The party was alive around her and Courtney was immersed in the moment. The people, the outfits, the food, the decorations. After a year of planning, her 18th birthday ball seemed to be going down a success.
She was whisked around from person to person, friend to diplomat, relative to dignitary. Courtney didn't know everyone at the party by name, and she realised that most weren't here for her benefit but rather her fathers. She was used to it. People were close to her to be close to her father, to be closer to a title, a place in their society. Courtney had known since she was very young that she wasn't like other girls; that everything she did was watched with a careful eye rather than the glance her peers were met with. She learnt to be careful and tight-lipped, as a Princess should be, around those she was unsure of.
Courtney was stopped on her way along the ballroom floor, complimented on her gown, her make-up, her hair. She took it all in with a smile, proud of her work.
"Eighteen years old," a voice clucked behind her. Courtney turned to face him. "I hoped this day would never come."
The King chuckled. "You'll always be my little girl, Courtney."
Courtney rolled her eyes with fake exasperation, the smile never leaving her face.
"And you're wearing your ring," the King noted, holding up his daughters' hand. "I had hoped so much you would like it."
"I love it," Courtney replied.
She hadn't been expecting any gifts from her father; the party was grand enough and he had told her as much. To her surprise there had been a small box sat on her breakfast tray this morning, and she was all too eager to open it. The ring was exquisite; made of yellow gold and a thick diamond cut. She knew the moment she had put it on that she wouldn't be taking it off again.
"Are you ready for our dance?" Courtney asked, nodding towards the clearing dance floor.
Without reply, her father held out his hand for Courtney to take. They walked onto the dance floor, all eyes turning to watch. She could see the rise of cameras, ready to capture her big moment. Courtney had been waiting for this party for as long as she could remember; the day she was now a woman. Her father had left all the planning in her capable hands and Courtney had taken it with pride, ready for this next chapter in her life.
"I wish Uncle Thomas could've seen this party," she whispered to her father carefully. The King smiled wistfully down towards her.
"He would have loved it," he said. "As he loved you very much."
Courtney rested her head on her father's chest as he drew her closer, her eyes closed in memory. It had only been two months since she had last seen her beloved uncle; two months since he had been brutally murdered as he slept peacefully just down the hallway from Courtney's own bedroom. The thought still made her shudder.
The dance came to an end, though Courtney heard the round of applause instead of the music finishing. She took a step back and made a simple curtsey to her father, not waiting for her bow to finish before dashing off the dance floor and out onto the nearest balcony.
It was still a hard subject for her. Uncle Thomas had been Courtney's favourite person, the one she had relied on for everything. To think she would never see him again tore her up inside. To think his killer still walked free made her blood boil.
Everyone knew of the famous pirate thief who had committed the act. His picture had been flashed on every available channel, though his name alone would've been enough.
Courtney despised him, his very nature, and the rest of his pirate dregs.
She leaned against the rail guard of the balcony, staring up at the sky above her. Duncan could be anywhere in their galaxy right now, having evaded capture once again.
Courtney watched the faint glow of ships sailing through the sky, far away from her home planet Neifion. It was rare a ship came close enough for Courtney to see it properly.
As a little girl, she had always dreamed of escaping on a spaceship, to fly as fast and as far as she could go. After her mother had passed away, Courtney wanted nothing more than to be as far away from the palace walls as possible, but her father would never have allowed it. He still wouldn't, even after this beautiful party showing that she was now a grown woman.
"The suitors already boring you?"
Courtney smiled, turning to find her friend, and lady's maid, Bridgette standing behind her.
"Somewhere out there must be a nobleman who can hold a conversation that's not about politics and wealth, right?"
Bridgette giggled, nodding her head back towards the ballroom.
"Don't take too long, the cake will be served soon."
Courtney nodded her head, letting Bridgette get back to the festivities. She turned her own attention back to the sky above, staring deeply into the stars and allowing herself a moment to wonder what it would be like elsewhere.
