There were times, in the past, when the Captain's vessel had been boarded by the authorities of the Duke of the duchy. Slipping particular pieces of cargo under the radar of the Duke's soldiers was difficult for an amateur, but Captain Joseph was no amateur. As it turned out, he had a list of hiding places longer than Lute's arm prepared. They could hear the march of soldiers overhead, their feet beating on the thin wood, and they were speaking in hushed voices to avoid drawing attention.
There, huddled in the dark where even a solitary candle could set hundreds of barrels of imported wine on fire, Captain Joseph, Lute, Sincerity and Dress were crouched down, trying not to make themselves known. They had no strategy, no plan, and hiding was the only option that had jumped to mind. Truth had moved suddenly, and only the quick actions of the ship's Captain had kept any of them alive. They had escaped through trap doors and fake walls that showed the extent of Captain Joseph's paranoia. He was a strange man, and that was a very disturbing fact in that he was their only hope for survival.
"My friends could be anywhere out there, and I'm stuck in a cupboard here," Lute was whispering sharply. "Can we not just make a move or something? You've got plenty of-"
A wall behind him opened quickly, making all of them jump, but it was only another crew member wandering in to pass Captain Joseph a message. Straight away, the wall closed again, as smoothly as if nobody had even been there. Not being in control was not something that Lute enjoyed, and he could tell from the looks on the faces of Sincerity and Dress that they weren't too happy about it either.
"We're not ready yet," said Captain Joseph, reading the little scroll that he had been handed. "I've still got people moving into positions they can move from, and we've got six men down from your boy king. We need to break them out before we can even start considering anything tactical or attacking. Got to move all the pieces into position to get our chances up as high as we can get them."
"Where do we fit into this plan of yours exactly?" asked Sincerity, ignoring the general hush of the room.
The Captain scoffed, laughing at the company in the room. Though Dress had armed herself with two daggers belted to her hips, the Captain himself was the only other one armed. Lute was no fighter, and Sincerity would certainly refuse to lift any sort of weapon, even in her own defence. While Lute had never had any reason to see Dress in action, he was perfectly aware that she was both trained and skilled. Unfortunately, Captain Joseph looked like he disregarded her completely. "I don't think any of you should be put into harms way," he announced. "This all started because your brother wanted something that's his anyway. We just need to take some time to put ourselves into a position where we're not all going to die. I'd rather use my own pieces if you understand."
"Can we stop talking about people by calling them pieces, please?" Lute suggested to them. Undoubtedly, Harp and Bell would be considered pieces in whatever sick game was being played right now. Nobody had had the decency to tell him what was going on, and hiding in a cramped cell with Sincerity, Dress and Captain Joseph. "It's not very polite and disrespectful to-"
"What kind of man are you, exactly?" Dress sent sideways at him. Sincerity was the only one to laugh in response.
"The Lord-In-Waiting is still in his cabin, so I think now would be a good time to move out of this little hole and head somewhere that's more tactically sound," Captain Joseph explained before Lute could start talking again.
"How many times have you decided to assail the Duke's soldiers when they come a little too close to your new trade items?" Sincerity asked of her protector.
His only return was a smug smile.
They all listened carefully to the noises overhead as they settled slowly down and faded into the distance. Movement came quickly afterwards, with no time to waste. They slipped out into the corridors again, following the lead of Captain Joseph, with Lute following, Sincerity behind him and Dress taking up the rear guard. She had drawn both of her daggers, and her eyes were scanning everything that they could. Lute's back was causing him no end of problems, but there was no chance to rest. As soon as he had entered Sincerity's chamber not an hour ago, she had told him of the Lord-In-Waiting's plan and demanded that he follow her. Just as they had slipped through one of the numerous fake floors sequestered under her bed, they had heard the rush of Truth's soldiers entering the room. It had all moved far too smoothly to have not been pre-planned.
A desperate rush and scramble had followed in the attempt to stay ahead. The ship had been captured almost effortlessly, with several crew members placated and silenced, but those same crew members had managed to slip through Truth's fingers several times now. It was lucky, and yet kind of scary that their Captain could so easily lead them into open rebellion against people with the authority and position to wipe them out of existence.
"Hold here a moment," they were instructed as they came up to one of the more out of the way deck hatches. He clambered up the ladder slowly to avoid being heard, and lifted the hatch ever so slightly so that he could peer out.
"Captain," somebody whispered from around a corner behind them.
Immediately, the Captain dropped from the ladder onto the deck, landing nimbly on his feet. He drew his blade, even though Dress was already armed, crouched and snarling. "Who's there?" he asked, his voice at the same pitch.
Two female members of the crew, the only females who were a usual fixture, came into view, holding arrows notched in bows and with blood on their hands. These had been identified as the Captain's guerrillas. They had been moving swiftly and making good use of hit and run for a while. "We have a report to make." the first told him. "Truth had been bringing strange cargo aboard to put in our hold. It's heavy stuff, and it smells funny. Most of his soldiers and down there doing that, but he's got people looking for you and the Lady now. He's intent on getting her."
The Captain considered this information briefly before he turned his attention to Sincerity. "I'm going to entrust to the care of my crew here while I go up top and rally my return attack. Will you be safe without me?"
Sincerity laughed. "Your logic is skewed," she said. "It's without me that you should be terrified. Nothing bad can happen to me with my servant here. You go and do what you must."
He offered her a bow through his sardonic smile, and with the two archers guarding the corridor behind, he moved back up the ladder, peeked out of the hatch, then pushed it open and climbed out.
The moment he shut it, there was a shout, followed by a scream, then the sound of a body slamming down on the hatch.
"Move, now," Dress told them all. They did as they were told. Home was so far away, but Lute missed it so much.