The Little One

Mia Walker

by Kenneth Burch

A shipís captain readied his crew to set sail for the land of Qeynos. The ships often set out across the great seas bringing food and items to the markets there. Merchants, who could afford it, would find themselves taking these great ships back and forth across the dangerous seas in hopes of making better deals with the shippers.

One morning, as the captain awakened from a long night of dancing and drinking, he came upon a young girl who asked him a favor. "I say thee captain, might I be allowed to board your great ship sailing to Qeynos in exchange for this bag of gold?"

The captain looked down at the young, round, smiling face and then at the small bag being held as high as she could. He looked around, as if to wonder of this situation he found himself in and thought for a moment. "I say there young one, what of this deal you offer me? You seem a bit young, my fair little friend. Where is your mother, and is she aware of your place here?

The small face forced back a set of tears that quickly gathered in the rim of large hazel colored eyes, her bottom lip shook slightly. She lowered the small bag of gold and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. The captain looked down at her, her pigtails tied up, he figured her tale was one of many the children suffer here tell. He looked around once more, this time seeing the fishermen gathering items needed for the long journey out to sea. When he looked back at the young girl, he could see the small bag of gold held high again. A small face, tears wiped clean save for the streaks of dirt. "You be a strong one, my little friend I can see that, but to your offer, I must say no. You see these seas are dangerous and the travelers are even worse. This is no place for a little girl out on her own and I have no time to watch over you and protect you while captaining this great ship. I am very sorry little one, very sorry indeed. Perhaps you can use this bag of gold to better your life here. There are jobs here in the markets that you could do, and there are always needs for cooks and perhaps tailors alike."

Mia on ship

"I canít cook!" she shouted, "I canít sew either! I want you to help me get to Qeynos captain sir, for I offer you this gold and my word." The captain seemed a bit startled at the power in such a young voice, he could see that her hands were small but strong. She reached up to scratch her ear and then rubbed her nose. "What word do you give me young child, that I might think again of your offer?"

"The word I give is that should you accept this bag of gold that I offer, that you allow me to come aboard your great ship. I promise to be no burden to you or your crew that I will look out after myself and eat very little food, just enough to keep me alive if you see fit."

The captain thought for a moment rubbing the bottom of his chin, his one eyebrow arched high. "Hmmm, Iím telling you young girl, that If I accept this offer you will be on your own. Donít come crying to me in distress at the journey ahead or the matters to be. For once we set sail, we never stop till we reach Qeynos. Do we have a deal?"

"I hope we do captain," she said. "The morning is now upon us I hope we are leaving soon and to be honest, this bag is getting a bit heavy." The captain burst out laughing, taking the small bag from her and extending his other hand. "Iím captain Victor Malone," he said shaking her small hand. He could feel her strength and was very impressed. "Welcome aboard the Praxis! We sail in three hours!" The round face grew with excitement and he could see a warm and gentle smile upon it. "Thank you captain sir, I promise to be of no trouble at all, quiet as a sleeping tiger I shall be. Iíll gather my few belongings and meet you here in an hour, if thatís okay?" "Sure, that would be fine young little one, but what should I call you? What is your name child?" She stopped and stood for a minute, her back to the captain. She turned around and with her round head held high said, "Mia, captain, Mia Walker and Iím so glad we met. She then smiled and darted off into the village nearby. The captain watched her run and thought to himself damn she runs fast.

By high noon, the ship had set out into open waters. Sails filled with a northern wind had pushed Praxis, her storage and crew across the sea of Gaynin. It would take weeks to reach the shores of Qeynos, and for right now, Mia was enjoying the ride. She had done as she promised and stayed out of the way of the crew, eating little and being very careful not to annoy anyone important. She had lots of questions, mostly about the ship and itís storage, but thought best not to bother anyone with them. She was just a guest here, and happy to be one.

Nights upon the open seas, were the worst. The open ocean produced howling winds that would change directions and cast huge waves against the shipís bow. It was doing these times that Mia could hear the haunting sounds of the shipís wood creaking and rocking. Shipmates snored and the smell of tobacco pushed though pipes mixed with the salty winds and often razor sharp chills. Large wooden creates tied down, strained to remain fixed against the shipís deck. Cargo battened down with tarps often slid from side to side as the mass of the great ship shifted. Nights also bought voices of laughter and cheer, from the shipmates and crew. Most nights Mia would sit quietly between large crates that housed her from the winds and rain. Folding herself into a ball to keep warm, she quietly sang to herself, always alert and aware of her surroundings.

One such night, three members of the Danak faction, approached her. With the stench of booze from wine brought aboard, they cornered her and held her down. Two of the men snickering with gold- filled teeth.

Captain Malone, known for sleeping lightly, would not hear a thing that night as the ship rocked through the open seas. He would not hear the cracking sounds of ribs breaking, or the thumping sounds of bodies being beaten to death. Her hands moved quickly as they connected to adult human skulls and shattered limbs. She quickly stamped at their necks and shut down air supplies, as her hands moved swiftly, targeting pressure points. The last one standing stood for only a second as she connected to his groin area, releasing his two balls to collect on the shipís deck. His scream was then stifled as she lunged towards him punching at his throat and snapping his neck, his body dropping quickly. She looked around the crates hoping no one heard her and gathered one of the canvas tarps and rope. Moving quickly, she wrapped the bodies in dragged them to the back of the ship, where she tossed them overboard, the splashing sounds muffled by the winds. She looked down at her hands, shaking slightly in the moonlight and made her way back to her self-made compartment, her only fear that night was that someone would notice what she had done.

