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The raid wasn’t going to plan. They weren’t supposed to be this well armed. She shouted orders to her men, told them to beat a tactical retreat. They were fighting their way back to their ship when she heard a shout from somewhere behind her.

“Captain Marlborough!”

She turned; too late. A heavy blow struck the side of her face and she fell. She tumbled over the side of the ship and fell through the clouds.

She awoke to the soft, inimitable sway of an airship in motion, and to the pain of far too many broken bones.

“Ow,” she muttered, gingerly opening her eyes.

“Ahoy there matey. Ye return t’us at last.”

She blinked and turned her head slightly. The motion sent a wave of pain through her body and she gritted her teeth until it passed.

“Where am I?”

The figure beside her bed leaned forward into the light. She recognised the grizzled, wind-worn face of the famous sky-pirate Black Abe and nearly gasped.

“Ye’re safe,” he said, “On me ship.”

“I fell,” she said, remembering. “I should be dead.”

“Aye,” he said, “And ye were fer a while. Ye should fix up well enough, now.”

She looked at him. “You saved me,” she said. “Why?”

He shrugged. “Why not? Ye’re a rare treasure, after all.”

She laughed bitterly. “No I’m not. I’m a stuck up, over privileged fool playing at piracy. I should have just married whatever monied idiot my parents chose and become a loyal housewife.”

He chuckled, his big grey beard bristling. “Why would ye say a thing like that? Houswifery’s no game for the likes of ye.”

“Apparently Lucy Marlborough wasn’t cut out to be a pirate,” she said, closing her eyes, ready to resign herself to her fate.

“Mebbe, mebbe not,” he said. “But Lucy Marlborough fell a few leagues from the sky, fell t’her death.”

She opened her eyes again and stared at him.

“If ye’re ready to stop playin’ and start workin’, I reckon there’s a good life ahead for a proper pirate wench by a new name. Mebbe a shorter one.”

“Shorter?”

“Easier f’yer crew t’shout a warning. That’s why I dropped most of my name. Twas Abrahamsen, once upon a time. Abe is much quicker.”

She laughed, ignoring the pain. “So the first step to becoming a proper pirate is a shorter name? Then what?”

He smiled. “Then, we teach ye the proper lingo, and when ye’re on ye’re feet we teach ye to handle a sword better. Mebbe a gun,too. What d’ye say?”

She thought about it for a little while in silence. Thought about the rich life she had left behind – about parlours and china tea sets and calling cards – and the excitement she had gone to seek – swords and adventure in the high clouds, away from polite society where she could let her long red hair down and really enjoy herself.

“I say call me Lou Marl,” she said with a smile. “Or maybe just Red.”

“Well then Red,” he said. “Welcome back from the dead.”

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: Since it’s Talk Like A Pirate Day, I’ve come back to one of my favourite characters – Captain Lou Marl, sky pirate.)

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