Wolfe Chapter 12: A New Face
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A very special thanks to LonelyAssassin and Scion
~A New Face~
“It’s not a merchant ship, captain.” Hughes said, handing the spyglass over.
“It certainly isn’t,” Roberts agreed.
Dawn had just broken, and they were standing on the stern to survey what was tailing them. The sun sprayed its light across the sea and painted a mural on the clouds which dotted the sky. Off the starboard were mountains that rose up from the water and caught the rays as they were slowly illuminated. Port looked out to what seemed like limitless water before coming to a sharp edge at the end of the world.
“It’s not naval either, no flags of any sort.” He continued, passing the lens back.
“If it’s not merchants, and not navy, then it must be pirates.”
“Let’s not get too carried away, Mr. Hughes. Mr. Simmons, stay this course, use the wind we have and not follow the coast for now.”
“Aye aye, cap’n.”
An uneasy feeling was settling over everyone. There was no possible way to know what was in store for them. Either everything would be fine and the encroaching ship was merely on its own peaceful voyage, or its intent was more adversarial. Brailen was more aware of the possible threat, but Zane knew that anything could come of this.
“How many days till we reach port?” Zane asked.
“Another week at least, if the winds keeps up like they have. If not, it could be two.” His cousin answered. “With the speed it’s going that ship will be on top of us by tomorrow. That’s the problem with galleons, they just move too slow, and we can’t leave them behind.”
“Why doesn’t the captain send someone out to investigate then? Any of these water type tamers could make that distance in an hour or less. Then we’d know what they were up to.”
“Well, if they are hostile, then whoever we send would be slaughtered.” Brailen explained. “Even if they mean no harm, it would be viewed as an attack of some sort. Either way it’s not a good move. It’s best to just wait it out and see. There’s no crime against having a faster ship. Of course, it is rather impolite. They should keep their distance if they mean no harm.”
“So that means they’re in a hurry, or they’re pirates.”
“Shhh, don’t say that word where others can here you. Talk of pirates is…” he paused while a crewman walked by. “Well, it’s bad for morale.”
“Aye, won’t speak of it again.” Zane said, putting on a typical voice that the sailors used.
“It isn’t funny. This is serious. If they are, then…well…let’s just say it could get ugly.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much about it.” Layla said, appearing out of nowhere as usual. “If its trouble, then I’m sure we can handle it. Right, Brailen?”
“What do you want?” He replied.
“You still have a chip on your shoulder?” She asked. “Or do you just not like women being on a ship?”
“Both, in your case.”
“Aww, that hurts…” She said, pouting her lips to tease him. She stepped closer to the teen and put her hands behind her back. “You like me, right Zane?”
“Ummm…” he didn’t know what to say here, and he was rather afraid of her to a certain extent.
“You’re my champion, after all. Teaching that oaf not to call me names.”
“Stop it, Layla.” Brailen interrupted. “This isn’t the time for your nonsense.”
“Oh? It doesn’t seem like you’re doing anything important at the moment… Or should I tell someone that you’re looking for something to do?”
“Come on. Let’s see if we can make ourselves useful.” Brailen said, grabbing his cousin’s arm.
As they headed up on deck, Zane couldn’t control the urge to look back as Layla swung her shoulders to and fro to taunt him. He might have been a little young for her, but his hormones didn’t care at all. She flashed him a smile, knowing that she made some headway just now. Her plans were far more devious than anyone could imagine though, except for maybe Brailen.
Zane’s cat noticed them leave and scurried up the steps. It jumped and caught the lad’s coat, then climbed its way to his shoulder. He reached up and scratched its ears a bit, which started a loud rumble in the kitten’s throat. Brailen still wasn’t happy about that whole situation, but he wasn’t going to say anything more on the subject for now.
“It’s time you earned your sea legs.” He told him. “I want you to climb up to the crow’s nest and have a look. Mind you, even some of these more experienced crewmen can get sick up there.”
“Sounds more like a challenge!” Zane replied. “I think I can handle it.”
He had watched this done before, so figured it wouldn’t be so hard. Grabbing the ropes, he started to climb. Immediately it became clear that this wasn’t as easy as it looked. The rigging didn’t act like a ladder, holding on was simple enough, but making progress was hard as it sagged under his weight. He was barely up a few feet when he looked to the other side and saw a man practically run all the way up.
The cat didn’t seem to like this too much either. It let out some complaints in its own way regarding the task.
“Hey!” A girl’s voice said, startling him.
He looked down to see a young lady about his age climbing up rather quickly.
“Uh…hey…” Now he was embarrassed; she seemed far more agile at this than he was and soon managed to match his height.
