The Mary's Dread was, by all means, not a very large ship.
She made up for her flaw by being one of the fastest, as well as home and vessel for a rather notorious band of pirates.
Their Captain, Henry Ballus, was the worst of them, with a bounty on his head so high it could keep a family wealthy for three generations.
However, the young man who leaned against the port side rail of the Mary was not a pirate at all. His name was Castel Porter, and he was the cook.
He had come by the job in a way no-one would expect to come to work for pirates: he applied.
Homeless, broke, and out of options, rumors of the need for a cook had lead him to the Mary and her crew.
However, it was the six months at sea that had brought him out of the ship's kitchen to stare the the water and contemplate his choices.
It hadn't been so bad when he started out, but the combination of a grueling life at sea and the general skulduggery of the crew had started to wear him thin.
It was his determination to remain apathetic that had kept him sane so far, but in this situation it was quite the difficult task.
The Captain was like a crow, and had an eye for anything shiny. The crew was no better.
They would attack and plunder passing ships, relieving them of their cargo and taking the lives of the crew members that tried to stand in their way.
Castel had done his best with trying to remain apethetic, but being raised by the clergy, he had been instilled with a strong morale compass.
So, try as he might, the effort of not caring was starting to show.
He leaned heavily against the balustrade, resting his chin on his arms. Most of the crew had gone to sleep, so all was quiet save the gentle noise of the ocean as it rose and fell.
Castel breathed in the night air. As much as he hated life at sea and the crew, moments like this made them seem more tolerable.
The pleasant thought was gone as soon as it came when a loud snore shattered the peaceful silence. Castel cringed.
Tilting his head upward, he looked towards the crow's nest, where a lone foot dangled. The lookout had fallen asleep.
Sighing, Castel straightened and rolled his shoulders. He'd forgotten that he wasn't alone topside. He cast a tentative eye towards the rear of the ship.
The Mary's third in command, an immovable wall of a man named Marvus Geel, stood behind the ship's wheel. I was his job to steer through the night, and so he was, like an indomitable mountain.
As if sensing his gaze, Geel's eyes flicked to meet Castel's , blinked once in acknowledgement, then resumed their position, locked onto the horizon.
Castel faltered a little at the sudden, and certainly unexpected, interaction. It was the most contact he'd had with the man in the six months they'd been at sea.
He decided, for the time begin, to put it out of his mind. Geel, who was about as chatty as the mast, wouldn't bother him unless he needed to.
So he laced his fingers together, placing his chin on them and leaning back against the balustrade, resuming his meditative watch over the sea. Luckily, it was a warm night.
Castel pulled as much of the fresh sea air into his lungs as he could. He had spent the past two days indoors cooking and cleaning only to fall asleep, exhaustively slumped on a chair.
He stayed there for a while, gazing out at the vastness of it all.
Soon, however, fatigue started to nudge at the corners of is consciousness, and he turned to go to his small bunk in the back of the kitchens.
Suddenly, as he turned, a small glow from the water caught his eye. Curious, he turned back to look.
As he stared, the glow grew larger and brighter, until it looked like the moon was trapped beneath the surface of the ocean.
Abruptly, the center of the glow shifted, and a face appeared from the waters' surface.
Castel stiffened, hands glued to the balustrade, his body frozen in place.
I was a beautiful face, pale as the moon, inhuman, flawless. Two large obsidian eyes peered up at him, soft and gentle.
The eyes seemed to smile at him, and Castel felt a strange, familiar warmth in his chest. It was a warm, peaceful feeling, out of place with the fluttering panic that had filled him seconds ago.
Slowly, the face began to rise. It was followed by a small torso that tapered off into tendrils of light.
The woman, who almost seemed to be made of light, rose up the side of the ship until her ageless face was at level with Castel's.
Breathless, he stared at her, barely even noticing her hands reaching for his face until they touched his skin.
He flinched, afraid to breathe, as her fingers gently brushed his cheeks. Her hands felt soft and cool, and a strangely tranquil feeling washed over him.
Castel stared into her large dark eyes, captivated.
He didn't even realize she had pulled him overboard until he hit the water.
Darkness surrounded him, and his panic returned. He thrashed in the blackness, unable to tell up from down.
He could feel himself drowning, fighting the urge to gasp for air, his heart beginning to pound in his ears.
Suddenly, as quickly as it had vanished, the light reappeared, silent and blinding. Castel felt something press at his chest, and suddenly his lungs stopped crying out for air.
His eyes adjusted, and before him was the woman, one long-fingered hand pressed softly to his chest.
Castel's eyes widened as he got a good look at her. She seemed to be glowing from the inside, the soft light spreading outwards.
Her silvery hair spread outwards, floating around her like a gossamer curtain. Her torso was small and slender, cloaked by a skirt made of tendrils of light.
She smiled softly at him.
In that moment, he remembered an old story his mother had told him before she died, about a goddess of the seas and tides, a child of the moon and the mother of seas: Ran.
Her smile brightened, as if she had read his thoughts. She looked almost delighted, and the tendrils of light swirled excitedly, tapering off into moonlight colored bubbles.
Slowly, the raised one finger and pressed it to his forehead. A warm tingle spread through his body, and his mind filled with long forgotten memories.
The taste of the salty water that filled his lungs.
His mother's cries.
His tiny body falling from a burning ship.
A warm and familiar glow.
A kind smile from an otherworldly face.
And waking up on a grey beach, small and alone, yet completely dry.
The memories ended as quickly as they began. Castel's mouth hung agape, and he did something he hadn't been able to do since he washed up on that beach.
He began to cry.
He wept for the loss of his parents, for the injustice of it all. He cried in anger at himself for forgetting, and in joy for having them returned to him.
His tears blended with the water and light and shone like pearls that floated from his eyes.
He felt her hands cup his face and raise it to hers. She smiled understandingly, and tapped her forehead to his, nuzzling him gently.
A wave of calm washed over him, and he relaxed against her touch. Her soft light seemed to reach into the darkest place in his heart. He closed his eyes and soaked in her warmth...
And suddenly, she was gone. His eyes snapped open.
He was sitting on the deck of the ship, his back against the balustrade. His head snapped back and forth, but there was no trace of the goddess's light.
The feeling of sorrow and loss swept over him, and his eyes welled up. He raised his hand to his face.
Something was wrapped around his palm. He opened his clenched his fist.
Sitting in the palm of his hand, attached to a thin leather cord, was a small, silver pearl.