The Steam Pirate
A wave of frisson passed over her as the airship rose from its mooring and she watched the ground drop away and with it the hiss of escaping steam and the grime from a thousand smoke belching chimneys. Within minutes she was pulling her scarf tightly around her neck; she hadn’t realised how cold it would be as they rose into the sky. She didn’t know what had possessed her to accept the invitation of a pirate to adventure with him, but here they were alone aboard with only the chug and drum of the engines to keep them company. She wanted to pinch herself in case this was a dream but she knew it wasn’t. It was all real, the brass gauges, the spokes of the steering wheel which he spun causing their nose to turn towards the setting sun, the sea and the flock of birds that tried to fly alongside them but slowly drifted back as they pulled away towards….. Towards what? She didn’t know their destination perhaps that was half the excitement, the other half was certainly the man standing next to her, his chiselled good looks almost too good for a pirate. She had always imagined that pirates where battle scarred, beer swilling and almost unable to speak without using swear words for punctuation, but that wasn’t the case with him. He could almost have stepped out of the court of the Tsar or some King where he would not have looked out of place with his fine clothes, only his weapons might have given him away. The gentry didn’t usually wear exotic looking guns strapped in holsters at their sides and she had never seen weapons like his anywhere.
She shivered as the temperature plummeted further.
“There’s a spare jacket hanging on the bulkhead behind you,” he said nodding his head in that direction.
She wondered why she hadn’t noticed it before as she took it off its hook and inspected it for a second before deciding that it didn’t matter if she did find anything wrong with it, it was still better than freezing, so she slipped it on. It was too large for her and as she fastened the buckles that held the front closed she wondered what she looked like and what he would think of her wearing something so unladylike. But she needn’t have worried, as he nodded approvingly.
“You look much better than the Mate who wore it last.”
“Oh, what happened to him?”
“Her,” he corrected. “Ran off with some poor skinny farmer, poor sod, probably crushed him to death on their wedding night, three times your size and his.”
She smiled at the thought and he laughed. It was a real laugh not the polite chuckle people gave when they thought they were supposed to laugh at something. In a flash she just knew she would never tire of hearing that laugh and the thought surprised her. What was happening? Was she falling in love?
“If you take the helm, I’ll make us some food,” he said letting go of the wheel and gesturing towards it.
She swallowed hard, it hadn’t occurred to her that she might have to steer. What if she did something wrong and they crashed? She gripped the wheel, the brown leather stitched onto the metal spokes was still warm from his hands and she must have looked as terrified as she felt because he stood behind her and placed his hands over hers.
“Just relax,” he said, “nothing happens very fast on an airship and there isn’t much you can do that will cause any problems, just line up that line on the compass with the E for east and keep it there. Can you do that?”