This story is based on the song of the same name by Solas. I was listening to this song over and over, and I thought, "What were the characters thinking? What were they like?" It's a ballad, so the song's really more about the story rather than character development. So I wrote the story to find out what they were like. I did NOT expect to to grow into such a monster! The song is six verses, the story is ten pages. Enjoy! It was tons of fun to write, I hope it's as much fun to read.
Beta'd by the wonderful Archea. She was so patient, and so understanding! And prompt too. And she put up with all my quirks, like that character I purposefully left 'frustratingly mysterious...'. Love ya, dear!
The second chapter is the song. If you want to find out what happens and let this fill in the details, read that first. That's perfectly okay, since that's how I wrote the song. Or you can read this as straight prose, and then read the song.
THE MAID ON THE SHORE
Melanie Loman and her parents lived a solitary existence as fisherfolk on a rocky promontory, casting their nets by day and mending them by night. Her father took the daily catch to the village several miles down the coast every evening, while she and her mother lit the lamp in the light tower and made sure it would burn through the night. It was a hard life, but Melanie was happy and loved, with no existential worries.
One day, a major hurricane was predicted and came up faster than expected. Melanie's father was unable to get to shore before the storm hit. Her mother was frantic with worry, hearing the storm raging and the stones of the house groaning beneath the weight of the wind. Finally she told her daughter to remain in the house while she went up to the tower to check the light. She never came down. Search parties were sent out when the storm abated, but neither parent was found. Melanie was fourteen years old.
A small ceremony was held about a week after the storm, once it was clear they would not be coming home, and two markers were wedged in the stone at the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea. Several relatives tried to adopt the orphaned girl, but she refused to leave the lighthouse, and they were unwilling to take up duties there. Eventually it was decided she was capable of doing it herself, and the matter was settled. She no longer brought fish to market, but she caught enough to feed herself and daily preserve the rest for lean times. She stayed on amiable terms with the village folk, but continued to politely rebuff all offers for help. By the time she was eighteen, they learned to leave her alone.
Oliver Kaye had been a captain in the King's Navy during the war. Well, to be honest he hadn't fought in much of it – his first battle had been the last of the whole affair – but he fought so brilliantly that the subsequent promotions had been no surprise at all. Unfortunately, peacetime did not sit well with him, and he began taking a more liberal definition of 'supplies for the army', requisitioning things he had no right to and… 'forgetting' to report them to his superiors. Certain things could be overlooked in such a War Hero as he, and Oliver kept well aware of what was tacitly allowed and what would be unforgivable.
Captain Kaye had an extraordinary ship. Large, sleek, swift and heavily armed, it had been a gift of the King for services rendered during the war, with a crew to match. There was no issue of playing favorites; the reward was well-deserved. However, in the new age of peace, he did not have many opportunities to prove his worth, and he was worried others would usurp his near legendary position. This was a constant worry in the back of his mind, no matter what else was happening. He took to roaming the coasts, looking for pirates or other troubles to get into, and with each small victory, he took more and more liberties.
Soon, Captain Kaye's reputation began to tarnish. His official record was impeccable, his achievements stunning, but on the street it was whispered to stay away from his company, for he would stop at nothing to get what he wanted, and would die rather than give something up. The quality of his crew began to deteriorate as well, as more and more respectable sailors refused to sail with him. He became the worst kind of legitimate captain, and the best kind of pirate – that with an unwritten license to plunder.
Melanie loved the sea. In all its moods it was beautiful to behold, ever changing and yet always the same, whispering its secret song and hiding its secrets for all eternity. Sometimes she wished she lived in the sea, unlimited by the boundaries of land. Oh, not on a boat. That would be even worse, with so little room to move around. But the tales sailors told of sirens and mermaids, of palaces deep beneath the waves and treasures beyond imagining… she sighed and set down the heavy water bucket with relief. Watering the flowers at her parents' graves, as important as it may be, was not something to be done in bright daylight. Wiping her forehead, she stood up straight and took a few moments to enjoy the breeze that snatched at her skirt and threatened to steal her hat away. On the horizon she glimpsed a ship, probably sailing up the coast for Port Town.
