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The cover of Not The Fighting Kind with the words Chapter One under the title

Nat wakes up somewhere they weren't expecting. Chapter one of Not The Fighting Kind.

Many Things, But Not A Fool

The swirl of a ball was a delicate thing. Gowns twirled in a kaleidoscope of colours and details, reflecting light where they shone with gems, trailing fabric across the floor and in swooshes of wrist straps and sleeves. The stiff blocks of gentlemen’s clothes like the lines in a stained glass window.

Nat had been enthralled with the balance of it all for longer than they could remember. Sneaking down from their room to investigate, to the extent that their father had despaired and begun locking their bedroom door on hosting nights.

That was how Nat usually got into trouble. Caught doing something they shouldn't. Drawn in by something beautiful.

That had to be what had Nat's head pounding with pain. Drawn in by something. Maybe a challenge. Maybe a swirling pretty thing. But no...

A hard floor pressed against their back. A soft swooshing sound filtered into focus. Where in the world were they?



The ship.

Nat held in a groan as they pushed into a sitting position. Everything hurt. And they didn't even have the joy of an event’s gossip to carry them through the experience.

But something still wasn't right. A windowless, dark room with the gentle rattle of metal on metal buzzing in the space. A naval bunk this was not.

The twenty-odd other people they had shared the bunk with were a noisy bunch. Their snoring, shuffling, whispering was notably absent here. And the lantern hung by the door for emergencies that had assaulted Nat's eyes for many a night had either been extinguished or it, similarly, was not present.

More relevant even, was the lack of bunk, the lack of shitty straw mattress and scratchy threadbare blanket. It wasn't much of a bed. Nevertheless, this was even less of one. Never would Nat have thought they would seek comfort from the naval bunk. Every time it came to mind, Nat wanted to cry. Not that one cried in public, let alone on a naval ship.

Rubbing their eyes as if it might clear the darkness, pain tugged at their attention. Their arms hurt. When did they not these days? But this was different somehow. And Nat would really like to be able to quantify the how and the why but without sight that didn't seem like a possibility.

They shifted in an attempt to better make out the room. If this was some kind of joke by 

Rodgerson, Nat was going to scream. He was the type to think it was funny to shove Nat into a dark cupboard somewhere and leave them there to get reprimanded by the Rear-Admiral for being late to deck. Again. It wasn't like Nat needed help with that.

Pushing past the indignity of it – if they couldn't see, then nobody else could see them – Nat crawled carefully forward. Their knees called for attention. Another mystery pain to categorise at some point.

The lack of memory concerned them more. A head injury perhaps? Or poison. Unlikely but so was waking up in a pitch dark room one hadn't fallen asleep in.

They ran their hands over the floor: wooden, worn. Where was the edge of the room? Ideally a door Nat could escape through. The blunt edge of an iron bar bit into Nat's probing fingers.

They flinched back and silently cursed themself for it. Returning, more carefully, to the bars, Nat traced them. Flat iron, criss-crossed into squares large enough for Nat to get both hands through but not large enough for any other portion of their body.

At least they had found the source of the rattling metal noise.

Nat sank back on their feet, ignoring the way it would probably leave marks on their trousers. Screw passing inspection at this point. This was a cell.

How had this come to pass?

Blurry, faded images of a rainstorm came to mind. The Rear-Admiral's voice booming, calling everyone to man their positions. Nat's bunkmates had surged to their feet, pulling on some semblance of uniform and grabbing for swords Nat had never before seen them use.

The man who slept below Nat, the one with the nasal whistle that kept Nat up all night, yanked Nat down by a leg. Their knee slammed against the ground with a thunk that carried over both the shouting and the raging storm outside.

At least that explained the knee pain.

"Get dressed," he demanded. "And man your fucking post!" Nobody said naval boys had any manners.

Nat rubbed their face again. What had happened after that? Why had they needed to man posts? And why with swords? Nat had never used a sword in their life.

There was no point dwelling on the events of the previous night. Maybe Nat would be able to remember the cause of the rest of their pain, maybe they wouldn't. It wouldn't do them any good either way. They were in a cell of some sort, presumably captured by whoever had boarded the ship the previous night.

That could be better. But it left Nat with a potential course of action and that was all they really needed. Find a way out.

