“It’s impossible,” the Captain scanned the sky once more, before facing his crew, “A Star can’t just vanish?” he paced the deck, recalling all the lessons he learnt at school years ago, “Especially not the North Star! Countless sailors must be lost at sea”. He thought for a while, without the stars, navigating the oceans can be hazardous, “Tonight we port. Hopefully,….just tonight”
“I be not talking back Cap’n, but we aren’t yellow bellies to log to shore” grumbled the first mate, a boy of just nine, homeless from the damp alleyways of London. He didn’t meet the Captain’s eye as he skidded his feet along the upper deck, chewing on a pickle as he checked the sky himself, “But why? What ‘as the North Star to do that’s so important it doesn’t show to sky?”
“August,” the Captain sighed, “I educated you too well for you to be talking in improper grammar” He brushed back the sea warn locks of charcoal from his face and watched the child slump down on a molding crate of rope and other equipment. For a pirate vessel, the ship wasn’t impressive, it wasn’t large and overbearing with angry haggard flags or canons pointing at every corner. It was quiet, diminutive and humble- it proved as an advantage. Would anyone think a small merchant caravel was home to thieves? No. Captain Amias Keggard was cunning that way, having planned to sacrifice the luxury of a larger boat to gain a better profit as he travelled. Any harbor, ship or even the royal fleet would have let them approach if they raised a simple emergency flag; once they had done their looting they hop aboard their commonplace craft and sail the trade routes of Spanish and Portugal vendors. A sudden creak distracted the Captain from continuing to twirl a tress between his calloused fingers.
Below, a man stood surveying the new coming barge. A cloak was draped across his shoulders to shield him from the chill ocean breeze. He trotted over to the dock then waited for the mooring line to be tossed over. “Amias?” the man called out.
“Who art ye to call the Cap’n by ‘is first name?” August shouted back, spitting a sticky blob over the port side, indeed in hopes of hitting the stranger.
“August” scolded Amias. The plank was lowered and the Captain descended, the crisp click of his boots against the wood echoing across the silent atmosphere. “Malachi, it’s been a while”, he sounded calm although, it wasn’t impossible to notice the slight lilt of surprise, “How did you know we’d port here?”
“I didn’t. I came to observe the sky. It a rare occurrence tonight.”
“Certainly is” Amias agreed, longingly looking up once again in hopes that the star had returned “That star was the love of my life. I live for it”
“Do you?” Malachi asked sarcastically
“Every sailor does” the Captain trailed off as he moored the caravel, giving the heavy rope a good tug, “Everybody out!” he hollered.
For a moment, no one but August came down the plank, until, the entire ship started shuddering as fifty feet of children: girls and boys none over nine rushed down to meet their leader. They were all well dressed and fed, rosy cheeks and smiling faces just a little wobbly on their sea legs- one even had a little canary on his shoulder. Malachi’s eyes widened.
“Goodness, Amias! Whose children are these?”
The Captain smiled proudly at his treasure trove, “Nobody’s! So I took them!”
“Amias, you don’t just pick up children off the streets!” the other man’s moustache twitched in shock “Do you think you’re Peter Pan?” Amias’s smile wavered- no one argued with a pirate, especially not land-loving rich folk, relation or not. He had seen children die, he had been a child to almost die, so if there were living beings no one seemed to want, he would take them. Without saying another word, he turned on his heel and marched towards the boardwalk, his huddle shuffling obediently behind him.
“If you care about children so much” Malachi persevered with his point “shouldn’t you have become an Orphanage Director or governor? You could have made a fine fortune as well”
The Captain’s head jerked towards his offender. His relaxed features gave off waves of irritation and tension. “I had to grovel at directors’ feet to feed Me.” he hissed. The other man kept eyeing the cutlass at the pirate’s hip, expecting it to swing out of the sheath and into his throat. It stayed where it was.
“Your father was a governor wasn’t he?” Amias interrogated.
“Answer him ye filthy swine!” August demanded as walked up smartly, thrusting a wooden dagger at much bigger Malachi’s stomach. The Captain chose to promptly ignore the boy.
“My uncle was” Malachi corrected.
“Did he ever utter a word or lend a hand to anyone without the money?” Amias continued, “Malachi, I have lived in Polperro too long not to have forgotten. He bothered about no one underneath his rank.” His large brown eyes searched for any true acceptance in his enemy’s before their light flickered out into disappointed oblivion, “Don’t tell me to become a villain”. With that, Amias left, leaving the other unscathed and confused. His troop followed him silently, heads down in disbelief of their Captain being so frightening- except August who remained in place glaring up at Malachi concocting various methods of executing revenge. He just about prepared himself to push the man over the dock when-
“August”, Amias beckoned, “It’s rude to be late for a dinner invite”. August looked on ahead in confusion. He had never been to a dinner before. Who on Earth would invite a band of pirates to dinner?
“Where?” he strode forward to the Captain’s side, his child-like curiosity getting the better of him. He imagined the large rotisserie chicken and mashed potato with soup and peas; pudding and cake. The boy’s mouth flooded with drool oozing out at the corners. “Where, Captain?” he was so eager, he even bothered pronouncing proper English!
Amias smirked “Malachi’s manor, of course”, he suddenly raised his eyebrows as if he had made a mistake. He sheepishly turned back to glance at their previous encounter, ensuring he had heard every word. “You wouldn’t mind will you? We won’t be much trouble”
“No, not at all” Malachi sighed.
“Lead the way!”