"Well," she said, "I'm glad it's a clear day. Don't need any ships on these rocky shores!" Melanie didn't mind talking to herself, not really. It quieted the racket her thoughts created when it was too silent. And there wasn't anyone worth talking to anyway. "Really, the village boys are too spoiled. There's nothing wrong with living all the way out here – my parents did it, after all!" Melanie picked up her bucket and turned back to the beach, humming an aimless tune. She had a bit of time before the tide went out – she could wander along the familiar shore before collecting her nets. With a last look over her shoulder at the distant ship, she turned back along the path to the beach.
"Cap'n, I've seen something!" The cry came down from the crow's nest, throwing the lazy crew into action.
Captain Oliver Kaye slammed out of his cabin, shouting at the man sliding down the mainmast. "Imbecile! How many times must I tell you idiots, the proper call is, 'Land-ho', not 'I've seen something'!"
"But Cap'n, we already –"
"No! Do it properly!"
"Yes, Cap'n. Land-ho, Cap'n! I've seen something!"
"Have you now? Do come down to my cabin and tell me about it."
"Cap'n, with all due respect sir, I'm afraid she might leave if we take the time."
Oliver's ears perked up. A 'she'? It had been a long time since a 'she' and not an 'it' had come within his grasp. "Well don't just stand there, give me that spyglass! Now, where is she…" Muttering to himself, Oliver scanned the coast until he came to the lighthouse. On the cliff he found her – a young woman of about twenty years, in a floppy hat and a long skirt. She was holding an empty bucket in one hand, for the other was occupied with keeping her hat on her head. At her feet was a splotch of green grass and a riot of flowers. Evidently she kept a garden in that most unlikely of – ah! No garden this, then; it was a grave site. Two of them – apparently she was alone here.
The best part of the day, in Melanie's eyes, was sunset. When she'd already finished her daily chores and was on her way up to light the signal lamp, she could see the vista unfolding beneath her, and the sunset lasted much longer at the top of the tower. Standing on the ledge and shading her eyes against the glare, she was surprised to see the ship was still in sight. It looked closer than before, though she wasn't sure if that was from her new vantage point or from any actual movement on the part of the crew. "I hope they don't come any closer than that, the rocks start really far out around here. I'd better up the fuel tonight, warn them away." Though it was a clear night, she put a storm-ration of oil into the reservoir.
"Right, I've still got mending to do before the light dies. And fish to clean and preserve, then the midwife in town wanted some cliff rocks, and how she expects me to get four bags of those up to Port Town I'll never know. Up before dawn and home just in time to light the signal. Boy I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
Oliver sat at his window that night, watching the winking yellow eye of the lighthouse in the distance. It had been too late to fetch the maid tonight, and he would have to wait until tomorrow. The delay was frustrating.
"What do you think, Roberts? Does she know we're out here?"
"Yes, Kaye, I do. She's been living in a lighthouse her whole life. She might miss something on land, but she's been watching the sea from the time she can sit up. She probably saw up before we saw her, and the fact that we didn't keep moving up to Port Town put her on guard – the first thing she'll do in the morning is look to see if we're still here."
"Really. And how do you know all this?"
"I grew up in a lighthouse, Kaye."
"Hmm." Oliver steepled his fingers and looked out at the silent, sleeping lighthouse. A beautiful maid, self-reliant, observant, and probably with a brain to match – everything he heard made him more eager to meet this girl, and take her away with him. But it wouldn't be now, unfortunately. He wanted her to come with him willingly, and that wouldn't happen if they stole her from her bed. His grasping soul rebelled against the idea of waiting for the sake of something else, but this he refused to give in to. Oliver let out a frustrated noise and slammed his fist down on the armrest.
"Roberts, I want that girl!"
Melanie revised her opinion about the day. Dawn was just as wonderful as sunset, she decided, if not more so. With the light peaking over the horizon in that subtle way which made it so different from sunset, hinting at new beginnings and a fresh start to whatever problems lay behind her, the dew still in the air and the shore birds sleepily looking for breakfast as the sun and the clouds rose about the water… it never failed to lift her spirits. Unfortunately, today she didn't have the leisure to enjoy it – this was Port Town day, and she had to be on the road before sun-up.
