5 - Revelations

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Walking up the old wooden steps to get on deck was one of the hardest things Nora had ever done. With the big pirate only a few feet behind her, her only option was to keep climbing the stairs, one step at a time until the last rays of sun hit her face. The salty air was refreshing in comparison to the stale one below deck. Hadn't it been for the fear roaring in Nora's body, she might've enjoyed the beautiful view that presented itself to her as she took in her surroundings. Blue green waves crashed against the ship, its sound reassuring and consistent. The sky was painted pink and orange from the sunset, a warm light surrounded everything as far as the eye could see. Ruining the view however, were twenty or something dirty, rugged men, all staring at Nora as she climbed the stairs. Someone whistled at her. Everywhere she looked, she met a pair of hungry eyes, staring at her like she was breakfast. Suddenly, Nora wished to go back down to the cabin, where she was unseen. But the pirate behind her gave her a push forward, towards the crew. As she continued to walk across deck, the crew called after her, telling her what dirty things they would like to do to the Governors daughter. Every sentence sent shivers down Nora's spine and she didn't dare to look anywhere else but down at her feet.

"Lads, we're in the company of a lady, we need to watch our tongues", a familiar voice shouted. Nora quickly looked up and found James looking down at her from the rudder. There was a complete silence for a few seconds, before the crew burst out laughing, James joined in on the laugh as well. The only one not founding it amusing was Nora, who felt more uncomfortable than anything else. She wasn't unfamiliar with a foul language, as a lot of the staff at the Governors house had a bad mouth, but having it all directed at her made her feel uneasy. Like she was an art piece on display. Only these weren't fine ladies and gentlemen who appreciated fine art, these were pirates without moral or discipline.

A hard shove in her back told Nora to keep moving up a second pair of stairs, to where James was standing. The wind got more powerful as she got higher up on deck. The salty air catching her hair and sending strands of it to blow around her face. The hem of her dress swirling at her feet. She stopped a few feet from James, not daring to get too close. The pirate behind her seemed to think it was close enough as well, as she didn't receive another push.

"Captain", the big pirate said, nodding in James's direction. "Brought the wench." James smiled a little as nodded back, but Nora was furious. Quickly she turned around.

"I am not a wench, thank you very much!" Anger filled her and she had to resist the urge to slap the bastard. Her fingers itched, longed for the sound of them hitting the pirates rugged face. But his presence scared her, and Nora feared what would come if she did as she desired.

"Don't you talk back to me, you bitch." The pirate took one step forward, hovering over her, his shadow darkening her view. Before she knew it, the pirate raised his hand to hit her. With her eyes fixed on the big hand, Nora waited for the blow. But it never came. Instead another hand grabbed the pirates wrist, and suddenly Nora was placed safely behind the back of James.

"That is enough, Belmore. We do not hurt the merchandise." James voice was low and dangerous, the authority booming out from every cell of his body. The big pirate, Belmore, stared at James for a few seconds before he relaxed his arm.

"Aye, Captain."

James let go and turned to Nora, who only stared blankly at him. Gratitude and disgust ran through her body. Gratitude towards James for saving her from getting hit, for protecting her. But also disgust, as she had been reminded what she was to these men. A product to sell. A profit. Not a person, but an object, worth a lot of pretty pennies. At least they thought so. Nora thanked the gods that no one had figured out that she wasn't Guinevere, because right now it seemed like that was the only thing keeping her safe.

Belmore made his way down the stairs again, to the main deck. A few of the crew members had stopped their chores to watch how the scene between James and Belmore played out. But at soon as James even glanced down at the crew, everybody started to move again. Nora was quite amazed by the amount of respect those filthy pirates had for their captain. Somehow she found it hard to believe that they had any form at discipline or loyalty at all. To her they were all just murderers and thieves. Rapists and psychopaths.

"You don't need to be afraid of Belmore", James suddenly said, interrupting Nora's hateful thoughts. "He barks more than he bites, but has an ego as big as Gisela, so just watch out so you don't bruise it." With a wink, James went back to the rodder. Nora was silent for awhile, only nodding a response. It was always hard to keep up with James, even though Nora had only met him twice. She never quite knew how to read him. Standing there at the rodder, his hands on the polished wood, the wind grabbing hold of his hair and shirt, he looked so peaceful and free. Like a bird, thriving in the smell of the sea and the wind under his wings. In another situation, Nora would've been jealous. James lived the adventure she had longed for. He was free to do what every he wanted. Nothing was holding him back. But on the other hand, he was a killer, a pirate and a kidnapper. James Haddock wasn't a good man. And that was what made it so hard for Nora to read him. Because at the first glance, he looked like the sun. Majestic, free and powerful. But then he would say or act in a way that made Nora remember that he was none of those things. James Haddock wasn't the sun. He was her worst nightmare.

"Who's Gisela?" She asked, wanting to steer the conversation away from Belmore or anything that might lead to Nora ending up getting hit after all. James threw her a look and smiled.

"This is Gisela." He took one hand of the rodder and gestured towards the ship. "Duchess Gisela of England, to be precise." Nora wrinkled her nose.

"That is not a very good name for a pirate ship", she mumbled at she stroked the smooth wood of the rail. James laughed an intoxicating laugh and ran his hand through his hair.

"Gisela wasn't a pirate ship from the beginning.  She was a wedding gift for Duchess Gisela on her wedding day. But since her husband and I had unfinished business, I commandeered it and took it as my own." Nora had trouble finding a appropriate answer. Everything he said made her uneasy. But at the same time she found it quite funny. A bunch of rugged pirates sailing the seas, creating chaos where ever they went, on the ship Duchess Gisela of England. There was some comedy in that, no doubt. When hearing stories of pirates as a child, the ships had always been called Bone cracker or Widow maker. Something gruesome that represented how awful the pirates were. But never had she dreamt of pirates who sailed the Gisela. It just didn't make sense with the men that she had seen plundering her hometown.

"Suppose we could rename it. But I'm quite fond of Gisela. She's a real lady, this ship. I think it suits her, don't you?" Nora took a look at the ship. It was a majestic ship, with big, white sails, polished wood and tall, broad spares, towering over them all.

"It might suit her, but it does not suits you", Nora finally said. "Perhaps you should name her Kidnapper or Hostess of horror." Crossing her arms, Nora turned her chin up, hoping to look as tough and defiant as possible.

"Oh, don't be like that, love", James said and smiled a wide smile. "It's only business. Don't take it so personal." It took all of her strength not to throw something at James's smug face as she stared at him furiously.

"Only business? You have taken me from my home and aim to sell me to a total stranger, and I'm not supposed to take it personally?!" Nora was on the verge of screaming, her fists balled so hard her knuckles had turned white.

"Well, you can comfort yourself with the fact that we are getting paid really well. And you got three months on this ship before you meet your Prince Charming. Besides, he's not half bad looking, you know." James paid her another smile before turning his attention towards his crew down on deck. Some kind of commotion had started down there, but Nora couldn't focus. James words still echoed in her head, loud and terrifying. Three months. She was going to be stuck on this ship with a bunch of pirates for three whole months. There was absolutely no way she was going to survive that. Three months on the Gisela would be a nightmare. Perhaps not just a nightmare, but also the end of what was Nora Beckham.

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