The Pirate Apprentice, Chapter 13: Riding the Black Dragon

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I was upset to discover that Ornery wasn’t coming with us. He hadn’t said a thing until he was saying his farewells shipboard. He had business to attend to and promised he would be along later. But, as it sank in that we were on a real pirate ship, I got over my sadness at being away from Ornery and my fear of being up in the air and started actively getting in everyone’s way. We were less than a day out before I was too busy being excited to miss him for more than a few minutes at a time.

The pirate Shadow showed mom and me to our cabin personally. It was bigger than our room back home and more beautiful than any room I’d ever seen. The bed sheets were silk, with lamb’s wool blankets, overstuffed down pillows, and a mattress that swallowed you whole in soft, downy, squishiness. There was a little self-heating tea service that looked like it was real silver, rice paper blinds over the windows, mahogany furniture and woven rugs from the exotic lands to the southwest. There was even a nice big cushion for Officer Puppy.

Set on my bed was a perfectly folded set of clothes, a pale yellow, linen lace-up shirt, dark brown leather pants, matching knee boots and leather jacket, all in my size. It was another of the small presents from Uncle Ornery I would find every now and then. The pirate Shadow had added a cute, little pirate captain’s hat to the top of the pile, but my aviator’s cap was so much a part of my head that it felt weird wearing anything else. Besides, Ornery had clearly gone to a lot of effort to match the leathers to my cap. How could I not wear it?

The room also came with a big, burly, female pirate who was there to make sure no one gave us any trouble. She also made sure our every need was taken care of. She introduced herself as the pirate Maidenhead. When I repeated the name as a question, she laughed.

“Don’t worry, honey, I promise I will change it as soon as someone proves they are good enough to steal it away from me. And between you and me, I ain’t lost a fight yet.”

“Some day, Maidenhead,” the pirate Shadow said with a sly wink.

“You just bring it, captain. Maybe I’ll give in and say yes.”

“Yes? You know full well I prefer a fair fight, not cheap shots when I’ve got my pants tangled around my ankles.”

“I promise to only break every other bone in your body,” she said sweetly. Then she laughed again. She had a beautiful, warm laugh, that came rolling the depths of her large frame and filled the room. She was just a warm person, with ruddy skin, hair like a dark red wine, and eyes like a jade goblet to drink it out of. Men found her attractive and intimidating at the same time, at least until they discovered what a good drinking buddy she was.

The pirate Shadow apologized deeply for her being there. He trusted his own people, but was never sure about the hired help. There ended up being no reason to apologize, she was a wonderful person to hang around with, made the trip a lot of fun, and kept me out of trouble. She even took Officer Puppy for walks and showed him where there was a livestock room with hay spread around so he could relieve himself. And really, excitement and glamor aside, it was a pirate ship. Even my little brain, full to bursting with hopes and dreams, knew it could be a very dangerous place.

She insisted that I call her Maid, there were fewer syllables to deal with that way. The full name was reserved for people who needed to know just where they stood with her, and where they would continue standing unless she punched out their lights.

By the time we were all loaded up and settled in, the sun was setting, and I was so excited and overwhelmed by it all that I was fast asleep on top of the covers of my too comfy bed. Mom woke me up in the middle of the night to watch us pull out of port. Bleary eyed, I watched the city lights fade until I fell asleep again, head resting on the rail. Even what looked like a big fire on the west side of the city wasn’t enough to hold my attention.

Maid carried me back to my bed and tucked me in without my waking up once.

***

The next morning all there was to see was water. I stood at the rail, staring at the ripples arcing away beneath me for a long time. If we had been up high, we probably could have seen land, but the Black Dragon wasn’t flying, it was sailing, the sails billowing like waves of blood and darkness above us. The pirate Shadow was in no hurry and didn’t see a reason to waste energy when the wind was good. The engine panels were sipping just enough power to keep the ship stable on the waves. I had only been in small boats before. It felt weird standing so stable in the water.

By sea, in a good ship with the wind at its back the entire way, it was a three day trip to reach The Jewel. By air we could have made it in one. But the pirate Shadow wasn’t in a hurry.

The other two pirate ships that had been docked with the Black Dragon hadn’t come with us. Ornery had taken them and gone in the other direction, into the Wastes. There was no way I could have known it, since pirates don’t paint their names on their ships—no reason to be that easy a target—but one of the ships was the Decima, Ornery’s old command. I guessed it was the old battle-worn one, but it wasn’t.

