Romance Fantasy Sad

This story contains sensitive content

[TW: Includes mild themes of violence and substance abuse.]

Hawke never seems to worry about where he is in the world.  

One morning, he’ll stroll onto the deck and declare that we need to swing the ship ninety degrees to the West. The next, he’ll be pulling out the rum and tequila stock because he found a city in the horizon. 

I admire his spirit, but I fear it may be his downfall. 

With the Capriccio at sea for weeks on end, it’s difficult to have reliable, new information on the Great War ensuing. I hear the Alliance has secured bases and support from the Jungle Nations. The League has moved south to claim the Desert Tribes through the Southern Cross. The League has created ships that can go beneath the water surface - like invisible predators ready to take you out from underneath.  

I have mentioned these concerns to Hawke, but he has no worries about the Capriccio.  

“The organ might sound like a whale and scare them away. Or maybe they’ll hear the music and want to have a glass of moonshine. Wouldn’t that be quite a party, Darling? All those soldiers and liquor?”  

Hawke then began a tipsy ramble about the moonshine we recently got from our last stop. Hawke had talked for hours about his compositions and even offered to play at some of the piano bars in exchange for their liquor. We ended up carrying barrels back to the Capriccio.  

“Don’t you ever worry that perhaps we should dock the ship until the war has passed?”  

Hawke dug through a drawer filled with paper - melodies written in the heat of the moment while they were in his head, ready for future use. I had no idea how he could find anything in his chambers; it was a disaster of parchment, ink, and foodscraps that I ultimately was left to clean up. 

He found what he was a looking for, a sixteen bar phrase.  

"I don't think there's a dock big enough to hold the Capriccio for that long."  

The Capriccio was easily one of the biggest ships ever built due to the pipe organ Hawke had built into it’s core. It's sheer size was a major challenge, and made the Capriccio one of the widest ships in the world to accommodate for the instrument. 

I didn’t dare ask Hawke to invest in a dock. The family portraits shrouded in black around the ship were enough explanation for me. That, and Hawke’s habit to sneak hard liquor at night. 

Unease settled in my gut, but I chose to push it aside.  

"Just," I approached him, pulling back his long blonde hair into a tie. Helix piercings rimmed his ears, beautiful, glistening gold. A pearl hung from his lobe. All gifts from people who’ve heard him perform. I spoke into his ear, “Please consider it. I can lead the crew, but it only works if they have faith in you. Once they get anxious about this war, this excursion is over."  

Hawke rose with the sun, and the pipe organ's sound followed.  

He was going deaf – faster than we thought.  

Hawke is able to channel his compositions to different parts of the ship – bursts of fine, grand sound to convey the music running through his head. However, the sheer size of the organ has caused his hearing to deteriorate.  

I've attempted to teach him sign language, or offer him instruments to aid his hearing, but he refuses.  

In a way, I feel terrible for him. He invested into the ship, pipe organ, and crew to compose to his heart's content and explore the world, but his ears will ultimately decide how long he goes. And I know that when the day comes that he can no longer hear the music beyond his own mind, the breakdown will be horrific. A hellish fate for a musician. 

Even as I walk down the stairs to the core of the pipe organ, where he is manipulating the air and sound with elegant mastery, he cannot perceive me. When he finally stops playing to write down notes on some parchment, I stomp on the floor thrice sternly. He flinches, his foot slightly retracted from the floor, and he turns in my direction.  

"Hello, Darling," He rises from his seat to approach me, his eyes fixated on my mouth. "Have the crew compiled the needed supplies and found me venues?"  

I focused on the lip movements, the way my mouth changed shape as I spoke. "Yes. And we believe you may be able to play at the dock. The crew is considering a marina party."  

Hawke cocked a brow. "The crew believes that I can play at the dock, and wants a margarita party?" 


His brows raised in realization, and chuckled to himself at his mistake. In his eyes, I could see the muffled, internal fear.  

