'Ei'll 'elp yer lass, Gods be eit, eim here ta 'elp.'
'There is…nothing you can do, no way to…change them…the rules.'
'Ah, yea, but trust meh, thur's a wei.'
'I can hardly…see it. Her entire crew are loyal, and you…cannot harm her.'
'If she'd beh killed…'
It was the salt-laced air that the Captain breathed in, sharp, tangy and alive. Dark eyes skirted from the wispy cloud tufts to the choking black column of smoke that marked the ruin of the fallen ship below. The Captain regarded the endless horizon and beyond with the indifferent gaze of a hunter. Endless sky, for now, but there would be ships again to mar the view. The sun beat down upon canvas and metal alike, impact broken by bursts of air. Fierce fighting had been done, leaving blood and sweat upon the Captain's skin. The wind was refreshing, and a good mood prevailed upon the imposing figure on the quarterdeck.
Victory was known to do that.
'Satisfied with yer plunderin' yet?' Came the scathing voice from the rail 'Curbed ye bloodlust fer tha momen', 'as it?'
The Captain ignored the Favour's words, a hand snaked out to flick its small form off the railing like a bug. It squealed on its descent, but it was of no matter. It would be back again soon, the small beastie was never far away.
'Cap'en, tha pris'ner's be ready.'
A cruel side smile twitched, and steely eyes swept away from the sky to regard First Mate Hubb. A closed face, as usual, hands hooked on his worn leather belt and fat new purse that was full from the plunder. Fingers curled around a gold amulet on a chain, another trophy and the man shifted under the ponderous gaze of his superior, waiting for the order.
The Captain strode straight past him, and he moved deftly out the way. Footsteps heavy on the wooden deck as the shackled group of huddled prisoners looked up balefully with resentment.
'Sum dey Eim gonna skin ye, callous wench o' mine.'
The Favour was back again, hovering about the Captain's bejeweled ear.
'Curb it, Fick, I've no time for you.'
Ignoring the string of high pitched curses, the Captain O'Malley of The Dorian sauntered down the quarterdecks steps, watching as motley band of pirates rowdily celebrated their glorious triumph. Rum was abundant, and the lad's downed it with enthusiasm, adorned as they were with the spoils of their latest conquest.
New clothes, mostly, taken from their dead owners. There never was much gold to be had on Naval crafts.
She grinned, baring two bronze teeth in her upper row of chompers. The Captain spread her arms out as she walked slowly towards the surviving prisoners, her crew shutting up to hear her speak.
'Well, congratulation's t' yer good folk! Welcome aboard me humble ship!'
Around her, intoxicated men chuckled heavily, jostling the bound sailors who sucked their teeth and looked to the floor. Young lads, they mostly were. Green enough to waver at the sight of blood. Green enough to lure, or coerce, over to her crew. She'd lost some in the battle and their replacements were sorely needed. The Captain's grin grew wider at this. Coercing her captives was always such fun.
'Yer a bloody barbarian, 'swat ye are.' Fick grumbled in her ear again. She swatted him away distractedly like a mayfly.
'Hubb!' she barked, knowing the First Mate was but a step behind her 'Where's the Lady?'
'Bound, gagged an' trussed up like a turkey, Ma'am. .'
'Down wi' tha ship. Rather crash and burn then be took by pirates.'
'Ah well, we'll scavenge what lefts la'er. Bring me the wench!'
With a word and much jeering, the McFinn brothers pushed through the merry crowd. The Captain smiled to herself, they were big strong crewmen, and the frail thing that hung between them was utterly at her mercy. Dried blood coated the once trim cut and clean uniform. Tattered and stained it now was and O'Malley cold not help but sneer. Her men caught her mood and mocked the Navel Captain hooting insults and suggestive things they could do to the proud, broken Lady.
Not that they would. Not now in any case.
'Drop her there, boys.' And they did so, dumping the woman at their Captain's feet. Her lad's shuffled back, allowing a small cramped space on the crowded deck for the spectacle that was sure to be. Captain O'Malley poked her toe at the crumpled figure, waiting for a response of any kind. After all these years of pursuit, she was going to savor this moment of victory.