The Decima had recently been refurbished, top to bottom. It was fitted out in creamy pearl, gold and crimson. From a distance it looked like a graceful white swan dipped in blood. It was now under the command of a pirate named The Red Mariah, and she had rechristened it The Evangelista. In some ways it was a deliberate dig at Ornery, letting him know it was her ship now, and she was not a woman to give up her command for anything less than death.

Ornery had appointed her from his own crew to be his replacement, over the protests of some other pirates who felt they had a claim to it. Ornery very politely explained it to them, how it was important for a pirate to be respected by their crew while still ruling with an iron fist, and how she was both the most ruthless and most compassionate crew member he ever had under his command, and then he gave them some time to think about it by leaving them to walk home from the middle of nowhere in the Wastes. When it came to calling in favors, The Red Mariah had no reason not to think it less than an honor to travel with him.

The other ship was for some more of Ornery’s friends. The Red Mariah almost never let a man set foot on her ship unless she respected them and considered them her either equal, or at least one of the girls. Ornery was one of the few to hold that honor.

The pirate Maidenhead was also from The Evangelista. She told me that it was really Ornery who had requested she accompany us, mostly to keep an eye on the pirate Shadow. He was not a man who would ever be allowed to set foot on The Evangelista.

“Is he dangerous?” I asked.

“To you? Depends on how cute you look in a cabin boy’s outfit.” Then she laughed.

When I had gotten my fill of staring at how the ship cut through the water, the pirate Shadow gave mom and me a personal tour of the ship. It was half lecture about all the things I would have to learn about ships if I ever wanted to be a pirate, and half exciting. I got to see how the big guns work. He wouldn’t fire off the really big one that formed the dragon’s mouth, but he let me play with all the switches and dials hooked up to it. Except the power switch that is. I sort of learned a little bit about how blackmetal was made, not that the pirate Shadow was really clear on it himself. It was hardened mixture of ceramic and metal, flexible enough to not be brittle, and stronger than any of the original materials were alone, or even multiplied together.

We got a long lecture on how the sails not only collected wind energy to move the ship, but solar energy to store up for powering the engines, because, of course, I didn’t learn any of this in first grade. The crimson-colored borders and stripes were sailcloth, and the depthless black stripes were giant woven solar collectors. They were beautiful to look at. Mom and I admired them while he carefully explained things to us naive city folk.

The best part was the engine room, down on the lowest deck of the ship. It was even more impressive than the big gun. After all, most of that was wrapped in weird pieces of equipment I didn’t understand and didn’t really look like a gun at all. He let me walk right up to the power cell in the middle of the room and touch it. It was so exciting that I didn’t even notice there suddenly was nothing under my feet but an energy field keeping the water out. Looking down, I leapt back with a yelp and he laughed. It was as safe as another floor, just not visible to the eye.

I gave him a dirty look, made a small harrumph that would at least have gotten mention for an endearing attempt, and cautiously walked back to put my hand on the power core again, just to prove I could. It was like feeling a warm, solid nothing. It was so smooth you could barely even feel it.

The ship’s power cell was huge. I was used to small power cells. Glow disks ran forever off tiny ones the size of peas, and a floater could go almost as long on a few the size of marbles. Even some of the fishing boats I had been on never had one bigger than my fist.

This one was bigger than me. If it were hollow, and I could stand inside, I would have to stretch to touch the top. A giant marble, depthless black and shiny at the same time, held in its brass and blacksteel cradle with a maze of wires connected to its two poles. One this big could have powered all of Farport for a lifetime or two.

The hole in the floor was there because really big power cells could become unstable and burst into flames. Sometimes, if things went really horribly wrong, they could explode. That is supposedly how the old Pirate King died, former husband to the current Pirate Queen, in the ship that was the twin of this one. If they become unstable, you dropped them through the hole and limped home on auxiliary power. If they blew up … well, they say the crater where the Pirate King’s ship crashed is big enough to park a city inside it. Pirates may be notoriously hard to kill, but if anything is going to do it, it would be an explosion that big. That was another reason people liked to put repair depots on remote islands.

Power cells are supposed to be pure energy made solid and condensed into a perfect sphere, the perfect shape only interrupted by two dimples on opposite sides to connect to the power circuit that ran through the middle. I never understood how they worked. At that time, I don’t think anyone did anymore. That is why wars could be fought over the discovery of another functioning power cell charger found in the wastes or beneath an ancient ruin somewhere.

