisitor was taken aback and looked the man up and down confused.

“Yes?” Yasac said awaiting the inquisitor’s response.

“You’re…You’re not Yasac.” The inquisitor said unsure of himself.

“Of course I’m Yasac,” Yasac explained.

“No…Yasac was younger…I think. Warden! Bring me the papers on all the prisoners now!” The inquisitor snapped.

“Uh…about that,” The warden started.

“No need. I’m Yasac, what you want?” Yasac explained.

The warden nodded and left the two alone.

“Fine…if you are Yasac, you can tell me just what happened on that ship then!” The inquisitor yelled.

Yasac sat back against the wall and nodded slowly.

“Why what you hear happened?”

“They say there was mutiny. That you had betrayed the Spanish crown and your loyal crew led by Lieutenant Arsono tried to stop you and you slaughtered them until Arsono struck you down. Now Arsono is on his way here to testify against you. But, we want to know about the other events that happened on that ship! We are hearing wild reports about an attack on Spanish ships by... Asian pirates of all things!”

“Well…” Yasac took a breath in and smiled. “It’s all true.”

“I don’t believe you! That’s unheard of. What about the reports of Spanish guards killed by the men dressed head to toe in black!”

“True as well.”

“And leaving your post for months at a time! Your dealings with pirates and mercenaries and the criminal organization known as The Underground!”

“True.”

The inquisitor spun about exasperated. The warden returned and tapped the inquisitor on the shoulder.

“What!” The inquisitor hissed.

“The newly titled Captain Arsono is here sir.”

“Good, good.” The inquisitor taking a breath to calm himself.

The inquisitor turned to the man behind the warden; he was dressed up in a yellow and blue captain’s uniform. He sported well combed, light-brown hair, with a fine, mutton chop beard.

“Good, now we can make sense of these outrageous claims. Yasac does not deny any of it. I wanted your personal report on this Captain Arsono.”

“My pleasure,” Arsono stepped into the cell. “Yasac is certainly…” Arsono stopped abruptly upon looking at Yasac.

“Wait…that’s not Yasac,” Arsono said confused.

“I’m not?” The possibly Yasac said with a grin showing his black and yellow teeth.

“What!” The inquisitor roared. “Warden! Those damn papers now!”

“Yes, I tried to tell you, sir. But we lost all the papers for this block. Someone took them!” The warden explained.

Arsono looked alarmed.

“Sir, this is just the kind of thing that stinks of Yasac’s treachery.”

“If this old man isn’t Yasac, then who is?” The inquisitor demanded.

“Sir, this is the traitor’s cell block they never see the light of day. Barely any of the guards see any of these prisoners. Without the papers, we have no idea who’s who!”

“You!” The Inquisitor pointed his finger at the old man. “I told you rats I won’t stop killing you all until I have Yasac!”

The old man smiled and chuckled a little to himself.

“No no…you got me. I’m not Yasac. But, you won’t kill me. Yasac told me where he was going.”

“What?!” The inquisitor and Arsono said in unison.

“You lie!” The inquisitor accused.

“No…see,” The old man reached under his blanket and showed them a small pouch of coins. “He gave me these and told me to tell you all that I was Yasac. Then he told me exactly where he was going to be. Said to tell you all where he was.”

“Well tell us!” Arsono yelled.

The old man cackled.

“Well, this is the part that will cost you. Set me free and I’ll tell you where he is.”

“Or I can flay you alive until you do!” the inquisitor sneered.

“See Yasac thought you would say that. He said he was only going to be staying there for the day. If you start torturing me, well…I’m sorry to say you will miss him and I won’t know anymore.”

The inquisitor gave a deep frown.

“So…let me out?” the old man with a hideous smile.

The warden leaned over to the inquisitor’s ear.

“Is…Yasac worth this? I can have this old man hanged at once for this,” The warden explained.

The inquisitor shook his head defeated.

“Unfortunately we cannot risk it. Release him.” The inquisitor sighed and walked out of the cell seething.

“Arsono stay in at the port until I call for you. Yasac cannot escape.”

“Yes sir, but just be wary. I’ve learned very well…never trust Yasac."

