Of Brine & Blood
Thomas adjusted his spectacles again and lowered the parchment to look at me. I nodded letting him know that I had understood and agreed to the articles. With that, he produced a quill from his breast pocket and handed it to me. He then laid the parchment on the railing of the deck and held it open so the wind would not catch it. I quickly scripted my signature and then held out my hand to return the pen. Thomas received it with his right hand but then made to grab my still extended arm with his left. He continued to hold my wrist as he replaced the quill in his pocket.
Holding my palm close to his face, he reached to his belt with his unoccupied hand, unsheathing a small blade. I automatically took a step back, tugging my hand as I went. But Thomas pulled me abruptly back to him, and in one fluid swipe, he pricked the flesh on my thumb.
As he let go of my wrist and went to replace his dagger, I stared in astonishment at the small drop of blood beginning to pool on the pad of my finger. Now, Thomas held the parchment out for me again, but this time I was confused. Reading my misunderstanding, he again took my hand and directed my thumb to the scroll pressing it next to my name. When he let go, I retracted my hand, but left behind was the red, wet smudge of my thumbprint in blood.
I looked up at Thomas with wide eyes. He seemed amused by my expression and continued to look smugly at me for a moment more before he turned to the captain. She had been watching us and her dimpled smile had returned.
“Do you have any questions, Kitrina?” she asked. I shook my head more in habit than in directly answering her question, feeling the accelerated beat of my heart in the flat of my thumb. “Alright then, Mr. Hamilton, please show Kitrina to a bucket and brush to swab the main deck,” she directed.
Thomas made for the stairs, and I followed, but soon spun back towards her. “Aye, yes, I do have a question, Captain,” I stammered trying to get out my question, as it formed in my mind.
She looked down at me, her dark eyes appearing to peer intrudingly deep into mine, waiting for me to go on.
Sheepishly I asked her, “What is our trade, Captain? Where is this ship destined?” I was suddenly, and embarrassingly, aware that I did not know the nature of our voyage.
At this, she threw her head back laughing. She lifted her grip on the helm, and it began to spin, slowly at first, but gradually it picked up speed sending the boat in a wide turn. Her laugh, growing from a small chuckle in correlation with the speed of the helm, echoed into a maniacal cackle.
Sails shifted, and men upon the deck rushed to account for the change of direction, pulling lines and adjusting the riggings. Smaller objects tumbled from portside to starboard and crashed into the rails. Thomas and I both made a grab for the deck railing to steady ourselves.
When she finally angled her chin back down at me to speak, her eyes were dancing. “Why, where ever the wind may take us!” she howled. She grabbed the helm again, at last pulling the ship out of its turn, but threw her head back and continued to snicker. The sound was ominous.
As Thomas pulled me towards the steps, I could feel that shock had frozen my face into a mixture of bewilderment and terror. I hurried to rearrange my features but leaned into Thomas as we walked to retrieve a pail and brush.
“Is she mad?” I whispered, unable to hold in my inquiry, seeing the wild look in her eyes again, though my back was now to her. He turned his head sharply, and I immediately regretted asking it, for I was sure to be punished for speaking ill of the captain. When he spoke, his expression settled into something less severe but still stern.
“I have been sailing with Charlie for five years and have been at sea for twelve before that. I have never seen her equal at sea. She hears the call of the ocean as if it speaks directly to her. She has an unparalleled intuition and knows what ships to run towards and which ones to run from. She is fair with her men and I hold her at the highest respect,” he said before pausing and setting me with a firm look again to convey that I should understand he meant every word.
Then he continued, “But mad you ask? Yes, in that regard too, I have never met her equal.”