She had long, brown hair tied in a braid that dangled a little past her waist. Her eyes were as blue as the ocean below them; her face was as soft as could be, and her chin nearly came to a point. The only thing that wasn’t petite about her was her hands. As she grabbed the ropes he could tell that her palms were used to working hard.
“I watched the fight you had with that man,” she said. “I’m glad you got your coat back.”
Now he was distracted by her smile. It was genuine and friendly. “Yeah, it was a gift, so I had to get it back.” He said, trying to sound casual while reaching up to the next rung.
Brailen had rolled himself a cigarette with a mixture of several herbs. He lit it with a match that he tossed into the water, and then glanced over to notice that his cousin wasn’t alone on the rigging. A girl with skin as pale as the clothes she was wearing had made her way to his position and the two were talking now.
Zane finally realized that she was one of the girls looking at him earlier the other day during lunch. She was keeping pace with him merely so they could talk; for her it was effortless, though she didn’t seem to even notice how slow the progress was or care.
Brailen kept glancing at the ship in the distance, and each time he peered at it an uneasy feeling inside him grew worse.
“Zane, get your ass up there already!” He was getting impatient now.
“So you’re Zane?” The girl asked, “I was wondering when you’d tell me your name, I’m Mia.”
“Hi,” he replied dryly.
“I like your cat, are you very skilled?” She was referring to his ability to transform and control it. “Usually only skilled trainers use cats, they’re hard to control since they’re so smart. Me, I use fish, and I’m not that good yet.”
“Thanks, yeah, I’m…not that great either actually.” He didn’t want to tell her about the disaster if she didn’t already know.
“Well, maybe we can train together sometime,” she glanced up at their destination above then looked over at him. “Race you to the top!”
The girl shot passed him and closed the rest of the distance in a flash. Zane did his best to pick up the pace, but his feet slipped a couple times along the way. He looked up to see her tongue taunting him through a smile. Finally he made it, and she leant him a hand to help climb into the crow’s nest. There was barely enough room for both of them; even though she was so small, Zane’s size made up the difference.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Mia said, looking out over the blue glass on which they were floating.
Zane was somewhat captured by the view; he had seen the ocean all his life, but from way up here it seemed different. He looked over at the galleons and saw a man wave to them on another nest just like the one they were in. Mia didn’t hesitate to wave back, but the boy was a bit too shy altogether to do or say anything next to her like this.
“We should get a spyglass and check out that ship in the distance,” she said excitedly. “Wait here, I’ll be right back!”
It didn’t take her long to return, and while he waited, Zane started to notice how much the ship was rocking to and fro up there.
“Here, take a look?” She said, handing it to him.
He extended it and took a peek. Suddenly it was like the ship on the horizon was a lot closer; he wasn’t quite expecting that so jerked away. This device was incredible, and taking another look, he could just barely make out people on the ship.
“Here, let me try,” Mia said.
Zane passed it to her, and she put it up to her eye. For some reason he kept staring at her though, as if he could see what she was by watching her. Something about her reminded him of his sister, but at the same time it was nothing like that. Her long hair blew around in the same wind that was propelling the ship, and for a moment he was entranced by her. He wanted to say something to her, but he knew anything that came out would sound dumb; there was no way a girl like this would ever be interested in someone like him.
“What?” She asked with that smile of hers.
Zane realized that she wasn’t looking through the spyglass anymore and caught him staring, “Oh, uh…can I see that again?”
This time he wasn’t really focusing on the ship so much as beating himself up mentally. “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” He thought.
The ship’s rocking was relentless, and after a while he started to get a nauseous feeling.
“I think I better head back down,” he told her.
Zane stepped onto the deck of the ship again, then suddenly doubled over and grabbed his stomach. The cat jumped down from his shoulder when he did that, then looked up at him. Brailen took one last puff from his smoke then flicked it overboard.
“It got to ya’…” he said, “I told you to be careful.”
The teen whipped around, bent over the railing then emptied his breakfast into the water below. Brailen couldn’t help chuckling and gave him a pat on the back. Mia jumped on deck and put a hand over her mouth to conceal a giggle; as she walked away, Zane noticed her leaving. That was even more embarrassing, and he knew he just blew it.
“That ship is moving faster than we thought, Captain.” Hughes had been keeping tabs on it for the day, and now that night was falling he had a good estimate of its speed. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it was on top of us by morning.”
Roberts had pins stuck in his map to resemble their ships and the one that was gaining on them. He was trying to figure out exactly where they might have been coming from based on their angle of approach, and what maneuver would be best to tell if they were actually after them.
“Everything about this seems fishy…” he muttered.
“Oh, nothing…” he tapped his pipe on the chart in thought. “Have the beast tamers turn in early tonight, I want them up before dawn. We have to be ready for anything at this point.”