Out of long habit, Melanie went down to the sea and wet her feet in the tidal pools so that the ocean would recognize her and not harm her, as she did every day she could get out of bed. She looked up at the horizon, searching for the mystery ship, but it was too hazy to see anything since the sun had not yet burned away the morning mist. Hopefully the ship would not still be there when she came back later tonight. Hopefully there was nothing sinister about it. Hopefully her imagination was over-active, and not over-accurate.
Melanie went back inside and added food to the bags she had packed last night, then hefted them up onto her shoulders. Rock-pool sea life – the mollusks and crabs and snails and fish and sea plants and sand and stones and corals and everything else in this special environment that didn't live further up the coast where the shore dissolved into smooth sandy beaches – was too hard for the villagers to find and collect; they would have had to travel nearly to her front door to find these things. She was coming to town anyway, so why not collect the supplies where she could exercise more care in selection, with more expertise? In Melanie's eyes, the trade-off of temporarily heavier bags in exchange for protecting her ocean a bit more was completely and totally fair.
"What do you mean, she's gone?!"
The luckless sailor cowered against the floor, clutching his head to protect himself from the captain's suddenly naked blade.
"Cap'n, I swear, we went right up to the door as soon as the fog burned off, waitin' for her to come out, but it was shut tight an' no one was home. She must have left durin' the night…" The sailor trailed off at the wild look in the captain's eyes, and tried to make himself as small as possible. In this mood there was no telling what the captain would do.
"She's gone. She left! She can't do that!" The captain raised his arms with a roar and slammed his sword into the wall above the sailor's head, biting deep into the wood with a blade that could slice the wind. Yanking it free, he glared at the sailor on the floor.
"Get out of here, you worthless scum! You're not fit to clean the galley, let alone retrieve that girl! A barnacle is more useful than you are!" The sailor scrambled out the door, aided by the captain's boot, as the captain continued to rage. After a few moments, the figure in the corner cleared its throat.
"Are you through, Kaye?"
Oliver froze, then whirled and threw his sword across the cabin. Roberts never flinched, and the sword sank halfway into the wood next to his head with a thunk. A sharp, angry curse sounded from the other side of the wall, where the sword had gone all the way through. Oliver barked a strained laugh, and sat down in his chair. Scrubbing at his face with both hands, he groaned tiredly and said into his palms, "Roberts, I'm going to die if I don't have that girl!"
Roberts wisely said nothing.
Melanie blinked her eyes open in the darkness as Tom drove up to the beach and halted the horse with a gentle whoa. "Here you go, Miss Melanie," he said. "The wagon won't go over the sand well, and I'd rather not risk it. I'll help you carry your bags to the house, though."
"No, thank you, Tom," Melanie smiled. "I can handle it. I never buy more than I can carry, as a precaution. I'll be all right; you go on home to your wife." Tom protested a bit, but acquiesced easily and helped her unload the bags. With a final tip of his hat, he turned the wagon around and left. Melanie watched him go and was glad that the sun was already sinking below the sea; she couldn't see the ship through the gloom.
Her front door was locked by a clever little device her father had created, which fell into place automatically when the door closed and could be released from the outside by a hidden switch near the ground. This she activated with her foot and pulled the door open, stepping up into the main room. The door opened outward, so that storm winds would only hold it closed, and there was a rim all the way around the inside of the doorway which served a dual purpose: it created a weather-tight seal during the winter months, and the ledge at the bottom made it harder for sand and other unwanted intruders to creep inside.
After putting away the supplies she had gotten from town and lighting the signal, Melanie collapsed into bed, thinking of all the chores she would have to do in the morning. Mending of both clothes and nets, cleaning the house again, harvesting food from the pools and traps in the surf, watering the memory garden at the top of the cliff… two days worth of work. All the more reason to sleep.
"Cap'n, she's home!"
Oliver was so tired he simply nodded his head at the news. "Good," he roared back at the lookout. "We'll get her in the morning." Finally smiling, he went to sleep for the first time in two days.