The music behind her still played on, the guests chatter and laughter floating above. Courtney took in a deep breath, turning to face the doors, readying herself to emerge back into the crowds. She took a step toward the party but found herself yanked backwards.
A strong arm wrapped around her waist and before she could scream a hand clamped tight over her mouth. Courtney tried to struggle but the man kept her held in place, her back rigid against his chest. She watched with wide eyes as several unnamed men inside the ballroom pulled swords and guns from beneath their dress-coats. She could hear the terrified screams of her guests, but she was helpless standing against this man.
Courtney kicked her legs as she was hauled over the side of the balcony, screaming as much as she could, but it came out muffled against her closed mouth. She felt the release of his arms but was unable to make a sound as the breath was sucked from her lungs as she found herself free-falling over the side of the balcony. Below she could see the quick rush of the garden greenery coming up to meet her, but her landing wasn't met with the grounds hard flooring, rather a soft pillow that had been thrown in place to catch her.
Courtney scrambled in place, unable to move against the puffy mat that broke her fall, and after struggling for a moment another pair of arms seized her up and backwards again.
There were several shouts around her, all deep voices she didn't recognize.
"The boss called an all-clear." One man called from the shadows of the hedges, jogging over to the spot where Courtney was being held. She tried to place his accent but all she could process was that he wasn't local.
"Please let me go," Courtney pleaded, tugging her arms, but the man restraining her held his grip tighter.
The second man held a strip of silver cloth in one hand and a stretch of silver rope over his shoulder. Under the night sky Courtney couldn't make out his features, but his dark eyes stared deep into hers as she bucked her head away from the piece of fabric he used to gag her.
The gag moulded to her lower face, closing her lips together behind it. It rested below her nose and tucked itself beneath her chin.
"Likes a fight this one does," he grinned, stepping aside so the man holding Courtney could thrust her forward. Her feet went from under her, but before her knees could hit the ground the stronger man had already pulled her upwards again.
The men stood behind her; one holding her wrists together, the other looping the rope around her arms. The rope gripped her skin and Courtney cried out in pain, trying to kick her leg backwards in hopes of hitting one of them. She wasn't successful.
Unable to resist, Courtney was marched forward, calling out curses from beneath her gag.
From all the fairy tales Courtney had loved to read as a child, she never thought herself to be a captured damsel.
Though fear streamed through her heart, Courtney kept her held high. She tried to count the men surrounding her, but the cover of night was in their favour. There was the man who held her, now only by one arm, and the second man who had gagged and tied her. She could see the silhouette of a third person leading the way but couldn't make out more than a moving shape under the moonlight.
They led her through the palace gardens, to the far end where she hadn't been before. They passed her favourite reading nook and the patio she had her father install for her afternoon teas with the court ladies. At the sight, she realised she didn't know what was happening at the party. Had the pirates come back for the rest of her family? Had everyone been slaughtered? Had the guards managed to get her father to safety in time?
The long walk gave her too much time to think and her restrained hands couldn't wipe away the forming tears. Courtney sucked in a deep breath, not allowing herself to cry in front of her kidnappers, but the horrid stench of the gag around her mouth made her retch.
The bottom of the palace gardens fell into a slope. Courtney could spy her sleeping Kingdom below, blissfully unaware of what was happening to their royal family. Courtney tried to peek at it as much as she could, having not been up close to the villages since her mother had passed, but her vision was drawn to the spaceship parked at the bottom of the hill.
Courtney had never seen a spaceship this close before. The only time she got to see them was as they flew into the Neifion palace port, on the far side of the royal residence. Even as her party guests from distant planets had arrived, Courtney wasn't allowed to greet them at the port. She had tried to make an argument with her father, but he wouldn't have any of it. The guards had led the partygoers from their ships to the main part of the palace where the royal family were to make their introductions before the ball.
