Captain Lou Marl sighed and threw a scrap of paper onto her desk.

“I always hated silly games,” she said to her first mate.

“Some say as it’s tradition, cap’n,” he replied, raising one eyebrow.

“Silly games,” she repeated. “I mean, really, what’s the point? Oooh, you got the Black Spot, somebody’s going to come and kill you.”

He stroked his chin. “Well, see, it’s so as ye can figure out why ye be marked fer death,” he explained. “Tis a kind of justice well accepted on the sea.”

“It’s daft,” she said, swinging her feet off the desk and standing up. “I mean, really, a black spot? I’m supposed to figure out who wants me dead, and why, from a spot? A note would be more helpful.”

She paced across her ready room a couple of times.

“Of course, sending a note would require more literacy than most pirates are blessed with. It’s terrible the way the education system has let you all down. You can barely scrawl your own name, isn’t that right Eli? And it’s only three letters.”

His eyebrows knotted together as he watched her pace.

“I be sure if ye think about it ye may know who sent ye the Black Spot,” he ventured. “Ye surely haven’t made so many enemies in yer short career-”

She cut him off with loud laughter. “Oh, Eli,” she said, slapping him on the back as she bent over laughing. He laughed with her, a little uncomfortably, and slowly moved a hand towards his belt.

She pivoted abruptly, slipping a concealed dagger from the top of her boot and pushing it to the hilt into his belly.

“I know it’s you, Eli. I’m not stupid. And if you were going to live long enough, there would be a lesson here for you.”

She twisted the blade.

“Telling somebody that you’re going to kill them merely gives them time to jump the gun.”

He fell to the floor, his own knife clattering from his fingers, and she pulled a rag from her pocket to wipe her dagger clean.

“Of course,” she said conversationally, “You could have also learned not to deliver the black spot with the ink still on your fingers. Or not to use the paper that I wrote out your share on last week.”

She poked the body with her toes. “Come to that, I could learn to hire better crew…”

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: In honour of International Talk Like A Pirate Day (yarrr!) here be a little pirate tale for the day.)