The memory of vivica
“All together! The wind is still, so we need full power on the oars!” A distraught Captain Jill shouted as she hurled the nautical wheel of her ship to navigate the treacherous coastal rocks.
Using the cover of darkness and their head start on Captain Tyboon, Jillan and company were able to subtly navigate around idle night patrols. They were roughly half an hour out of Port Dreq. It was a cool, calm evening, but that did little to soften their situation. Jillian knew she had to keep spirits high.
“This is nothin' but a day in the life, boys!” She bellowed in an attempt to make her crew think she had a plan; in truth her only plan at that time was to avert a full blown mutiny. Fortunately for Jillian and her crew, Port Dreq was home to a weak navy; no more than a handful of ships sailed under their relatively young city-state banner.
Captain Jillian steered the Lady Helena up along the northern coast, staying a healthy distance out. She knew that as they sailed further from Port Dreq, tracking them down would be that much more difficult for Tyboon. Her most crucial plight, aside from her damaged ship, was the fact that they had not gotten the chance to resupply in Port Dreq. The food on board was both old and in dangerously low quantity. It became apparent to Jill that they would need to beach soon.
The crew rowed tirelessly for four days. Jillian switched spots with First Mate Witt after they reached a comfortable point in the open ocean. She shared an oar with a lanky young pirate named Fenix.
“Oi, Cap. Where we off to anyway?” Fenix asked between heavy oar strokes, with a toothpick hanging from his teeth. The young man wore a raggedy blue bandana that only partially covered his dirt blonde hair.
“Well,” they heaved a powerful stroke of the oar together, “we gotta get food and repair the ship. I think we'll be changing the scenery up a tad, do some coastal hunting.” They gave the oar another pull as the Lady Helena sliced through the steady water. “I know it's not exactly ideal, but what do you think?” she looked at her thin-bearded comrade.
“Oh I'm with ya, Cap', through and through. Could use some practice with a bow anyhow.” Fenix grinned.
A viable landing spot upon a small island caught Witt's eye. “Captain Jill! I see a spot you might wanna take a look at!” She hollered from behind the ship's large wheel. The island rested well off of Vega's mainland coast and many, many miles from Port Dreq, rendering a confrontation with Captain Tyboon very unlikely.
Jillian rose from her seat at the oar and approached the bow of the Lady Helena. “Lads!” She yelled to her attentive crew. “Anyone else tired of this bloody ocean?” There was an uproar of agreement from everyone on board.
“Alright then, here's the rundown! We have no food and only a pile of dirty rags that we like to call clothes on this ship! The crow's nest is clearly in need of replacing, so we're going to beach up ahead, set up a full camp and live the life of hunters until we're sea-ready! Any objections, you come and see me!” She jumped back down to her seat and grabbed the oar, exerting powerful strokes with her gang.
Hours later, at midday, Jillain and her crew had set up a passable camp in a lush clearing. A couple of men were fishing near the ship, some rabbits had already been caught further inland, and Dutch was leading a wood gathering excursion. First Mate Witt directed a handful of others to cover the docked ship in a leafy camouflage. If the crew worked fast enough, the Lady Helena could be fully repaired within a month or two.
Jillian walked the perimeter of the camp, one hand resting on the hilt of her sheathed saber, her new pistol suspended by a makeshift holster on her waist. Jill knew her place was at the camp, overseeing progress on the ship, but she was curious what lay beyond the trees and brush. She was taken aback by how untouched the island appeared. There were no signs of previous attempts at colonization anywhere to be seen.
Two weeks of hard effort and the Lady Helena was looking herself again. Dutch and his wood gathering party had found a cluster of sturdy oak trees toward the center of the island, and brought three whole trunks back to the campsite. The tedious work would be fashioning the wood into the right shapes and sizes to repair the ship's damaged topside and handrails. As for the crow's nest, Jill opted to leave it in its current, fractured state until they could sail to a proper shipyard. The continent of Vega had many other coastal city-states where Jillian and company would be able to replenish their stores. As soon as the core of the ship was fully repaired and the underbelly of the ship was loaded with rations for the twenty four people it housed, they would set sail for a suitable port.
“Witt!” Jill approached the beached Lady Helena, which was covered in foliage. This gave The Lady a false appearance of some natural landmark rather than a ship. Under the hot mid-day sun, her loyal first mate popped up from below deck.
“Yes, Cap'? What can I do for you?” Witt said, sweat coating her brow and her black blouse. She had been directing the replacement of the new wood on the ship for the past week.
“I'm takin' a walk. Dutch and Fenix are coming with me. You have the camp until we return, dear.” Jillian instructed.
“Yes, Cap'!” Witt hollered back before grabbing a rope and vaulting down the side of the ship. Once landing on the beach below, she dusted the sand off her black pants and boots. “Does this mean I get to hold the gun?” She jested.
