Eye of the Needle
Matthew softy stepped into the
room, finding his captain sitting behind her desk, clenching a notepad between
her hands. "Lara, I…"
"You let the prisoners out…" The low voice stated dangerously, cutting of his sentence.
"I forgot she was there." Matthew quickly added. "Normally she's not there on my shift Lara, I don't…"
"You let the bloody prisoners out!" Lara's voice snapped. "Idiot ! She didn't have to know !"
Matthew crossed his arms. "She would've had to know sooner or later Lara."
"But not now!" Lara snapped, then she sagged back in her seat in defeat. "Not now…"
Matthew sighed. "Look, Lara…"
"Get out of here Matt."
Lara's blue eyes narrowed at him. "Go, now, before you end up as shark food." She managed in a calm tone, then she turned her chair, staring out through her window at the wide open seas.
The second in command looked at her back for another moment, then turned, to see Mary standing in the doorway. "I'm sorry to disturb you." She said softly, stepping further into the room. "But the girl, Cathy, she's sitting in the convict cells down below and she won't come up on deck anymore… She said you knew about it, so I just wanted to ask…."
Lara supported her head on her hands, staring at the waves for another moment in silence. "Lock her up." She then stated, not turning around. "She's a convict, it's about time we started treating her like one…"
"Aye captain." The woman stated, then turned and walked out of the room, quickly followed by Matthew.
Cathy looked up to see Richard standing before her and managed a smile for him. "Hi Richard. Good to see you well."
The man just pulled the girl into a hug. "God, lass, we thought you'd died… John told me about the English bastard that did this to ya… I'm so sorry lass." He pulled back and looked at her. "You're looking much better now. They must 'ave taken good care of ya up there."
Cathy managed a non committal grunt, then sat down on one of the benches, closing her eyes. Her senses were on overload, picking up all the sights and smells she had so dreaded before. The damp smell of the hull, the dark interior with rows and rows of benches. This hull was a bit different then the other one, better, she had to admit, but it was still the same… The same feeling she'd had before… Captivity….
Chains rattled and the convicts that had gone up before were led down again. Mary opened the cell door and the ten man stepped back inside, before their chains were removed. Ten more were chained then lead upstairs.
"Catherine. What 're ya doing down 'ere? What happened?" John asked, kneeling down next to her and looking up inquisitively.
Cathy managed a smile. "The special treatment was over I guess…"
"What happened to you after we were boarded?" Richard asked, putting a hand on her shoulder. "John just told me ya were carried off by some woman wonder and then ya just disappeared for days."
Cathy took a breath, pushing her emotions back down. "I… I'm a bit tired right now, guys… Would you mind if I told you later…?"
Richard shot John a look, then smiled at the girl sitting next to him. "Sure lass, that's orright… My blanket's there in the corner, you can lie on that if you want."
Catherine blinked at him. "You have a blanket?"
"Yeah," John smiled happily. "A blanket, fifteen minutes up on deck each day, three meals every day… A bloody London hotel room couldn't compare with this lass. If it'd only stop bouncing up and down on those blasted waves… "
Cathy smiled, then walked over to the blankets. She curled herself into a ball, fighting back her tears. 'Stop it.' She told herself. 'This is nothing, right? Just another person who lied to you, deceived you… Happens all the time, right? It means nothing. She means nothing…' Another shaky breath as she rubbed her eyes and desperately tried to pretend she was sleeping.
"She ain't sleeping."
John gave his friend a look. "I know…"
"What's up with her anyhow? She's acting very strange… And she looks so healthy, I can't believe it…"
"I know." John stated again, leaning back against the wooden hull. "I got no idea what 'appened up there Richard, but it was mighty weird I can tell ya. First she comes walking up to me, all shocked for some reason. Ask me if I'm locked up. So I say sure… Then she just walks off, and waltzes into the captain's quarters and starts yelling at her!"
Richards eyes widened. "She yelled at that woman? Lemme get this right, we're talking about the well muscled, black haired, utterly gorgeous but very scary personality that came striding in here a few days back, now ain't we? The one that lifted that sailor off his feet and didn't even blink?"
"Same one." John nodded. "Couldn't believe it… Well and then she strode outta there and ended up here…"
"Weird…" Richard muttered, staring at the huddled form in the corner. "I just wish she'd tell us what happened Johnny…"
"She will when she's ready." John stated. "Whatever happened, she looks the better for it. She'd 'ave been dead by now if it wasn't for all of this…"
Richard nodded quietly.
Lara stood on the stern, letting the slight drizzle wash over her. A thunderbolt shot down, illuminating the dark black waters for a short moment.
Lara looked up and saw her skipper standing beside her. She raised an eyebrow at him.
"You've seen it, right?"
Lara looked ahead of her again, staring at the barely seen light flashing in the distance. "The lighthouse… Yeah, I see it…"
"We've entered the Eye…" Tom stated, looking at the quiet face next to him. "Capt'n, Mr. Matthew needs to know what to do… He asked me to come and ask you…"
Lara nodded, then turned back to face him. "Tommy, get the crew together, will ya… I need to have a word with all of you."
Tom gave her a brief nod. "Aye capt'n."
"All right, you all know the situation." Lara stated as she sat down on the bed of one of her crewmen. Most of the crew was huddled around her, a few had remained outside to man the ship. "We're being chased by a big warship, loaded with about ten cannons, that storm is gonna hit us any moment now and we're nearing the eye of the needle…" The captain crossed her arms. "Basically this is not looking good… And right now, I only see one way out…"
"You want to sail the Eye with this weather?" Mary asked in disbelief. "Captain, larger boats have sunken there with better winds… The chances of this ship making it through are.."
"Minimal." Lara finished her sentence. "But it's either that or be captured by the governor's war vessel… If we get captured I'll be executed and all of you will probably be locked up or set to work." Lara let her eyes drift over the men and women standing before her. "You all realize that right…He's not just gonna let us walk…" A breath. " But this is not my choice, I realize that. Either we're all in this, or we're not… It's your decision…"
It was quiet for a moment, then Tom walked over and patted his captain on the shoulder. "That ain't even a choice, now is it cap. We ain't gonna let you die and I'll go to hell and back before I'll let the governor tell me what to do…" The crew muttered agreeing words and nodded. Lara smiled and looked up and them. "Thank guys, I really appreciate this… And I promise I'll do everything I can to get us through this…"
"Of course ya will cap… Now let me go to sleep, OK?" Tom stated, giving her a light shove. "We hard working sailors need to get some rest."
"Right." Lara chuckled, then stood. "Good night everyone."
"Night capt'n." Voices muttered as sheets ruffled.
Lara turned and saw Tom exiting the room behind her, closing the door quietly. The skipper looked up at her. "I was just wondering… Is.. I mean, I know it Ain't none of my business, but.. is the girl gonna stay down below with the others?"
Lara looked at him for a moment, then dropped her eyes. "Yes she is…"
"Oh…" Tom muttered. "Too bad… she is a nice girl, she is… She… she really liked you cap…"
Lara managed a weak smile. "Not anymore Tommy…" She gave him a pat on the shoulder. "Go get some sleep Tom, it'll be tough sailing tomorrow…"
The skipper cast his eyes down and nodded. "Aye capt'n…"
Lara slowly walked over to the bough, the wind blowing her hair in all directions. The rain slashed down savagely, making thick raindrops slide down her face. She leaned over the railing, staring at the faint light in the distance as the waves shot up around her. She closed her eyes and felt the boat jump up off one of the higher waves and crash down again, making the salt water splash up in a loud roar.
Soft footsteps sounded behind her, then Matthew awkwardly cleared his throat.
Lara cast a glance sideways, then looked ahead of her again. "Don't bother Matt."
The second in command stepped closer, not saying a word.
"As far as I'm concerned, this is over." A breath. "We've got a tough ride ahead, let's focus on that, OK?"
Matthew nodded softly. "OK." He turned away, then changed his mind and turned back. "You should go inside Lara, you'll catch a cold standing out here…"
The captain remained where she was, not moving a muscle. "I'll turn in in a minute…"
Matthew bit his lip, then nodded quietly before turning and walking towards the stern.
Lara stood silently for a few more moments, letting the thick raindrops wash over her, then she removed a notepad out of her jacket and ripped out the first age, staring at it for a few moments before she closed her hand over the drawing, crunching it into a tight ball, before throwing it into the wind.
"Stupid piece of… darn it!" Tom muttered as he swept the wheel sideways, making the ship jump over a high wave.
Lara was barely able to hold on the rope she was hanging onto as the ship crashed down again. "Hold her steady, will ya Tom!"
"I'm trying, ain't I!" The skipper shot back, gripping onto the wooden wheel tightly. They had been sailing further and further into the eye of the needle and with every mile they advanced the waves seemed to be growing more restless. The water was splashing up around the ship, causing the boat top crack dangerously from time to time. Lara had been running around the whole day, tying down sails and fastening ropes to prevent the ship from capsizing. Now she looked up to see the skipper pulling on the steering wheel with all his strength, obviously tired of the hours and hours of endless concentration. She took a breath, then walked over to the stern, grabbing onto the wheel. "Go on Tom, I'll take care of this for a while."
Tom gratefully released his grip, then hastily took hold of the railing with both hands to keep from being blown blowing straight off the ship. "Nice and windy today, ain't it cap?"
"Oh yeah, just great." Lara muttered, turning slightly starboard. "Tom, I need you to go down to the hull. Get Ron and bring the prisoners their meal. Explain the situation, OK?"
"Gotcha." Tom nodded, then pulled himself down the stairs against the howling wind.
"Come on Cathy, it's gonna be orright. Hang in there." Richard said reassuringly, softly rubbing the girl's shoulders. The herb's she'd taken the day before had worn off and her stomach had rebelled against the motion of the ship. She'd also told the two men the story of how she'd spend the last few days, which hadn't made her feel much better. Now she was huddled helplessly in John's arms, trying very hard to keep her breakfast down.
The door smashed open and two people entered, carrying several plates. Tom put his down on the stairs, then pulled with all his strength, barely managing to close the wooden door behind him. "Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, lunch is served." The skipper stated cheerfully as he handed several plates into the first cell. "Apologies for the weather, it can not be helped. At the moment we're in very tricky waters and with this storm raging on it ain't easy sailing." He explained, moving on to the second cell. "So we'd like you to just remain quietly, OK? We…" His sentence ended abruptly as he spotted a blond haired, greenish looking figure. "My god, Cat, that you?" Green eyes flickered up for a moment and managed a very unconvincing smile. The skipper didn't hesitate for a moment and opened the cell door, striding inside and dropping to his knees in front of the huddled figure. "God, girl, you look horrible."
