Ron moved carefully around the tavern, arms protectively in front of her face and eyes fixated on her opponent. The small room was smoky with the smell of cigars, tables and chairs all pushed to the walls behind the ring of men watching the scene intently, betting slips in hand. He was muscular but rather on the bulky side, the man that Veronica was facing. An easy win, no doubt.
“You may want to forfeit now, Sikes, and spare yourself another death.”
He let out a low chuckle, eyes never leaving hers as he circled the room, like a wolf trying to catch its prey.
“I wouldn’t be so sure, Will. You’re not the only regular 'round these parts.”
Sikes rushed at her, eliciting whoops from the crowd. Ron leapt nimbly aside, letting a foot remain in the ugly mug’s path and sending him sprawling onto the floor. He got up slowly, wiping at a bloody lip with a murderous glint in his eyes.
“You’ll pay for that, boy.”
A dirk suddenly appeared in his hands, no doubt drawn from a sleeve. The cur clearly had no qualms with fighting dirty. It was no matter.
Veronica ran the two strides it took to reach him, swerving behind him to jump onto his shoulders, pinning the blade-holding arm across his sweaty head.
“You shouldn’t have messed with me, Sikes.” she said, a low feminine tone penetrating the usual disguising accent.
The oaf started running about blindly, trying to shake her off. It only took a few seconds for Ron to pry his fingers open and plunge the dirk into the space between his neck and skull, twisting it deeper even as he fell beneath her. Warm blood spurted onto her fingers, filling the air with a metallic tang. She stood, pulling the dirk from the corpse, smiling slyly as the crowd burst into cheers. The pub’s owner gave her an appreciative nod, already counting the gold from Sikes’ supporters. Her would-be challenger was dragged off by one of the barmaids, who was clearly embarrassed to have to deal with the deadbeat.
After grabbing her reward from the counter, Ron left the tavern, uninterested in basking in the glory of victory any longer. The night air was cool against the warmth of her skin, a light breeze greeting her. The ocean, the beautiful ocean, was only a few yards away. The usually bustling port was silent, eerie in the moonlight. Only a few late-night fishermen were roaming the waters, solitary in their rowboats. The sight of a ship made her grin, mind barely registering the words ‘The Blackbird’ painted on the vessel’s side. A spot of looting was always something to be happy about, seeing as other raids were such lengthy processes.
Veronica rinsed Sikes’ blade in the sea, holding it in her teeth as she scaled the well-built hull of the ship. Stealth was always a good idea, even at an hour so late. It was convenient that she was already in trousers, as a dress would have impaired her progress and fluttered like a flag in the wind, attracting unwanted eyes. The climb was short and sweet, whetting her appetite for treasure. The occasional fight provided nicely, but it was the pilfering that allowed her to live comfortably.
Ron dropped onto the deck and scanned her surroundings, the bound sails flapping gently in the wind. She moved forwards slowly, agile as a cat. The slightest creak of the wooden boards would make her freeze but, when no one emerged from the shadows, she would continue on, until she had finally gotten to the trapdoor that led into the ship. A bit of jostling with the dirk made quick work of the padlock, allowing her to drop in with ease.
It was even darker inside the ship, light filtering through the wood and shifting as the waves steadily rocked back and forth. Veronica walked down the tight corridor, peeking into doors as she passed them, not finding a hint of riches. Someone clearly had a knack for hiding things. A painting suddenly caught her eye, making her near it cautiously. It was of a rolling, frothing ocean amidst a turbulent storm, a tiny ship being thrown about in the water. It wasn’t the art that had made Ron approach it, but another possibility. She eased the bolts holding it to the wall off, putting it aside on the floor, to see something that made her grin return. A secret compartment, lined with metal, and host to a number of locks.
She had worked through them in under a minute, concentration lining her features. The small door swung open, revealing a wonderful sight; bars of gold, and pouches of sparkling dust.
“Looking for something?”
Veronica turned sharply, eyes wide, to see a woman blocking her exit, leaning against the wall with an easy smile. The woman had curly dark hair, turned silver in the shifting light, captivating brown eyes holding Ron to her place. Caught. Years of thievery, and she was caught.
“Yes, actually. I came to see the captain.”
Ron instantly grimaced inside as the words left her, but she maintained a calm expression. First rule of acting-don’t let the audience realize hesitation.
The woman stood, walking over to Veronica, eyes travelling to the painting, and the open safe, and back to the burglar.
“You’re speaking to her.”
The woman’s smile spread, though she was crossing her arms at the same time.
“I don’t have to repeat myself, do I?”
Ron tightened her grip on the dirk and ran, right past the captain, towards the trapdoor. Her escape was cut short when, nonchalant as ever, the captain appeared in front of the exit.
“I wouldn’t run. I know this ship like the back of my hand.”
Veronica looked at the trapdoor longingly, before returning her gaze to the captain. She twirled the dirk through her fingers, wordlessly raising it just below her eye level. A confrontation was in order, it seemed. The woman took a few steps to her right, raising her arm as if to draw a weapon, but tugging sharply on a rope instead. The cabinet by Ron’s feet shot open, whacking her legs and making her fall onto her back. A few cannonballs rolled out of the compartment, hitting her feet and adding to the humiliation. The tip of a rapier was instantly at her neck, making her scuttle backwards on her arms and legs, getting forced into a corner. The captain seemed to ponder something a moment and, stepping closer, lowered the weapon.
“You know, things don’t have to end this way.”
She neared, using the sword to lift Veronica’s chin.
“You’re a rather fetching young man, really.”
The captain bent down to inspect her face, letting the blade drop.
“And you clearly know your way about locks, so,” she said, moving close enough for their noses to be touching, and voice turning to a whisper, “We could always...negotiate.”
Veronica’s eyes widened to the size of saucers at the captain's seductive tone, her face instinctively shrinking away.
“I'm a woman, woman!” she almost yelled, ripping the wig off and letting her hair cascade down to her shoulders.
The captain laughed, letting Ron's face fall before standing and leaning on the handle of her blade.
“Well, if you're truly not interested...”
She genuinely looked to be pondering this time, eyes thoughtful.
“I have a proposition for you.”