"That can be arranged. Perhaps I can get you to dance this time."  

I scoffed. "Fat chance. I'd rather serve up drinks and make a quick buck." 

"Maybe I'll buy a drink for you towards the end of the night." 

"Not if you're passed out drunk over the bar counter."  

"I bet I can stay sober."  

A part of me really wished he could.  

I watched from the bar counter as Hawke hammered away a vicious, patriotic anthem on the upright piano, sweat already glistening on his forehead.  

As far as I have seen, not a single drop of liquor has touched his lips.  

He was like a growing pulse in the middle of the party, fueling the alcoholic savagery and careless waltzing. The energy and manner he planned that piano was endless, and the patriots within the crowd only fueled him further. 

It was only a few hours ago I had poked fun at him while helping him get ready. I had pulled his hair back into a tie, made sure that his clothes were ironed and clean. Like he were a kid. 

"You are such a baby, you know that?" I giggled, pushing the knot of his tie up to the nape of his neck. 

He cocked his brow. "What?" 

"Ah," I shrugged. "Don't worry about it." 

His gaze narrowed at me. "Don't hide things from me just because I can't hear it. I'm not a child." 

"I was just joking around about me helping you get ready, that's all." 


He sighed, and I quickly looked him over. He was impeccable, it was hard to believe that this is what he would look like all the time if he simply took care of himself. With all the responsibility of helping lead the crew and maintain order on the upper deck, I was limited in how much time I had to make sure he had fresh clothes on and he had bathed that day. It wasn't uncommon for me to resort to helping him change into a nightshirt and brush his hair before putting him to bed at ungodly hours of the night. 

Surprisingly, despite his boyish personality, he never fought me whenever I enforced this.  

The crowd didn't disperse until at least an hour past midnight, and by then Hawke's hands were aching with fatigue. I was shocked to find him completely sober – sober and whining for something to ease the pain.  

"You should've taken more breaks, we both know your stamina isn't limitless." 

"I still won the bet though." 

I rolled my eyes, and Hawke took on this smug, boyish grin. "You owe me a dance." 

He was about to take my waist before I said, "Don't you want to sit down first? Your hands are still shaking and you look exhausted." 


"Besides, there won't be any music." 

“I don’t need music to dance with you.”  

For a moment, I was speechless.  

His hand was gentle on my hip, I could feel his thumb graze my hipbone through my dress pants. I always refused dresses, but this suddenly made me so self-conscious of how I looked.  

Did I look ghastly after all the work I’ve done for him the past few years? Especially now with thoughts of war in my mind?  

I pulled him into the first step of a waltz- 

And a scream brought the world to a still.  

Not too far from the marina, the sound of gunfire and explosions sounded from the city. Smoke rose from the madness, stampedes of people bursting from the chaos. 

“Oh no.” Hawke’s voice was barely audible. 

I hollered to the crew cleaning up the party to get the Cappricio’s engine fired up and prepare the cannons. With my grip on Hawke’s hand, I yanked him through the upper decks to his chambers. 


“Just stay in here until it’s safe.” 


I shut the door to his chambers to face the crew- 

A sudden force knocked me right off my feet, and the floor was splattered in red. 

Hawke was silent for four days - both verbally, and musically. 

The bullet had only grazed my thigh, but was enough to make me bedridden and have to order the crew from a mattress. I had some of the crew check on Hawke to ensure that he was taking care of himself since I couldn’t hear the organ, but they all returned with the same answer: 

“Hawke refuses to open the door.” 

I had to grit my teeth and wait until the doctor bandaged up my leg and let me walk to go check Hawke. 

Indeed, the door was locked tight. 

“Hawke?” I yanked the knob again. Four days ago, my blood stained it. “Hawke, open the door.” 

I heard rummaging from within the chambers. A few seconds later, the door opened. 

His appearance was shocking. 

