∴ An Ill-Starred Beauty ∴
“I used to have a ship, you know,” the old man says. He sighs heavily and stares across the water to the brightly-painted war vessel. “Nothing fancy like this ‘un mind, but she knew what she was doing out there. Aye, that she did.”
You grunt an indifferent response, eyes fixed on the approaching craft. You pat the left breast of your doublet, satisfied by the slight scrunch of parchment – the papers that will grant you a new start, another chance at glory.
“You’ll be off after the French then, will you?” the old man tried again. “Light some powder under their arses and show ’em what’s what, eh?” He chuckled to himself. “Well that’s a fine thing, I suppose.”
You wish the old sot would find some other seafarer to bother and leave you to your thoughts, but he persists.
“It won’t be a long life, mind. Never is. They all find their way to the bottom in the end. Boats, that is. An’ if you’re lucky, they’ll take you down with them.”
At this you tear your glance away from the incoming ship, irked. “If you’re unlucky, you mean,”
The old seadog grins showing stubs of brown teeth, and holds his palms out to either side as if to present himself.
“Look at me, lad,” he cackled. “Do I look like one of the lucky ones to you?”
You shift awkwardly, taking in the man’s haggard physique and straggly hair, a shirt that’s seen better days and battered leather boots. At his side hangs a sword, incongruous with his shabby appearance. An elegant basket of crossed black bars encloses a gold-patterned lining, crested by a large segmented pommel.
He sees you staring, and his hand flies to the hilt. Slowly, so as not to cause alarm, he draws the weapon and holds it out to you.
“You looking at this? Ah, she was never mine to keep either. May as well send her back to the sea. Go on, go on, take her! And may she bring you better fortune!”
Wide-eyed you reach for the brown leather grip, barely daring to believe your luck.
“They all find their way to the bottom, you know,” the old man repeated. And then he was gone, lost in the burgeoning crowd, leaving you dumbfounded, a sword in your hand, and a ship on your horizon.