by L. Grace Buller
“Don't do it,” she begged. “Don't kill them.”
Adrian gave her a harsh glare, then walked off, leaving her with a broken heart and a bloody wound.
“Cadi?” Captain Mel stood in the doorway of the gun deck. “We're nearly to port. Stay close to the ship, in case there's trouble.”
“I won't be gone but a wee hour. I need t'purchase a few things in the market and visit m'contact.”
Captain Mel frowned. “Cadi, I don't think the Baron's coming back.”
“He always comes back. He never gives up. And I have to make sure even if he comes back that I never run into him again.”
“If that makes you feel safe, then do it. But don't spend the rest of your life worrying that one day you'll turn a corner and he'll be there. You need to live your life.”
“And I will. When I know I can without a danger of him coming back.”
“I need to go abovedecks to oversee the sailors. You be careful.
“I will.” Captain Mel left and Cadi slid her daggers into their sheaths, which were located extensively across her body. Next went her pistols, of which she had three or four. Then a bag of gunpowder and flint. Cadi pushed her short blond hair out of her face and headed abovedecks. It was bustling with sailors. They were just beginning to lower the gangplank. Cadi loitered around deck until it seemed like a good time for her to disembark, then she ran down the gangplank, breathing in the fresh sea air.
Cadi headed to the market first, and purchased some new boots and cloth, then headed to the house of her contact. No one answered her knock.
Fishing her lock pick out of her satchel, Cadi slid in into the lock and fiddle around until the door slid open. She slipped inside and shut it quickly. Drawing a pistol, Cadi progressed slowly down the hall until she came to the main room. Her contact sat on a ratty chair at the far end of the room.
“You should really look into answering your door,” Cadi said.
“You obviously found your way in easily enough,” he said, shrugging.
“Yes, but I could have been the Baron.”
“But, due to my impeccable luck, you weren't.”
“But I could have been.”
“I'm touched by your worry for my safety, Derwynn. But don't let me keep you. You came here for a reason?”
“You want to know where he is.”
“He's one port over.”
Cadi swallowed. “Thank you.”
“Cadi, I have more news.”
“What is it?”
“He's looking for you again.”
*****The ship wasn't far.
Cadi steadied herself on the side of a house, breathing deeply. She felt like she had all those years ago when—no. She wouldn't think about it.
The Baron didn't deserve to invade her life—or her thoughts.
A force stuck Cadi from the side, and she fell to the street, hitting her hand wrong. Before she could get her bearings together, a hand went over her mouth and someone yanked her to her feet and pulled her into an alley. Cadi slipped her dagger from and sheath and struck at her attacker. The person cursed, and warm blood coated Cadi's fingers. Grimacing, Cadi took advantage of the person's surprise and ran for the street. A hand grabbed Cadi's cloak and yanked her back. Her attacker cursed again.
Cadi struck the man again, and he fell. “Who sent you?” Cadi said, but she knew the answer.
“The Baron wants you back, girl. And he will get you back.”
Trembling, Cadi stumbled away from the body, breaking into a sprint and running for the ship.
The Second Chance looked ready to leave when Cadi got there. She ran up the gangplank, finally remembering to sheath her dagger.
“Cadi!” Captain Mel pulled away from where she was speaking with several merchants. Knowing that ignoring your captain was never a good idea, Cadi turned towards Captain Mel. “Are you okay?” the captain asked, coming towards Cadi.
“You're covered in blood.”
“You look like you've seen a ghost.”
“You don't have your satchel.”
“Cadilyn Derwynn, you better tell me what happened to you right now or you will no longer have a job.”
“I was attacked.”
“It's obviously more than that.”
“The Baron is looking for me again. He's one port over.”
“And who attacked you?”
“Cadi...” Captain Mel glanced around, then guided her belowdecks.
“I'm fine, Captain,” Cadi protested.
“No, you aren't. You're covered in blood and quite obviously in shock.”
“The Baron sent that man who attacked me, Captain. The man said that the Baron wanted me back.”
“You need to rest, Cadi. I'll have someone wake you if we need you.”
Cadi nodded numbly, and allowed Captain Mel to help her find her hammock.
Cadi lay awake long after Captain Mel left, staring up at the ceiling. Her last thought, before sleep claimed her, was of her attacker's words.
The Baron wants you back, girl. And he will get you back.
******“Derwynn.” The familiar voice of the First Mate woke Cadi.
“What is it?” Cadi asked sleepily.
“The Captain sent this for you.” The first mate thrust something at Cadi as she sat up.
