20 - One step closer

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The familiar sound of crowds rumbling and wagons rolling by felt both reassuring and frightening at the same time. After two days spent in the safety of the cabin, resting and recovering from the escape, the outside world suddenly felt bigger than before. Escorted by soldiers the two had made it to another port, far enough away that Nora felt at least some what safe. And with new clothes and equipment, she even felt like a slightly new person. If she looked down at her dress that one lady in the village had been kind enough to give her, she could imagine that she was at home, watching the ships enter and leave the harbour as she waited for the butcher to finish the order for the Governor. It was almost real. Almost believable. If it wasn't for that every time she closed her eyes, she saw a familiar face, with piercing blue eyes and devilish smile that sent chills down her very core.

Hopefully soon however, the face would disappear and she would no longer hear James whisper his revenge in the wind. Soon she would be home, safe and sound, and everything would go back to normal. Both Nora and Jonathan would travel with a ship called The Queens mercy. An English ship heading in the direction of Nora's hometown. Jonathan would follow it all the way to the capital and report on what had happened with his comrades. And then it would all be over. Back to reality, back to the life she once wished she'd never had been born into, but now missed more than anything. But another fear lingered inside her as well. The fear that her home wouldn't be the same. The houses and streets might be as before, but the feeling of home, would it still be there? Had Nora become different? Would the picture she had of home no longer be true to reality? How would people react to her coming home? So many questions spun around in her head, all without answers. But then again, she'd rather be without answers than without her head.

"Is everything alright?" Jonathan put a gentle hand on her shoulder, a slight frown showing between his brows. Nora gave him a tired smile and nodded.

"Yes, I'm just thinking of home."

"Soon it will be more than just a thought." Jonathan's words were comforting, his gentle soul calming Nora's frightened one. She was quite fond of him, although they had only known each other for mere days. Perhaps it was his kind person and caring mind that made him so likeable. Or perhaps, it was because Jonathan was nothing like James, and for Nora - nothing was safer than that. Whatever the reason however, Nora was glad to have him along as company, a friend and ally in a world of foes and strangers.

As the sun passed its midpoint and continued down towards the horizon, it was finally time to board the ship. Everything had been loaded and the ship had been checked for faults as well as it has been blessed by a priest, to ward out any potential evil spirits that might lurk within the wood. The ship would sail at first light, leaving the crew one more night of freedom before months at sea. Nora would not however enjoy their last night in some tavern, but instead stay safe and sound in her cabin on the ship. Thanks to the soldiers who'd escorted them, Nora and Jonathan had managed to get quite the large cabin. They shared it with three others, but it was still much fancier than the placed some of the other passengers on the ship slept. And with the privacy of the cabin, Nora could with ease fall asleep, dreaming of home and familiar faces.

At some point in her sleep, a hand grabbed her shoulder, shaking her lightly. Her previously peaceful dream turned grey and a pair of piercing blue eyes paralysed her. With a scream Nora woke up, throwing herself away from the hand on her shoulder. Wide awake, panic running through her body, her eyes flew over the room, terrified and searching after the familiar face of James Haddock. But no piercing blue eyes and devilish grin could be seen, only a concerned Jonathan who stood with his hands in the air, trying to look as non-threatingen as possible.

"I'm sorry, Miss! I did not mean to scare you." Nora's pulse slowly calmed down, her heart no longer threatened to break her ribs. With a deep sigh she crawled up from the corner she'd thrown herself in.

"No worries, and I've told you to stop calling me miss. It makes me feel old."

"Sorry, mi-", Jonathan smiled. "I'm sorry. I just wanted to tell you that I'll be helping the crew secure some of the sails. I won't be gone long." Nora's tired brain took some time to process his words and she only nodded, feeling her eyelids become heavy. With Jonathan exiting the room, she thought that she would fall right back to sleep. But instead she found herself staring at the ceiling, her mind wandering without really thinking about anything. Time passed without her noticing, others who shared her cabin came and went, the sounds of their light breaths filled the air around her.

As the last candle burned out and the cabin laid in complete darkness, she could here footsteps coming down the stairs. They echoed in the heavy silence and Nora wondered if it could be Jonathan. And surely, the door to the cabin opened slowly, the wood creaking. The steps could be heard more clearly as a figure entered the room, it seemed a little bit lost, as the figure looked over the room, standing in the doorway.

"The candle burned out, your bed is next to mine", Nora said to Jonathan, turning around in her own, hoping that she could sleep now that she was no longer with only strangers. With more certain steps, Jonathan walked across the floor. Nora felt her self relax, slowly starting to sink into a very welcomed sleep. But the sleep was interrupted as a hand was suddenly clamped over her mouth and a arm wrapped around her waist. Muffled screams tried to make its way out in the room, but the hand hindered Nora from making more than grunts. The arm around her waist dragged her out of bed and on to the floor. A warm breath ran along her neck and she could feel a pair of lips next to her ear.

"Hello, love. Did you miss me?" A voice that did not belong to Jonathan sent chills down her spine, as Nora recognised it without doubt. Panic spread like wildfire through her and she started squirming and kicking in an attempt to get out of the embrace. "No, no, puppet. Don't be like that." The familiar voice haunted her and Nora tried once more to scream, but it was useless. In one swift movement, Nora was thrown over a broad shoulder and carried out of the cabin. If anyone in the cabin had woken up by the small noice she had managed to make, no one tried to stop her kidnapper. A wise choice by them, but unfortunate for Nora.

With heavy steps that she now recognised, Nora was carried up the stairs and on to main deck. In the dark she could see figures moving. At first she wondered why they didn't do anything, why they didn't react when she was being abducted. But then she saw other figures, laying limp on deck, and she realised that the ship was no longer controlled by the crew she'd met just hours before. Feeling the fear and hopelessness kick in, Nora made one last attempt to get free, but to no use. In the early morning hours, she was carried on to the dock and then thrown into a small boat where a bag was tied over her head and her hands secured with rope behind her back. The cold air chilled her as she laid in only her nightgown and a feeling of deja vu came over her. Soon however, she was once more thrown over a shoulder and carried over deck, but this time down some stairs instead of up. Still with her hands tied, she was put on a chair, her feet tied to its legs. The bag on her head was dragged off without mercy and as she opened her eyes and let them adjust to the darkness, Nora met the gaze of a pair of piercing blue eyes that belonged to none other than James Haddock.

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