Outside the prison was the port of Santander. A man in a worn brown coat that hung to his ankles was walking away from the worn stone building. He had a crumpled up wad a paper in his hanging out of his coat pocket and something heavy wrapped in a light green linen cloth strapped to his back. His dark brown hair was rough and unkempt, hanging to his chin. He bore a thin roughly hewn goatee and a pair of spectacles. He was in the middle of his ages but, still retained a youthful demeanor about his face, with few creases or lines, however he still had a tired look about him. The man calmly walked down towards the docks along a path following the cliffs overlooking the bay of Santander.

The prison was part of a larger walled section of the town situated on the eastern most part of the city on a small peninsula. This peninsula guarded the entrance to the large bay of Santander which the man was walking towards. Long lines of docks stretched for miles. Hundreds of ships lay anchored in the bay and docked along the pier. Seagulls and their cries dominated the sky above on this sunny morning.

As the man walked down the steps he would casually take one of the papers from his pocket and shred them. The wind would pick the pieces even before they could hit the ground. The man continued this until he reached sea level and he hopped up onto one of the less busy docks without a ship. He went to the edge of the pier and ripped up the rest of the papers and tossed them into the bay.

Behind him walked up fair faced and strong armed man. He had thin black hair that hung to his ears; he wore a tan, leather vest and dirty white shirt that was ripped at the forearms. The man had a thin mustache around his lips along with prominent sideburns. On his belt, he sported a pair of pistols. He dropped a hand onto one of them ready to draw as he approached. The man on the end of the dock heard his footsteps and turned and immediately raised an eyebrow.

The man with the pistols stood his ground.

“Think they put a bounty on you yet Yasac?” The man asked with an English colonial drawl.

Yasac stretched and looked over at the morning sun.

“It’s only been a couple minutes. I can wait if you want Trigger but...it’s a lot of paperwork for some Spaniards in the morning,” Yasac said with a sigh.

“That’s Quick Trigger Revloc, Mr. Yasac,” He said with an amused snort. “Also...ugh how am I supposed to make money on breaking you out and then bringing you in if those idiots get tied up in bureaucracy?”

“Well...I feel like I did most of the work breaking out really,” Yasac explained.

“No, no, no! This counts you know it! What... this is number six? Seven?” Revloc retorted pointing an accusatory finger at Yasac.

“Does it matter? I already owe you drinks for life,” Yasac grumbled.

Revloc chuckled and scratched his chin.

“Oh yeah...about that...” Revloc started.

“You know I made it out of there with just my weapons, I have exactly no currency on me.”

“Dammit, the Spanish really need to streamline their bounty process, how is a guy supposed to cheat the system if the system is too slow!” Revloc joked.

“Anyway...where is the rest of the crew?” Yasac asked.

“Scattered, just like you wanted. Now you are free to...search to your heart’s content,” Revloc said smiling, amused by his choice of words.

“What about the Boston Fall?” Yasac inquired ignoring the comment.

“Arsono took it. The ship is in port still ya know...” Revloc explained waving his hand toward the bay.

“We’re getting it back,” Yasac stated.

Revloc rolled his eyes.

“Yup just that simple. Or...we take the easy way and catch up with one of your cousins...” Revloc suggested.

“We’re getting the ship back first,” Yasac restated unwavering.

“Ok! Fine! Hard way it is. Of course, have you looked at Santander? It’s going to be hard to just find it even!” Revloc groaned.

Revloc stopped himself as he looked into Yasac’s emotionless face and shook his head.

“What’s your plan?” Revloc said expectantly.

“What’s the dirtiest cantina in town?” Yasac asked.

“Why do you ask me like I’d know? I’m hurt Yasac,” Revloc said feigning offense.

Yasac stared at him waiting.

“It’s...probably the Sucio Perra.” Revloc mumbled.

“Classy. I’ll head over there and look for the ship. You…get in touch with Arsono’s crew. Make sure the ship is well supplied,” Yasac ordered.

“Why steal when you can encourage generous donations to the new captain’s voyage. Alright, meet up by nightfall.” Revloc joked.

"Indeed," Yasac murmured and turned away from Revloc to face the sea.

Yasac took a deep breath of the salty air and looked out to see a storm in the distance and a little speck on the horizon. He squinted and made out a ship in the distance.

***

Aboard the ship out at sea, the ship’s prison brig was filled with an incredible smell. A woman sat in the dark taking it all in. There was a whiff of urine and feces as to be expected. The salt water and rotting wood smell also unsurprising. But it was the rotting meat smell that confounded the woman. She wrinkled her nose and looked around the room trying to determine the source of the meat smell.

