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smackenzie: (faye)
And perhaps she was enjoying herself because she enjoyed the priest's company.

"Come dance with me," she said, standing abruptly and pulling him towards the floor where couples were lining up for a dance.

The priest was still not a very good dancer, although at least he could keep time, and as with everything else he was a quick study. But the steps of this particular dance were involved and complicated, and Maggie had to lead him the whole way through it. Neither of them minded, and when the musicians began a new tune, they both stayed on the floor for the next dance.

The evening wore on with more dancing and drinking and eating – there was no formal supper, but the king-in-exile had provided a lavish buffet and there were servants walking through all the rooms and outside bearing trays of glasses and small delicacies – and Maggie spoke to people she recognized, sometimes talking about politics and the possibility of helping the king-in-exile regain the throne, and sometimes gossiping, and sometimes telling stories of her pirate days. The priest was gracious and sociable and several times she caught him in a lie about his life before (and after) he met her, but she said nothing and when he winked at her to let her know that he knew what he was doing and that he knew she had caught him, she merely smiled at him.

It was a glorious ball, full of people in beautiful clothes and jewels )

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smackenzie: (faye)
Maggie did not know if there was a price on her head in the king-in-exile's adopted country - she had never chased a ship flying its flag, and none of the places her navy had attacked belonged to it - but she did not come so far to be careless now, so she had Doren drop anchor in a small cove along the coast to the south of the capital where she told her crew to sit tight and behave, and from there she and the priest took a rowboat up to the harbor.

It took some time for her to convince the harbor guards that she was there to see Sebastian, Duke Laverry, known as the king-in-exile, but she and the priest were kept in a small but comparatively pleasant holding room until word came back from the Duke that yes, he did know Captain Lawton, and yes, she and her companion should be conveyed to his manor in the city, there to stay as his guests.

The king-in-exile's city manor was large and imposing )

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smackenzie: (faye)
"That is my offer. Follow me or no, but understand that if you do not sail with me, it will be as if you were sailing against me."
This was predictably followed by chaos as the pirate captains broke forth with their own opinions on what should be done and why, the risks and rewards of joining any navy at all, never mind one led by a woman, the value of having someone else in front to attract military attention, the distances they might have to travel, the seaworthiness of each others' ships, the bloodthirstiness and greed of each others' crews, and who had the drive and skill to get something out of this, and who did not.
Maggie let them talk.  She had said her piece, and she knew that sooner or later someone would address her directly about her plan.  And if no one did, she had another pistol with another ball, and she would stand on her chair and fire it to get their attention a second time.

Each pirate captain had been allowed a second, either a first mate or a quartermaster or a sailing master or whoever the captain might trust the most.  There were only seats for the captains, but all of their associates had opinions too, and as Maggie waited and planned her next speech, the volume in the room rose exponentially as each pirate sought to make himself (or herself - Bernade had come as well, of course, and there were surprisingly a few women seconds among the captains) heard.
This is accomplishing nothing, Doren said in Maggie's ear. )

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smackenzie: (faye)
"I do not know if 'fun' is the word I would use, but it will at the very least be interesting. Thank you again, and be safe."

"Always." Bernade tipped her hat and climbed over the gunwale and down the rope ladder to the rowboat. And Maggie resumed her post as captain and directed Adriata to find them open water and a good breeze.

Two weeks later the Black Lightning sailed around the island where the proposed navy council would take place. There was no law or order here, and the only reason Maggie docked her ship at Port Doras rather than this place was because Port Doras had a better harbor. But here she could meet with her pirate captains and formally form her navy and make her plans to spread word and instill terror and, finally, to go to the aid of the king-in-exile and push the Usurper off the throne and into exile.

She told her crew that they could disembark if they wished )

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smackenzie: (faye)
Three days later the Black Lightning set sail from Port Doras with a full complement of pirates, all women save for the priest. Severein, the sailing master, had left and been replaced with a girl named Adriata, who did the best she could with the maps and charts that she had but who could also navigate by sun and stars to at least point them in the right direction. She seemed to know her way better than Severein had, and what was more, where Severein had been captured and pressed into service, she had wanted to join Maggie's crew.