The day dawned chilly and clear, with a strong wind blowing off the ocean, predicting a storm. Captain Kaye paid it no heed, bringing the ship in closer to shore and sending Roberts out in the longboat with several other crewmen to… persuade the girl to go with them. He had faith in Roberts's silver tongue, and knew she would come eventually.
He was really starting to hate that word.
Melanie awoke and felt the change in the air immediately. The storm would hit by the end of the day. Throwing a shawl on over her clothes, she went out to dip her feet and collect her traps so they wouldn't be dashed against the rocks. She hurried down to the shore, preoccupied with rearranging her schedule, and only looked up after she was standing in the surf. There was the ship, closer than ever, and a smaller boat was making its way to shore. No doubt that they were coming for her, there was nothing else here to be had. And at the rate they were coming, there was no point in trying to hid indoors, they'd have already seen her. She turned to one of the large boulders beside her and climbed up to wait. Might as well do it in comfort.
The sailors were passing around the spyglass.
"Hoo-wee, lookit that!"
"Gimme that – cor, she's a looker. What's she doing, waiting for us?"
"Not you, mate, that for sure! Me! Ha-ha, she's got some good eyes on her to see this far."
"Not the only thing she's got good on her, either!"
"That's enough." Roberts's voice cut through the coarse laughter following that remark. "you know your jobs on this mission, so don't mess up. And be quiet now, we're close enough that she might hear us." The sailors stopped joking, but an eager light shone in their eyes.
They actually had to beach the boat further down the shore from the girl's rock and were forced to walk to her, Roberts in the lead. She was sitting on a giant rock almost completely surrounded by the pounding surf, looking as comfortable there as she would be on a throne.
"Good morrow, miss!" Roberts called to her when he got in shouting distance. As he came closer, she nodded to him regally, not yet speaking. He broke into a smile. "Girl of few words, aren't you? Will you at least tell me your name?"
"No." Melanie was sure there was more to this man than fine clothes and smooth words, and the looks the other men were throwing in her direction did not help. The man laughed.
"Well my name is George Roberts, my dear. I'm sure you're wondering why I'm here, yes?"
She inclined her head in agreement.
"We've been watching you for several days now, I'm sure you've noticed. Honestly, our ship is in dire straits. Our captain was inconsolable and unresponsive. We were afraid he might do something horrible if wasn't broken out of it soon. Well we were passing by when he caught sight of you up on the cliff, and the change was miraculous. He was back to his old self in moments! Then he remembered we would have to be moving on, and dropped back into despondency." Roberts stopped and contrived to look pleading.
"Please, miss, say you'll come aboard with us and at least speak to the captain! He needs something to remember you, at least, if nothing else. How can we persuade you to come with us?"
Melanie slid off the rock to the ground right as a wave went out and walked to the shore with the incoming wave chasing at her heels. She had spent so much time around the ocean that she knew its habits and patterns now. When she'd gotten well beyond the reach of the water she turned around and said, "Nothing you say will convince me. Have a good day, gentlemen."
She started walking up to the cliff, but Roberts and his men ran after her and stopped her.
"Please, ma'am," one of them said. 'Cap'n's not the same! He's so much meaner now than he was before. He beats us so much worse…"
Another one chimed in. "Yeah, ma'am. Why, he stuck me wit' his sword jus' yesterday, for no reason at all! He's never done that before!"
Melanie shook her head. "Sorry, but I can't leave the shore. I've got too much holding me here."
"Like what?" a third demanded, getting angry.
"My parents," she replied quietly. Then men exchanged looks, as if startled, but Roberts stepped in.
"Why don't you show us to your parents, miss. Perhaps they will let you come with us? It's only temporary, after all."
Melanie looked at him, then stepped around him and continued up the cliff path. "They're up here." At the top of the path was the garden she had been tending for four years, since the hurricane that had taken both her parents away from her. It was a riot of colors and flowers without regard for pattern and convention, wild and beautiful. She had patiently been grinding the rock away, creating a depression for dirt and room for the grass and flowers to take root. Now they were rooted directly in the stone, and wouldn't come up except for the very strongest of storm winds.
"Oh, what a beautiful memorial!" Roberts exclaimed. "I've never seen so many types of flowers in one place. Where did you get them all?"
"From the village. Travellers bring all sorts of things, and sometimes clippings or seeds are included. It grows haphazardly."
