“What?” Leena said, turning to face her first mate, Maeve.
“Look!” She said, pointing out over the horizon. Leena squinted at the spot. In the distance, a ship stained the blue sky and sea. A ship that was heading straight for The O’Malley.
“Well, that isn’t good. Ready the cannons!” Leena ordered, causing the members of her crew to scurry about preparing for a battle. She adjusted the sleeve of long, thick coat, squinting at the ship of the horizon. It was too far away to see much, so she nodded to Maeve, who was still standing beside her.
“Scout them out.”
Maeve nodded back, before Shifting into a seagull and flying towards the other ship. Leena watched her go, before pulling her mother’s spyglass out of her pocket. It was somewhat surprising that someone would be foolish enough to brave these seas without some backup, considering how notorious she was. After all, she wasn’t known across the seas as the Queen of the Pirates for nothing. She reached down to pat the figurehead of the ship, the lovingly named Grace for good luck. Grace was the only part of the ship that had never been replaced, no matter what the ship had been through. She wasn’t a part of the ship, she was the ship. Peering through her spyglass, Leena could see Maeve circle the ship a couple of times, dodging bullets and arrows, before returning to The O’Malley.
“It’s another pirate ship. Five cannons on either side. Ship is called The Blood Shark. Stupid name. Saw twenty crew members. Could be more below-deck.” She panted, her black hair like the tentacles of an octopus in the wind.
“Good to know.” She murmured, before another member of her crew ran up to her.
“The ‘annons are ready, ‘aptain!” He yelled, his accent as difficult to decipher as ever.
“Then fire!” She yelled, swinging her arm towards the ship. The cannons exploded, creating an orchestra of sound as the cannonballs smashed into the poorly-named Blood Shark. It was close enough now that Leena could hear the panicked cries of its crewmembers as they rushed to repair their ship.
“Need me to Shift into something?” Maeve asked. Leena shook her head, loading her pistols. Despite all this, The Blood Shark showed no interest in retreating and continued its charge.
“Incoming! Brace yourselves!” Leena ordered as she aimed one of her pistols and Maeve drew her longsword, an object that Leena longed to know the origins of. Its blade was jagged and the hilt was carved to look like a shark. But that wasn’t what piqued Leena’s interest. It was the images carved along the side, of battles between creatures of the sea and monsters that Leena didn’t recognise. Nor did she particularly want to, if she were being honest.
Several other members of her crew also drew weapons, not nearly as interesting as Maeve’s, as The Blood Shark rammed into them, causing the entirety of the Grace O’Malley to shudder and throwing nearly everyone to the ground.
“Is this man mad?” Leena thought aloud, as Maeve pulled her to her feet, “That stunt could have completely destroyed his ship as well.”
Maeve didn’t reply, instead choosing to kick a man square in the chest and send him tumbling back down the stairs he’d been running up.
“I mean, what kind of half-decent Captain would pull a stunt like that!” Leena exclaimed, shooting another man in the chest. Despite her commentary, Leena’s crew was becoming quickly overwhelmed.
“This isn’t good.” Maeve murmured, swinging her sword wildly.
“Thank you, first mate obvious. Excuse me.” Leena said, running to the top of the stairs. She fired a shot in the sky to catch everyone’s attention.
“I wish to parlay with the Captain of The Blood Shark!” She yelled. The battle froze as a young, brown-haired man hopped off The Blood Shark, his boots creating a loud thud as he landed on The O’Malley’s deck.
“I am Captain Hunter Santsen. You wished to speak with me?” He called, strutting across the deck. Leena walked down the stairs, tipping her hat as a gesture of respect.
“I challenge you to a duel. If I win, we get supplies to repair our ship and you leave. But if you win, you get your pick of the loot.”
“And the title of King of the Pirates.”
“That… isn’t mine to give.” Leena pointed out.
“No, but after defeating you I shall claim it!” Hunter cried, swinging his cape dramatically. Leena sighed. Behind her, Maeve snorted, no doubt murmuring something insulting under her breath.
“Shall I provide the pistols?”
