I had been writing in my journal when I heard the call. "Man overboard!" It sounded like Sonny shouting at everyone. I corked my ink bottle and dashed out on deck. Everyone was rushing around to see where Sonny pointed up above in the crow's nest.
"Mistyc, what's going on?"
"Sonny's seen someone in the water. There." She pointed out a bit of floating debris. She turned to call to Luke. "Captain! We should leave him! I sense an ominous portent about him!"
As we approached, my eyes widened. "Mistyc, it's just a child! We can't leave him alone out here!"
"Do you not understand me, Katalina? If we rescue the child, it will cause nothing but trouble for us."
I ignored her. "Layla, toss me a rope!"
"You can't think that you're going to jump in there." She brought the end of a rope to me.
I removed my cloak and boots, taking it from her. "Watch me." I dove into the water, cutting it like a knife.
Swimming to the boy, I saw he hung onto a bit of wood. "Hey!" I called.
He looked up at me weakly. I approached him and hooked my arm about his waist. "We're going to rescue you. You'll be all right."
"Thank…you…" He clung to me for dear life.
I allowed the crew members to pull us in. Using the hull of the ship, I walked up it with the boy hanging from my neck not unlike Wally. We both collapsed on the wooden deck in a shivering heap. "Tend to him first," I panted.
The boy was shaking and trembling like no tomorrow. I wrapped my cloak around him, drying off his hair. "There we are. Better?"
He nodded, huddling close to me. "Th-thank you! I… I was so s-scared… I thought I was gonna die…"
Hesitantly I wrapped my arms around him. "We won't let that happen. You're safe now. I promise."
Luke knelt next to us. "Young man, what's your name?"
"Thomas." He peeked out from where he pressed against my chest. He couldn't have been older than twelve. I'd say more like ten.
"Luke, we aren't near any ports. We'll have to keep him with us."
"Right… Thomas, how would you like to be our new cabin boy?"
The little boy nodded. His brown eyes sparkled at the prospect of staying with us and I ruffled his muddy-blonde hair. "See? We'll take care of you."
Rex cleared his throat. "How about something to eat, for starters?"
"Go with Rex. He'll help you." I stood him up and sent him off. Pushing myself to my feet, I started ringing out my hair, which resembled a dirty, ugly brown.
"Captain, we shouldn't keep him here!" Mistyc came up to us. "There is a very bad aura around him!"
"Mistyc, I think you need to get your auras checked. He's fine." Luke crossed his arms.
I nodded in agreement. "What kind of damage could he possibly do anyway? If anything, he'll be a great help to us. I know I could always use an extra pair of hands."
"Same here." He smiled slightly. "Having that kid aboard is all right. Calm down."
I turned to go. "He's right. Mistyc, I think you need to lie down or something. Maybe lay off that tea you make."
"I'm not…" She growled lowly. "Fine. Don't listen to me. But you'll wish you had!"
Rolling my eyes, I went back to my cabin for a dry outfit.
Thomas turned out to be extremely helpful. He would obey us without question and constantly thank us for saving him. Every time he saw me he would wrap himself around my waist and cry, "Thank you, kind lady!" I'll admit it got old after a while, but still, I had to admire his spirit.
However, Mistyc kept up her warnings to us. She would take every opportunity to tell us of how bad an omen he meant for us, and that we were all going to die. Or something along those lines. Eventually I stopped listening and we all dismissed her as being crazy. Personally I think she just needed to stop putting whatever it was that made her tea emit purple smoke in her drinks. It was beginning to affect her mind.
I was sitting up late one night, about a week after we rescued Thomas, when I heard a loud splash. Removing my reading glasses, I stood to go inspect it. I opened my cabin door quietly. Above me, near the ship's wheel, I heard the sounds of a scuffle. Then, all went silent.
Narrowing my eyes, I barged up to see what was going on. Thomas was waving a torch in the air while Rex lay unconscious on the deck behind him. I wasted no time in grabbing the boy's arms and pinning them to his sides. "Let go of me!" He yelled.
"I have a younger brother; don't even try!" When it came to wrestling with boys younger and smaller than me, I knew how to win.
He struggled against my hold, leading us to the wooden stairs leading up to the wheel. With a jerk, he sent both of us toppling down them. I landed with a dull thud against the wood and he broke free. Fortunately I saw Luke coming out of his cabin. "Luke!" I coughed, pointing.
Luke sprinted across the deck and tackled Thomas to the ground. "What have you done?!" He demanded.
Thomas said nothing.
I walked over, wiping blood from my lip. Luke looked up at me. "You all right?"
"I'll be fine." I grabbed a spare coil of rope and tied up the little cabin boy. "What is the meaning of this?"
The rest of the crew came up from their cots, woken by the shouts. Mistyc laughed, "Ha! I told you!"
Sonny hoisted himself up into the rigging. "Captain! On the horizon; a ship!"
We all rushed to the railing. In the moonlight, I could see the faint outline of a ship no bigger than ourselves heading toward us. My eyes widened as I realized the flag they flew was black with a white insignia. "Pirates…"
"They must be doing some scouting for their captain. Shouldn't be too hard to scare off." Luke pounded his fist against the wood. "Crew, get ready for a fight!"
I looked over at Thomas, who was grinning madly. "You set us up for this, didn't you?"
He nodded. "And now you'll all die and we'll be rich."
Unable to control my temper, I back-handed him as hard as I could. "You little—!"
Luke caught my arm as I was about to do it again. "Stop. Go get your sword. We have bigger things to deal with."
"Right." I swallowed hard before running to my cabin.
The first chapter of the Of Love & Swordplay reading is up on YouTube! There's a link on my profile.