Gwen was not a coward. She couldn’t think of anything particularly daring that she had done in her short twenty five years of life, but she knew that she wasn’t cowardly. Well, she thought, knew was a strong word.
“So?” Peter taunted with one eyebrow raised, the fact that he could read her thoughts painted all over his smug little face.
“Would you get out of my head!” Gwen snapped, “Just because you can read minds doesn’t mean you should constantly be doing so.”
“Don’t try ta change the subject on me, d’ya take the dare or not?” Peter crossed his arms and leaned up against the front post of his family’s inn, the uncreatively named Pan Family Inn, looking ever-more-smug by the second.
Gwen scowled, “You know I could be killed, right?”
Peter waved a dismissive hand, “Naw, just use them fancy-shmancy powers ‘o yours en’ don’t get caught. ‘Sides, the legends are probably false anyhow, you know how sailors are. Just sneak around back ‘o that cart ‘or there and walk up on deck, then you can scurry on back down like the coward ya keep tryin’ ta convince yourself yer’ not and I’ll buy ya a couple a drinks.”
Gwen crossed her arms to mirror him and sat up straighter on the barrel she’d chosen as her seat, “And if I don’t?”
“Then you buy me those drinks la’er on and I give ya a dare you won’t be able to back outa’,” he said with a devilish smirk.
“Fine,” she accepted, “get your coin purse ready peter.” with that she hopped down from her perch and slipped around the corner of the shop, silent as the grave.
The docks moved into my view in all their cramped glory. Creaking wood that housed yet-unknown species of mold and supported the weight of the hoards of people from merchants of questionable morality, to pirates and none above those standings save the natives.
Gwen, a native of questionable morality, walked confidently into the crowd as if on business. Head ducked down to signal a disinterest in conversation and pace quick and precise, she blended right in. Around the brim of her three-pointed hat she spotted her target. Among the four ships docked at the rather unsavory port town of Mening, there was one of just as little interest as any other. Maybe a small merchant vessel, with faded and chipped bits of paint here and there to suggest that it had once been accented in forest green and the lack of visible crew proved it’s only discerning features save for the unkempt sign that had been carved directly into the side of the ship, also once painted forest green, declaring its name, “Quinn’s Shadow”.
Gwen weaved through the crowd and marched right up the gangplank as if she owned the place. As if on cue, the locks on the so-labeled captains door rattled and clicked out of place. On instinct, Gwen forced the laws of physics to twist around her. Her body dropped down and landed in an ungraceful heap on the floor below. Her lungs longed to heave the air selfishly into themselves and her muscles begged to give out, but they were overruled by her mind’s order to freeze and stay silent, for the hommocks around her held the sleeping forms of the missing crew.
Quietly, oh so very quietly, she made her dreadfully tense way to anywhere but there. With every careful movement, a sharp breath was sucked into her still-pleading lungs. Her aching muscles threatened to stop moving, but by some miracle they still managed to drag her along.
On and on went this torturous game of roulette, all the way into that partially open door at the back of the barracks. To Gwen’s absolute horror, her push brought on a loud screech from the unoiled hinges of the clearly, even in the low light, ageing door. Some stroke of luck kept the crew blissfully asleep and gave Gwen the opportunity to crawl into the room.
Barrels and crates towered up to the ceiling, and a little writing desk was crammed into a corner near the door. Gwen observed nothing else as she tried desperately to find a place to hide. She would latter blame her muddled mind for such a blunder.
“If you’re trying to stow away,” said a refined accent from the opposite corner to the desk, “here would not be my recommendation.”
Gwen stared up at the person from her place on the floor, dysfunctional mind reeling for some explanation and never settling on the guiltless truth. The person strode over to her, her long coat swishing in an unnatural manner behind her and her almost-glowing pale eyes piercing into Gwen’s.
“Well?” the woman knelt beside her, “Do you have an explanation?”
Gwen stuttered out some gibberish that might have been another language, not helping her case in the slightest, and snapped her mouth shut, also not helping her case.
“Alright then,” the woman stood back up, her coat moving again in it’s unnatural fashion to show the rapier hanging from the belt about her waist, “I’ll give you a choice.”
Gwen gulped and stuttered something again, this time managing something that sounded like either and apology or a nonsensical explanation.
“Either you can be escorted off this ship with an errand to carry out, or you can sign on to the crew. I’ll leave you to make your decision.” she glided out the door and shut it behind her. Rather than try the door she somehow knew wouldn’t open, Gwen dragged herself as far back in the room as she could and flopped against the wall.
Errand? She wondered, regaining only enough cognitive function to wonder at that word before her heavy eyelids dragged her down like boulders in the sea, where she drowned in the realm of unpleasant dreams.
When she finally awoke, the moon was nearly at its peak and she was outside. With much grunting and stretching, she pulled herself up into a sitting position. An unfamiliar weight tugged at her shirtpocket and she reached inside it. What she found in her hand when she opened it was a bronze key, tied with a string to a piece of stiff parchment.
In swirling handwriting, the unfolded note said this,
When the man called James Killian Wayman contacts you, give him this and the message “Second Star”. He will understand. Ask no other questions of him and search not for the Quinn’s Shadow.
Wendy Gwen Darling, with a final groan, got to her feet and left the deserted alley she had been left in to get those drinks from Peter.