“Thanks,” Cadi mumbled. The first mate nodded, then left. Cadi looked down at what he had given her. It was a parchment scroll, spattered with blood. Cadi unrolled it. The top half was covered in an intricate drawing of a young woman. A young woman who was quite obviously Cadi. On the bottom half, in large words, it said:
THE BARON IS WILLING TO PAY GENEROUSLY FOR HER, ALIVE AND UNHARMED.
LAST SEEN IN PORT PLYMOUTH, ON A SHIP CALLED THE SECOND CHANCE.
Cadi swallowed. So that's why she was attacked. The Baron had lackeys out looking too.
Maybe he could change. Cadi winced at her own thought. No. He couldn't. The Baron chose his path. And he would live by it. She would never go back. He would never see her again.
Cadi sighed and bit her lip. She should hate him. She should never want to see him again. But... she wasn't angry anymore. She didn't hate him. She wanted to see him. But she was scared.
Cadi ran her uninjured hand through her short hair. That was one thing wrong with the drawing. It showed her with long hair. She had cut it not long after she last saw him. She couldn't hide forever. She was a marked woman—and so was the Second Chance.
Maybe that was Captain Mel's message by sending her this: Get off my ship. But... would Captain Mel do that? Cadi rubbed her sprained wrist absentmindedly. The first mate obviously didn't seem happy. Would she have to leave to protect them? The Second Chance had become her home, despite the slobs that passed as sailors. And Captain Mel was her dear friend, almost like a mother. She knew everything about what had happened with Cadi and the Baron, what had made Cadi leave. She smoothed the horrors of what Cadi had lived, and dampened even Cadi's best memories of the Baron—a good thing. She had kept Cadi from a loneliness that would have made her run back to the Baron.
Cadi laid back, her hammock swaying. She obviously needed to make a choice, find some way to protect Captain Mel and her crew.
Because right now, no one was safe.
“Cadi, your contact just arrived at the ship and is demanding to see you. I suggest you get abovedecks to speak with him, because we need to leave.” Captain Mel's voice startled Cadi.
“Jake? He's here?” Cadi frowned.
Cadi jumped off her hammock and followed Captain Mel abovedecks. Near the gangplank, Jake stood conversing with some of the crew. When he saw her, and began walking quickly over.
“What are you doing here?” Cadi hissed to him.
“I just got some news that might interest you,” Jake said. “There are some people looking for you.”
“That's the idea, Jake.”
“No, not the Baron or his lackeys.”
“Wait, who then?”
“A charming young redhead and her brother. Welsh, I think.”
No, it couldn't be. That would mean her aunt and uncle were dead. “Names?” Cadi asked, then swallowed.
“Gwendolyn and Drake Hess.”
Cadi paled visibly.
“Do you know them?” Jake asked, frowning.
“Yes.” Cadi nodded.
“Well, this is a day for surprises. Who are they?”
“So, either they actually do work for the Baron, or you haven't seen them in a long time.”
“I just haven't seen them in awhile.” Cadi frowned, noticing that the port was in fact farther away then it should have been.
Jake followed her line of vision, then his eyes widened.
“Captain?” Cadi called.
“Sorry, Cadi,” Captain Mel said. “You talked too long. We had to get going.”
Jake frowned. “There probably isn't any chance that'd you'd be willing to turn back and drop me off, is there?”
Captain Mel shrugged. “We're on a schedule. We can drop you off at the next port.”
Jake groaned. “Really?”
*******“No luck?” Gwendolyn asked as Drake entered the captain's cabin.
“What are you doing in here?”
“I'm reading one of your books. So, no luck?”
“None. I'm quite tired too, so if you're done, Gwen, I'd like to sleep.”
“What she's dead, Drake?” Gwendolyn said, sighing.
“Wait, what? How do you know?”
“This.” Drake held up a roll of parchment.
Gwendolyn snatched it from him and opened it. The top half had a drawing of a young woman from shoulders up. The bottom half had a message.
THE BARON IS WILLING TO PAY GENEROUSLY FOR HER, ALIVE AND UNHARMED.
LAST SEEN IN PORT PLYMOUTH, ON A SHIP CALLED THE SECOND CHANCE.
“Well, that isn't good,” Gwendolyn said, biting her lip.
“No, it isn't. She obviously ran in the wrong circles for a little bit.”
“Joseph did that too. Maybe he can help us.”
“Let's go find him, then.” Drake said.
“I was hoping you'd say that,” Gwendolyn said, and grinned.
********The sound of a cannon woke Cadi. She jumped from her hammock and raced to the gundeck where she found her substitute and her gunmen loading the cannons.
“Good, you're awake,” her substitute, Ted, said.
“I'll take over,” Cadi said, then began shouting out orders.
Before another shot could be made, there was a bang, and the ship rocked chaotically.
