I was late afternoon when Virginia awoke the next day, balled up on the floor with squashy pillows and a thick blanket (she suspected Captain Graham has places these things strategically in the room before her "arrival"). As she came to her senses, Virginia's heavy eyes opened to bright rays of sunlight streaming through the dining hall's large window; she also became aware of the fact that her entire body felt as it were made of rigid wood.
The toll the previous night had taken on her body was surprising. For Virginia, even after many hours of slumber, she felt more exhausted than she had ever felt before. Her body ached for more sleep, and her muscles were severely sore and knotted. Her ears, and curiosity for that matter, wouldn't allow her to quench her thirst for sleep.
Sitting up, Virginia's eyes searched the room, and her ears prickled- listening carefully. Hushed voices were filtering into the room from someplace close; quiet enough for some words to be lost and distorted, but loud enough to wake the trained ear. Virginia, normally a heavy sleeper, supposed her senses were still heightened from her exciting night before.
"Nonsense, he's… doesn't know… dangerous…" The muffled voice of a man said, making Virginia wonder as to what he was saying fully.
Getting up from her self-made bed on the floor, Virginia paced the room with feather-light steps, trying to find where the voices may be coming form.
"You… what… about it."
The voices got softer as she moved to the left.
"Bloody… course… do…"
The voices got clearer as she moved right and forward.
Her eyes searched the walls and ceiling for holes or cracks. No luck.
"No one… found… crazy!"
As she moved, her ears picked up more and more of the words. The voices were like a map, directing her to their location.
One step forward. One step right. One step forward. Stop!
Virginia found herself standing on a large, richly colored rug, directly in its center. It was then that she realized that the voices were coming not from the walls or ceiling, but from below- directly below her.
Making no noise as she moved, Virginia crouched on the floor by the edge of the rug, and carefully rolled the fabric into a tube, revealing new inches of floor boards with every new turn. Half-way through rolling it, something peculiar revealed itself: a metal grate in the floor. She supposed they used it to ventilate the lower parts of the ship, but she had a new use for it.
On her knees, Virignia put her ear up to the grate, listening as the voices, much clearer now, floating through its grates.
"He's taking too much of a risk! Bringing us all across the sea to search for a child's folly," a man's voice said, hushed and angry.
"Child's folly?" the other man retorted, "We've found maps, Arn! We've found traces!"
"Oh, Pattou, not you as well? Maps don't always tell the truth! Anyone, honest or not, can draw a map!"
"So you don't trust him? You think he's lying?" The man's voice was low and horrified.
The first man, Arn, answered hesitantly, "No… nah… Graham's the most truthful man I ever known."
Pattou's words were strained, "Then why don't you believe him? He's never given us reason not to, Arn!"
"It's not him I don't believe… it's his ideas that are getting a little far-fetched is all." Arn responded vehemently, "Caves full of Mayan gold? Pyramids made of pure silver? There ain't nothing like that anymore! It's all been claimed or taken already!"
"How do you know, Arn?" Pattou inquired, "Even if we don't find what we've planned to, we can live off our spoils for Port Royal. We've got nothing to lose!"
"Nothing to lose?" Arn spat, "If there's nothing there then what happens? I'll tell 'yeh what happens! The men start getting antsy. They wonder why Graham brought 'em all the way for nothing. It's the beginning of a mutiny."
"No one would cause a mutiny," Pattou countered confidently, "Not a man in their right mind would revolt."
"Aye," Arn responded softly, "But what about the girl? What about her?"
Virginia's stomach flopped; assuming that by "the girl" and "her" the man named Arn was speaking about her.
"Captain has his reasons for her, whatever they may be. He knows what he's doing."
"How can you be so sure? Beatouk says that the naval captain is sweet on her. I know a bit about the British navy, son, and they'll have their ships on our trail in no time." Arn spoke, his tone grave.
"We've destroyed their best ships, and there's a wind coming form the west tonight," Pattou cried, "They'll never catch up, and even if they do… we could take them."
"It may just come to that, my lad," Arn spoke, "But let's hope they don't."
