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Daughter of the Pirate King: Chapter 20


THERE ISNT A WORD for how cold I feel in the brig. Now that I can afford to think about myself, I register the effect of wet clothes and the brisk morning air. Small gaps in the wood allow faint breezes to escape into the ship. They rake against my skin, sending me racking with shivers.

My extra changes of clothes are no longer in here. I’ve no idea what Riden’s done with them. Maybe the other pirates took them once my cell was unlocked. Fabric can be sold at a pretty price, and pirates are always looking to make a profit.

I sit on the floor, my arms wrapped around my legs. My toes have gone numb. I remove my boots and rub at them fiercely with my hands.

The men outside my cell do nothing. They hardly spare me a glance. Draxen was obviously responsible for this lot being chosen to watch me. They won’t respond to any of my comments.

“Is it Draxen’s intention for me to die or can I get a blanket?

“Oi, Ugly, I’m talking to you.”

One man looks. His face reddens, and then he goes back to staring at the walls.

“How’s it that Draxen managed to find a whole group of deaf men as my guards?

“Get me a blasted blanket, or I’ll have your heads!

“Don’t suppose one of you would like to toss me your shirt?” At this point I would take any foul-smelling garment, as long as it’s dry.

Eventually I try to force myself to dry. I run in circles, wave my arms about—anything to get my blood pumping. But each thing I do sends more air onto my raw skin. I wish I were back in the water.

I remove as much clothing as I dare in this company.

How is there still water on my skin? How can there be so much of it? The truly terrible part is I could whisk it away, but I don’t know what the consequences would be. Would I lose myself and become the siren? Or could I manage to keep my head like I did those few times with Riden’s help? I don’t know, but at this point, I can’t risk it. Not with what’s about to come.

I don’t know how much time passes before I give up being quite so careful. I sing a low tune to the man who looked up at my taunt. He seems to be the weak one of the bunch. Get me a blanket! I hurl the words at him in the form of a harsh song. Only he can hear the intent of the song. To the others, I’m making meaningless noise.

Abruptly, he gets up and leaves.

“Where yeh going?” another one asks him. He doesn’t receive a response.

The enchanted man returns shortly. He hands me a blanket through the bars. “Just to get you to shut up,” I have him say, to throw off any suspicions the others might have.

“About bloody time,” I say. I rip the cloth from his hands and use it to wipe the water from my skin. Then I wrap myself in it. So much better. I can actually think clearly.

All I need now is to wait out the rest of the day. Possibly the night, too. I don’t know how long it will take.

Yesterday and this morning have thoroughly exhausted me. I drift in and out of sleep. First I dream of Riden. He’s healthy and well. He tells me again he’s a better shot than I am. We take turns shooting at dummies. In the end, he wins. But this makes me realize this is a dream. In reality, he couldn’t possibly beat me.

Then I dream of my father. He’s demanding the map. Screaming at me from where I rest behind bars, refusing to let me out until I produce it. I search through my clothes, where I know I’ve put the map, but it’s mysteriously not there. He tells me I’ll never see the outside of the cell. The bars start moving closer, crushing my skin.

I gasp out loud. The men on the other side of the bars snort before going back to their dice and drinking.

A few moments later, I slink into blissful sleep once again, thinking about the last song I uttered before being pulled back aboard this ship.

It won’t be long now.

*   *   *

I wake to the sound of gunshots. A huge smile stretches across my face.

It’s time.

“All hands on deck!” Draxen shouts from above. My guards all hurry up the stairs, leaving me alone below.

After flipping over the table in my cell, I check the leg for my lockpicks. They’re still here. All that time and Riden couldn’t figure out how I got out of my cell.

The fight above is loud. There’s screaming and grunting. Swinging limbs and clanging metal. Cursing and collapsing.

Eventually, I hear rapid stomping; it’s distinct from the rest of the ongoing battle. Probably because it’s closer. If I had to guess, I’d say someone rolled down the stairs. Shame, that. Probably will hurt like mad the next day if the poor bastard isn’t already dead.

“Captain, you down here?”

“Over here!” I shout back.

Niridia’s face comes into view, followed by two more members of my crew. I could jump for how glad I am to see them.

“Got your beckonings. Wallov came to me the moment he heard you singing,” she says. She looks me up and down. “You can’t be in a good mood. You look terrible.”