She was completely alone in the bilge of the ship, the very underbelly not even suitable for most cargo. The waves rocked her back and forth. As far as she could tell there was just light cargo around her in the row of three wrought iron bar cells. She was in the middle one in the center of the room. If there were guards around she might feel exposed.

“Well,…that’s just insulting. No guards to guard me,” she said with a sigh. “I could escape this cell and no one would know!” She exclaimed with a French accent in improper English.

She waited a few minutes listening for anyone that may have heard her.

“Here I go! I’m escaping, no one to stop me!” She called again as she sat in her cell.

She was once again met with only the sound of the rocking waves and the creaking wood.

“Fine! If no one is going to bother I’m just going to sing!”

She smiled and started a purposefully annoying tune at a grating pitch.

“Fish! Fish for the filleter! Fish! Fish for the fly. Fish! Fish for the friar!” the woman continued to sing and started to giggle as she heard someone grumble and pound down the steps into the hold.

The man coming down held a lantern and illuminated the filth of the room. Rats scurried away and there was rot and pieces of wood strewn around.

As he approached with the light the woman continued to sing but squinted her eyes unable to bare the sudden light. She was revealed to be about twenty-five years old. Her hair was amber brown and almost went to her shoulders though several trinkets and pins kept her hair together in a tangled mess. Her face was fair and bore a confident smirk containing also, the look of one a bit absent-minded with her head always in the clouds, especially in her cheery blue eyes. She was clothed in a frilly white shirt and large brown elongated leather vest with dirt smudged black pants and bare feet. She was tall and fairly muscular, just enough to look intimidating, but remaining elegant and beautiful

“The hell do you want you bloody bitch?” The man said with a gruff Scottish accent.

He was rough and grim looking with a muscular pale Scottish body, a mop of sandy blond hair reaching his ears and a poorly shaven chin. His long hair stuck out from a black skull cap that kept a good amount of it out of his single blue eye. He wore a white tunic and black vest and tan pants. On his back in a leather holster was a worn musket that was most peculiar for its time. It bore two barrels instead of one each their own trigger. At his belt was a brace of pistols and sword to boot.

“Do you know what smell that is? Rotten fish I could handle. But why the rotting meat? That’s just a waste!”

The Scotsman looked at her dumbfounded for half a minute not quite able to grasp what she was getting at.

“It’s…probably rats eating each other. The hell you on about?”

“Well, I just some company is all. As I was saying I was going to escape. Someone should guard me. It’s just not a good policy to not guard prisoners.” She said with a sly smile.

“It’s about morning and we have had three days through rough seas. The boys are getting rest instead of watching some banshee who will only make them go mad.” He said rolling his one eye.

“You sure you want company anyway? You make these men mad and they will come in there and not treat you with any dignity. You’re lucky you’re not just tied naked to the mast with this lot.”

“Oh, hush dearie. You don’t send someone into a cage with a lioness and worry about the lioness just cause she’s in a cage, and dearie I’ve got claws and teeth to boot I assure you."

The scotsman stared at her with his one eye dumbfounded, taken aback by her confidence.

"These are some fresh green lads anyhow. It’s why you’re all having such a hard time at sea. No one is pulling their weight. The captain is rubbish too!” Scarlet continued.

The Scotsman chuckled.

“You got a hell of a mouth on you. What in this sodding world is your name anyway?”

“Dearie my name is Scarlet, and I’m going to run this ship.”

The Scotsman raised his eyebrows and burst out laughing.

“I…haha I don’t think I’ve heard anything so absurd in so long. You’re full of it lass.”

“Am I? Let me out and I’ll show you. We’re going to remove the captain with a mutiny and I’m going to emerge the leader!”

The Scotsman shook his head and pulled a stool over and sat down. He hung the lantern on a nearby hook on the cell and looked at her incredulously.

“So…you think, some wretched woman from below deck is going to cause a mutiny and become captain? Where…do I even begin to explain how stupid that sounds? The woman captain part or the…part where you somehow take on a whole ship by yourself?”

“Hush now. You may think I’m mad but there’s a thought or three going on in this head. See from the very moment you all overtook that fish trawler I was on, I’ve noticed many things wrong with your crew. Firstly why pirate a fishing ship? That’s not work anyone here wants to do. You might as well stab the fisher man while he’s sleeping on the beach! It’s just as cowardly and undignified for a proper criminal,” She explained.

