Scott hated the early watch. The sky was pitch black at the beginning and it would soon change into nor dark nor bright greyness of the morning, the air was cold and no matter what a person wore the chill would inevitably turn them into an ice statue before the watch ended. Moreover, it was lifeless on board, with the few members of the crew that were awake, keeping quiet not to disturb their sleeping mates. Scott climbed the mast to reach crow's nest. He knew his work was an important one, but it was usually quite boring. He was supposed to look out for dangers that could happen on the way. But they were on a known course, that they had taken many times, so it was unlikely that they would encounter any shallow waters and the sky was clear so a storm was unlikely too. Sure, the sea was unpredictable and a storm could come out of the blue, but that was the reason why he hated it. It was just boring to restlessly scan the horizon through the spy glass. He looked around once or twice not paying much attention and he was about to put the object away when his eye got caught on a dark shade at the horizon. It was only slightly darker than the sky, but with his trained eye Scott was able to see more than other people. He studied the shape for some time, but it didn't take him long to be able to determine that it was a ship though he couldn't see any details yet. Another thing raised his suspicion though. The other ship was completely dark and if it wasn't for his remarkable sight the ship could have stayed unnoticed for at least an hour more. It wasn't totally uncommon to encounter other ships, but most ships had lights on deck to signal their position and to help sailors in moving about on moonless nights such as this one. The ship he spotted was completely, almost intentionally dark. It was true that their ship was also dark, but it was so in order to better protect the prince and the princess. Scott decided it wasn't a thing he could leave without reporting and at least this time he was thankful for his sense of duty that didn't let him take lightly the tasks he had been given.
Using the system of lines he quickly slid down to the deck. Then without any delay he went to the stern where Logan stood at the helm. Logan was a middle aged man. He was one of the oldest members of the crew. The man was tall and well-built. He had dark hair which he always arranged in a way that it looked like horns, which gave him a somehow threatening aura. His brown eyes were so piercing that he could easily intimidate most of the people he met.
"Aren't you supposed to guard the skies?" The other man asked Scott with an ironic grin, but he lost it when he noticed the younger man's serious expression.
"I saw a ship at the horizon. I couldn't make out any particular details, but it was all dark. I barely saw it. Could be nothing, but..." Logan interrupted him without hesitation.
"We cannot underestimate that. Go back to your nest. If you spot anything else come and report it. I'll go and inform the captain. Alex!" The young man that came at Logan's call was Scott's brother, but one wouldn't be able to tell that they were related at first sight. While Alex was blond, muscular and tall, his younger brother's hair was dark, he was lean and still quite small as he was only twelve years old. Logan handed the helm to Alex, explaining in a few words the situation and swiftly walked away murmuring to himself. "He won't be pleased about being woken up so early."
It was still dark outside when a sudden knock on the door of his cabin woke the prince. He stood up quickly, put on his clothes and opened the door. The one waiting outside was Logan, one of the prince's crew. His face was almost expressionless as always, but Charles knew him well enough to be able to tell that the man was worried. Logan was an experienced sailor who had been travelling with Charles since the prince begun his voyages. Logan taught Charles everything he knew about ships and sailing. Despite that, since Charles became the captain the other man always addressed the prince with respect and formality.
"Forgive me for waking you up captain..." The man begun, but Charles raised his hand to stop him politely.
"Do not mention it. I know you would never have woken me up so early, unless there was an important reason for it. Please tell me what is the matter?" He knew that the sea was no playground and many things could happen, but still Logan's answer was a frightening one.
"We're being followed My Lord."
"Are you sure?" Charles asked the sailor while they were already going up to the helm.
"Not entirely yet, but it's highly probable." Was Logan's answer and then he briefed the prince into what Scott had reported. They reached their destination and Charles took a spy glass the other man handed him.
"There's nothing there captain." Said Alex who just gave the helm back to Logan. Despite that Charles took a long while scanning the horizon, yet he was unable to see anything. "Scott must have imagined it. Perhaps he was drunk and..." One quick look at prince's face made Alex stop his mean speculation half way.
"It is not a topic for jokes my young friend. Your brother is still young, but he is a good sailor and he knows his duties. He would not have done such an irresponsible thing. Go now and bring Scott to me." Alex was just about to complete the order when they saw Scott sliding down once again using the lines. He looked almost as if he was flying. Scott was next to them in practically no time.
"Your Royal Highness it's a pirate ship." When he saw their questioning looks he continued. “They haven't raised their flag yet, but I was able to spot the name of the vessel. It's Genosha.” Scott whispered the name in a terrified voice, but the three man were staring at him as if he was hallucinating. “It belongs to an infamous pirate. No one knows who he is, but people call him Magneto.” He was desperately trying to convince them of how grave the situation was, but they were still disbelieving. Scott was about to continue with his explanation, but the prince stopped him.
“Listen Scott, I do not wish to dismiss your report or doubt your abilities. I know you have a great sight. This is the reason why I have given this important task to you in the first place, but you have to understand that it is hard to believe that you have seen the name of a ship, when none of us could even spot her.” Charles' voice was serious, but kind. The prince had a talent to determine weather someone was lying and Scott's words were nothing but sincere. “Is there any possibility that you have imagined seeing that ship? That maybe you were thinking about it out of fright before and it might have given this suggestion to your brain?”
This time Scott's expression was a pained one. “Please My Lord! Don't dismiss my words only because they seem improbable. You'll most certainly be able to spot the ship in an hour or so, but then it might already be too late.” His voice was still a scared one, but there was also determination there. His eyes were silently pleading. “If time proves me wrong, you can punish me then in any way you want, but please tell your crew to set all the sails so that we can gain maximum speed and maybe, just maybe, outrun them.”
