Oh it has been a while...


Chapter Three

Arwen stood where she was for a good five minutes. She turned over the stone in her hand cursing the trouble it had caused her. For a brief moment she considered throwing it into the gods damned ocean, the one she had dreamed of seeing for her entire life. But now all it represented was a prison, far from everything she knew.

"Are you certain this is how it must?" Arwen pleaded, tears welled in her eyes.

"If there is one thing you can count on Miss Arwen it's my honesty. Some say my honest opinion does more damage than when I wield a sword. And let me tell you I'm quite good with a sword." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively, which Arwen found both appalling and perversely humorous.

She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. "Where would you be taking me?"

"On the Lady Morgana of course! There is no other way to travel."

Nathan led Arwen to an old sailing ship, weathered and aged. But for what it lacked in grandeur it made up for in charm. It was certainly smaller than the others at the port, but Arwen imagined it must move with alacrity.

"Captain!" Nathan bellowed, "Captain over here!"

Looking most annoyed, the Captain left the helm, shuffling down the stairs, and across the deck.

He was a stout man, not overly tall. His beady eyes lay sunken in his aged face, surrounded by a forest of gray hair. A pipe hung loosely between his lips, his teeth yellowed with tobacco. As he came closer, Arwen noticed that he did not shuffle, but waddled in order to compensate for his weight.

"Who do we have here Nathan?" The Captain asked as if he had asked this question more than once. "We are leaving momentarily, and I know how you boast, but even I think-"

"No Captain she has to come with us." Nathan said once again in a serious tone. By the Captains hard expression Arwen reasoned Nathan was hardly ever serious.

"May I inquire as to why?"

"Oy Nathan did ye get married last night?" A crewmember called from above.

"Sure would explain why he's actually bringing a girl along for a journey instead of for fortnight." Another added.

"Laugh it up gents, laugh it up. But I believe the last woman begged for me to take her on a journey. Come to think of it, I think it was your-"

"Enough!" The Captain ordered, "Nathan can you explain to me why we must take her with us?"

He didn't say anything for a moment. His eyes suggested he was trying to come up with the best way to tell the Captain why he must carry this burden. "Well I may have killed a kingdom man." Nathan explained quickly, "But he tried to take her life! This poor, innocent girl was nearly murdered by that castle monster. I felt it justified."

"And did you think for one second that you may have put us in danger?" The Captain asked at a dangerously low tone.

After another moment of thought, Nathan replied, "Did I mention she was in danger?"

The Captain closed his eyes, arms crossed, head down. Arwen realized the entire ship was watching, waiting for the final verdict. Dozens of eyes looked at her, and suddenly she felt self-conscious. Never had she seen so many men.

"What is your name girl?" He now directed his attention to Arwen, who was slightly unprepared for it.

"Arwen of Rowe." She answered meekly.

"Do you have skills Miss Arwen?" The Captain asked with a friendly, yet authoritative tone.

"I am just a house maid sir." Arwen replied, her eyes downcast. For some inexplicable reason she began to feel that being just a housemaid was hardly good enough for anything.

"Hmm, we could use a well-rounded individual aboard this vessel." The Captain declared, his voice booming, "Welcome to the Lady Morgana Miss Arwen."

"Just Arwen sir." She corrected, her voice growing with confidence. "The formality is undeserved and unnerving if I'm being honest."

"Arwen it is then." The Captain agreed. She sensed that kindness was deep in his heart and that the fear he instilled in his crew was for his power. "Let's get this girl moving! Nathan, show her around and get a room set up for her."

"Her own room?" Nathan cried

"I'm not going to let a young lady such as herself share a room with the likes of you lot." The Captain retorted without glancing back as he went to man the helm.

The ship took off suddenly and Arwen was unprepared for it. She watched as the ship left the port; the only home she ever knew. She thought of Clara and how worried she would be when she got back from her etiquette lessons and she wasn't there. She thought of the maids who helped raise her, and the ones who tried to sabotage her. Would the lady of the house even miss her? Arwen thought probably not.

