(A/N: Hello, everyone! It's Sushi again, with another Narnia fanfiction! I hadn't thought about doing another one until I was reading through my old emails, and I had a few PMs and reviews from people saying (however offhandedly it may have been) that I should do another one. And so I will! Hope you all enjoy this newest from Schmo and Sushi!—but remember, only Sushi is writing this. ;))
She clung to the bowsprit with every ounce of strength her failing body could manage, digging her fingernails into the rotting and splintering wood of the weathered horse that led the ship onwards through the rough waves. The carving had been beautiful once, but the steed's bright paint had long worn off, and now, it stared into the darkness with pale, cracked eyes.
How she wished she could be like that unseeing horse—aloof, uncaring, and never tired or hungry. How she wished she could freeze here, to the figurehead of the accursed Seacharger, to die and remain forever.
And die is just what she might do, she reminded herself grimly. A fortnight she had spent clinging to the underside of the ship's jutting bowhead, coming up to sit atop the jib boom between night watch and midwatch. Once, she'd clambered up the foremast when the captain's mate wasn't watching, but one night on the tossing Great Sea nearly threw her into the roiling waves below.
But anything was better than remaining on Galma, the island she'd once called home. Sabsestrin had destroyed her life there—turning her sunny, mountainous homeland into a dark, sinister shadow-land, full of evil and hatred.
A frigid wave crashed over the forecastle deck, and she forced a cry to remain, throbbing, in her throat. She was wet, cold, hungry, and sore, and the ropes she had lashed herself to the figurehead chafed horribly against her sun-browned, waterlogged skin. The clothes she'd stolen from Sabsestrin's trunk were stiff with saltwater and offered no shelter from the elements.
Over the roar of the water beneath her, a ghostly, echoing bell sounded from the quarterdeck. One bell…two bells…three bells…four bells…five bells…six bells…seven bells…eight bells. End of the midwatch—four a.m.
She stirred to life, struggling at the salt-stiffened knots. When they came apart, she took a firm hold on the thickest rope and scrambled as quickly as she could to the forepeak. Checking herself as soon as she was balanced atop the thick, jutting beam of wood, she gave the deck a cursory personnel check—all clear. The morning watchman was still below. Slowly, cautiously, she stepped onto the forecastle deck. A moment was all she'd allow herself—just enough to pilfer a sea biscuit and a sip or two of acrid water.
But the barrels were in the galley, directly below her. More than likely, she'd meet a sailor or the cook himself.
I've done it once, I'll do it again, she told herself. Strands of hair from her loose and slapdash plait whipped her face as she leapt down the forecastle ladder and edged to the weathered galley door. The knob turned easily, and the faint light from the lantern swaying from the foremast shrouds revealed two damp barrels just inside the door—
"Halt! Who goes there?"
An orange spot appeared from the quarterdeck as the morning watch lifted his lantern. "I said, who goes there?"
Her hands shaking, she cupped them around her mouth and imitated the cry of a Galmanian mew, but the sailor wasn't fooled. His long strides carried him swiftly across the ship's waist towards her.
So she threw caution to the winds and scrambled back up the ladder to the forecastle deck. She'd hurl herself into the waves, if need be.
But there was no time. The watch blew a long blast on his whistle, and the bell rang out from the quarterdeck—everyone would be above deck ere long.
Suddenly, she felt a rough hand on her collar. The fabric tightened across her throat, and she gasped for breath as a corded sailor drew her close to his face.
"We got ourselves a sea rat!" he bellowed finally after inspecting her face, and she became quickly aware of a group of sneering sailors crowding at the capstan. "Throw 'er to the waves, I say!"
A growl of agreement went up from the men.
"What is going on here?"
The sailor released her, and she lost her balance and toppled to the deck, scraping her knuckles against the wood. "We got ourselves a sea rat, Captain, sir," he growled.
"A sea rat, you say?"
She glared up at the captain as he stepped onto the forecastle, trying to mask the weak quivering of her arms as she braced herself against the deck.
"I see," the captain said, folding his hands behind his back. "Mister Fel?"
"How far are we from Archenland?"
"We've been sailin' fer a good month, sir, so I'd say we're 'bout twenty leagues from the coast. Nearly in Narnia, I'd say."
The captain flipped an airy hand. "Throw the she-rat in the cargo hold. There she can wait until we make shore."
The corded sailor took hold of her collar again and hauled her to her feet. "Yes, sir!"
She was alternately dragged and shoved across the main deck until she teetered at the brink of the dark, gaping central hatch. Water sloshed around in the blackness below, and she repressed a horrified shudder.
"Git down there, sea rat," the sailor snarled, and she found herself falling down, down, into the bowels of the ship. Then the hatch slammed shut, and she was alone.