|A Cautionary Tale of Piracy and Romance
Author: Clair Caprice PM
These are excerpts from my NaNoWriMo novel from last year - I'm mainly posting them here so my friends overseas can read. It's a Steampunk/Dieselpunk tale of pirates and time travelers that is totally incapable of being taken seriously. Enjoy :)Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Adventure/Romance - Chapters: 4 - Words: 8,677 - Reviews: 2 - Updated: 10-20-12 - Published: 10-06-12 - id: 3063569
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Louis awoke and wondered where he was. The bed he was sleeping in was deliciously soft and comfortable, but entirely strange to him. He could feel a slight, steady motion beneath him that he couldn't figure out, like the floor was slowly rolling back and forth, up and down, inch by inch. He yawned and sat up, peering through sleep-bleared eyes at his unfamiliar surroundings, taking everything in through the half light coming in through the window above his head. Elegant, glossy furniture, a rich red carpet on the floor, and a low wooden ceiling stretching in a gentle arc over him...crisp, spotless white sheets on his bed and airy curtains to match. The chair, wardrobe, and small table were clamped to the floor, he noticed, and after a brief moment of confusion it came to him. He was on the Demon Breeze.
He had made it. The first major step in his mission was complete. Louis Lithgow had actually managed to board the ship alive, and be greeted and cared for as a guest, no less. A cabin all to himself (to his great relief - though he knew it might only be temporary), clothes, and wonderful meals. Dinner the night before had been but a single example of the pirate's hospitality.
When Mr. Rotherham entertained, he did it with flair.
And there was that girl, he remembered. Ramona, the captain's daughter. The silly, flighty creature he'd spoken to after the party. Her party, her birthday celebration. She was almost exactly his age. He shook his head at the thought. What were the odds? And to make matters worse, she seemed like the kind of person who would to turn out to be a major hindrance to his plans - loose as they were at the moment.
There was a knock at the door. Louis leaped out of bed and opened it, careful to stay behind the door. He poked his head around the corner and saw a man with a tray waiting outside - probably the most fragile, ancient-looking man he'd ever seen. He held out the tray, which was laden with everything from toast to tea, and smiled a crooked, snaggle toothed smile. "Breakfast, Miss Stark, compliments of yours truly," he croaked. Louis took the tray from him, deeply inhaling the heavenly scent of melted butter but wondering at the same time if it was safe to eat anything that the old man had prepared.
"Thank you," he said, trying to edge away.
"My pleasure, miss," he replied, scraping his vocal chords against each other like an out of tune violin. He smiled again and saluted her, pulling at the hem of his ratty woolen cap, and then he was gone so fast that Louis blinked, surprised that such an ancient creature could move with such speed.
Louis began to close the door, starting to feel that the food was worth risking. Another person passed in the hall outside his room, a woman. It was the lady with the brilliant auburn hair that he had seen the night before. He had assumed that she was Mr. Rotherham's wife, but now that he got a closer glance at her, she seemed far too young to be married to him. She caught his eye and stopped to look back at him.
"Miss Stark," she greeted him.
"Good morning," he said politely, tempted to bow but remembering in time to drop a clumsy curtsey.
"I see you've met Mister Bones, then," she remarked, gesturing to the lavish spread still in his arms. "It's perfectly safe to eat, just so you know. No one's died yet."
Louis laughed shortly, surprised that this somber person actually had a sense of humour. But then he looked at her face again, and she hadn't cracked a smile. Apparently she was serious. He shifted uneasily in the door frame. "Really?" he said, for the sake of making conversation.
She nodded. "Mind if I come in for a moment?" she asked. "Oh, and does the nightgown fit you well?"
Louis looked down at the loose white garment that hung baggily from his slender, bony shoulders. "It's a little big," he said. It was comfortable, but it still felt strange.
"Well, you are extraordinarily thin, my dear," she said.
"Er...yes." He wasn't exactly sure what to say to that.
The woman smiled tightly and and glanced to her left, then back to Louis. "Is it all right if I step in for a moment?" she repeated, raising her eyebrows at his rudeness.
"Oh - yes, please," he said nervously, stepping back to let her by. She swept past him into the room, her skirts rustling condescendingly.
"I'm terribly sorry it's so early," she said as she took a seat beside his bed, though she didn't look very sorry at all. "Mr. Rotherham insisted that Mister Bones bring you your breakfast right away, even though I told him to let you sleep in a little bit, what with the trying night you had. But he is determined to keep us all on schedule, and he had planned to be off by six this morning."
"What time is it now?" he asked, looking around for a clock.
"Half past six," she said, turning up her nose at him slightly.
"Oh dear, I didn't mean to keep you waiting!" he said, embarrassment creeping slowly into his face despite his efforts to appear level-headed and mildly apologetic. Something about the woman and her impressive manner made him feel small and inferior. He didn't like it. "Really, you shouldn't mind me," he said, trying to tone down his reply to something more dismissive. "By all means, go on with your regular schedule."