Captain Leena Shiverstone and Captain Hunter Sansten stood back-to-back. Hunter was gripping his pistol like it was a rock in a stormy sea. Leena held her pistol lightly in her hand. After eight years of using these pistols, they were almost an extension of her arm.
“Go!” Someone, probably one of Hunter’s crew, yelled and the pair began to walk forward, both counting their paces. When Leena reached ten, she spun on her heel and fired, aiming for the centre of his chest. It ripped through his shoulder, sending him stumbling back. He’d reached ten around the same time she had, only he’d been a little bit slower in turning. His hand went to the wounded shoulder, covering the wound. Leena lowered her pistol.
“I suggest you go and find a healer.” She said, pulling her hat down so they could no longer see her eyes and striking a pose.
“I suggest you lie down and die!” Hunter yelled, before turning to his crew, “Attack!”
Leena fired at him again, this time missing as the crew surged forward and were met by Leena’s crew. Like her, they clearly hadn’t seen this heel-turn and several of them fell before they thought to fight back. Maeve Shifted into a bear and began to swipe her opponents. Leena charged at Hunter and tackled him, grabbing her pistol from his hand.
“If we die, we die together!” She yelled, aiming her pistol at him. Her crew clearly took it to mean that there would be no survivors from the crew that lost and their fighting became less one of a repelling a raid and more one of survival. Yet it was still clear that Hunter’s crew was winning. When it seemed that all hope was lost, there was a cracking sound from the front of the ship.
Grace splintered, before leaping onto the deck and charging into the fray. Arrows and bullets were embedded into her to no effect and swords simply glanced off. Hunter shouted something, before yanking a waterskin from his belt and emptying the contents over Grace. Another of his crew struck a match and tossed it at her. She erupted into flame, her mouth open in silent screams. Before any of Leena’s crew could intervene, she ran towards the side of the ship and leapt over, into the water below. Leena let out a breath. All was lost. The only thing to be done now was to try and ruin Hunter’s day.
“Maeve?” Leena called, firing her pistol in the general direction of the rival captain.
“Hmm?” Maeve grunted back, Shifting back into a human beside her.
“There’s something you should know.”
“What?” Maeve asked, slashing wildly at anyone who came close. Leena took a deep breath. She’d kept this a secret for so long, pushed down anything that ran the slightest risk of giving it away. But she couldn’t keep it hidden any longer. She couldn’t die without Maeve knowing.
I love you.”
“Oh,” Maeve replied, turning away to swipe at another pirate, “that isn’t… good.”
“I… um… I don’t feel romantic attraction. Or sexual attraction.” Maeve confessed.
“But I’ll stay by your side, no matter what.” Maeve finished, ducking as Leena shot at someone charging towards her. Before Leena could process what she just said, Maeve grabbed her by the arm and began to pull her towards the side of the ship.
“What are you doing?” Leena yelled, trying to wrench her arm away. But Maeve’s grip was iron.
“We need to go.” Maeve insisted. Leena could barely hear her voice of the screams of her crew as they were cut down. The ship was dead. They were dying.
“No! We can’t go!” Leena protested, putting all her weight into not moving. Maeve was unfazed by this and continued dragging Leena behind her.
“I say! I’m the captain!”
“Then consider this a mutiny.”
Leena got no further before Maeve jumped over, pulling Leena with her and changing into a whale on the way down. The water was cold and Leena clung to Maeve, who began to swim away. Arrows and bullets followed them, a couple hitting Maeve but not doing any real damage. As the water washed over Leena again and again, she felt herself slipping away…
Leena awoke, face-down, on a beach. She sat up, brushing the sand from her coat before noticing that there was something caught between her fingers. The embroidered strip of cloth that Maeve used to tie back her hair. Leena glanced around for Maeve, to find her gone. She sighed, checking her pistols for damage. It seems that she had been lucky, they were only a little wet. She stared out across the horizon, until her gaze fell upon what she first thought to be the sun, setting in the distance. But it was midday. Leena stood up, a single tear rolling down her cheek as she watched The O’Malley, her beloved ship, burn away to nothing. It was gone. Everything Leena had ever loved, was gone.