A large sigh came from one of the men's chest, and it seemed like there was nothing else to say or, for Virginia, to hear. Quietly, she sat up and rolled the rug back into its original position, making sure there had been no sign of movement.
Her timing proved to be just in the nick of time. Just as she stood, a loud jarring noise came from the door- and with a "click" of a key, the door popped open. Instantly, Viringia's heart beat increased, and her breath caught in her throat.
"Ah, you're awake." Captain Graham's voice met her ears before his face registered in her mind.
As he entered the room, he locked the door behind him. To Virginia, Captain Graham looked different in the daylight than he did the night before. Unable to pinpoint the change, Virginia decided to ignore it; no matter what he appeared to be, he was still her kidnapper, and he still frightened her.
"I assume you slept well," He said, his eyes running over the nest of blankets she had assembled on the floor, "and seeing as how you hardly ate any of the feast prepared for your welcoming last night, you must be starving. The cook will be bringing lunch shortly."
Virginia watched with suspicious eyes as Captain Graham approached her, his eyes assessing her carefully in the daylight, his eyebrows scrunching ever so slightly. As his eyes assessed from her tousled hair down to her bare feet, Virginia began to feel imposed upon, even though his gaze held no trace of lust.
"just what are you staring at?" Virginia asked, folding her arms across her chest- the only barrier she could manage.
"You," Captain Graham replied bluntly and without shame, "You're disheveled. It won't do."
Virginia felt a hot anger erupt in the pit of her stomach. She couldn't, however, bring her tongue to utter the venomous words she longed to say. She may have been furious with the man before her, but she wasn't stupid; she wouldn't compromise her promised "safety" with heated words and empty threats.
After finishing his examination, Captain Graham back away. Walking over to the large chair at the dining table he had sat in the night before. With his back fully to her in the chair, only his head could be seen popping out form the large wooden chair back as he sat.
"Sit." He commanded, just as he had only hours before. This time, too tired and angry to disobey, Virginia seated herself at the setting across the table.
The two individuals sat at the table in silence for nearly five minutes before a sharp knock came from the door, which opened to reveal a very rotund, balding man holding a large silver tray in his hands. Entering the room, the portly gentleman set the tray and its contents on the table, distributing every platter atop the tray onto the table in various locations. No words were said as the man set the table, placing eating utensils in front of both Virginia and Captain Graham. It was as if there was a rule that forbade noise while dining; even the silver was soundless as it was set upon the table. Once the table was completely decked out, the man left the room, giving Captain Graham a quick nod as he did so.
Without delay, Captain Graham removed the lids from the plates adorning the table, revealing such steaming croissants, a thick stew, custard filled pastries, and various vegetables. Virginia vaguely wondered how a sailing ship could accommodate such luxuries as fresh food, but brushed the thought aside, knowing that she wasn't on a regular pirate ship.
"Would you like some stew?" Captain Graham asked politely as he spooned himself a large serving of the pot of stew.
"I am perfectly able to serve myself," Virginia retorted quietly, with sharpness to her tone, "I'm not helpless."
Captain Graham smiled with amusement, "Oh, of that I have no doubt, but I must point out that starving yourself will not change the situation you're in."
"I am not planning to starve myself, and I have every intention of eating the meal your cook has prepared," She returned with poise, "I would, however, like to serve myself."
Captain Graham held out the ladle to the stew, watching as Virginia took it and served herself a bowl of the steaming substance, which was full of vegetables and meat. It reminded Virginia of what the cooks at Tranquility had once served her. Taking in a small bite of the soup, she found it tasted very good.
"You like independence then," Captain Graham identified, "Or are you merely strong willed?"
Virginia gave a heartless laugh, "I would hardly call serving myself food an act of independence."
It was a blatant lie, and Virginia knew it. This had been the first time she had served herself in several years. Usually, the servants and cooks at the manner dished out respective proportions of food to her. She couldn't even remember the last time she had poured herself a cup of tea. At Tranquility, and back in England, someone always did that for her. However pathetic it was, serving herself was quite thrilling, actually.
"I think you're lying." Captain Graham read her like a bold-faced book, a smug smile growing on his face, "But I'm willing to ignore the fact."