"I feel horrible." A breath. "But it'll pass. My stomach just doesn't like waves much, that's all." She managed before another wave of nausea hit her. She closed her eyes. "Darn…"
"Poor thing." Tom muttered softly, stroking an errant lock back of the girl's face. "I guess you won't want any food right now huh?"
Her stomach growled at the mentioning of the word alone. Cathy softly shook her head.
"I'll just put it down here for you, OK?" The skipper softly patted her cheek. "Hang on Cat, it'll be over soon."
Catherine only managed a nod as she forced down a wave of nausea.
Tom shook his head, giving the girl a worried look, then placed her plate in front of her feet and stood quietly, handing the other captives their meal.
Cathy stared down silently and watched the plate of food bouncing across her line of view. A huge wave hit the hull with a loud splash, causing the water in the wooden cup on the floor to spill. The liquid splashed over the floor, tiny flakes drifting on the surface… Cathy's mind stopped… Flakes?… In a sudden motion she lifted the cup, glancing inside to see tiny green herbs mixed in the water.
With a loud thud the wooden mug slammed onto the floor, water splashing in all directions. Tom's head shot up, to see Cathy shakily standing in her cell, pointing a finger at him. "You tell Lara…" She managed before taking a shaky breath. "to stuff her medicine and stay the hell out of my business."
John had stood and reached out a supporting arm, but the girl savagely pushed it away. "Tell her I don't want her help." She snapped.
The skipper blinked. "But…"
"Just tell her…" Fiery green eyes returned, staring at him intently.
Tom looked at her for another moment, then just nodded and handed the last plate to one of the prisoners, before striding out and up the stairs. The door crashed open on his way out.
"She said what?!"
Tom sighed. "She said you shouldn't meddle in her business."
Lara shook her head in annoyance. "That stupid piece of…"
"She very angry cap…"
"I'm only trying to help for crying out loud." The captain stated, turning the wheel savagely to keep the ship steady on the high waves.
The skipper took a breath. "You want me to try to talk her out of this? I could just…"
"No." Lara interrupted him firmly. "Take the wheel Tom."
"What the hell do you think you're doing?!"
Cathy's head shot up at the sound of the familiar voice. She quickly stood, forcing her stomach to calm down. "What am I doing?! Ever ask yourself that same question?!" She shot back , trying to calm her shaking limbs.
"What I do is not at discussion here." Lara retorted, stepping into the cell. "You are sick, you need medicine."
"Not from you I don't." The girl stated, green eyes looking at her defiantly.
"Would you just shut it! Don't be stupid Catherine!"
"I don't want any special treatment."
Lara threw up her hands. "You're not getting any. Look around! None of these people are in the state your in. You need this." She stated, lifting the mug she'd been holding in her hand. "Or you'll puke all over the place and one of my people is gonna have to clean it up. I just can't spare anyone right now."
"I don't want your help."
The captain drew an angry breath. "I don't have time for this." She told herself more then the blond girl in front of her. "Drink it, or don't. What do I care?" She stated, pushing the cup into Cathy's hands. "We've got some rough weather ahead, and if you wanna annoy your friends here by lying in the corner being sick, then you just go right ahead." Lara snapped, then turned, making the cell door crash shut behind her.
Cathy looked after her for a few moments, then grumbled, lifting the cup overhead.
"Oh no ya don't." Richard muttered, quickly grabbing the cup from her hands.
"Don't be foolish Catherine." John stated, wrapping an arm around her and guiding her back to her seat. "She's just trying to do you a favor."
"I don't need any favors from the likes of her." Cathy growled, sitting down and shaking off John's hand.
"If not for her, just do this for us, OK?" Richard asked pleadingly, extending the mug towards her. "We don't wanna see you suffer through this all again lass… Please…?"
Cathy shot a glance at the both of them for a moment, then grudgingly took hold the cup, staring at the drifting flakes for a moment, before lifting the mug to her lips and swallowing the mixture down.
her muscles relaxed again. Even the herbs were not strong enough to stand up
against this storm, but Cathy had to admit she did feel much better. She sighed
and leaned back against the hull, staring up at the dark ceiling quietly.
"Feelin' any better?" John asked.
"Yeah…" The girl muttered, not looked down.
They were quiet for another moment, then John took a hesitant breath. "Why're ya so mad at the woman?"
Green eyes met his. "Why?! Cause she's holding us prisoner of course."
"She treats us well… Cathy, ya can't expect the woman to be some kind of saint, she…"
Cathy leaned closer. "She made me believe she saved us. I thanked her over and over again for setting me free and she said nothing. She lied to me."
"She 'asn't lied." John argued. "She just didn't tell ya everything, that's all…"
"That's the same thing."
"No it aint… Look Cathy, she aint a bad person OK?"
Cathy's eyes flashed. "How can you say that? She holds you in cells, she wants to sell you for crying out loud, and you say she's not a bad person?"
"She feeds us well, she gives us all we need… You know that no one has died since we've been on this ship?" He gave the girl a look. "No one. No one was beaten, no women were taken, nothing like that 'appened 'ere… Maybe we are still slaves, but at least we're treated with some respect here…"
Cathy glanced down. "That doesn't change anything…"
"Doesn't it?" John asked softly. "I think it does… If it hadn't been for her a lotta people would've been dead now… You would've been dead… Cathy, she could sell me to Satan for all I care, and I'd still be grateful for that…"
Catherine fell silent for a moment. "You don't mean that…"
"Hell yes I do…" John stated. "You know, when I heard what she did to that sailor that beat ya… God all mighty, I know it's a sin to take pleasure in other's suffering, but was I ever pleased, I tell ya."
Cathy blinked. "What?" John looked up at her. " What happened?"
"Don't ya know lass?" The older man asked in surprise. "She came in here… bout three days or so ago… Picked the redhead up and beat the stuffings out of 'm… He never came back down 'ere…"
"Oh my god…" Cathy managed… "She.. she killed him?"
John shrugged. "I'm not sure, but that Tom fellow did say he aint never coming back…"
Cathy just sat there and stared into the nothing. Word's echoed through her head 'I'll take care of things… Don't worry, OK?' And then she'd heard that hard thump later that evening… And Lara's grumbling voice… "Oh my god…"
"T'bastard got what he deserved if yer asking me." John stated next to her. "That taught those other bastards too ya know." He pointed at a cell at the far end of the hull. "Them sailors haven't said a word since that night…"
Cathy softly shook her head. It didn't make sense… he would've been worth much more alive.. far more than her… Why would she…?
"Lass? You orright?"
Cathy blinked, then looked up. "Yeah… yeah, I'm fine… Just thinking…"
A loud cracking sounded as a huge wave smashed into the ship. Cathy barely managed to hold on to her seat. "What's going on here?" She muttered.
"Don't know… But it's pretty lousy out there…" Richard muttered, as he pulled himself off the floor again. "If this keeps up this ship'll never hold…"
Lara pulled with all her strength to hold the rudder in place. The storm was now raging at full, swiping the waves in every direction. From time to time she could see the stone cliffs reaching up from the water. Another wave hit the stern, water crashing over the side of the ship and soaking her. She spit out the salty water and blinked, then focused on the sea again.
Matthew ran up the stairs. "Lara!" He screamed over the roaring storm. "We can't hold her much longer. I don't know if we'll pull through this!"
"We have to." Lara's voice rumbled back as she stared ahead intently.
Matthew sighed and was just going to speak again, when something caught his glance. "Crap!"
Lara spared him a glance. "What?"
Matthew stared intently at the soft light blinking in the distance, not more than a mile or so behind them. "We've got company."
"Shit." The captain muttered, as she edged the ship over another wave. "Of all the times…." She was silent for a moment, ordering her thoughts… "Matt, open the cells."
Her second in command blinked. "Excuse me?"
"Open the doors, make sure the prisoners can get out. Tell them to stay put, and that it's just a precaution in case something happens and they have to make a run for it… I don't wanna take them down with me in case we wreck… "
Matthew nodded slowly. "OK."
"And get Tom up here. He'll need to take over for a moment."
"Aye." Matthew nodded, before striding down the stairs.
A bang as the door smashed open again. Cathy looked up as Matthew and two other crewmembers came walking down the stairs.
"OK, listen up!" Matthew's voice echoed through the hull. "As you might have noticed things are pretty rough out there…" he continued as he put a key in the first cell door. "Just in case something happens we're going to leave these cell doors open. Stay in your seats here, but if water comes flooding in, get the hell out of here, OK?"
Muttering filled up the hull as the three men worked all doors.
"What's going on?" Catherine demanded as Matthew stepped near to their cell and worked the lock open.
The second in command gave her an annoyed look, then sighed. "We're sailing past the shipwreck coast… I think the name explains it all…" he stated, before moving on to the next door.
Catherine glared at him for a moment, then at the now open door… "Screw it…" She muttered, then darted for the door, running up the stairs.
John covered his eyes with his right hand. "She never does listens, does she…"
The captains eyes widened as she recognized the voice. She looked down from the rope she was hanging from to see the blond haired girl hanging on to one of the masts. "In the name of…" She muttered, then let go of the rope.
"Lara, where…" The sentence ended abruptly as a dark haired completely soaked menacing form blocked her view. "…are you…" Cathy finished softly, then straightened and regained her composure. "What are you doing! Is this ship going to sink?"
"It will if you don't get the hell out of here and leave me to work." Lara's low voice stated in a dangerous growl. "Get down the hull and stay there."
"So I can drown alive? No thanks." Cathy snapped back.
Lara threw her hands up. "It's dangerous out here, just think for a moment and get down there!"
Cathy's eyes narrowed. She lifted a finger and pointed it at the captain. "If you think…"
A huge wave lifted itself up and then crashed against the starboard side of the ship. The deck was lifted up and water poured over the edges.
Lara instinctively reached for something to hold on to, finding a rope dangling down from the crow's nest. She grabbed onto it with one hand and reached out another to where Cathy had stood. Fingers touched hers, then they were gone.