Small power cells could be made with just a charger. A well maintained one might be able to make a power cell as large as an apple. But to build one large enough to power the engines and guns of a warship required a special machine. I didn’t understand any of it at the time, but it was something to do with the special needs of growing that large a circuit connecter through the core. So far as anyone knew, there were only one power cell manufacturing machine left in the world. It was hidden somewhere in the Great Wastes and controlled by the pirates.

Maybe hidden was the wrong word. Everyone knew where exactly it was. It was just that no one was dumb enough to try to take it away from the pirates. Not that the entire mass of the Imperial Navy or the Grand Fleet of the Eastern Kingdoms couldn’t succeed in capturing it. But all the other powers would gang up on anyone who tried just to keep them from gaining control of it.

At least everyone could be sure the pirates would sell to all of them without prejudice. Pirates had no interest in conquests or empire building. All pirates were really interested in was the money. Money and finding a really good drink, the stronger the better. They had no problem helping to keep the balance if it got them more of it. And to help keep that balance, the pirates made sure that if they were selling a power cell to one of the great powers, they were also selling one at the same time to each of the others.

There are times when I wonder whether the reason the pirates were never wiped out by the empires that rose and fell all around them is because they always remained neutral, both friend and enemy to everyone.

***

After the tour, we had dinner in the captain’s cabin. It took up the entire aftercastle of the ship, with a ceiling higher than anywhere else in the ship except the engine room. It was part private quarters, part conference room, and part museum. It was a huge room full to overflowing with tapestries, woven rugs, a crystal chandelier, animal skins, ornately woven throw pillows, ornately carved furnishings, ornately carved carvings, weapon cases full of interesting guns and blades, maps, charts, and carefully polished navigation tools sitting like an exhibit in glass cases. At the back was a huge window looking astern. It looked like it was one impossibly large piece of glass—or at least one you probably didn’t want on a ship that got into fights.

Everyone was dressed formally. We even had to go back to our cabin to wash up and put on nice things. Leathers weren’t going to cut it, even if they were brand new. When we got there, we found brand new dresses in our sizes with a nice, conservative cut. There was also some very nice jewelry for my mom. “Don’t worry, they’re just loaners,” Maid assured us.

Dinner was me, my mom, Maid, the pirate Shadow and a few of his officers. It was mostly made up of provisions we had brought with us. I wanted to protest, but my mom politely pointed out it was a fair enough trade for the free passage, and we had packed enough for a longer trip anyway. Though mostly I was complaining because I thought they looked kind of plain on a table decorated with linens, real candles, silver, and gold. I was expecting some real pirate food.

I sort of overlooked the fact that I had been nibbling on real pirate food all day, in the form of hardtack, jerky, pickled vegetables, and water. You were supposed to be able to preserve food indefinitely in a good stasis field, but stasis fields were notoriously fickle. Old fashioned means of preserving food were still more reliable when you didn’t know when your next resupply stop would be.

When we were all settled in at the table, the pirate Shadow stood up and raised his goblet. “Liiza, Peri, forgive my rudeness. An entire day aboard this fair ship and at no point did I ever formally welcome you aboard the Black Dragon, flagship of the pirate fleet.”

We were both stunned by those words. The rest of the attendees sat like statues, looking at us, with not so much as a twitch. “The flagship?” I blurted out.

“Indeed.”

“But isn’t that the Pirate Queen’s ship?”

“Indeed. But I am allowed to borrow my sister’s ship every now and then, when occasion calls.”

If a hole had opened up and dropped me to the center of the earth, I might not have notice for a minute or two. It would be like the Emperor’s sister—yes, he had one—paying us a house call. I had a feeling that Uncle Ornery had decided to thumb his nose at an entire city for daring to endanger me with a show of power that clearly showed them who they were dealing with. Not to say it was the sort of thing he would do, but it was the sort of thing he would do. He was named Ornery for a reason. If he was being polite, he was up to something, and really, he had spent the last week being as civil as a servant.

Since, as Ornery would say, my jaw was busy flapping but nothing was coming out, though he usually only said it when there was noise coming out of it, my mom spoke for us. “I am sure we are honored to be a guest on so fine a craft, but isn’t it a bit much just to give the two of us safe passage out of Farport?”

