Jacqueline stood in the crow's nest, looking out over the ocean that she longed to claim as her own. The girl’s long auburn hair blew around her face in fiery red curls, and her amber eyes shone as they raked over the waves, searching for anything of value. The wake splashing against the hull was music; a rhythm she had grown accustomed to like a lullaby, and now the splashing of the ocean waves was the only thing that could sing her to sleep at night, more than any actual song ever could. Years at sea changed a person, and Jacqueline had developed a swagger that stuck whenever they stopped at port to restock- a side effect of a life on the ocean.
“Jack!” Her gaze was drawn below, where a man- tiny from her height- was slowly struggling to climb the rigging towards her. “Jackie!” The girl in question grabbed hold of a rope and jumped from her perch, landing with a front flip. Her knee-high black leather boots were almost soundless as they reached the wood paneling of the deck, and she turned to face the man who had called her down in the first place.
"Aye?" It was Nicholas, which usually meant a long, boring lecture about something no one would ever care about. Nick was a real old salt- but never too old for the seas, he always argued whenever the matter of his age was brought up- with short white hair that grew in patches on his head and chin. He was sunburned- a trait that I found I could never possess, and what part of his skin that wasn't red was an uneven mixture between different shades of brown. He was mainly a cabin boy, though due to his age you couldn't call him so to his face without his old rusty dagger being shoved into yours.
"Cap'n wants ya," he said, grinning crookedly at her. As the captain's daughter, she was respected, but the old timers of the Courage had learned she was practically his son with how she acted. Playing cards and fighting like any man. She nodded with a small grateful smile, turning on her heel and walking to the Captain's Quarters.
As soon as she walked into the cabin, she had to shield her eyes against the harsh sunlight flooding into the room, not discouraged by the large red curtains blocking the windows. Her father was standing behind his desk, looking at a large map of someplace, his back to her. Her boots thumped against the wood flooring as she entered, the sound stopping as she did, her hands on the back of one of the chairs. "Jackie," he said in greeting, still not turning to face his daughter.
"You called?" she asked. He turned then, a smile on his face.
Thomas Law was a respectable man- even on sea his chestnut hair was trimmed and his face was shaved with a barely perceptible four-o'clock shadow to mar his jaw. His hazel eyes were twinkling with excitement, something that Jacqueline hadn't seen as often as she liked since her mother had passed. "I've found it, Jackie." He said, gripping the sides of his desk with vigor. She felt her lips turn down in a frown.
Her father opened his mouth, to respond, maybe to tell her something incredibly amazing, maybe to get her hopes up. She would never know. Because at that moment there came from outside the cabin a loud bang, as if from a pistol, and then a pain-filled scream that she was almost certain came from Samuel Duke, the helmsman. She tensed, reaching for the hidden knife in her boot before realizing she had left it in her cabin that morning. With a worried look to her father, she ran out of the door, Thomas right behind her.
What she found was chaos.
There were dozens of unfamiliar men on the Courage, brandishing pistols and cutlasses, and at once Jackie knew who they were. Pirates. She looked to her left and found their ship, attached with grappling hooks and planks, their Jolly Roger flag fluttering in the small breeze that had accompanied the day.
The crew- the Courage's crew- was being held at gunpoint, and one of the men, Duke, was lying on the deck, blood spilling from his no-longer-white shirt. Jacqueline clapped a hand to her mouth, not able to muffle the small gasp that left her lips at the sight. Her father was brandishing his rifle, the bayonet glimmering in the sun, behind her, and she was wishing again that she had remembered her knife.
The man who was obviously the captain stepped forward, sweeping into a low bow and then slapping his large tricorn hat back on his mass of black curls. His cutlass shone, and Jackie's eyes were inadvertently drawn to it. He smirked, and a gold tooth caught the light. "Ahoy there," he said, walking a step closer to where they were, at the stern. Thomas stepped in front of her daughter, who narrowed her eyes suspiciously at the pirate. "The Courage, eh?" He looked around the ship, as if inspecting it. "We're the Buccaneer's Rif'." He said, not pronouncing his 't's. Someone cheered. They ignored him,
"I've go'a say, you've go' a nice ship, here," he said, whistling appreciatively and looking around again, letting his fingers longer on the mizzenmast as he went, before letting the hand return to his side. He walked closer, looking at Jacqueline from behind her father. He smirked again, and she felt a shiver run down her spine at the venom in his dark eyes. "You've go' a lass," he said. "Hey girlie."
