Mirates weren’t even supposed to have grandmothers, were they? Even so, the old woman named Nairnie was still aboard the ship, and there wasn’t much anyone could do about it. Mardon Fisher manned the helm as he sailed the Falcon away from the port of Ravenscar where his older brother, Tristan, now resided with his new wife, Gavina. It didn’t feel right to leave their captain behind, but it had been Tristan’s choice to leave piracy forever. Mardon and his younger brother, Aaron, hadn’t even tried to talk him out of it since they saw the way he’d fallen hard for the girl. Every man turns vulnerable at one time or another at the feet of a beautiful woman, Mardon supposed. But not him. All the women that Mardon had ever been with were the ones to fall at his feet instead. Nay, getting trapped into marriage was something that would never happen to him! He’d be a fool to ever actually marry any of the women he’d taken to his bed. Then again, most of them had been whores and weren’t interested in marriage, so it wouldn’t be a problem. His life of a pirate gave him the freedom as well as the riches he wanted. That was good enough for him. “Tristan is a fool,” spat Aaron, the youngest of the three brothers, jumping down with bare feet from the rigging, landing at Mardon’s side. “He never should have gotten married.” He pulled an apple out of his pocket and shined it on the sleeve of his shirt. “I agree,” grumbled Mardon, feeling that their brother’s decision had been bittersweet, and a bit traitorous to them as well.
Since Tristan’s departure, Mardon claimed the title of captain of the Falcon, but still he missed his brother dearly. “Tristan also broke our promise of always staying together.” “Well, now that you’re captain, Mardon, how does it feel?” Aaron took a big bite of the apple, filling the air with a loud crunch. He looked up at Mardon with curious ochrecolored eyes. A strand of his long, blond hair covered half his face. “I don’t know. I haven’t even had a chance to think about it yet,” answered Mardon, curiously eyeing up some kind of commotion on the main deck. “Little brother, now that Tristan is gone, I’ll need you to step up into my old role as quartermaster.” “Stop with the little brother crap, because I didn’t like it when Tristan said it, and I don’t like hearing it from you, either,” mumbled Aaron, taking another bite of apple and chewing as he spoke. “And I don’t know if I want to be quartermaster.
After all, I’m used to being the ship’s bosun.” Aaron was not one for confrontation, which is something the quartermaster dealt with on a daily basis regarding the crew. “Then stay on as bosun but be quartermaster as well,” Mardon suggested. “Or at least for now until we get things figured out.” Aaron swallowed the bite of apple. His tongue shot out to quickly lick his lips. It seemed as if he were considering the idea. “I want double the share of any treasure if I do. After all, that’s what you always got as quartermaster when Tristan was captain,” he pointed out. “Yes, you will.
That’s the deal. Captain and quartermaster both get a double share of any booty.” “I see.” Aaron looked down, finishing off the apple. “Plus, I’ll still maintain my shareand-a-half for the position of being bosun, too. Right?” Mardon bit his tongue, not wanting to admit aloud that Aaron wasn’t worth all that. True, he was great at keeping the ship clean and in shape, and even getting the crew to work together when it came to sailing or swabbing the deck. The crew liked Aaron. However, once he had to start breaking up fights or handing out punishments, Mardon honestly didn’t know if Aaron had it in him to do it. Because of Tristan, they were in a jam right now.
Mardon had to do whatever it took to have a functioning ship and crew. “For now,” he hesitantly agreed. “We’ll take it one day at a time and see how it goes.” “Great!” Aaron smiled and stood up straighter, chuckling to himself. “I’ll get almost twice what you get and you’re captain.” “Aye, you will. Well done, little brother. You always were skilled at being a thief, and robbing me blind has just proven it.” “You’ll call me ‘Quartermaster’ now, not little brother,” said Aaron, throwing the core of the apple over the side of the ship. He wiped his hands on his breeches.