Maggie's pirate navy was some of it already at sea, and the plan was to convene all the commanders - if not all the ships - in two weeks' time on an island much like Port Doras, without imperial oversight or law. But first, before the Black Lightning turned towards this future pirate council, Maggie had one last stop, one last captain to speak with, and she had Adriata point her ship towards the town of Merrinport so she could keep this last appointment.

Maggie knew that there was a special bounty on her head in Merrinport )

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smackenzie: (faye)
"You want so much," he said quietly. "A navy, a kingdom. Ships at your command, a king in your debt."

"Not tonight. Tonight I only want you."

She leaned in and kissed him again, this time holding his face with both hands so he could not pull away. And he did not pull away - she knew he would not - but he did kiss her back. She pushed him down on the bed and lay half on top of him, pausing in her kisses to pull at his shirt and then his breeches. He had to help her, and then she had to stop and take off her boots and her own clothes, and then she was on him again, touching him, stroking him, devouring his mouth.

Once again he let her take control. She retrieved her hat and set it on her head at a rakish angle as she straddled him and rode him with steady rolls of her hips as if she were a ship rocking on the waves of a gentle sea. She watched his face as she always did, watched his throat work as he tried to speak. She put her fingers to his lips.

Shh, she murmured. Shh. )

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smackenzie: (faye)
Maggie continued to try to get pirate captains to meet her and to talk and argue and discuss once they did. Several of them proved slippery and cagey and hard to pin down - paranoia was perhaps an understandable reaction to knowing there was a price on your head - and then she got a note that Bernade's brothel girl and the other working girls and boys at Madame Lilyet's were keeping their ears open for any news, so as to help her cause.

Bernade was still captain of the Cormorant and still sailed in and out of Port Doras. She was illiterate and so had to dictate all her correspondence, which was unsurprisingly written in a variety of hands with varying degrees of legibility. Maggie knew she should consider them both lucky that there were enough people in Port Doras who could read and write and were willing to pass notes between pirates.

Maggie let her crew repeat gossip and did not correct them when the facts got a bit out of hand or were ignored altogether. She was constantly amused to hear these tales about her repeated back to her stripped of many recognizable elements. She heard that she herself had killed the captain of the Aconite after he had run her through with his poisoned sword, and she laughed at every variation of her relationship with the priest. There were a number of stories told about the two of them, all no doubt invented by her own crew.

She spent her money wisely, paying bribes when she thought she would be granted an audience )

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smackenzie: (faye)
The Black Lightning continued on towards Port Doras, and by the time it put in to the harbor, Maggie was up and about and had reclaimed her hat and her position from Abna. Abna gave both up with good grace and told Maggie that she would like a ship of her own, if Maggie's dream of a pirate navy came true.

"I have gotten used to wearing the hat," Abna added, "but your head is too large."

"It is all the hair," Maggie said. She tossed her head for good measure, and a breeze picked up and blew her hair around, as if in agreement.

The ship sat docked in port for merely a week )

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smackenzie: (faye)
"Were you and this woman going to marry?" Maggie tried to imagine the priest as a married man, and could not.

"My order would not allow it. But we wished to be together in some fashion. When we were discovered, I was asked to leave." His voice had grown quiet again. "And now you know what happened."

"I am sorry, priest."

"It was my fault. I believed I was right, but I could not swear to serve God with one breath and then break that vow with another."

"Now we have both shared a secret," Maggie said.

"What have you told me that was such a secret?" the priest asked. He lifted his head enough to look at her.

"Have you ever known me to fear anything?"

He seemed to think about this. )

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smackenzie: (faye)
Now that they had gold to spend, many of the pirates on the Black Lightning wished to return to Port Doras so they could spend it. Maggie could not think of an immediate reason why that was a bad idea - she had captured and sunk a military ship, she had dispatched soldiers and armed sailors with sword and pistol, she had robbed two merchant ships of their goods and their gold. She could call this a successful voyage.

She wanted another navy vessel, and she wanted another merchant ship, but for now, this would suffice. So she had Severein turn towards home.

