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Lady Renesmee de Cullen turned to Captain Newton in surprise and pointed to the distant shores. "Sir, is that Sol Duc?" She had not been expecting to see land so soon.
"No, my Lady," he answered nervously. "That is the Isle of La Push."
Her warm brown eyes opened wide. "Oh!" She rested against the ship's wooden rail and asked anxiously. "Is it safe to sail so close?"
She had heard many stories of the Quileutes, the warlike people of La Push, and wondered if it was wise to enter their waters.
The captain spoke bracingly – though a slight flush crept onto his fair features. "The Duke insisted we make the voyage as quickly as possible, and this is the fastest route to Sol Duc."
Renesmee sighed, but made no further comment. He was a devoted grandfather, but Charles Swan, the 11th Duke of Forkland, was a stubborn man, and there was really no point in arguing once he had given an order. Renesmee fully understood the captain's predicament. Captain Newton could sense her remaining anxiety and tried to reassure her.
"I wouldn't worry, my Lady. Forkland has no quarrel with La Push, if we had the misfortune to encounter any privateers, they would be unlikely to attack us."
He prayed that this was actually true, for although it was a rare occurrence, Captain Newton knew perfectly well that even ships from Forkland could sometimes fall victim to the pirates operating from that fearsome isle. Being a conscientious man, he had tried to persuade the Duke of this very thing before the Cruiser set sail, but to no avail. The Duke had dismissed the captain's fears with a gruff shake of his head.
"King Samuel would not dare set his privateers onto my flagship."
Captain Newton was not entirely convinced that the pirates really cared about what King Samuel thought, but he had still nodded in agreement. "Very good, your Grace."
Fortunately, Renesmee was not privy to Captain Newton's thoughts and was greatly calmed by his words.
"Thank you, Captain. That has put my mind at ease."
She said these words with such a sweet smile that he quickly had to remind himself that he was a married man, and she was young enough to be his daughter. It was unfortunate for him that her beautiful eyes were so very like her mother's.
In his youth – when he was just a humble midshipman in the Duke's fleet – Captain Newton had idolised Lady Isabella Marie Swan, and whenever he gazed upon her daughter he felt as if he was twenty again. No doubt his wife, Jessica, would have been quick to assure him that he was not, but luckily for him, she was at home in Forkland and not aboard his ship.
The day was overcast and windy, so after a short conversation with the captain, Lady Renesmee left the ship's deck and retreated to her warm cabin below, where she found her maid, Miss Weber, busy tidying the contents of her trunk. She smiled as her mistress entered the cabin and stood up to her full height.
She was a tall, angular woman, and a loyal and trusted servant, who had cared for Renesmee since she was a child. Miss Weber was dressed in a staid, grey maid's uniform, with a crisp white apron. Her greying hair was pulled back into a severe knot, which only seemed to accentuate her air of extreme respectability.
"Did you speak to the captain, Miss Renesmee?"
"Yes." Lady Renesmee nodded. "He said that the wind is in our favour and we should reach Sol Duc by tomorrow."
Miss Weber gave sigh of relief; she did not enjoy sea travel and was pleased to know that their journey would not be delayed by bad weather. Renesmee sat down at the table and picked up a silver hand mirror. The sea breeze had swept her hair into a tangle, and she was grateful when Miss Weber stepped behind her and began to brush her long auburn curls, quickly returning them to a state of silky perfection.
Miss Weber dressed her young mistress's hair with great care, pinning the front away from her face with two ornate combs, whilst allowing the rest to cascade down her back in loose glossy curls. She glanced down at Lady Renesmee with barely concealed pride. Was there a lovelier girl in all the kingdoms? Miss Weber was sure that there was not.
She was probably right; Renesmee was a rare beauty. She had inherited the fair skin of her father's people and his ruddy hair, along with her mother's roseleaf complexion and dark eyes. Her features were neat and pretty, added to which, she had a natural vivacity that was all her own. When all these positive attributes were combined with her slender figure and graceful bearing, it was really no surprise that she struck all who met her as a remarkably lovely girl.
