Pirate Lady: Part Six
“Plenty ready,” Ari answered quickly. She couldn’t discern from Tamzin’s tone what the girl wanted, but her ambassador instincts told her to be on alert.
“I wonder, if I might have a word with you, in private,” Tamzin said abruptly, her face creasing into a frown, almost of puzzlement. Ari followed her gaze to where Errol was regarding her with open hostility on his face, one paw resting on the hilt of his sabre. He still doesn’t trust her, not one bit, Ari thought with a sinking heart. But then again, neither do I. Are we doing her a wrong, treating her like this? Does she deserve all our scepticism and coldness?
The former pirate had been distant with them, it was true, but wasn’t it really Ari who had started the whole thing? She couldn’t expect this poor girl, who was really quite young still, to know how to behave. She had made some bad choices, it was true, but who said there was no room for forgiveness of a child?
Watching Tamzin, the unsure, but eager, friendly look in her green eyes, the brightness of the red ribbon in her braid, clearly a child’s love for joyful colours, Ari’s heart softened considerably.
“Of course,” she said graciously. “If you please, Errol?”
Errol made a sort of grunting noise, turned on his boot heel and stalked off a ways. Ari made sure he was out of hearing distance before turning back to Tamzin.
“What is it you want to say?”
“Shall we walk a ways?” Tamzin asked nervously, glancing around. The ship’s crew were as busy as a moment ago, and no-one paid them any attention. Ari made her way out between the barrels, and joined Tamzin. The Lupess gave her a sidelong glance and bit her lip, but said nothing as the two began to walk. Ari’s heart was thumping unusually loudly, though she tried to calm it. We’re just walking; it’s nothing frightening! she scolded herself.
“I was noticing, My Lady,” Tamzin began carefully, her eyes focused on the deck beneath her boots, “that we seem to not have gotten off quite right. That is to say, you seem to still think...”
“That you’re dangerous,” Ari put in bluntly. “That you’re an outlaw.” She was tired of pussyfooting around it, she realised, with a measure of surprise. It felt good to finally say it.
“Yes.” Tamzin didn’t say anything else for a long time, her gaze raised to fix on the approaching spur of land. The dark greens and browns sparkled in the sunlight, and Ari lifted her eyes to see the ship’s pennant, the gold and green colours of Brightvale, snapping in the breeze. The Gelertess thought with a measure of longing of their arrival on dry land.
“I think... I’m sorry,” Tamzin said finally, turning to face Ari. Her eyes met Ari’s own, and Ari held her gaze for a moment, before dropping her eyes.
“’Tis not your fault,” she said brusquely. “’Tis mine. I should not hold a child to her mistakes. We all make them. And –”
“No; I chose it,” Tamzin interrupted. “I think perhaps, My Lady, that there are some things you do not quite understand.” She smiled crookedly, and Ari frowned.
“What?” she began, but she was interrupted suddenly by a shout of fear. A yellow Poogle in tattered britches hit the deck from the rigging, yelling hoarsely.
“Under attack, under attack!” he screamed. Ari froze as cannon shot split the air.
“Move, now!” Tamzin yelled suddenly, shoving Ari to the side. The Gelertess stumbled, and raised her head, trying to fathom it. What was happening? Why?
“Get in a boat!” Tamzin looked terrified. Her green eyes were wide and her face had gone very pale.
Ari shook her head as another shot boomed out. It must have hit the ship; Ari heard something splinter, and fragments of wood came flying over her head. She stared, dumbfounded, unable to move. She seemed rooted to the spot. There were no other ships in sight; Stonesun was firing on them. How could this be?
“My Lady, go!”
Ari blinked and glanced up at Tamzin, who had grabbed her arm and was dragging her along the deck. All around them, screams rang out and debris flew. Yet the noise seemed muted, as though somebody had suddenly turned off the sound. It seemed to go so slowly as Ari watched, as though it were unreal. She felt as though she were stuck in some sort of horrible nightmare. A dream, she thought, dazedly.
“Ari!” It was the first time Tamzin had ever said her name, and it seemed to shake Ari from her stupor. The deafening boom of cannon shot rang out once more, and the whole ship shook. Ari stumbled and fell; Tamzin dragged her back up again, screaming in her ear. Ari couldn’t hear what she was saying, but she got the gist of it: Get into the boat.
Get into a boat, Ari thought. A boat. One of the ship’s boats, of course! She’d been shown them a thousand times, and told about how to take them and row away from the ship in an emergency.
She pulled herself free from Tamzin and began to run, her sense returning in full power. Her terror returned, too, and suddenly she was running flat out, her heart pounding with fear. She saw Rohane fly past her, and the Kyrii turned briefly to shriek at her.
