The New Crew Member (Prologue)

Of girls disguised as men, missing brothers, and the ocean.

Something about the new crew member sticks out compared to the rest of the crowd.  Something about the delicate curve of his jaw line, something about the way everyone else towers over him, something about the defiant spitfire glare of his eyes when someone teases him over his slight stature.

He's much too young to be on a ship, you think when he grins toothily up at you over the bucket of soapy water.  Though he's shown that he's much stronger than he looks, the captain has him assigned to mop duty.  The last time you remember being as short as he is was when you were twelve.  The thought of your twelve-year old self on this ship makes you grimace.

"What's with the face?" he asks in a lilting voice, much too pleasant for a sailor.  He'll lose that musical quality to his voice soon enough anyway.  "Did the cap'n reassign you too?"

You snort, ruffling his sandy brown hair roughly before turning away.  "Just finish quickly.  Cook's almost done."  As you make your way down below deck, you look down at your hand as if you can figure out what's so strange about that new crew member from the phantom feeling of his hair.  Well, he's friendly enough, you guess.

----

The ocean's a dangerous place, but it's the only place a healthy man like you, who came from a secluded seaside village, can make a decent living.  These days, the name of the pirate ship, The Nautilus drifts from the shaking mouths of sailors in taverns and burrows its way into listening ears, resting comfortably in their dread.  Of pirate ships, The Nautilus is a legendary one, its raids dying the wooden floorboards of a ship red, leaving the surviving sailors traumatized and too afraid to step foot on another ship ever again.

You haven't encountered this famous ship once in your lengthy three years of sailing.  After all, it's just one ship out of many, and the ship you're sailing on isn't too attention-catching.

However, the cargo you're carrying is worth too much to take risks, so you're surprised when the captain calls for all the crew members to gather up.  You take your place among the others and raise an eyebrow at the small youth by the captain's side.  With light brown hair tousled by the wind and a short, frail-looking stature, he looks like he wouldn't survive a day at sea.  His amber eyes, though, speak of a strong willpower.  Just one look at those eyebrows drawn down in a determined V, and that proud smile pasted on his face makes you rethink your earlier assumption.

"This here's Sam.  He'll be joining us from now on," the captain called out.  You're not sure if you're just hearing the irony in his words.

Next to you, Jonathan has a hopeful look on his face with his hands clasped together as if in prayer.  You pat his back and he smiles nervously up at you.  He's the poor sap who has to swab the deck all by himself, and he's wanted someone to share in his misery for a while.

There's no more to see here, and you're already moving away to mind your own business as the captain turns to Sam and talks to him, probably instructing him on how the ship is run.  The usual.

The captain's orders are absolute, and you earn what you eat.  The captain hates idleness where it is not due, to the point where he works alongside his crew.  For that, you respect the man.  Forgetting those fiery amber eyes, you wonder if this Sam will be able to keep up.  The boy barely comes up to your shoulder.

You cast a look behind you, and before you can get a clear view of the new kid, an arm wraps around your shoulders and violently pulls you to the side.

It's Arlen.  A rather cheerful man.  One of your good friends.  He grins even as you blink in mild surprise.

"Can't take your eyes off the new crew member, Quinn?" he asks teasingly.  "I swear the boys these days are looking more and more feminine!"

You push him aside with a grim smile.  "As long as he can work," you say, shrugging.

"Of course!  Cap'n don't care s'long as they can work!" Arlen exclaims, laughing.  You nod towards the crow's nest, hoping he'll go back to his own duty if you tell him to.  He has sharp eyes, and sometimes you wonder if it's because of his boundless energy.  Waving goodbye, he runs off to climb up to that high spot above the ship.

You stand there and watch him go, your smile fading as you're reminded of just how high the crow's nest is.  You're not so good with heights.

Which is probably why you're working below deck.  As you head off there, the new crew member scurries into your path with the captain following after.

For a short moment, you find yourself staring into those wide eyes with those long eyelashes and you're caught in the fiery maelstrom of the boy's eyes.  As if he's willing to sweep aside everything for his goals.  What are his goals anyhow?

"I'm Sam!" the boy pipes up, breaking the spell.  He holds out his hand with a big grin.

You don't mention that you already know his name, and you take his hand, hoping your own doesn't tremble as much as you think it does.  "Quinn," you say.

"Huh, you're quiet, aren't you?" Sam murmurs, quirking one eyebrow.  "Simple too."  You nod, wondering if you should feel offended by the boy's straightforwardness.

As you two shake hands, you can't help but wonder at the calluses on the boy's hands.  From the look of him, you wouldn't have thought that he had done much work in his life.  He must be holding many surprises inside of him, waiting to let themselves be known.

It's the start of a strange friendship, but you wouldn't mind having the boy's strange fiery passion on board.

Though getting caught in it sounds much less appealing.

The End

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