Miss Weber knew that Lady Renesmee's parents held high hopes for her future. With her lineage and looks, she would be able to find a husband in the most elevated circles. Miss Weber gave a small sigh, it was a great thing for her mistress to have such marital opportunities, but a small part of her could not help but wish that Renesmee might marry for love. Had the Gods really given her so much beauty, and such a sweet temperament, to be thrown away in a political alliance?
Renesmee stood up and smoothed out her elegant blue gown. She inspected her hair and smiled gratefully at her maid. "Thank you, Angela."
It was at that moment that a shout rang out from the deck above. "Ship Ahoy!"
She glanced at Miss Weber. "Who do you think it could be?"
"I have no idea, Miss."
Renesmee did not waste time in further discussion, she grabbed her cloak and hurried out of the cabin and up onto the ship's deck. Several of the crewmen were standing against the wooden rail at the Cruiser's stern, pointing in the direction of La Push. She joined them at the rail, leaning over to get a better view.
She could see another ship approaching, a smaller vessel than the Cruiser, but very neatly built, with graceful lines and a smooth hull, and she seemed to be moving at great speed. Lady Renesmee watched the new ship's approach with curiosity. Standing beside her was Mr Crowley, the Cruiser's first mate. He was looking through a brass telescope.
A second later, Captain Newton crossed the deck. "Well Crowley, who is it?"
Mr Crowley turned to him fearfully. "Sir, it's the Rabbit."
Renesmee had heard that name many times on this voyage, and she had always smiled to think that a pirate ship should have such a harmless sounding name. But now, for the very first time, the name instilled the kind of fear in her, which it had in the crewmen who had spoken it. The last thing she felt like doing was laughing. She tore her eyes from the captain's face and turned them towards the sea, taking a long look at the ship sailed by the infamous Black Pirate.
The Rabbit was gaining on the Cruiser with terrifying speed. Captain Newton told Mr Crowley to escort Lady Renesmee back to her cabin and find a crewman to stand guard outside her door. His energy was then diverted into preparing his men for the arrival of the Rabbit. He barked out his orders as Renesmee was led below deck.
Mr Crowley left her in her cabin with Miss Weber, giving firm instructions that they should remain there until someone came to tell them that the coast was clear.
"Don't worry, my Lady, I doubt they'll try to board us. They're probably just curious," he said, without a trace of conviction.
Miss Weber turned pale and sank down onto a chair. Lady Renesmee caught hold of her hand and squeezed it tightly, giving her a sympathetic look. "I'm sure he's right," she lied, while only just managing to keep the tremors out of her voice.
The minutes ticked by as they waited in their cabin. Miss Weber had the forethought to remove Lady Renesmee's costly jewels from their case and hide them in a pouch under her apron. With a shaking hand Renesmee unfastened the rope-like golden chain from around her neck and pulled out her earrings.
"Here, Angela. Take these." She handed them to Miss Weber.
It wasn't long before they could hear the shouts of the crew as the Rabbit drew alongside the Cruiser. Renesmee and Miss Weber cowered together in the cabin, trembling with fright, and they heard the unmistakeable sounds of musket fire, followed by the warlike cries of their attackers. Within moments their ears were assaulted by the sounds of a battle on the deck. The clash of steel and cries of the crew rang out above them.
They listened intently, trying to understand what was happening. It was impossible to tell, by the confused yells and loud crashes, which side had the advantage. The ladies huddled in silence, praying for the fighting to end.
They didn't have long to wait, the clash was fierce, but short lived. As soon as the fighting ceased, they heard a series of orders being called out to the crew. It was unclear who had claimed victory, until Renesmee and her maid heard the sound of deep voices echoing below deck.
"This way. Search the cabins. I'll check the crews' quarters."
"Take what you can carry."