Was anyone else here too?

Nat sucked in a deep breath and held it, listening intently for the sound of breath over the quiet whoosh of the sea. Before they could begin to count, a light bloomed in the doorway to their left.

The room itself was long and slim. Nat inhabited the furthest cell from the doorway. A square space with two solid wooden walls and two sets of cell bars. Nat had found their way toward the one with the door, opposite which sat more of that bland wooden walling across a narrow corridor, no wider than the doorway itself.

"Good," the lantern-holder said, voice deep and accented — Kovian if Nat was guessing. "You're awake. Captain will be glad to hear it."

The illumination, still too bright to really make out the pirate beyond broad shoulders, clarified that Nat was not, in fact, completely alone in the row of cells. Three other members of The Valliant’s crew filled the other three cells in the room. And by what Nat knew of their families, someone on The Valiant had sold them out. How else would the pirates have ended up with four prisoners from upper class, well-to-do families?

This was a ransom mission.

The pirate approached the first cells, staring down at Lord Felitabby. His strawberry blonde hair – more blonde than strawberry – hung halfway out of his usual ponytail, lending him a dishevelled look only furthered by the looseness of his cravat knot.

Did he get to go by Lord on this ship? Or was it replaced with his naval title? The Valliant’s crew mostly referred to him by his surname, same as Rodgerson. But what would be the appropriate thing to call him here?

Nat wanted to rub their face and groan. Ever the dandy, they could apparently be on a pirate ship, in a cell on a pirate ship, and still be considering appropriate manners of address.

"Tell me your name," the pirate demanded.

Felitabby squared up with the pirate through the cell bars. He sneered. "I won't tell a pirate anything."

The pirate shrugged, seemingly unfazed. He moved on to Mr Awthorn's cell door.

Awthorn trembled, lay uncomfortably against the back wall, one hand grasped to his side. Blood darkened the blue and white of his naval uniform, painted his hands, stained the wood around him.

The pirate crouched, lantern dipping with him, creating strange patterns on the wall that filled Nat's head with an awkward combination of ball-like refractions and images of sea monsters. “I can offer you bandages and even our ship surgeon if you tell me who you are."

"M-Mr Jym Awthorn."

"Son of...?"

"Jym Awthorn."

That was it then. Nat's inclination had been correct. This was a ransom attempt.


The pirate shifted, revealing a bag slung across his body. He pulled medical supplies from it and pushed them through the bars toward Awthorn, his whole arm slipping between the iron bands to leave them as close to the injured Awthorn as possible. "I will bring the surgeon down later."

He stood and shifted to Viscount Archin in the cell next to Nat. Nat had always felt a little sorry for Archin. The fifth son, he had no hope of inheriting anything, leaving his options as military prowess or rakery, and, poor Nial had never had the time to develop social capability before shipping out even if he was pretty enough with his long eyelashes and easily flushed skin.

His unblemished face twisted into something akin to pride. Foolish youth, Nat supposed. Men like Nial Archin idolised types like Rodgerson and Felitabby.

"Tell me who you are," the pirate demanded.

"I am a proud naval officer."

Silence sat heavy over the room, the rustling of Awthorn attempting to bandage his wounds and the swoosh of the sea the only noises.

"I..." Archin hedged. "I don't have much family to speak of."

The pirate let out a little, disappointed laugh. "I should warn you, all of you, that if you are not of use to us the Captain may not see fit to keep you around."

One last glance at Felitabby and Archin cracked, the words falling out of his mouth like water out of a bucket. "Archin, sir. I am the fifth Archin son. My father is Count Archin of the Groves."

Finally the pirate stood, with his swinging lantern, directly in front of Nat's cell. The soft orange glow lending him an ethereal quality, painting him entirely in that orange light: hair, skin, even his eyes.

Nat pushed to their feet, sauntered the few steps to the bars and leaned against them, one arm —the uninjured one— raised above their head to create the contrapposto of the Classical Elikkae statues. They slipped easily into their dandified smile, their eyes raking up and down the pirate's form. Performative, but he didn't need to know that.

His shirt didn't fit— not by Nat's standards at least. He fit in it, sure, but that was not the same thing. It was, to his credit, neatly tucked into his black trousers, which in turn were tucked into brown leather boots. Off-white, black, and brown... it was definitely a combination.

