The salty breeze, the spit in the air, the wood under her fingers. Oh, it was good to be back. Athenta looked over the deck, smiling at any shipmate who caught her eye. And any shipmate that did catch her eye quickly turned red and looked back to their work. Sometimes they would make mistakes because Athenta smiled at them. Sometimes they couldn't look away from her face. And on those occasions, the shipmates would soon find themselves hit on the head by a friend to get them back to work.
Athenta enjoyed the attention, but kept herself at a distance from it. Real emotions were trouble.
A gruff and unexpected voice from behind her made her spin suddenly, one hand flying to her cutlass.
"I see you made it back safely, Cap'n."
She let her hand drop, and graced her first mate with a withering gaze. "Safely? But there was no danger, Arthur."
The tall and widely girthed man scratched the back of his hand nervously. He didn't like to show his concern for two reasons: one his father had practically and on occasions literally beaten it into him that emotions were not to be shown; and two because Athenta had a habit of beating those who tried to show her sympathy or concern. He was still smarting from a bruise she had delivered last time.
He said nothing, which was wise in Athenta's mind.
"Claudius was in on it, he started it all, but he was not the one to blame in the end. He wouldn't say who was blackmailing him."
Athenta leaned back against the steering wheel, "No. But that's how Clytia came to have those coins. I swear his face went deathly pale when he saw the gold, blanched as never before. Am I truly that terrifying, Art?" She grinned at the bulking man, who blushed and excused himself.
Athenta sighed and retreated to her cabin.
"Ships on the horizon, Arthur" called Priam, a sandy haired young man with a livid scar running across his chest.
Athenta had been there when Priam was nearly killed. She had been there to fend the blows aimed at his once smooth skin. Athenta had saved his life, and in doing so Priam had seen fit to rename himself.
It meant 'redeemed' and he had now born it so long, that he did not remember his mother given title. When Athenta had reason to call upon him, she did so with a gracious smile. And when Priam heard her call his name, he obeyed with a thankful heart.
Arthur blessed the boy for his sharp sighted eyes, while cursing his own, and brought out his battered yet faithful telescope. What he saw sent a chill of terror down his spine.
"Call for the Captain."
The luckless shipmate behind him stared aghast. It was not Evander Simmons' day, and he really wanted to avoid doing Athenta a displeasure. So he tried to argue; "But-"
"But she said-"
"Now God Damnit! You see those ships? Hmm? You see how many there are? You see how bloody outnumbered we are sitting here? Do you?"
Mutely, Evander nodded his head.
"Good. So bloody well get the captain then!" Arthur roared.
He made his way quickly to the captain's cabin, his feet skidding with haste, and he soon fell through her door and collapsed on the floor; panting for his life.
Athenta merely frowned from her position behind the music stand, lowered her violin, and coughed.
Evander panted a bit more, he even clawed the floor in an effort to get nearer to her, just for good measure.
Athenta coughed again.
"You've got to- got to- You. On deck- Ships! Lots! Quickly!" he gasped. Athenta placed the instrument down carefully, made as it was by her father when she was six, into its case, and trod around the prone shipmate; her boots clacking lightly on the old timber. She was almost out the door when she clucked her tongue, remembering. Lithely, she jumped over Evander, landing without a sound, grabbed her hat and put it on tightly. Flashing a grin at him, she sashayed out of the room again.
Evander clutched his ribs weakly, before following in her wake.
It was bad.
That was an understatement.
It was really bad.
Athenta stood on the prow of her beloved ship, staring down the twenty strong fleet of ships that tailed them, and she sighed.
"Can't catch a break, can we lads?"
There was a nervous collective chuckle, but Arthur did not join. He merely glowered from behind the wheel. He and Athenta were among the few who knew just how bad things actually were, and though he admired his captain for making light of the situation, he would prefer a plan.
Because you can't go wrong with a plan