“I see yer awake, Kid. Get to yer feet!” The man remained still in the doorway, the angle of the light highlighting the deep grooves of his face. Keane stood to his feet, putting up with the pain, knowing that now was not the time to disobey orders. “Ya’ killed three of my men. I’ve killed men for lot less. Why should I keep you ’live?”
Keane opened his mouth, but couldn’t think of a single reason.
“What‽ Nothing‽” The man took a step forward, moving his hand to the hilt of his sword. Keane took a defensive stance, not sure what the man was going to do next. “Do you want to die, Kid?”
Keane shook his head, “No,” keeping a stern eye on the weathered man.
“Use words, Kid! Do you want to die‽”
“No,” replied the young Keane. There was a fierce calmness on the surface of his voice, but under that, fear.
The man released his grip on his weapon. “That’s why I’m not gonna kill ya.” The man took another step forward. “I’m Cap’n Savelad. This is my ship, the Coral Raider. When yer on my ship, you best listen to my orders or you will find yerself off my ship an’ swimmin’ fer land.” Savelad turned to the door and began to leave. “Ther’ll be a call fer food in a couple hours. Rest up now, ’cause tonight you sleep with the crew.” That’s when he left, leaving the door open.
Keane was left alone in the room, not sure if he was a prisoner or a guest. For the next few hours, he sat in solitude. He was left there with his thoughts and the sounds of creaking wood and muffled voices from the deck. The pain was still bad, but he had no idea of Savelad’s intentions. As promised, food was announced a few hours later. Upon hearing the call, he did realize that it had been a while since he had eaten. Almost reluctantly, he did leave the room. It hurt more to stand this time than last. The threatening voice of the Captain almost certainly had something to do with his previous lack of hesitation.
As he made it to the deck, it didn’t seem a whole lot different from the ship he was just on. The only difference was that everyone was potentially armed, and may not be beyond killing him for any number of reasons. Holding a bowl up to the galley workers, he was spooned a ladle of some kind of soup, and upon tasting it, he realized that even the food was pretty much the same. Although, this wasn’t too surprising, considering that the food on this ship was almost certainly taken from the last one.
Before he could find a place to eat his meal, another member of the crew, a brute of a man, swiped Keane’s bowl, and gulped it down. “Thanks, brat,” he said, following his words with a loud belch and throwing the bowl on the deck before the boy. Keane immediately saw a hook, and contemplated gutting the man right there on the deck, but he understood the possible consequences of doing so. He looked to the helm, and caught sight of Savelad watching him. Most likely, he witnessed the whole thing.
That night didn’t go any better. The same goon made him sleep on the floor. The scent of worn boots wasn’t even that bad compared to the moist floor and the rats that would scurry over his body every now and then. After a long night, morning finally came. And punishment from the pirate didn’t stop. At the next meal, the man once again stole Keane’s meal. As the boy brooded in frustration, he felt someone pull him from behind. It was Savelad. “What’re you doin’ Kid‽ Yer never gonna eat if he keeps takin’ yer food!”
“I know that,” said Keane. “But I ain’t gettin’ thrown off this ship.”
“The weak don’t survive, Kid. If you don’t eat, you ain’t gonna survive. If you wanna make it anywhere, ya gotta be strong, even if it means takin’ advantage of the weak. That’s why he’s gettin’ fed and yer not.” Savelad faced and pointed to the stern. “Seems that yer done eatin’, you can take point up there and watch the crew. You ain’t much use to me ’til you can work.” Keane thought there for a second to think about what the Captain said, until his thoughts were interrupted with a sharp “Move it!” That’s when he made it to the stern with haste.
The day went by, and mealtime came, once more. He waited in line for his food, and made his way back to the stern. Before too long, he saw the same sailor approaching him. He reached out his right hand and started, “I’ll take yer…” Before the man could finish speaking, he found himself hollering in pain from the shivered plank that young Keane had pierced through his hand. Kean then grabbed the cargo hook, and ripped it into the man’s leg, pulling him to the ground. Releasing the hook, he grabbed one more splintered board, stepped on the wounded man’s chest, and prepared to drive the plank through the man’s neck.
“Get off ’em!” shouted a familiar voice. Savelad had a sword drawn, and a crowd had formed around the scuffle. “You!” looking to the bully pirate, “Get outta here!” The injured man began to crawl away before another two sailors helped him up. “And you!” looking towards Keane. I don’ care how you make yer place on this ship, but you never kill any of me crew, again! Not as long as yer one of ’em! Understand‽"
“Aye,” he replied. This time, the fear in his voice was harder to hide. Savelad quickly left, and the crew mostly carried on as if nothing had happened. The night came to an end, and this time, Keane slept as well as any other crew member. The next day was much like the last, just with less conflict.
Sometime during the day, about the time the sun was at its highest, Captain Savelad approached Keane, who was once again positioned near the stern. “We’re due for land in a few days. Yer free t’leave when we hit port. Or stay, if that’s what ya want. Until then, keep watchin’ the crew do their jobs. If yer not gonna be able to work, you best least learn somethin’.” He didn’t wait for a reply. He just walked away.
Keane thought he’d be glad to get off this ship, but he wasn’t exactly sure where he’d go from here. Over the past couple of days, he had built as much of a life on this ship as he had anywhere else. And there was something about the ship and its Captain that made him want to stay. Which he couldn’t explain, because he had never met anyone who put as much fear into him the Savelad. Either way, it looks like he at least knew if he were a prisoner. But he still had no answer to why the Captain spared his life. Was is compassion? No, he doubted that. But the Captain always seems to have a reason for his actions. Staying aboard might be the only way to get any more answers.