This is definitely a first draft, and as such there will be continuity errors and typos along the way, so read and enjoy with that in mind! Let me know if this premise catches your interest, and if you would like further chapters.
Disclaimer: I'm currently dealing with chronic fatigue, so updates might not be as frequent as I'd like. That aside, I figured with how weird the world has gotten in the past month or so, now would be a great time to focus on something fresh and fun! Hopefully this gives you something to look forward to in these upcoming weeks as well.
All the best,
Your Fellow Wayfarer
P.S. For those who read Ember, life has gotten in the way of edits, but I'd like to complete them by summer!
THE TALE OF CADDIE LONGBURY
July 4, 1701
West Indies - small island port
"Ye can't keep it, Captain."
Golden light flickered through soot streaked glass, wavering over creased parchment and ink stains as the ships' lantern swayed above an oaken desk. A singular high-backed chair had been turned toward the cabin door—and, sprawled in the chair while bouncing one knee, sat a craggy-faced man. A ruddy greatcoat hung behind him on the wall, and a feathered tricorner rested near the maps.
Despite his bare head, he wore the imperious presence of a man well used to giving orders and quite unaccustomed to receiving them. His pigtail had been tamed by a faded headscarf, but a few black strands fell across his forehead, sticking to sun-browned skin. An angry red gash stretched from his left cheekbone to his chin, and appeared to have been recently cleaned and scabbed over. One eye squinted slightly, as if in pain, and he peered across the cabin at the man who had spoken: a sandy-haired sailor in torn breeches and a dirty vest.
The captain made no reply; only continued to bounce his knee. The tiny girl who sat upon it rubbed a fist into her eye, reaching for the tattered feather with her free hand.
"There's a settlement on that island, Cap'n. Heed my counsel: we put ashore for an hour," the man said seriously, his brown eyes sharp and watchful. "Find a little family for the cre'ture, an' be on our way, quick as ye like."
The captain mumbled inarticulate curses, sweeping his hat from the desk and plopping it into the little girl's lap.
"Quick as ye like, eh, Hiram?"
Hiram wrinkled his nose and scratched the back of his head. "Oh, aye... surely... someone'll want it. Pretty little thing."
The girl sniffed and wiped her face with both hands, staring at the feather with shining eyes. Her face was pale and freshly damp with tears. For a moment, the only sounds were the ocean waves and the creaking of the timbers.
The captain grunted.
"She don't eat much."
Hiram shook his head. "That child be needin' a motherin' sort. We ain't got no place for such a little lady! An' that asides, the Josephine may be a handy ship, but she ain't grand enough to fit more'n our crew as it stands."
"Iff'n ye keep it, ye'll be goin' agin' the natural order of things, an' that's a fact." Hiram shifted forward, lowering his voice in a persuasive manner that was so exaggerated as to be comical. "Give the word, Cap'n, an' we'll drop anchor in the cove."
The captain ruffled the child's red hair with a great calloused hand, squinting one eye and entirely closing the injured one. "We cannae send her off amongst strangers," he mumbled, scratching his bristly chin, "wit' nuthin' but a goodbook an' the clothes on her back."
His officer hemmed, dragging his fingers through mussy hair. "She ain't our burden, Cap'n—beggin' yer pardon. It's a shame—all of it, a damn shame—but we can't keep them as can't earn theirs."
The captain swiped a half-empty wine bottle from the desk as a swell rocked the ship and the lantern sputtered. He turned it over in his hand, and then took a long, gulping draught. The child paid no heed to the bottle, but curled her fingers around the edge of his shirt and rested her small head upon his shoulder, tear tracks shining on her face.
With a beleaguered sigh, the captain thunked the bottle on the table and passed a hand across his mouth, forehead furrowing. The walls creaked around them, and the tall ship uttered a rattling groan as a breeze puffed her rigging.
Then he muttered, almost too low to hear, "She came to me."
Silence fell over the cabin.
The Josephine glided past the island like a ghost, the wind in her sails, the moon behind the mast, and the ocean spray upon her bowsprit.
Have e'er ye been told o' the boucaniers
That sailed upon the blue and deep?
They were fierce an' feared an' they gamboled an' cheered
An' their bloody red flag made the bravest weep...
Thanks for reading!