“You don't even know her name? I can't believe you'd have the audacity to flirt with a lass without asking for her title!” She flailed her arms around for emphasis, shaking the rope ladder, “If I were that dame, I wouldn't have you, you dullard!” Then, in one instant, both of Captain Elden’s hands were in the air, and her body toppled backward, disconnecting her from the rope ladder’s cloaking abilities. Tension and discomfort coursed throughout her body along with the feeling of weightlessness. The thin air played with her hair, tangling it before her eyes like a blindfold as she fell, as if to alleviate the captain from the view of her frightful dive. Fortunately, by the tail of her coat, she was jerked upward, suspending her over one thousand feet above the ground and bringing her back into invisibility.
“I... gotcha,” grunted the prince.
“Don’t you dare drop me!” Elden yowled wildly, her hair bristling.
“Hush!” Tarin nodded towards an open port window right beside them on the side of the pirate ship. A chubby man with bandages wrapped around his forehead and his left arm in a sling who had been napping on a cot groaned as he got up and shuffled to the window. Only an arm’s reach away, the prince and his captain got an uncomfortably close view of the stranger. His face was severely bruised, like he had been in a horrible accident. Tattoos of mermaids and skulls and hearts proclaiming his love for his mother that covered his body, and the stench of month-old sweat wafted out of his room. Elden tried not to gag out loud.
The door behind the man clunked open, making the man and his invisible spectators jump, and a pudgy woman scuttled in, carrying a pot of steaming soup.
“Averett! What are you doing out of bed?” she cried, slamming the pot down on a table and ushering the man back to his cot. “It’s a miracle you’re even alive after that fall! I can’t believe a man would push you off the cliff like that! Do you know how lucky you are to have landed on the ship and not on a pointy rock at the bottom of that mountain?”
“Gilda, I’m fine! I… thought I saw something out the window.”
“All I see is the sky and a bunch of clouds. Now here, eat some soup,” she shoved a spoonful in his mouth.
Swallowing, he gasped, “That’s good!”
“You like it?” she grinned, “I made it myself. That was the first time I’d ever tried cooking before…”
“Why are you doing this? I… I helped kidnap you off that ship. I was the one who found you. I could’ve just left you there.”
“And then who would you have here to take care of you?” she gave him another spoonful and shrugged, “It’s not like I’ve seen any of your so-called crewmates volunteer. And besides, you’re the only decent fellow on this whole gloomy ship. I haven’t forgotten how you brought me that extra food that first night when I complained I was hungry.”
A sudden wind surged forth and smacked the two flies-on-the-ladder against the hull of Kronos' Revenge with a loud KLUNK! Startled, Gilda leaped to her feat, thrusting the bowl of soup into the man called Averett’s good hand, and stuck her head out of the window to peer around, but seeing nothing, she closed the glass panel and returned to nursing the man with a broken arm.
“That was close,” Tarin sighed, loosening his stiffened muscles. The captain began slipping from his grasp, and he had to tighten his fist quickly. “Oh, sorry,” he grimaced.
“Why... you…” she growled.
“Don’t worry, Elden. I’m not going to let you go.”
Flushing, she baulked out, “Just get me back onto the dread-bolted ladder.”
“Were you born without a brain in that thick head of yours?” Captain Stirling declaimed when they finally returned to the deck of Azure Conquest and disabled the ladder’s invisibility function, “You sure could have used one when you practically dropped me to the world below! Oh, wait! I forgot. You did have a brain once, but you left it on top of the sun-fogged, tallest mountain in the world with a fawning heifer whose name you can’t even remember! No, I’m sorry, you’d at least have a chance to remember if you’d had asked her in the first place! And if you had only been focused enough to not lose your thoughts to that elf-skinned harpy-girl, you might have considered placing the fobbing CGTD on the enemy’s ship, and I wouldn’t have had to venture off with you unannounced and nearly fall to my death in the process!”
Withstanding the sharp poison darts being flung from the crossbow of her mouth as if they were mere downy feathers from day-old hatchlings, Prince Tarin persisted to hold a smug grin. With arched eyebrows he matched her crossed-arm stance and tilted his head, “You’re done already? I must say, your rants usually last much longer.” This won him a three-second glare before she turned away, sorely scowling. Shrugging, the nineteen-year old prince pivoted on his heel and sauntered away.
Elden’s head whipped around against her will, her eyes following his every step. Snapping them closed like window shutters in a dust storm, she bit her lip, aiming to stop the words in her throat from bubbling out. She failed. “Tarin, wait!”
The sound of his black leather boots boomed in her head as he returned to her, but she dared not reveal her pupils. “Yes?” he sniggered, both of them knowing full well that she had broken her own code of conduct dealing with the addressing of people of eminence. She stared down at her own sable boots.
“Thanks.” Her voice was gruff.
Stooping down, he whispered in her ear, “You are very welcome, Captain Stirling.”