They had been hit.
He hadn't listened to her. Maybe never. And maybe it was time for her to leave.
Cadi dumped a cannonball in the cannon and aimed it at the other ship, lighting the fuse when she finished. With a deafening boom, the cannonball spun towards the other ship, and the cannon slid backwards.
“Ted, take over. I'm going up to assess the damage and see if the captain needs any help,” Cadi yelled, then turned and trekked abovedecks. The mast lay across the deck, and the crew was in chaos. Several crewmembers lay dead, trapped beneath the mast. Cadi swallowed, and saw the captain on the far side of the deck shouting orders. Cadi, ran towards Captain Mel, dodging bodies and jumping over the mast.
“What's the damage?” Cadi yelled over the sound of the cannons.
“The mast is gone, but that's it. You shouldn't have abandoned your post.” Captain Mel shouted back.
A sudden thought struck Cadi with a shocking voraciousness. “Captain, where is Jake?”
“I have no idea.” The captain answered. Cadi spun around, instantly thinking to check the mast. Sure enough, he lay trapped beneath it. Dread filled Cadi's veins like lead. Please, please, please, she silently begged Jake, don't be dead. She fell to her knees beside him and checked his pulse.
He was alive.
Cadi quickly assessed the damage. His legs were most likely broken—and maybe his arm and a rib or two. He had a pretty deep gash on his forehead as well.
Cadi tried to push the mast off of him, but her right hand protested with a large amount of pain, and without it, she didn't have the strength.
Cadi turned and yelled for help to the crew. Nearly everyone noticed, but kept on with their other work. Was this her punishment for condemning the crew? Did they blame this attack on her? Tears splashed down Cadi's cheeks—she hadn't cried like this since the Baron left her. Another person knelt beside Cadi, and when Cadi glanced over, she recognized the person as Captain Mel. The captain gave Cadi a wee smile, then pushed the mast off of Jake. More tears pooled in Cadi's eyes, and she whispered, “Thank you.” Her thank you, though lost in the noise, was obviously received. The captain turned towards Jake and lifted him. Cadi stood with the captain and started to follow, until she noticed where Captain Mel was going—to her own cabin.
“Captain, he can go in my hammock,” Cadi protested, but Captain Mel shook her head.
“He needs a real bed, Cadi, not a hammock.” Captain Mel answered.
They entered the cabin and Captain Mel laid Jake out on the bed. “You have a few skills in medicine, don't you?” the captain asked.
Cadi nodded. “I should be able to manage.”
“If you need something, there are dried herbs and cloths in the cabinet.”
“Actually, Captain, if you could,” Cadi bit her lip, “He'll be needing several splints. If we don't need the wood from the mast, could you carve some while I'm doing this?”
“One minute,” Captain Mel said, then held a finger to her lips in the universe “shush” sign. “The cannons have stopped. And I can't hear any fighting.”
“Do you think we won?”
“I don't know. Stay here. I'm going to go find out.” Before Cadi could protest, Captain Mel was out the door.
Cadi looked around until she found a flask of water and some cloths. She poured water on the cloths, then dabbed the cut on Jake's forehead with them. Once she was convinced it was sufficiently cleaned, she wrapped the remaining cloths around his head.
After further examination, she discover his right arm was broken—and dislocated. Swallowing, Cadi shut her eyes and popped the arm back into place.
Cadi took a deep breath, then moved on to his stomach. When she pulled his shirt up, she discovered immense bruising, and he jerked when she touched it. They were probably broken. She didn't know what to do for broken ribs. She was winging it as is. Cadi yanked his shirt back down and checked his legs. Both broken, and dislocated at the knee. At least she could treat that. Cadi yanked both legs back into place, then sat back and sighed. There was nothing more she could do. Cadi's eyes drifted closed.
*******The sound of the door opening woke Cadi. She sat straight, and rubbed sleep from her eyes, slowly reaching for her pistol.
“Cadi, it's me,” Captain Mel's voice said. Cadi relaxed. The captain handed her several splints.
“I assume we won?” Cadi asked.
“Yes. As soon as we got the upper hand, they fled.” Captain Mel shrugged. “They were cowards.”
Cadi nodded while she tied the splints to each broken limb in several places. “Did you find out who they were?”
“No. Has our patient woken yet?” Captain Mel sighed and pulled up a chair.
“No, but he lost a lot of blood from the cut on his head.” Cadi shrugged. “It's understandable.”
“We're stopping at the next port,” Captain Mel said.
Cadi's head jerked up. “You said we wouldn't.”
“We need to repair the ship. We'll fall apart at the sight of the next storm if we don't.” Captain Mel frowned.
