Hunger pains stab me in the stomach. Quickly scanning the upper deck for Achillies, and only finding a few of his men, I step out into the sunshine.
The sun warms my skin, making the clammy cool feeling of the cabin instantly disappear.
Fatigue reminds me that I'm suppose to be resting, but the salt air dances in my nose, clearing my head. Inhaling deeply, I wonder if I should return to the cabin and wait for Achilles.
My stomach rubles again, pushing the thought of food to the front of my head, and spurs my feet forward.
Passing a few Myrmidons, I make my way to the cabin used for cooking and dinning. They raise their heads in acknowledgements and a couple even shout that it is good to see my back on my feet.
The boat rocks slowly but no nausea comes. I nod my thanks with a smile. This is how being at sea is suppose to feel.
Slowly pushing into the dinning area, I'm thankful for the small windows that allow a bit of sun to light the room.
Scanning the room, I see that I'm alone. I quickly do a survey of the empty area, landing on a large barrel, my stomach growls again and the smile widens.
The barrel in the corner calls to me. It beckons of home. Quickly doing the math in my head, I know the few remaining fruit will only last another day or two. At most.
Snatching the remaining two pieces up, I twirl the first reddish fruit in my hands, before taking a big bite.
The juices run down my chin and my mouth smacks in appreciation.
"Well, well," the voice startles me, causing me to drop one of the apples to the floor.
A hard hand lands on my shoulder, and I instantly spin to face three of Achilles men. "What do we have hear?"
The apple rolls towards the first man's sandaled foot, and he picks it up slowly. Twirling it like I did earlier, before raising his eyes back to me.
"You know taking rations without permission is considered stealing on the open sea."
My mouth goes dry as he gestured to the bitten fruit in my hand. "I - I - didn't know." My voice is weak, but surely they must know who I am, and that I didn't mean any harm.
Tossing the whole apple up in the air a few times, he shrugs. "Not my problem."
"But-," I have been sick. This is my first time on the sea. I didn't know. All the excesses stick in my throat
"And what's the punishment for stealing, again, Acnes?"
A second taller man leans forward and chuckles. "I was thinking death?"
"Death it is!" The first cries out so loud that I jerk backwards hitting the wall. Trapped.
Acnes smiles at his friend, then back at me darkly. "Shame too. It being you're first time at sea and all."
Fear squeezes my heart, causing my instincts to kick in full forces. I shove the smaller one away, and dip under the larger ones hands, sprinting towards the door.
Cries of anger fill my ears, but the only thing I can see is the exit welcoming back to the bright sunlight. And safety.
Almost there - a large hand lands around my arm pulling me up short. He spins me hard, kicking a leg out from under me causing me to hit the ground.
Confused, I look up into the eyes of the third guy. Damn it. How could I have forgotten about him?
Gasping for breath, I should have opted for resting, I stare at his amused face. He wasn't much older than me. "Forgot how many people were in the room, eh, lad?" His accent was different than I was use to, but the meaning stood clear. A warrior is always aware of his surroundings.
"Nice catch, Taren." The first said, stepping towards me again, causing me to try and regain my footing. But a firm hand kept me in place on the floor.
"Aye, Lais. Looks like your thief isn't too thrilled about dying for taking a small bite of an apple."
For the first time since these men had walked into the dinning area, I took a deep breath. Finally one that would have some mercy on me.
Acnes stepped forward now, and the sun caught his face through a window showing young features. "What do you think then, Taren?"
"Never mind what I think. What would Achilles say?"
Acnes and Lais both frowned at me sitting on the ground. "I suppose you're right," Acnes replied glumly.
Taren removed the hand from my shoulder allowing me to finally stand. "I know, I am."
Final feeling free, slightly shook up, and a bit embarrassed, I stared at my two attackers. One still holding the remaining apple, I raise my chin. "And maybe, he'll hear about it."
I hadn't meant it. I only wanted to frighten them enough to make sure that they didn't try another attack.
I tried to turn to leave, when I was suddenly propelled forward. "Of course, death may be out of the question, but he did steal."
The frown instantly disappeared from Lais face, and he dropped the apple back into the barrel. "I knew you'd come around, Taren."
Struggling to get free, Taren roped his large arm around my neck and dragged me forward toward the counter. "He can't steal if he doesn't have a hand."