“Of course it is. That is why it was so much fun!” The pirate Shadow laughed. The other pirates stopped being statues and broke into laughs and giggles themselves.

As the other pirates all relaxed and reached for their glasses and goblets, the pirate Shadow took a long drink for the goblet he was holding and flopped back into his chair, still drinking until it was empty. “We had the entire Imperial Navy on high alert and scrambling to take up protective positions around Farport. Officials were scrambling left, right, and center to get everything in order for an unannounced visit from the Pirate Queen. All of it while trying not to alarm a nervous pubic who could very clearly see us parked right here. Not that they would be expected to recognize a ship that had never docked there in anyone’s memory, but it really is a pretty intimidating ship even without that information.”

“But why?” I asked.

“Because he likes a good joke,” Maid grunted, her mouth already full of food.

“Yes,” said the pirate Shadow, a little coldly.

One of the other pirates grinned. He was dressed in light purple and white. Even his leather boots were white. His coat was so elegant, and the bottom puffed out with so many petticoats, that it was hard to tell whether it was a coat or a dress. He was young and trim, with flowing blond hair perfectly groomed, and golden eyes delicately outlines in kohl to make them stand out. He leaned forward to rest his chin on his interlaced fingers. “Darling, I dare you to tell her the real reason we are on this ship,” he said teasingly.

He got an evil stare, but he just pursed his lips and batted his eyes.

“The real reason?” my mom asked.

“Never trust a man who steals the scene before he has even introduced his guests,” the blond pirate said, turning toward us with a smug grin spreading across his face.

“Allow me. I am the pirate Periwinkle, this is Blademaster Kasa, though he is really a master of many other things as well, and over there we have the pirate Pacifist, the ship’s doctor. And, Peri, I am afraid we share the same name around here, I do apologize in advance for the confusion. So we absolutely must come up with a proper name for you so they don’t send you off in my place by mistake. How about the pirate Squirt?”

People did not make jokes about me my height without paying for it. It being polite company and a formal occasion, I settled for throwing a butter roll at him. He caught it with a smooth turn of the wrist and everyone laughed. Well, except my mom, but she didn’t think it an appropriate time to scold me.

“I will accept that as a no. Well, we’ll just have to work on it then, won’t we?” He popped the roll in his mouth in one bite.

Blademaster Kasa was dressed a long flowing robe of black brocade. He was a small man with a shaved head and dark eyes. He looked more like a monk than a pirate. Later I found out he was both.

The pirate Pacifist was dressed in a crisp white suit with a red arc slicing across his double-breasted coat. He had long hair in exactly the right shade of brown, with eyes the color of steel. He had an unusually neat beard for a pirate, almost as neat as the pirate Thinker, but long enough for the sides to be woven into tight braid. His chin was clean shaven, giving him perfectly braided mutton chops that wrapped around into a full mustache. On hearing he was the doctor, I realized the red arc on his jacket was a piece of the red circle that medical teams wore in battle fields and when responding to emergencies. It was a symbol of the non-combatant, turned from a badge into a fashion statement.

The pirate Periwinkle spent most of the rest of the dinner trying to come up with ever funnier names for me. The pirate Ornerette. The pirate Notapirate. The pirate Nonotthatone. The pirate Pipsqueak. The pirate Pending. The pirate Mouse. During a pause, and to escape the topic before he came up with something really mean, I asked, “You said something about the real reason for this trip before?”

“Oh, very well,” the pirate Shadow interjected. He sounded disappointed. “I was hoping not to burst your bubble quite yet. After all, nothing I enjoy more than an excited young girl, full of energy and so full of herself.” His words dripped with honey. My heart sped up a little. Then I saw that Maid had tensed up visibly. The words turned all creepy and the flutter turned into the wrong kind of goosebumps. The only thing that saved his kneecaps was Maid was too far away. The pirate Shadow glanced at her, deflated a little, then continued in a much more business-like tone.

“To be quite honest, we were taking the ship to The Jewel for some repairs. The Admiral asked if there was something headed this way, and, well, there was. The most juggling I had to do for this ship was to move up the travel date by a week. That is partly why we are eating the food you so thoughtfully provided. There wasn’t really enough time to fully provision the larder.” He sighed disappointedly, like a pirate who didn’t have enough ale at hand. It turned out they didn’t.

“But the surprise visit really was to remind a small number of people who they were dealing with, because it seems they had forgotten. Sending the Imperial Navy and government officials into a panic was just an amusing byproduct.”

