A Star-Spattered Sky: Part One
In the luggage hold of a ship that was sailing to Brightvale, what appeared to be a little girl crouched. A giggle escaped her lips.
"Jessica!" a voice called angrily. "I don't have time for hide-and-seek! Come on, Jessica!" A tall air faerie came into view. She soon stomped away and Jessica giggled even harder. Her mother would never find her.
Her mother left the ship, thinking her daughter would be off already, wandering on the lush grass of Brightvale. Jessica still giggled behind the barrels of finest wine.
All the while the crew was panicking. A pirate ship was on the horizon, advancing on them. Soon the pirates boarded the cargo ship.
"Ha ha! Surrender or face my wrath!" the captain of the pirates said, skillfully fencing with the captain of the cargo ship. "This ship is mine!"
"Never!" the captain of the cargo ship yelled back. "This ship is mine! I shall take your ship and your crew!"
"No! I shall take your ship and your crew!"
They went on in this way until the pirate knocked the captain down and held the point of his cutlass to his throat. "Surrender," he growled, "or face the point of my cutlass bravely."
"I surrender!" the captain gasped. "I surrender!"
"I hope you can swim," the pirate growled. "Boys! Throw him over the edge. We don't need the extra weight." He grinned malevolently. "Raid the hold," he commanded. "Take anything valuable. Load it onto the ship. I'll take care of the crew."
He strode confidently over to where the crew cowered, having lost to his men. "Join us," he fairly purred. His Zafara tail flicked back and forth over the rough planks. "You can have loot, gold, treasure. You can be a pirate." The crew looked at each other with wide eyes. "Or, you can walk the plank."
By the time all the crew had signed a "Pirate's Oath", Jessica was getting very bored. The Red Zafara pirate captain walked briskly into the hold just as Jessica stood up.
"What's this?" he yelled. "A faerie in the hold?!" He dragged her by the ear up the stairs. She cried and whimpered. "You idiots didn't see a faerie in the hold?!"
"C-captain, we d-didn't see h-her because s-she was h-hiding," one stuttered. "She i-is pretty s-small, y-you know."
"She is, is she?" he leered. "Well you should have found her!" He threw Jessica into the man. She weighed only a bit more than a feather so it wasn't hard to throw her and it made no impact on the brawny Skeith.
"W-where's my mother?" she asked, looking up at the Zafara pirate.
"Gone," he said harshly. "She left the ship."
"P-please, can you take me to her?" she persisted. "I-I want to see her again..."
The red Zafara turned away from her, not caring to listen to a small child's -- even if she was a faerie -- jabbering. "Set sail!" he barked. "We're moving!"
Jessica whimpered in fright on the deck of the ship as the wind blew her pale blonde hair into the salty breeze.
"She's asleep, Captain," the same Skeith reported.
"Good," the Zafara muttered. "Leave my quarters; I shall need to think what to do with her."
Deriun wasn't known for kindness; in fact, he was classed as one of the meaner pirates of the great sea. He did not know what to do with the small air faerie that so obviously both wanted and needed her mother. They did not know who her mother was; they did not know where her mother was; it was only reasonable to think that they would have to keep the small faerie with them. How she'd survive... He didn't know.
"She'll have to stay below-decks, where it's safe," he muttered. "Of course she isn't strong enough to do anything above-decks. She could barely raise a feather, let alone a sail..."
"Excuse me," a small voice said from the door.
"What?!" Deriun snapped, spinning around. "Oh." It was Jessica. Her wings were slightly bent, her hair rumpled and wavy. "What are you doing awake?" he asked gruffly.
She tugged on her dress, balling it up and twisting it. "I woke up," she mumbled. "And I heard you talking..." she trailed off, obviously unsure if she'd said the wrong thing. “And... I want you to know that I'm strong enough -- to -- to" -- she gulped -- "be a pirate."
He waved his hand. "You? A pirate?" He shook his head. He would have usually laughed at such absurdity but in this case, he could see that she was very serious. "I don't think so."
Jessica's whole form drooped and she walked out. Her dignity was snapping and her cheeks were hot. 'There are people who try, and there are people who shove their efforts back in their face!!' she thought angrily.
"I'll show him," she growled. "I'll be there when they're training the other new crew-mates to be pirates! I'm not backing down!"