“Quartermaster,” he repeated with a nod. “Aye, I think I’m going to like this new position after all.” “Don’t let it go to your head,” griped Mardon. “Remember, if you sluff off just once, I swear I’ll give one of your positions to someone else and take back everything I’ve promised. Now, get down there and see what all the commotion is about.” Aaron frowned. “Quartermaster,” Mardon made sure to say, watching his brother’s mouth turn up into a snide grin. “Aye, aye, Cap’n,” said Aaron, running down the stairs of the sterncastle with newfound energy. Mardon knew exactly what the commotion was about because he’d seen their grandmother, Nairnie, waving to Tristan from the bow of the ship as they left port. He should have turned right around and left the old woman on shore where she belonged but, instead, he’d turned a blind eye and let her stay.
For some odd reason, he felt as if he didn’t mind. He supposed he was trying to fill the empty gap that Tristan left in their lives now. Somehow, he had a stronger sense of family with his grandmother there. Aaron bolted back up the steps within moments with Nairnie and Goldtooth right behind him. The old woman was mumbling something and shaking her head. “Mardon, it’s just Grandmother,” said Aaron, smiling as they approached. “It seems she snuck back onto the ship and didn’t stay back in Ravenscar with Tristan and Gavina after all.” “Cap’n, I found her hidin’ in the burned-out galley,” announced Goldtooth. Goldtooth was a big, burly man, having gotten his nickname because of his gold front tooth. “Do ye want me to throw her overboard?” He, like the rest of the crew, wouldn’t think twice about getting rid of a woman since it was known that a female on board would only bring them ill luck.
After all, hadn’t they seen that happen when Tristan’s wife, Gavina, was on board? Mardon hoped now that he was captain, he could avoid anything that would bring bad luck upon their heads. Mardon, Aaron, and also the crew had become fond of Nairnie, so he wasn’t sure that he really wanted to get rid of her after all, bad luck or not. “Get yer hands off of me, and stop talkin’ nonsense, ye big oaf!” Nairnie, a short, plump, older woman had been found floating in the sea, thrown from another ship in a storm. Mardon and his brothers had brought her aboard. “Where’s my ladle? I need my ladle,” complained the old woman, slapping away Goldtooth’s hand, looking for her oversized spoon that she’d been using as a weapon against all the pirates rather than for scooping stew. “Nay, no one is throwing my grandmother overboard. Leave her be,” commanded Mardon, staring out to sea. “Are ye sure?” asked Goldtooth. “After all, ye know it’s bad luck to have a woman on board.” His eyes flashed over to the galley where Nairnie had been cooking.
A fire had taken place there that nearly lit the ship up like a torch. “Ye ken that wasna my fault.” Nairnie’s hands went to her hips and she squinted one eye at the man. One thing about the old woman was that she could put the fear of God into anyone . even pirates. When her hands went to her hips, every man there knew it was time to run the other way. “Get back to work, Goldtooth,” Mardon ordered. “Aye, Cap’n.” The big man turned to leave. “Wait,” said Mardon, stopping him.
“Aaron’s my new quartermaster now, but since he refuses to give up his last position, he’ll need an assistant bosun. Are you up for the challenge?” “Me?” Goldtooth straightened his stance. At the same time, he took a step back from Nairnie, making distance between them. “Ye know ye can count on me, Cap’n.” “Good. Then go check on the men and tell Stitch I want to see him. Oh, and send Ramble to clean up my cabin,” he told him, speaking of the chatty young cabin boy. “Aye, Cap’n,” said Goldtooth, turning so fast to leave that he brushed into Nairnie and she lost her balance. Mardon reached out and grabbed her before she fell. “Someone needs to teach yer crew manners,” sniffed the old woman, gaining her sea legs beneath her once again.
“Why didn’t you stay on shore?” Mardon asked her in a low voice. “Aye, Grandmother,” Aaron joined in the conversation. “We figured you’d be happy to be off this ship. Especially now since the galley is destroyed.” The galley was a small enclosure near the front of the ship. It is where Nairnie cooked, and slept as well. “Well, someone’s got to cook for ye two so it might as well be me, galley or no’. After all, ye dinna have a cook since yers died over the winter.” “Aye, we have a few positions to fill, but I plan on fixing that soon,” Mardon told her. “Do you think you can make us those biscuits again, Grandmother?” asked Aaron.