The water poured off the ship again. Lara foggily got up and looked around. "Catherine!" She screamed… No response. Then she ran for the side of the ship, grabbing onto the railing with both hands and peering over. For moments there was just the black water, surging up in sprays of white foam… then a hand poked through the surface, before sinking down again.
"Oh my god…" Lara managed, then, without thinking, she turned and ran for the stern, racing up the stairs.
Matthew was standing beside the skipper, both trying desperately to keep the ship on course and away from the rocks looming in the distance. Tom looked up to see his captain appear. "Capt'n, I…"
But Lara didn't even spare him a glance as she ran towards the small rowboat that was hanging off the back of the ship. She hopped in, then turned around to face her second in command, looking back at her with not-understanding eyes. "Matthew…" A breath. "You're in command…" And with that she drew her saber and in a flash cut the ropes the boat was dangling from.
"No!! Lara!" Matthew ran for the railing, but he was to late. He could just make out the faint outline of his captain before the rowboat plunged down into the dark waters beneath.
Lara grabbed onto the oars and started rowing.
A huge wave crashed over her, but somehow the boat managed to hold and stay
up right. "Catherine!" She screamed again as she neared the site where
she'd seen the girl's hand reach up from the water. As her ship sailed past
a huge wave edged up over her and then crashed down, making the rowboat flip
over. Lara managed to get a breath into her lungs before the boat pushed her
under the water surface.
The force of the wave sucked her body deeper into the water. She let the motion of the wave take over, knowing it was useless to struggle against the force of the sea. As she sank deeper she opened her eyes, blinking against the salt water. Everything around her was dark. She blinked again, focusing her eyes, until she finally picked up a shadow in the depths.
She dove deeper and deeper until she reached the girl's still drifting form and grabbed onto her shirt, then turned and made her way up to the surface as fast as she could.
With a splash she surfaced, pulling in a deep breath before another wave splashed over her. With a quick look around she spotted the small rowboat drifting not too far off and with all her strength she swam towards it, barely managing to keep Catherine's head above the water.
As she reached the wooden boat she dove under, dragging Cathy's body behind her until she surfaced under the upturned vessel. With one hand she grabbed onto one of the benches and lifted her head higher out of the water, pulling Catherine up with her. She held on to the still body with one hand wrapped around the girl's waist. Another wave lifted the boat up, sending it flying for several feet before splashing back into the salt water. "Catherine?" Lara breathed. "Hey, come on. Wake up." She slightly shook the girl, tightening her hold. "Wake up!" She insisted, as fear took hold of her. "You're not just going to give up, are you? Come on, you're tougher than that." Her hand found the girl's under the water's surface. "Hey, don't you dare leave me." She managed, squeezing her hand. For a few moments there was only the dampened sounds of the waves crashing on the bottom of the boat, then there was a short ragged intake of air, followed by a coughing fit. Lara held on to her as Cathy coughed the water out of her lungs, then pulled air into her lungs again.
Lara sighed in relief. "I've got you." She tightened her hold slightly. " I've got you."
The girl stirred, dazedly looking around, then looking up. Lara smiled at her. "Hey, you OK?" She asked before another wave lifted the boat up again and she had to use all the strength she had to keep the both of them holding on to the wooden bench. Cathy wrapped her arms around the captain as they both crashed back down again. "It's going to be all right, don't worry." Lara soothing voice whispered.
"So… So tired…" the girl managed, putting her head down on Lara's shoulder.
"It's OK." Lara murmured, patting her back. "Just sleep, I'll get us through this."
She felt a nod against her shoulder and moments later the body went limp in her arms again, but now she could feel the soft rhythm of the girl's breathing.
More and more waves came. Seemingly never ending the wind roared around their wooden shelter. Lara was just starting to wonder where they would end up at this rate when, with a loud crash, the boat smashed again something hard. The wood cracked dangerously, but somehow held as a huge wave pushed them up and send them flying in the opposite direction. Another crash as the force of the waves pushed them against another hard object. Lara grabbed onto the wooden bench , pulling Catherine closer. The next wave lifted them up again, then guided them down. When the wave hit it's lowest point something suddenly touched Lara's foot. Another wave and she felt it again, now a solid surface under her feet.
The captain smiled, then, as another wave made the boat drift up she dove under and resurfaced beside the wooden rowboat. In the dark she could make out the shadows of cliffs towering over her. A few feet ahead of her the huge waves crashed onto sand, sending white foam drifting up into the air.
Lara pushed herself forward, lifting up Catherine's unconscious body, and slowly made her way onto a small beach. The pull of the waves made her stumble, but she straightened as the wind and rain lashed against her face and strode forward, rising further and further out of the water until finally the sea roared behind her and her feet stood on the steady earth.
She drew in a deep breath, then scanned her surroundings. She was standing on a small beach, high cliffs on the sides. In the distance, through the fog of the down pouring rain, she could make out a small cave. She walked forward, the earth feeling strange beneath her feet.
The cave was merely a small dent in the stone wall. Large stalactites hang from the ceiling, the stalagmites below creating a small shield against the wind. Lara stepped over the stone and then bent down on the other side, softly placing Cathy's body on the dry sand. She straightened and ordered her thoughts for a moment, water dripping from her soaked clothes, then she walked towards the water again and dove back in. With strong strokes she swam towards the rowboat that the waves were still playing with and grabbed onto the bough, dragging it towards the beach.
Cathy shivered. Grudgingly her mind told her it was time to open her eyes, so she did, blinking the salty water off her eyelids. Confused, she looked around. She was lying on a beach, under a stone ceiling, a wooden surface blocking the wind she could hear slashing up the waves a way off. Beyond the wooden hull of the rowboat she could make out huge steep cliffs, towering up towards the still cloudy skies. Shaking her head, she pushed herself up, only to fall back on the sand, her head spinning.
"You shouldn't do that."
At the sound of the familiar voice, Cathy looked to her right to see Lara sitting huddled against the stone wall. She'd taken off the dark blue jacket she'd been wearing and her boots, attempting to let them dry in the strong wind.
"You all right?" The captain asked, moving closer.
Cathy rubbed her left temple. "Yeah.. I… What happened?"
A dark eyebrow lifted. "You got blown off the ship… Or washed off, really… Remember?"
Catherine closed her eyes for a moment, then she saw it again. Her and Lara on the deck… And then all the water… She'd fought it, but the force was too strong and it'd pulled her under… Then… "Oh my god." Cathy looked up into waiting blue eyes. "You saved me again, didn't you?"
Cathy sighed. "Darn it."
The captain closed her eyes and shook her head, then looked up again. "Well, remind me next time not to bother, OK?" She stated, pushing herself back towards the wall.
Flashing green eyes looked up. "Oh, don't worry, I will."
"Good." Cathy crossed her arms and rolled around facing away from the dark haired woman. She shivered as a sigh of wind blew past. Her clothes were soaked. She was soaked. Another blast of wind hit the bottom of the wooden rowboat, sending Cathy into a coughing fit. She wrapped her arms tighter around herself in misery.
Lara rubbed her cold arms as she spared a look for the girl. Catherine shivered, then coughed loudly, curling her body up tightly. Lara watched the girl for another few moments, then sighed and pulled herself closer again. "Look." she said to the turned back. "I know you hate me, OK? I understand that. But if we want to survive this, we'll have to work together."
There was no response.
Lara sat silently for another moment, then stood, walking over to where she'd hung up her jacket. It was still a bit damp, but at least it would give some warmth now. "Here." She muttered, walking back to the huddled form and kneeling down. "Wear this. Take off the wet stuff, you'll only get colder." She placed the jacket over Catherine's back, then took the few strides to her spot against the rock wall.
For a moment, the girl was quiet, then she moved and sat up slowly, obviously feeling some dizziness, but ignoring it. She looked at the jacket, then green eyes lifted and looked straight into her blue ones. "I don't understand you." Catherine stated, frowning her brows.
Lara shrugged. "That's all right. I don't understand me either."
Catherine stared at her for a few more moments then turned around and stripped off her shirt. The jacket was far too big, the edges dangling to her knees. She hung up her shirt where the jacket had hung, then turned. After a moment of hesitation she walked over to where Lara was sitting and dropped down beside her. They were both silent for a moment, staring ahead at the waves rolling onto the beach.
"This is a truce." Cathy broke the silence. "Not the end of the battle."
Lara glanced at the blonde for a moment, then returned her gaze to the sea. "I realize that."
Cathy nodded. "Good."
Silence fell again for a long time. Then Lara stood, letting the wind blow back her hair. The storm had stopped raging and the rain had been reduced to a soft drizzle, the still strong winds blowing the tiny drops in every direction. She looked down at the girl. "Thirsty?"
Cathy looked at her, then nodded quietly.
Lara walked to the edge of the cave, taking a handkerchief out of one of her pockets. She held it under one of the stalactites, letting the fresh rainwater drip off the stone and onto the fabric. After rinsing it twice she let water soak in, then walked back over to Cathy. She squashed the water out above Catherine's head as the girl opened her mouth.
Catherine swallowed, tasting the sweet water as it rinsed the salty taste out of her mouth. Lara sat down beside her again, pulling up her legs and wrapping an arm around her knees.
"We have to get out of here before there's no more rainwater." The taller woman commented quietly.
"Is there a way out?" Catherine asked, staring up at the high cliff's reaching up outside their small cave.
"Not an easy one, if that's what you're asking. As far as I can tell, there are two options: the sea, or climbing up there." Lara stated, eyeing the vertical cliffs. "And though I'd usually go with the sea, I don't think we want to push our luck with the salty waters."
"So basically you're saying we're stuck here?"
"I didn't say that."
"Lara, we can't climb those walls." Catherine said, staring at the cliffs. "It's impossible."
An eyebrow lifted. "Who said anything about 'we'?"
Green eyes turned towards her. "What? You want to leave me here?"
"I'm going to climb up there and go for help. You'll stay here until I get back."
"Oh no no no no." Cathy shook a finger at the captain. "There's no way you're going to leave me here."
"Catherine…" Lara growled.
"No. If you're climbing up there, so am I."
Lara sighed. "Don't be a fool."
"Don't you tell me what to do." Cathy snapped back.
"I'm not." Lara stated, forcing herself to stay calm.
"Than don't argue with me."
