Tag Archives: pirates!

The Earl’s Curiosity

Some eight years after the Physician’s dismissal. This story, in its third installment, now has a page.

He catches sight of Sirena’s hair in the mirror, scarlet in the corona of candle light around her, as she opens the door to his study.

“Papa?” she says, stepping into the room. Her cotton nightgown is short on her bony shins. She persists in growing up, despite his hopes to the contrary.

“It’s late, Sprite. What is it?” he says, smiling at her in the looking glass while he arranges his cravat.

“Will you tell me at breakfast what the Countess wore?”

“If you confess the whereabouts of Miss Miller’s best hat, of course,” he replies casually, rewarded by an indignant flush on his daughter’s face.

“It’s an awful hat! She should thank me for—“

Sirena realizes her mistake, but not quickly enough. She sets her candle down on his desk.

“The hat is under Hodge’s armoire, Papa,” she offers contritely.

He cannot help but laugh, though it slices at his heart. Her serious expression smells of salt air and sun-baked canvas.

“I will ask Hodge to return it to Miss Miller in the morning, along with a sincere letter of apology from the thief.”

“Yes, Papa,” she says quietly.

He checks himself in the glass to be sure he won’t embarrass his sister at the Countess’s party.

“Now, tell me I look well enough to dine with your Aunt Felicity, and kiss me goodnight before you take yourself back to bed.”

As he leans down, Sirena stretches up to fold his cravat into place. She kisses his cheek and retrieves her candle.

“Sirena?” he calls as she goes, “Be sure to put the candle out.”

He collects his sister from her favorite sitting room. The carriage ride seems extraneous to him, given that the distance is easily walkable, but Felicity rules the household with a fashionably iron-clad fist, and arriving on foot would not be proper.

The Countess, Felicity’s oldest friend and Society’s most notorious hostess, is upon them immediately. She whisks Felicity off to a card table looking for a fourth, but not before greeting him with mischief in her eyes.

“The Earl has a curiosity in his library. After your years in the Indies, Isaac, I’ve no doubt you’ll find it very interesting.”

He dodges the crush. The heat of candles and bodies is overwhelming. In the corridor he can hear the Earl’s baritone like cannon fire from the library.

“Jennings, you’re a scoundrel!”

Standing on the Turkey carpet before the Earl’s merry fire is a filthy young man in sailor’s clothes, shackled and shorn like a traitor at the block. Though the sailor stares at the floor, there is steel in his posture.

“Issac!” the Earl booms at him. “Come in and have a look at what Jennings caught on his last run.”

He crosses the room, his soul crackling, as Jennings forces the young man to raise his face.

The pulse in his ears drowns out every sound but his own unsteady breathing. The close-cropped red hair, the pale skin. The fathoms-deep eyes, dull now and withdrawn, but still the same color as the English Channel. Not a young man at all.

Recognition kindles in those stormy eyes; her face, pink from the fire’s proximity, blanches. A fine sweat breaks out on her brow and her knees buckle.

He lunges forward to catch her. She is slight in his arms, captivity has stripped her of her toned muscles and rude health. She is all bones and sinew and fatigue now.

“What the devil, Jennings?” the Earl demands.

Jennings looks on, baffled into silence. It is he who speaks instead, laying her down on the sofa.

“She is in need of a physician.”

The most frequent advice I come across for amateur writers is, “Write what you know.”

“What you know” doesn’t necessarily always mean “your comfort zone.” For this week, take what you know out of your comfort zone. Try a new genre, a new time period, a geography you’ve only dreamed of, fantasy or historical instead of contemporary fiction, try the male POV if you usually write women. Or vice versa.

Switch it up. See where it takes you.

I am responsible for this week’s prompt. My stretch? London in the Regency. Society with a capital S.

Dismissed

The Physician has been summoned to the Captain’s cabin. A continuation, of sorts, of The Physician and the Siren.

An inferno of reflected lamp light blazes in the looking glass behind the Captain.