His eyes glistened with excitement from under his mop of long, blond hair. One thing about Aaron was that he liked to eat, even though he was just as fit as Mardon and Tristan and didn’t have extra fat on him anywhere. “You know what I mean. The ones with all the butter and herbs on them.” Aaron plopped down atop a wooden box and stretched out his long legs, crossing his arms as well as his bare feet. “I dinna ken,” said Nairnie in her crackly old voice. Her wimple fluttered in the breeze and she tied it tighter as she spoke. “Tristan told me he didna want me cookin’ on the ship anymore after that last fire.” “It wasn’t your fault, just like you said,” protested Aaron. “The crew loves your biscuits.
Especially me!” “Stop with this childish chatter about biscuits,” groaned Mardon, his head filled with a million thoughts and worries now that Tristan was gone. They were down on crewmen. First they lost both Noll and Wybert when they committed treason to go work for their nemesis, Nereus. Then Mardon lost two more men when they’d fought Nereus for a treasure that ended up being naught but a hoax. Mardon was filling Tristan’s position but could really use another man for bosun, even though he’d promised Aaron the job. “Nairnie, you really shouldn’t even be here at all. I have half a mind to turn around and drop you off with Tristan in Ravenscar where you should have stayed.” “Nay, ye ken ye dinna want to do that,” said Nairnie. “Why not?” he grunted, starting to think that a woman on board truly was nothing but a distraction. “I’m captain now that Tristan is gone, so I make the decisions.
” “What about the biscuits?” asked Aaron, not letting up. Mardon let out a frustrated breath, wondering if his brother was ever going to stop talking about food. “We’re going to dock so Peg Leg Pate can get the supplies needed to fix the galley, not to mention that squeaky stair. While we’re there, Aaron, you can get all the biscuits you want. The crew can get booze, and I can get laid. It’s all past due and wearing thin on all of us.” “Ye’re no’ thinkin’ of searchin’ out the comfort of a whore, are ye?” scolded Nairnie, her hands still on her hips and her eyes narrowed. By her stance, Mardon already expected trouble, and regretted saying that in front of her now. The old woman was probably going to start slapping him and Aaron next. “Nairnie, you’d be wise to keep your nose out of my business,” Mardon warned her, still staring out to sea as he directed the ship.
“I can see this isn’t going to work after all. I’ve just made a decision that I think will be the best for everyone. When we dock, you’ll be staying there and not coming back aboard the Falcon again. Savvy?” “No’ comin’ back? What are ye sayin’? Ye two are my grandsons and I’ll no’ leave ye to do yer pillagin’ and plunderin’ without me havin’ a say about it.” “Grandmother, we’re pirates,” explained Aaron under his breath. “You can’t change that. It’s what we do.” “Tristan changed,” she said, raising her chin proudly, as if she were taking credit for their brother’s foolish choice of marrying a wench and giving up their way of life. “He changed and he’s happy about it. Ye two can do that, too.
” “No matter how much you threaten us or how many times you slap us, it isn’t going to matter,” Mardon informed her. “We’re not changing, and you’re not coming with us any further. You’ll stay at the next port if I have to tie you up to keep you from sneaking aboard the ship again.” “Hrmph!” She crossed her arms over her chest next. “Well, that’s fine, just fine. Treat yer grandmathair that way if ye want, but then I willna help ye decipher the next clue of where to find the treasure.” “That’s right, Mardon. She’s got the clue to the treasure,” said Aaron. “How do we know that’s really a clue you’ve got?” asked Mardon. “Our father played us for fools unless you’ve forgotten.
We never should have believed that old treasure map led to anything but disappointment.” “Have a little faith in me,” grumbled Nairnie. “If ye take me with ye instead of leavin’ me on shore, I’m sure I can figure out where to find the treasure. I was able to rip off part of the clue, but dinna forget that Nereus has the other half. We need to act fast before he figures it out before us.” Nereus, the brothers’ nemesis, managed to get to the buried treasure before them on the island. Even though there was no treasure, there was a parchment inside the chest of rocks with a clue leading them somewhere else. It was only because of Nairnie that they had half a clue. Mayhap he was being a little harsh with her. “Let me see that clue.
