Chapter 2: Cabin Girl
I started my duties that evening and worked well into the night. I hadn't felt that tired in ages. Each bone in my body cried out in agony at every slight movement. Breathing was a chore and holding my eyelids open was nigh impossible. Every time I had gotten one thing done those bastards had had me do something else. It's true that work never ends on a pirate ship but I was doing the work of three men. Master was making sure to keep my hands and mind busy, so as to keep any mutinous thoughts as far from my mind as possible. I collapsed into my hammock next to an already sleeping Master. He had gone to bed hours before seeing as he had an early morning shift at the helm. I was extremely grateful to not have to be on the same shift as that arrogant prat.
Fever and fitful dreams assaulted me that night; it seemed my mind was determined to relive every battle I had ever fought, and have me lose every one. Each man I fought defeated me with brilliant ease, and as he stood over my conquered body his face suddenly turned into Master's, grinning down at me with condescending disdain. I awoke time and again to the soft torturous sounds of the other men awaking and leaving the forecastle to assume their duties. Each sound no matter how quiet reverberated inside my head as a great din, each blaring and blasting its own confusing composition of notes. Sweat poured from my forehead and the pain in my stomach erupted anew bringing along with it a fresh throbbing hammering away inside my skull. Sometime during the night someone wiped my forehead with a damp rag and forced some hot whiskey down my throat. The flames slowly crept down my throat and into my gut, I felt my shirt being pulled up but I did not have the energy to resist. A fresh batch of stinking slime was added to my wound and rewrapped. Slowly but surely I felt the heat leaving my forehead and the inferno in my abdomen subside. It felt as if I had been asleep mere minutes when Master woke me. He shook me in my hammock and when I didn't immediately rise he dumped me onto the floor causing several grunts from the other men. I righted myself on the floor and jumped in his face hissing, "What the hell was that for?"
"It's time to get up. Wash up, that'll make you feel better, then get up on deck."
"Damn you," I muttered. He left the cabin and I followed. There was hardly a man topside. The stars gleamed down brightly on the deck. Master had proceeded immediately to the helm to relieve the man on duty. I pursued him to the wheel and confronted him.
"What the hell, it's only Morning Watch; I still have at least four more hours before I have to be up. Why the hell did you wake me and drag me up here?" Without looking at me or changing his stolid features he said, "I'd prefer you up here with me. There are some of my men I would not trust alone with a lady. From now on you will be on the Morning Watch and Dog Watch with me. I do not care to hear the screams of a virgin on my ship, nor do I want to have to kill a man for what I brought on the ship."
"I doubt any of your men could- Wait a minute how did you know I was a virgin? Where did you hear that?" I growled. He finally turned towards me grinning, "It was just speculation, but now you have confirmed it for me."
"Damn you," I snarled.
"The point is," he said turning away from me once more, "You should not be alone on this ship for very long periods at a time. You should be with me or my first mate Gibson or the bosun Tierney. I trust both of those men with my life."
"Who says I trust any of you with mine, or my virginity for that matter since you seem so concerned for it, or perhaps you just don't want anyone taking what you think is rightfully yours." He smirked as he gazed out at the open sea. Then as he turned he grinned down at me and spoke.
"I won't rape you, but I will take what is mine. You'll come willing though."
"You are too arrogant for your own good and you presume too much," I said. He grinned wider before turning his attention to the sea again.
I turned out to look at the open sea as well. I loved the sea, if I could have spent my entire life on her I would have; forever nestled in the bosom of the tossing waves, riding the blue till she took me home beneath her frothy waters to the cool calm of the deep. I tilted my head back and gazed up at the heavens. The stars were endless tonight, shimmering on yet another endless sea of black. The moon had already gone to rest in her silvery bed, but the sun had yet to rise. The sky and sea went on forever, only seeming to kiss each other at the ends of the earth. I closed my eyes and let the salty sea wind whip my hair around, drinking in its cool mist. My reverie was abruptly interrupted by Master's harsh voice.
"Stop day dreaming; you have work to do," he stated coldly. I opened my eyes and drew my head back down to face him. I scowled at him before stalking off.
I worked for two hours swabbing the ship. As I was face down on my hands and knees scrubbing yet another piece of the ship a young man walked up to me. I halted my progress and followed his boots up to his face. He was tall, lean with no hair on his face at all. He looked to be about thirteen. His face still held some baby fat which sat awkwardly on his trim shoulders and spindly neck. He had short cropped brown hair matted from dirt and his eyes looked as if they had once been blue but were now grey and dull.
"Master wants ya in the nest. You'll be there till watch is o're," he stated plainly. I stood up and he squatted down to continue my job. I started towards the crow's nest, but stopped in my tracks; I turned towards the boy again.
"Oy, kid, gotta name?" I asked. He looked up from his scrubbing for a moment. He smiled broadly showing his yellow teeth.
"Yea, name's Jimmie, Jimmie Delaney." I smiled at him.
"Nice to meet ya Jim." I began to turn as he said, "You, you're the Crimson Queen ain't ya? The men said that Master had captured her and brought her on board to be his wench." I spun hard to face him and grabbed him up by the collar.
"I am no one's wench! I am the Crimson Queen and I answer to no man or woman! They answer to me," I growled in his face. He stood there trembling in my grip.
"Cabin Girl, I'd appreciate if you'd put my deck hand down," came Master's stern voice from the right of us. I dropped the boy back on the deck and he immediately grabbed the bucket and brush and scuttled off to the other side of the ship. As I turned my head to face him I received a hard slap across the face. I spun with the force of the strike and stumbled a bit before regaining my composure. I slowly turned to stare at him out of the corners of my eyes. Any lesser man would have backed down in fear at that gaze, but not Master, he stood his ground and glared back down at me.