A waft of his rich, spicy cologne followed the door, his hair brushed and tied back, and his clothes were clean and neat. He even changed his jewelry from the marina party to antimony and tin hoops.  

I was beyond stunned.  

He eyed my bandaged leg. “You should be resting. Doesn’t it hurt?” 

“That doesn’t-“ 

“I will escort you back to your room. You shouldn’t be walking around.” 

“The doctor said-“ 

“I am the captain of this ship. I am ordering you to get rest and let me take care of my duties.” 

I couldn’t even think of a response to that. What in the world has he been doing the last four days? Why was he so different? 

“Hawke, are you feeling okay?” 

“That doesn’t matter. Go back to your chambers.” 


“That is an order.” 

After I returned to my room, not a single crewmate came to me for orders or guidance. When I was given my meals, I asked about Hawke and the ship. 

All of them were as shocked as me when they said that he was navigating and leading the crew on his own. He hadn’t played the organ since the attack by the marina. 

On the seventh day, I heard an unfamiliar knock at my door. Hawke walked inside, his gaze fixated on my leg. 

“How are you feeling?” He asked. 

Such a strange question to come from him. “Fine.” 

He checked the clipboard on my nightstand with notes from the doctor. Today, he truly looked like what you’d expect out of the captain of a ship like the Capriccio. He had pulled out one of his noble, elegant captain uniforms and it adorned him perfectly. 

His face went dark, and I could see fear in his eyes - but it was different. Something far more grim. 

“I need to ask you something.” His voice sounded like it was on the verge of choking up. 


He turned to look at me, to read my lips. 

“There have been rumors that the League has begun battle in the Southern Cross, and the Alliance is requesting naval assistance. Tomorrow I’m docking the ship at the nearest town for whoever doesn’t want to come with me.” 

I had to take a second to gather myself, to push aside the brief shock. 

“Are you saying that you are fighting in the war? Against the League?” 

“Yes.” His gaze settled on my leg again. “And I’m taking you back on land. You have been relieved of your duties on the Capriccio.” 

What? No! I’m not leaving!” 

“I’m not going to let you get hurt again because of my incompetence.” 

My face was burning up, my vision swimming. Images ran through my head - of the Capriccio sinking, of the smoke and ash, of Hawke’s mangled body- 

Please,” My voice was breaking. “Please don’t make me leave, Hawke.” 

“War is not a place for a lady, especially not for you.” 

“Neither is a ship, goddammit! Do you think I give a shit about that?” 

“You’re not coming with me. That’s final.” 

I glared at him, and whispered, “I’m not letting you go into that war just to die on your own.” 

“What?” He couldn’t hear me. 

I whispered it again, and that set anger onto his face.  

Don’t,” He slammed his fists on either side of me on the bed, leaning so close it would be impossible not to hear. “You dare do that to me.” 

“Then don’t you dare go into that war on your own.” 

Nearly half the crew left the ship when we docked.  

The other half were ecstatic. To fight for the liberty of their home country, or to riot against the tyranny. 

Hawke tried to force me off the ship, but I refused. Eventually, he had to reluctantly let me stay, but I could see how much it hurt him from the way his face contorted. 

I knew that he was running through his head the idea of death. After years of fleeing that fate, it was hitting him hard. 

I noticed that he took down all his family portraits. 

As we sailed towards the Southern Cross, the air grew crisp with the arctic winds. The crew drank our liquor until they passed out, rising at dawn with severe hangovers. They were either assuming that they were going to die, or wished to appreciate the life they got to live thus far. 

Hawke was sneaking liquor again, drinking until he was incoherent, but he did not play the organ.  

One night, I approached him when we were hours from the battle at the Southern Cross.  

“Hawke,” A bottle of vodka was in his right hand, his left tapping on the arm of his chair. Plucking away on an imaginary keyboard, running through the melodies in his head. “When are you going to play the organ again?” 

