The Adventures of Ratha James Part Two
With a shake of her head, Ratha dismissed such dangerous daydreams. St. Clare had made many provisions for such a thing happening, and they’d encountered none of the pre-advised warnings alerting her to turn back and flee. No, if there was any hint of danger, she would know. Her stomach somersaulted excitedly. It had been far too long since she’d been this close to home. The women aboard the Raven’s Wing needed this, they had been at sea for nearly five years, making port all over Europe, staying in one place for no longer than a fortnight or so. They returned to England a few times a year only long enough to reload supplies and gather the new recruits. A day, perhaps two if the women were lucky. But this visit would be the longest; two weeks, not a day longer, and then they would move to another port further north for those whose families dwelt closer to Scotland for yet another two weeks and then south to France. Or maybe Spain. Ratha had not yet decided.
“Maddie,” Ratha called, knowing her closest friend would be nearby waiting for instructions. Madeline Kingston, a shapely girl with a tumble of impossibly bright gold hair stepped out of the shadows. Her blue eyes were bright with barely suppressed excitement, her mouth pursed to keep from smiling. Ratha chuckled; her friend was nearly shaking with happiness, like an excitable puppy who was trying its upmost not to embarrass itself. “Drop anchor on the far side of St. Clare’s farthest vessel, I won’t have us too near the stranger.”
Maddie nodded, stepping forward to reclaim her place at the wheel. “Aye Captain.” The young girl who had taken the night’s steering patrol nodded sleepily at Ratha before clamoring below deck to her cot.
“Avangaline is doing well under your tutelage,” Ratha remarked as she and Maddie watched the other women begin their preparations to port. Most had been with Ratha and Maddie since the beginning, others had joined them over the years but each person knew her place and her job when it came to anchoring the massive ship. Ratha stood by with pride as the women silently and efficiently trimmed the sails and readied the massive anchor ropes.
“She’s young yet, sixteen is young Amalee James and don’t you give me that look,” Madeline snapped as her friend and captain smirked at her. “She’s a good listener, and heaven’s know she has some brains in that pretty head of hers but it will be some time yet before I let her steer without some sort of guardian standing near.”
“Not everyone was born with your father’s knowledge of ships at her fingertips,” Ratha ribbed, her eyes still on the approaching coastline. If she squinted now she could just make out the window where St. Clare would be watching their entrance into England. She felt like giving a wave, knowing that St. Clare would be watching them like a hawk for any signs of distress but decided not to antagonize her friend who risked her wealth, land, title and life merely by not turning them over to the crown, let alone harboring them. With the inky green and blue pennants flying from her masts, anyone looking their way would think that Reginald O’ Donald was making an unplanned visit from his native Ireland to see his English married daughter. Reginald himself had given Ratha the flags and had instructed them to rename the Raven’s Wing when they visited his daughter, with the name of his flagship the Sea Daughter. The name had indeed been painted over the original just yesterday, in gold sparkling paint that caught the sun’s every flickering ray.