I cringe. “Don’t remind me.”

Niridia grins. She’s one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen, but that’s not why she’s my first mate. We met five years ago, both the daughters of pirates. Niridia’s my senior by one year, but she follows orders and fights nearly as well as I do. With hair the color of the sun and bright blue eyes, she’s a complete contradiction, as anyone who’s seen her fight can attest.

“How’s the situation up top?” I ask.

“Shipshape, Captain,” Niridia says. “Tylon’s men have nearly half of them on their backs already.”

“Tylon’s here?” Venom creeps into my voice.

“Sorry. He caught me leaving. I didn’t tell him where I was going, but he followed.”

“Bloody hell, that man needs to learn to mind his own business.”

“You know how he is.”

Yes, but I’m still going to have a long talk with him when this is all done. Tylon captains one of the ships in my father’s fleet. And lately he’s gotten it into his head that the two of us need to be … involved. A notion my father no doubt persuaded him of. I, however, want nothing to do with the arrogant piss pot.

“Wouldn’t be too harsh on him, Captain. His men helped a few of the girls up top when they were in a tight spot.”

“I’m sure. And how many times did the girls have to assist his idiotic crew?”

“Plenty.”

“I thought so.”

“Shall we go join the fight, then?” Mandsy asks eagerly from where she stands between Niridia and Sorinda.

“Sword?” I ask.

“Here, Captain.” This from Sorinda. The raven-haired girl produces my sword out of seemingly nowhere. Sorinda hides more weapons on her than a spy does secrets.

Ah, my cutlass. One of the first gifts my father ever gave me. I had Sorinda hold on to it for me while I went on my mission. I can see she took good care of it. There’s no one I’d trust more with a weapon than Sorinda.

Seeing them again warms me. Now I want nothing more than to be back on my ship, but first things first.

“Let’s help the boys and girls upstairs, shall we?”

“Aye,” they all respond together.

We trod above deck and engage in the fight. It’s utter chaos. I have only a moment to register friend from foe as I try to remember the faces of all the men from the Night Farer. This would be far easier if Tylon’s men weren’t mixed in with Draxen’s. Instead of simply killing all the men on the ship, I now have to be wary of the pirates who serve under my father in Tylon’s crew. To be fair, a couple of the men are mine. But I know every member of my ship so well, it’d be impossible for me to mistake them for anyone else.

There are people still trying to board the ship, eager to join the battle. Draxen and his men don’t stand a chance, but they’re putting up a fight. Most of them are, anyway. I see Kearan sitting on the deck, drinking, not a care in the world. Not much of a fighter, that one.

I spot Draxen. He’s fighting two of Tylon’s men at once. For a moment, I wish one of them would kill him. Riden can’t blame me for that, and I do so want to see him dead. But I know that no matter by whose hand he falls, Riden will still hurt from the loss. I hate that I keep proving Vordan right. I care about Riden’s pain. I don’t know why, but I do.

Before my eyes, Draxen slays one of Tylon’s men. The other steps back a couple of feet. Then he advances with a new fury. Bad move, that. The poor man’s not thinking clearly. He will only join his friend.

Draxen kills him, too. The pirate falls to the deck as Tylon boards the ship. Seeing a man kill one of your own men is a terrible sight. It helps you pick your targets during a battle. And Tylon races for Draxen immediately.

This needs to stop. Now.

Tylon is an excellent fighter. He’s been pirating a good six years of his life, ever since he was a lad of twelve. Now he’s one of my father’s most trusted men and a good match for any pirate captain. I couldn’t say who would win in a fight.

This makes me unaccountably nervous. I can’t risk Tylon winning, but how would it look if I intervened?

Oh, for stars’ sake!

I race forward, jumping between the two men who are still a good ten feet from each other.

“Alosa,” I hear Tylon say from behind me.

I ignore him for now. “Draxen, you need to stop this. Tell your men to surrender, or more will die.”

Draxen looks at me, his eyes filled with blood lust. Surrendering is the last thing he will consider, even at the cost of the lives of all his men. He advances toward me, determined to end me once and for all.

I’ll just have to knock him out again. But how will it look to everyone else if I don’t kill him?

Suddenly, Draxen’s eyes are no longer on me, and I hear swords drop to the deck.

