Title: This is the Tempest We're Fighting For: Chapter 6
Pairing/s: Arthur/Merlin (eventually)
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Gwen, Freya, Mithian
Summary: The sea is all Arthur has ever know, his kingdom, his home. Both beautiful and deadly.
Warnings: mentions of injuries and death
Word Count: 1k
Prompt: #227: Beautiful
Author's Notes: More than a month after I posted chapter five of this story, it's finally back :D Other chapters: On AO3 | On LJ (I apologize for any mistakes, it wasn't betaed :0)
There are creases and folds on the map spread across the desk, obvious signs of its use. Well traveled like its owner. Traces of old journeys and hidden lands ready to be discovered marked up. Arthur follows Gwen's forefinger sliding over the illustrations, she keeps circling around the Atlantic, bordering the Antilles. He finally told her about the storm, spun a story from blurry memories and sensations rooted in his body.
"In about two weeks we'll reach Kingston," she says staring straight at him. She stands tall, fierce and resolute. She has hope, she believes. Gwen wants to find her brother and it's possible she will sail from point to point, east and west for any clue. For the sight of his open arms giving her family back.
Arthur can't relate. He never lost someone to life, only to death.
At a certain age you understand death is inescapable. Doesn't make things easier, but at least you're aware of your own mortality.
Arthur nods, feeling cold all over, unable to join her in the enthusiasm she displayed once she learned of his plight. He's not proud of getting separated from his men. His father always told him a captain goes down with his ship. Can't really stop the images of blood washing the shores. Salty red. Bodies drowned.
He looks around her cabin, conch shells on the desk and on the windowsill, a compass, two oak chairs, a small plain wardrobe, and a slightly larger bed than the one in his own room pushed against the wall. The sheets and charcoal colored drapery touching the--by the looks of it--newly scrubbed floor.
It feels lived in. A place to retire when one wants to be alone with their thoughts.
He swallows before he says something about his ship, his former life. Before he says he misses everything. "I didn't know we were sailing towards Jamaica."
Gwen folds the map following the patterns already there on the parchment. She hums, focused in her task. The map becoming a small piece of something larger held between her hands when she's done. "Of course you didn't," she answers. He lifts an eyebrow making her laugh. Hope definitely turns her into someone else. Less weary, more inclined to laugh at him or with him. Arthur can't decide which one. "I didn't meant it like that, I'm starting to trust you and I see no reason why I should hold you prisoner or something equally...Upsetting. You've spent most of your time in this ship unconscious or sickly. You probably couldn't tell if the sun was truly rising on the horizon. How would you know we're in the Caribbean still?"
"You're right," he admits, "Besides, I'm nothing more than a guest. I don't pretend to be the one steering us. You are the captain and you make the decisions," he says earnestly. "I was only thinking, if we're in Jamaica, then--"
"We could ask around?"
He nods. He can expect. Wait to come across the information they both need.
"Before we found you Jamaica was already on our course. I got a meeting with a merchant from the West Indies."
"We all need some basics to survive."
Arthur couldn't agree more. Between avoiding the Royal Navy and enemy buccaneers you have to make allies, connections. People who will provide once you're back on land. Those eager to call themselves your friend and who will get drunk with you on the best rum they can afford. You can't always rely on finding a loot. In every port and safe harbor you find those willing to help in exchange for golden and silver coins. Shinning jewelry. Pearls, emeralds and diamonds. Everyone is after a treasure of their own.
A soft knock carries inside the room, stopping Arthur from asking more about this merchant they're to meet. It's not his business anyway.
"Come in," Gwen calls out. Her smile permanent.
A tall girl with a kind face and alert eyes opens the door, pokes her head in. Dark hair falling over her shoulders.
"Arthur this is Mithian, she'll take you to the deck and go over your daily duties with you," Gwen explains, nodding her head towards the girl. Mithian hangs onto the door, gaze flickering between Arthur and Gwen like she's trying to figure out something.
"My duties?" He asks doubtful.
Gwen gives him this upturn of her lips, that if he knew her a bit better he would know it means she's being serious and he better listen. "What? You thought this was absolutely free?" She jokes.
"No, of course not," he rushes out shaking his head vigorously. "I'll just--" He stands up, waving his hands around. Mithian steps back letting the door fall open.
"Don't worry. We the crew believe in cooperation. We won't abuse you. I consider you to be a good and kind man, Arthur Pendragon," Gwen says.
He stops, remembers Merlin's words.
What kind of man exactly does the world thinks he is?
Arthur soon learns Mithian is the boatswain. The one in charge of the maintenance of the ship. The deck's activities under her orders. Along with Freya they help Gwen in keeping the vessel in optimal conditions. He's impressed. She stops her explanations to instruct a man called Ewan to check the hull. He runs to do just that.
She's a sweet and smart girl who can command with the expertise and self-assuredness of someone who knows what they are doing. "Captain," she begins, the title sounds different coming from her, less mocking than Merlin and not in acknowledgment as Gwen. But almost playful, as if his presence doesn't intimidate her. He's another sailor for her.
"Call me Arthur. I can't be a captain without a ship," he says, the words bitter on his tongue, rolling with difficulty.
She laughs. "Arthur. Gwen asked me to instruct you what it is we expect from you. One, we're equals," she says back to the serious tone she had used on Ewan. He nods, it's only sensible. Equal vote, equal voices. The same applied for him and his crew. "Two, don't ever steal from a mate. Three, respect the curfew. Four, should conflict arise between you and another, you shall end the quarrel on land and only there. There's no fighting on the ship. Five, we always stand together and last, don't bring your conquests aboard. Lovers stay on shore."
Arthur finds no reason to argue. This crew is welcoming him and the rules are similar to his own. "There'll be no problem with that. And my duties? Gwen spoke of those."
"Right. A couple of week's ago we lost our master gunner, we've all had to pitch in. And seeing as you are here...Think you can handle the guns and ammunition?"
He can. Asides from being able to read the skies and interpret maps, Arthur knows about weapons. His father covered every front to make him the man he wanted him to be. Powerful and respected.
"I can. I will," he says steadily. "What happened to your master gunner?" Curiosity getting the best of him.
She shrugs. "Helios didn't agree with our beliefs. He's probably living as he wants on some remote island where he can rule." Her eyes fix on the vast blue surrounding them from side to side. Their hair blowing with a sudden gust of wind coming from the sea. He takes a deep breath, seaweed and breeze. Salt sticking to his lips. His love for the sea can't be dwindled. Even when it roars and turns wild, it's a breathtaking sight.
He thinks of the beauty of the coral reefs, rocky shores and the tide rising under the moonlight. The allure of the ocean, stunning and magnificent.
The sound of loud footsteps, running and laughter break the calmness of the afternoon. He turns around at the same time Mithian does, her smile grows bigger as she sees Merlin and Freya scuffling. Fighting for something Merlin is trying to pry from her hands. "They're so silly sometimes. Acting like children."
"Hey!" Mithian shouts grabbing their attention. Mithian joins them in two strides, obviously on Freya's side. Mithian runs away with the object as she catches it after an impressive throw from Freya.
He looks at them for a while longer. Their voices clashing with the sea, merry, untroubled. He notices Merlin's pout, the good-natured shake of his head. Arthur stares back at the ocean. The aquamarine Atlantic. Sunlight glimmering across the waves.
Yes, bewitching sights.