He’d take a vow of silence and murder ten kings before he’d let them scuttle the Defiance. As he doubted they’d wait for him to hunt down and slaughter ten kings, he’d better hurry. Dawn was not far off. He clambered aboard and walked to the center of the deck. Long and rapier sleek, Defiance stood against horizon, man, and sea daring anyone to take her down. The sky and sea let her be, and if he didn’t speak quickly, she’d strike down the foolish man who dared to set foot on her dark planks.
“You know those fools want to scuttle you in a few hours,” he said.
The sails unrolled and snapped forward. The cannon rolled forward to the ports, unloaded, but the message was clear. They can try.
“They call you a jinx ship. Cursed. No longer fit to be sailed. I say they’re right.”
The deck pitched, he stood firm. A line lashed his cheek, leaving a red welt.
Brandon raised his voice, “You don’t need anyone to sail you. You’re your own Captain. You scare them. They’re scared of dying.”
The ship bobbed on the swells. Brandon felt the ship lean in to listen to him. He’d fought in battles that turned the sea-foam red, he’d warred with men whose name brought nations to their knees, and if he’d still been somewhat sane the attention of the Defiance would have frozen his marrow. Instead Brandon’s blood fired and he dropped his hands to his sides and spread them palms out.
“I saw you in the harbor before I heard them whispering tales. I don’t care which of them are true. I don’t care how many men you’ve killed. I don’t care how many more will join them. All that matters to me is that when some man broke faith with you, you fought back.”
He stepped toward the quarter-deck and the slowly rocking helm. “And it wasn’t enough, so you lashed out and took vengeance on any man who crossed you. Death and Fire! Wasn’t that a kick in the ass.” Brandon’s eyes blazed and he paced the deck. “You’re the most gorgeous thing on the water because you stand up and fight. You never rolled over, turned to drink, disrepair, or dissolution. You never ran your hull into rocks and let them get away with the hurt they caused you. You never believed for a moment that you deserved one lick of bad fortune. You-”
Very clever. He could feel the scorn and anger in the interruption. But pretty words and sob stories will not save you. A loose line dropped in front of him and formed a quick noose, then unwound again. What do you want, dead man?
Brandon looked down at his hands. He put his back against the mast, and the fire went out of his eyes. “I deserve to be dead.” He shrugged and looked back toward the helm, his hand falling to the small dagger on his belt and he tapped his fingers against it absently. “My life isn’t worth the air I breathe, and my heart is a sorry pile of shards.” He held out the hand that wasn’t tapping the dagger hilt. “But I’m all yours if you want me.”
The sails billowed in the slight natural breeze. Why should I let you call yourself my Captain?
“Because you and I know it’s just an empty title. I know I’m not worthy of you.” He dismissed himself with a smile. “But I’m here, and I can hear you.” He shrugged. “If you find someone better, you kill me.”
I’m going to kill you one way or another.
Brandon’s fingers stopped tapping an idle tattoo on his dagger hilt. “Then do it. We can both be dead come dawn, or you can take me and we’ll make a legend that no one will ever forget. It is and will always be up to you.”
The ship lurched, and Brandon stood. The sails furled inching back into rest with the precision of a naval crew. A single line dropped and twined around Brandon’s neck like the caress of a lady’s hand.
You’re mine. Brandon tilted his head back and laughed. “By the stars and sea I am.” The line dropped from his neck and the door to the captain’s cabin swung open. The Defiance took Brandon’s offered heart and tucked it away far more carefully than he knew. But he would, one day.
My friend, over at buildingadoor is a thief! Click to read what she did with this first line. I must say I loved it.