The buccaneers had overpowered the crew of the Cruiser and were now plundering the ship as quickly as they could. The two women clung to each other as the heavy footsteps drew near. They heard their guard cry out as he was knocked to the floor. A moment later, the door to their cabin was kicked open and a huge man strode into the room.
He was very tall and muscular, with dark russet skin and cropped black hair. He had to duck his head to get through the doorway. Lady Renesmee had not previously encountered many people from La Push, and although she recognised the distinctive Quileute look, she was completely overwhelmed by his sheer size. She gasped and stumbled back into the corner of the room, pulling her maid with her.
On catching sight of the retreating beauty, the huge man stopped dead in his tracks and his eyes flew wide with surprise. Renesmee gazed up at him fearfully and was not reassured by what she saw. The man had a hard, angular face and his expression was uncompromising. She backed away, as far as she could, until she was pressed right up against the wall of her cabin.
"What's this?" The man raised a mocking eyebrow, as he looked her up and down. "It seems that the Cruiser is carrying something worth having, after all." Renesmee flinched at his harsh tone, but before she could reply, he had stepped forward and caught her arm in a rough grasp. "You're coming with me, my beauty."
"No!" She cried, trying desperately to free herself from his tight grip. "Let go of me!"
Miss Weber instantly came to her aid, striking at the man's arm. "Release her, you brute!"
But to no avail. He was so sturdy that he barely noticed their struggles; he continued to pull Renesmee forward with inexorable strength. He held Miss Weber away from himself with one arm and called out to one of his companions.
A moment later, another huge Quileute man appeared in the doorway. He was taller and less thickset than his friend, and he looked slightly younger. But his presence did nothing to alleviate the fears of the two women. They both drew back at the sight of him. He seemed surprised by the scene that met his eyes.
"Paul, what are you doing?"
"I'm taking this vixen to the captain," Renesmee's captor replied, thrusting her forward to meet his friend's gaze. "But her maid is trying to stop me. Maybe you could take her off my hands."
The newcomer moved forward, eagerly reaching out to Renesmee, before his friend snapped angrily. "No, you fool, take the maid!"
With these words, he marched out of the cabin, dragging Lady Renesmee along with him, followed by Miss Weber, who was caught in a firm hold by his friend. Renesmee struggled and wept the whole way up to the deck, but to no avail. The man gave no sign that he could even hear her pleas.
He pushed her ahead of himself, through the door of the lower deck, and she caught her breath at the scene which met her eyes.
The Rabbit had pulled alongside the starboard bow of the Cruiser, and several boarding ramps ran between the two ships. The crew of the Cruiser were lined up, with their wrists trussed together, tied to the ships' rail, and a number of bodies lay at their feet. The deck was swarming with Quileute pirates, all swarthy men from La Push, many of them were shirtless and not one of them under six feet tall.
Lady Renesmee gave a frightened gasp and tried to retreat from these formidable men, but her captor had her in a sure hold and compelled her into the open. The salty breeze caught her long hair, sweeping it around her shoulders, as she stepped onto the wooden boards. This movement caught the attention of several of the buccaneers, who immediately looked round. The second that they spotted the new arrival, they drew near, shouting out approvingly.
"Oho, Paul! You've found yourself a pretty wench!"
"Are you going to share her?"
"She's more to look at than his last woman."
This ribaldry was met with loud laughter, but Lady Renesmee flushed with humiliation at their remarks, biting her lip and lowering her eyes as she was confronted by a growing crowd of men. She could feel the tears welling up in her eyes as she listened to their coarse comments. This only seemed to increase their taunting.
"She doesn't look as if she's enjoying your company, Paul. I'd wager I could cheer her up."
Her captor ignored their jibes; his face remained a mask of grim determination as he ruthlessly pressed her through the crew, towards his captain. Renesmee had no idea where she was being taken, until she caught sight of a huge man, standing above her on the quarterdeck, speaking to one of his men.
His back was to her, but she could see that beneath his white shirt he was very powerfully built, with broad shoulders and a muscular frame. He had the same tanned skin as his countrymen, and his shoulder length black hair was tied in a ponytail. He was easily bigger and taller than every other man on board, and she was being led right towards him!
