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The Seven Seas of Rhye
seas_of_rhye
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August 2006
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Crow-Eye Jack's Crow's Nest

It’s the morning after the Magpie has left Skayport, and it couldn’t be a better morning for sailing. A cloudless sky, a good breeze, water only as rough as the wind makes it, not too hot. Viv’s got her hat on to shade her face but otherwise she’s dressed lightly in just her usual linen shirt from her captaining days, breeches, and boots.

Zenith flits off her shoulder as she starts climbing the ropes to the crow’s nest, and beats her there. “Ahoy there, don’t let Zenith frighten you if he says anything ungentlemanly,” calls Viv as she’s climbing.

Olivia’s head appears over the edge of the nest. She, too, is wearing a hat; her linen shirt is heavier, and
her growing dark hair is tied in the back. She looks confused, but then she sees Zenith and jumps back into
the nest in surprise. She’ll never admit if the ensuing squawk is from her or from the bird.

Finally Viv gets to the top and joins Oli in the nest, whistling to the parrot, who immediately flies back
onto her shoulder but croaks, “Slowpoke whore.” Quickly, Viv explains, “That would be me. Zenith and I have a peculiar relationship. How’re you doing? Not scared of heights, I hope.” She’s perfectly at ease, having worked as crow in the past.

“Uh...” After a moment of deciding whether or not to lie, Oli shrugs. “It took some getting used to,” she admits at last, honestly. “But I haven’t tried to get down yet, so we’ll see.”

“Aye, it’s always harder getting back down. Can’t see where you’re puttin’ your feet!” agrees Viv. “And how’re you doing apart from your little job? I’m dreadful sorry that the cap’n interrupted the other night.”

Oli flushes a little, then shrugs. “It’s all right. How’d you know I was a woman?” she asks curiously.

“A couple reasons, really. One: you and I had the only totally clean-shaven faces in the entire inn. My advice, if you can bear it keep your face filthy at all times, they can’t tell if it’s dirt or stubble. Two: your throat don’t bob up and down when you talk. Unless it’s stiflin’ hot, get a scarf or a high collar to fix that. And three: it just takes one to know one, lass.”

She nods, taking it in calmly, and then she grins. “I’m lucky the pirates I was with before didn’t have enough sense to tell.”

Viv laughs. “There’s a great deal of absolute bloody nitwits on the seas; you’re lucky, but I’m also not surprised. I don’t know how long you’ve been doing this but I did it in order to serve under Bilgewater Pete, back when I was ‘round six-and-twenty. Kept up the act for two years, then gave up since before that I’d been able to do my job in woman’s wear and I could only pretend to be a boy ten years younger than myself for a little while before the crew started wondering why my voice wasn’t cracking like a broken bell and I didn’t like the ladies.” Looking at Oli steadily, she adds, “I hope this is a short-term plan for you.”

Olivia grins a little. “I haven’t been doing it too long; just a few months,” she confessed. “I tried not to be around them enough for them to notice my voice wasn’t working.” She looks at Viv squarely for a few moments. “I’m not sure. Depends how things go, I think, but it’s likely to be far more difficult if people know I’m a woman.”

“And why’s that? Look at me.” Viv grins, teeth shockingly well-maintained. “The trouble I’ve gone through for it’s enormous, but worthwhile, leastways if you want to be a truly free woman, not a mild-mannered housebound babysmith.”

Considering what she’s gleaned so far of Oli’s personality, however, she has to guess, “But I get the feelin’ you’re on the run, and not from a husband. Trying to get home, or trying to get as far away as you can. Either way I’ll help how I can.” Her voice is surprisingly soft and gentle then.

Olivia’s eyes widen, and then her face illuminates. She had never heard of pirates like Viv back home. “You would? Even if you don’t know yet where I’m going?”

“I’m the salty scum of the waters now, but when I was your age, I was a wealthy merchant’s daughter before
running off, and while I never really wanted to go back, I can see how you would, or wouldn’t. I’d have given anything during the early years for a single living soul to help me,” admits Viv, low, her rough pirate speech giving way to a cultured, civilized accent. “No one did. I am where I am on my own merit. But no two women are alike. I suspect you don’t want to be quite where I am, miss, and it’s only right for me to give you the help I was denied. More than ever, in your case.”

What Olivia wants to do is throw her arms around Viv and cry all over the woman. Instead, she only says, “Thank you.” Her voice breaks, but she quickly clears her throat and rushes on. “That would be wonderful,”
she admits. “I’ve been trying to get to Bruscia for months now, but when I mention it, the pirates I’m with seem to go the other way simply to spite me.” She grins a little. “I have to admit I’m not very good at all this.”

There is no hesitation in Viv’s voice as it grows rough and businesslike again. “Bruscia. Right, I’m not fond of the place, and I don’t remember if our first stop is anywhere near it, but I’ll convince the cap’n to go to a port with Bruscan navy afterwards, and I’ll get you on a Bruscan ship myself. I’d offer to have us go right to Bruscia, but that’d most likely be to raid it, and I doubt you’d enjoy watching that, so finding a safe harbor for you is the better priority.”

Zenith echoes, “Better priority. Better priority. Bitch, where’s the galley, where’s the galley?”

Olivia looks at the bird in surprise. He really does have a mouth on him. “You won’t have to do that. Navies don’t like pirates. If I can get within a day’s walk of a port, that will do just as well.” Maybe better, since Viv will have more of a chance of not being shot. Oli has already grown to like the woman, though she doesn’t entirely understand it and won’t yet admit it.

“Even better. No one here’s fond of the Navy,” says Viv with a chuckle. She holds her finger out to Zenith and lets him latch on to the tip with his beak. “You want to eat, don’t you, you great stupid parrot you.” Looking back at Oli, she mentions, “Mind you, if Crow-Eye has to know any of this for the safety of the vessel or the crew, I have to tell ‘im. But I’ve a pretty fair assurance that if that does happen, that won’t hurt your chances of being dropped off, and neither of us will let any of the men touch you unless you want it.”

“Thank you,” Olivia says, unable to hide her relief. “I’ll try and repay you when I get home. Truly I will.”

Almost sadly, Viv replies, “Miss, when you get home, it’s most likely we won’t meet again unless I’m caught on Bruscian territory and you watch me greet the hangman’s noose. So don’t worry about repayment. Just...” And her green eyes twinkle. “Just promise to make somethin’ real of your life, don’t do anything stupid like marry a man you don’t love.”

She almost says that as a noble, she won’t have much of a choice, but she catches herself and simply shakes her head. “If you get me home, I’ll try as hard as I can to do something for you any way I can. I can be very persistent.” And she would be damned if she ever saw one of those hangings. She could still remember the first one she’d been to, and was not a pleasant memory.

“Suit yourself.” Viv turns to look ahead at the firm, tough length of the bow stretched ahead of them, and beyond that the blue sea.

Olivia turns to watch the ocean with her, confused, but at the same time, oddly comforted.