Lilac and Brass

Another Wordle Prompt from Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie.

The captain’s daughter was alone. Karina counted two months from their mooring, two months since she’d waved away the vibrant streets and crowds of port. At first she’d tried to converse with the sailors, but the large rough men turned laconic at the sight of their captain’s furrowed brow. She was spared few words and less regard.

Instead she lay on the deck letting the sun turn her fair features red then brown. The sailors mumbled to themselves about the too young woman, sprawled with lilac skirts that had to be stepped over yet never looked at. Karina was the captain’s treasure; he dared not leave her unguarded. So she was afforded the mate’s cabin and hours upon hours with the sea.

The captain’s daughter found her amusements watching the swirling eddies in the blinding blue around them. Days were spent smelling the salt and letting the wind turn her hair into tangles. Her father would find her, perched atop crates of onions or folded inside makeshift nests of rope and cargo. Constructions against his constant protection, she sat and glared rebellion through the peepholes of the fortresses.

Eventually the silence and the vastness drew her. She breathed in the currents and came to know the rising and falling of the sky, clouds and stars. Soon the ship’s constant rush and chatter not allowed to her, faded as the captain’s daughter was left alone with the sea and her mind.

The knock came in the rise of the afternoon. A gentle bump against the hull felt if one lay prone, back against the warm planks of the deck. Karina opened her eyes to the dazzle of the sun and closed them again, enjoying the crimson haze behind her eyelids. It came again, the knock. Karina sat up and yawned. She stood and looking over the railing, brassy hair falling about her face to curtain her expression from the men who would not look at her.

It was after this the men’s whisperings turned different. The girl was an oddity, sullen and angry when forced into her cabin. She no longer sought her small fortresses amidst the crew. Instead she lounged against the side, back to the rail or stretched out, arm dangling between posts to feel the spray. Some of the men muttered they’d heard her speaking words to herself.

The captain’s face grew wane as his daughter receded from him, his treasure slipping through his weathered hands. He had a ship to captain, men to watch and a daughter to protect. She was safe, if troubled, he said to himself. He ignored the musings of his crew and their superstitious stories of a gentle knocking heard when one ventured deep into the hold.

The days passed, Karina maintained her self-appointed post by the railing. Her eyes became alive and bright for something below the choppy surface, she whispered to the waves as if something whispered back.

A fortnight from their port the captain looked back to his daughter, now sun brown and distant eyed. Efforts were made to keep her inside the cabin. These inevitably failed. The girl would not leave the ocean’s side unless bodily forced. One night, three days from the coast, her father approached ready for the nightly ordeal. This night she looked to him and with a small nod retreated to her chamber, not a cry or scratch required.

He breathed relief then. This lasted only the hour before the cry came. Man overboard.

They searched for her, dropping anchor and diving as deep as they dared. The men on deck had only gotten to the side in time see her sink, carried down into the dark faster than they’d believed in a swirl of lilac and brass.

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