A Penchant For Pirates

Chapter 9

Captain’s Entry- I have come to my journal to explore my emotions.  I have so many mixed feelings surging through my body at this time.  First in foremost is the idiocy of my young charge, Nickolas, and the tremendous ache the boy has given me in my head. 

We have been at sea for a mere two days and the boy has hoodwinked me.  The first night out of port he laid before us the most scrumptious meal that he has ever prepared. 

I should have known then that the boy was up to something. I have never seen Nick prepare such a glorious meal. The feast consisted of many of the foods that I prefer, and not a damn raisin in sight.   The table appeared as if it would buckle from the weight of the platters.  At first, I wanted to chastise him for squandering so much of our stores on one meal.  “This is excess,” I barked at him. 

A smiled graced his face as his hair hung in his eyes.  “It’s fine Captain, honest.  I just thought that this is your first day out of Jocelyn’s bed and you probably needed to replace your energy.”

I naturally frowned at his remark while Alexander, Howard, and Brian, seemed to think that the remark was highly amusing.  They could be a rather annoying lot when you are in a foul mood.  Yes, I had left Jocelyn’s side, it wasn’t as if I were pining for it, it was the matter that I would not get a sexual release for many weeks to come.  At this point, it is not a factor since my body seemed to be depleted and sore. 

Another amusement for my Officers happened earlier in the day as I dragged my weary bones onto the ship and the distinct noise of snickers reached my ears.  My head snapped up and I glared at each and every one of them,  “One comment and you will all be in chains.” After speaking the words the laughter increased, I must be fooling myself, I was in no shape to command this ship and they had the audacity to remind of it, at least Sir Alex did.  “Not what you used to be.”  My hand reached out and attempted to thump his head, he leaned out of the way rather easily.  “Get us out of port,” had been my final words as I retired to my cabin until dinner.  A long rest, alone, was what was needed.

Back to the dinner, the food was delicious, aromatic, and eye appealing, this was just amazing.  I had actually had second thoughts of letting Nick have this ship and install him as my cook if he could manage to prepare meals like this more often. 

Not one man at the table had been left hungry or thirsty.  The ale and rum flowed freely; the meat was done exquisitely as well as the vegetables, breads, and treats.  The treats made my mouth water, lemon tarts, apple cake, and such.  Again I transgress about the food and drink from two evenings ago, last night was a repeat of the same with food that had been cooked from the night before.  The ale and rum once again flooded our bodies.  I will proceed to document how this entire fiasco enfolded here in my journal.

During the evening, the conversations came around to our adventures in port.  Nick seemed mysteriously quiet and withdrawn, which was very unlike the boy.  Brian took a long sip of ale and began to laugh heartily.  “I managed to have some of my coins picked from my very own pocket.  At one time, I thought I had.  However, last night I recounted the money that I had hidden and it is exactly what it should be.  I know my coin had been lifted but it has mysteriously reappeared.”

My brows knitted together, that was rather odd.  “That could only happen if someone on this ship had taken it to begin with.  I will not tolerate a thief.”

Solemnly they looked at me and began to chuckle.  Howard’s wit seemed to be riding as high as the tides.  “We are thieves.”

“We do not steal from one another, I will not tolerate it.  If I find that a man on this ship has stolen from my cousin, he will reprimanded accordingly.” 

Nick poured more rum in my glass, my head turned as I studied him.  Now he seemed, well rattled.  “What is wrong with you boy?”

The vessel that he was holding was slammed into the table, “Why do you insist on calling me a boy?  I am not a boy, I am a man.”

I started to smirk as I chewed my food, there was always one way to get the lad’s attention, refer to him as a boy, and he would practically stand on his head to get you to believe otherwise.  Wiping my mouth with my napkin, my gaze switched the full tankard of rum.  “Yes you are a man,” I mocked him in a tone that let him know that I felt otherwise.

“I mean it Kevin.”  Nick pouted.

I pulled back my smirk, there was no sense in taunting the boy any longer, however the whine that was coming from him sounded very much like the thirteen year old boy from years ago.  Cocking my head to the side, I stared at him intently, normally it was enough to calm him but not today.  Sitting back in my chair, I stretched my legs out under the long table.  Taking a long sip of rum, I swallowed the liquor.  The rum had been sweetened and flavored, I couldn’t recognize the tastes.  “Did you flavor the rum?”

Nick nodded eagerly at me.

“I appreciate your endeavors to make improvements Nick, however I have to wonder where the sudden change came from in four short days.  I realize that I was unavailable…” 

My speech had been interrupted by Sir Howard’s mocking of me, little giggles like a woman would do were being directed at me. I guess ‘Unavailable’ was not the perfect word to use. 

Clearing  my throat after another long sip of rum; I began to feel the effects of the liquor on my body.  “As I was staying, what has inspired you to feed us so grandly?”

“Ahh… ahhh… ahhh…”  Nick was looking around the room, it was time to get this over with.  They couldn’t very well turn back now.  He bit his bottom lip in anxiety, he wished silently that Brian hadn’t brought up his pocket being picked, he was afraid that Brian would recognize Ray dressed as a boy. 

Nick looked at Kevin.  Kevin’s demeanor was jovial and seemed relaxed or the rum had begun to play havoc on his brain.  Nick learned long ago, that a drunk Kevin was easier to manipulate if you wanted something than if he were sober.  Kevin would give the world if he had enough alcohol in his system. 