He paused to shovel a large piece of Nighuysen’s finest into his mouth.

“Truth be told, if the would-be assassin had successfully killed you, and had the Admiral asked it of us, we would have razed the city, just as a point of honor. Not that I understand why he’s so determined to keep you safe from harm. He gave up his command to protect someone who appears to be a perfectly normal human child. That would be you. The Queen still hasn’t forgiven him. Everyone just assumes it’s because he’s your father, but I know full well that is not the case. For starters, you’d have to be a pirate to be his daughter. Funny thing about the Admiral, he may keep his mouth shut, but he will never outright lie. Though you probably know that by now.”

The pirate Shadow settled into eating in earnest.

“Did he ever tell you why,” my mother asked quietly.

“Yes, he did,” he replied, not even looking up from his plate, pointing at her with a fork that had successfully skewered some more sausage. “The Admiral said he made a pledge to a man he would not name that if anything ever happened, he would take care of the man’s daughter until she could take care of herself. There was quite the uproar about it when he said he was leaving, since he was also pledged to protect the Queen as well, having been her right hand man for as long as anyone remembers. I still remember the look on her face when he said, ‘Woman, if ya can’t take care of yerself, ain’t no one can.’ And, remarkably, she didn’t kill him on the spot,” he shook his head, and tutted softly.

“Between you and me, his loyalties were already divided between the King and the Queen. Some say that’s why he retired, and that you were just an excuse. It is an argument with some merit, but that conflict of interest was one most of us faced. The King and Queen did not always see eye to eye, and sometimes you had to take sides.

“The Admiral never told anyone why a child was more important than the Queen’s kingdom. Even the Queen is firmly convinced you are Ornery’s child, because it’s the most palatable answer she can find. If I were you, my young pirate apprentice, I would try to avoid running into my sister. She does not consider you a friend.”

I always wanted to believe the Pirate Queen would immediately like me just because I was with Ornery. Deep down inside, I always knew better, but hearing how wrong it was hurt a little.

“So Peri, that man would be your father, would it not?” He said that last bit looking at my mom, not at me. She blushed and looked down. My mom never once talked to anyone about my dad to me the entire time I was growing up, but this time she answered.

“My husband was killed by Imperial Guards for the crime of not getting out of the way of a carriage full of foreign dignitaries fast enough. Ornery never made any promises to him. He made a promise to me.” She stumbled over her words for a second before staring him straight in the eye. “A promise of revenge.”

The Pirate Shadow smiled a very dark smile and sat back in his chair. “Now that sounds like the Admiral I used to know.”

***

Maid wasn’t the only one looking out for me. The pirate Periwinkle, who officially dubbed me Lilac so he could keep our names straight, and the pirate Pacifist, both knew the captain and his habits too well. They did a very good job of keeping me away from him for the remaining three days of the trip. Maid assured me that if there were two people on this ship to trust, I had found them.

Periwinkle was also aghast that Ornery had clothed me in yellow linen and he quietly made a few changes while I wasn’t looking. I awoke the second morning to find every light-colored shirt I owned was now periwinkle, his favorite color. He had some wyrd in him, though he admitted it was limited to parlor tricks and making his clothes look fabulous. He spent the rest of the trip giving me way too many grooming tips.

That second evening, the pirate Pacifist showed me a bit of the ship that the captain hadn’t given me a tour of, and probably just as well. On the lowest deck, deep under the captain’s cabin, there was a bath house, with showers, hot tubs, a steam room, baths with bubble jets, and a sauna. There was even a private deck off the back, but currently it was closed up tight, since the ship was at sea. It seems like a waste of clean water on a pirate ship, be he assured us it was a closed loop system, fully purified, and was a clever way of storing the ship’s emergency water supply. If the drinking water started tasting like bath water, then the crew knew it was time to start looking for fresh water soon. The bath house was hidden behind Dr. Pac’s office—he insisted we call him Dr. Pac—where he tried very hard to impose holistic health regimens on everyone.

He gave mom and me nice big fluffy towels and bathrobes, put a ‘women only’ sign in front of the door in the form of the pirate Maidenhead, and told us to enjoy ourselves for a while. Our only interruption was the sound of the pirate Shadow trying to sweet talk Maid and Dr. Pac into letting him in for a nice soak so he could properly keep his guests company. Maid offered to let him leave again with nothing broken or missing. What finally chased him away was Dr. Pac saying, “Well, if that’s what you want, I’d be happy to spend some quality time alone in there with you later, tiger. We can do some nice deep tissue work to help balancing those pesky energy flows.” When Dr. Pac finished it off with a “Mee-ow,” mom and I sank our faces into the water so the pirate Shadow wouldn’t hear us laughing.