Roberts paused for a moment, as if thinking, then his face lit up. "Ah! How fortunate! The captain actually has a shipment of seeds from the capital down South – they were bound for Port Town. I'm sure he wouldn't mind parting with a few packets… in exchange for seeing your face."
Melanie looked around at the men who had surrounded her, then back at Roberts. "Do I have a choice?"
Roberts beamed at her. "No, not really."
Melanie followed silently.
Melanie sat in the bow of the bow of the longboat, facing the men handling the oars and watching the shore recede. She was sure now that these men were pirates – why else would the kidnap her? She was not afraid, not really. Apprehensive might have been a better word to use. Perhaps wary would fit as well. But not scared, not panicked. Maybe it was shock in effect, and the situation would hit later. In any case, she had a clear head right now, and was grateful for it – it allowed her to face the open leers of the pirates without flinching.
A rope ladder was already hanging down the side of the ship, and one of the men grabbed it to keep the boat steady. Four men warmed up the flimsy construction as if it was her cliff road, and Melanie hoped she wouldn't have to do it herself. Before she could ask, a second rope uncoiled from the deck far above, nearly smacking her in the head. She flinched away. Roberts picked up the end of the rope and started knotting it, then smiled apologetically when he had finished. In his hands was a tangle of loops and knots, and Melanie was mystified as to its purpose. After a few seconds, Roberts realized she was lost.
"You're a landlubber, for all your love of the sea, and you can't be expected to climb the ladder, so this is a seat for you. You'll be pulled up to the deck. I'll climb beside you."
Melanie's face burned as she climbed into the loops, and Roberts's hands tightened the ropes around her torso and thighs. There was a preliminary tug, and then she was pulled up off her feet. Clutching the rope, she managed to sit calmly in her harness, grimly ignoring the growing distance beneath her. Roberts climbed beside her as promised, making sure she didn't fall.
At the top hands were waiting to help her over the edge, but she refused help with getting the ropes off, and managed with little difficulty. Surprisingly, the pirates were well-behaved, leading her over to a large chair under a canvas awning, and sitting her down. Most of them subsequently left, but two or three seemed to have found small tasks in her general vicinity, and Roberts stood patiently by her side. He seemed to be waiting for something, and Melanie could only assume that something was the captain himself.
Roberts, for his part, had been unsurprised by her equanimity after what he had seen on the shore. And, he thought smugly, he was right – she did look right at home in the captain's throne. Now all he had to do was guard her until Kaye saw fit to arrive.
Oliver watched from his cabin as Roberts brought the girl – young woman really, she looked older from up close – aboard his fine ship if he did say so himself, and seated her down in his chair, as per orders. He wanted her to be impressed, not frightened. Waiting until the crew had scattered, he opened the door and walked up on deck. She caught sight of him immediately.
"Welcome to the HMS Wonderchild, my dear." He gave a courtly bow, sizing her up quickly. She was quite a catch, for sure! Average height and shapely, with a sharp look in her eye, unafraid. That was rare, and appreciated.
"HMS?" She asked.
"Yes ma'am. I'm Captain Oliver Kaye, his Majesty's War Hero. Surely you've heard of me?"
Melanie shook her head wordlessly. She never listened to gossip if she could help it, though she knew her mother had, avidly. She'd been too young to care about the outside world when her parents died, and since then she'd been too busy to take the time. He wasn't that old – maybe his late twenties or so. She couldn't imagine what he'd done to earn the title War Hero, but she still thought his crew was a bunch of pirates.
Kaye laughed delightedly. "Please, come down to my cabin, I would like to speak more with you." He took her hand when she got out of the chair, then before she could pull away he tucked it into his elbow.
Roberts intervened. "Ah – sir – about the seeds –" A look passed between the two men, and Captain Kaye said, "Yes, Roberts, take care of it." Without further ado he swept down a short flight of stairs to his cabin, Melanie following helplessly behind him.