Acnes stepped forward and pinned my arms against the nearby counter. Fearfully, I looked back at my once savior turned executioner. "You can't be serious," my heart was pounding against my ears, that I could barely hear myself speak.
Taren grinned, letting go of his hold now that Acnes had me. "Aye, which hand then, lad?"
My insides turned to jelly. "I didn't know. I didn't know the rule."
"Tis a hard life," Taren replies, "right, boys?"
"Right, right," The echoes sound, as Acnes tightens his hold on my struggling arms.
"Tell me, which one is your sword fighting hand? I feel generous and will spare that one."
I squeak but no words form.
"What didn't quite get that," Lais laughs.
"Achilles will not approve of this," it's a cowardly attempt, but I'll use whatever method possible to save my hand. If anyone strikes fear, it is my cousin.
Taren look momentarily grim and shakes his head. "I know." Hope flutters through my heart. "Achilles will probably want to duel out judgement himself."
"But he's busy. Now, which arm before I take off both of them." The humor drained from his face making my heart skip a beat. He meant business.
I was about to bring so much shame to Achilles and my family. A one armed warrior would barely be able to hold a shield. There would be no way that I'd be able to swing a sword.
"Both?" his dark voice echoes in my ears. And hate blubbers up into my throat, which quickly fades to fear when he slowly pulls the sword from his hilt.
Raising the sword, the words spill from my mouth in response, "please...I won't ever...a mistake...my first time on a ship...,"
And when that didn't stop the swordsman, I began to fight. Jerking my arms back I tried to free my hands, but Acnes has a firm grip.
My feet kicks him in the shin, which causes him to grunt and snap at Lais. "Feet!"
"I wanted to see his face," Lais replies sourly, but I still feel two large hands grip both my ankles.
The familiar sick feeling begins to twist in my stomach and a cold sweat breaks across my face, as I eye Taren still waiting with the sword in the air.
I jerk again causing my body to flop around like a fish on a hook. "Be still, Patroclus. So I can get a clean cut."
My name on his lips breaks me, and tears well up in my eyes, as the begging begins again. "I beg you! Please," the tears run down my cheeks
Taren's eyes soften briefly, but he shakes his head. "You stole. Now you've have to except the punishment that goes along with that."
My vision tunnels and I wonder if I'm going to pass out before he cuts off my hands. The thought of waking up in a puddle of my own blood makes me gag.
"He's going to be sick," Acnes breaks into my thoughts.
A firm hand grips my shoulder and I look up to see Taren staring at me. "You're gonna survive this, Patroclus. Now which hand."
"Left," I muttered. "Take the left."
He nods stepping around the barrel to my left side. The sword glides higher into the air, and I snap my eyes close as a whooshing sound whirls in the air.
Pain like I never experienced shoots through my left wrist. Screaming I pull backwards and hit the the ground with a hard thud.
Licking my lips, I raise my hand expecting to see a blood pulp. My water eyes blink back the last tears, as I stare at my whole hand in front of me. Wiggling my fingers in shock, I scan my had down to the throbbing welt starting to form across my wrist.
I still have my hand.
All the guys are laughing historically and I feel my face color. What happened?
As sensing my question, Taren raises the hilt of his sword and shrugs. "Call it beginners luck."
Anger seizes me, crushes my lungs, and replaces the fear from before tenfold. Jumping to my feet, I only see red and the laughing head of Taren as I lunge towards him.
My hand connects with his nose and blood spews. He stops laughing and swears at me.
Wrestling him to the ground, his eyes instantly switch from surprise to warrior mode. And I know, I have a fight.
Landing two quick jabs to his ribs, I pull back and knock him hard in the nose again. More blood spews and he swears wildly, before gripping the back of neck and rolling me off of him.
He's quickly back on top of me, landing his own couple of punches to my stomach, causing me to gasp for air.
He sits on my chest pinning my arms to my sides with his legs. "You're an emotional lad,'' he grits out, "and that'll get you killed one day."
"Easy, Patroculus," his voice stirs up more anger and I raise my arm to hit again. A hard blow knocks me across my jaw causing my head to crack against the floor. "No more free punches," he grunts out.
His eyes dance with rage, and I realize the anger I saw before was nothing compared to now.
I struggle beneath his hold, thrashing wildly before the lack of oxygen from him sitting on me begin to take its hold. I hate be trapped again.
"Every new guy has to go through this,"
He looks over at Acnes briefly before turning his head back towards me. Blood dripped from his face down onto my chest. "Acnes tried to beat me to a bloody pulp too."