The Scotsman took in her words surprised at himself that he was suddenly listening intently.

“You uh…you got a decent head on your shoulders. I refused to be a part of that. Especially, since you didn’t need the whole crew to do it. Waste of time really.”

“See? You’re not the only one thinking that way either. I know it! These lads want profit but they don’t want to feel desperate. I only need to show them what they want and…then just show how I am tough enough to lead them.”

“So how do you propose you do that?” The Scotsman asked intrigued.

“You’re going to help me. You seem like one of the tougher people here. So you’re going to drag that captain out and make him fight me alone,” the woman announced confidently as she stood up in the cell and approached the cell door with her hands on her hips.

The Scotsman looked around.

“You’re not afraid someone will hear you?”

“I know who I am. You lot don’t. I know what kind of person that captain is and if given the chance I’m going to show you all. Let every man on this ship know. I challenge that would be captain. Then if any man calls himself a man disagrees I challenge him too! So long as they aren’t so cowardly that they won’t fight me one on one.”

The Scotsman sat there taking it all in. “So…you want me to let you out…and you’re going to challenge the captain?”

“Why yes! You’ve got it scotty boy!”

“You’re crazy. Even if you got every wish in that fool head of yours. What’s even in it for me?”

“Call me crazy if you wish. But you can tell I’m no wench crying in a cell. That’s what you all thought right? Keep the girl down here till she cries out for some man to give her comfort? Well, that’s my plan for that captain. I’m going to beat him and lock him up down here. Then you’re going to be my first mate on this ship. The captain can break. I don’t.” Scarlet said confidently.

The Scotsman stared Scarlet down with his one eye. Scarlet met his eye with a cocky smile.

“Well…I was waiting to hear what’s in it for me. Alright…what the hell. It’s been boring anyway. You go get yourself killed or you make me first mate.”

With that, the Scotsman got up and went over to the cell lock.

“Ha! Knew you’d come around. Now, what’s your name my dear future first mate?”

“Chives…blokes round here call me One-Eyed Chives. Beats me why though.” He said dryly.

Chives unlocked the cell and opened it a hair. He first looked her up and down cautiously. Satisfied he opened the cell all the way and stepped back.

“I hope you know you’re on your own for this and I’m not letting you get any weapons. I’m just watching for my amusement, you picked this lock. I was never here.”

Scarlet walked out of the cell and past Chives.

“But of course dearie. Anything more would be…unfair to the captain.”

Chives looked at her aghast.

“I’m done listening to your crazy. Hurry up and die, or…whatever he does with you. I’m not responsible.”

Scarlet spun on her heel to give Chives a wink as she galloped over to the ladder out of the bilge. Chives sighed, waited a moment for her to ascend the ladder and then started to follow.

“I’m a bloody idiot…” Chives growled.

Scarlet started up through the hold sneaking in through the cargo and started going through the stores. Chives climbed the ladder and grimaced.

“Oi! Out of there, you challenge the captain nothing more!”

Scarlet popped her head out of a barrel of apples with one in her mouth. She muttered something at him with an apple still in her teeth. Chives shook his head and just pointed to the doorway into the crew deck sternly.

Scarlet smiled and after taking a bite of her apple she carried it along as she crept through a mass of sleeping crewmen.

The crew deck was end to end filled with hammocks tightly packed in, the men slept in rows with two hammocks slung above each other between wooden columns. Some men just chose to sleep on the floor with a hammock for a sheet between them and the floor. The snoring was loud enough that Scarlet didn’t have to try very hard to be silent. Scarlet was also hit with the very rank smell of unwashed three day old sailors that was nearly worse than the bilge rot.

Scarlet made her way through with ease and speed, Chives was far behind and nearly out of sight as she nimbly made her way through. Scarlet glanced back at the burly scot and smile as she snuck a quarterstaff that was leaning against a column. Before he could get a look at her with the staff she was up to the stairs barefoot into the cannon deck.

The cannon deck with sooty and gunpowder made for a much more pleasant smell. A gentle rain trickled on the cannon barrels and a roll of thunder could be heard. Scarlet took her time walking through the cannon deck, she slowly walked about in a bee line admiring the cannons. She kept the apple in her mouth as she ran her one hand through her messy damp hair making it look only slightly more organized yet more functional and out of her face. Chives caught up at the top of the stairs and saw the staff in her hands.