It was an opulent room, hung with tapestries and gold light fixtures. A crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling, swaying and tinkling gently with the motion of the ship. Kaye's desk was some sort of dark wood, nearly ebony, with the padded chair attached by some sort of swinging arm. Melanie guess it was so the chair was accessible and yet still mobile. It was ingenious. The floor was bare wood, but was sanded so smooth she couldn't feel the joints in the boards beneath her bare feet. A sitting area with comfortable armchairs and a coffee table bolted to the floor occupied the center of the room, and one wall was completely covered with a heavy brocade curtain. She assumed it was Captain Kaye's sleeping area, and pinked slightly. He noticed her scrutiny and said, "Does it meet with your approval?"
Melanie flushed, but answered anyway. "It's beautiful. The desk-chair is so clever! How did you think of it?"
"To be honest, I didn't. I saw it on a different ship when I was visiting, and took the blueprints from her captain." No need to tell her it was a forced visit, and that it really was over that man's dead body.
Kaye settled into one of the armchairs, and motioned her to another. Leaning back, he lit a cigar and said, "So, my dear, how do you propose to entertain me?"
Having just sat gingerly down, Melanie sat bolt upright and glared at him. "Entertain you? Why would I do that? I was told you just needed to see my face!"
Kaye laughed. "Well, you know underlings – they might have got the story wrong. You're here to keep me happy, my dear – how will you do that?"
Melanie noticed he was playing with the hilt of the massive sword at his hip, and suddenly the fear that had been absent all morning hit. "I… I don't know, I –"
Kaye growled and pulled his sword out of its sheath. Melanie's eyes widened at the sight. "Then think of something! Can you dance, can you cook, can you give a massage, can you sing…"
"I can sing!" She cried in relief. "I can sing well, Captain, everyone says so – just please don't pull your sword –"
Kaye's brow smoothed and he smiled again. "Then do so, my dear, I'm waiting."
She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and began. It was a lullaby her mother used to sing to her, to soothe her fears when the sea pounded too close to the house, when she had a nightmare, when a pet crab disappeared. She put all her feelings of loneliness and fear into the song, along with the wish for comfort and happiness. As she finished, she opened her eyes and saw the captain with his eyes closed, tears glimmering on his lashes. "Keep singing," he said gruffly, not moving. Melanie seamlessly moved into another lullaby, singing softer and slower now that she would be doing it for a while. She closed her eyes again, losing herself in the music and singing whatever came to mind. When her throat got too sore to continue, she trailed off and opened her eyes. Kaye was sound asleep in his chair, and there wasn't a sound from up on deck. Carefully getting up and creeping soundlessly to the open door, Melanie looked out.
She was completely astonished to see that everyone was asleep! Several were sitting slumped against the wall next to Kaye's cabin, but more were simply sitting or lying out on deck, snoozing and snoring away. She didn't hear anything from beneath the hatches, and thought incredulously that the rest of the crew must be asleep too. Her first thought was to wake Roberts, at least, and ask what to do, but she immediately scoffed at her silly thinking. Now was the time to get away! She turned back into the cabin, intending to simply retrieve her shawl, but her eye was caught by that mysterious curtain. Was it really Captain Kaye's bed? What would a pirate – War Hero – 's bed look like? Blushing furiously, she tiptoed around the captain and pulled aside a corner of the drapery.
No bed, this! Her flush cooled immediately as she was dumbfounded yet again. It was all gold! Gold and jewelry and crowns and deeds of state and fine clothing and elegant weapons and precious stones of all shapes and sizes and caskets filled to overflowing with money and more caskets closed and padlocked shut. She could only imagine what was in those! Never in her wildest dreams would she have imagined this to be what she found when she lifted the curtain. Her mind whirled as she thought what to do with it. No way could she leave it for these pirates, even if all she could take was a fraction.
Melanie laid out several of the shirts and dresses from the stash and started filling them with gold and jewels and money from the hoard. As each was filled she tied it up so it wouldn't rattle and set it aside. Surely the pirates wouldn't be needing all of it, right?
