The Path Not Taken ~ Part one
By Noelerin

It was a foggy morning and the sounds of the world waking up reached the ears of the young girl hiding behind the face of a rocky cliff. She shivered as the wind cut through her thin brown coat, chilling her to the bones. Her dark hair blew messily around her face, slapping her cheeks. The girl eyed the distance from herself to the ship below, in the distance she suddenly heard the sounds of her pursuers. Taking a deep breath, she leapt onto the ship, grabbing a hold of the rigging, then quickly climbed into the crow's nest. The ship floated out into the open ocean, the twelve year old girl finally let her guard down and her tears coursed down her cheeks.

*"So you finally showed up. It's been four years since I sent you out. You didn't do what I told you to, did you? You are no child of mine."

*"But daddy, I couldn't. He didn't deserve that, just for being good."

*"Silence. Because of your stupid, thoughtless action, I am in danger, my boss will be furious and it is all your fault. I should have sent your sister, she knows how to obey orders. You! Get out of my sight." His quiet voice bit into her mind.

*She quivered before her father, shaking. "I didn't know. I didn't mean any harm."

*"Get out!" He shot a bolt of witch fire at her and she ran.

She forced that memory away, trying to focus on the matter at hand. The crew below were busy tying things down and looking out. "Doubar!" She peeped over and saw the young teenager turn towards the man she assumed was Captain.

"Sir?" His tawny colored hair glinted in the sunlight, blue eyes squinted into the light. He was a big man, but a gentle one.

"Take the first watch up in the nest." He nodded and climbed up.

The girl tried to hide herself in her cloak, praying that he wouldn't see her. A prayer that wasn't answered, she saw his eyes widen when they met hers. She shook her head, eyes wide in a silent appeal. Her voice was quiet but full of fear, "Please, don't give me away. They'll take me back and I can't go back."

Doubar silently handed her half of his bread, which she hungrily wolfed down. He asked quietly, "Who are you?"

"Thanks, I was hungry. Please, don't make me tell you. You might get into trouble." She shivered and her stomach growled. Doubar smiled at her and handed her the rest of his bread, over her token objection. He saw his younger brother come up on deck and look up at him, he nodded almost imperceptibly and Sinbad started climbing up. "Who did you nod at?"

"My brother, Sinbad. I'm Doubar, welcome aboard the Adventurer. And I won't get into any trouble. Please, trust me."

By this time, Sinbad was looking over the side. "Who are you talking to, big brother?" Doubar nodded to the little stowaway. "A little brown mouse?" His midnight blue eyes teased her, trying to make the shadows fly. She smiled, a little uncertainly and rubbed her arms.

"Could you bring up some more food and a heavy blanket? It's for her." Doubar whispered to Sinbad and gestured to the girl. Sinbad quickly climbed down and came back up a few minutes later.

Her eyes widened when she saw the luxurious green blanket and the food. "Oh, I couldn't."

Doubar shushed her gently as they wrapped her in the blanket and spread the food before her, "How did you get Zeeken to give you so much?"

"I told him it was for you." Doubar raised an eyebrow, "Actually, he saw her board and told Aiden."

"That's why I was told to come up." She listened to the conversation, her eyes widened.

Placing a hand on Doubar's arm, she asked. "Are you in trouble because of me?"

Before Doubar could answer, Sinbad said. "No, of course not." She looked doubtful, "Trust us."

"That's right. You're causing us no trouble. What did Zeeken say about her?"

"They are going to get all the guys to go below, when they do I'm supposed to take her down and hide her." He shook his head, "I just don't know where."

"Captain have no suggestions?"

"Nope, he just doesn't want the crew to know about her. Just who is she anyway? What's she done?"

"I don't know." They turned to look at her and were startled to see her sleeping sitting straight up, her head falling at an odd angle. "That can't be too comfortable."

"It's going to be even worse when we have to climb down from here." The crew was called below and Sinbad gently shook their young passenger. "Hey, sleepy head. We've got to go, you can sleep later."

Her dark eyes flew open and a look of absolute terror filled them, she almost screamed, "It's us, remember? Doubar and Sinbad."

"Sorry. I thought they'd found me."

"Who?" Doubar asked.

"No, I've said too much." The look in her eyes stopped their questions. Sinbad extended a hand and waited patiently while she stumbled to her feet. Then he helped her climb down the rigging, "Hey, don't look down."

"What?" She flashed a look at him.

"I said don't look down, it's bad luck." She laughed softly, shaking her head in disbelief. "No, seriously. If you look down, you'll fall and then I'll have to rescue you. I'm only fourteen, saving damsels in distress isn't something I'm trained for yet."

This time she couldn't hold back her laughter and it rang out. Luckily the sound of the waves and men's voices covered it. She clamped a hand over her mouth, looking at Sinbad sheepishly, "Sorry."

He smiled and took her hand, leading her below and into the Captain's office. "It's all right, they would have thought it was a good sign from Poseidon. We're going to Baghdad." Sinbad hesitated, "Would you please trust me? Tell me what's wrong."

"I can't. I don't understand what's wrong. It's something that I did, I think."

"What could a young girl like you do that's so bad?" He exclaimed.

"I didn't do something that my father told me to, I couldn't. It was wrong, what he asked me to but he's in trouble because I couldn't do it."

"What was it?" She looked at him and shook her head, "then at least tell me your name. I can't keep calling you, well, you."

"Bryn, my name's Bryn." She chuckled, "And you've only ever addressed me as a brown mouse!"

"True." They exchanged shy smiles, then there was a knock on the door and the fear came back into her eyes. The door opened and in walked Captain Aiden.

"Sinbad, so good to see you and your friend, Bryn." He nodded at Sinbad's whisper, "Please, make yourself at home." He sat behind his desk and charted their course. Sinbad nodded at Bryn and then walked out to do his chores.

She looked at the Captain uncertainly, then decided that she liked what she saw. She sat quietly in a corner, her knees drawn up under her chin; within a few minutes she was sound asleep. Aiden looked at her and smiled gently; he picked her up gently and put her down on a small cot, covering her with the green blanket Sinbad had brought her.

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