“He gave you command and this is how you use it?”
Halvel sat across from Eris with her arms folded across her chest and an angry scowl marring her pretty features. She had not resisted the men when they grabbed her and roughly manhandled her onto The Golden Apple. They plunked her into the hot seat in front of Eris’ desk and, on Eris’ orders, freed her wrists. Eris let her stew for a while as they pulled away from the Gondorian ship and only when the distance between them felt safe did Eris step inside her cabin and settle down in her chair.
“I took back the command that was rightfully mine, my lady.” Eris offered Halvel a smile and spoke in her even, velvety voice. “Your father had hired a thief when he hired Jelani–Judd–and it was your brother’s choice to lose my ship or gain a captain. I have the papers to prove The Apple is mine.”
“That is not what I am protesting and you know it!” Halvel snapped briskly.
Eris regarded Halvel quietly. The woman’s golden brown eyes flashed with indignation and her olive cheeks glowed with her outrage.
“My lady. Would you that your brother’s crew starve in their work for him? The sea is an unpredictable mistress; sometimes she is bountiful and others she is demanding and only those willing to make sacrifices will survive her wrath.”
“You speak in riddles!” Halvel exclaimed, the anger rising in her voice. “I will not have you-”
The lookout’s shout of alarm cut her off. Though the door was thick, his words were clear:
“Ship off starboard bow! Black sails, black sails on the horizon!”
Eris cursed fluidly in her native tongue as she stood to rush on deck. The men leaned against the starboard rail straining to see the dark blotch of a ship far out at sea. Taking her position on the upper deck, Eris drew out her spyglass to study the approaching ship.
“What do you see, Cap’n?” Eris turned to look at Tendaji and flashed him the look of concern.
“Black sails, southern make. Hoist my family’s flag…”
“Another ship, Captain! Several by the look of it!” called the lookout.
As one, Tendaji and Eris turned to stare at the second ship popping up as if from beneath the waves themselves.
“A fleet? From Umbar,” Tendaji murmured beside her and she could only nod.
“Shall we fly, Captain?”
Eris turned and gave him a soft smile. Her eyes fell on Halvel who had followed her out of the cabin. The woman stood like a marble statue as the ship grew larger.
“Hoist the flag,” Eris ordered Tenadji evenly. The men around them strained to hear her soft voice.”If they be our brothers, they will sail on. If they be not…”
Captain and first mate shared a look of understanding and then as one, the sailors took their positions to wait for the black storm on the sea to overtake them.