I stare down my nose at the stout man in charge of the pier. “Captain Evans.”
His bushy eyebrows bob as he starts to write and then stops. “First name, Sir?”
I cross my arms over my chest. “Captain, Sir.” He opens his mouth to respond, but I’ve no time for it. “My parents were very set on me becoming a seaman. Full name is Captain Evans.”
I watch him take in my dark boots and the red coat draped over my shoulders before glancing to the ship behind me. “So, Captain Captain Evans?”
I have to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing as I nod. “That would be me, Sir.”
“And your crew?”
I shrug. “We’re docking for just the night. They’re likely to stay onboard while I procure provisions.”
He pulls out a handkerchief decorated with purple paisleys and dabs at his moist brow. “If they come out, I’ll need proper identification.”
They know the drill. Most of them are probably already off of the massive ship. Sneaking behind naive dockmasters is a specialty of the men following me.
Waving the man off, I give him the proper money for the ship to stay and then meander down the well-built pier. In the distance, the blare of a French horn cuts a festive tune. There’s an answering lilt of some pipe. Christmas songs likely.
Have we really been out at sea that long?
The scent of the ocean fades as I enter the bustling city and sweet maple wraps its way through my senses. Orange and yellow leaves are dried and gathered into long ropes that hang around doorways, giving the dull brickwork a bright pop of color. There’s a market out here, the citizens wrapped in fur coats as they try to persuade sailors like me to give up their well-earned coins in exchange for worldly goods.
There’s pastries and wrapped sweets. Another stall offers all sorts of nuts. I don’t slow as I walk by, sticking my hand into the almond bin and then stuffing the stolen pieces into my pocket. Nobody says anything. They didn’t see anything. I didn’t fight my way to be a Captain only to be shoddy at my immoral activities.
Up ahead, a woman inflates rubber balls with her breath and then holds them out to children. There’s squeals of delight as they take the balloons in exchange for a single copper piece. Flashes of red and yellow and blue overtake an alley to the left as the children run off to play.
This is a good city. There’s honest work to be made. It’s the only reason we stopped.
It’s my home.
It was my home.
I gave up the finery of lace dresses and servants at my beck and call for the rough seas and a rougher entourage. We’ve had a good year out there. I went from a staff of three to thirteen. We upgraded from a sad excuse of a boat to the ship I commandeered half-way across the world. Captain Evans is a name to be feared.
Funds, however, aren’t the easiest to keep. There’s holes in my clothes and not enough food on the ship to keep us going for another two months. Should I want to pay my men for their time and loyalty, I need to gather chests of gold or equivalent jewels. I won’t be letting my ship and crew and fate fall through my fingertips at the expense of pride.
It’s time to make a house call to the neighbors that owe Amelia August Evans a favor.
A scream rips through the air. The horror and agony is something I’ve heard from men unfortunate enough to find their way into a lion’s teeth. Curiosity digs serrated claws between my ribs.
It won’t hurt to take a small detour.
Abandoning the road that leads home, I break into a run as I follow the screams. A woman. The words are unintelligible. There’s no plea for help. Instead, she’s a cornered creature yelling out her last sounds into the cruel world.
Not on my watch.
Not in my city.
Sweat and sea air cling to my brow as I hurdle down another street. The screams are getting louder.
A small voice in the back of my mind warns me to slow down. This is unusual for this area. Crime is hardly a concept here. Men and women get along. The people are happy for the most part.
This is something else. Perhaps something I don’t want to entangle myself. A year of rowdy taverns and finagling my way through a man’s world has given me an engorged sense of self-confidence. I’m going to be the one to save this woman.
There’s a crowd. I don’t leave time for pleasantries. No words are passed between me and the band of strangers as I shoulder my way through the mass of well-dressed men. Grumbles and complaints come from a few of them as I press forward. They’re not my concern, though.
There’s a woman in trouble.
