Tiny flurries of snow drifted in the air, tossed with fluctuating speed over the air currents. It caught in Edelweiss’s beaten-copper curls and nestled there like shining white butterflies. She tested her bonds. Ropes would not hold her long. Better to have had her restrained by one of the burly pirates.
The captain’s crew was certainly large enough to allow two men to grasp her by the arms. They had overwhelmed her own crew easily enough. She glanced back at the smoking remains, jutting out of a nearby mountain like a pompadour between a forehead and a cowlick.
Circumstances most likely dictated a weeping performance. She had quite liked the ship and its crew. Especially the man who had more or less loved her.
But weeping was tricky. She turned away, eyes shut tight, as though the view pained her. Realistically, the thought of being so close to very solid bits of landscape preyed far more heavily on her mind.
Most of the crew was divided among curious victory celebrations, chiefly consuming alcohol, but one or two were urinating in the direction of the ship. Edelweiss repressed a rare smile. Pissing into the wind had been one of Karl’s favourite expressions. She tried to squeeze out a tear, but the water in her body was only there to provide a step in the process of steampower.
The boards creaked as she sidestepped a lightweight holding a half-full bottle. Wind would soon become an issue. Those not tending to their passions were still going about the business of their ship. It was admirable to a point that might have disturbed a human.
“You are a pretty thing and no mistake,” the captain said, as though speaking of livestock. He twitched a finger to one of the men.
Edelweiss pretended to resist. She was unarmed, and she would not have been able to pilot the ship safely in any case. Her moment would come.
Coarse fingers caressed her face, nearly catching on the silk-leather of her skin. She flinched away. The action was not a performance.
The immediate world did not appear to include anyone needed to keep the ship aloft. Except the captain. “What are you called?” she asked him in a soft voice that could have returned a wedge of cheese to its infancy as cream.
He puffed himself up like a rooster setting out into the yard. The burst blood vessels in his face practically shone in the sharp sunlight bouncing off the white mountaintops. They crowned his impressively broken nose like squashed red grapes around a bruised apple. “I am Captain Stefan Thrimble,” he announced, as though expecting applause.
They were picking up speed. Captain Stefan Thrimble licked his lips and leaned close–not to steal a kiss, but to inspect her. He grabbed her jaw with clumsy roughness and pulled her mouth open to check her teeth.
Pride was a human emotion. But Edelweiss was very good at simulating emotions. She bit down hard.
Thrimble jerked back, pulling his hand out of her reach. Her teeth clacked together, hard enough to make those around her wince.
“Sparky strumpet,” Thrimble muttered, raising his hand.
But Edelweiss was quicker. She darted to one side, tugging free of the ropes. But the awkward suffix to her movement gave Thrimble a wider range of attack. Fortunately, her ribs were protected by an armoured corset. His fist connected with the thin sheet of moulded metal, dealing no real damage.
She continued the movement, gliding forward. Her nimble fingers grasped the cutlass at the captain’s belt. She drew the weapon as she stepped neatly back.
This time, Thrimble didn’t waste his breath on words. He squatted into a fighting position, fists raised.
Relying on her speed would bring Edelweiss the world. She twirled the blade, reflections of snow dancing along its flat. The cutlass appeared to dance. One deadly pirouette.
Thrimble looked down at his belly. Blood welled in the folds of his dirty clothes, then fell to the deck in thready trails. He dropped to his knees.
It was the first time that Edelweiss had ever drawn blood. She noted the fact, staring down the blade at Thrimble’s face.
His men were laughing and clapping. Those nearest appeared to be in awe of her.
“You will grant me safe passage to the nearest port.” She flexed her fingers, testing the cutlass’s grip. “And you will furnish me with weapons.”