She smirked at him faintly, foldling her hands primly at her waist. Clearly she knew something he didn't, and the fact amused her very greatly.
"Well?" he said, annoyed.
"Oh, Miss Stark, my dear," she laughed. "You will most certainly want to be awake and ready when we take off. Otherwise you'll receive quite a shock. Please, for your own sake, get dressed and join us topside as quickly as you can. I left a clean gown for you in the wardrobe. It should fit, as it's one of Ramona's and the two of you are roughly the same size. Your other gown is drying, but it will need some repairs before you wear it again, but I shall see to all of that. All right?"
"Er..." He wondered if he should thank her or be offended at her patronising tone. It was difficult to get into, this "fraternising with the enemy," and it took a lot of willpower to stay civil. He didn't want to raise any questions, yet it was against his very nature to behave politely toward anyone affiliated with piracy. This elegant, disdainful lady seemed entirely out of place among scoundrels and sea dogs, but clearly Edgar Cad was a whole other class of pirate.
"I...yes," he said finally. "Thank you. I'll be as quick as I can."
"Good." She smiled and rose. "I shall see you in a few minutes, then. No more than ten, to be sure. We musn't keep Mr. Rotherham waiting. He gets into a temper." She exited into the hall and pulled the door behind her, then stopped. "Oh, and I nearly forgot," she added. "How silly of me. My name is Beatrice." And then she was gone, the sound of her footsteps abruptly shut off with the click of the latched door.
Louis fumbled into the fresh dress and tried to remember how his mother taught him to do his hair. It didn't curl the way Ramona's did, and it didn't cascade across his shoulder like Beatrice's. He pitied every girl in the world, having to constantly worry about the appearance and upkeep of their hair. With some work, he managed to pull back the sides with a ribbon, and then it looked passable. His jaw, which was stronger and wider than most girls', seemed a bit less prominent now, and he felt decently confident in his diguise. He slipped on a pair of shoes which he had found underneath the dress, then headed up to the top deck to find Beatrice and the others.
She hardly glanced at him when he arrived. But Ramona, who was standing next to her, waved excitedly and motioned him over. "Good, now you can be on my other side," she said in relief, handing him a rope. Louis took it and looked at it stupidly, wondering what he was supposed to do with it. Ramona noticed his confusion and giggled. "Oh, I am sorry," she said. "I forgot, you're not used to flying. Here, you have to tie it to the anchor on the floor. Right there, see?"
She knelt to the ground and showed him the row of little brass loops attached to the floorboards. Louis looped the end of the rope through it and tied a tight knot. "All right," he said slowly. "And now?"
"Tie it around your waist." Ramona turned to look behind her. "And oh, hurry, Papa's here!"
"Why? What..." Louis began, having loosely wound the rope behind him. He began his next knot, but suddenly there was a loud whistle, and a huge, rumbling jolt knocked him to the ground. The ship shuddered forward by a few feet, and then there was a surging movement and it gathered speed. The ship creaked in protest as something unfolded itself from the sides, something white and impressively large. Louis realized with a slight jolt that they were wings.
Within moments they had left the gentle rocking of the waves and had begun the smooth, gliding ascent into the sky. Mr. Rotherham stood at the helm, his rich maroon and gold coat billowing in the powerful breeze. There was a joy in his face, calculating and exhilirated like he was in complete control. He gave a shout to the crew, his voice carrying farther than the force of the rushing wind should have allowed. "Take her up?"
"Aye!" The men answered gleefully.
"I hate this part," Ramona whimpered next to Louis, her fingers snaking around his wrist in a vicelike grip. He looked over at her curiously, but before he could ask what was wrong, the ship leaped forward in a burst of speed, and then they were climbing vertically, so rapidly that Louis' feet lifted off the deck until he was suspended in mid air, tethered to safety only by the rope in his hand. He hadn't had time to finish tying it around his waist. Ramona, with her eyes squeezed shut until they were nothing more than tiny slits in her face, was cutting off the circulation in his right hand, and he had to strain with his left hand to keep hold on his lifeline. He felt his breath sucked from his lungs and he tried to gasp, to clear his head, but black splotches began to appear before his eyes, and he felt dizzy.
Mr. Rotherham shouted another order, and the ship began to slow and balance out. The wings fluttered and steadied them, and at last they were level again. Louis fell back to the deck with a thump, his legs buckling under him. Ramona collapsed next to him, still clutching his arm. Beatrice, however, along with the crew and the captain, stood straight and tall and perfectly serene. She looked down at the two of them and smirked again before turning her gaze ahead. Louis rolled his eyes and clambered up, feeling foolish and clumsy.
"Well, that's over," said Ramona cheerfully. She jumped up and smiled at Louis, instantly recovered from the harrowing experience. "Thank goodness! Do you feel all right?"
"Yes," said Louis dully, though he was beginning to feel sick.
"Excellent," she said, and skipped away to talk to her father.
"Wonderful feeling, isn't it?" Beatrice said to him. He wanted to scowl, but instead he flashed a saccharine smile.