A different route [Flash Fantasy Fiction]

The door whined as Melisande Flamestouch slowly closed it behind her. The quiet breeze tickled her skin as she pulled her cloak tight around her. The gentle rock of the ship in the calm swell had taken her to sleep quickly, but jarred, mismatched visions of her past had quickly brought her back. 

Barefooted, she padded across the deck. The night watchmen chuckled whisperingly as they played cards on a wooden crate, a oil lantern simmering at its centre. Before returning to their game; they gave respectful nods as Melisande passed.

Resting on the rail, looking out into the moon soaked ripple of the Southern Span; the young wander, come pirate captain briefly sank into contemplation. But after only a few moments a lone figure, rested on the bow drew her attention. Flamestouch squinted, it was but a shadow against the night sky, a frail, womanly spectre in the dim light. Corinne? She thought. Furrowing her brow, Melisande quietly moved along the deck of the forty foot cog before coming to a stand, some five paces behind her friend. She stood there in silence, though Corinne must have heard her approach, the girl did not turn. ‘Corinne?’ Melisande finally said, barely louder than a whisper.

The girl jumped slightly, before turning side-ways, Corinne looked at Melisande from the corner of her eye before returning to her listless gaze at the ship’s course.

Melisande walked up, resting her arms on the rail, before looking side-long at her friend. ‘Does sleep trouble you?’

Corinne Shook her head.

Melisande frowned. ‘Then what?’ She said tentatively.

‘Nothing, Melisande. I am fine.’ Corinne paused but before Flamestouch could press the topic, she continued. ‘Tell me again; how much longer till landfall?’

Melisande narrowed her eyes at the girl whom spoke without turning to acknowledge her. ‘At the sun’s midday point, we should be within sight of Lernenby port. We will be spending the evening there to resupply. If all goes to plan we shall be back on the waves by sun up, the following day. While it may be old information, an Eldoradi fleet carrying gold and spice will be entering our hunting ground in less than a ten-day.’ Melisande gave a wicked grin. ‘…I fear they will not reach Mes Leonir.’

Corinne’s face creased into an empty smile, but she did not move her eyes from the moonlit horizon. ‘A sound plan, captain.’

‘So,’ Melisande started, tapping her fingers on the wooden railing. ‘I believe it is best you get some rest. A friend of mine, Sven, is normally around Lernenby this time of year. He is a splendid bard, I would think you’d enjoy his tales. Best you are not half-asleep for them.’

‘Rest…’ Corinne said slowly. ‘… rest is what I need.’

The words came to Melisande’s ears in a haunting manner, but she paid it no heed, turning on her heels she made for her quarters. After less than three strides, a sudden splash caused her to reel; Corinne was gone. The bow empty.

‘Man overboard!’ Melisande screamed, her voice hard with anger. 

Cards were tossed as the night watchmen scrambled to their feet. Their leather boots thudded on the wooden deck as they sprinted to the railing. Their eyes hunted the blue abyss, but there was not so much as a ripple to imply the young woman had made any attempt to swim. They wheeled the ship hard to its starboard, the calm swell gained some anger as the bow cut against the water… It was a fruitless delay.

Even once the commotion had subsided and the ship put back on course, Melisande did not return to her bed. A wave of her hand saw it filled with a mug of ale before she watched the sheepish cabin boy dart back below deck. Sitting with her back against the rail she took a long slug from the steel cup. If one changed names and locations, Corinne’s life’s story was near identical to her own. Both were touched by the gods, and, both had been subjected to the tortures and humiliations of the Light’s Voice. So why was it that Corinne had sought a different path? These thoughts tickled her spine until her vision was blurred and the deck illuminated by the first of the day’s light.

Melisande Flamestouch wearily got to her feet and returned to her quarters, though sleep would not come so easily this time.

For more Melisande Flamestouch stories, click here.

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