What the—

I turn around, though I already suspect what I’ll find.

The pirate king has arrived.

I look around the ship, spot Niridia, and catch her eye. The message conveyed in the look I give her is obvious. Did you do this? She shakes her head once. No.

My next action is to kick Tylon in the shin.

“Ow,” he says.

“You brought him here?”

“Of course. You obviously called for help. Why wouldn’t I bring him here?”

“Because we don’t need his help.” I make a sound akin to a growl. Then I advance to the ship’s edge. “Hello, Father.”

“Do you have it?” he asks. He does not look pleased. My father is a bear of a man. Dark brown hair and beard. Wide-set shoulders. Over six feet tall. You don’t have to meet him beforehand to know who he is. My father commands attention in the same way the winds command the waves.

“Of course,” I respond.

I reach a hand into the single pocket on my breeches and pull out the small orb. Draxen was so concerned for his brother’s life, he did not think to check me for the map again. He might not have even realized it was no longer in his possession.

In a very businesslike manner, I place the map into my father’s waiting hands. He looks over the glass, confirming I’ve given him what he wants.

“Now explain yourself. Why did you call Niridia?”

Everything is silent, halted. All the men and women hold Draxen’s crew at gun- or sword-point. My father doesn’t care about their discomfort. He’ll take as much time as he wants to question me. It’s as if everything stops for him. It has always been this way.

“I needed a way off the ship. I had the map and needed a way to transport it.”

He looks at me, slightly disbelieving. “Why didn’t you bring this ship to me?” Before I can answer, he holds up a hand to silence me. “Niridia?”

“Aye, sir!” Niridia shouts from where she has two men held at gunpoint.

“Tell me, where did you find my daughter when you boarded the ship?”

“She was—”

“In the brig,” I interject. Niridia would lie for me. She’d die for me, too. And in this case, they would be the same thing. My father may do many things to me, but I know he would never kill me. He would not show the same courtesy to anyone who lied to him.

“It was a minor setback,” I say. “I was kidnapped off this ship. Vordan Serad came for me.”

“Vordan?” My father’s face darkens. He has a deep contempt for his competitors. “How did he know you were here?”

“He had a spy on the ship.”

“What did he want with you?”

“He was curious about my … skills. He locked me up and forced me to do things for him.” I try to keep the conversation as unrevealing as possible since we have listening ears.

“What did he learn?”

“A lot, I’m afraid. But he already knew most of it. Said he had a spy high up in your ranks.”

My father’s eyes pass over his men quickly. “Be that the case, I will deal with it later. Was your escape difficult?”

I hold myself straight. “I handled it fine.”

“And Vordan?”

“Dead.”

“Did you search his body for his map?”

“Aye. It wasn’t there, and the circumstances of my escape didn’t allow me time to do a search of the area.”

“Really?” my father asks doubtfully. He has trouble seeing how others are unable to complete even the most difficult of tasks. “And why was that?”

Because I had to get Riden away to safety. “His whole crew was nearby. They were being alerted to my escape. I did not have time on my side.”

“Time?”

I’m really starting to hate his prying questions. They always unnerve me, but I try to keep my temper in check. My father is a good man. He has to keep a tough face in front of the crew, even during his dealings with me.

“It was difficult enough taking down Vordan’s massive bulk and escaping. I needed to get out of there.”

Now Kalligan looks at me strangely; I cannot guess the reason for it. “Describe Vordan to me.”

“He was tall,” I say. “Over six feet. Well-muscled. Bald on top with a brown beard. Had five gold hoops in his left ear—”

“That wasn’t Vordan.”

“What do you mean?”

“Vordan is an unremarkable man. Average looks and build. Brown hair. Casual clothes. He likes to blend in, in a crowd. Although, he does have a rather obvious habit. Likes to flip a coin over his fingers.”

My mind feels as though it physically expands as the information seeps into my ears. My jaw drops.

“Clever bastard!” I exclaim.

“What?” my father asks.

“He was there. He was here. He was the spy on the ship. He wanted to observe me for himself, but he didn’t want me to know who he was, so he let one of his men pretend to be him. He ensured that all the attention was kept away from himself.” That’s why he was the one who had the key to my cell. And he would have been the one carrying the final map piece.

