Chamberlin reached out and grabbed Mariah’s arm. She frowned but then looked closer at the man. He was skaking and his eyes were wide with unmistakable fear. “Please, Captain Hand. You cannot let these pirates have what I’ve brought aboard. It is of inestimable value and, in truth it may be dangerous if it should fall into wrong hands.”
“What are you talking about, Master Chamberlin. You brought no cargo aboard. Only passage for yourself and your niece, if I’m not mistaken. Surely, your fancy baubles can be replaced. You’re certainly not short on funds to purchase them. And the only danger I can see if you refuse to give these men what they want.”
Chamberline shook his head. “No, no. It is dangerous. She is dangerous! What I mean to say is—” His words were cut off by Roderick’s arrival. The man had climbed down a ladder to reach the Fairweather’s deck.
He smiled as he approached, sparing a moment’s attention for Alric Chamberlin who retreated from the top deck, pleading silently as he fled. Four more pirates accompanied Roderick to the Fairweather, each armed with swords and pistols, their grim expressions bearing assurances that they were more than willing to use them.
He stopped a few paces away, his gaze direct. “Mariah. If you could retrieve a copy of the manifest, and assure me that your crew and passengers will cooperate, this should be a simple matter and we’ll be on our way before you know it.” There was a slight catch in his voice as his eyes locked with hers. Mariah felt her throat tighten, but ground her teeth and hardened her face.
“If you insist. Venik. Go to my cabin and retrieve the manifest for our guests.”
Venik saluted. “Aye, Captain.”
Mariah watched him go then turned all of her anger on Roderick. “How dare you do this! After what happened… after what we had.” Tears gathered at the corners of her eyes. “You betrayed me then… and you betray me again. I hope it’s worth it Roderick.”
The man’s earlier bravado faded for a moment. “I… I… it’s more complicated than that and you know it. Mariah, this is what I must do to survive.”
“No, Roderick. It is what you choose to do. You could have stayed… with me.”
Roderick grinned, but spoke softer. “It’s a wonderful dream, Mariah.” His voice grew louder again. “But, this is the reality now. He beckoned the pirates. “Quickly. I want three of you to start gathering up the other valuables while we wait for the manifest. Don’t do any harm unless you’re forced.”
The men nodded and set off across the deck.
Venik soon returned, the rolled patchment that contained the ship’s manifest gripped in his hand. He came up next to Mariah and handed her the document. “Thank you, Venik.”
Venik nodded, giving Roderick a dark frown before stepping back. Mariah unfurled the parchment and glanced over the neat columns of precise handwriting. The cargo was small but still costly. It would be a terrible loss. She would be lucky if her trade business recovered at all. She brushed angry tears from her cheeks and handed the manifest to Roderick.
“Damn you, Roderick.”
Just as he was about to reply, a shrill scream rose.
“What the devil…?”
Mariah came to the railing just as a figure burst from the door that led below decks. It was the other passenger, Chamberlin’s niece, Atalia. The dark-haired girl was followed by one of the pirates. She was clutching something protectively in her hands. Chamberlin himself appeared next, heaving for breath.
“Stop! Don’t try to take it from her! Please, stop!”
Roderick came up beside Mariah. “What’s happening? Didn’t I say no problems?”
Below them, Atalia screamed again as she reached the railing. She spun around and faced the pirate, who was advancing with his sword drawn. Chamberlin tried to squeeze past, but other man waved him back. As Mariah watched something happened.
Atalia looked up so her face caught the sunlight. Slowly she lifted her hands and the light caught the flicker of something shiny. The next moment, the deck of the Fairweather trembled.
Roderick and Mariah exchanged looks.
“What was that?”
Mariah looked again at the girl. Her face grew slack—and the wind began to blow, and the skies filled with dark storm clouds that churned round and round.
“This isn’t good,” Mariah said.
“What do you mean,” asked Roderick.
She pointed to the clouds and to the winds that buffeted the sails.
Produced by Eugenio Zorrilla.