His head lulled to the side. “When I’ve finished Alice’s Sarabande.” 

When the naval fleets came into the horizon, a heavy weight sunk in my gut.  

It was setting in - the idea that this might be our last day.  

I couldn’t bear looking into the sea. The rumors of the underwater ships that navigated undetected made me shake in fear. If those rumors were true, then we could be struck at any moment and be at the mercy of fate. 

But when I looked into Hawke’s chambers and found them empty, my fear turned into panic. 


I hurried as fast as I could through the ship, hollering his name as the fleet grew closer, the sound of cannons growing louder. I didn’t want to face this alone, I wanted- 

The sweet sound of the organ began, low and divine. Like sudden clarity among the madness.  

It then grew louder, and a melody was introduced. Raw and beautiful. 

It was followed by the sound of the crew preparing the Capriccio’s artillery and guns. Heavy metal being pushed and clicked into place.  

I hurried into the lower decks to get to the organ’s console, where the sounds of war faded away into the music of Hawke’s creation.  

Even a few decks below, I could hear the first cannon be fired. We had officially entered the battlefield, and Hawke let the pipes of the organ flow with the entire furiosity of his composition. A wicked, pretty dance for the ammunition flying through the air and striking ships, men

The volume was so great that my head began to pound. Hawke planned to utilize every stop, every pipe, every burst of air at his disposal.  

I found him seated at the core of the instrument, his face slick with sweat and tears. He completed the sarabande and- 

Something suddenly struck the Capriccio, with such force that I heard screaming from the lower decks and the rush of seawater. Everything that made this ship move forward was brought to a sudden halt.  

“Hawke,” I hurried to grab his hand. “We need to get out of here.”  

My panic rose into my throat with the water. I could hear it swallowing the ship. Men were drowning beneath our very feet, trapped within the lower decks as the angry sea delivered its sentence. Explosions shook the ship from all directions, battering it viciously. 

Hawke didn’t move. 

“Hawke,” I pulled him harder. The water was reaching us faster and, and we were- 

“Alice,” Hawke was calm, but he hadn’t stopped crying. He held my face in his hands, his fingers trembling. Something had replaced the fear that always lingered in his eyes. It was regret. “I only wish that we had more time, enough time for me to realize how good you were to me and for me to finally be good to you. I won’t waste my chance again, I promise.”  

The Capriccio sunk to the floor of the Southern Cross by dawn due to an ambush from League Submarines. Alice and Hawke drowned in the Capioccio Pipe Organ’s console. It looked like they had been dancing. 

May 08, 2023 21:54

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Mike Rush
02:09 May 19, 2023

Hey A. L. V., I came across this piece because I was looking for pieces with no, or few comments. I'm so glad I did! What a swashbuckling tale. Your male character is such an interesting person. A ship's captain, a drinker, a musician. I googled "ships with organs on them" because I thought you had an outlandish premise, but to my surprise, I found reference of many ships containing organs. How did you come up with this as a story idea? "his eyes fixated on my mouth." I love it when authors have, "thought of everything." This line was p...


A. L. V.
02:24 May 20, 2023

Hello Mike, I'm glad you enjoyed this short story! I love literature analysis, so here are the answers to your questions: Before I wrote this story, I actually had no idea that ships could have pipe organs built into them. I initially got inspiration for the Capriccio from a TV series called "Victory at Sea" and the movie "Howl's Moving Castle" (which is also where I got the inspiration for Hawke’s character) . I made the choice for the pipe organ factor because 1) I am a pianist, to an extent I can understand what it's like to play an o...


Mike Rush
19:33 May 20, 2023

Thanks for this discussion. It is really wonderful to hear from an author about what went on in the mind during writing. I think we'd all be better writers if more of them would share these kinds of thoughts. Thanks!


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J. D. Lair
17:31 May 16, 2023

I really enjoyed this story. You paint a great picture with your words and that ending was perfect.


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