Chapter 1: Flight

Mirsha wound her away around the carts and people that clogged the streets leading to the harbour. She kept glancing over her shoulder, expecting pursuit at any second. Surely he expects me to run, she thought to herself as she dodged another fish laden cart, especially after what I said. It's true when they say hindsight is twenty-twenty. I definitely shouldn't have yelled at him in front of all those people. Though he was being a complete ass about it, not even bothering to consult me before deciding.

When she finally reached the harbour, the young woman knew better then to approach any of the merchant ships. He'll be having those watched for sure, Mirsha thought in disgust. Looking around she spotted a likely vessel. Most travellers would have avoided it as the boat practically screamed 'pirate'. Perfect, she thought as she ran towards it.

In front of the ship she saw a young man coiling a rope. His dark brown hair was streaked with lighter bits by constant exposure to the sun. He was well muscled and his sword looked like it had seen hard use.

"Excuse me." Mirsha said politely.

The man looked up at her, still coiling his rope. "Can I help you?"

"Yes I was wondering if I could book passage on your ship."

The man was taken aback. "Book passage? On our ship? Look lady, you'd have better luck and a more comfortable voyage on one of the merchant ships."

"I'm not looking for a comfortable voyage. I'm not afraid of work and I'll help out as well as pay. I'm not some highborn lady who expects to be waited on. I want to get on this boat."

"You don't even know where we're going."

"I don't care. Anywhere but here is good."

"Look we're not merchants and we don't take passengers."

"What you think I don't know a pirate ship when I see one? Gods I'm not some naive little girl. I can fight and I'm not offended by the thought of stealing. I really need on this boat."

The man raised an eyebrow. "On the run?"

"Not precisely. I just need to get out of this city. I'm not an escaped criminal or anything. Nothing you'll get in trouble for if I'm found on board. Now can I please get on? I'll pay you ten gold."

Now the man's other eyebrow rose to join the other. Ten gold was a lot for someone not on the run. Before he got a chance to reply, one of the windows's on the ship opened and another blond head poked out. "Gods Viro just let her on!"

Mirsha nearly jumped. I couldn't have been talking that loudly! She thought to herself, so how did he know what we were talking about?

Viro rolled his eyes. Trust Balix to butt in like that. "Alright you can come aboard. I'm warning you though once on you're not going to be able to get off for the next month."

"Yes, yes I know." Mirsha said tersely. She could hear a group of approaching guards. "When do we leave?"

"As soon as you finish helping me untie the boat."

The woman nodded and ran to start untying the other line. In a few minutes they were done and on board the ship.

"Alright." Viro called once he was on board. "I want everyone's attention. This is our newest crewmember. She's only here temporarily but I still want her treated with respect so don't try anything. She's expected to keep up and I won't be happy if I find you guys trying to lighten her load cause she's female. That's all for now."

The rest of the crew looked at each other. This was an entirely new experience for them. Viro ignored the others and turned to Mirsha. "I'll show you around the ship."

"Are you the captain?" Mirsha asked, rather surprised that someone so young would be in charge.

"No, he's only half the captain. I'm the other half. The better half of course." Came a voice from behind her. Mirsha once again had to repress t he urge to jump.

The young woman turned around to see a man who looked so similar to Viro he could only be his brother. They both had the same blue-grey eyes, though this other man's hair was a few shades lighter and a bit wavier. Mirsha recognized him as the one who'd yelled at Viro to let her on. "Half the captain?" she asked in confusion.

Viro rolled his eyes again. "We co-captain the ship. Balix just likes to say half the captain. He's an idiot."

"Ah! From my own twin! I'm crushed!" Balix said leaning back and holding a hand over his heart as if mortally wounded, before straightening and winking at Mirsha. "I'm sure you'll find out soon enough that we're not you're typical pirate ship."

Mirsha couldn't help but smile. "I don't mind." Twins! That solved the puzzle of how he's heard their conversation. It was common knowledge that most twins were linked in the mind.

"Splendid! I'll show you around. Viro has monopolized your company long enough."

Before his twin could say a word in protest, Balix had led the ebony-haired woman away. Shaking his head, Viro went back to work.

"So why were you so insistent on joining this ship anyway?" Balix asked as he led the young woman to the galley.