Over the next three days, Periwinkle put me to work learning how a ship really worked, doing light cleaning, helping in the galley, learning the ropes, at least the smaller ones. One good thing about wearing his periwinkle shirts is that he never made me do any work that would risk messing them up. Dr. Pac would steal me away from work every now and then to lecture me on healthy pirate living, and to keep me from working too much. He admitted to me that being a doctor on a pirate ship could be boring. Pirates healed themselves up faster than he could bandage them.

On the third day, when he found out how long it had been since my last one, he insisted on giving me a complete physical. I wasn’t really comfortable with it until Maid assured me it was okay. He really was a doctor, he really was a professional, and Maid would rat him out to his boyfriend if he tried anything. “He has a boyfriend?” I asked. “Yep, he and the Blademaster have been an item for years.” My mom went with me anyway, just to be safe.

Dr. Pac ran all sorts of weird tests that I had never heard of before. After all of them he said, “Yes, indeed, perfectly healthy, perfectly normal thirteen year old girl. Sad to say, not a drop of pirate in there that I can see, just in case you were secretly hoping Ornery was your dad. I know I was. The scandal would have been worth every second.”

That wasn’t something I wanted to hear from a pirate. I had heard it six times before and didn’t want to hear it again. Being a normal human was boring. Pirates were stronger, faster, and could shrug off injuries like I might brush snow off my jacket in the winter. That was the real reason people didn’t like pirates. Pirates were better than they were. When he saw my crestfallen look, just this side of wanting to go somewhere and cry, he added, “But really, there is only one true way to test whether someone is a pirate.”

“What?” I asked, somewhere between glum and skeptical.

“Well, you take a giant spike and nail them to the main mast straight through their chest. Then you go away for dinner. If they show up at dinner and punch you in the face for nailing them to the mast, then they are probably a pirate. If they punch you in the face and steal the dessert you were about to tuck in to because being nailed to the mast made them hungry, then they are definitely a pirate. But you really don’t look drunk enough to let someone try to talk you into letting them nail you to the mast, so it is probably not a good test at the moment.” Then he laughed.

The joke helped a little, but not much.

In the afternoons, Blademaster Kasa would come round me up from my work for an hour and made me take fencing lessons along with some of the hired hands. Most of them were more comfortable with a dagger or broken bottle in hand, but everyone on the ship needed to be skilled in using a long blade. Really, we just got to use the wooden stays for pinning the ropes in place, but he taught everyone how to fence as if we were using sabers. I learned a lot in those three short hours.

Later, when I was on the island, he would spend my entire day off with me teaching me to fight until I was too tired to lift my blade anymore. Within a month I had graduated from wooden blades to steel. It was another one of Ornery’s gifts.

The last thing the pirate Periwinkle did on our trip was teach me a simple spell to make my clothes look brighter, cleaner, and nicer than they really were. It saved so much on not having to buy all those expensive fabrics, he said. We were both surprised when I learned it almost right away. As a little kid, the tests they gave for whether I had any wyrd in me had all come back negative too. Not that anyone couldn’t learn some simple household spells to keep the hearth warm and the dust bunnies at bay. I’d just never tried before. I was too busy wanting to be a pirate.

My mom, for her part, just got to relax and pet Officer Puppy. She seemed to be enjoying herself. So was I. By the morning when The Jewel came into sight, I was sad that our trip had to end, even if I ’d spent the past three days working harder than I ever had before.

As we were getting off the ship, the pirate Shadow apologized that he didn’t get the chance to know me better. When Maid gave him a dark look he waived her off and said, “People take me too seriously around here.” Then he laughed. “I may be a rake, but you are under the Admiral’s protection. I would never lay a finger on you.” I felt a sudden dizzy feeling, like with the goblet a week before. Time felt heavy and slow, it was like the world had stopped moving, and the pirate Shadow was right behind me, leaning in close to me. Then it passed and he was still standing in front of me, exactly where he had been, still talking. I could swear I had heard him whisper, “Maybe,” in my ear.


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Creative Commons License The Pirate Apprentice by Mootly Obviate is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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