Ted Mark Crim is colorful fellow of the good-with-weapons sort, co-author of The Shandahar Chronicles.
The Price of a Boa
by Marian Allen
Juvenile Holly Jahangiri sincerely regretted hiding from her mother. If she ever got home safely, she promised herself, she would apologize and would accept any penance her mother imposed.
All she had wanted was another five minutes looking at the ships in Deep Blue Sea Harbor. Their home, Zilla Village in Meadow of Flowers Province, was inland, and they seldom visited the seaside. The sea called to Holly. Sometimes she toyed with the notion of leaving her birth demographic of Rural and joining a Wandering Tribe, perhaps one of those who went down to the sea in ships.
Now Holly was in trouble – deep water trouble! She had hidden aboard one of the ships, had fallen asleep in a lifeboat, and now she was a stowaway.
And not just any ship. A peek at the flagstaff showed the black banner with the white skull that marked the ship as a pirate vessel. If the pink bow had been on the side of the skull’s dome, Holly would have been somewhat comforted by knowing the captain was a woman, but the bow was at the skull’s throat; the captain was a man.
Oh, well, nothing to do but face the music. She crawled out of the lifeboat onto the apparently empty deck.
A heavy hand clamped onto her head and turned her around.
The hand released her.
Before her, stood the most terrifying sight of her young life: a man of heavy muscularity, in a three-cornered hat covered with bits of things. He wore a trim beard, a white blouse with puffy sleeves, a plaid skirt, knee socks, and shoes with buckles. Only two kinds of men dressed like that: men who liked to dress like Naughty Schoolgirls, and men who were very, very, very, very, good with weapons.
“Aye, look yer fill,” he said gruffly. “Captain Tedmark Crimm is who ye’r lookin’ at. And who am I lookin’ at?”
The dread pirate Tedmark Crimm! Of all the ships in all the world, she had to stow away aboard his! “J-juvenile Holly Jahangiri. I didn’t mean to steal a ride. I’m terribly sorry. I only wanted to see more of the ship.”
“That you will, Stowaway Holly Jahangiri, that you will.” He roared an order, and men and women in all manner of colorful costume swarmed around. “This is Stowaway Holly Jahangiri,” Captain Tedmark Crimm said. “Put her to work.”
And they did. They took away her Rural tunic and sash and gave her bell-bottomed trousers and a shirt of horizontal blue and white stripes. They taught her to swab the decks, trim the sails, batten the hatches, and weigh the anchor (it was very heavy).
One day, when she was in the hold, checking to make sure the pesky water sliders weren’t into the ship’s stores, she heard a tell-tale pop.
It was a sound the pirates mimicked for her often, sometimes with glee at frightening her, sometimes in deadly earnest. It was the sound, they told her, of a basehart poking a hole in a hull.
Baseharts usually lived 20,000 leagues under the sea, but sometimes, in what the sailors imagined was a coming-of-age ritual, one would surface and poke a hole in a ship for no apparent reason.
Holly ran toward the sound – and the sound of water hitting the deck – and found the hole. Seawater squirted in at an alarming rate, right onto the seabiscuits! If she ran to report, everyone’s favorite food would be ruined!
She called for help as loudly as she could and did the only thing possible. She stuck her thumb into the hole, plugging it. Again and again, she called for help, but no one could hear. Surely, her absence would be noticed! But no; everyone would assume she was working somewhere else. How long would it be? How long must she stand here like a living cork?
They came looking for her when she missed a meal.
The ship’s carpenter plugged the hole and the ship’s healer bandaged her swollen thumb.
As the healer put her gear away, the doorway darkened, filled with the sinister figure of Captain Crimm.
“Saved me ship, did you?”
“Saved the biscuits,” she answered.
He laughed, white teeth gleaming. He gestured for her to follow him on deck. There, he said to her, but loud enough for the crew to hear, “We’ve taken a vote. We’re making port at full speed. Back to Deep Blue Sea Harbor, where I think there’ll be someone waiting for you.”
“Mother!” Holly tried not to cry, but she was a very young pirate, and the fun had worn off. The fun had worn off half-way through swabbing the first deck.
Captain Crimm, Holly learned, had sent word by carrier seagull back to port as soon as she had been discovered. He was ruthless, but he didn’t want anybody’s mother to worry.
When Reformed Pirate Holly Jahangiri saw her mother standing on the dock, waving both arms and smiling and crying at once, it was all she could do not to jump in and swim to her.
Their embrace would have called for a swelling of violins, had there been an orchestra nearby.
“And,” Captain Crimm growled, “with yer mother’s permission, I present you with this.” He snapped his fingers and the ship’s quartermaster handed him something from the ship’s treasury.
It was a purple feather boa. A feather boa! Sign among her people that the wearer had accomplished something that made them a valuable member of society!
Holly’s mother nodded, beaming with pride.
“Wear it in good health,” said the captain. He touched two finger to the brim of his hat and hurried back aboard his ship, before the manly tears could fall.
And so, Juvenile Holly Jahangir earned her purple feather boa and the respect of her people. And put her new skills into practice by mopping the floor every seventh day for a season, as restitution for the worry she’d caused her mother.
It was, she thought, worth it.
~ * ~
MY PROMPT FOR TODAY: Is that a purple feather boa in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?