Up ahead, I catch sight of the girl. She’s in a plain dress. Likely a serving woman. A cart of goods has been knocked over, littering the street with red apples and tangled balls of thread.
The man in front of her is someone I hoped to never see again.
The Count of Oceanend has his back to me and the girl corralled against the wall. I don’t care to find out what he’s trying to get from her. My hand on the hilt of my sword, I yell over the din of unhelpful men roaring for him to do worse to her.
Wet eyes meet mine as the girl shakes her head. Her screams have stopped. As the Count turns to face me, she immediately grabs her things and hurries down the alley.
Malice glitters in Marcus’ eyes. “Welcome home, Amelia.”
Heart thundering in my ears, I stare at the jagged scar down his left cheek as I remember the night I left. Bruises marred my body for weeks after my escape. The memory of his hands on me…
I can’t think about it right now.
Now, I have to escape once again. It was a mistake to come home.
Of course, there should be no reason he would know I’m here.
“There’s a snitch on my ship, isn’t there?”
Marcus grins as he unties a bag of coins from his hip and tosses it behind him to a member of my crew. “I hear you were a plenty good leader, Amelia, but money has a way of changing loyalties, doesn’t it?”
Bastards. Every last one of them.
I unsheathe my sword and level it between myself and Marcus. “I won’t be going anywhere with you.”
He clasps his hands behind his back, that awful smile turning into a sneer. “I don’t think you have much of a choice, fiancée. Your parents and home are gone. Your crew has turned on you. It would be foolish of a woman of your stature to turn away my good grace.”
I won’t let my hands shake. The crowd behind me is murmuring. There’s questions about my identity beneath the loose fitting clothes of the sea. They expected a fight between men. Nobody wants to see a woman dressed as a man. The concept could collapse society.
The fragility of society and the male existence is too complex for this moment, so I brush it aside as I step to the left. Marcus hasn’t moved. He doesn’t think he’ll have to make any real attempt to contain me. Between the crowd and the chaos he’s stirred, he thinks I’ll give in.
Marcus has made more than one mistake in underestimating me.
Another step to the left.
He’s talking, but I’m not listening. Instead, I’m trying to figure out if I can leap over the barrels blocking that path out of the alley.
Doesn’t really matter, does it?
Even if I fall or make a mess, I’ll go down fighting for my freedom.
So close. Almost time. If I was a man on the run, I’d probably make some comment about how they almost caught me.
I don’t have the time or ego for it.
More yells come from up the street. Heads turn. They’re distracted. I brace myself to make the jump and run.
I don’t get the chance.
Horns blare. Soldiers on foot and seated on horses make a semi-circle around us, yelling for everyone else to leave the vicinity as a man pulls out a scroll and starts to read in a booming voice.
As the only person dressed in any form of attire for a captain, I don’t ask them to clarify that they mean me. I could still run. I won’t make it far, though. I slide my sword back into its sheathe.
“How can I help you fine gentlemen?”
The sour-faced man glares over his scroll at me. “You’re to be arrested for the act of piracy. Give up your weapons and come willingly.”
I sputter. “Piracy? I’ve not done anything here besides walk down the street.”
This man doesn’t care for my arguments, he clears his throat again as he looks over the edge of his wired spectacles. “The King has need for a pirate, Captain Evans. Do we need to take you in chains or will you walk along yourself?”
If there’s anyone who can get me away from Marcus, it would be royalty.
And I want a new ship with a better crew.
Negotiations already turning in my mind, I wave the men to lead the way as I exit the alley and head towards the castle.
Happy Saturday, loyal readers!
The prompt was vague enough this last week that it could have honestly fit any of the characters I’ve already introduced, so I wanted to challenge myself to create someone new. I hope you enjoyed Captain Evans as much as I did! Let me know in the comments below if you would like more stories done from this perspective!
As always, please take a moment to read my writing partner’s story on the same prompt.
We’ll see you next Saturday!