This scene is the first I wrote in the Victoria Pontifex series. This book turned out to be the third out of the five. It is not yet published…but check my author blog and hopefully someday it will be.
You can see the picture that inspired Daisy here.
Daisy peered into one porthole after another, ignoring the startled looks from the submarine’s crew. In the first place, merfolk were usually polite enough not to peep into people’s windows either on land or at sea. Secondly, Daisy was the daughter of a duke, and should really behave with a greater sense of propriety.
Then again, her father had been made a duke by Her Royal Highness Victoria Pontifex only three years ago. Daisy was neither accustomed to the mannerisms of the nobs nor did she particularly care.
Damn his infernal soul to hell… I know he’s seeing another woman, some milk-and-water missy from Galicia with icewater in her veins…
Daisy continued to swim from one porthole to another until she came to a large window. She’d only been on board the H.M.S. Tortuga once, but she surmised that the room must be something important to have such a huge piece of glass. The Tortuga, although equipped for defense, was not a battleship. It was a diplomatic vessel, or rather, a set of vessels, fitting together seamlessly as a whole, whose primary function was to look really impressive.
She casually floated in front of the window, not caring who saw her. One officer had his head wrapped in a huge towel, cucumber slices over his eyes and some greenish mud on his face. Another officer lay face down on a padded table, his own personal padding jiggling with the percussion of a masseur’s chops.
The object of Daisy’s affection and ire was sitting with his feet propped up, being attended by a woman whose skirt was much too short for decency by anyone’s standards.
Getting his nails done, of course. I should have known.
No one had noticed her yet. The swim-tail she’d selected that morning was the same color as the coral formations behind her. There was a school of tsipouras following her, and the occasional octopus. She was in the shadow of the vessel, and the salon was well lit.
Daisy swam up to the glass. With her upper body pressed against the window, several heads suddenly snapped in her direction.
Daisy made eye-contact with the towel girl. The color drained from the poor thing’s face and her mouth formed a silent scream. A series of unfortunate events followed as the scream startled a pedicurist, who must have twisted her tool into a rather unpleasant position because the officer receiving the pedicure kicked violently, sending a tray of implements sailing across the room. As each implement found their mark, the wounded personnel turned first to each other, and then to the window.
With the notable exception of Commodore VonStrakkebroek.
Her wayward lover didn’t wave back. He just idly nodded in her general direction as if she was no more important to him than the tsipouras who formed her entourage.
Daisy felt the blood rush to her face, and she lurched away from the window before any of the officers could see her turn purple.
“Bastard! Bastard! Bastard!” she chanted, and the tsipouras scattered. “So he chose a shiny new ship and a complacent dirt-footed lady over me?”
Scanning the surface of the water, she identified the hull of the Death’s Embrace. She knew the captain well, and the small ship would suit her needs perfectly.
Daisy gathered speed, launching herself out of the water and grabbing the edge of an opening on the gun deck where she knew there would be no gun.
Hefting herself up in preparation for shifting her body onto the deck, she found herself nose to nose with a smooth-jawed, heavy-lidded pirate. One hank of oily black hair hung down, covering his right eye as effectively as any eye-patch.
“Daisy, I have a confession to make…” he began, but she didn’t hear the rest. She lost her grip and splashed right back into the water. A tsipoura laughed at her, then turned tail and exited the vicinity as quickly as possible when she threatened to have him fried.
Émile, the captain of the Death’s Embrace, always had a confession to make. If confession truly was good for the soul, Émile would be wearing a halo. Unfortunately, the reason he always had a confession to make was that there was always a list of infractions he’d committed against the crown, the sea, or one of the many wenches who were inexplicably attracted to him.
Daisy tried again to board the ship, this time holding herself just below the gunport for a moment. “Émile, could I have just a bit of room please?” she asked.
He stepped back, looking sour and sad as always. His tight pants hugged his bony hips; his black boots were scuffed and pocked with holes. Daisy flipped herself inside and fiddled with the clasps along the lower edge of her corset. As the light skirt unfurled she deftly rolled the thin fabric of her swim tail down her legs. She squeezed the last drops of moisture from it, then folded and tucked it until it resembled a very respectable reticule.
“Émile, I need you to fire on the Tortuga,” she said, storming up the steep steps to the upper deck.
“You want me to attack the H.M.S. Tortuga?” Émile asked, his head cocked to one side, even more hair spilling over his heavily outlined eyes.
“Yes! Post haste. The bastard thinks he can ignore me…” her voice trailed off into an incomprehensible ranting mumble as she made her way to the lower decks.
Daisy grunted with un-ladylike satisfaction when she saw that Émile had kept the furnace stoked. The steam engines had more than enough power for what she wanted. Without waiting for the captain, she commandeered the Death’s Embrace and began to pull the various levers that would turn the ship in the right direction.
Émile appeared, frowning. “Well, all right, but I don’t think they’ll like it.” He said and reached around Daisy, flipping up the levers she’d flipped down and yanking a rather intimidating handle from right to eft with a loud clank followed by a rattle and whistle.
“They’re not far. You just have to turn so the cannons are aimed the right way.” Daisy put her eyes to the belowscope, spinning it until she sighted the large submarine resting on the sea floor. It was an easy target.
Soon the Death’s Embrace was creeping slowly out to deeper waters. “Oh, about the canons…” Émile said.
“What about the cannons?”
“Well, the crown confiscated all my powder. I can’t fire a single shot. Not even in self-defense.” Émile was the perpetual victim of life. Nothing was ever actually his fault.
Daisy seethed, and ran below to see if he had indeed been relieved of all his gun powder. There was not a single barrel in sight. Her gills flapped angrily, trying to take in oxygen from the air. Daisy resisted the urge to dive back into the familiar water from which she could gather all the oxygen she needed. Her great-grandparents had been land-dwellers, her body had not forgotten that. She calmed herself, then returned to the upper deck.
“How close can you get?” she asked.
“Well, I’m directly over them now…” Émile explained, looking through the belowscope. It sounded like an apology.
Daisy’s lips curled in a devious smile. “Perfect. Now come help me…”