She worked quickly, filling six or seven of the silk bundles, then carried them to the rail where the longboat was lashed to the side, and loaded the boat. She looked around fearfully – the unnatural quiet of the ship was unnerving. Finding the winch to lower the boat, she did it as fast as she could, and the boat ended up landing unevenly, with a resounding splash. She flinched, fully expecting the crew to wake up and take exception to her actions, but none of them did. Glancing down at the boat in preparation for making the long climb, she noticed with frustration that she had forgotten to load the oars! There was no way she'd be able to carry them down with her, even assuming she could handle the heavy things. She stood at the rail for precious seconds, until her pragmatic nature reasserted itself. She'd find something smaller she could use as an oar, something she could take down without using her hands. Disregarding all loose boards as being too clumsy, she went back into the Captain's cabin to see if there was anything there, and immediately saw the perfect thing.
The captain's sword was long, broad, and most importantly, possessed a handle big enough for Melanie to wrap both hands around. The only problem was, it was lying directly against the Captain's chair, and his hand was still resting on it lightly. Creeping forward, she started crooning under her breath, trying to create the same soft lullaby that had rocked him and his sailors to sleep without startling him with the sudden sound. It seemed to work, for he snuffled and turned over slightly, moving his sword hand to his belt. She sighed with relief and snatched the sword, flying out the door and down the rope ladder without stopping to think how precarious that venture was. The sword worked perfectly as an oar, or as perfectly as she needed it to. It was moving her forward, at least. Sitting in the stern and turning the bow toward shore, she started to return home.
Roberts woke up with a groggy head and a stiff neck from sitting slumped against the side of the above-board throne. He couldn't quite remember what had sent him to sleep – honestly, he didn't remember falling asleep in the first place. Some sort of unearthly, hauntingly beautiful music… The memory refused to be caught, and he let it go.
Seeing several more sailors still out cold, he kicked them awake and said, "Go wake up the crew, you lazy layabouts!" They scrambled to do as he ordered, still bleary-eyed with slumber. Roberts headed directly to Kaye's cabin. If everyone else was asleep, then Kaye certainly would be, what with his slight narcolepsy. He would not be pleased. Then Roberts saw the open curtain, the ransacked treasure, the abandoned shawl, and knew that 'displeasure' would be a very, very great understatement.
Roberts was right – Kaye was furious, not in the least because his narcolepsy had gotten the better of him again. Really, the other offences were miniscule compared to the perceived betrayal of his own body. And she had taken his sword! His beautiful sword, that one in a lifetime blade both long and wide, and yet light as a feather in his hands. The gold could be replaced; there was only a small fraction missing, after all. The invasion of privacy, upon reflection, was inevitable. Any girl, when faced with this opportunity, would have been a fool not to take it, and it had already been established that the maid from the shore was no fool. However… he could not let this pass. He might not care about the missing gold, but the men would be incensed that any of it had disappeared into any pocket other than their own. That would be sufficient impetus to rage.
Before long, Melanie heard a series of angry shouts hailing her from the ship. She couldn't make out the words, but the tone was such a mix of anger and despair that she had to turn and return a yell to the men lining the rail, shooting arrows ineffectually, since she was beyond weapons-range already.
"You should have seen this coming, you pirates! I sang your captain a song, a simple song, and you all fell asleep! So deeply, in fact, that I was able to rob you of wealth right from under your noses. Did you really expect me to do any different?"
She continued to row her way back to the shore, whistling a happy tune. She didn't need to worry about the pirates following any time soon. She knew that the reason they had sent the long boat in the first place was that the reefs and sand bars were too shallow for the large ship, and if they did try to follow their only reefer, they would run aground and sink.
For a moment Melanie's relief and happiness at the success of her little heist was darkened by the knowledge that again, she'd be alone in her lighthouse on the shore, but she quickly shook off the mood. She had always been alone, and until she found someone willing to share her life with her – not the other way around – she probably always would be. Briefly, she considered leaving, selling the lighthouse and moving somewhere completely different, where she could use her new wealth to set up a new life, but almost as quickly rejected the idea. She was satisfied with her life. She liked the solitary nature of her work, being close to the memory of her parents and all they'd held dear. Having the sole responsibility for this stretch of shore gave her more than any other place in the world possibly could. And she now had enough money to support herself forever, if she was careful.
"It's all right," she said aloud to herself. "I like being alone on the shore. At least I get intelligent conversation!" Smiling, Melanie redoubled her efforts, and rowed her way back home.