The captain closed her eyes for a moment, thinking, then sighed. "OK, OK… But if you cause me any trouble I'm going to drop you like a brick, got it?"
"Got it." Catherine nodded firmly.
"OK. We start climbing when the rain stops."
Another nod, then Catherine settled back against the stone.
Night fell and so did the rain. The tiny raindrops lashed against the wooden hull of the rowboat. Catherine sighed, looking into the darkness. They'd spend the entire afternoon in a tense silence, saying nothing but the odd word here and there. Lara stirred and brushed some off the sand off her still wet clothes.
Cathy eyed her for a moment. "Do you think they're alive."
Lara looked up, surprised by the sudden sound, then looked back at the waves again. "I'm not sure…" She stated quietly, watching the foam drift up into the night's sky. "But Matthew is a good sailor… He'd have gotten them through."
Catherine nodded. "I hope so…" Another moment of silence. "What happened to the English sailor."
Lara's head shot up. "What?"
"What happened to the English sailor… the one… The one that beat me…?" Cathy asked again, not being entirely sure where the question had come from.
Lara swallowed, then regained her composure. "He went overboard."
Cathy looked down. "By accident?"
"Why?" The girl asked quietly, fiddling with one of the buttons on the blue jacket.
Lara considered the question for a moment. "He made me sick."
"Because of me?"
"Because of what he did. What people like him do. Did, to friends of mine. I don't like garbage on my ship, so I took out the trash."
Catherine's green eyes looked at her. "Just like that?"
"Just like that." Lara nodded, crossing her arms.
Cathy mulled on this for a moment in silence. "I don't think I like that much."
Lara turned towards her and raised an eyebrow.
"If you hadn't found me up on deck back then, he would still be alive, right?"
Lara shrugged. "Probably."
"Then I killed him."
The captain gave her an odd look. "Of course not. He took a tumble and became shark food. That had nothing to do with you."
"Didn't it? Can you honestly tell me that if it hadn't been me lying there the same thing would have happened?"
Blue eyes flashed up. "What kind of special person do you think you are? Do you think that it was just because it was you, the oh so talented Catherine of London, that I saved your butt?"
"Well, why did you then?" Cathy straightened. "There were lots of people down there that were ill, and you let them all be treated by your ship's healer, but not me. Why?"
"Because…" A breath. "Because… Because you were a mess, OK, and I was the better healer on the ship."
"The ship's doctor could have fixed me up though, couldn't he have?"
Lara stood, towering over her. "Why I do what I do is none of your business!"
"It is if you start killing people." Cathy yelled back, standing up as well.
"You have no right to judge me. You have no idea who I am."
Catherine threw up her hands. "So tell me!"
The captain stared at her for a moment, breathing heavily. Then she shook her head. "No." She grumbled, before turning and walking to a corner of the cave, facing the hard stone wall.
Cathy led out a breath. "Fine, so don't… What do I care?" She snapped, then knelt down behind the upturned wooden boat, lying down away from the wind.
She could hear Lara's breathing far off behind her, then there was the crunching of sand as the captain stepped closer, then sat down crossed legged behind her. "I didn't kill him because of you. I killed him in memory of someone you remind me off."
Cathy turned around, looking up at the bend face, hidden in shadows. Part of her wanted to ask her saviour more questions, but when she saw the look of disguised pain in the blue eyes across from her, she decided against it. "OK." She stated simply, then tentatively reached out and patted the captain's knee. "Lie down, get some sleep." She stated, before lying back down again and closing her eyes.
Lara regarded her for a quiet moment, then settled down as well, pillowing her head on her arm and letting herself drift off.
The sunlight woke her up the next morning. Blinking,
Lara opened her eyes, looking at her surroundings until her foggy mind shot
into action and reminded her of why she was here. She pushed herself up, then
winced as her tired muscles made themselves know. "God, I miss my bed."
She muttered, standing up completely and stretching, then looked up. The sun
wasn't that strong yet, but it had managed to squeeze itself between the gray
clouds. The rain had stopped completely now. Lara walked over and caught some
of the drops still dripping from the wet rocks in her mouth. Her stomach grumbled
from not having eaten in two days, but she ignored it. For a moment she considered
waking up Catherine, but as she looked down on the quietly sleeping form, quietly
curled up in her jacket, she didn't have the heart to. So she let the girl sleep
while she walked out onto the beach.
The waves were still restless, the wind toying with them constantly and tossing them in all directions. Lara watched the foam slide onto the beach time after time, then reside back into the salt water quietly. It calmed her, as the sea always had. Even back home. She remembered, every time she was angry with her mother, she'd just run outside and go to the small beach a mile or so from their house. And she'd just sit there, staring off into the nothing. When she'd go home she'd calmed down, and so had her mother and everything would be all right again.
She'd gone to that place constantly until she reached the age of nine. Then, with one swipe, all the magic the place had held had ended. She remembered the moment perfectly, when she'd come back from school one day, and found a strange man in their living room. And her mother was crying. The man had come up to her and said, that he was sorry, but her daddy was not coming home no more. That the sea had taken him.
Lara closed her eyes as that feeling of complete helplessness and anger washed over her again. She'd yelled at him, screamed that he was lying. Her father was coming home! He promised!
And then she'd ran, ran for her little spot to hide in. But it hadn't been nice there any more.
The sea was rolling forward and back, taunting her, laughing at her. Lara pushed her hands against her red eyes, trying so hard to stop the tears. 'You're my strong girl.' She heard her daddy say, the last time he was here and took her for a walk on the beach. He'd sat up on one of the small sand dunes, basking in the sun, and she'd sat on the beach, digging up the sand and building a castle. But as always, the sea had come and the waves had taken down the gates without any effort whatsoever. "Go away!' she'd yelled at the salt waters. "It's mine!" But of course the sea had ignored her and destroyed her castle completely. She'd sat there, pouting, as her father stood and stepped up behind her. "Lara?"
She'd looked up at him, her eyes staring at him sadly. "Daddy, the sea took my castle!"
He'd chuckled, then lifted her up and swung her onto his shoulders, walking a bit further away from the waves. "It doesn't matter, we can always build a new one… A better one. You and me." She remembered being so happy…
More sobs raced through her small body. But now it wasn't a sand castle. Now it all did matter, because she couldn't build a new one. She'd stood and ran towards the sea, kicking hard at the oncoming waves. "You give me back my daddy!" She'd yelled, as she'd grabbed at the water. "He's mine!" But the water had just sidled from her grasp, chuckling as it fell into the sea again.
Lara quietly closed her eyes, pushing back the painful memories. She hadn't forgiven the sea, ever, for taken her father from her, but it had drawn at her, pulled her, leaving her no choice when she got put on that convict ship.
She'd hated the waves so much, at first, but it had wooed her over, when she saw the sun set over the endless stretch of water, or when it would just calmly lie there, basking in the shimmer of morning.
"I won again." She told the waves, as they stopped and turned to roll back slightly in front of her. "Annoying, isn't it?"
The sea hissed at her, and she chuckled, stepping forward slightly into the wet sand and letting the waves slide passed her feet.
A soft stirring behind her made her look back and she saw Catherine's slender form standing up. In a final salute she bent down, splashing some water at the sea, then she turned, striding back towards the small cave.
The voice made her look up, and she saw Lara walk closer.
"Morning." She stated in a soft voice, still hoarse from sleep. "We start climbing today?"
Lara nodded as she stepped closer, touching her leather boots to check if they had dried. Obviously content, she sat down on the sand, pulling the leather over her bare feet. "You could still reconsider though." She stated quietly, not looking up.
Cathy crossed her arms. "Stop meddling, OK? If you can do this, so can I."
Another nod of the dark head. "OK, let's get started then, shall we?"
Catherine nodded back firmly, wincing as she leaned over and drank some of the water dripping down in front of the cave. Her body was not agreeing with the activities of the last few days. Her still not fully recovering, the nausea, the nearly drowning, it was sort of catching up to her. She ignored the tight muscles and the pains however and walked up to the patiently waiting Lara, who was staring up at the huge wall towering on either side of them.
Lara looked up as she stepped closer. "All right, I'll go first, OK? You just follow the exact path that I've taken and we should manage to get up there."
Cathy just nodded, gazing up now herself. It was so high, probably nearly fifteen times her own height. Fear pulled at her, but she just took a breath and straightened her shoulders, watching as Lara hopped up and grabbed on to a small gap in the rock wall, and grabbed onto it, placing her feet on a small ledge, slightly lower. Another step and she was up even higher, reaching for the next hold.
Another breath, then Cathy jumped up as well, barely reaching the small dent in the rock. Her feet found the ledge and she stood quietly, balancing then reached for the next hold. Another few small steps, then she spotted the next hold Lara's taller body had managed to grab onto. Finding her balance, she reached out… Bit a gust of wind brought her out of balance, and her hand flailed up, grasping for anything within reach to hold onto.
For a moment she felt herself falling, then it stopped as a warm touch wrapped itself around her wrist. She looked up to see Lara holding onto her with one hand, grasping onto an outcropping with the other. The woman had closed her eyes and was clenching her teeth, using all her strength to hold onto to her.
Cathy glanced down, then back up again at the concentrated face. "Lara. Let me go."
"No way!" The captain managed from between clenched teeth. 'I'm not going to let you fall!"
"Lara, I'm hanging two feet above the ground, I think I'll survive the drop."
Dark eyebrows frowned, then Lara opened her eyes and glanced down, seeing the sand far closer then she'd expected it to be. A sheepish grin crossed her face, then she let go of Cathy's hand, watching as the girl hopped on the ground softly, then turned to look up at her with a raised eyebrow.
With a soft chuckle she let go as well, dropping a few more feet before hitting the sand with a soft thud.
Cathy looked at her, a small smile crossing her lips. "Drop me like a brick huh?"
Lara just chuckled softly, dropping her eyes before looking up again into grinning green ones.
And something settled down inside of her. A quietness she'd missed for so long. And as she searched Cathy's eyes for a moment longer, she could see the girl felt it to. Then the green eyes dropped away, and she diverted hers, finding the steep wall to stare at. "Well…" She broke the silence. "I may have made myself look like a complete idiot right now." A soft chuckle from beside her. " but the fact remains that if we'd been up any higher, we'd have been in a lot of trouble."
Smiling green eyes turned serious. "You're not going to leave me here."
