Slender fingers polished a scimitar with an old rag. Isra gazed boringly at her reflection in the steely blade. Around her small dark brown eyes, angry red lines etched the whites. Her long black hair hadn't been washed for days and was tied back into an oily ponytail. A single golden earring hooped around her right earlobe, glistening in the blade's reflection.
Sighing, Isra stuffed the rag into her trousers' pocket. After tonight, she thought wryly, I'm taking a good bath. That was mostly what the woman hoped as she stood up from the wooden stool chair. Chances of her dying were possible even though her swordsman skills were reputed as flawless.
Isra's leather boots tapped against the wooden floorboards causing occasional creaks from the swaying ground. She walked over to the round window and examined the sea from her quarter. The waxing moon cast its eerie glow in the dark waters. This is quite fitting, Isra mused to herself silently. Looking away from the window, she sheathed her scimitar into her black paint-coated wooden scabbard decorated with brass engravements. A knock from the door whirled her around.
"Captain Isra," addressed a gruff voice, "may I come in?"
"Aye, Damon," Isra replied. She fixed her white off shoulder tunic and retied the red sash around her waist as the door opened.
Quartermaster Damon stood a head taller than Isra which made her appear petite. However, the man knew it was foolish to assume that the female captain was weak. Those that had died by her hands had made that terrible mistake. Brushing a hand behind his short auburn hair, he stared at the woman whom was basically a foreigner. Not much was known about her past, but Damon knew Isra came from the desert. Clearing his throat, he began to speak.
"Garnet approached the Sorrel ship. We're anchored several feet away from the ship now. Are ye ready to plunder, captain?" Garnet consisted of a small crew of twelve members—two were only female which included Isra, and the rest were male. There was once thirteen members at one point, but Isra had gutted out that fool years ago when he called her a 'wench'. No one had ever talked dirt to her again—not in front of her at least.
Isra's small lips twisted into a grin. "You can count on it. Sorrel is going to a sorry ship all right."
Damon chuckled heartily. "We'll meet you there on the ship then. Good luck, captain."
"You too, mate," she replied firmly. As the door closed, the brightness in Isra's eyes faded away. As confident as she sounded, it was only a mask to ease her anxiety. Even the smallest surprises could catch all of them off guard, driving them into death and failure. Isra's dark brown eyes lingered at her desk's drawer before leaving her quarter. Concealed inside, it was her will written on a piece of paper regarding the inheritance of her possessions and promotion of ranks in the crew.
Damon will make a good captain, Isra thought as she pushed the door open. The sea breeze greeted her as she walked onto the deck. Pushing her thoughts aside, she focused on the mission's task. First she was going to row out alone to Sorrel and sneak up on the ship. Then she would set a false fire on the ship giving Garnet the signal to attack. While the crew of Sorrel would be distracted, it would be give Isra the chance to snoop around the ship and grab the booty. Hopefully there'll be things worth selling for gold, Isra thought realistically; they were in dire need for supplies and new weapons.
Turning her back to the sea, Isra bent down to the side of the stern and grasped the rope ladder that extended several feet below to the waiting rowboat. The wind blew in her direction as she climbed down with caution. Dropping herself to the wobbly boat, she landed down with her knees bent causing the boat to rock back. The woman glanced up at Garnet and saluted to the flapping flags which were supposedly red behind the darkness.
Isra returned her attention across the sea. Several feet away, orbs of oil lamps lighted the upper deck of Sorrel in a row allowing her to estimate her distance from them. The oil lamps gave Garnet a good advantage, but it was foolish to have them burning in the first place. At night, they attracted unwanted pirates such as them.
Grabbing the paddles, Isra rowed the boat. The waves were calmer saving her from battling against the sea. While her arms got to work, the woman memorized the plan in her head repeatedly for the seventh time. Although she had gotten used to pillaging ships for years, the adrenaline rushing through her body would never cease to stop before any mission. The danger and sense of adventure excited her. She wasn't much into killing like her other mates, but she would shed blood if anyone got in her way.
Isra sighed with relief. The endless rowing with aching arms finally brought her to the stern of Sorrel. It didn't take her long to park the boat by the ship, and she stood up to climb the rope ladder that led to the ship's deck. Climbing up, the woman could hear the merrymaking overhead.
Too bad that won't last long, Isra thought. Accordion music and deafening singing buried in her ears as she made her way up on the deck. The strong smell of rum made her nose wrinkle; she was not much of a drinker to be honest.
Heart beating, Isra hid behind a crate where an oil lamp stood. Her sweaty hand wrapped tightly around the plain black hilt of her scimitar, ready to unsheathe if anyone passed by. She hesitated whether to start the fire now or later. If I do it later, I could have more time to search around the ship, Isra contemplated.
There isn't anyone I've seen in the back of the ship so far. They are all probably partying in the front, so it wouldn't hurt to take a peek at the captain's quarter. It must be empty.