“Fine. I will trust your senses.” The prince then addressed Logan. “Give the orders. All sails are to be set immediately. Wake more man if you have too, but everything has to be done quickly.” His voice was steady, but left no room for arguing. “And most importantly tell everyone that they have to be quiet. No shouting and as little noise as possible.” The older man went to fulfil his duties without questioning the prince's words, but Charles saw that the young men were curious. “If the pirates are following us on purpose, then we have to assume that they know our course, but they might not yet be aware that we know about their presence, so silence gives us an opportunity of an early start. If on the other hand, they were there just by accident, we might avoid being noticed at all.”
Both young men were visibly impressed with the prince's explanation, his calm and ability to think so efficiently. They were glad that they could serve under such an intelligent man and skilled captain. They went on to their duties and Charles went to get at least a little more rest before the next day truly begun.
It was just few hours after the sunrise when prince Charles came once again to the stern of his ship. Standing at the helm was his first officer and dear friend Hank. The weather was beautiful and good for sailing too. The day would have been a perfect one, if it wasn't for the menacing ship that followed them. By that time it was already obvious that the pirates were indeed following them. The two man exchanged a few words and then the prince went on to inspect the rest of the ship leaving the other man to his tasks. It might have seemed strange to people that the prince was actually the captain of his own ship, but he had been sailing since a very young age being sent on various diplomatic missions, so he had the necessary skills. His crew was like a second family to him.
The men were more active than on normal days. On Charles' orders they had to be ready. They were preparing the cannons in case they had to fight the pirates. Despite many efforts the other ship was slowly, but steadily closing the distance between them. Charles walked among his men to check if they did everything he had ordered, but also to show them that he was with them and that he hadn't lost hope.
Having finished the inspection he went to check on his daughter. They were travelling back to their kingdom after a visiting one of their allies. Though the journey was a long and tiring one the girl accompanied Charles. Since his wife's death the prince rarely left his daughter alone, despite his mother insisting that the ship was hardly a place for such a small child. She had not said it as his queen though, so Charles took the girl with him. They set sail six days before and still had at least seven weeks of the voyage, if the weather was merciful. In the opposite case they could spend even three months at sea. Provided they managed to outrun or beat the pirates. This one time he wished he had listened to his mother.
“How are you doing Raven?” Charles asked his daughter entering a cabin that had been prepared especially for her. Upon hearing his voice the girl stood up to show him what she had done.
"Look father! It's our ship." The princess was six years old, she was an adorable child with a beautiful mess of blond hair that she had after her mother. The thought of his late wife saddened Charles, but he didn't let it show on his face because the girl was looking at him with deep blue eyes, that looked just like his own, waiting for his approval. He glanced at the piece of paper she was showing him.
“My little one, it's beautiful.” He smiled at her. With the right amount of practice she could become an artist. He definitely had to find a teacher for her when they reached their homeland. At the moment, however, it was time for dinner.
"Will you accompany me to the feast my lady?" Charles asked his daughter playfully. It was their little ritual. They would play a lady and a prince even on casual meals. Charles knew that sooner or later his daughter would have to learn to behave properly and their little game was a pleasant way of introducing her to the life that lay ahead.
"It'll be my honour Your Royal Highness." Raven bowed before him holding the material of her dress with her fingers. Charles held out his hand and when she took it he led her out of her room.
A few people were sitting in the mess. Most of the crew was busy. They were seated around a few tables. At the end of the room was a table with two seats reserved for the prince and his daughter. Though the crew was all on friendly terms with both the king's son and the girl, upon their arrival they all stood up and greeted them. Charles was glad that they did for this too was a part of Raven's preparation for the life at court. He helped Raven sit and when he as well had taken his place left to where his daughter was sitting he allowed his men to do so. On Charles' left side sat Logan.
"Had anything changed outside?" Charles inquired. He didn't hide his worry about the situation and though he could feel Raven's questioning look, he needed to know the answer before he would explain everything to her. The prince was confident that she would patiently wait for his conversation to be over.
"We've managed to prevent them from gaining on us. Our speed is now the same as their. I don't know yet if we can keep the distance, but so far it's not a lost cause." The man's voice was stained with light hope, barely there, but still noticeable. "Maybe they'll give up when they realise we're not easy prey."
"I really hope they do." The prince's voice was strong, but also worried. "I would not dread the fight, were it not for Raven's presence on board." His words were true. Despite his considerately young age, the prince was an expert swordsman and few people could compete with him when it came to shooting. But at see it wasn't going to be a duel between him and the other captain. It was going to be a battle and therefore anything could happen.
“My darling Raven. You know that I do not make you stick to many rules here and I've been lenient. Right now, however, you will have to do exactly as I say.” He quickly informed her about the pirate ship that was following them and instructed her that if it really came to a battle she was supposed to hide and stay out of sight. “Do not think that you are a burden for being here with me. It is true that were it not for your presence, things would be different, but protecting you is now of utmost importance.”
“Don't worry princess. We won't let the big bad pirates get you.” Added Logan and winked at Raven. His statement helped the girl relax a little and brought a faint smile to her serious little face.
The hardly achieved peacefulness of the meal was brought to a sudden end when Ororo, one of the sailors, burst through the door. "Captain!" The young woman's voice was loud and filled with fear. She reached the prince's table in a few long strides. “The pirates have put up more sails than we thought were possible. Their masts must be made of something stronger than wood because they didn't break.”
Silence fell in the lounge. It didn't matter how the pirates had done that because everyone knew what it meant. The battle was now inevitable.
“How much time do we have?” That was all Charles was able to ask before someone could hear his voice falter. All the hope of outrunning the pirates had vanished in an instant.
“They'll catch up with us in about three hours.”