"Captain Rook Marlow of the H.M.S. Deceit?"
Marlow found himself addressed by an expensively dressed young lady.
"The fellow you want is over there," he said gruffly, making a rough motion towards the next table over. He was in no mood to deal with expensively dressed young ladies.
"Oh dear," she commented politely, and sat down across from Marlow, much to his dismay.
He glared at her, hoping she would lose interest and leave.
She met his glare with a quick reproving look before placing a few papers on the table between them. "Now, captain, I know we've just met and haven't had the chance to get to know each other, but I don't have time for the usual delicacies." She pushed forward one document. "This is a letter from General Marcus, addressed to any who will help me leave the country urgently. These," she continued briskly, pushing forward more papers, "are letters of recommendation from many members high in the Spanish government. And finally, this is the amount I will pay for passage to England aboard the Deceit."
Having arranged the papers in front of Marlow, she folded her arms on the table and leaned forward to wait. If she was the type, fingers would have been drumming.
"The Deceit is not a luxury passenger ship. Excuse me," Marlow said, tossed some money on the table to pay for his drink, stood up, and walked out the door.
The young lady hurried after him, catching up to him in the street.
"You don't understand," she said, a bit of hysteria in her voice, painting an interesting picture as she clutched her hat to her head with one hand and the papers in the other. "I need to get to England as quickly as possible! I can't stay here any longer, or they'll find me and kill me—"
Marlow had turned to refuse her one more time–he had no patience or sympathy for ladies in hysterics–but saw that she stood directly in the path of a hurtling horse and rider. He grabbed her arm and yanked her forward half a second before collision. The horse thundered past as they both went sprawling to the dust in the street. Yelling at the rider, Marlow quickly pushed her aside and leapt to his feet to catch a glimpse of the horse as it disappeared.
He looked down at her, furious with the rider for being so reckless and with the young lady for being so naive and almost killing herself, as she lay propped up on elbows looking dazed.
"You just saved my life," she said, as if she couldn't believe it. But the dazed look was quick to fall from her face. "Oh my god! That was no accident—"
She jumped up, ignoring the hand Marlow had made himself offer, though it pained him so, and started collecting the papers strewn from her hand about the street. Seeing such an elegantly attired lady, who could have been right out of an afternoon tea party in the queen's gardens, looking so flustered and frightened and raving to herself about how it couldn't have been an accident, they must have picked up her trail in Lisbon through that stable boy, and my, god, they were probably watching right now, biding their time until midnight, waiting for—
"Enough!" thundered Marlow, who couldn't take any more of it without murdering her himself. He was about to leave, fully prepared to deal with the conscience pangs of walking away from the situation, (but then he had stopped listening to his conscience a long time ago), when he caught sight of the paper she was picking up. It was the last one she had tried to show him.
The figure named on it was enough to make his knees go weak.
He quickly reversed all thought of leaving.
"Captain Marlow," he took another glance at that paper as he flourished a bow, "at your service, Lady Kizalene. If you could take care to step this way, my ship is docked at harbor awaiting your arrival. We will discuss the terms of your passage in more detail inside my cabin..."
"Please, call me Kizzy," she said, giving him a weak, but grateful smile.
Kizzy's exhaustion had caught up with her once they were aboard the Deceit, and she had vague memories of trying to stay awake during Captain Marlow's promised negotiations but unfortunately failing. More vague recollections of being carried to a cabin by the captain made her sit up in bed and blush. He had also taken her shoes off and placed her in the small but comfortable bed in the guest quarters.
Kizzy lay back, sighing, and recognized the motion of a ship at sea. They must have left harbor sometime during the night, for Kizzy was an early riser and guessed the morning to have just barely begun.
She slipped out of bed, barefoot, and tried to open the cabin door, and had a real shock when she realized it was locked.
Wheeling around to get her surroundings, which were a large closet, four poster bed, and an ornate writing desk, all secured to the floor in the small but extremely well decorated room, fit for any visiting VIPs, she noticed a fallen over candlestick. Using it as a lever, she was able to pull up some of the wallboards in the back of the closet, where they seemed to be the least thick. Humming as she vigorously attacked the wood and nails made the time go faster, and soon she had broken through to the next room. Luckily, the Deceit was a relatively new ship, built for speed and not strength, so the interior walls had been made as light as possible. Kizzy smiled to herself. It was common knowledge that the great shipmaker Michelan had built the Deceit, but not many knew that the genius of Michelan was inclined to cut corners wherever possible and pocket a large percent of his commissions.