“Get in the boat!” she heard once again over the roar of cannon blast and screams of injured crew. Ari slipped and stumbled, falling. Someone, she couldn’t tell who, grabbed her arm, hauling her back upright. She didn’t get a chance to thank whoever it was, because they were gone, and she was at the side of the ship, where the boat was tethered, bobbing gently in the water. People were swarming over the side, dropping into the boat like flies. There was no more room.
“Duck!” someone yelled, and Ari ducked instinctively as the crew slung another boat over the side. More, Ari remembered, giddy with relief.
“Get in, My Lady,” someone said in her ear, and Ari turned to see Tamzin once again standing by her side. The Lupess gave Ari a friendly grin, seeming calm despite the chaos all around, and pushed her gently. Ari did as she was told, swinging over the edge of the ship and tumbling into the boat. She was surrounded by other pets, some of whom she recognised. They all looked equally terrified. Someone thrust oars at Ari, and she grabbed them by reflex.
“Tamzin!” Ari shouted up at the Lupess, who was still hanging over the side of the Saviour. Tamzin looked up at her name, her eyes finding Ari’s as the boat began to pull away from the ship.
“Jump in!” Ari yelled desperately, gesturing. Tamzin shook her head.
“Too full!” she shouted back. “I’ll just sink her!”
“No,” Ari gasped in anguish. She felt tears spring into her eyes. They were moving away now, almost too far for her to hear the girl. “Tamzin!”
“I’ll be fine,” Tamzin called back, her voice faint now. Ari lifted her head slightly. “Trust me. I’ve lived through it before. I’ll see you on the other end, My Lady.” She grinned suddenly, her teeth a sparkle of white against her blue fur. Then she turned and disappeared back into the throng of people that was now just a blur.
Ari stared after her, the oars hanging limp in her paws, as a flash of bright red ribbon flickered briefly into her sight. She swallowed hard, tears blurring her vision. She’d been wrong about Tamzin. ‘An evil pirate’, Errol had said, and Ari had gone along quite willingly. Tamzin was anything but evil. That girl was something else, something very different, and Ari was not yet entirely sure what.
Someone nudged Ari in the shoulder. “Row,” a green Kacheek with a diagonal scar across his face demanded. Obediently, Ari put the oars to the water. There was no use now in grieving. She was in a pretty pickle, and what would happen would happen. At this moment, the main priority of the King’s Champion was to get to safety. After that, she would worry about everything else.
“I’ll see you on the other side, Tamzin,” she whispered, her words carried away on the wind. She smiled faintly, and began to row toward her uncertain future.
“Our plans have worked.” The blood red Kyrii smiled thinly, his dark eyes flashing in the light of the sun as he stared out across the vast expanse of ocean, leaning gently on the stone balcony. His bony face was framed with dark locks, giving it an almost sinister look. The high collar of his black overcoat met the tips of the locks, blending perfectly. Behind him, the blue Jetsam framed in the doorway to the balcony shifted slightly, his eyes flickering about nervously. His pale fringe hung jaggedly-uncut, partially obscuring his face with the shadows it cast.
“The Lupess girl is captive in our dungeons even as we speak. Tamzin. What a name.” The Kyrii laughed softly and half-twisted to face the Jetsam, who swallowed as the Kyrii’s gaze roved across his face.
“You have done well, Stal,” the Kyrii said, almost musingly. A half-smile played on his lips, and he fingered a ring on one finger. The Jetsam nodded, then flinched as the sunlight threw a blinding sparkle from the Kyrii’s ring straight into his eyes.
“I seek only to serve you, Master,” he said quietly, cringing slightly.
“Not that idiot Captain ‘Black’ Joe of yours, then?” the Kyrii’s mouth twitched slightly. A muscle jumped in Stal’s cheek, but he remained calm.
“A mere ruse, Master. It is to you and you alone that I owe true loyalty.”
“It seems many want this girl,” the Kyrii continued, with a slight frown. He turned back to face the view, running a paw over the edge of the balcony. “I wonder, what makes her so special?”
“Can’t say I see anything in her myself, Master,” Stal suggested. The Kyrii shot a quick glance at the Jetsam.
“Can’t you?” he asked smoothly.
“So far as I can tell, she’s merely a little girl in over her head. Strutting around like some young cock and calling herself pirate.”
“Ah. But things are not always as they seem,” the Kyrii remarked, almost to himself. He stared broodingly out over the ocean. “Well, I suppose we shall find out tomorrow.” He grinned, but without humour: his eyes as cold and mirthless as chips of obsidian.
Author's Note: Hopefully this will not in all actuality, be the end. :) I hope for at least one more story about Tamzin to come.