A slow day had followed their department from the dock and, with Harp's illness and Lute's injuries taking both of them all but completely out of action, the major servant work for the free of them ended up falling on Bell's shoulders. They were slight, and they hurt her terribly.
The swaying and constant back and forth motion of the floor beneath her made everything more difficult. Tools would roll away. Knots would come undone. Especially annoying was the near eternal spray of water droplets that had settled into her face and kept her hair slick and firmly in the way.
Bell was a musician, and being ordered up and down masts and rigging was not her concept of making music. She would be freezing cold and, at the same time, sweating profusely, while the shifting of the wood beneath her made her increasingly unstable. Bell was no sailor, and the seasoned deckhands would scramble around her to their tasks, putting her efforts to shame. In addition, women of the manor had no trousers for busywork such as this. Whenever the mate would order her to climb the rigging, the howls and laughter of the crew below were enough to give her red cheeks. Her friends, locked in their cabins, were not there to protect her.
The nobility, as always, would only result in additional work on the daily occasions that they would come to visit the lady Sincerity. In her own way, Sincerity had become something of a destructive wave, worse even that those that battered the sides of the vessel. Wherever she went, destruction would follow, and Dress would be at her heels keeping score. A lot of people had been quite badly hurt as a result of Sincerity's warpath. Bell was hoping not to become a target.
Every night she would return to the room that she shared with the ill Harp and the injured Lute. More often than not, Harp would be standing outside, retching over the side, and Lute would be curled up in sleep. Tonight, thankfully, this was not the case. When she entered the cabin, her clothing sticking to her because of all of the gathered sweat, Lute was sitting up to greet her.
"You smell horrible," were the first words that he said to her. Lute was always straight to the point.
"Right now we have limited fresh water," Bell replied. As happy as she was to see him awake, he wasn't even coming close to endearing himself to her again. "Servants don't have the luxuries of bathing. You know how it works; the nobility are always one step on our necks. How are you feeling?"
It was a moment or two before Lute had gathered the words together to respond. "I'm not doing great, but we both know I'll survive intact," he said. A strange shadow had crept behind his eyes and taken up residence there, as though the dark days of late had provided him with only a disagreeable state of being. "I think I've taken a bit of a knock here, and I wasn't prepared for it. I might be able to smooth things over alright, but I'm going to have to talk to Sincerity again."
"Don't be ridiculous, Lute," Bell shot back at him. Expecting something like this, she was nonetheless furious at the fact that it was now happening. "You can't be so stupid to think that she's going to help you. Sincerity did this to you. You can't just go crawling back and tell her you understand her reasons. That's what will happen, because you can't walk after all of this. I'm amazed you're sitting up after what she did to you."
"Yeah, she was quite forceful," added Lute, laughing to himself. He obviously wasn't taking this as seriously as she was.
"Listen to me, you need to pay attention now," she began, putting a hand on his arm and waiting until his eyesight was firmly locked within her own. "I told you this would go very wrong very quickly, and I think this time you should listen to me about it. That woman is bad for you. She's completely out of the line of your status, and could never use you for anything more than to attend to whatever beatings she wants to give out. We should never have come on this trip, and it's your own fault, but I don't want to see this happen to you again. I'm trying to be your friend, but it's getting more and more difficult when you're dragging me and Harp along with you to this."
"It's not that big a deal," Lute attempted to explain. "She's not that bad, and everybody thinks she is. Sincerity is a woman of class. I can see why she made the decision, and she was right. There's a logic to it. She can't show favouritism."
"Are you some sort of complete and absolute idiot or are you just such a dreamer that you can't imagine the world without you being it's main success story?"
He offered her a completely honest and genuine smile. "I'm a musician," he explained, "that's how the world is for me. Isn't it the same for you?"
To this, Bell had no response.
They spent a couple of minutes in silence while Bell tried to calm her body down. Lute, oddly still due to his hurt back, seemed to prefer things in the quiet just for now.
A moment before the door opened, the sound of a loud belch broke the silence. Lute broke straight into laughter, while Bell frowned at the knowledge that it would most definitely be Harp about to enter. He pushed the door open and strode in, wobbling a little. The smell of sick followed him in, accompanied by another acidic belch. It was an interesting entrance, and not one that Bell was a big fan of.
"What are we talkin' about?" he asked, pushing the words through the hands that he had covering his mouth. He dropped heavily down onto his bed, still hunched over his stomach.
"How terrible Lute's situation is with Sincerity," Bell answered before Lute could get a word in.
"You're doomed, mate," added Harp.
"Oh come on guys," Lute said defensively. "I know how it looks but you both know I can handle myself."
"Sure your back agrees," said Harp.
"We all need to work out what's going on so we're not next in line to get flogged," Bell told her two friends. She had seen Sincerity marching back and forth across the deck, glaring evilly at everybody that she passed. Whatever she had began with Lute, she seemingly had no plans to end it quickly. Something had her very riled up, and even the captain of the ship knew better than to put himself in harms way with the lady on the prowl with her riding crop. "The woman's on the warpath, and I don't want to see bits of your skin being ripped off again. Promise me you won't go to see her."
Lute's face quite suddenly became very guarded. He raised an eyebrow towards Bell, but said absolutely nothing.