9 - Insight

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The fact that Nora managed to keep the ship steady and on corse made her more proud than she had expected. By the rodder she also felt somewhat safe, as most of the crew were nowhere near her. If they weren't up in the sails, they were on main deck or down in the cabins. The only two who ever got close to Nora were James and Belmore - who'd become less and less grumpy around her. As she noticed that the crew were actually listening to their captain and keeping their hands off her, Nora started to relax a bit whilst up on deck. The crew still scared her, but knowing that they wouldn't attack her anytime soon, she stopped flinching every time any of them moved. After seeing what James could do in a fight also contributed to Nora's sense of security, as she doubted that any man in the crew would go up against a captain like that. And as she watched the crew from her place by the rodder, she could see how much respect everyone had for James. They might all be murderers and rapists, but once James gave an order, they all obeyed like dogs. It wasn't hard to see why either. When James moved, confidence oozed out of every pore, power radiated off him like rays of sun and the authority gleamed bright in his eyes.

Even though his superior rank was abundantly clear, James still worked as hard as any other crew member. Nora tried to to watch him, but she found it very hard not to let her eyes land on him. In someways, James reminded her of the Governors stallion; proud and powerful, but still working hard, keeping the calm and practicing control. If James weren't down on deck, checking that everything was in order or helping one of the men with something, he was up in the sails, scaring Nora half to death every time he'd jump down behind her from one of the rope ladders. She wouldn't admit it, but seeing James at work, Nora found herself oddly even more intrigued by him. As he swirled around the ship, laughing or barking out orders, he looked so free and careless. His hair became tousled in the wind, his skin tanned by the ever shining sun. For such a tall man as he was, he moved around with grace and flexibility. Everything he did just hypnotised Nora. She was utterly wrapped up in the mystery that was James Haddock and had been since the first day on the Gisela. The further out at sea they got, the more the crew relaxed. They became less agitated and more happy, laughing and making jokes as they tended to the ship. In someways, Nora couldn't believe that the men before her were the same men that destroyed her hometown.

As she watched the men, getting to know them slowly, Nora started to become more and more brave. Little by little she started to explore other places of the ship than just upper deck and the cabin. Soon she was mending clothes or helping the cook in the kitchen, learning how to make what the cook called Abernathy stew. Why it was called by that name, Nora didn't know. But the stew tasted quite good and she enjoyed working with her hands again, getting her nails a little dirty. Sitting around all day wasn't something she liked to do at all. As she went around the ship, helping out with different chores, she now and then found James studying her. Every time she would catch him staring, she'd blush and he would send her a wink before going back to his own work. Nora found that she enjoyed it, the looks he gave her. Because they weren't hungry or filthy, they were filled with intrigue. And she couldn't help but wonder if James was as intrigued by her as she was by him.

James wasn't the only one who had caught Nora's interest though. As she worked side by side the pirates, she actually got to know a few of them, and learned that they weren't all as bad as the ones she'd seen destroying her town. It turned out that there was a handful of the crew that were actually good men. Or at least as good as a pirate could be. The cook, Arthur, was a long and thin man with grey hair and blue eyes. He was one of the oldest in the crew with his 57 years of age. But unless somebody had told Nora that Arthur was 57, she wouldn't have believed it. Despite his tall figure, he was very flexible and always jumping around, climbing ladders and carrying heavy pots and pans. As Nora helped pealed the potatoes, she learned that Arthur used to be a salesman. But the guardsmen in his town had burnt down his house when he couldn't pay rent for his place at the market. Arthur had been out when the house caught on fire, but his wife and young daughter had been trapped inside. After the funeral, Arthur had jumped on the nearest ship going out of the harbour and got a job as a cook in another town. It was in that town that Arthur had met James, who was passing by and happened to be eating Arthur's Abernathy stew. Once James had finished his meal, he'd walked right into he kitchen and offered Arthur a place on his ship. And since then, Arthur had been a trusty member of James Haddocks pirate crew.

Except for Arthur and Belmore - who'd grown very fond of Nora as soon as she started serving him bigger portions of food at dinner - there were three other pirates, not including James, that Nora liked. Jack - the orphan with a smile as bright as the sun that James had taken under his wing when Jack was only twelve. He was fifteen now and a spitting image of James in everything except looks. Greybeard, also known as Harry, a former farmer who dreamt of adventure and a better life. And last but not least, Absame, a former slave who'd been offered his freedom if he joined James's crew. When talking to Absame, Nora had found out that James wasn't much for the slave trade, unless it came to kidnapping women - he hadn't been reluctant to do that. But when it came to having human slaves, James had never been an advocate. Absame has told Nora that James had grown up on a big estate down south, but that he had abandoned that life for the life of a pirate. Why he had done that, nobody knew. From what Absame could tell her, James had had a best friend when he was young, the son of a slave. But something had happened at his friend had died. Since then James had rebelled at everything that had with authority to do, making life hell for any one who served the king or the state.

Getting to know a little bit more about James didn't help Nora figure him out. Instead, it only made him more complex. And the more she found out, the more intrigued she was, needing to know more about this captain, respected by his crew and feared by everyone else.

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