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A Woman Below Decks
Tue Jan 2, 2007 22:16 (XFF:

The crew was upset. Ever since she had stepped—no, limped was much more accurate—on board, they had been at his door raising a fuss and letting him know that their voyage was sure to be damned. Women weren’t meant to be on a ship unless they were married or widowed. By the looks of the lady who was now resting below decks, she was neither. The piercing gaze that she had given the men as she made her way down the stairs had apparently sent their hair on end, though he was sure that wasn’t the only thing that she had made stand. It was not going to be easy for her as the only female on board. As captain of the Flying Sword, it was his job to see that things ran smoothly on his ship, and with a deck full of paranoid, yet horny, sailors, the amount of money that he had been paid to hold their departure from Ebou Dar was quickly beginning to lose its value. The woman had obviously been injured, and though she had insisted that she need no help attending to her ankle, the captain hoped that she would keep to herself until they made port in Illian.

“How goes our progress?” He closed the bag of coin that sat on the table in front of him with it’s own thick cord. After counting it, and recounting it, he felt no better about its continents. Captain Rowe considered his first mate as he crouched over the map that covered the majority of the table. At the top of the map, a compass was pointed west by southwest, though with each rocking of the boat, the needle wobbled gently in response. “Well?” He prodded when the man standing opposite of him did not answer after several long moments.

“We’ve lost the wind this evening, Captain. We waited on that…woman, and missed it. We’ll sail closer to land and try to catch her again as we move around the last lip of Altara.” The man looked tired, but then, he always did. Mister Hardy had a constant look of sleep depravation about him, as if his choice of lifestyle harshly disagreed with him, and did not allow him to sleep while aboard the ship. Rowe chose to believe it was stress. If it was his job to keep things going smoothly on the ship, it was Hardy’s job to handle everything else from supplies to handing out chores to the men. They both knew he was little more than a figurehead, but without his strong influence on the other sailors, there would be a mutiny on board which would spell disaster for both their fortunes.

“We’ll catch her again. Don’t worry, man, the wind isn’t as elusive as most women.” He stood and went to pour himself a drink. Though there were no windows in his cabin, he could feel that the sun had begun to set outside. Already things seemed darker down below. “You want some ale?” He half turned toward the man who was still studying his maps and making calculations. Hardy mumbled something nonsensical and waved his hand. “More for me, then.” Rowe added another glug from the bottle to his own glass.

“Captain, I know you don’t want to hear this again, but the crew is upset about that woman you let come on board. They’re going to work themselves up and begin to cause trouble if we don’t do something to stop them. I told you that they needed least a night’s worth of shore leave to ‘calm’ them down. With a woman in such close quarters...they’re sure to want to take advantage of the situation, if you know what I mean, sir.”

“Yes, yes, I know exactly what you mean.” He sighed and lowered himself back into his chair. “The men will just have to ignore that woman and go on with their business. It will take us at least a month to make it to Illian if we don’t run in to any problems, and I have no desire to make port between now and then. She’ll have to learn to either guard her bum, or we’ll keep those men working so hard that the only masts that they’ll be concerned with are the ones holding up the sails on the Sword.” He took a long drink of his ale, pleased with the familiar way that it warmed his insides and worked its way into his bloodstream to relax him. Hardy was a man many years his senior, though he had no wish to catch up with him in appearance of age.

“With all due respect sir, I’m not sure that just keeping them busy is going to work with this woman. Did you see her?” For the first time Hardy looked up from his map and laid down the instruments that he had been using to track their course.

“Aye, I saw her. I also saw that she was limping up the across the bloody deck. I didn’t realize that we were taking in an invalid when I made the arrangement for her passage to Illian. I want the men to no more wait on her than I want them trying to bed her. She’ll need to take care of herself on my ship. And, I’ll have no more superstitious pissing about women being bad luck aboard a ship. The only back luck that we’ll be having is if we hit storms once we get out to sea.”