Blue eyes turned her way, then smiled. "I told you I wouldn't, right? But I don't think you're body is up for this sort of a challenge yet Catherine. And as I just proved I can hold on to the both of us pretty well…" A grin. "Want a ride up?"
Catherine frowned. "What do you mean?'
Another chuckle as the captain turned around, then reached her hand up and patted her own back. "Hop on."
Green eyes blinked. "Are you sure? It's so steep and…"
Lara crossed her arms, then looked back over her shoulder. "Do you want to get up there or not?"
Cathy looked at her for another moment, and then shrugged and jumped up, grabbing onto the captain's neck and settling on her back.
Lara walked over to the cliff wall, barely even feeling her extra burden, then looked back over her shoulder. "OK, hold on tight, OK?" She felt the small arms settle more securely around her neck and the girl's legs clamp down on her stomach before she jumped up and reached for the first hold once more, pulling her body up against the rock surface.
The climb was hard and tiring, but Lara fought herself up against the rocks and finally her hand reached a flat surface above her. "Catherine?"
"Yes?" Came the instant response from behind her.
"Are we there?"
Catherine turned her head up then nodded against the captain's back. "Yes, we're there."
"Good, now listen to me, OK? I want you to climb up first, all right?"
Another nod. "OK." The girl stated, then a leg tentatively uncurled itself from around her waist and a foot was placed on her shoulder. Her head savagely got pulled back as an arm was wrapped around her forehead. Another foot on her other shoulder, then Cathy struggled to get up, balancing on Lara's head in the process. The captain looked up at the soles of the bare feet, but just sighed and refrained from any comments as she grabbed onto her holds more firmly.
The girl launched off then, and pulled herself up the last bit of the climb. Lara let out a breath, then twisted her head, popping some bones back into place, then reached up herself, pushing off the ledge she was standing on and managing to toss her torso on the flat surface at the top, then pulling her legs up as well, taking a few breaths before standing up and facing the strong winds. As she looked back, the sea was stretched out beneath her, flowing between several outstretched rocks.
She turned, then spotted Catherine's quiet form, facing away from her, her hair being blown sideways by the strong wind.
Catherine stood quietly, watching the endless coast stretch out before her. There was an open area leading up to the steep drop into the seawaters, and next to that thousands of trees, forming a dense forest, stretching as far as her eyes could see. A large white bird fought against the winds, letting out a shrill cry as he landed on a branch, before flying further into the forest.
She could feel Lara step up behind her, but she just kept staring at the country before her, untouched by anything, never seen before by any one else. She'd never seen anything like this. So many trees, so many colors. "It's so beautiful." She whispered, still staring in front of her in fascination, watching as the wind swept aside the branches and some leaves were pulled of, twirling up into the sky.
Lara watched her for a moment, smiling. She looked at her surroundings herself, then tentatively lifted a hand and laid it on the girl's shoulder, taking another step forward until she stood beside her. She looked down at the face, intently focused on every movement around her, watching everything in rapt fascination. "Welcome to Australia, Catherine."
"So, what are we going to do now?"
Cathy asked as they started walking along the cliffs.
"Well, there is this alcove we usually rest in after sailing the Eye on a bad day."
Catherine lifted an eyebrow. "Bad day?"
Lara gave her a look, then chuckled. "OK, OK, a really bad day."
Catherine shook her head but refrained from any further comment.
"Anyhow, this alcove is about a three days walk from here." Lara continued. "If Matthew pulled them through, they will be there, repairing the ship and waiting for us."
"How could he even know we survived."
The captain just let a grin cross her face. "He knows me. He knows I don't except defeat." A chuckle as the captain bent down and picked up a thick branches, then pulled a small dagger out of the inside of her left booth and started carving. "We probably should find some spot to camp out soon. I'm not that good at hunting, so it'll take some time for me to catch diner."
Cathy's head shot up "Diner?"
"Uhuh." Lara confirmed, as she hollowed out the bark with solid strokes. "Just look out for a spot that has some sort of water supply and we'll settle there."
They found a small waterhole some moments later and settled down under a large nearby tree. Lara walked over to the water and dipped her newly created bowl in, scooping up some water. "Here." She stated, walking back and handing it to Catherine. "Drink some."
The girl eagerly took the wooden bowl and gulped the water down, then handed it back. "Thanks."
Lara's face lit up with a smile. "You're welcome." She walked back to the edge of the waterhole, then drank some of the liquid herself. "Well, I'll try to see what kind of food I can find." She then stated, quietly. "Try to get some wood together to build a fire or something, OK?"
Cathy nodded. "OK."
"There's lots of wild animals around here. If something comes running at you, just yell, OK?"
"I think it'll be too late by then, but thanks for the warning." Cathy muttered.
Lara smiled, then unsheathed her dagger and walked towards the dense forest, disappearing between the trees.
Cathy watched her back for a moment, then stood, dusting herself off. She picked up some of the branches nearby and piled them on the grass. "Catherine the bush woman." She chuckled to herself as she picked up another branch. "Who would have ever guessed…"
"God, I hate hunting." Lara muttered as she watched another animal escape into the bushes. The only thing she'd found were some berries she remembered were edible, but the animals had not been willing to sit still long enough for her to take a good aim. She walked up and pulled her dagger out of the tree it had shot into. "Fishing is much easier."
She moved further slowly, trying to make as little noise as possible. Another few moments, then she reached small lake. Perched near the water's edge was a small gray creature, large brown eyes looking up as he heard a small crack from nearby. Lara froze, kneeling down softly. The animal looked around for another moment, then seemed to relax and bent it's head towards the water. A few sips, then a shooting pain shot through the animal as Lara's dagger finally found it's mark. A few gasps of air, then the creature lay still.
"Heh!" Lara chortled triumphantly, before emerging from the bushes and walking towards the water's edge, picking the gray animal up by it's long tail. "Sorry mate, but you just became supper."
A sudden scream filled the air and Lara's head shot up, then she took off, jumping over obstacles towards the edge of the forest. "Catherine!" Another few strides and she exited the forest… Only to bump right into Cathy who was trying to run in. The girl immediately hid behind the captain's back. "Oh my God, oh my God!"
"Catherine?" Lara asked, concern in her eyes. "Hey, what's wrong?"
"It's horrible!" Cathy managed. "It's huge and scary and it's in there!" She stated, pointing at a bush a little way off.
"All right, OK, calm down." Lara stated, hushing her, then she took a few steps towards the bush, Catherine following close behind. A few more steps, then a head suddenly emerged from the bush, cocking it's head and looking at her. It was a large dark brown head, furry, with large pointy ears and a dark black nose.
Lara looked at it for a moment, then looked back at the frightened girl hiding behind her. "That's it?"
The girl nodded eagerly. "Yeah, isn't it hideous?" She leaned closer, whispering into Lara's ear in a secretive tone. "It hops."
Lara looked at her for another moment, then burst out laughing, making the furry head quickly disappear into the bushes again.
Cathy indignantly looked up at her. "What's so funny?"
"This country is loaded with wild cats and wolves and I don't know what and you're scared of a kangaroo." Lara managed between breaths, hiding her face in her hands.
Cathy blinked. "A what?"
Lara's laughter wound down. "Kangaroo." She chuckled. "Look." She knelt down softly, motioning the girl down as well, and shuffled a bit closer. She pulled one of the berries from her pocket and tossed it towards the bush. A few moments passed in absolute silence, then a small brown creature tentatively poked it's head up, giving them an odd look. Another moment of silence, then he hopped closer, bending it's head down and nibbling the berry.
"See?" Lara said softly. "It's not scary."
The kangaroo looked up again, cocking it's head at Lara. The captain just shook her head at him. He scowled, then hopped off towards the bushes.
Catherine sat and looked after the creature for a moment, then straightened. "Well, I guess that makes us even on the looking like a complete idiot part huh?"
Lara chuckled as she put her catch down beside the small fire Catherine had made. "I guess it does." With some quick motions of the dagger she started to skin off the animal's fur.
Cathy sighed, then sat down next to her.
Lara pulled the berries from her pocket, then handed them to the girl. "Here, I got you an appetizer."
Catherine hastily popped some into her mouth. "Hmm." She smiled. "These are good."
"Glad you like 'm." Lara muttered, picking up a nearby stick and sharpening it, before spiking the small piece of meat onto it. "Well, it's not a lot, but it'll do I guess." She muttered to herself as she balanced it on a contraption of two other sticks above the fire.
They were both silent for a moment, as the meat roasted. The sun started to set behind them, throwing rays of dark red and orange across the landscape. Catherine looked up at Lara, who had picked up another piece of wood and was restlessly carving again, another bowl from the looks of it.
Catherine stared at her folded hands for a moment, then looked up at the dark head. "Thank you."
Blue eyes looked up and peered at her. "For what?"
"For jumping in after me. You had no reason to do that after what I said to you…"
Lara shook her head, looking down and continuing her carving. "You had every right to say what you did."
"No, I didn't."
"Yes, you did. Catherine, I know who I am… I know what I do is bad, and…"
Cathy shook her head. "When I was down there, in the hull… You did save so many of them from being raped or dying of hunger or disease. I was the only person down there that was angry for what you'd done…"
Blue eyes looked up at her. "Trouble is, you're the only one that matters." Then the dark head bend down again, slicing off another piece of wood.
Catherine looked at her for a quiet moment. "Why?"
The captain shook her head. "You don't want to know."
"Yes I do." Cathy insisted, then her voice softened. "Please?"
Lara's hands stilled, then she sighed and looked up. "You remind me of my brother." She stated quietly, looking into waiting green eyes. "He,…" A breath. "Mark was my younger brother. I talked him into stealing, when my mom got sick to feed the three of us. It went OK for a few months or so, but then I screwed up and we both got caught." Lara looked down again, then continued her carving, trying to calm her nerves. "We were put on one of the convict ships heading for Australia. Half a year or so we managed to stay alive. It wasn't good but we managed, you know?" A sigh. "Then one day, we went up on deck for some air. One of the sailors… he decided he liked me, and started to key open my chain." She shook her head quietly. "I don't know how he did it, but Mark had somehow pulled away from his chain and ran up, then elbowed the guy in the face."
Catherine watched as the soft light of the fire flickered over Lara's features. "They killed him?"