“Oi! What did I say!” Chives said whispered in frustration as he looked around for any witnesses.

Scarlet sped up a little to keep out of his pace but didn’t hurry away as one might expect. Scarlet finally made it up the stairs to the main deck. It was gently storming out and there was a small bare bones crew out on deck tending the sails. The waves tossed the ship about for brief moments but nothing to make Scarlet lose her balance. She strode out onto the deck not minding the other sailors. She made it half way before some started taking notice, giving her a double take before they started yelling at her.

“Who the hell let a lady out on deck!”

They were yelling but not rising to stop her. The helmsman shouted out for men to grab her but by the time any made it to her she had already reached the door to the captain’s quarters under the helm. She bashed on the door with the staff as two sailors grabbed her arms.

“Hey, captain! Rise and shine! Escaped prisoner armed and dangerous!” Scarlet screamed at the top of her lungs as she struggled in the arms of her captors with a strength that was almost too much for the two men to hold her down.

A third and fourth man came up to her and wrestled her down the ground in front of the captain’s door. Chives leaned against the mast watching this curious. Scarlet continued screeching unintelligibly.

The door suddenly swung open and a groggy captain stepped out with a drunken step. He wore only his brown baggy pantaloons and a tricorn hat that covered his jet black silmy hair. He scratched his filthy damp black beard with one hand while fumbling with the belt on his sagging pants with his other. He looked over the situation confused.

“What the hell is all this then?!” Who let the fishing wench out?”

“No one you bugger! I let myself out! No one guarding me! That’s just amateur!” Scarlet shouted before any of the crew could answer.

The crew didn’t even bother to answer after she spoke.

“No one bothered guarding her?” The captain said with a parched throat before taking a swig of his wineskin.

“Uh…well you didn’t task anyone to. Said lock her in the bilge cages. Why would we need to guard her?” One of the sailors spoke up and explained.

“How…did she even get all the way up here?” The captain said dumbfounded, “We got sixty men between the bilge and this deck.”

“Never mind all that. Details captain details! I’m out. I’m here. And I challenge you to a duel! Fist on fist. Sword on sword. Gun on gun. You choose dearie. I say you’re an unfit, worthless rot of a captain and I could do better than you.

Everyone around her looked at her surprised. The captain shook his head in a stupor.

“Just…take her or throw her overboard, I don’t care.” The captain said starting to turn around.

Thunder cracked across the sky and the storm intensified as the sailors began to pull Scarlet as she thrashed about slippery in the rain.

“Oi captain! Not man enough to take me yourself! I knew you were a coward. Mock man, I call you. Vous êtes une pomme de terre avec le visage d’un cochon d’inde. I’d have you crawling on all fours naked and scrubbing the bilge, but it would be too embarrassing for you since t’as pas de coquilles!” Scarlet shouted while laughing.

The captain stopped and stomped over to the woman.

“Get me a sword. I’m going to gut this mouthy bitch. Now, girl…brush me up on my French before I kill you, what did you just call me?”

Scarlet flashed a sly smile up at the captain.

“No more words captain. I challenge you to a duel. I’ll translate for you when I have you on your knees begging for your life.”

One of the crew members brought the captain a rusty cutlass while the other sailors brought Scarlet to her knees and held her with her arms spread out in front of the captain. The captain ran his thumb across the blade finding it dull.

“Gag her, she’ll be screaming from this. Going to hurt quite a lot girly. It ain’t even sharp.”

Some of the sailors looked at him in disgust as they held Scarlet down.

“I said gag her!” The captain bellowed.

“Captain…you heard what the girl said…” Chives suddenly piped up from the mast. “You were challenged.”

The captain turned to Chives angrily.

“Who the hell cares! She’d die either way,” The captain growled.

“Exactly, it’d be no trouble then,” Chives retorted.

“I’m not giving a prisoner a sword you idiot!”

“She’s a fish monger, not a duelist. Just get it over with but don’t just spill a woman’s blood with four others holding her for you.”

“Actually I don’t need a sword. Give me that staff. That’s enough to lay you low… fils de pute,” Scarlet chimed in.

The captain looked at the rest of the crew as they watched him intently, uncertain and nervous looks on their faces. The captain pointed the sword at her.