“As you say, Captain.” Hardy returned to studying his map and making notes. He hoped that his head down Rowe would not notice the doubt in his face.


Things were going no better for Wiley. Her ankle, which was swollen and still throbbing as a dull reminder of her stupidity, was propped up on a chair and being held up by her pack. She was hopping that keeping it elevated would keep the blood from concentrating at her injury and make it worse than it already was. The rough splint that she had made was uncomfortable and seemed to be causing more pain rather than relieving it. She was dieing to rotate her ankle in order to stretch it and feel it be free of the hard confines of the brace. Instead she would have to wear it until she could put weight on her left leg again.

As if being injured wasn’t enough, the constant rocking of the ship was beginning to make her nauseous. Her hand was covering her eyes as she lay back on the small mattress that made up her bunk, but even her futile attempt to block out all light wasn’t enough to keep her from feeling the motion that was constantly reminding her that she was going to be stuck on this bloody ship for several more weeks. The only advantage to her predicament was that she wouldn’t need to be weary of the Whitecloak while she was on the Sword, and that by being on the ship, she would be able to heal. Besides, Wiley really wanted a vacation from her life, and the chance to think of a way to put the demons of her past to rest. The sudden appearance of Orlan’s younger brother had shaken her more than she was willing to admit.

Another problem was what she was going to do with herself on a boat. She had never been on the water before—or she would have seriously rethought this whole plan—and knew nothing of sailing or the lifestyle of those who did. Only her limited experiences by the docks of Ebou Dar provided as very short lessons of how tough those people could be. Wiley considered herself to be quite tough as well, but she had never been locked up in the same room for too long either. She hoped she wouldn’t begin to feel like a caged animal.

She would have liked to have gone to sleep. Sleeping was one of her favorite ways to pass the time, but it seemed that every time she would get even close to nodding off, another voice would yell or call out. The men above deck were noisy and crude, their harsh footsteps sounded like pounding as they moved back and forth. If she hadn’t felt so sick, she would have considered asking them to pipe down. Just when she thought she could take it no more, there was a knock on the door. For an answer she gave a grunt, and a man let himself in.

He stopped and stood at the foot of her bed, very patiently handing with his hands at his sides. Wiley lifted her arm just enough to peer through at the sailor. He was young, too young to be of interest to her, and thus, too young to have much more of her attention.

“How are you doing this evening, miss?”

“Fan-bloody-tastic.” She groaned and adjusted her arms until they were behind her head. “You may need to bring me a bucket if this rig starts to rock any harder. I’m having such a good time that I may sick up all over this lovely room of mine.” This time she didn’t even fake a smile.

“Well, miss, we’ll be happy to accommodate you anyway that we can.”

Obviously he hadn’t caught the sarcasm in her voice, thus marking him as very stupid in her book. When the very stupid boy said nothing more after a few moments, and only continued to look at her, she cleared her throat and looked for something to throw at him. “Is there are reason you’re here, or did you come to stare at me?”

“Oh. Yes…The, uh, Captain has invited you to join him for dinner in his quarters. He did not think you would be comfortable dinning with the crew. You’re the only woman on board and—”

“And the Captain thinks that his men will be interested in eating something other than whatever the cook has laid out for tonight’s main course. I understand.” The boy frowned and tilted his head to the side, his expression thick with contemplation. “Oh Light,” she sighed and pushed herself up until she was sitting upright on the bunk. “Listen, I’ll have dinner with the Captain, but I don’t expect to be eating much.” He nodded again and began to back out of her room.

“Wonderful. He’ll be awaiting you in his cabin.” His grin was all teeth and stars.

“Uh-hu. And kid, don’t forget my bucket. I want it waiting for me when I get back.”


  • To Lose One's GripWiley Darwish, Tue Jan 2 08:37
    “Kill your brother?” The question came out like a laugh, if a bit forced and louder than she would have liked. Another not-quite-sane laugh escaped her lips before she managed to compose herself and... more
    • A Woman Below Decks — Wiley Darwish, Tue Jan 2 22:16
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