A soft nod. "He kicked him to death." Another breath. "I promised that day that I wouldn't rest until I had my revenge. When I was taken out of my cell that night and brought to the bastard's quarters, I pretended to play along with his game, then got hold of his dagger and pushed it into his heart."
The blood dripping off the dagger onto her hands. She looked at him with a savage smile as he gasped for another breath. "I hope you rot in Hell."
"I set the rest of the convicts free and we took over the ship. I made sure the deck was blood red that day. I wasn't satisfied yet though, and I promised to corner every single convict ship that came towards the Southern Continent to spite the English." A shrug. "So, there you have it. That's how I became the Curse of the Southern Seas." A self depreciative chuckle. "Nice story huh?"
Catherine watched her for a moment. "You loved him a lot, didn't you?"
Lara took a breath. "I killed him…"
"No, you didn't."
"I got us caught in the first place, I…"
"Hey." Cathy interrupted her. "I know how hard it is to survive, OK? When my mom got sick my two brother and I didn't have anything either, so I stole a bread from one of the merchants. I got caught when I tried again the next day. You lasted a lot longer than I did…"
"He died trying to protect me…" Lara said softly, gazing into the flames. "And I repaid him by becoming something he'd never wanted me to be." A quiet admission to something she'd always known, but had never said out loud before. "If he's looking at me from heaven he must hate me now."
"If he's anything like me he could never hate you." Blue eyes looked up at her. Cathy swallowed. "I… John was right, I did put you on a pedestal. I turned you into some kind of saint, and when I realized you weren't, it stung… But I never hated you…"
Blue eyes peered into hers. "I… I'm sorry I lied…"
"I'm sorry I yelled at you."
They looked at each other for another moment, then Cathy smiled and lifted her hand. "Friends?"
A huge smile spread across Lara's face, then she took the offered hand in hers. "Friends."
Lara cut off another piece of meat, then handed it to Catherine. "Here."
"Thanks." Cathy smiled happily as she dug her teeth into the food. "God, was I ever hungry" She muttered after swallowing.
"Fhnow hef fheeling." Lara managed around a mouthful of meat.
Cathy chuckled, then fell back on the grass they were sitting on and stared up. "Wow, look at that…"
Lara stared up as well, then frowned. "Look at what?"
The captain looked up again, now noticing the small patch of stars that was showing through the receding clouds.
"They are so bright. They're never this bright in London." Cathy mused, pillowing her head on her hands.
Lara shrugged. "There's no moon tonight."
"That makes them brighter?"
"Uhuh." Lara muttered around a sip of water. "No extra light." Then the captain stood and stretched. "I'm going to get us some blankets."
Cathy raised an eyebrow. "Blankets?"
A nod. "Yup, I'll be right back." And with that she strode off.
Cathy shrugged, not moving from her spot. She closed her eyes and listened to the soft night sounds all around her and Lara's rustling a little way off. She sighed contently. This was all turning out pretty well, she told herself happily. She felt a lot calmer, now that she and Lara had settled their differences. Not having to hide the fact that she actually liked the stubborn captain was a relief. She chuckled softly as Lara's footsteps approached again. Then a large branch covered with green leafs thudded down beside her. "There ya go."
Cathy looked at the branch, then up at Lara. "That's it?"
Blue eyes rolled. "Sorry to disappoint you, but unfortunately they were out of ready made blankets, so I had to improvise." Lara commented, as she walked towards the fire, tossing some more wood on. Then she lid a few torches she'd made and placed them in a circle around their camp, before settling down beside Catherine.
She pulled the leafs over her body. "Not great, but it'll do…"
Catherine nodded, still looking up at the skies. "Look, it's a tree."
Lara gave her a look, not finding the girl's discovery that fascinating, considered they were surrounded by the wooden things. Then she noticed the girl was pointing skyward. She looked up herself. "Where?"
"Look there." Cathy stated, moving a bit closer and pointing. "See those stars? See, that's the trunk, and that's the leafs."
Lara shook her head. "That looks nothing at all like a tree." A moment of thought. "It's a fish."
Catherine gave her a look. "A fish?"
"Yeah. I mean, that's the tail and there's the head." The captain reasoned, connecting the bright dots.
"Lara, that is not a fish."
"Is not." Cathy gave her a stern look. "There are no fish in the sky, OK?"
"There most certainly are!." Lara countered. "It's right there. Look, right beside the turtle."
"Yeah." Lara sighed. "Please don't tell me you don't see the turtle."
"I don't see the turtle."
"Aw, come on, it's obvious. Look." She pulled herself closer then pointed up. "Head, shell, tail… Right?"
"No." Cathy shook her head. "That's a cat."
Both dark eyebrows raised. "A turtle looks nothing like a cat."
"That's why I don't know how you can possibly see a turtle in there."
Lara threw up her hands. "I give up."
The girl beside her chuckled, then moved to lie on her side, pillowing her head on an arm. "Good." A yawn. "Night Lara."
The captain smiled at the sky. "Good night."
Soon enough she heard the girl's breathing deepen as Catherine drifted into peaceful sleep. Lara wasn't tired at all though. So many thoughts were drifting through her mind. The chances that her ship had made it through that storm were slim, she had to admit. What if Matthew hadn't made it, what if the ship wasn't in the alcove? The nearest town was miles away. And with all the wild animals around, they would never be able to walk all that way and survive. They would never make it…
She felt a soft touch against her upper arm as Cathy rolled over and moved closer. Another moment and the girl pillowed her head on Lara's shoulder. The captain closed her eyes and took a deep breath of the cold night air. And with that she dismissed her worries. What would be would be. They would just have to take it one step at a time. She wrapped an arm around the girl's shoulders and pulled her closer, relishing in the sudden warmth. Then she let herself slowly drift off into slumber.
Cathy yawned as the sunlight beamed into her eyes the next morning. Tiredly she blinked open her eyes.
"Good morning." A deep voice vibrated in her ear.
Catherine's mind stopped dead as she realized exactly where she was. Slowly she lifted her head to stare into smirking blue eyes. Then she hastily unwound herself from Lara's body. "Morning… I uhm.. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to uhm…."
"Hey, don't worry about it." Lara quickly stated. "It's OK. It was pretty cold last night, so…"
Cathy nodded quietly, not daring to look up.
Lara smiled, then picked up her folded handkerchief and pushed it towards Catherine, berries spilling out as she did so. "Here, breakfast."
The girl looked at the berries, then up at the captain. "You had more of those? Why didn't you say so last night?"
"Cause you wouldn't have had breakfast now if I would've." Lara replied with a chuckle, before she stood and stretched. She walked over to where the fire had been, making sure there were no embers left burning. "Save some of those for he road OK."
Cathy nodded as she pushed another piece of fruit in her mouth. "So where do we go now?"
"We follow the coastline." Lara stated, turning towards the ocean. "I hope it stays dry for a little while."
"Me too." Cathy agreed as she stood as well, and started to gather their belongings. "My clothes are finally dry, I'd like to keep 'm that way for a while."
Lara nodded, then took the bowls and left over berries from Cathy and folded them into her jacket, tossing their new bag over her shoulder. "OK, let's go." She stated, before striding off, quickly followed by Catherine.
"So what do you do when you're traveling?"
Lara frowned at her. "What do you mean, what do I do?"
"Well." Cathy bit her lip. "You have to do something to make the time pass, right?"
"You just work? That's boring."
Lara shrugged. "Sorry to disappoint you." A moment of silence. "We do sing sometimes though…"
Catherine blinked up at her. "You can sing?"
A shrug. "A little… But I'm not even considering singing for the next few hours to keep you entertained, so forget it."
Cathy was silent for another moment, then looked up again. "How about we play a game?"
Lara frowned, not liking the idea too much. "What kind of game?"
Cathy considered this a moment. "A guessing game… Why don't… Why don't you pick someone to be, and I have to guess who you are?"
Lara frowned at her. "You know who I am."
The girl rolled her eyes. "No, stupid." She shook her head, ignoring the insulted look on the captain's face. "You have to pretend to be someone. You know, think of someone, in your head, and I have to guess who you're thinking of… I used to play this game all the time with my brothers."
Lara shrugged. "Whatever… OK, I've got someone…"
"OK…" Catherine tapped her chin. "Is it someone I know?"
The girl threw up her hands. "Lara! How am I supposed to guess someone I don't even know?!"
The captain shrugged.
Cathy sighed. "Try again… Pick someone I know this time, OK?"
Lara nodded. "OK… fire away…"
Catherine softly massaged her sore feet. "I hate walking." She commented to her feet, who wiggled in response. She had enjoyed herself, playing mind games with Lara, who had turned out to be a natural at the guessing game. But it had been a long day walking, with only two short stops. And as she was walking barefoot, her feet were now in complete agony. She hadn't said anything, of course. They had to make it to the alcove as fast as possible. Lara had told her repeatedly now that these woods were far from safe, so the best thing would be to get back to the ship as fast as they could… If there was a ship, of course… Catherine sighed as she started rubbing her other foot. She'd been praying for them, softly, every night. After all of this, God couldn't let these people die, right? John and Richard, all her other friends down in the hull… And Tom and Tobias and even that horrible Matthew… They didn't deserve to die… Cathy took a breath, shaking her head softly. They would be OK, they would have to be, she told herself.
Lara had gone off again, in search of some food, while she'd collected some wood, and had managed to start quite a convincing fire, before sitting down and taking the weight off her painful feet. A sigh, then she glanced up at the edge of the forest again. An unpleasant feeling was nudging at her, deep in her guts, telling her something was wrong. But she shook it off, glancing around to find only the softly hissing sea behind her and the silent forest up ahead, glancing innocently back at her...
The captain slid softly over the leaf covered ground. Her two first preys had managed to escape and she was now walking deeper into the forest, trying to find another waterhole or something of the sort to set out her trap. Another few steps, then she heard a crack up ahead. Immediately she crouched down. Moments later a small creature hopped out of the bushes. It looked around, then spotted her. Lara sat silently, knowing any movement would chase the animal away. For a moment it gazed at her, then his eyes widened suddenly, and in a flash he darted off, hopping as fast as he could into the bushes beyond.
Lara frowned. "What was that all ab…" But a stabbing pain cut her sentence off, as a huge body attacked her from behind. A growl as it clawed at her, piercing her skin a second time. Lara lashed out her foot in self defense, managing to catch the animal on top of her in the side. Quickly she turned around, instinctively pulling out her dagger, then focused her eyes to come face to face with a huge black cat like creature, his fangs showing in a dangerous snarl. It growled, then launched for her again, the sharp claws lashing into her stomach, sending jolts of pain down her spine.
