I took the girl to dinner. She had told me before that she ate regular food, so I was glad not to have the cook prepare any special dishes on her behalf. That would have caused quite a commotion. He never took special orders, preferring to cook the way he saw fit. The meal sere usually tasty, though many times I'd looked at my plate in wonderment, confused as to what I was about to eat.
This night was a blessing, simple fair, normal to the city, I guess he saved the exotic stuff for when we were far from port and other options. I think he thought himself a genius, and many times, I was inclined to agree. It was chicken, baked and spiced to perfection, with bread so light and fluffy you could sleep on it on the side. I loaded a slice with butter and dug in. The girl stared at the food for a moment, then her hunger made itself known with the completely natural sound of a rumbling stomach. Before I could laugh at the noise she had dug into her plate with a gusto even my men couldn't match. I had always been a competitive eater, trying to keep up with my table mates as they ate, partially to ensure I got some, and partially because I could. It was an old habit from my orphan days, but it served me well. Most times. I couldn't keep up with this girl, eventually, after her third plate of chicken and somewhere about the eighth slice of bread, I slowed her down, putting a hand on her shoulder.
"You're going to make yourself sick, and me too, if you keep up that pace." I said, smiling. She slowed down, somewhat, she still barely dared to draw breath between bites, but she did slow down. I gave up the competition. I leaned back in my chair, rubbing my satisfied stomach happily.
"Tell me about yourself miss. What you know anyways." From our conversation before, she knew very little. I would teach her of course, she was going to teach my ships boys to read before she was done here. And maybe those orphans on .... I was drawn out of my thoughts by her voice, it was light and slightly musical, must have had work done on her voice box too.
"My name is Molly, I was made by..." She started of strong, but her voice faded away and she began to look glassy eyed.
"Don't strain yourself Molly. That'll do for now, maybe you could write down your story some other time." I stood up from my seat, groaning as my stomach protested. Maybe I had eaten too much. "I have something's I need to do tonight. I'm sure you can find your way back to your room. I turned to Blais, the newest ships boy was elbow to elbow with my largest men. He looked defiant, he didn't want to be there. "And you'll help her find it." I pointed at the boy. With my other hand I slipped the key to her cell next to her plate. "You'll want that." I whispered, before turning on my heel and walking back to my cabin.
The candle at my elbow flickered, making my papers difficult to see. I drew them closer to my nose, resting my chin on the desk. There were still preparations to make before we could leave town and head for our fortunes. And I had to find a place for Molly, she knew nothing about how an airship worked and on the voyage there would be no time to train her. I could extend the leave. The boys would like that.
I leaned back in my chair, rocking it back on two legs, looking at the ceiling of my small, yet luxurious, cabin. Most of my crew was on leave, except for the few on watch, but they would get their fill tomorrow, before we left. I had plenty of time to make the preparations tomorrow. I didn't need to be slaving away over the papers by candlelight, like some poor desk clerk caught in a tax rush.
I deserved some leave too.
I pushed back from my desk, the heavy oak chair grinding against the floorboards. I grabbed my coat and hat and opened the door, pulling the garments on as I left.
"I'm going out!" I announced to the watchmen. Silent nods from the lot of them. Fine, be like that. I clumped down the gangplank and after an admiring look at my airship, I strode into the night.
A nearby tavern poured light and sound onto the street, looking in I saw several of my crew members already deep into their cups. I strode in, looking forward to some fun. I ordered a drink and eland against the bar to watch the goings on.
One of my men got into a loud argument with another man, I didn't recognize the second man, he belonged to someone else. The argument seemed to be about who's captain was better. Inwardly I grinned, I had good men who knew to stand up for me, I was young, but I was no captain to be trifled with. The argument got louder, and more men joined, picking sides whether they belonged to a crew or not. It was all in good fun, until treasure was mentioned.
"My captain got the best land in the region!" Shouted my man, and he didn't leave it at that. "In fact, she's already got us some treasure!" I stiffened, hoping he wasn't talking about the girl. I had wanted to keep that quiet, but there were no secrets on a ship. "... A golden girl! Life size, she's got jewels for eyes! I've even heard that she got gems in her..." Crash. I brought my tankard down on his head, stopping the man cold. He slumped onto the table, out for the count.
"Don't mind him boys, another round on me!" I yelled over the din that started up as my crew member went down. I was the new favorite captain in the room. As I turned to the bar to pay for the drinks, I saw a shadow flicker in the corner of my eye. I turned to see what it was and caught the quick outline of a leg leaving the doorframe of the bar. I tossed the coins onto the bar and ran out the door, following the shadow.
In the seconds it took me to adjust to the darkness outside, it seemed that I had lost my quarry. I ran blindly into the alleyway, trying to find the person who was eavesdropping in the tavern. I didn't know why, but it's sure that it was someone looking for the girl. I hoped I was just paranoid. Until I felt razor sharp nails at my throat and heard the sickly sweet voice I'd heard told of by dying men.
"Looking for something, sweetie?" The woman twisted the words into something sounding quite cruel. I fought the bile that rose up in my throat. I felt the fingers at my neck tighten as I swallowed.
"You're one of them." I said it through gritted teeth, trying to show fight, even though my courage was draining away even as I said the words. "One of the devils."
A twinkling laugh made it's way into my ears, the hand drifted to my shoulders, the woman stayed behind me, and I didn't dare turn my head to look at her.
"The devils? Is that what they are calling us now?" Her voice made me nauseous, men found this attractive?
"It's what I've heard from a few of your victims." I tried to keep my voice light, conversational. I think I succeeded.
"Those men got all they wanted and more." She sighed. I resisted the urge to shake my head to get her to back off from my ear. The hand drifted lower, aiming for the low cut of my bodice. Enough was enough. As swift as I was able I spun around, reaching at the same time into my boot for my knife. She met me for speed, poising a silver dagger at my neck the same time I thrust my blade at hers. She laughed again. I kept my face stony.
I guess she was attractive. The was 'well endowed' as they said, but no more so than me. Her hair was long, black and it hid her face effectively in the weak light. She wore a tight body suit that showed off her figure and allowed her to move swiftly and silently. I would never dare such a thing around my men, it would get me into situations any girl should beware of. But that was the point. I could tell she was studying me, the same way I studied her, she watched my every movement, I hardly dared to breath. In a flash of silver she leapt at me, cutting my arm. I dropped the knife, but spun and kicked her in the stomach. She doubled up, but only for a moment before launching something at me and running down the alley.
I only saw a glimpse of her retreating form as the heavy device slammed against my head, knocking me to the ground. I heard her laugh as the darkness washed over me.