"Girlie," one of the men right behind him chuckled. The pirate next to him shoved his shoulder and he fell to the deck with a thud, jumping right back up with a small laugh.
"Your daugh'er?" The captain guessed, his golden teeth glittering as his smirk widened. Jackie's father nodded hesitantly. She could see his hands shaking as they gripped the rifle, and his eyes didn't leave the other man's as he moved closer.
"Who are you?" Thomas asked, his voice wavering slightly. The others probably didn't hear it, but Jacqueline did. She had learned to pay attention to those little things, those things that no one would else would.
The pirate chuckled, taking another deep bow. "Ah. My mis'ake. Flin'. Nathaniel Flin'. Cap'ain of the Buccaneer's Rif'." Jackie sucked in a sharp breath as she recognized the name. "You've heard of me." She shrugged, afraid to break eye contact. "Righ'." He looked up at her father, who was obviously trying not to glare at the man. "Who are you?"
"Law." Was the answer.
"'homas Law?" The man nodded. "Riiiiigh'." The word was drawn out. "Merchan'." Flint's eyes flickered down to the hold, and Jackie's heart plummeted. His hand moved to the brace of pistols strapped to his chest, and the next thing Jackie knew, there was a pair of pistols pointed at her father.
She gasped, gripping his arm, looking with wide eyes at Flint, whose smirk had disappeared. Everyone on board had tensed, and the pirates had pulled out even more weapons, if it was possible. "Drop the gun, Law," Flint demanded. A second later, the rifle tumbled to the deck. "Grea'. Wha' d'ya have on board?"
"Not much," Jackie's father replied, his voice surprisingly calm. "We were just going to restock as soon as we could find a port."
Flint nodded towards the hold, and two or three of his men disappeared down the stairs and into the blackness. They returned half a second later with bags, full of exotic spices. And rum. Jackie's blood ran cold as one of the bags was torn open, and the goods that her and her father made a living off of were spilled over the deck, some falling between cracks in the wood boards. She stepped forwards, but her father outstretched his arm, effectively stopping her from doing something she might regret. She had a temper that was all her own- her father was, and her mother had been, very collected in a crisis.
"'hank ye," Flint said, his smirk back on his ugly face. "Hones'ly." He turned to his crew, so Jackie couldn't see his face. "Ge' it all."
Never had Jacqueline heard of pirates acting so civilly. True, they had killed Duke, and they were raiding the Courage, but there had been no cannon fire. It was almost... civilized. Oh, she hated that word, but it seemed to fit. The pirates were acting civilly. Everything was going great until one of the pirates walked out of Jackie's cabin.
Gripping in his pudgy fingers the gilded chest of her mother's jewelry.
It was small enough to carry in both hands, chestnut wood with golden paint in numerous designs. Jackie was standing with the rest of the Courage's crew, right next to her father, biting her bottom lip as the pirates from the Buccaneers Rift, when she saw him.
And she pretty much lost it.
She launched herself at the man, barely being held back by her father, screaming all sorts of curses and threats. Flint almost looked amused as he looked at the girl- barely eighteen- struggle in her father's grip. He marched up to her, smirking, ripping her from Thomas' arms and holding her at arm's length. He had a small knife- tiny but sharp- in one hand, which he used to trace her cheek. He smirked as she flinched at the feeling of the blade against her jaw. "Wha's in the box?"
"My mother's.... please, don't.... it's all I have left of...." she hated the way she was begging, hated the feeling of being out of control. Of being at the mercy of someone else. Of being weak. He laughed, his chuckles causing someone else to do the same. He shoved her to the floor, pulling out his pistol.
"I's s'range, isn' i'?" he asked, his speech impediment making making everyone on deck strain to understand him. "I wasn' gonna kill anyone 'oday." He cocked the gun, pointing it at the girl, shrugging. "Oh well." He pulled the trigger.
Jackie flinched, squeezing her eyes closed.
Her dad cried out.
She opened her eyes.