Isra took a deep breath and turned her head toward the deck. Even though the side she was on was deserted, the emptiness still unnerved her. It appeared too empty almost as it was set up for her as a trap. Rolling her eyes, Isra chided herself silently for being paranoid. She waited for a few seconds to lapse before stepping away from the crate.
The single window of the captain's quarter was blocked by the crate. Grimacing, Isra had hoped she would get a preview of the room. She sighed. Guess I'll have to do it the hard way, she thought.
Hopefully the captain won't be inside… and if he is, I'll have to kill him. Wiping her sweaty left hand on her trousers, she knocked on the door. Her right hand never left her scimitar.
Isra strained her ears for several seconds. No voice was heard inside the quarter which relieved her. She relaxed her shoulders and pushed the door open.
A single platter of powdered sugar cookies stopped Isra in her feet. It lay on a small table in the middle of the room, tempting her to take a bite. The woman chuckled softly at the idea that it was cookies that made her freeze. Well, it was unusual to see them in the captain's quarter in the first place. Her dark brown eyes scanned the room. It was slightly bigger than her quarter; there was a small bed, desk, chairs, and a chest. Isra's eyes flew back to the chest below the circular window.
The fine, medium-sized, mahogany chest was sealed with a lock. The chest possibly couldn't contain clothes; it would be unnecessary to be locked. Although she knew it wasn't Sorrel's coffer, putting a lock on the chest assured Isra that the chest must contained something valuable to the captain. Vivid images of fine crafted swords and expensive armor pieces intrigued the pirate. And who knew? There could be hidden gold kept inside the chest.
Isra rubbed her sweaty hands on her trousers and eagerly approached the chest. A faint sneeze tore her eyes away from the chest, and she whipped out her scimitar. Eyes flitting alarmingly across the room, Isra knew she wasn't the only one inside the captain's quarter. Where did the noise come from? It looked empty, and the room was too bare for any hiding places. Unless… Isra's eyes snapped back to the bumpy blanket on the bed.
Why didn't I catch that earlier?
Walking slowly toward the bed, Isra clutched her scimitar tightly. Right when she was about to throw the blanket off, her scimitar parried an unexpected blade. Isra stared intently at the hidden stranger before her. Although she looked quite androgynous, Isra clearly knew she was a young woman whom looked a few years older than her. Her round brown eyes stared bewilderingly back at Isra whom found the whole situation ironic. The bangs of her curly, short brown hair clung damply to her forehead, giving hint she had been sweating behind the blanket. Her vest, the shade of her eyes and hair, was unbuttoned and tied back by a sword belt. The long, ruffled, white sleeves of her shirt were rolled up exposing her scarred forearms.
"I didn't know captains hide in their own quarters," Isra remarked sarcastically. Her eyes remained staring at the woman for a few seconds, but she suddenly felt uncomfortable. There was something about those eyes that made Isra feel naked. Shuddering, Isra looked away and focused on their clashed weapons.
"Who are you?" the stranger demanded, pressing her blade deeper into her scimitar.
Isra slashed her scimitar away from what appeared to a shortsword which allowed the stranger to get off the bed. They stood eyeing each other like vultures across the room; the stranger was slightly shorter than her. By telling her grasp of the shortsword, Isra knew that the stranger wasn't just an ordinary swordswoman. Whoever she was, she wasn't going to be an easy one to finish off.
"None of your business," Isra replied, "but you're in my way, so I'm going to have to kill you."
The short haired woman smirked back at her. "So are you."
The two women charged toward each other colliding their blades. Glaring at the woman, Isra managed to push her toward the platter of cookies. She kicked the table away knocking off the platter of cookies into her direction.
The swordswoman scowled at her. "Nice going. Those were some tasty lemon cookies."
Lemon cookies? Isra raised her eyebrows as she glanced at the crushed cookies littered on the floorboard. Those clearly looked like plain sugar cookies. Parrying an abrupt attack, Isra cursed silently for being distracted.
If I didn't block that on time, I could've lost an arm.
Isra and the stranger fought for ongoing minutes until they were sweating hard. Both of them knew neither of them was going to give up. Although the stranger was a nuisance to the mission, Isra was quite impressed to meet a swordswoman that matched her talent. It had been years she had crossed a formidable opponent.
Voices outside the quarter made them break their swords away. Panting hard, Isra stared tiredly at the woman whom was also trying to catch her breath. The captain of Sorrel or whoever from the ship was going to come inside the room any second.
"I'll tell you what," Isra began stepping a few feet away from the woman. "I'll deal with you later. Want to slash other heads with me?" She knew she was absolutely going to regret the idea later, but it was only decision she could come up with at the moment. There was no way they could continue fighting at this time which would aggravate the situation even more. It was either form a brief alliance with her or get slay by Sorrel sailors.
Flashing a gaze at Isra, the short haired woman lowered her shortsword. "All right."
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