” Mardon’s hand shot out but Nairnie slapped it away. “Even if ye’re a bluidy pirate, ye can have a little respect and show some manners around yer grandmathair,” sniffed Nairnie. “Well, even if Mardon doesn’t respect you, I do,” said Aaron, standing up and putting his arm around Nairnie’s shoulders in a doting manner. It sickened Mardon to see his brother acting this way. “I ken ye do, Aaron. Ye’re a dear lad,” said Nairnie, patting Aaron on the hand gently even though she’d just slapped Mardon. The whole thing was ridiculous. It bothered Mardon immensely. Still, why should he even care? He’d lived twenty-eight years without even knowing he had a grandmother, and he certainly didn’t need one this late in life. “Aaron, stop it,” ordered Mardon, feeling as if his brother, who was twenty-six, was trying to get the old woman to favor him since all the women usually favored Mardon instead.
It was a known fact. Mardon could work magic on any female he chose, and she’d do whatever pleased him. Could his undeniable charms work on an old woman, too? He wasn’t sure. Especially when she was acting like his mother! “Stop what?” Aaron faked ignorance, even though he knew exactly what Mardon meant. “You’re only playing up to her so she’ll make you those dang biscuits, and we both know it.” “What’s so bad about that?” asked Nairnie. “Mardon, ye are never goin’ to find a nice lass to marry if ye continue to be so grumpy. Try smilin’ a little and be carin’, just like Aaron.” “What?” Mardon shook his head, knowing he needed to control this situation before things got out of hand. After all, it was getting close to it already.
“Stitch, take the helm,” he called out to his ship’s navigator, the oldest man of the crew. “Aye, Cap’n.” Stitch ran up the stairs, knocking into Peg Leg Pate who was attempting to fix one of the bottom steps. “Watch it,” snapped Pate. “Ye nearly stepped on my hand, ye bloody cur. I should have tripped ye with my wooden leg.” “Haven’t ye got that damned thing fixed yet?” Stitch asked. “It’s a stupid step! What is the problem?” “Arrgh,” growled Peg Leg. “I just can’t seem to get rid of the squeak. I’ll need to pick up some more materials and better nails when we dock.
” He put the board back into place, hit it once with the hammer and struggled to stand up, since he only had one good leg. But even with a wooden leg, Pate was to be feared. Put a sword in his hand and no one would remember he walked on wood because they’d be too busy fighting for their life. “I’m here, Cap’n,” said Stitch, taking the helm. The wind was strong today, filling the main sail, moving them swiftly across the waters. The Falcon was a lapstrake, or clinker built ship. The edges of the hull planks overlapped each other. It was a decent-sized ship and held 50 tuns in the hold. While it wasn’t the largest or fastest ship on the sea, it still held its own. They headed south, down toward the channel.
“What’s our destination, Cap’n?” asked Stitch. “I figure we can stop in Mablethorpe for supplies,” Mardon answered. “Mablethorpe?” asked Nairnie, her head popping up like flotsam. “Hrmph.” “Why don’t you come right out and say what you mean, Nairnie?” asked Mardon. “Oh, it’s nothin’. No’ really.” She looked down and brushed invisible lint from her arm. “Nairnie, do you know something?” asked Aaron. “Is it anything to do with the clue to the treasure?” “Mayhap.
” She gave them no free information. Mardon realized if he wanted to find the bloody treasure he was going to have to work with the old woman since, right now, she was holding all the cards. “Nairnie? What do you know?” asked Mardon. “Are ye still goin’ to leave me on shore or am I comin’ with ye on the journey?” It was bad enough to have his younger brother making deals with him, but now Mardon was about to negotiate with a little old woman. What was happening here? He released a deep breath and once again stared out to sea. “All right, damn it, you can come with us but only if you don’t start any more trouble.” “Guid,” she said with satisfaction, as if she approved of his answer, though it wouldn’t have mattered if she didn’t. “Good? You mean great! Now, we’ll be having biscuits again,” said Aaron with a big smile. He squeezed Nairnie’s shoulder.