“Maybe when you're older, dear.” Jillian said with a wink to her second-in-command, before rounding up her escort.
“So, there we were, Cap', just me and this beauty of a barmaid,” Fenix said as he, Captain Jillian, and Dutch cut through brush and trees on the far side of the island. “Now I hadn't yet been to this particular tavern, but me mates said if there was one woman to dally with, that's the one.”
“Oh yeah?” Jill said as she raise her saber high over her head before bringing it down through a growth of vines, branches, and twigs that was blocking their path.
“That's right, Cap'. Her name was Vivica, and you should of seen the fiery red hair she had. So I tell me mates to piss off and I finally muster up the courage to call her over. She walks up to me table and asks me what I'm havin', and slick as you wouldn't believe, I tell her I'm lookin' for somethin' hot,” Fenix went on.
“A quality line, to be sure. You must've really set her ablaze with that one,” Jill replied.
“I reckon I must've, because next thing you know she's sitting on me lap in the middle of the tavern. Now I'm getting looks from everyone in the place, mostly smiles as I figure they're all in awe of me charm, what with me wooing this pretty lass and all. I see me mates all grinnin' ear to ear, but I do my best not to get distracted, as Vivica ought to have been my only concern,” Fenix pauses to help Dutch pull a large fallen tree down and out of their path. “So Vivica plants a kiss on me cheek and by then my face must've beet red. She says in me ear, 'Come meet me in my room tonight, love. Right up the stairs and to the left.'”
“'You got it, babe.' I reply, trying my damnedest to play it cool,” Fenix continued. “So then she takes my hand and gently guides it along her thighs and to the crease in between her legs. Atleast there should've been a crease, but what I felt there was somethin' different. My first thought was some sort of wine opener, but then I hear me mates in the corner of the pub explode with laughter! She was a he!”
“Haha, now that's pretty good. Did you take her up on her offer that night?” An amused Jillian asked.
“Well Cap', I can't say that I did, but I kept the ol' Fenix charm intact the whole time. I politely says to Vivica, 'On second thought, I'm all set, pal!' And I went to rejoin me mates. And that's the story of how I almost found true love,” Fenix larked.
“Well I'm sure you'll find it one day, Fenix, with swagger like that,” Jill said encouragingly. After an hour or so of trekking, Jillian, Dutch, and Fenix finally reached the north side of the island.
“Look, more water!” Dutch said enthusiastically. He ran to the beach and splashed water in his face, as if he hadn't seen any in weeks.
“Hmm. I guess that's it for this spot of land, eh?” Jillian said to her comrades. She looked out into the sea, thinking about where they would head to next, once the Lady Helena was fully repaired. At that moment, something in the distance caught her eye. It was a solitary ship. “Guys, get in the bushes, now!” She commanded.
The three of them gathered in some nearby brush. As the small ship bobbed closer, Jillian confirmed her suspicions. It was from Port Dreq. A moment later she could see that Tyboon himself helmed the vessel.
“The son of a bitch followed us all the way out here. We need to head back to the ship. We're going to have to take a few prisoners today, lads. No killing, got it?” Jill looked to her two companions.
“Got it!” The two scoundrels said in unison.
As the trio turned to creep back through the woods, they heard a loud splash. They looked back at Tyboon's approaching vessel. Just behind his ship was what appeared to be an erratic wake in the water. The wake circled the lone ship once, before a massive scaled tail rose from the water and splashed down, creating a towering wave. The wave upended the small ship as the crew of four men, Tyboon included, jumped into the sea and swam for the beach. The wake that had been following the ship was now quickly trailing the four frantic men. A large mouth, filled with rows of deadly teeth, reared itself from the water, chomping the legs from one of the unfortunate swimmers.
“Cap', let's get going! That thing'll handle 'em all,” Fenix urged Jillain.
Captain Jillian's eyes widened at the sight of the carnage. A sense of resolution overcame her. She left the foliage, walking down the beach and flicking open the button that kept her firearm secure on her hip.
The greenish blue snout of the sea creature became visible in the water again, tailing another of the helpless swimmers. As before, the creature's jaws tore one of the men apart, leaving only Captain Tyboon and one other sailor alive to try to make it to dry land. Tyboon, a man who maintained peak physical condition, was the faster swimmer of the two. His unfortunate subordinate met a fate similar to the others, soon becoming a mess of red in the bay. The lone guard captain had nearly reached the beach.
Captain Jill pulled her firearm from its leather holster and squinted down its barrel. The beast's head rose once more, preparing to clamp its deadly jaws on Tyboons paddling legs. Jillian pulled the trigger and let loose a beam of purple energy. The bolt whizzed harmlessly past the beast, just barely too high to hit its mark. The creature recoiled from the blast's high amount of energy, giving Tyboon the few extra seconds he needed to make it to shore.