Some squeezing and shedding of irrelevant clothing made it possible for Kizzy to escape to into the closet of the next room, which looked an exact imitation of hers but in reverse, and check the door to see if it was locked. It was not, much to the relief of the delicate carvings, which had been left shuddering at Kizzy's destruction of the closet wall.
Not many people were about as she made her way to the top deck and took in the view of the early morning light on the water that surrounded the ship. No land was in sight.
A few sailors were doing various chores on deck, and as Kizzy stepped around them, she waved hello. Some waved hello back, and some just stared at her. Kizzy did not think it was very polite.
She reached into a pile of coiled rope and drew out a stuffed satchel, then withdrew to her room to change into something more sensible than the completely ruined dress she currently had on.
Which was when Captain Marlow walked in on her relative state of dishabille.
"Oh God!" he exclaimed in horror, threw his hands over his eyes, and backed out quickly.
Kizzy shrugged, and finished pulling up her trousers and buttoning her vest.
A few seconds later Marlow was charging back in.
"Where did you get those clothes?" he demanded. "I specifically locked your door!"
"And I specifically know enough of English to realize that while they may start with the same letter, even to the illiterate 'paid passenger' and 'prisoner' do not share a definition," Kizzy shot back.
"It was for your own protection," he snapped. "You don't know the crew."
"Oh, I met them earlier this morning. What a lovely gang. I hope to get to know them better. There's this one blond I hope to get to know a lot better–"
Marlow was seething. "I must have been out of my damn mind last night, to accept you," he growled.
"Perhaps," Kizzy agreed. "Or perhaps your reason was hushed by this." She made the motion of shuffling money with her fingers.
It shut Marlow up, but he narrowed his eyes at her in disgust, both at her insolence and her call on his greed.
"Well, now that we're settled, when's breakfast?" Kizzy started out the door.
Marlow caught her elbow. "Oh no you don't. I need an answer."
Kizzy looked worried, as if he had just started spouting nonsense.
"To the original question," he clarified, annoyed.
"Which was..." Kizzy prompted.
"Where in hell did you get those clothes!"
"Such language, and in front of a lady!" Kizzy said disapprovingly.
Marlow glared at her from under his low brow. Piercing, it was. Kizzy had to cave. She pointed at the closet.
With a look of alarm as he realized what she had done, he rushed to the closet and threw open the door.
Kizzy took cover.
"WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?" and "DAMN YOU, WOMAN" rained upon her, but she stood strong.
"My ship! My poor ship!" he was moaning when Kizzy dared to look up. She tried to sneak out the door, but he heard her move.
"You," he hissed acidly, pointing one accusing finger. "You did this."
Kizzy had no defense, so she dashed out, leaving him in the middle of the wreckage.
"Watch out there!" exclaimed a tall man in uniform as Kizzy almost rammed into him in the hall.
"Terribly sorry," Kizzy said, stopping when she saw the insignia on his coat. "You wouldn't by any chance be an officer on this fine ship?"
"Lieutenant Collin, First Mate, at your service," he bowed. "Normally I would wait for an introduction, but our situation is a bit uncommon," he apologized, smiling.
"Lady Kizalene, but please call me Kizzy." It was hard to curtsy in trousers, but she pointed the toes on her bare feet and managed it somehow.
"A pleasure, my lady," he said again with that wide smile, winking when she tried to correct him. "Now, I heard some shouting moments ago. Was there a problem?"
"Captain Marlow was loudly reconsidering his passenger protection program," Kizzy apologized to Lieutenant Collin.
"I see," he murmured, amused. "Now, would you care to join me for breakfast?"
Kizzy placed a hand on his offered arm. "Why, thank you, lieutenant."
Marlow, having discovered Kizzy's satchel but knowing she hadn't boarded with any luggage, stepped out of her room and saw the two disappearing figures, one in splendid uniform and the other, barefoot, in the ragged attire of a seaman, walking as gracefully as any lady, and threw foreboding looks at their backs.
He cursed the moment of weakness in which he had let that girl on the ship. And now, with wide, innocent eyes that hid her malicious intent, she had Collin under her power. Marlow knew his friend and first mate would be helpless when faced with a girl who needed to be carried to bed but could break through walls. No amount of money was enough when dealing with young ladies, a lesson learned a long time ago, in what could have been another life, since this one was spent avidly avoiding them at all costs. It would have saved him a lot of headaches he had remembered it earlier. The simpering, frail ones were horrible enough, for he had no patience with them but they were easily ignored, but nothing was worse than a girl in high position with a personality arrogant, stubborn, and completely and utterly ignorant.
It was something he'd learned from his fiancée.