Week six brought days of hot sun that beamed down of the shipís cargo and dropped the sails flat. For hours the ship coasted along still waters and Mia felt a sense of hopelessness. She wrapped a cotton sheet around the top of her head to keep cool, but after awhile even this helped very little. The captain walked around assuring the guest that this was normal, that they had come to what he called the "Dead Sea". Here the ships of time and their crew would fall victims to heat exhaustion and madness. "Iíve sailed these seas since me was a bright young lad, and Iím here to tell you all will be right, right as the rain that comes soon to follow." He snickered to himself and walked proudly to his quarters, assuring all that he was still in charge. Mia watched him with some comfort and closed her eyes, trying to rest, the rumbling of an empty stomach, keeping her company.

It was a cool breeze that later came and the smell of bread and cheese danced under her nose. She opened her eyes and adjusted to the light, looking down at a plate of food. She looked around at first, not knowing what to think and then quickly reached for the bread, tearing away at it. There was a wine bottle without itís cork and Mia thought for a moment that she would have her first drink. She picked up the bottle and placed it to her lips, only slightly disappointed at it contents. The water was fresh and soothing and she drank fully. When she finished, she sat back and belched covering her mouth. "Well, well now here," she heard the voice of the captain say. "For a little one you sure know how to eat, want some more my little guest?" Mia smiled and shook her head no. She liked the captain, liked his voice and the funny way in which he spoke. She was just about to ask the captain how much longer, when a voice yelled out "Land ho!" Mia stood up and walked out into the golden rays of Qeynos sunshine and years from now, sheíll recount just how good it felt. "We will be docking in just a few hours young lady, in case you wanted to freshen up," the captain said. He took a long pull on his pipe and winked at Mia. "Told ya, we would make it, safe and sound." She smiled at him and raced towards the front of the ship, eyes wide open.

The waters surrounding the harbor were crystal blue and inviting. Seagulls flew high into the blue sky and flapped their wings with grace. Dolphins leaped from white capped waves that would later smash against the sandy beige beaches of Antonica. Giant sea crabs roamed the grassy knolls and picked away at urchins and shellfish. The sweet aromas of baked goods and freshly prepared food swirled within the salty air of the sea and produced a wonderful mix of comfort and peace. Stoned walkways paved by masons, mapped out the way through this great city. Beautiful horses were being rode by great warriors wearing shiny armor that reflected the sun light, flickering as they rode by. The cityís merchants chanted outside their shops kindly inviting you to sample their goods. Silk robes and forged weapons hung from shopkeeperís ceilings as the pinging sounds of blacksmiths making horseshoes echoed nearby. The women of Qeynos strolled slowly by the brick stoned houses wearing bright and beautiful dresses that flowed in the afternoon breeze, their perfumes lingering in their wake. Children dressed like little prince and princesses gathered in groups, and laughed aloud, chasing each other, sometimes around the cityís guards, standing post. Pets well groomed walked about their way, some on, some off their leashes, a scattered and vast city of beauty, easy to love.

The Praxis entered the beautiful harbor of Qeynos to a crowd of cheering people. New supplies from far off lands meant new styles and ideas. Shop owners waited near the dock hoping for first bids on rare stones and other raw materials. The crew worked quickly unfastening the ropes that held wooden creates filled with various supplies and items from abroad. Mia grabbed her things and while being careful not to disturb the men hard at work, walked over to the captain, who waved goodbye to his guest. She stood looking at the ship and its busy workers and for a moment, felt sad by this end journey. She had learned a lot in her weeks at sea, and enjoyed most of her trip.

"I say there my littlest one, looks like our deal has come to a close, youíve been a very fine quest and I must admit, we be a bit proud to have served you." Mia smiled at the captain and thanked him for all he had done for her. She extended her had to him in hopes of a shake, but he didnít. Captain Victor Malone knelt down and after taking her hand, gently kissed it. "You are a lady now little one, itís the way they do things here in Qeynos." He smiled and gave her a wink. Mia thanked the captain and turned, tossing over her shoulder her belongings. She got maybe several steps away when she heard his voice again. "I say there, Mílady. I believe this belongs to you." Mia turned to see a small bag of gold in an outstretched hand. She smiled at the captain and said "That gold is yours my captain, deal as a deal had been done. You keep it, youíve earned it sir." He blew a puff of white smoke from his pipe and said. "Little one, you are now in Qeynos, greatest city this side of our world. You will need this gold here and lots more if youíre to survive here. Mia stood looking at the captain, the sounds of voices all around. "Itís okay Captain, Iím home now, my new home and I will make this city mine as I will gold." Mia smiled one last time and this time waved to the captain. She turned and headed down the wooden ramp of the great ship Praxis and into the city of Qeynos, moments later Mia would approach a Qeynos guard and asked a simple question. "Excuse me sir, might you point me in the direction of the Walker Estates?"

Mia in the ciy

The ship Praxis sets sail back across the great seas, headed by one Captain Victor Malone. The ship is empty now, save for a vault of money, he and his crew and a small bag of gold, once held up to him by a little one.

To be continued