He hurriedly scampered up the beach, before stopping and noticing Jill, Fenix, and Dutch.
Looking back to the bay, they saw the wake approach the beach. The huge, scaly creature rose from the water and stomped onto the sand, revealing that it had four muscular legs, granting it deadly mobility on both land and sea.
Tyboon turned to a terrified Fenix. “Give me your sword!” He shouted.
Fenix fumbled to get his weapon out of its sheath, slicing his own hand in the process, before relinquishing it to the veteran warrior.
As the creature charged the group, Jillian readied her weapon once again, aiming it at the beast and squeezing the trigger. This time, however, nothing happened. She tried again, but the weapon only let out a soft clicking sound with each attempt.
Captain Tyboon, still drenched in water, cautiously raised his blade as Jillian drew her own. Dutch didn't know how to use a sword, but his loyalty to Jill galvanized him as he made ready to battle the beast.
The creature ran into their midst, snapping its jaws at Tyboon while swinging its heavy tail just above Jillian's head. Dutch ran in and leapt onto the huge tail, temporarily pinning it down with his massive weight. As the creature let out a powerful roar, Tyboon slashed his blade across its face with all of his might. The skilled warrior's attack hardly left a mark on the beast's nigh-impenetrable skin. It bucked its massive skull into Tyboon's chest, sending him to the ground gasping for air. The creature then raised its tail, with Dutch still grappling with all of his formidable strength, before slamming it down and knocking the large pirate unconscious.
Jillian found herself the only one of the three left capable of fighting. Fenix had ditched them and fled back to the ship to nurse his sliced hand. She slowly backed up, her blade still drawn. As the creature turned its gaze on her, she heard a quiet blip come from her gun. The beast charged her at a full sprint, and she drew her firearm once again. As the creature leapt at her with jaws spread wide, she pulled the trigger, sending purple energy in between its many rows of razor-sharp teeth. Jillian dropped to the ground as the heavy beast flew over her and tumbled into the sand. The beast squirmed and wriggled for a moment, attempting to rise again before collapsing on the golden sand.
Captain Tyboon let out a groan as he slowly lifted himself to his feet. He looked to Captain Jillian, who looked back at him. Together they went to the motionless Dutch, and Tyboon knelt to check the large pirate's pulse. Tyboon let out a sigh. “Your man is still alive.” He said to Jillian.
“Let's get him some water.” She responded. The two of them dragged the heavy man over the sandy beach. Jillian delicately splashed his cheeks with water until Dutch's eyes finally opened.
“Oh, hey boss,” Dutch said between heavy breathing. He looked into her radiant green eyes. “Are you okay?” He asked her.
A tearful smile sprouted on her face. “I am, Dutch, thanks to you. And thanks to Captain Tyboon here.”
“Lady Jillian, it is I who owe you thanks.” Tyboon replied. He put his fist to his chest and lowered his head. “You could have let me die. It would have benefited you.” He raised his gaze to hers. “So why did you help me?”
“I don't really know. It just felt right.” She said bluntly. “So then... What happens now? You've finally caught up to me.”
Tyboon looked to the ship-sized creature that lay up the coast. It's turquoise scales glimmered in the bright sunlight. It was quite a marvelous being. He turned back to the scoundrel who had just risked everything for him. “You are free to do as you wish, Captain Jillian. You may leave me here on this island, if that is your bidding.”
“Ehh, I suppose I can give you a ride home.” Jillian told the stout warrior. “And what about this?” She held her relic of a pistol up for Tyboon to inspect.
Tyboon looked the item over, but did not take it from her grasp. “It is yours. But I must ask you... Will you be a pirate for the rest of your days? Perhaps a more stable occupation might suit you.”
“My skill set is really quite limited,” Jillian joked.
“From what I've seen, I beg to differ. I need an admiral. I need someone to help me control the flow of dangerous weapons such as this through Port Dreq. I suspect more of these will appear in the coming years.”
Jillian considered the lofty proposal. She thought about what Lady Helena might look like with a bright red Port Dreq banner, as opposed to the plain brown flag that had been implemented by Zon, nearly a decade earlier. She considered what it would mean to truly let Zon's legacy die.
Jillian then recalled something that her mentor Zon had told a young Kenny, before the latter ended his stint as a crewmember aboard the Lady Helena, many years ago:
“The sea is the hardest home there is, Kenny. Find your own way. But please, do what you think is right. Always.”
Jillian, upon realizing that she was more akin to helping people than pillaging ships, made her decision. “Tyboon, you have your admiral. Let's head back to the Lady Helena, so that we might sail home.” The idea of having a home that didn't perpetually sway back and forth warmed Jillian's spirit to its core.
Tyboon smiled and raised his arm toward the path that lead through the island. “Lead the way, Admiral.”
© 2017 Jesse Pennington