“Fine…drop her. Get your staff woman,” The captain said exasperatedly.

The sailors let her go and backed off. The staff had rolled over towards Chives and he kicked it over her way.

“Don’t die too early girl. Be anticlimactic at this point,” Chives grumbled.

Scarlet giggled as she faced off with the captain holding the staff with two hands on guard. The storm began to rage harder. The crew above started fighting with the sails shouting for aid as the ship began to rock.

“I’ll give you a taste of that translation there capitaine. I say your mother raised you with the other girls in their frilly dresses because you were too weak to work on the ship. It’s quite amazing anyone let you be captain. I’m guessing most of your sisters could tie knots and work sails better than you. Makes the whole ship look weak, in fact…” Scarlet started.

“Just shut up!” The captain screamed and charged at her.

The captain swung down with the cutlass at Scarlet’s neck. She stood there unmoved, unflinching and simply raised her arm to block the blow while lowering her stance and bracing herself with the staff. She took the blade into her thick forearm with a grunt. She opened her mouth to reveal gritted teeth as she felt the pain but her lips soon morphed into a toothy grin. The dull blade only cut slightly into her skin, causing a slight trickle to begin to flow but the captain, the crew, and Chives all watched incredulously. The captain looked at her arm then to Scarlet suddenly realizing his mistake. Before he could pull back Scarlet pushed the blade back and slapped the end of her staff up into his groin three times mercilessly. As he coughed and fell forward she struck him on the nose and spun her staff to strike his knee and then his finally a last pounding blow right into his temple.

The captain gagged on blood pouring from his nose as he fell over onto the deck in immobile pain, the sword scattering away from him as the ship swayed to port. The rest of the crew watched in amazement, completely caught off guard at what had just transpired. Scarlet turned to a currently wide eyed Chives.

“You’re right…that was anticlimactic,” Scarlet chuckled as she bent down and put on the captain’s hat that had fallen at her feet. “Alright, you wretches! I’m captain now! Anyone who wants to dispute that is free to do so after the storm! Now batten down the hatches, raise the sails. Ring the bell! All hands! We have a storm to fight next!” Scarlet shouted banging her staff on the floor. Some of the crew froze confused while others just ran off to complete their duties. The warning bell sounded as the ship was struck again by a massive wave washing over the deck.

Scarlet made her way up to the helm with Chives following quickly behind her. The helmsman looked at her fiercely.

“Back off wench! Captain will be back for you!” The man said strained as he tried to keep the wheel steady and keep Scarlet back.

“Now, now, dearie. I’m the captain now. Give the wheel here and everything will be all right”

The helmsman braced from another wave but stood his ground in front of Scarlet.

“Well, I have to insist. Any complaints you have you can file with first mate Chives!”

“Wait…I’m the first mate…” The helmsman said looking back at her worried.

“Not any more Roger. Off the helm now!” Chives said walking up to the helmsman with a pistol aimed forward.

The helmsman quickly backed away from the wheel and Scarlet caught it with her staff and kept proceeded to keep a tight grip on it as the ship continued to be pummeled.

“Chives what was our heading?” Scarlet yelled through the storm.

“I’m not really the navigation type…not that it matters in this mess! We were heading towards Santander!”

“Very well! Compass, Chives! Find me a compass dearie!

“Aye,” Chives shouted back as he walked down to the main deck.

On the deck, the rest of the crew was all in a panic. Some men helpfully fighting with the sails or bailing water while others were running about. In the chaos, the bleeding captain on the deck had gotten up and had his eyes fixed on Scarlet on the helm. He grabbed a nearby crewman holding a musket. The crewman screamed in surprise at not recognizing the captain right away. The captain punched him and ripped the musket from him. The captain then aimed at Scarlet while fell to the deck in fear.

Before he could get a shot off Chives walked up behind him, stuck his pistol to the back of his head and fired without hesitation. The shot was barely heard over the storm. The captain slumped to the floor and rolled around the deck with the swaying ship. Chives eyed the crewman on the deck viciously.

“You going to lay there and die or help keep this boat from sinking! Go on git!” Chives roared at him.

The crewman scurried away, Chives glanced up to Scarlet who acknowledged him with an appreciative nod and smile before her face tightened to control the ship as the next wave hit. Scarlet fought with the waves for another ten minutes, the crew was slowly getting into an efficient order. Just as the storm seemed manageable a lightning bolt struck the mast setting the sail ablaze and cracking it in half. Scarlet and the rest of the crew were deafened and braced as it struck. Scarlet’s ears were ringing as she shouted for the crew to move away.

