Excerpt: Open Waters

The wind wrapped around Jane, salty and cold, caressing her like a lover and teasing her wild, golden, curly mane. She closed her eyes, allowing herself to indulge in its comfort and wash away the memories that dared whisper against her consciousness. The past was the past. All that mattered right now was the present and the future. And what a glorious future she imagined it would be.

With a smirk, she opened her eyes and barked, “Coll: speed?!”

“Steady at seven and a half knots, Captain,” the man’s voice sounded from port side, rising above the crash of the waves.

Jane took another look through her spyglass at the large galleon cruising beyond the bow of the Tantibus, hovering just below the horizon. She frowned. They hadn’t bridged the gap much since they started trailing the ship and the news was worrying. Considering the speed the Tantibus was traveling, she should have made excellent ground.

“Worth,” she called out, into the organized chaos of sweaty bodies below on the main deck. A well-built man, skin tanned by the sun, with a mop of dirty, brown hair, broke apart from the others, taking just three leaps up the stairs before settling in his place at her side. “Take a look,” she commanded, handing over the spyglass to her first mate and nodding her head toward the merchant ship. “Would you say she’s riding low?”

Worth took the device and brought it up to his right eye, pointing it toward their prize. “No, she doesn’t appear to be,” he stated after a minute, scowling. He handed her back the spyglass.

Silence fell over them, with only the constant slap of the sea against the hull and the steady clamor of her crew ensuring the ship stayed on course and afloat filling in the background. She hummed in consideration and took another glance through the spyglass to ensure she wasn’t completely imagining things. Finally, with a sigh, she was forced to admit that yes, her suspicions were entirely correct, as usual. Why couldn’t she be wrong just this once?

Jane spun on her heel, facing the main deck. “Pull in the sails!” she shouted, gesturing to the men below, who paused and gazed up in confusion. “Bring her back around! North!”

“But Captain,” a voice—Coll—sounded from amidst the men about the main deck, “what about the galleon? The loot?”

“She’s not carrying. Nothing but a decoy,” she stated coldly.

There were several groans of annoyance equal from amongst the crew. It meant extending their days at sea for another week or so as they chased down the true merchant ship and delivered the stolen goods back to their cache, and her men were already restless. They had been at sea for only a few days, but she had promised them a quick plunder, as the last port they’d docked at only housed them for a few hours. Not enough time for them to drink their fill or have a decent lay. Jane knew what her men needed and took great care to fulfill their desires, lest they decide having a woman as captain wasn’t worth it.

She’d sailed with at least half these men going on ten years now, through her first couple of years aboard the Tantibus and as she climbed her way through the ranks, and these last few years as she captained. There had been a rough patch in the transition, when the captain at the time had suddenly decided he didn’t much approve of her growing popularity and strove to throw her overboard on the standard notion that it was bad luck to have a woman aboard, despite the fact that she had been aboard his ship for years and he had displayed no concern towards her presence before. But she remembered that day fondly, as the crew turned on the then-captain, throwing their loyalties towards her instead. And once the man had been properly mutinied, the rest of the crew had argued over who should be his replacement. That was when Worth had spoken up, his voice booming out over the rest and nominated her. Yes, there had been some objections, but a majority seemed open enough to the idea that the notion passed. So, she’d found herself the newly-instated captain of the Tantibus and had been ever since.

Jane smiled at the memory. It hadn’t been easy, that was for sure, but Worth had been there to help her out every step of the way. He had been her first real friend aboard the ship—despite his intimidating size, he was in truth, kind-hearted, at least to her—and one of the few who hadn’t at one point or another, tried to proposition her like a whore. Of course, they all soon found that she wasn’t one they wanted to mess with. Worth, she trusted, but she knew if his goals ever swayed from her own, she wouldn’t hesitate to let him go. This was not a profession one could afford to be merciful and caring in. For now, though, they were aligned perfectly.

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