A few days after their great haul, they crossed paths with another ship )

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smackenzie: (faye)
And Doren, to Maggie's great surprise, brought a cat.

“Her name is Dawn,” Doren said. The cat was small and orange and curled in the crook of Doren's arm.

“That is a silly name,” commented Ellim, walking past. She gestured to the cat. “Am I allowed to cook her if she becomes too much of a pest?” Doren looked shocked. “What if we are too long at sea and start to starve?”

You will not cook the cat, Maggie told her. )

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quickie thanks to [livejournal.com profile] dear_tiger for tropical island and poisonous fruit info.
smackenzie: (faye)
But once he had an idea what would please her, he went at it with gusto, enthusiastically if not especially skilfully. They paused to open the wine and drink it, and then went back to each other.

"You taste of wine," Maggie murmured against the priest's mouth. She licked at his lips. "I like it."

"I can tell."

There was very little she did not like about him in bed. But she was not sorry she had put him off for so long.

"Imagine if you had said yes to me on board your ship," he said, as if he could read her mind. "We could have been doing this so much more often."

"I was never going to sleep with you while we were at sea. We have had this conversation many times. But we are no longer at sea. We may rock the bed, however."

By now they had rolled over so she was on her back and he on top of her. )

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smackenzie: (faye)
The Black Lightning sailed into Port Doras under a bright blue sky, much to the relief of the her captain, who was tired of the clouds and rain. Maggie sent a ransom note to the local representative of the king of Tanne, which he could send on to the captured lord's family or pay himself. She would not negotiate and said so.

Abna split the combined plunder and distributed shares to all the pirates, the women and men who had set sail from Port Doras months ago as well as the newly joined men from the captured merchant ship and the freed slaves. (Several of the freed slaves had succumbed to the flu - not so mild after all - and had been wrapped in sheets and given open water burials, as was the pirate's way. The priest had even spoken a few words for each funeral.) Maggie was surprised that a number of the freed slaves wished to take up piracy rather than attempt to return home or even make new lives on the islands. But perhaps she should not have been so surprised - after having been captured and sold like cattle, after having been robbed of their freedom, it was natural that they would choose a life in which they answered to no one and had a full voice in where they went and what they did.

There was no message from Bernade at Maggie's favorite inn )

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smackenzie: (faye)
Maggie woke later that afternoon to mixed news - the rain had cleared off and aside from the chicken and the cow there were no fatalities or serious injuries, but the deck was a mess of downed and broken rigging, there was water in the hold, and they had been blown off course but until the sky cleared some, Severein could not tell them where they were.

"I cannot navigate by the sun and stars if I cannot see them," he complained, when Maggie demanded an answer to what she thought was a simple question - in which direction were they heading?

Make a guess, she said, stomping off. )

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smackenzie: (faye)
So the Black Lightning set its course for Port Doras, with the understanding among the crew that they were searching for merchant ships fat with gold and local treasures, to try and make up for the disappointing voyage so far.

Of course two days after that decision, they ran smack into a storm. The morning was dark and cloudy, with the scent of damp in the air, and Maggie had barely finished her breakfast when the rain started. Wind followed immediately, and within minutes the deck was awash with rain and the Black Lightning heaved in the wind. Maggie stood on the quarterdeck yelling orders, contradicting orders given by Abna or Doren or Yora, sometimes even reversing orders she'd given herself. She could barely see the far end of the main deck, she couldn't see up into the rigging at all, and she had to trust that she could even be heard over the wind and rain and the creaking of the ship.

At one point one of the boys grabbed her arm and indicated that Yora wanted her down on the gun deck )

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smackenzie: (faye)
Besides that, there was the question of provisions. The slave ship had not carried nearly enough for all the men and women in the hold, and the provisions currently on the Cormorant and the Black Lightning would not last much longer.

"Find us civilization," Maggie told Severein. "We need to change course."

The other thing she had not counted on was nearly being voted out of the captain's chair. Yora was almost elected captain of the Black Lightning and it was a close thing. Maggie was furious - had she not acquired for them another ship? Had she not led many attacks on many merchant ships? Had she not accumulated a great deal of treasure for herself and her crew? Her very recent record was not good, this was true, but her past should speak for itself. Besides, the Black Lightning was her ship and she'd be damned before she lost it to anyone.