The cracked mast suddenly split more from the wind hammering it and it wasn’t long before the whole structure split off and a flaming sail came down on the crew. The top end of the mast crashed down on the helm, knocking Scarlet back off the wheel. Chives had dived out of the way but as another wave hit he was sent careening with a cannon and smacked his head onto the barrel. He groan and tried to stand up only to be thrown off the ship into the stormy waters. Scarlet had gotten to her feet just in time to see this

“First mate Chives! Man over board! Quick quick!” Scarlet shouted.

However, the crew was in complete disarray and going for dinghies and abandoning the ship. Scarlet began aiding three men in raising a dinghy over the railing. Scarlet grabbed an extra oar lying about and climbed over into the small craft. Scarlet then motioned for the other crewmen to join her. However, as another piece of the mast swept over the deck the ropes holding the dinghy up snapped, and Scarlet fell down with the craft into the water. Scarlet righted herself onto a seat after a painful drop. She looked up to the ship in horror as the damage it has sustained was far worse than it had seemed up on the deck.

“Quick lads! Abandon ship! We are near a port!” Scarlet shouted up to the ship.

Her cries were not heard at the top of the ship as the rest of the crew only continued in their panic. Scarlet continued shouting for attention when she spotted Chives among the flotsam with a head wound spewing blood. Scarlet let out a heavy sigh and rowed over to him.

Chives was barely moving as she heaved him up into the craft. After securing him into boat she looked up at the ship, tears welling as she watched helplessly as the ship was ripping apart in the storm. The waves were quickly carrying the boat away from the scene.

“Merde…” Scarlet muttered, “That’s two lost in one week...”

Chives stirred and sat up on the seat groaning. He looked up to Scarlet and snarled.

“You’re a sodding awful captain! I should have never let you out! Gah, how did I let you do this! You are just…bloody wench!”

He started to mouth words to say more but as he got a grasp on the situation he just shook his head and grabbed an oar.

“Captain goes down with the ship anyway, you should be at the bottom of the sea…” Chives grumbled.

“Oh Chives, that old idea is rubbish. I say captain makes sure the crew makes it off the ship alive before it goes down…and tries to find a new ship for them! Hmm doesn’t roll off the tongue I suppose.”

Chives let out a deep sigh as he watched the crew of the ship getting into row boats.

“I apologize, dear Chives…did you have friends on that ship?”

“No, no, just my next pay cut…”

Scarlet giggled.

“You’re not a complex man Mr. Chives. I like that. Don’t mistake me, I wish I could have done more in that storm.”

“Bugger would you hush, the old captain should have been more vigilant. That storm could have been weathered if the crew had been prepared,” Chives grumbled. “Why did you want to be a captain so bad anyway?”

“Well…got family back in Paris. Me brother lost his leg and hand in the last scuffle with England and he was the only one bringing in good money for us. I wanted to do my part…and sea life is what I’m best at,” Scarlet said her normally excited tone fading, the permanent smile on her lips dipping.

“Ugh…you pulled me into this thing right?”

“Hmm?” Scarlet turned to him with a cocked eyebrow.

“I mean you…like…made it so I didn’t go all the way down to davy jones…”

“Oh Chives…I did, in fact, save your life!” Scarlet said giggling.

“Damn it…you’re too nice for your own good. Why did you save the one person on that ship who shot his own captain? Why the hell would you do something like that!”

“Well Chives…firstly, he wasn’t your captain any more. But really, right now you’re the one person who agreed to be part of my crew, I don’t abandon my crew dearie, no matter your past, your present or future. If you’re on my crew, I don’t quit on you till you quit on me. Also, it will be fabulous now that you owe me your life, great to rub in at parties hehe.”

Chives looked at Scarlet long and hard, when suddenly he punched his arm forward to Scarlet, stopping his fist in front of her face. Scarlet flinched but then eyed him cautiously. He opened his hand and out came a compass. Scarlet caught it and smiled as she looked down at it.

“Come along Chives! I have our heading! Santander is east!” Scarlet shouted with an awkward cheerfulness as they rowed out of the storm.

Next Chapter: Today, Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Mañana