A Wide Berth

A pirate story that I started writing in order to entertain my cousins. I'd love someone to continue it for me, as I haven't written much more than this.

The young girl stared out of the tiny window at the vast ocean. She knew it was far bigger than just the port, far bigger than she could even see, and she knew she was going to explore every last bit of it. “Will you be a sailor?” her grandfather teased. “Will you be the captain of your own ship?” The girl shook her head every time he asked.

“I’m going to be a pirate.”

Lireleia smiled at the memory. There had been three of them running the inn back then - her mother and grandfather, helped by her. She glanced around the glorified closet that was her bedroom. The curtains were breaking off the rails, the bookcases full of dusty books she hadn’t touched since her mother had died. It hadn’t been the same without her, but Lireleia refused to believe that anything could be all bad. She had forced herself to get on with life, helping run the inn in her mother’s stead and focusing on the future. Every morning she woke up early and wandered around the port before dawn. Few of the sailors got up so early, though she made pleasant conversation with those that did - but it was not the sailors she got up for.

Pulling a jacket and boots over her pyjamas, she tiptoed down the stairs, being careful not to wake any sleeping customers in the inn. She took the back entrance to avoid her grandfather and crept out onto the pier, closing the door quietly behind her.

Already the pier was bustling with activity, great ships towering over the pier and throwing it into shadow.  Lireleia smiled. They had arrived at last. She had been expecting them for days, and was beginning to think they would not return. She craned her neck upwards and squinted at the flags being flown by the nearest ship. No two flags were exactly the same, which was helpful when she was looking for one ship in particular.

“You’re a bit late this morning.” Lireleia turned, for the voice was coming from the ship opposite the one she had been squinting at. A young man was sat astride the prow, grinning down at her.

Lireleia could not help but grin back at him. “You’re a bit late this month,” she called back, running towards the stern and climbing the ladder. “What happened?”

He jumped down from the prow and headed towards the top of the ladder to meet her. “Got hit in a storm. Had to make berth in Gallen for repairs.” He patted the mast of the ship. “Still, she’s good as new now.”

Lireleia smiled. “You look the same as ever,” she commented. It wasn’t quite true - he had grown taller while he had been gone, and now stood half a head higher than her, and his dark hair had grown slightly longer - but he had the same mischievous grin, the same twinkle in his eyes, the same cocky posture.

He raised an eyebrow. “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”

“Neither, it just is. So what have you been up to?” She leaned against the side of the deck and waited for him to start spewing tales of treasure and adventure as he always did.

He shrugged absent-mindedly as he paced around the ship. “Not a lot.”

“Not a lot? Varkrael, you’re a pirate!” Lireleia was incredulous. “You went off roaming the seas for over a month. You can’t tell me you didn’t find treasure or do battle with other pirates or...or narrowly escape from raiders!”

Varkrael regarded her for a moment. “We found a free port,” he said finally.

“A free port? Is that it? There are hundreds of those around,” Lireleia said angrily.

“Well I’m sorry for not finding something more interesting,” he snapped back at her.

Lireleia opened her mouth to say something, but was cut off by another voice.  A tall, broad man with an impressive beard came out onto the deck, and Varkrael immediately paled. “What’s going on here?” the man asked gruffly.

Varkrael swallowed. Lireleia had never seen him look so scared. “Nothing, captain,” he finally managed to reply, though his legs were still shaking.

The captain raised a bushy eyebrow at him before turning to Lireleia. “It’s a rare nothing that brings a lass onboard.”

“Her name’s Lireh,” Varkrael said, speaking before Lireleia had the chance to. “She’s the granddaughter of this town’s innkeeper.”

“Is that right?” muttered the captain. “Well, Miss Lireh, I find it hard to believe one can wander onto a ship by accident. Would you care to explain what brings you onboard?”

“Begging your pardon, sir,” she replied, after a moment’s deliberation over whether or not to address him as captain, “Varkrael and I met a few years ago - we’ve become rather good friends. There was no harm in our intent, and I apologise if I lack permission to be onboard.” She gave a slight curtsy.

The Captain let out a booming laugh. “And it’s even rarer to find one so well-spoken! Welcome to the Golden Hind, Miss Lireh - You’re welcome to stay for as long as you wish!”

Lireleia smiled nervously. “Thank you, sir, I only wish that were true. But I must return before my grandfather realises I am missing. He does not take kindly to--“

“To you running around with lawless scoundrels and thieves?” Varkrael finished, raising an eyebrow.

Lireh shot him a guilty smile. Those were the words her grandfather had shouted after Varkrael when he discovered where his granddaughter had been one day - it would have been a narrow escape had Varkrael not been able to easily outpace her grandfather’s hobbling.  “Regardless, I must get back to him. If he finds out I still talk to you, we’ll both be in trouble.”

Varkrael waved his hand at her. “So what? I’m not going to run away from an old man. What’s his grudge against pirates, anyway?”

It was a rhetorical question, but Lireh answered all the same. “His only son, my uncle, joined a band of pirates. He promised to come back within a year, and hasn’t been seen to this day. He’s been missing twenty years now."

The End

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