Cathy took another glance at the forest edge. It had been quite a long time now, and she was starting to get worried. She paced around the campsite once more, picking up some more branches as she went along, before depositing them near the campfire. Another few paces, then she sat down again, fumbling with one of the small sticks restlessly.
Then a rustling sounded, suddenly, making Catherine's head shoot up. Quietly Lara emerged from the forest, a huge dark furry body laying across her shoulder. A large front paw was dangling limply, huge nails stretched out, stained a dark red color. "Oh my god…"
Cathy shot up, running towards the captain. Several slashes of sharp claws had ripped her shirt, and blood dripped out of a huge wound on her forehead. She seemed OK otherwise, but Cathy could detect the small twitch as she walked, and the tired expression in the bright blue eyes. She closed the distance between them as fast as she could, wrapping an arm around the captain in support. "What happened?"
"He attacked me, we struggled, I won." Lara stated simply as they reached the camp and she put the body down. Blood was dripping from it's headless frame. The blood had drenched her shirt, not making her look much better.
Catherine walked closer, softly, touching the gash on her forehead. "That looks horrible."
"Gee thanks, you're making me feel much better." Lara muttered, shrugging off the girl's touch, and pulling her knife from a boot as she bent down to start to skin off the animal's fur. But she was pulled back and was placed on one of the fallen trees by soft hands. "Don't even think about it." Cathy stated, walking to where she'd put the bowl of water. She dipped Lara's handkerchief in the liquid, then softly touched it to the captain's forehead, softly clearing off the blood.
"Don't bother, it's OK." Lara muttered, attempting to get up, but finding herself pinned in place.
"No it is not OK." Cathy's green eyes met hers for a moment, then the girl continued her work. When she finished cleaning she ripped a piece of the bottom of her skirt, then tied it tightly across the captain's forehead. "Is this the only wound?"
Lara took a breath. "No."
Lara sighed, then pulled off her shirt, revealing several deep gashes across her stomach and back. Catherine drew in a breath. "Oh my…"
"It's not that bad, really… I… I hardly feel a thing."
Catherine gazed at the red lines covering her skin for another moment, then looked up. "What happened?" She managed.
"I was walking along, trying to find diner. That…" Lara pointed a finger at the body lying a little way off. "…was in a tree and I didn't notice it until it jumped straight for me…"
Cathy dipped the handkerchief in the water again, red mingling into the liquid as she did so. She softly touched the first of the scrapes, feeling Lara flinch as she did so. "Sorry."
"It's OK." The captain shook it off. "At least we'll have diner for months out of this huh?" She continued jokingly.
Cathy studied her hands as they cleaned the scrapes. "That's not funny."
The captain watched the bent head for a moment with a frown, then she lifted her hand and softly touched the girl's cheek. "Hey." She saw Cathy swallow, but then green eyes met her. "I said, don't worry. It's just a couple of scratches, they'll heal, OK?"
The girl closed her eyes. "All of this… it's because of me…"
Lara frowned, shaking her head. "Of course not, you…"
"You were out there, trying to get food, to take care of me… And you got hurt…"
A breath, then Lara softly let her touch drift up, cupping her cheek, causing the girl to open her eyes again. "Catherine. This is not because of you. I got that food for me, just as much as for you. It's just a part of surviving."
A shake of the blond head as Cathy shook away from her touch, then raised her voice in anger at herself. "And you have to survive because I didn't listen. Because I didn't stay down in the hull and got washed off and you jumped in after me." A breath as she stared at her hands, fumbling with the wet handkerchief. "This is all because of me…"
Lara was silent for a moment, staring at the girl in front of her. "If this hadn't happened, you'd probably still be mad at me, right?"
Green eyes gazed up for a moment, then dropped again. "Probably, but that…"
"Well, then I'd rather be here with you not hating me, then be safe and sound back on board my ship."
Cathy looked up at her, at a loss for words. Blue eyes peered intently into hers. "I mean that." Lara stated. "So don't worry about me OK. I'm here because I chose to be." Another moment of silence as they stared at each other for a long time.
"Well…" Cathy stated, dropping her eyes and then looking up again with a smile. "We'd better get you patched up then huh?"
Lara smiled back at her, then straightened the rag around her forehead, flinching as pain seared through her head. "I think that needs stitching."
Cathy nodded, rinsing off the dirt out of some more cuts. "It's pretty deep."
Lara nodded, knowing there was nothing to be done about that now, without the proper needles and thread. "I'll take care of that later."
Another nod from Catherine, who stood then walked around her, lifting the dark locks out of the way before starting to clean the captain's back.
Lara pulled their dinner-to-be closer and started skinning the body, chopping off large pieces of meat and placing them next to her on the trees bark. "I am so going to enjoy eating you." She commented to the meat, hearing a soft chuckle from Catherine behind her.
"Ouch." Catherine muttered, as she
cleaned out the last wound, a set of teeth marks on Lara's left leg.
"'s Nothing." Lara muttered, stirring their dinner.
"You call it nothing, I call it damn painful. I had a dog bite me once, but that looked nothing like this…"
Lara shrugged. "I've had worse…"
A moment of thought as the captain took a small sip from their water supply. "Hmm… I guess the worst time was when we launched into a sea battle with three enemy ships."
"Three?" Catherine looked up at her in disbelief. "No way."
"Yeah way." Lara retorted. "We'd been expecting them though, so I'd made some adjustments to my ship. We had a huge pike attached to the bough. We just rammed into the first ship and sunk them in one blow. A hole in their hull the size of the Atlantic." A chuckle as she remembered the surprised faces, followed by screams from the captain to abandon ship. "Our cannons managed to take care of ship number two, but the flagship was a toughie. Me and some of my crew swung over and engaged the governor's men, but they outnumbered us two to one… Well, to cut a long story short, lot's of fighting, then one of the bastards ran up from behind and pushed his saber into my back."
Catherine blinked wide eyed at her.
"Matthew managed to get me off the ship, but I passed out from loss of blood. Took me three days to regain consciousness… It hurt for weeks after…"
"Wow." Catherine muttered, cleaning the rag for the last time before lying it over one of the stones near the fire to dry. "That must be horrible… The worst I ever had was…" A moment of thought, then she looked up and managed a smile. "Well, I guess you know when that was."
Lara smiled back at her, then softly touched the fading bruise on her cheek. "It's looking much better now though…"
"Yeah." Cathy smiled. "I think it was mostly the seasickness really, that was getting me down…" A unexpected chuckle as Catherine glanced into the fire. "You know, it's so weird… That seems like ages ago now. Almost like it was just a bad dream, and it never actually happened at all."
Lara looked up at her, flames' shadows flicking over the girl's face. "Catherine?"
Green eyes looked up at her in question, looked through her, in a way she couldn't explain. She diverted her gaze, looking at the red dirt beneath her feet. "I… There's… There's a village, a couple of miles from Port Jackson… If my ship made it out of the storm I'll pass through there… I'll drop you off…"
Cathy looked at the scattered dark hair obscuring Lara's bent head. "Me?"
A silent moment. "All of you."
"What will you live off then?" Cathy asked, edging slightly closer.
Lara shrugged, still not looking up. "We'll sell the prisoners, the English captain and his crew. That'll keep us going for a while…"
"Not for long."
"No." Lara sighed, then looked up into waiting green eyes. "But I promise you now, no matter what, I will not sell you, or your friends… I can't anymore…" Lara took a breath. Emotions were rushing over her. Despair, because of the awkward situation she'd now put herself in, having given up her income with a few words to this girl. Fear of the unknown.. But most prominently was the overwhelming feeling of relief. Maybe it was over now… maybe… maybe her debt was paid… Maybe her brother…
"Your brother would be proud."
A smile tugged at her lips. "You think?"
Catherine smiled as well, reaching over and patting her knee softly. "Yeah…" A moment of silence. "But I think you should first talk to your second in command about this… He might want to have a say in this…"
"What do you mean?" Lara asked, her brows furrowing.
"Well, he's your friend, right? You should talk to him first, before you decide… It's his job too…"
Lara grinned. "When did you start liking Matthew so much?"
Catherine lifted an eyebrow, then watched as Lara reached inside her jacked and pulled out a small notepad, slightly wrinkled because of water damage. She held it up, showing Catherine the picture she'd made of Matthew before, his now slightly fading tentacles pointing angrily at her.
Catherine chuckled softly, reaching out and taking the notepad from the captain's hands. She flicked through the pictures, smiling as she spotted her favorite, a drawing she made of Lara when she was leaning on a railing on the stern, almost completely intact.
A thought occurred to her, and she looked up, to find Lara watching her quietly. She stared at the captain for a moment, then Lara sighed, guessing her question, as she dug into her pocket again. She pulled out a folded piece of paper, which had obviously been crumpled up before, then flatted out again, then handed it over.
Catherine took it quietly, then unfolded the paper, finding her own eyes staring back at her.
Lara cleared her throat. "I… I tried to toss it away… But the wind threw it back at me… And I couldn't bring myself to throwing it away again…" She muttered, glancing away.
Catherine looked at the unfinished lines and the faded marks where the water had carried the charcoal across the paper and smiled. "You know Lara, you should be careful. If you keep going on like this I might start thinking you're a nice person."
A chuckle as Lara looked up, eyes twinkling softly. "Oh, we wouldn't want that, would we? I have a reputation to live up to, you know?"
Catherine laughed softly, then wrapped an arm around the captain's shoulder. "I think your reputation is going to shatters if you hang around me too long, Curse of the Southern Seas."
Lara smiled, relishing in the warmth she felt flowing through her. "I don't think I care much about that anymore." A smile as green eyes looked up at her. "Just don't tell too many people about my charming personality, OK? I'd like the governor to keep fearing me a little." She joked as a blond head pillowed itself on her shoulder.
"Don't worry." Cathy smiled as she stared at the flames of their campfire. "Your secret's safe with me."