My head spins together trying to understand what he was saying, when suddenly the weight lifts from my chest. "Get him up, cleaned up, and back to Achilles."
My world turns upsidedown as I was quickly jerked to my feet. Acnes - or at least I think it was Acnes - slapped me on the back. "You're alright, kid."
"Not a kid," I managed to gasp out before taking a couple of steps towards the door. His hand grips my arm steadying me.
"Mouthy as hell, but a good kid." He chuckles lightly, dragging me on to the deck. If any of they other men were considered by the fact Acnes was dragging me back to Achilles with a bunch of bruises, they didn't show it.
Outside the cabin, Acnes quickly knocks on the door. Moments later Achilles head appears through the opening. His blue eyes darken as he took in my wobbly form. "Sick?" he asks slowly, but by his tone, and the anger still dancing in my own eyes, I know he already knows the answer.
When I don't reply, Acnes pushes me towards him. Achilles steads me wordlessly, waiting for my answer. "Apples."
He sighs and turns back towards Acnes. "Send me Taren."
"Yes, M'Lord," Then the cabin door swings close leaving me with my cousin.
"Achilles," my voice shakes slightly.
"I told you to stay here and rest." His voice is calm, as crosses the room to the basin. Wetting a cloth, he brings it back towards me a places it on the aching bruise across my chin. "Crossing Taren is anything, but wise."
"I got in a couple of punches too." I grit out, taking the cloth from him and holding it against my chin.
He grunts and forces me to sit on the edge of the bed. "Let's see it."
"See what?" My confuse eyes stare at him as he hovers beside me.
"The wrist, Patroclus."
Anger swirls inside me again. "So it's true? This happens to all new recruits."
Achilles bites back an amused grin. "'Fraid So."
"You could have warned me," I bite back the growl in my voice, "or at least waited till I was feeling better."
He shrugs and places his hand out. Sighing, myself, I place my hurt wrist in his open palm. Achilles quickly examines it quickly, running his finger over the raised welt.
"Meet your expectations?" I thought I might have trouble with the other crew members. But I had not expected that Achilles would join them. Remembering his words from earlier, I shudder. "Or do you want me to put out my right hand so you can add your own welt?"
Achilles stares at me oddly before speaking again. "It should be a little sore tomorrow, but fine after that." He pauses as he drops my arm, "Patroclus, this is a tradition. One that's been around longer than me. I would have done you a greater disservice by not letting them welcome you."
Seeing my frown, he continues. "It was done to me. To Taren. To Everyone." A knock on the door sounds, before I could reply.
Taren sticks his head through without waiting for an answer.
The blood from his nose has stopped, and he had cleaned his face, though traces still remained on his shirt.
"Taren," Achilles nods taking in his appearance. I swear I saw a small smile form at the sight of Taren's swollen nose
"You wanted to see me, M'Lord?" Taren's voice was calm. His eyes quickly travel to me with a small smirk.
"You've met my cousin, I see"
He nods. If he is nervous it doesn't show. "Just doing my job and welcoming him to the family."
Achilles gestures to his nose. "See he returned the favor, then?"
Taren's glides father into the room, eyeing the cloth on my cheek. "Ah, wont be the first time. Or the last."
Achilles laugh echoes off the walls, and he clap Taren on the back. "Patroclus, come meet my trainee commander."
Taren grins and offers his hand out. "I work with the new warriors. Help get them ready for battle. Once you're feel up to it, feel free to join us."
"I'm up to it," I gesture to his face.
Taren shrugs. "I've some newbies to train," he reaches into his pocket, pulling out the bitten apple from before, tossing it towards me. "Welcome young Lord," he nods before turning on his heels and leaving.
Grumbling, I take a bite of the apple. The juice is still sweet, but I'm no longer hungry. Achilles meets my eye as I lay it aside. " I think I hate apples now."
He laughs heartily as he crosses the room to pick it up. Rubbing my head with his free hand, he takes a bit of the apple. "That'll change soon enough. Now, please, Patroclus, get some rest."
He turns to leave, before tossing the half eaten apple back at me. "In case, you get hungry before dinner time. Wandering hasn't worked out so well for you."
With another small laugh, he turns and leaves. I take another bit of the apple, and study my wrist. Damn warriors. Cocky. All of them. And I wanted to be just like them.