The seas were choppy that night. It was almost as if they were playing about under the night sky, not a care in the world. The wind blew a musical note above them as the stars twinkled with their amusement. The ocean was so carefree and so wild that even Poseidon himself would have ignored the steady passage of the silent ship as she crested through the waves.
She was an old passenger ship, one that you would have never imagined could still sail, what with its faded red paint and rotting wood. But she was sturdy, and she was steadfast. She chopped through the frolicking waves with a slow dedication that seemed to have a sobering effect on the ocean around her. She was graceful in her tattered way, like a duchess who had grown old but had never lost the commanding authority of her title. In fact, so like a duchess was she that the name was emblazoned on her side. She did not sneak through the night like a thief, but she swanned in with grace, even as it seemed her sails would fall around her.
There was safety in destruction, however. And this passenger ship knew it. Even as she looked to sink in the midst of spring showers, she found more safety than the sturdiest ships that sailed this part of the Atlantic Ocean. With her sloping section and peeling paint, she was safe from being a target of the many pirates that laid waste to passenger ships such as she, for no pirate would waste a mark on a ship that was so obviously not going to yield them any coin.
Perhaps that was why she seemed to drift through the seas so calmly, for she had found peace in her safety. Most ships no longer travelled through this section of the sea. The pillaging of fine sea vessels had become so horrendous, that is was no longer safe to travel this route, even if it was the shortest way.
So tonight, she sailed through the ocean as if she was leading a younger man to dance, completely confident that she would make it to see morning.
How truly terrifying it is to find out how wrong you can be.
Out towards the horizon, a ship cut through the waves, not in the calming way of The Duchess but like a shark, ready to circle its prey. It headed towards her, as if she had been its target all along. She continued parading as she had been, and it was obvious she did not see the shark close in. So content was she in her safety, her crew and passengers lay sleeping below her mold covered decks.
All but one girl, who looked out toward the sea, away from the oncoming ship. She was a slight thing, with brown curls that reached to her waist. Her eyes were sky blue, and seemed too bright for her otherwise tanned face. A splatter of freckles played across a long nose and peppered high cheek bones. Her eyebrows, though naturally sculpted seemed to be caught in a state of a permanent frown as she stared longingly at the sea. Her back to the dangers ahead, she stared out longingly to the sea, a newspaper clutched in her hands.
She didn’t need to hold onto the newspaper any longer to know what it said. “Golden Fleece Believed to Have Sunk, Crew and Captain Missing.” She chewed her lip, as she was known to do when worried; replaying the title again and again in her head like her own personal mantra. That was when she finally heard it.
It wasn’t as if there was really a sound that was heard over the sea noise, but there was a change in the air. Her hands tightened on the newspaper as her eyes, alert, scanned the sea. She turned around slowly, until she faced the ship that now towered over The Duchess. Ropes had been dropped to the deck and she watched as men silently climbed from the dark sleek vessel to the small passenger ship which she had sought refuge with.
Her eyes widened, but she immediately grabbed for the knife that was held tightly beneath her corset. She ducked behind the nearest rigging for the sails. Her breaths came out short and quick, and as her heart raced she forced herself to calm down. She looked toward the cabin, knowing the crew slept within, unaware of the new danger presented here.
She crouched uncertainly, ready to make her way to the captain to wake him. She looked to the mysterious men and her heart plummeted in her chest.
She was never going to make it to the captain.
The smell of gun powder was thick in the air, and the girl knew that this was the end for her. Clutching the newspaper to her breast, she held her breath as she waited for the moment to happen.
A match was struck, and in its glow she saw the same men who had just climbed down the rope now climbing up it to safety. The last man to stay aboard The Duchess dropped the match as he, too, sought safety in the larger ship.
She pushed the knife back into her corset as she waited for her world to erupt. The fire lit rapidly, casting an eerie glow against the night sky. Then, everything went white as the ship exploded into pieces, casting the girl what felt like miles into the sea. The world had gone silent as she clutched at the only piece of driftwood she could find, dazed as the fire burned in front of her.
Their mission done, the pirate ship sailed back into the night, the men aboard celebrating their latest conquest. They had known they would find no riches aboard The Duchess, but what they did find was a way to send a message. The message: “Don’t ever borrow money from a pirate that you can’t afford to pay back.” They laughed as they were sure the captain of the tattered ship had finally learned his lesson.