Barely two days had passed after they captured the slave ship before a consensus was reached )

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smackenzie: (faye)
“That I will do, yes.” She did not mind that they were out in the open and anyone would see – she knew a few pairs had already vanished into the trees for some privacy – they were not going to do anything, and she did not have to worry about breaking her own code and unintentionally signaling to her crew that it was acceptable for them to do it as well.

“Thank you.” He took her hand and kissed it, and she could not but smile.

He was not a bad man, this priest. He needled her and goaded her and was sarcastic to her as a shield, a defense. He did not want anyone to see how afraid he was and how lost. He had once been a man with a sure path, who had to demonstrate his conviction to his congregation and his fellow faithful. He had not been allowed to look unsure, and just as she had not been able to shake all the training she had received in the Naval Academy and in the Royal Navy – just as she truly was in her heart still a proud captain of an imperial navy and not a pirate at all – he had not been able to shake off the constraints of having to appear as if he knew exactly who he was and exactly what he was doing. She was years out of the king's navy, and she would guess that the priest was only several months. She did not think he had been defrocked even a year.

And she still did not know how it had happened )

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smackenzie: (faye)
It was another three weeks before they encountered another ship, although during that time they stopped on an island for several days in order to fix a leak that had sprung up in the hold of the merchant ship. Doren had tried to patch it with pitch, as she did most small leaks on the Black Lightning, but she finally had to admit defeat and announce to Bernade and Maggie that they needed to put ashore for a few days to mend the leak as well as a few other things she had discovered on the merchant ship. Bernade suggested that they could take the opportunity to rename the ship and perhaps paint a new one on her prow.

Because the crew had jointly voted to sail both ships together, and because splitting the crew between the ships had left each one with fewer pirates than anyone preferred, the Black Lightning had to weigh anchor in the shallows off the small island where they stopped. Some pirates elected to stay on board, perhaps preferring the gentle rocking of the ship to the solidity of dry land, but most swarmed off the ship and onto the island.

They slept in hammocks and on the ground and under makeshift shelters )

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smackenzie: (faye)
"I believe I do. I shall do it here and then take control of this ship." She grinned widely. "Did I not say I was looking forward to captaining my own ship?"

"You did indeed. We will have to vote on our next course of action and then it is all yours."

Bernade read the Articles to the merchant sailors who had elected to join the crew, they all signed, and then Maggie had everyone gather on the deck of the merchant ship to determine their next action.

Voting occasions like these could be very rowdy affairs, with everyone shouting out suggestions and shouting down other pirates and demanding the voting proceed quickly so they could get back to searching and the plundering. This time was no different. Maggie had learned to let the crew talk - or shout, most times - and only take control of the options to be voted on after it seemed as if most of the suggestions had been made. They voted with a simple "aye" or "nay", with the end result that - surprisingly enough - they would keep the merchant ship under Bernade's command and sail both it and the Black Lightning in search of more booty.

After that, the crew was split between the ships )

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smackenzie: (faye)
The weather the next day was not much better - oppressively hot and still - although the high heat of midday was somewhat mitigated by a slight breeze. The morning and afternoon continued much the same, bickering crew and Severein's inability to place them on his charts included, until someone up on the main top, the lookout's platform partway up the main mast, yelled down that she could see a ship to starboard and it looked to be flying the Usurper's flag.

(The one rule that Maggie imposed on her crew without discussion and without vote was that Penelle's name was not to be spoken on board her ship or in her presence. The woman was the Usurper and would only ever be known as such.)

It was a standing order, already voted on, that the Black Lightning would give chase to any ship flying the Usurper's flag, except in such cases where the ship in question was part of the navy and larger and better armed than Maggie's refitted pirate ship. Now they were too far away for the lookout to be able to accurately identify the size and type of ship that she'd seen, so Maggie gave orders to chase it until they were close enough to tell.

Orders ran up and down the rigging )

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