As she beheld this enormous man, Renesmee was gripped by panic. She did not want to go one step closer to him. She fought frantically to escape from the pirate who held her.
"No!" She cried, fighting against his merciless hold. "No… no… let go of me… no!"
Her terrified sobs were greeted by jeers and shouts from the men, and these were the sounds which caught the attention of their captain.
He turned to discover the source of the uproar, and as he glanced down to the lower deck, his eyes were met by a vision of surpassing loveliness. For a second, he was so surprised that he almost doubted his eyes. But, in an instant, he realised that this was no dream, but a real girl; a girl who was, at that very moment, being manhandled by one of his crew, while the rest looked on and laughed.
The captain saw her trying to pull away from Paul, using every ounce of her strength to resist him. As his crewman dragged her forward, the captain was filled with sudden and overwhelming anger. In a single, swift movement, he vaulted over the quarterdeck balustrade, onto the lower deck, where Renesmee was struggling with her captor.
Before any of the crew had realised what was happening, the captain of the Rabbit had seized Paul by the scruff of the neck and wrenched him away from the girl with a rough yank.
"You filthy cur!" he swore, throwing his surprised victim aside and landing a hard kick on his retreating form. "Get away from her, you damn dog!"
It was unfortunate that by this time Lady Renesmee was completely overcome with fear and confusion. She did not understand what was happening, she could only register the arrival of a man who was even bigger and more terrifying than the last. She shrieked in horror as he attacked her captor, and stumbled back in an attempt to escape the shocking encounter.
It was then that she saw her only chance to get away. The new monster had momentarily distracted the crew and she suddenly realised that no one was holding her. Without looking back, she made a break for the quarterdeck, running towards the steps as quickly as she could. She reached the top, just as a husky voice shouted behind her.
"Embry! Stop her!"
She instantly discovered that she was no less trapped than before. She was not alone on the quarterdeck. The crewman, to whom the captain had been speaking, was still there, and she could already hear the sound of pursuit behind her. At any second she would be surrounded by fierce giants.
The man on the quarterdeck took a step forward and put his hand out to her. "It's alright, don't be afraid."
But it was too late for Renesmee to believe him. She backed herself against the ship's rail, crying out in dread. "Stay away from me…"
He did not heed her warning and slowly moved towards her, just as several men, including his captain, reached the top of the steps. This was the final straw; all she could see were her tormentors, preparing to ensnare her. She had no idea what hideous fate they had in store, she only knew that she would do anything to escape it.
Before any of the crew could stop her, she had climbed onto the ships' rail and jumped overboard into the rough grey sea.
I'll be completely honest. Writing this story is really, really fun and I am already a few chapters in (with plenty more planned).
I started work on it after I mentioned to my beta, willowbae, this idea for an AU/AH story (I usually write canon). She was really enthusiastic and straightaway said that I should start writing it for real.
And I did, and now we're both a bit addicted to Pirate Jake (well she hasn't used that exact word, but I'm reading between the lines!). Anyway, I have no idea if anyone else (apart from us) will be into this kind of thing, but I thought that I would post it on the off chance that some other people might enjoy a Nessie/Jake, fantasy, historical swashbuckler too!
I wouldn't say this for my other stories (because they fit into a more usual Twilight genre), but if you like this story and want to read more, then it would be well worth reviewing and letting me know.
Ok, I'll admit, I love reviews, but also this story is potentially of such a minority interest, that if no one apart from willowbae and me want to read it, I won't worry about posting it and carry on writing it for our entertainment, and just email it to her :)
So if you do want to know if Lady R ever makes it out of the sea and into the arms of a certain captain, then just press that little review button at the bottom of this page ;)
Thanks for reading and a special thank you to willowbae who is totally amazing and the best beta ever.
Have a brilliant weekend,
p.s. To any of my regular readers, the next chapter of 'the Tracker' will be posted on Saturday, as usual :)