Virginia's cheeks turned red, and she focused her attention on her meal. It was unnerving and frightening how well he knew her when she didn't even know his name. Beatouk must have been a very good spy.
"Then again," Captain Graham considered aloud, "Women usually aren't independent, are they? Always relying on a man- or so I'm told that's how it is on land."
Virginia snorted slightly, "You're saying it's different at sea?"
Captain Graham nodded, carefully considering Virginia's facial expressions of disbelief and interest.
"What?" She asked derisively, "Do the mermaids help you in your work?"
A deep rumble of laughter came from Captain Graham's throat, the first genuine laughter Virginia had heard from his lips, "No, no… the mermaids are of no help to us."
"Women of the sea are different than those on land," he said, taking a large bite of a croissant before continuing, "They are self-sufficient creatures with skin that is as thick as leather. Many of the ones I have had the pleasure of meeting can do work better than most men."
"There are other women, then?" Virginia inquired, "Aboard this ship?"
"Dear God, no," Captain Graham answered, "its bad luck to have a woman on board a ship, but I have met a few sea-faring ladies in my time, each one more interesting than the next."
"If women are such bad luck, then why am I here?" She asked, her eyebrows rising slightly.
"You, Miss DeVereux, are a special exception," Graham answered, a tiny spark of hunger emitting from his eyes.
"And what, exactly, am I supposed to do aboard this hell-ship?" She questioned stridently, "Do you expect me to stay locked up in this room? Surely I will go mad."
"I am beginning to believe you already have," Captain Graham replied, leaning back in his chair, "But not to worry, you will have much to do aboard the Medusa."
"Like what?" Virginia asked skeptically.
"Oh," Captain Graham countered nonchalonly, "The decks are always in need of a good swabbing, and there are always clothes to be mended and help needed."
"You expect me to work?" She asked incredulously, "I am not your slave, Captain."
"But you are my captive, are you not?" He answered icily, "Remember what I said last night, Virginia, you do not want to cross me. Your safety aboard this ship is based on the cooperation you show towards my crew and myself. You are a guest here, not a mistress."
"A guest?," Virginia dropped her spoon with a clatter, "And what exactly are you? Certainly not a gracious host."
"Have I not served you two well prepared meals? Have I done any physical harm to you? Did I not provide you with a safe place to sleep? Or would you prefer to be starving, unguarded, and sleeping in the storage area?"
Virginia immediately bit her tongue, knowing that she had gone too far. She had momentarily forgotten her place on this ship. She wasn't held in any esteem aboard the Medusa. Her father's status did not buy her respect here. She had to remember that.
"I… I'm…" Virginia stuttered with what she was about to say, "Please, forgive me. I… I…"
"Forgot your situation?"
Virginia nodded; staring at her hands beneath the table, finding her appetite had abandoned her. No, the half-full bowl of soup before her held no appeal whatsoever. Neither did the still hot croissants or steamed vegetables. She didn't think she could stomach anymore food at the moment.
"You're done eating then?" Captain Graham asked curtly, setting down his own utensil and removing himself from the chair, "Well, if you've finished, I might as well show you to your room."
Virginia's head snapped up, "My room?"
"I have prepared a room for your use, seeing as how the dining hall isn't exactly a living space."
"Oh." It was the only word Virginia could think of.
"Come along, then."
Without waiting for her to follow, Captain Graham made for the door and was already halfway down the hallway when Virginia emerged from the room. Once again, she found herself trailing behind him, following him through the maze of short hallways and dumpy stairwells.
Virginia's mind was reeling as she trailed behind. She was going to have a room aboard the ship, and was going to have to work for the man in front of her. Despite the demeaning factor of the situation, a strange excitement was springing up within Virginia. She was going to be doing what she longed to do for the many years: Prove herself. In what ways she was going to prove herself she didn't know, but she was prepared to do so.
Okay, okay… it's been awhile, I know. I've just been so dang busy lately, and the writers block hasn't helped much. One review has said that this seems a lot like Pirates of the Caribbean, and I can't agree more. The movie was actually what inspired the story, but I'm really going to try and escape from the Pirates story… I think I've got something good cooking in my noggin. As always… REVIEW!