The Patron Saint of Pirates

Submitted into Contest #67 in response to: Write about a pirate captain obsessed with finding a mythical treasure.... view prompt

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Adventure Fantasy

The cannon head swiveled, groaning as its gaping mouth lowered itself to Émilien’s face. The gnarled ropes dug into the underside of his ribs as he shifted on the mast, his husk sandals sliding over the damp deck.


The Captain slapped the top of the cannon affectionately. Her tricorn hat sat at a jaunty angle, and the Screaming Sword hung at her waist, silent. She turned to her prisoner, tracing the collar of her coal-colored vest.


“Answer me this, stowaway,” she said, and Émilien tried in vain to sit up straighter. Her voice was liquid steel, smooth and dangerously low. “Do you have any doubt I won’t blow your head off your body? Any at all?”


“Several, actually.”


The pirate thoughtfully leaned her chin on her palm. “Do you, now. Well then, what do you think will save you from me? The hand of the war god? A voice from the heavens? Or are you secretly Áspero reborn?”


“Well,” said Émilien. “I’m tied to your mast. You’d hit the mast.”


 “I’D HIT THE MAST! I’D HURT MY DARLING!” The Captain raised her arms to the sky in jubilation, her eyes closed and cheek bared in supplication. One beetle-black peeked out. “Untie the prisoner. The decks need scrubbing. Hop to!”


The crew gave Émilien various scowls. A one-eyed woman squeezed a fish so hard its head burst. A bear-faced man with a body like a wooden barrel met him stare for stare. He lit a pipe, popped it into his mouth, and started to chew. A squat man with a spoon tied to his wrist in place of a hand scooped seaweed out of his soup bowl. Loud slurps filled the awkward silence.


“Fine,” the bear man grunted between crunches, flicking a gleaming butter knife from his sleeve. “I’ll do it.”


The knife landed a hair away from Émilien’s ear, and the ropes rolled off his body. He scooted away from the blade, scrambling to his feet. His smooth hand brushed off his white robe with the remnants of his dignity.


The bear man picked splinters out of his teeth. “That’s the last favor anyone’ll do you. Better thank me proper, boy.”


“Thank you very much.”


The bear man scowled.


Émilien pulled a coin from his breech pocket and tossed it to the bear man. “Thank you very, very much.”


The coin went high, and the bear man snatched it out of the air. He lifted it to catch the sun. Satisfied, he breathed on its surface and rubbed it hard against his sleeve. “Smart lad. What you do?”


Émilien’s eyebrows furrowed. “Sorry?”


“What you do?”


“I’m an — I was an altar boy. If that’s what you’re asking.”


“Altar boy?” The man began to shake. His body shifted and rolled as he roared with laughter. “Har! Saint in the making, this one! Trying to catch Jesus walking on water, are you? Har! What are you called, holy man?”


“Émilien.”


“You are canonized, Saint Émilien!” The pirate ducked his bulk into a low, mocking bow. “I am your faithful servant, Mammoth Man. Har!”


Émilien returned a weak smile, his eyes wandering to the shrinking stretch of land behind the laughing giant. Forgive me.


The crew of the Motley Minx quite soon forgot there was ever a time where Émilien wasn’t there. His own brooding thoughts were often cut short by shouts of, “Bless me with another pipe!” and “A bottle, Saint Em, there’s a good lad”. His days filled with menial chores and crude teasing and pirates everywhere he looked.


When the captain caught him staring northwards back where they had come, she clapped the boy on the back and bellowed, “Save the holy visions for after the deck’s swabbed, altar boy!”


Mammoth Man cast him a reproachful glower. “Shouldn’t dally.” He put down the barrel of mead he’d been drinking from. “Not with the Captain around, anyway.”


“She’s deceptively strong.” Émilien’s mop hit the deck with a wet splat. Its worn tendrils slid over the wine-stained wood.


“Aye. Gets it from her godfather.” 


“How do you know her godfather?”


Mammoth Man raised a brow so thick it could be a normal man’s mustache. “The church must’ve sheltered you like a babe. The tale goes that Soltaire’s parents named the heathen god Nari as her godfather in jest.”


“I suppose I wouldn’t have heard anything about heathen gods in the church.”


“Aye.”


“So that’s the secret? Her parents had a strange sense of humor?”


“Well, there was that.” Mammoth Man glanced past him, nodding at the captain. “Turns out Nari didn’t take it as a joke.”


Émilien laid awake that night, his arm splayed across his face. Even the Minx’s gentle rocking couldn’t lull him to sleep. He squeezed the silver crucifix tied around his neck. Its corners dug into his smooth palm.


It must be tonight. I fetched everyone enough drinks to kill a whale. There’s no better time.


“Ow!”


He sat up, hissing and grasping his hand. Beads of blood swelled where the cross had cut him. 


He curled his fingers into his hair, sucking the cuts. What am I doing? Why did I waste so much time?


Now. It has to be now.


The blanket fell away, crumpling over itself as he stepped over it. The door made no sound. Moonlight slashed across the darkened room. Then it was gone.


Émilien walked into the captain’s cabin to find her fully dressed and sitting at her desk, hands folded on her knee. She bared her teeth into a sawblade smile. “Took you long enough.”


“You knew?”


“It was unlocked, wasn’t it?”


“You knew and you let me — ” Émilien scowled. “You hit me. You made me swab the deck until dawn broke.”


“Fun and games. I wanted to see how long you’d last.” Soltaire gallantly waved her arm at the chair before her. “Sit.”


“I think I’ll stand. Thank you, though.”


She drew her pistol, bussing it with a corner of her sleeve. “Sit.”


He sat.


“So. My time has come.” The pirate leaned forward. Her smile widened. “I really appreciate you coming to fetch me yourself, godfather.”

November 10, 2020 21:05

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2 comments

Rayhan Hidayat
22:33 Nov 14, 2020

I love your writing style, how you never linger on a point and how snappy the dialogue is. So altar boy is actually the heathen god Nari? Very interesting. I’m just wondering where the mythical treasure comes into play. Unless of course the captain is the treasure, and Nari has been looking for her, which would be a cool take on the prompt. Kudos! 😙

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Ari .
00:08 Nov 15, 2020

Thanks! You’re exactly right (: I’m glad you liked the story!

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