Cadi bit her lip. “I'm... scared, Captain. That attack was probably my fault. The crew hates me. As long as I stay, all of you are in danger.”
“He won't get to you. This crew may hate you right now, but they would die for me, and they know I would die for you. They'll come around. Just give them time.” Captain Mel set a comforting arm around Cadi. Cadi leaned her head on Captain Mel's shoulder and stared down at Jake.
“What if he doesn't get better?” Cadi asked.
“He'll be fine.” Captain Mel said. “He's a fighter. I could see it in his eyes. He'll see this through.”
“Is this a party?” Jake's voice startled Cadi out of her doze.
“You're awake!” Cadi said, grinning.
“Your excitement is scaring me, Derwynn. It's the slightest bit unfamiliar.” Jake said.
Cadi shoved him lightly.
“Hey, I'm injured here. Take it easy.” Jake said, wincing ever so slightly.
“That was your uninjured arm, idiot.” Cadi admonished him.
“Look, I hurt so bad I can't tell the difference. And why are there sticks all over me? I'm not a tree, last I looked.” Jake raised an eyebrow.
“You're ridiculous.” Cadi said. “And the sticks are helping you get better.”
“I think a cup of water would work better,” Jake said, shrugging, then he winced again.
“Would it work just as well if I poured it on your head?” Cadi asked.
“Probably not.” Jake said.
“That's too bad,” Cadi sighed, and handed him a flask of water.
“I'm not noticing that.” Jake said, frowning.
“That's because you're you.” Cadi leaned back in her chair.
“Yes. Annoying. Now shut up, or you might wake the captain.” Cadi said, glancing at Captain Mel.
“You're the one shoving people.”
“And you're the one talking.” Cadi said.
“Since you seem to be the one to ask, when can I get up?” Jake asked.
“Not until the next port,” Cadi said, shrugging. “Even longer if you wake the captain.”
Jake winced. “And who do I spend that time with? You?”
“You'll find I'm slightly tolerable.” Cadi answered.
“Well, yeah, you were, but you're not paying me anymore.” Jake ran a hand through his hair.
“Too bad. You can deal with it. You might even get used to it.” Cadi smiled.
“That'll be the day,” Jake answered.
Cadi rolled her eyes. “Just shut up.”
********They were surrounded by luscious green foliage. The sun was high in the sky, and the sky was a beautiful bright blue.“Do you even know where we are?” Gwendolyn asked, looking around.
“Sure.” Drake answered, wiping sweat off his forehead.
“We're lost, aren't we?” Gwendolyn said, putting her hands on her hips.
Drake shook his head. “No, we aren't.”
“I think we are.” Gwendolyn sighed.
“You think a lot.” Drake frowned. “It's very distracting.
“I'm a sentient person.” Gwendolyn rolled her eyes.
“Shocking, Gwen. I thought you were a monkey.” Drake said.
“Is that your way of telling me to be quiet?”
“Yes, actually.” Drake said. “I am trying to concentrate.”
“Ah, so we are lost.” Gwendolyn said, with satisfaction.
“Yes we are. Now will you shut up?”
******It was a long week to the next port. And to top that off, once they arrived, Captain Mel informed Cadi that the damage was worse than they had originally thought, and that they would be delayed in port for several days.
Cadi got a room at a local inn for her and another room for Jake, then they got some food and went to eat it at a nice spot near the docks.
“I deserve an award, you know,” Jake said, making Cadi choke on her food.
“What for?” she asked.
“I lived in a bed for a whole week, only allowed to see you and the captain. It was quite a feat.” Jake took a bite of his stew.
“I rather think it's us who deserve that award. We put up with you.” Cadi answered, running a hand through her hair.
“There are thousands of girls who would have killed to be in your place.” Jake said astutely.
“What, to have a chance to slap you?” Cadi asked, raising her eyebrow.
“I think they would have other things on their minds.” Jake said, slurping.
Cadi rolled her eyes. “Yeah right.”
“It's true.” Jake smiled.
Cadi smacked his stomach.
“Ow. Broken ribs, remember?” Jake winced.
“Oh, sorry.” Cadi frowned. “Are you okay?”
“Oh, look,” Jake said, “you care.
********Joseph was not having a good day. He'd run into a few of the Baron's goons in the forest, and now Gwen and Drake were showing up on his doorstep.
“What do you want?” he asked them.
“Help,” Drake said. “We need you to help us find someone.”
“Who?” Joseph asked gruffly.
“Cadilyn Derwynn.” Drake said.
“No.” Joseph said. He knew that girl. She was trouble.
Drake opened his mouth to say something, but then Joseph slammed his door.