Almost Two Hundred Years Ago
Killian Jones followed his brother down the cobbled street toward the docks where Captain Silver’s ship waited. He used his neck cloth to wipe at his face, feeling the burn in his back and shoulders. He was seventeen, and already he felt as if he might break under the strain of his daily work.
“Hurry up, Killian,” Liam ordered. “The captain will only punish us if we’re late.”
Clenching his jaw, Killian picked up the pace. They’d spent the day unloading cargo from the hull. Now they would spend the night cleaning the deck. Damn their father. He’d sold them into servitude, and they were prisoners until they worked off the debt. How they’d do that, Killian didn’t know.
As they drew near the docks where several ships were anchored, Killian ran his gaze over the shops and various homes lining the road. What manner of people lived behind the walls? Were they happy? Did their muscles scream in agony, their heart rage with anger?
With a shake of his head, he threw the questions away. What did it matter?
At the corner where the cobbles met the strip before the ships, a couple kissed beneath the pitch of a roof. Killian averted his eyes, but he heard the soft laughter of the woman and pain sliced in Killian’s gut. Would he ever know the touch of a woman? Would he ever know love that was soft and peaceful?
Damn these torturous questions. He lengthened his stride and caught up with his brother. They went around other deckhands loading their ships or cleaning the sides. When they reached their destination, Captain Silver stood at the helm, glaring down at them.
“We got back as quick as we could,” Liam called out to him, going up the gangway.
Captain Silver linked his hands behind him, his stony countenance promising retribution. “Obviously not fast enough because we’re still anchored.”
“Are we leaving now?” Killian questioned, following his brother.
“We have another shipment to fetch in Arendale.” Captain Silver glared at them. “You two will man the rigging.”
Killian wanted to growl in frustration. When would the back-breaking work end? When would he have silent moments of happiness? And what did he even want out of life? He loved the sea. When they were full sail, that was the only time he was really happy. That much he knew.
He remembered the couple under the torch.
Another thing he knew, but would never admit aloud, was that he wanted someone to love, someone who would love him back. True love. The kind that broke curses. But how in the bloody hell would he ever find it stuck on a ship?
As he went through the motions of setting sail, he couldn’t stop imagining the lady who might give him everything he could ever want. She would be kind. Have a nice smile. Maybe she would be tough. A little mischievous. The dream formed, keeping him company.
They’d put port behind them, and now Killian was surrounded by late afternoon sea air, the orange rays of the sun slashing across the sky. Sometimes the views proved to him that a better life was possible, happiness attainable. He gazed at the sight, longing filling his soul.
A sudden cry from the sailor manning the crow’s nest struck Killian with concern.
“Captain! Trouble ahead!” the sailor yelled from above.
Killian looked up sharply to check the direction in which the deckhand pointed. He then hurried to the stern, and in the red-golden light, he saw some sort of swirling vortex in the middle of the ocean.
Murmurs and shouts grew among the crew.
“What is that, Liam?” Killian asked his brother.
“I’ve no idea.” He leaned over to get a better look.
As Captain Silver gave orders to turn, men scattered to carry out their duties. But the ship couldn’t be turned.
Alarmed, Killian fought with the rigging, keeping the sail as straight and as strong as possible.
The captain continued to bark, the crew did all they could, and just before they were sucked in, the ship turned, skimming along the side of the water funnel.
As Killian’s heartbeat began to slow, he couldn’t help but look over the side at the cavernous hole. “Bloody hell,” he whispered.
A sudden surge of wind swirled around him. He shouted, and latched on hard to the side of the ship. The gale increased, and his body flew. The skin of his hands tore as he was ripped from purchase. He cried out as what felt like a great hand scooped him up and tossed him. “Liam,” he yelled.
He heard his brother calling his name.
Killian flailed, trying to grab hold of anything. But nothing was within grasp, and a forced pushed him into the endless vortex.