"I told you once, you are no longer in charge; you are no longer the Crimson Queen. I stripped you of your ranking and title when I took your ship. You do not give orders; you take them. Do not make me tell you again, or I will engrave it into your hide with my whip. Now get to the nest, and don't slack off, or you'll pay for it with a pound of flesh." He stared hard at me, daring me to say something, anything; his eyes promising that if even one syllable escaped my mouth I'd receive another hard slap across the face or worse. I turned from him, boiling over with rage. I began my ascent towards the nest without so much as a look back. I swung over the rail of the nest with such force I startled the man sitting there. After seeing the fire blazing in my eyes he swung over the edge and climbed quickly down.
I stood up there gazing out towards sea. My nerves began to cool with the sea wind. I passed my time up there pondering all the manners in which I could destroy Master and gain back my pride and ship. After two hours up there I had decided that all of the tortures and means of killing known to me were too good and too quick for him. I wanted him to feel the utter despair and helplessness I felt right now. I wanted his face to sting with the humility and pain that mine did now. I wanted him to lose everything right in front of his eyes and be able to do nothing but gape. My thoughts were so preoccupied with his anguish I almost didn't hear the bell below for the watch change. I slid down the rope to the main deck and followed the rest of the crew on Morning Watch down to the galley. Many of the men were already gorging themselves. I grabbed a biscuit, an egg and a bottle of rum and looked around for a secluded area. The only spot that was remotely secluded was already occupied by little Jim. I sauntered over to him and sat down by his side. He tensed up as I seated myself and ceased his eating to give me a wary sidelong glance.
"You'll have to excuse my earlier behavior," I said. Then smiling I continued, "I tend not to make very good first impressions." I turned to look at him and he was smiling too. He extended his hand towards mine.
"I'm used to stuff like that by now," he said.
"The name's Narissa, you can call me Nari," I stated. He grinned at me and continued his eating. I turned my gaze back towards the table; Master was looking over at us with a slight smirk on his face. What the hell was going on in his mind I had no idea, but I scowled at him and continued my lunch.
I spent the next three hours watching the men on my watch play games. Some threw dice, others played with cards. I had always enjoyed the games on the Lady Death. I joined in with my men every chance I got. But these men were not mine, they held allegiance to Master, and held me in contempt. I highly doubt if I had even wanted to join that they would have let me. So I spent my free time watching; noticing their tells, who could bluff, who threw the best dice. Master came and stood beside me.
"Don't care to join them Cabin Girl?" he asked.
"No," I stated, and walked towards the forecastle to get some sleep before my next watch.
I had a much better awaking in the evening than I had had that morning. Jim came over and shook me when the bell rang. I rose out of my hammock and looked to the right. Master had already left. I spent the entire watch in the crow's nest. When the watch ended I climbed down to get supper. When I arrived in the galley Master tossed me a chicken leg and a bottle of rum and a slice of lime.
"Here ya go Cabin Girl," he said. The men in the galley laughed at his mocking name for me.
"I have a name."
"I'm sure you do, but you refuse to tell me, and I must call you something," he said grinning. I turned from him and went to my corner where I was shortly joined by Jim.
I spent my free time that night at the bow of the ship, gazing out towards the water and sky. Master soon came to stand beside me. I noticed he had a bad habit of standing close to me. It perplexed and angered me at the same time. He did not speak as we stood there gazing out towards the briny blue. I turned my eyes towards the heavens and realized something.
"We're headed towards Tortuga aren't we?" I asked. He grinned and said, "Yes, it seems with all the swag we gathered from your plunder we have quite a load to sell." I glared at him.
"Filthy rogue," I spat. He turned his head towards me and gave me a crooked smirk.
"We've been at sea for five weeks straight. There wasn't much food on that island of yours so we need to stock up on food and water and rum and supplies. Plus we'll be careening the The Grey Ghost and Scylla. Will the Lady need careening too?" I smiled up at him, "Asking my advice now are we? And here I thought you were above that," I stated.
"Don't get used to it, but it goes without saying that I will need your input on all things regarding her before I took her." I turned away from him; I could not bear to see his triumphant face as I complied to his arrogant will.
"She won't need careening," I said softly.
"Less work for you to do then," he said; then walked off.
That night as I was climbing into my hammock, Master spoke to me in his belittling tone and derisive nickname for me and I snapped.
"What!? What is it that you want from me now? I have finished my watch and all my duties. And for the final time, I have a name and it is not Cabin Girl and in no way does it resemble Cabin Girl!" I barked. My eyes were seething with hatred and even in the dark room I didn't doubt that he could see the flames rising in them. He smirked wide flashing his astonishingly full set of teeth.
"Well, why don't you tell me what your name is? Otherwise I can think of other things to call you."
"My. name. is. Narissa." I said slowly, etching each syllable out meticulously. He smirked condescendingly at me, "Nessie, it's…..cute."
"It is not cute nor is it Nessie! It's Narissa dammit, you wanted to know my name now call me by it."
"Oh, but I much prefer Nessie," he said. I grumbled, but was too tired to argue further with him. I rolled over towards the wall and closed my eyes allowing the lull of the ship to rock me to sleep. Not long after I closed my eyes I heard him speak again.
"What is it now?" I said rising up from my hammock to face him.
"I had only wanted to say good night." With that, he rolled over with a smirk still plastered to his face.