Nathan began to introduce her to all of the Lady Morgana. She was a beautiful ship Arwen decided. At first glance she seemed innocuous and non-threatening. But below her decks lay an arsenal enough to take down a ship twice her size, her masts stood proud and tall, like they could weather any storm.

The crew was a gregarious group. Nathan told her officially only about ten people work on the ship year round. Everyone else was here on freelance, or just looking for a cheap ride to somewhere else.

"Really you just need to remember Johnny, Gregory, Natalie, and Christian." Nathan explained. "See that lanky fellow with the yellow hair? That's Gregory. Don't be fooled, he's an expert swordsman.

Gregory mopped the deck looking dreadfully bored. Without much effort, he pushed the dirty mop head in circles, paying no attention to what he was doing. Arwen found it hard to believe a person with such an attitude would have the discipline to be a swordsman.

"And that fiery lass over there is Natalie. She's our best blacksmith." Natalie was a short woman with stocky red hair and amber eyes. Arwen observed her careful technique as she crafted a new sword. Natalie looked up at her, eyes squinting with suspicion.

"And Johnny is up in the crows nest. You may never see him, but you'll always hear him." Nathan explained. Arwen searched the skies for the elusive lookout without much luck.

They climbed to the bow of the ship, where Nathan pointed out one more person she had to remember.

"And that brooding fellow over there is Christian. He's the Captains boy, and second in command. Oy Christian! Come say hi to our new crew member."

Christian lingered his gaze on the horizon for a moment longer before turning to face them. Arwen found him startling. He was tall, and thin, clearly wearing clothes that belonged to his father. His dark hair was shorter than the rest of the crew, but it was his eyes that stunned her. They were the clearest, deepest blue and Arwen bet they could outshine the stars.

"Christian, this is Arwen. She'll be joining us for a bit." Nathan said introducing them.

"It's a pleasure to meet you." Arwen said sticking out her hand.

He looked at her hand, his own still deep in his coat pockets. "Having a woman on the ship is bad luck." Christian said tersely to Nathan.

"Oy!" Natalie proclaimed, "Are you saying I'm not a woman?"

"No ones denying that Natalie." Nathan replied suggestively to her. Returning his attention to Christian he replied, "Don't be rude mate. Your not suppose to be yourself until you after know each other."

"No it's quite alright." Arwen said dropping her hand. She looked up at Christian and once again was quite surprised by his eyes. Despite how bright they looked, there was a hardness to them that almost seemed unnatural.

"Well now that you know everyone, you must be exhausted!" Nathan proclaimed. "I'll show you to your room."

"Come back to deck immediately afterwards." The Captain said coming up to the deck.

"Don't trust me Captain?" Nathan asked feigning hurt. "I'm shocked and somewhat offended."

"If you're not back in five minutes I'll personally come after you." The Captain replied, heading back to the helm.

"Aye, aye sir."

-0-

Nathan brought Arwen to a secluded room at the bottom of the ship. He apologized about the location, but it would only be temporary. It was a bit musty, and the smell of mildew hung in the air, only making the room feel damper. But Arwen said it wasn't anything she wasn't used to. This revelation clearly startled Nathan, but he decided to shift focus.

"Say what's that?" He asked pointing at her hand.

Arwen turned over her palm, realizing she had been carrying the gem all of this time. It still managed to glint even without an adequate amount of light.

"Oh, my mistress told me to deliver this to a man at the mystic shop before he was, well, anyway." Arwen explained thinking about how this morning felt like a lifetime away now.

"Why don't you wear it then?" Nathan proposed, grabbing the necklace from her hands. "And I'll even help you put it on."

Before she could protest, he was already behind her, gently pushing her braid off her neck. Carefully he fastened the chain, letting his fingers linger on her neck a little longer than he should have.

"Well, I better get going before the Captain makes good on his word." Nathan said hastily, "I'll send Natalie down when breakfast ready. Sleep well."

Arwen nodded letting the door close behind her. Homesickness settled in her stomach the way this ship settled on the ocean. She wasn't claustrophobic, but the lack of windows made her feel shut in and even more alone then she already felt.