As the brothers stared out across the water to the island, they heard a faint sound drifting across the water. After a moment, and seemingly at the same time they realised what they could hear was someone screaming for help. Frantically they began scanning the water for the source of the sounds and after a minute Jack called out.
“Over there, look, it looks like a lifeboat.”
Thomas ran to his brother’s side to look where he was pointing.
“Tiny, hard to port, there’s someone stranded out there.”
Tiny spun the wheel and Thomas turned back to the water and screamed: “We’re on our way, don’t worry!”
It didn’t take long before they were close enough to the small boat to see a woman sitting in the middle of it, dressed in a strange black dress, decorated with bones and small animal skulls. The crew instantly crossed themselves and started to chatter in a way that made Thomas and Jack nervous. Tiny was quickly appointed the spokesman.
“We must turn the ship away from her, sirs.”
Jack narrowed his eyes.
“And why must we do that?”
“She’s… She’s a woman.”
“I’m glad you were able to notice that Master Small, but now tell me, why does that mean we can’t help?”
Jacks voice was flat and bordering on angry.
“It’s, it’s bad luck to bring a woman on board.”
“So we leave her to die? That’s going to put us in better standing with God?”
Tiny shuffled his feet nervously.
“But sirs, she’s… she’s a…”
He looked back at the other crewmen then leaned in close to the brothers to whisper.
“She’s a witch.”
Thomas put a reassuring arm around Tiny’s massive shoulders.
“And your plan is to abandon her to the ocean after we’ve already pledged to help? You think that’s going to bring us better luck?”
Jack let out a long breath.
“No, we will do no such thing, bring the ship around and drop anchor. We’re picking her up and that’s final. If you and the others don’t want to deal with her directly that’s fine, we’ll get her and she can stay in my room.”
“But, sirs -”
“But nothing, if you and the other men are scared of her then you can all go down into the hold while we get this done.”
After a moment Jack added.
“Master Small I’m surprised at you. Superstitious and willing to leave a woman to fend off the sea on her own.”
Jack’s voice had taken on the hard tone of anger in a way that even surprised his brother. Tiny lowered his head embarrassed and followed the crew off the deck, leaving Jack and Thomas alone to steer the ship. Thomas waited until everyone had left before turning to his brother.
“Do you think she’s really a witch?”
“I don’t know, let’s ask her.”
It was harder having to do everything on their own but between the two of them, they managed to get their ship close enough to the small boat so that they could get the woman on deck and then quickly into Jack’s cabin.
“Thank you, both so much for helping me. I thought I was dead for sure, and even when I saw your ship I wasn’t sure if you’d actually come and help me.”
“No, we couldn’t just leave you out there, but how is it you ended up all the way out here on that little boat?”
“I live on the island you can see in the distance and I take my little boat out to fish, then the storm hit and pulled me out to here.”
The woman and Jack stared at each other for a few moments in silence until Thomas, rolling his eyes, butted in.
“So are you a witch?”
“What? You’re the one who said we could ask her.”
The woman looked at the two men and realised that she felt no threat or judgement coming from them and so she smiled and said.
“Yes, yes I am. Is that a problem?”
Jack turned back to look at her,
“Not from us, and we’ll keep the crew away from you so not from them either.”
“That’s incredibly kind of you, but aren’t you scared I’ll curse you, or remove parts of your body while you sleep to cast dark magical spells?”
“Not particularly, no.”
The woman tilted her head quizzically.
“Our mother was a witch.”
“She died when we were children.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. May I ask what happened?”
Jack’s face grew serious and a little sad as he turned to Thomas who had always been better at talking about it than him.
“Father said he was protecting us from discrimination and damnation. He turned her in, believing the courts would help her, fix her. Which they did first by half drowning her, and then by tying her up and setting her on fire.”
“Oh my Gods, that’s horrible, how do you know they tried to drown her?”
Thomas sighed and turned away blinking memories out of his mind, and Jack choked out.
“We… we were forced to watch.”
A silent tear rolled down the woman’s face and a small piece of her heart broke for the two small boys who still lived inside the men that stood before her.
“So we vowed to each other that we would never judge someone based on what people said they were, but instead on who they showed us they were.”
The room went back to silence as they all let the dust of memory settle.
“My name is Isabella by the way, and I am very grateful for that vow. Also one of your crewmen is listening at the door.”
Thomas frowned and quickly pulled it open causing Tiny to tumble head first into the room
“How much of that did you hear?”
“Enough to want to make the same vow sirs, and to apologise for my actions.”
“Accepted and forgiven. Now, we need to get her little boat onto the deck and get ourselves to that island.”
“And please make sure that cook adjusts for an extra person on board.”
“I will do so personally.”
Tiny climbed to his feet, bowed towards Isabella and left to get back to his duties. Jack turned to Isabella.
“How did you know he was there?”
“I can hear thoughts.”
“Oh? Oh… Oh, I’m uummm…”
Isabella giggled and smiled.