When I was eleven, I started a novel after reading and falling in love with all the pretty boats in Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk. I wrote five chapters before I was distracted by something shinier.
I’ve returned to this novel several times since. It keeps reinventing itself into something rougher and prettier, and I keep coming back to the original and laughing harder.
Because the petulant, twelve-year-old Cerina I wrote when I was eleven, one day becomes the sharp, laconic Jaera.
Because Purely-an-Evil-Henchman Leref one day becomes I-Just-Make-Poor-Choices-When-I’m-Grieving Vardan.
Because Lord Fier, who who twirls his mustache here and quotes free-verse poetry to make his point, becomes Lord Damion Reanden, who smiles and bends people under his iron charm. And Estal, who yells and stamps her feet at him, becomes his wife, Aymee, who loves him more than ocean and sky combined.
A piece of chapter 5 is reproduced here for five reasons:
- proof I was obsessed with the idea of identity even as a child
- proof of the Before and After magic that reading Sabatini and Dumas worked on my writing
- snickers, snickers, and more snickers, about what my favorite characters used to be
- the heart-warming chance to say, “Look how far I’ve come!”
Chapter 5 – second half
Cerina ran for the deck. There was nothing else she could do. She had to get off this accursed ship. As long as she could still draw breath she would not stay onboard with her father’s murders.
She stopped at the rail and looked down at the waters, preparing to jump. An arm snaked about her neck, pulling her back away from the rail. Cerina struggled against her captor, giving it everything she had.
“Don’t, girl. For your own good, don’t.”
“Why should I?” She asked defiantly, but stopped most of her efforts.
“Please.” That stopped her completely.
Lord Fier came up on deck in front of her. “Nice work, Mr. Teragin. Take her down to the brig.”
Another soldier came to help take Cerina below. And with that she renewed her struggles.
“You can’t do this!” She cried. “You haven’t the right. You haven’t the right!”
Fier stepped towards her. “I have every right to do what I will on my own ship!” He said angrily. “And no little girl can tell me I can’t!” Cerina kicked him in the stomach, making him double over. She broke free for just a moment as they tried to pull her away from their leader.
“I’m no little girl anymore. I’m the ruler of the Visaden clan, thanks to you.” As they grabbed at her she cried, “You’re a murder!”
Fier by now had pulled himself erect again, and had been restored to his former dignity. “You will stay in the brig until you can be trusted not to attack us,” he said. “Enjoy your time there.”
They dragged her away, still fighting their hold.
Lady Estal slipped inside the brig. At first she didn’t see anyone inside and wondered if Lord Fier had really kept his word to her in not harming the girl. But then a voice reached her out of the darkness.
“What did you come for?” Cerina said hotly.
Estal glanced over into the corner and saw the girl sitting with her back turned. “I came to say good-bye.”
“Lady Estal?” Cerina faced the lady now, her tear-stained face evident even in the dim light. “Where are you going?”
“Lord Fier has taken me back to my clan. I leave to rejoin my husband.”
“Then he kept his word to you?”
“To the letter.”
“I am happy for you. May you never have to deal with this man again.” Cerina turned back to the wall.
Estal stepped closer and knelt on the ground beside her. “Please look at me.” Cerina obeyed. “Promise me something.”
“What do I have left to promise?”
“Promise me that you will always remain a Visade. Promise you will always do honor to your father.”
“I promise with everything with everything I have. But what difference does it make to you?”
“I will return for you someday, and strike Lord Fier with all my clan has.”
“Don’t. Enough pain has come from this lord’s deeds. Let no more come to pass.”
“I know the poet. I wondered if you did.”
“The one that Lord Fier spoke of when he said ‘The children suffer when the strike was meant for the father.'”
“I do not know that poet.”
“Then you would not know the next line: ‘But when the father falls, those loyal to him will return for his offspring. They strike the man that first stuck that child for the sake of the one they loved.’ I will come back for you to return the kindness your father showed me. And if it would please you, I would welcome you as a Lassare, a daughter of my own.”
“Lady,” a Cyrok called into the brig. “Your husband has come aboard.”
“I will be right there, Mr. Teragin.” Estal looked one last time at her. “I will be back for you, Cerina Visade, daughter of Ryden. Do your clan honor.” She rose and left.
Cerina stared after her, even after the door had been locked behind her.
“I am Visade, whether I wish to be or not. No man of any clan can make me stop being that which I was born to. It is in my blood and cannot be lost, Lady Estal. You would do the clan just as much honor by keeping my father’s memory. Luck to all that rally under the banner of the Lassar.” And with that she fell silent.
“I’ll be back for you. Don’t give into them.” Cerina nodded as Ryden drew away and left the room.
The boat rocked back and forth with the waves. Then out of the night three cannons blared. Cerina stared out the porthole. There was her father’s ship. It fired again. Once off the port, a second off the stern, and a third off the port. She smiled at the signal from her father. It mean friends had come. Her father had returned for her just as he had promised.
She sat up with a start. Oh how cruel were the dreams of the unfortunate. or there was no ship or resounding cannons. Only the cold walls of a brig and the knowledge that her father could not come back for her.
Cerina lay her head in her hands and began to cry silent, inaudible tears.