Father looks up suddenly. He grabs me by the arm and hauls me to the side just as Draxen lands right where we’d been standing, his sword pointed at the pirate king. He must have climbed the netting when all the attention was on my father and me.

Damn idiot! If I’m bothering to save his sorry arse, Draxen could at least make it easy for me!

My father’s men move forward, prepared to protect their king.

“No,” he tells them, holding up his hands to halt them. “I’ll handle the boy.” He draws his sword and prepares to duel.

“Father,” I say hurriedly.

“What?” He keeps his eyes on Draxen, but I can see the look of annoyance on his face.

“Death by your hand is too good for him and his crew. Let me take them captive.” I smile in a way I hope is convincing now that Father’s glanced my way. “I’d like to return the courtesy they have shown me while I was aboard their ship.” It shouldn’t matter to me if Draxen dies, or anyone else in his crew, but it does.

I wish I could sweeten the deal with a little song. But my powers of persuasion don’t work on my father, unfortunately. Actually, none of my abilities work on him. He’s the only man I’ve ever met who is immune to all my abilities (though I now know my powers of seduction don’t work on men like Vordan—or whoever that man was pretending to be Vordan). It probably has to do with the fact that he’s my father. His blood runs through my veins.

Kalligan finally looks at me with approval, and it warms me to see that look on his face. “Very well. Take who you will. Kill the rest. Can’t have any of them going free. Dump their bodies in the sea and bring me back this ship.”

“Aye, sir.”

“And when you’re done and cleaned up, come find me. I’m expecting a full report.” The pirate king leaves the ship, taking his men with him. Tylon and his men follow.

My crew have already removed all the weapons from Draxen’s men. They are now moved before me in a line and forced to their knees. Several of my girls have to wrestle Draxen’s sword from him. Even though he’s surrounded, he still won’t go down without a fight. But he’s forced to the ground in line with everyone else.

I survey them slowly, letting the fear sink in. I have experienced a great many things while on this ship that I’d rather forget. These men will not suffer the same misfortunes. They’ll only face death or imprisonment. So a little fear is healthy for them right now.

“This feels oddly familiar,” I say to the pirates who are now at my mercy. I knew this day would come; I just hadn’t expected it to feel so good. “Who wants to live? Should I be merciful? Or should I kill you all like you tried to do with my crew when you captured me?” I address that last part to Draxen specifically.

“Do what you will, woman,” Draxen says, spitting on the deck.

I hadn’t expected him to face death so nobly. “Your men should be disappointed that you don’t even try to bargain for their lives.”

“If it’s all the same,” one pirate pipes up, “I’d prefer to live.” This from Kearan.

I smile. “Very well. Wallov, Deros, take this pirate to the brig.” Wallov and Deros are the only two men in my crew. They are all muscle, both of them, and they’re handy dealing with prisoners. Particularly large ones like Kearan. But their muscles are not the only things that make them useful. I need at least one man on my ship at all times. Men are the only ones who can hear my song. Or at least be affected by it. When I’m parted from my crew, it’s good to always have a way to contact them quickly when they’re within reach of my song.

“Take this one, too,” I order, pointing to Enwen. “And the captain. Also, you should find an injured man, suffering from two gunshot wounds in the rooms off the main deck. Take him to the ship as well. Mandsy?”

“Aye, Captain?”

“See to him, will you?”

“Of course.”

I order several more to be brought over, a few of the really young ones. It’s harder to allow such youth to be taken from the world so easily. I’ll let them go at the next port, and Kalligan will be none the wiser.

But the others, those who were cruel to me, those who are truly despicable lowlifes, like Ulgin—those I want to see rotting at the bottom of the sea.

“Kill the rest,” I say.

Sorinda is the first to take out her sword. She starts stepping behind the men and slitting their throats one after the other. Killing is practically an art for her. The way she moves is magical.

Everyone hurries to follow orders. The prisoners are taken over to the ship. I arrange for a few of my crew to stay aboard the Night Farer to steer her toward the meeting place. The bodies are dumped overboard, and everyone returns to their positions.

It is only when everything is sorted out that I can return to my own ship. When I finally step onto the deck of the Ava-lee, the taste of freedom hits me. I was never really a prisoner while on the Night Farer, of course, but there’s something truly sweet about being home again.


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