Mirsha sighed. "I said some things I shouldn't have and had to leave the city as soon as possible. I knew the more conventional transportation would be being watched so I figured the last place they'd think to look for me was on a pirate ship."

Balix laughed. "I've heard worse reasons for joining a ship like ours. So what kind of skills do you have?"

"Well I'm rather good with my rapier," Mirsha began patting her sword before continuing. "I'm decent with a bow and I know how to sew passably. I can cook some and can hunt; not that hunting is of much use on a ship, but still. I have some training in first aid and healing but no real experience. Oh and I'm a bit of a mage. I don't know anything about sailing or ships but if someone's willing to teach me I'm sure I can pick it up."

"Well," Balix replied stretching the word out. "I think it was a good idea to take you aboard. That's quite a lot of skills there. Where did you learn all of that?"

Mirsha flushed with pleasure. "I was raised since I was a toddler by my teacher. She started my training when I was three so I had a good sixteen years of teaching. I left her a year ago. Actually she kicked me out. Said I needed to see the world and learn from somebody else."

"What about your parents?"

"They abandoned me. I don't know who they are nor do I care. They didn't want me so I don't want them."

Balix was surprised at the underlying anger in those words. Liar, he thought, you do care. A lot. "Well this is the galley. The bell will ring when it's time for a meal. If you're on duty during that time, come down later and there will be leftovers. Everyone except the truly horrible cooks takes a turn."

Mirsha's gaze swept through the large square room, filled with long tables and benches. Everything was made of a dark tough wood, which made sense as they were on a ship. There was a door at the other end that she assumed led to the kitchen. Other then the dartboard, the place was bare of any ornamentation.

"Well I'll show you to your bunk so you can stow your stuff and then you'll get your first lesson." Balix said.

Mirsha followed the young captain back through the door they'd entered back to the stairs leading to the deck. They passed them by and headed through the door on the left side. Here was a room the mirror image of the galley except that it was filled with bunks two high, rather then tables and benches.

Balix led her to the opposite side of the room and showed her to two unoccupied bunks. "You can pick one or the other. It doesn't really matter. Now through the door is Viro's and my room. If you have any problems with the men, you come and tell us. We'll sort them out."

Mirsha shook her head. "That shouldn't be a problem. I can take care of myself."

"I'm sure you can. If you do get into a fight try not to maim them permanently. We don't have the option of getting new crewmembers when we're out at sea."

The young woman laughed. "I'll remember that."

Balix smiled. "See that you do. Now come up top and I'll have one of the men show you how to trim the sails."

The captain was as good as his word and Mirsha soon found herself under the tutelage of a great hulk of a man named Habil.

Despite his fierce scar marred visage, Habil was actually quite friendly. He seemed quite impressed when it only took a demonstration and a few reminders to have Mirsha completely get the hang of trimming the sails.

A few of the other crewmembers had drifted over during the lesson to size her up. Mirsha knew what they were doing and ignored them. If they were going to underestimate her because of her gender then they were going to be unpleasantly surprised if they tried anything.

The day passed without Mirsha noticing. After her lesson with Habil was over, she was pressed into service in the kitchen. She was told that the men would appreciate a change in cooks. Shrugging her acceptance, Mirsha began making a soup that could be served cold, as the day was very hot.

As she chopped vegetables she let her mind drift. The ship and its crew were quite a bit different then she'd imagined. Though some of them had indeed come to check her out, most had stayed to offer advice and offers of other lessons. A couple had made suggestive comments but had joined in the laughter when she shot them down. All in all they were a lot friendlier and not at all chauvinistic which was quite a surprise. I think joining a pirate ship wasn't such a bad idea after all, she thought as she moved on to cutting up the meat.

Once dinner had cooled and was ready, one of the other cooks who'd been helping her ran up and rang the bell, while the other, including Mirsha, came out carrying the pots filled with soup. They were spaced evenly out on the three long tables and it wasn't long before the whole room was filled. Mirsha found herself invited to sit at numerous places and chose to sit with the nearest group. Throughout the meal they took it in turns to tell ribald stories or jokes. Not to be outdone, Mirsha told a few and found herself laughing along with the rest.

After dinner seemed to be the time that was given over for leisure and as the newest member and only girl, Mirsha was soon surrounded by a group of the men asking her about her life. Smiling, she began.