The captive did little but seemingly sigh, still prone face down on the floor where she had fallen. A wiry cascade of now white-gray hair falling onto the Lady-Pirates scuffed boot.
Contempt on her face, the Captain looked down, hands on hips and impatient.
'Look up at me, Lizzie, ye ain't chased me fer damned twelve years to go all modest on me now, have ye?'
Men brayed with rough laugher, whilst the bound sailors groaned silently through their bruises. No response could be heard from the fallen figure, and the Captian bent forward to peer down her nose at her humiliated nemesis.
'Not ashamed now, are we, me dear? Or is th' loss of yer pesky little Favour a-grievin' ye poor soul?'
The body shuddered and moaned, and the Captain's eyes widened in the promise of a reaction. Yet nothing, no sign of any fight left, and she found herself disappointed. Where was the banter? The cold calculation and cultivated quips that had always resulted from their confrontation? Impatience made her grind her teeth, and the Captain reached down to grasp a handful of mattered hair,
'Speak up now, Imperial dog-'
Fick, the pesky devil, tugged at her ear lobes and kicked at her neck with small hoofed feet.
'Let 'er go, let 'er go, black o' 'eart an' rotten soul, she naught 'ere fer long-'
'Shut it, scut breath, shut yer yappin' yapper. I've grievances te go over with ol' Lizzie 'ere!'
'Dirt! Yer dirt, O'Malley! Dark curses be te ye! Lung rot and scurvy shuld plague ye!'
She lashed out furiously, seizing the wispy Favor tight in her fist. Fick squealed and she felt him squirm between her fingers. She squeezed harder, spitefully satisfied as the high pitched wail intensified until her ears almost bled. Another wail and suddenly the airship lurched. Taken by surprised, all stumbled with flailing limbs, and the Captain snarled as she released him.
'Cursed wretch!' she spat at him and the airship righted itself as he darted away to hide near the ship's rigging. Her lads lurched back up, righting their stances with hidden looks. She ignored them, they knew better to question her relationship with the Favor.
She was the Lady of this ship! She and she alone controlled it! Curse her Favor, the moralizing gimp. Would that the beastie held no sway over the airship's flight. But nay, he was bound to the ship and she to him, even if he was too cowardly to make good on his occasional threats to down the ship.
A hollow, rasping laugh grated out from the crumpled form of the Navy Captain. The murmuring crew fell silent as the Lady Pirate snapped her steely gaze down and glared, but the throaty noise continued.
'You've a black heart O'Malley, of all the Ladies of the Sky, only you'd treat a Favour with such contempt.'
The Captain's eyes widened at the low English voice, indignation bubbling inside her. She would not have such disrespect on her ship! Especially in front of her crew. This was HER moment of triumph.
Snaking out her ringed fingers, the Captain grasped ol' Lizzie's coat in an iron grip and wrenched the woman up to spit at her captives face. What she saw bound her throat though, and behind her Hubb cursed to God.
Of course, all knew what happened to a Lady once her Favor was gone. They'd all heard the tales, but face to face it was a whole new level of reality. Faded eyes, once so blue, were milky and clouded. Lizzie was blind, she realized with a jolt, though the sightless stare still caught her own.
And the face, her face! So old and lined, so many crevices and bumps on that once smooth skin. Spots and blemished littered the surface, clustering on her forehead and cheeks. Blood vessels worked their way down the bridge of the nose, blood caking the edges of her nostrils. Dry, parched skin sagged heavily from sunken eyes, pitched and lined. Like paper, old and faded. Shriveled. Lips drooped at the corners, puckered and lilting, pulled down by too much skin. Old, ancient, weak, a far cry from the ice cold beauty that had hounded The Dorian for twelve year.
The Captain swallowed the bile in her throat, spiteful satisfaction slowly replacing the shock of her nemesis's transformation.
'That so?' and she savored the frailty, the vulnerability of the ancient face 'Yer Favor's gone now, 'long with yer ship an' yer looks.'
'It'll happen to you, one day.'
'I ain't as weak as ye, Liz.'
'None stay Favored forever.'
'You are a fool.'
The Captain backhanded her sharply across the face, jeweled rings cutting into ancient flesh. Lizzie fell to the floor, a bag of bones encased in skin and the captive sailors cried out in protest, struggling against their chains for their Lady.