Night fell and morning came. Lara blinked open her eyes as the first deep red rays of morning light touched the horizon. Softly she stood, careful not to wake the still sleeping Catherine, who lay curled up at her side. She stirred the embers of last night's fire, putting a few more sticks on the ashes and waiting until they caught fire again. She placed another hump of meat over the flames, then walked over to the stream they were camped near and bend down to splash some water in her face. The wound on her forehead stung as the cold water seeped through the bandage, sending a sharp pain shooting through her head. She closed her eyes, waiting for the pain to subside. This was not good, she informed herself silently. Her other wounds were annoying her as well, but that was more of a dull aching today than a real pain. A look at the wounds on her stomach showed that the gashes was already starting to heal.
She took a sip of water, waiting a few moments for her head ache to subside. A few paces took her back to the campfire, where she flipped their breakfast over before sitting down on one of the larger stones. Catherine stirred beside her and rolled over onto her other side.
Lara smiled, watching the girl sleep. It was strange… Every single bone in her body ached, and still she felt more peaceful then ever. A soft chuckle as she poked at the fire. Her life was quickly changing, turning in directions she had not know existed before.
Another stir, then green eyes blinked open and looked around dazedly.
Catherine blinked up at her, then smiled. "Hi." She stretched leisurely, then got up and sat down again beside Lara, looking at the meat roasting above the fire. "That breakfast?"
Lara nodded, turning the meat again.
"Well, it's not bacon and eggs, but I guess it'll do."
"Always the critic." Lara muttered, suppressing a smile.
"Sorry." Cathy chuckled, using the captain's leg to pull herself up. "Want some water?"
Lara shook her head. "Had some."
"Suit yourself." The girl stated, before trotting off towards the stream. "So how far is this alcove?" She asked, raising her voice to cover the distance between them.
"I'm hoping we'll make it there tomorrow midday…" Lara told her, taking their food off the fire and slicing the meat into pieces , handing one of the pieces up as Catherine settled down beside her again.
"Thanks." The girl muttered, happily digging into her breakfast. "You know." She stated as she swallowed. "That's the best black cat like animal thing I've ever had."
A chuckle as Lara took a bite out of her own portion. "Gee thanks."
Lara looked up at the tree they were passing, where a large bird, with a white feathered belly peaked down at them. His other feathers were brown, and touches of blue were circling his eyes. "It's a bird."
Catherine rolled her eyes. "I know that! What kind of bird?" She asked as they passed the tree and walked further.
"How am I supposed to know? Do I look like a botanist to you? I'm not much into flora and fauna ya know, I stick to fish…"
"Hey, you knew about the hopping thing."
"Kangaroo." Lara corrected.
"That's what I mean."
The captain smiled, then looked back at the bird for a moment. "I don't think he has a name yet… But he makes this really annoying sound, like he's laughing at you. Especially early in the morning, when you're trying to get some sleep."
"A laughing bird?"
Lara shrugged. "Sort of."
They were both silent for a moment, then Cathy pointed up. "Look."
Lara sighed, then looked up. "What are you seeing now?"
"It's that bird, in the clouds." Cathy stated, indicating the bird shaped cloud drifting over their heads.
Lara looked up, seeing the pattern as well. "Do you see pictures in everything?"
Cathy smiled. "Well, it sort of comes with being an artist, really, I guess…" She muttered, looking up again. "Oh, and there… it's your ship. See, that's the bough, and the mast, and the sails." She turned her head. "That's a good sign, right?"
Lara smiled as she watched the road ahead. "I hope so…"
Catherine was all ready staring up again. "Hey, look at that… it's you."
Lara raised an eyebrow at her.
"No really." Cathy retorted, pointing at a large cloud drifting up ahead. "See, that's you…You're… riding a horse."
Lara looked up, then back down at the girl. "Excuse me?"
"Well, it's either that or you have four legs…"
Catherine was quiet, waiting for a response, but it never came. She looked up to see Lara staring ahead quietly. "What's wrong?"
Lara watched the cloud of dust up ahead grow larger. "I'm not sure… Another moment as she peered into the distance. "Catherine, hide."
"What?" Cathy blinked up at her.
"Just do it. There's two riders coming."
"But…" Cathy started, but stopped as blue eyes looked at her. "OK, OK, I'm outta here…" She muttered, striding off into the woods.
Lara straightened, pulling her saber out of it's scabbard as she recognized the colors of their tunics. Governor's men… But what are they doing out here… A few feet off the men recognized her and slowed down, stopping to a halt before her. They were both slightly younger than she was. One of them swiped his half long brown hair back, and looked at her. "Lara Dean. Torment of the Southern Ocean."
"That would be me." Lara confirmed with an unpleasant smile.
The men straightened simultaneously. "You are under arrest by order of the Governor of Australia. Come with us peacefully and you won't be harmed."
Lara's smile grew even broader. "Thanks for the offer, but…" A quick move and a dagger hit the first soldier in his heart. "no." She finished, then quickly pulled herself into a flip as she saw the second pull the trigger on his pistol. As she landed, her head throbbed painfully, a sharp jolt shooting from the wound on her forehead. She shook her head, trying to clear her blurred vision. When she finally did she saw the second horse race towards her, a long saber pointing towards her. She braced herself for the impact, then suddenly a wooden object slammed into her vision, knocking the onrushing soldier from his horse in a single swipe. The soldier thudded on the ground, then laid still, unconsciously.
Lara looked up, to see Catherine lean on a long wooden stick, slightly out of breath. Green eyes turned towards her and she gave the girl an impressed look. "Not bad. Where'd you learn that?"
"I grew up with two brothers." Cathy replied simply, smiling up at her.
Lara laughed, then walked over to one of the horses, who's reins had gotten caught in one of the branches. "Well, I think you're vision of me on a horse might just become reality here." She chuckled, calming the restless mare down with a soft pat on the neck. "Easy girl."
The dark brown head bend down slightly, then the horse neighed softly. "Good, very good." Lara complimented her, then guided the mare back to the road.
"Here" She stated, handing Cathy the reigns and fishing a short piece of rope out of the horse's saddle bags. "Hold her for a moment."
Catherine gazed up at the large brown animal. "Uhm, Lara?"
"Yeah?" The captain muttered, as she tied the rope around the unconscious soldier's hands.
"I think you should know I'm really, really bad with horses."
"How's that?" Lara asked, checking the second soldier for a pulse, then pulling her dagger out of his chest.
"Well, basically, the main reason is they're 4 times my size."
A chuckle from the captain as she walked back over and took the reigns from the girl's hands. "I guess you're lucky that I like horses then." She placed one foot in the stirrup, then swung her leg over the mare's back, settling comfortably in the saddle, before reaching a hand down for Catherine. "Come on."
"On to where?" Cathy asked suspiciously, crossing her arms across her chest.
"On to a place where hopefully there'll be a warm bed waiting for us this evening."
Lara watched as Cathy seemed to consider this for a moment. "You promise it won't toss be off?"
"I promise." A smile. "Trust me."
Cathy looked at the offered hand for another moment, then took it, surprised at how easily Lara pulled her up to settle behind her on the horse.
"Just hold on tight, OK? Just tap me on the shoulder or something if you wanna stop?"
"OK." Catherine nodded, settling her arms around the captain's waist tentatively.
"Ready?" Lara commented over her shoulder.
Cathy nodded quietly, holding on a bit tighter as the horse suddenly started to move under her.
For a moment she felt like loosing her balance, but soon enough she settled into the horses gait.
"Now, that's not so bad, is it?"
"No." Catherine smiled as she found a more comfortable spot to sit, pillowing her head against Lara's back. "No, it's not bad at all."
They road on for a while, Lara soon pushing her horse into a controlled canter. Cathy initially wasn't too happy with this development, but she got used to the strange rhythm of the horses movement quickly enough.
Lara finally pulled the mare back. "Nearly there." She commented over her shoulder.
"Great." Cathy muttered, stretching a bit and popping some bones back into place. "All this riding is making me a bit stiff."
Lara chuckled softly. "You get used to it after a while."
"Where'd you learn to ride?"
"When I was younger I had a job taking care of the horse of one of the coach drivers in the neighborhood. He let me ride the horse from time to time. I don't practice a lot, I'm not on land that often, but it comes in handy from time to time."
"Yeah, like now." Lara smiled. "It's taken off loads of our travel time." She looked at the sun, slowly dropping towards the western horizon. "We should reach the alcove before sunset. It's not that far anymore."
Cathy nodded, unseen by Lara.
A few more moment, then Lara suddenly pulled to a halt. Catherine hung on tight , barely keeping herself from falling off. "Hey, what was that for?"
"Shhh." The captain whispered, looking around intently. "Listen…"
So Cathy did, and far off in the distance she could make out the sound of voices. "People?"
Lara just nodded.
Cathy regarded the captain's back thoughtfully. "Well, that's good… right?"
"It would be if I recognized them." Lara muttered, then swung her leg over the horses head and hopped off. "Come on."
Cathy slid down the mare's back, thankful when Lara's hands supported her as she landed on the ground. She stood shakily for a few moments, then straightened her sore muscles.
Lara patted her shoulder, then took hold of the horse's reigns and tied them around a nearby tree. "Let's go."
Cathy nodded and padded along behind her. She could see the ground drop away a little way off. Lara changed direction and she followed the captain into the shadows of the trees, walking up to her as she stopped at the edge of the cliffs, staring down quietly.
Cathy glanced down herself, looking at the small beach down below, crowded with men, and the two ships quietly bobbing on the waves. "Two ships?"
Lara nodded, swallowing before she spoke. "Yes. And one of them isn't mine…"
Cathy blinked up at her. "But…"
"It's the governor's men." Lara stated, looking down at her ship and seeing English soldiers walk on the deck. "They've been chasing us for the last few days… I guess they caught up…" A breath, then she straightened, drawing her saber from it's scabbard. "Take the horse, circle around through the woods. If you keep riding you should hit the first town within three days or so."
Catherine was quiet for a moment, staring up at the determined face silently. "You're not gonna do what I think you're gonna do, are you?"
Blue eyes turned and looked at her. "That depends on what you are thinking. But if you're thinking I'm gonna storm down there and spit as many of those pigs as I can on this piece of metal here, then you're pretty much correct."
Catherine touched the captains arm, feeling a shiver run through it as she did so. "Lara, don't be absurd. They'll kill you."
"I'm not gone leave my people in their claws and run." Lara stated harshly.
"I'm not saying you should." Cathy looked down at the ships, then back up at her. "I have a plan… But you'll have to trust me."
Return to Main Page