“I’m waiting Nickolas….”  Kevin began to frown.

“Well you see; I’ve had some help.”  Nick choked out the words; they weren’t as smooth as he had wanted to be.

“Help?  As in what kind of help?”  Kevin pulled himself forward and leaned his head into his hands as his bent elbows propped his head up.

Nick smiled inwardly; yes, the rum was kicking in.  “I took on someone on  to help me. An apprentice of sorts.”  The words echoed off the wooden timbers of the galley.  The boat listed slightly causing the silence to be almost deafening.

“An apprentice  you say?”  Kevin turned to Sir Alex,  “Did I give him permission to bring another on to this ship?  To take on another mouth to feed?  Is he at liberty to do such things?”

Sir Alex shook his head no to each question.  Alexander then leveled a look at Nick.  “I don’t recall any of us discussing this.  Nickolas, this is purely an offense.”

Nick gulped and pleaded with Brian and Howie to assist him with his eyes. 

Howie returned a noncommittal look to him. 

Brian seemed lost in thought as he stared at the man that he called one of his best friends.  Something was afoot with Nick, what he wasn’t sure.  He was almost positive that this had something to do with his coin being returned to him out of thin air. The young girl had taken his money from his pocket, he was sure of that.  The only other plausible explanation was that Nick ‘borrowed’ the funds from him without permission.  Some how the two must be connected.  He must have a reason and I’m sure in time he will tell me.

“Well you didn’t like the way I cooked so I found someone to help me.  You enjoyed last night’s meal as well as this evenings.”

“It’s another mouth to feed!”  Kevin slammed his tankard onto the table.  “You didn’t ask me Nick.  I know that we are friends, but out of respect, you should have asked me as your Captain.”

“Maybe he didn’t ask for fear of your reaction, which is the way you are behaving at this very minute.  We all enjoyed the meals, we have never had better.”  Brian spoke directly to me. 

Sitting back in my chair, I watched Nick for a moment, he was afraid of my reaction and as well he should be.  I have pulled that boy out of more scrapes than I should have.  I have always protected and harbored him, but what has cut me deeply,  is that he was indeed afraid to ask me.  “Where did you find this helper, as you call him?”

Nick closed his eyes for a second.  “I ran into him down on the docks.”  It really wasn’t a lie, he had run into Ray down at the docks, it wasn’t their first encounter, and he did save her from the thugs.  Now he was prepared for the worst.  He had brought a person onto Kevin’s ship without his permission.  The person could be a stowaway as far as Kevin was concerned.  Nick also knew that it was too late to turn the ship around, so Ray had to stay with them.  Now he was fretting the introduction.  Ray had a temper much like Kevin’s and she had told Nick that she didn’t like the Captain.

“You should be hung in chains for his or at least whipped for your disrespect.  You know better than this.  A person on the docks.  I must ask you, why?”  A.J. proceeded with questions even though Brian had spoken up.

 I sat back and listened.  As I watched Nick’s face contort into strange and then funny, then helplessness.  As his friend, he has broke my trust, as his Captain I would listen to any plausible explanation for his behavior.  As his father figure, I wanted to smack some sense into him.  He knows how important this voyage is to me and what it means.  It means that I can reclaim my land and my name.  I can have back the things that make me whole, almost all things, all things but Isabella.

Nick thought for a moment, he needed them to understand that Ray was important to him, but above all this they needed to understand that Ray was not a woman but a boy.  It wasn’t as if Nick was trying to trick the Captain or the others, but he did not want to be punished for what he had done either.  His  lower lip folded into his mouth as his top teeth clamped down.  A thought struck him; Ray needed help at the docks, that part wasn’t a lie.  All of the men in front of him could be extremely compassionate to someone in need.  That was the key to his dilemma.  “My friend was in trouble, he needed to leave England.”  Nick lowered his head to show how upset he was. 

Groans filled the room, “Nickolas,” Kevin whined.

“He did Kevin.  You always taught me to help when I could.  Didn’t you? Didn’t you?  Remember the time you helped out the widow and her three children and the time you helped the old man thatch his roof and the time you nursed the dog back to health after it was hit by the carriage….”

“Okay Nick, I understand that I have taught you compassion but your compassion should not over-rule common sense.”  I locked my eyes on the young man that stood before me and waited.  Nick knew exactly what I was waiting for, more information.

Raising his head, Nick forced his chin to quiver.  When he did, Howie laughed.  “That only worked when you were a child.”

Nick’s nose wrinkled up and he began to smile.  “It was nothing terrible, it’s just that he wasn’t being treated right by his family…. He was told that he had to work with his… Uncle in the kitchen of the…. King, yes the King.  He worked day and night and they wouldn’t pay him so he   Um…. Um… turned to stealing.”

A soft groan came from Brian, Nick closed his eyes, if Brian had figured it out, he was in deeper trouble than he had ever planned on being with Kevin.  A pleading look was sent Brian’s way, Brian wouldn’t look at him.

“Go get your new friend, I want to meet him,” Kevin spoke in an ice-cold voice. 

“But he’s sleeping…He worked very hard today,” Nick gulped.

“THAT’S AN ORDER!”  Kevin barked.

Brian, Howard, and Alex, as well as myself watched the tall blonde man bolt from the room.  I turned towards my friends and shipmates.  “I will get to the bottom of this, there is more to this than meets the eye.”

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