I should probably start at the beginning, which for me is a very long time ago. My name is Nell. Well, it’s Nelliethiel Briarbosk, but most people can’t pronounce my name anyway, so somewhere along the lines I just became “Nell”. I’m an old woman now, but once upon a time I lived a life at sea and celebrated every milestone of this existence with a band of pirates called “The Myrmidons”. This is that story.
I was never meant to sail, become a Co-Captain, or live a life outside of the law. In fact, my fate was quite the opposite. Born to a noble family, my sister and I were raised in a life where decorum and beauty reigned supreme. My fiery, red hair was swept up in the most elaborate styles of that decade. Oh, how I chuckle at the thought now. But life has a way of intervening in ways that are strange and mysterious.
I admit that I hated that life from the moment my mother placed a book on my head. “Nellie” she would say in a crisp tone, “keep your back straight”. I kept my back straight, but what I wanted to do was run to the nearest exit. I wanted freedom. I wanted a life of mystery where everyday was an adventure. My soul yearned for a life that was outside of the norm. As I grew into a teenager, my father would get agitated as I questioned why I needed to marry within our class, or why I needed to have an estate at all! My mother would shoot me looks, while my father ranted on about the types of men I could bring home… and those I could not. So, I did the very thing that would anger my parents most: I gave away my virginity.
I say “gave away” but in truth the reality was far different. I met a man much older than I. I was in my late teens and he was in his thirties. For me, that was rebellious enough. Dating him made me feel mature, reckless, and alive. He was a traveler. A commoner. Okay, and I had my suspicions that he also had a “rap sheet” somewhere in his past. However, I never dared to ask. My first time having sex wasn’t romantic. It wasn’t glamorous. In fact, it was quick, and abrupt. He was experienced and I was not. Looking back, I think he was just happy to be having sex with a virgin. I laid there and simply let it happen. I think somewhere in the back of my mind I enjoyed giving a big middle finger to my overly protective, discriminatory parents. So, I had sex. What I wasn’t prepared for was him seducing me into a lifestyle of sex, money, and prostitution.
Over the course of several years I wandered around the city charged with my youth, adrenaline, and picking up on street smarts quickly. I made money by having sex. It was simple enough, though the people I met were sometimes the creepiest around. My boyfriend took the money, and gave me a bit here and there to buy clothes or get some groceries. I started coming home less, (and making excuses to my parents when I did), until finally I stopped coming home at all. I regret those choices now. I really do.
But hindsight is 20/20 or so they say. Had I not gotten into that lifestyle, I would have never been sold to a ship of slavers bound for Elona. And had I never boarded that ship, I would have never been rescued by my first real love, and the most wild pirate I know: Captain Taliron Quinn.
Life on a slave ship was… about what you picture in your mind. It was hot, cramped, and smelled of urine and feces. There was little air, and I longed to go home and deal with my father’s lectures whilst enjoying biscuits and tea. Yet, there I was. My hair was filthy. My usual clothes were replaced with thin, linen garments that hung over my frame. Beneath that potato sack I had an hourglass frame, but you’d never know it from the dirt and grime that caked my skin. I was thirsty, starving, and praying for a miracle. Sometimes miracles come in the form of dear friends. Other times it comes from your ship being mistaken for a trading vessel and attacked by a band of pirates…
Across the waters a pirate Captain was peering at our ship through his spyglass. He had never intended to be outside of the law. But his life was as complicated as my own, and things unraveled quickly for him as well. With his best friend (and first mate) at his side, they started a crew of misfits that sailed the seas, stealing enough to make ends meet, while trying not to kill… if possible. “Just one more mark” his deckhand, Nori had said to him and pointed to our ship, “it’s a trading vessel. We’ll steal the cargo and be on our way in a flash”. (They were so sloppy back then). Tali gave a sigh. Every raid on a ship came with risks. Sometimes things went well. Other times shots were fired and lives were lost. It’s the life of a pirate and everyone knew what they were signing up for when they came aboard. Tali nodded his head. One last raid….
In his mind he had reasoned that they would steal enough to sell, and then try to go “legit” as a fishing vessel. Looking back, I think he was a fool. He and I were destined to be wild, destined to chase after the thrill of the hunt. But he has a good heart despite his sharp tongue and quick trigger finger. Still, he had no idea that he was about to raid a ship that wasn’t carrying cargo at all. It was carrying people. It was carrying me. As several cannons were fired and their ship sped up alongside ours, I heard the slavers running on the top deck frantically. Metal clashed on metal above my ears as the pirates boarded the ship. Grunting and crashing above had me shivering in my boots. All of us slaves stayed quiet below deck. Only our eyes filled with terror could be seen in the dark. Eventually the noise died down. The hatch was lifted, and two heavy boots stepped down into the belly of the ship.
Before me stood a man with jet black hair, tanned skin, and piercing dark eyes. He was as wild as the sea and smelled of salt and soap. For a half of a second he blinked in surprise at his blunder. Then his eyes narrowed and he muttered curse words (which I won’t write here) under his breath. He was about to leave when our eyes locked. He sighed and began to turn away.
I was pissed. So… damn… pissed. He was going to let us die out here? I stood up. “So that’s it?!” I snapped. (I’ve always had a bit of a temper). He spun around and faced me. He was silent and I wasn’t sure if we spoke the same language. He eyed the steel collar around my neck before advancing a few steps. “What?” he asked in a low tone. I took a calming breath. I was so nervous but I didn’t want to show it. “So, you’re going to kill those guys and just leave us here to die??” I snapped. I saw his jaw clench in frustration. If I could have read his mind in that moment I’m sure it was full on conflict and confusion. He had a choice to make. Suddenly he turned away and began barking orders to his crew.
I scrambled after him wanting to get another word in, but was stopped short when I saw half of his crew sailing our ship, while the rest went back on board to theirs. They were sailing our vessel to anchor us near land. They were setting all of us free. “Uh–” I called out to him as he grabbed a rope and met my eyes once again. I swallowed hard. “Thank you?” I said in a soft, shy tone. He gave me a curt nod and swung back to his ship.
Thus began the most wonderful, long, complicated journey of life. I’ll write again in the next chapter. Until then…