'By the mercy of God-'
'Leave her be, wretch!'
'Silence, curs!' barked her First Mate, and she heard him lay into one of the defiant prisoners. Captain O'Malley smirked, still staring at the sight of her prone captive. They were struggling now, fools, and Hubb and some others were beating them down good. She knew Hubb wouldn't hold back an inch, and the newcomers would learn their place soon enough. There was no room for dissent on The Dorian, excepting Fick, but that could not be helped.
Lizzie shuddered, spitting out a mouthful of blood onto the deck. One claw like hand clutched her chest as she tried to breath, to speak. Only mouthfuls of empty air escaped her lips.
'Ah dear, an' I was goin' ta kill yer quick.' The Captain flipped the ancient woman onto her back with a boot, oblivious to the shout of pain, shouting over her shoulder to her crew 'String 'er up, lads!'
The McFinn boys seized Liz's arms as the Captain turned on her heel, flicking her hair back carelessly. Behind her the men hooted out loud, drowning out the curses directed at her from the horrified prisoners. So her soul was damned? What of it? A couple of days strung up in the rigging would polish ol' Liz off nice and quick. The elderly weren't best equipped to endure exposure and starvation. They couldn't handle it.
It would also be the perfect example of her absolute authority.
'Woe ta yer 'eartless dog. Dinna do this, O'Malley!' Fick blasted at her face, kicked and scratching at her as best he could 'Dinna do this! Ei won' le' yer!'
'Back off, Fick, she's mi' prisoner an' a' my mercy!' The Captain growled, trying to shield her flawless face from the furious onslaught. She battered at him with her palms, the futile attack not slowing.
'She dinna deserve thas, eim beggin' yer-' Back in her ear, Fick was now crooning, pleading, and it angered her that he should care so much about her rival.
'Ready to go, Ma'am!' One of the McFinn brothers called out, and she slapped Fick away to look back, small form reeling back in the air. The old woman was trussed up, arms and legs bound in thick coils of rope. All that was need was her word and her lads would hoist Liz up into the rigging for all to see.
The former Naval Captain said nothing, her blind eyes weeping as they gazed unfocused at the Lady Pirate she had pursued.
'Any thin' ta say, ol' Lady Liz?'
Milk white eyes stared, and the Captain snorted.
'Be it so-'
And the ship dipped violently, O'Malley stumbling to her knees as the prow lurched back up again. A quick glance up revealed the valves in the giant balloon closing up as more air was released into it. Her stomach somersaulted, despite all her years at sky and the Captain cursed as men scrambled for a holding.
'Fick!' she cried out as the air ship righted itself again 'Fick, curse ye, yer doin' naught but vexin' me!!'
'Let 'er go or ei'll dip uss again!'
'Since when 'ave ye cared, eh? Why tha sudden concern, yer traitorous gimp!'
'Yer go too far, wench o' mine!'
The Favor darted past her face, scowling as she made to catch him. Blood throbbed at her temples as she fought the rage growing in her blood. He flew towards the Navel Lady, and furious, the Captain lurched after him.
Perched on that wiry grey head of hair, Fick bared his small sharp teeth and O'Malley lunged, hands out stretched and eyes blazing above ol' Liz.
But she stopped, a white line of pain pulling her back and making her stumble. Slick, wet liquid slid down her neck, and trembling fingers reached up to be coated in blood. How? She was Favored, so how…?
She looked down, and the red stream had sprayed onto ol' Liz, splashing her face and hair. The age was fading. Clouded eyes were clearing, puckered mouth open and O'Malley saw milk white teeth beckon.
Fick with dead eyes and she could not speak, gurgling, and falling the Captain turned, looking at the bloodied knife, the brawny arms and the stone cold face of her First Mate.
'Hubb…?' came the croak, the splutter. Her fading gaze dropped down, back on the fat new purse, as she sank to the floor in realization.
Sold out, and she felt the small fingers of Fick as he stroked her forehead.
'Ei favored ye once, wench o' mine.'
Authors note: Here was a short story I had to whip up for my English course at uni, and thought I may as well post it up here. A nice little concept came out of it, so any thoughts you have on it are most welcome.