And so she stormily lay back down on the rough planks that made the deck.
Deriun shook his red head and looked down at the map. He just couldn't concentrate with that air-child on his ship. He smoothed his ears down with his paws before blinking.
"Hm, ships from Shenkuu have lots of weapons..." he muttered, not really concentrating on what he was saying. “But she's just a little girl... She has no experience; she doesn't even have proper wings!"
Shaking his head, he looked out the tiny porthole and stood up, opening the round window with a creak. The sea breeze was mesmerising. The air faerie proposed such a threat to his pirating career he really didn't know what to do with her. He couldn't just set her on land and hope she found her way! He couldn't make her walk the plank because that might bring bad luck -- and he was firmly convinced that luck had everything to do with things -- so obviously, the only thing that he could do for her was to keep her on board!
"Ugh!" He turned away from the window with a disgusted noise. She posed such a problem! Couldn't she just stay below decks and give him some space to think?
'She's stubborn,' he thought with a touch of respect. 'She won't give up. I know it.'
"Just like Keilla." He sighed, caught up in memories of the very distant past.
The waves were choppy, hitting the boat hard, sending tremors through the slowly rotting wood. Jessica rubbed her eyes. She had woken up when a wave had slammed her into the ground. She rubbed her ribs where she could already feel a bruise forming.
"Faeries are not meant for the sea," she muttered. Although to her mother especially she'd put on a childish pretence, she was very advanced for her years.
She stood up, only to be knocked down again. The next time she gripped the rail, shuffling along cautiously. "I see you do not like the sea," Deriun said smugly. "You shall never be a pirate."
Jessica's chin rose and she let go of the rail. The ship gave a lurch and she managed to grab it just in time to save herself. "A true pirate falls, a true wimp grabs the rail," Deriun said coldly, looking down at the faerie. "You will only hurt yourself trying. Give up, go below-decks, and surrender."
She stood up straight and said one word: "No."
"No?" he asked, coming closer to her, towering over her. "No one says 'no' to me, faerie," he snarled. "Or at least, no one who lives."
Jessica didn't so much as bat an eyelid. "I do, because I'm not 'no one.'"
Deriun laughed. "You've got spunk, kid. I'll give you that. You're determined too. Come with me." He strode away from Jessica, across the deck. "Unless you don't want to be a pirate anymore," he called over his shoulder. "There's always below-decks."
Jessica scurried after him. She was positive she would not go below-decks. She had to at least try to be a pirate. She was no quitter.
"Lads," Deriun said, walking along the rows of boys, "you have a new recruit. Her name is Jessica." He gestured to the small air faerie.
"What?" most of the boys whined. "But she's a girl!"
"If you have any reason why she shouldn't train that does not refer to her being a girl, voice it," he snarled. "If not, keep your trap shut."
"She's too small," a Bruce spoke up. "She'll never keep up."
"Funny, Richard, how you were smaller than Jessica when you started your training." Deriun's left eyebrow rose. "Don't you find that funny?"
Richard fell silent and no one else spoke up. "Good," Deriun said with a smile. He pushed Jessica towards them. "Train her well." And with that, he was gone.
Jessica gulped. The other boys didn't look all that happy to have a girl amongst them. A yellow Kougra threw her a wooden practise sword. She caught it in one hand and looked at them anxiously, biting her lip.
"Now," a pirate Krawk stepped forward, "let's get today's lesson started. Deriun has told me about our new -- mate -- she is indeed part of our crew and you shall treat her equally." He eyed the boys sternly. "Understood?"
"Yes, Silver," the boys said in sullen voices.
"Let's get this show on the water!"
Jessica gulped. She held her practise sword awkwardly. "No, no, no," Silver scolded. "You hold it like this." He demonstrated and Jessica repositioned her arm. "Good, good. Your partner will be Teair. He's promised to go easy on you." A Lenny stepped forward.
"Are you ready?" he asked, holding his sword in a fighting position.
Jessica gulped and nodded, mimicking his stance. A mere three minutes later she was flat on her back, the tip of the wooden practise sword against her chest.
"Uh... not bad...?" Teair asked uncertainly.
"Yeah, I know it was terrible," Jessica growled. "You don't have to point that out." She got up, picked up the practise sword again, and with gritted teeth muttered to herself, "This is going to be a long day.”
To be continued...