Eris clenched her fist as Halvel spat blood onto the carpet from Rhun covering the polished wooden decking of the Captain’s cabin. The woman winced and thought of the bright red blotch on the delicately interweaving vines and blossoms as the corsair captain chuckled dully from across the room.
The darkly tanned corsair kneeling next to the Gondorian woman raised his fist again, but paused when the captain raised his hand.
“My dear lady,” the captain addressed Eris. “Surely you can provide us something better than fish.” The man’s dark walnut eyes absorbed light instead of reflecting it and it gave him a flat, lifeless look that made Eris uneasy. His thick heavy brows drew the eye to them and it took effort to look away.
“All I have in the world is this ship,” Eris answered raising her arms in a half-shrug. “You’ve that already. What else can I provide for so great a man as Sefu of Umbar?”
“True!” Sefu raised his arms as Eris did and looked around him as if examining the ship for the first time. “And what a beautiful vessel she is. Perhaps she can sail where we cannot. See things that otherwise we would not see.”
As he dropped his hands, Sefu nodded subtly to the tan man. With a grunt, his brute leaned over and backhanded Halvel who had just righted herself. The weak cry that escaped the woman cut at Eris, but she did not let herself flinch or even look at the blow. Halvel swayed as she leaned forward on her hands, dripping blood from her mouth and one nostril.
“She has seen much,” Eris said calmly. “And I believe you wish to benefit from her speed and northern make. Am I right, captain?”
Sefu regarded Eris with a smile. “Yes. Though I am afraid that I misjudged your crew’s usefulness when we first boarded…at least your northern friends.”
“I can easily get new sailors in Pelargir,” she said, though she wondered how much truth was in the statement after her run-in with the last ship they encountered at sea.
“Necessary, yes. Though I will have a compliment to…assist you. Mifupa, here, say. And your Broul.”
Eris could not help but sneer at the name. “Yes, Broul. He will be eager to assist your cause.”
Chuckling, Sefu nodded. “Yes…already he has proven to be useful. Do you request any others of your remaining crew? Those who will serve our purpose well?”
Eris looked down at Halvel who had slipped into a merciful sleep at the feet of Mifupa. “Tendaji is my first mate. He is loyal to me. He will be useful.”
“He is dark. He will raise suspicions.”
“He is familiar with northern cities and customs. He will raise no more than one of your men. Less, I daresay.”
Sefu stared at Eris for a long time. Finally, he leaned back and nodded. “Your first mate. My first sword.” He nodded toward Mifupa. “You know why I offer you this.”
Folding her arms over her chest, Eris nodded. “You know who I am.”
“I do. And you will be of use to us. Or Mifupa will have more fun than he has had in a long time with your pretty little friend.” His dark eyes fell on Halvel’s wilted form.
“Come now,” he said gesturing to a cushioned chair. “Let us discuss exactly how much use you will be.”