“You sent for me?” he asks.

She sits at her writing desk, a small strongbox at her elbow. She doesn’t look up. He has not been inside her cabin since the night he delivered the baby.

He shivers at the memory.

The Siren had overtaken a slaver bound for Hispaniola with a late summer storm blowing in from the southeast. With the ship stripped of anything the Captain deemed valuable, she’d ordered the crew’s execution. The Africans she’d unshackled and left aboard, the hull damaged but still afloat. He’d been the only one to notice an unsteadiness in her gait, a pearl sheen of sweat on her fierce, white brow.

Seven hours later he knelt between her knees, her screams muted by his belt between her teeth, as the cook and cabin boy carted hot water and linen to and from the galley. The Siren’s crew held their silence, but heavy, haunted chanting from the slaver, adrift nearby, sung the baby into the world between pale green flashes of Caribbean lightning. 

As the child crowned, the Captain pushed herself up on her elbows. Her blue-gray eyes, glazed with pain, met his as she bore down.

From across the water, a deep, keening cry cut through the cacophony of rain and wind, and the rhythm of the chanting quickened as the child, a girl, took her first breath and wailed in response.

As if summoned by his thoughts, the baby mewls from its makeshift cradle, hung from the ceiling of the cabin near The Captain’s berth. She nudges the cradle with a distracted hand before smoothing out a folded sheet of paper; a letter, he surmises by the close-pressed penmanship on the page. She does not speak.

“Captain?”

“I have a brother in Port-au-Prince,” she says, fingers caressing the worn creases of the letter. “For obvious reasons, I cannot go to him myself. You must take her—“

She pushes the gently swaying crib again as the baby grizzles from her swaddling.

“—To him. We shall send you ashore in the captain’s gig under cover of darkness. You will take a letter of introduction to him. He will take the child and see that you are given passage to England.”

He says nothing. There is nothing to say. She is law and god on this vessel.

The dancing amber light makes the room feel close, and he is more aware of the gentle roll of calm sea beneath him than he has been in weeks

“I presume you were going to England,” she adds as an afterthought.

She doesn’t turn her face to him, but he hears in her tone that he is dismissed.

You or your character find a forgotten letter or card from someone important in your life–whether good or bad.  What does it say?  How does it affect you or your character?  What is done with it?

The Physician and the Siren

The spray leaves patterns on the planked deck. He stands–alert and fearful, yes, but also intrigued–before the captain, whose back is to him. While he watches the seawater dry in salty whorls, the pirate watches out over the bow, the horizon tilting as the ship comes about.

His captain, he thinks, for that is now the case. The Siren isn’t known for mercy on these seas. Only hours ago he watched sixty souls drowned or slaughtered by her crew. Why he was spared and brought aboard is a mystery to him, but he feels oddly grateful.

For the moment, his life belongs to the whims of a pirate.

“Sink it,” comes the growled order, carried back on the wind. The bullion and provisions from the packet are aboard.

He does not turn when the guns fire. The sound of the ocean swallowing the vessel is both quieter than he expects and thunderous in his ears.

“Permission to speak, sir,” he asks respectfully. He is unarmed, alone, a dead man walking. But he is a scientist, a scholar, and curiosity has the best of him.

The captain turns. He is disappointed by the ill-fitting belt and coat. Gone are his illusions of a dashing figure. He searches the face deeply shaded from the fearsome sun; the captain’s features are only just visible under the broad brim of a hat. A nod. Permission.

“Why am I spared?”

With motions made more deliberate by the pitch and roll of the deck beneath, the captain unbuckles the belt, unbuttons the coat. As the air catches the opened cloth, the pirate lifts the hat away.

A riot of vermillion curls, eyes like the sea at Dover. An eighth month pregnancy.

She speaks then, a voice rough with worry and command.

“I have need of a physician.”

Flash Fiction can be fun and a real challenge. This week focus on the words and the strength of each to contribute to your story. Write a 300 word piece using the following word for inspiration: LIFE.