Nat was, however, willing to forgive a little for the clean and well defined musculature of the man in question, as well as his strong jaw and shining blonde hair that lay in an artful scruff across his head.

The pirate mimicked Nat's once over. He raised an eyebrow, eyes flicking to around Nat's temple. "Quite the bruises you've got there."

"Didn't you hear?" Nat's dandy tone was second nature at this point, easy to use and thick as treacle. "Purple and green are all the rage this year in Sirap, and everybody knows Sirap makes the fashions."

The pirate blinked, head flinching back for just an instant. "And what family member of yours has taken you to Sirap?"

Nat laughed, tilting their chin up to expose their throat, even as their heart thundered against their sternum. This was a more dangerous game than any Nat had played before. "Silly pirate, you don't need to go to Sirap to hear about the fashions. That's what magazines are for."

"Fucking dandy," Felitabby snarled.

The animosity didn't matter. Nat didn't care. Or at least couldn't devote any time to that stab of rejection. They had a role to play here, as surely as they did at home.

The pirate didn't agree. He turned his head toward Felitabby. "Do you have something to add to this conversation? Has your tongue loosened?"

"That," Felitabby spat. "Is Liege—"

"Do you really want to start tattling here, My Lord?" Nat interrupted, voice light, falsified joviality. They knew far more about Felitabby's household and income than he knew about theirs. And Nat was almost certain Felitabby couldn't rattle off Nat’s family’s address. He had never paid them that kind of attention.

Felitabby's mouth clicked shut. Apparently he was smart enough to figure out what Nat meant by that particular comment. They wouldn't have given Thomin the credit.

"So," the pirate refocused on Nat. "Who are you? And for that matter, since you clearly know, who is he?"

"Aw, Peaches," they teased gently, touching a finger to the pirate's crooked nose, ignoring the way even that little motion sent a burning ache up their arm. "You don't get to just ask a dandy something, you have to make an offering first."

Again the pirate raised an eyebrow. "Should I remind you again that our Captain does not hold love for people who waste her time and resources?"

Nat shrugged delicately, the motion pulling at the aching muscles they'd already put to overwork by their contrapposto position. “Perhaps she should ask me herself, then.”

“I speak for her.”

“Then you should know what she might offer.”

“Our Captain doesn’t offer. She takes.”

Nat let out a delicate sigh, pressing their teeth against their tongue at the quiet muttering from their fellow prisoners. This was going to be difficult enough without allowing themself to care about that particular brand of hostility. What could those three do to Nat in these cells anyway? Better to focus on the immediate threat.

"You do not seem afraid of being hurt."

"Let's be honest here, Peaches. If you want to hurt me, you will."

"But you can do things to alleviate the risk."

"No." Nat shook their head, eyes landing on the pirate's scuffed boots. "That's just what people like to tell you. To convince you that their choice is your fault. Ultimately, you have decided already whether you are willing to hurt me or not. My own actions have little to no say in the matter. Why scrabble for the desperate attempt to prevent a pain that will come either way? Why delay what could happen now?" They met his eyes, the same colour as the lantern light and lowered their voice to a whisper. "If you want to kill me, pirate, you might as well get it over with and use it to instil fear in the others."

"You are not afraid?"

"Now, I didn't say that." Nat let out that practised, dandified laugh again. "I'm in a cell on a pirate ship with three supposed allies who hate my guts. Only a fool would be unafraid. And I may be many things, pirate, but I am not a fool."


"Excuse me?"

"My name is Aleksei. Aleksei Fyodorovich Zima."


"No surname?"

"Not one I will own at this time, Mr Zima."

"Aleksei," the pirate corrected. He passed another set of medical supplies and a clean, if less than white shirt through the bars into Nat's hands.

Nat's smile shifted to something a little more real, the kind of smile they usually reserved for their younger sister. "Aleksei," they echoed.

Copyright © 2024 Will Soulsby-McCreath, nopoodles everything books

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted in any form without prior written permission from the copyright owner, with the exception of short quotes for the purpose of review. All characters, locations, and events in this publication are fictitious. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
ISBN: 978-1-7399525-8-7 (paperback), 978-7399525-9-4 (eBook)

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Release date: 23rd April 2024