The ship was dark in colour, with what Courtney could only assume were tinted windows as there was no light coming from within. As they got closer, she could see the size of it, a lot smaller than she had been expecting, but what caught her eye was the white symbol painted beside the opening door.
Skull and crossbones.
Courtney halted her feet, sticking her heels into the dirt below. A pirate ship was not a place she wants to be aboard.
The man holding her arm yanked her towards him, but she didn't move her feet. He let go of her arm and hoisted her by the waist, throwing her over his shoulder as she thrashed her body in protest.
From deep in the garden of where they'd just come from Courtney could hear cries of cheer following behind, laughing and loud chatter carrying over the sound of her muffled screams.
Courtney didn't have a chance to see how many more men were part of this crew, she was carried on board the spaceship and into a large room towards the back.
He captor dropped her roughly on the carpeted floor and didn't say a word before vacating the room. The automated door slid behind him and Courtney didn't have to hear the lock to know there was no way of escaping the way she'd come in.
Still bound and gagged, Courtney couldn't make it to her feet. She scanned the room from her position in front of a spacious double bed. Antique dressers lined two walls made of what appeared to be solid wood, but no personal belongings cluttered the space. There was a small desk in the far corner stacked with papers with the chair tucked neatly beneath. There weren't any gadgets or devices that she could see, which didn't surprise her if she were being left unattended.
If this was her prison there were worst ways to be kept, but Courtney didn't think this bedroom had been made up for her.
She didn't know how long she stayed on the floor, still not allowing the tears to form. She tried to shuffle to the windows but ended up with her face on the floor. She quickly steadied herself back into a sitting position as she felt the ship move around her.
There wasn't any noise from the engines or from the crew, so it was likely the room was soundproofed. Courtney guessed that was why she was in there and not some dungeon below; to keep her from overhearing anything she shouldn't. That at least meant she was going to be kept alive. Or so she hoped.
She wondered if her father had made it out alive and if he was planning her rescue right now. There were no doubts guards out in their own ships trying to find her; there was no way these pirates had escaped with her without notice.
She wasn't sure how long they'd been flying when the door slid open again. Courtney furrowed her eyebrows at the hooded figure hovering in the doorway, daring him to come closer. She could feel his grin without seeing it.
"Well, hello there, Princess," he purred, stepping into the room.
The door behind him slid shut once more, leaving her trapped in the bedroom with this stranger. He walked towards the far wall of dressers first, removing his black gloves and tossing them carelessly into the top drawer.
"I've been told you put up quite the resistance against my men," he continued, his back still to her. "I must say I'm quite impressed."
The man removed his outer jacket and slung it over the desk chair, but he kept his hood up as he moved towards her, getting down on one knee.
"Now where are my manners," he tutted, reaching up and touching the cold gag around her face. It fell away into his hand and tucked it into his pocket, no doubt saving it for her to have again later. "Isn't that better?"
Courtney remained silent, grinding her teeth and staring up at him. She couldn't see his face still, the hood falling forward to shield him.
"Not much of a talker, eh? I have ways of dealing with that."
"What do you want from me?" She asked, her voice hoarse from the screaming.
The man chuckled, reaching up to pull down his face mask first, then slowly pushed back his hood.
Courtney's eyes widened which made him laugh again. He ran a hand through his short, green hair, shaking his head as he watched her.
"Do you know who I am?" He asked, knowing the answer already.
"I know exactly who you are," she spat. "You're a pirate!"
He let out a low chuckle once more, leaning down to touch her face. "I prefer the term marauder."
Courtney sneered, struggling in place against the rope that still held her.
"You know my name?"
"You're Duncan Hawkins. You killed my uncle."
"Did I?" He shrugged. "I don't recall."
Courtney bit her tongue, knowing exactly what the man in front of her was capable of.
Duncan backed away, throwing the rest of his outerwear onto the bed. He dropped a pillow onto the floor beside her.
"I'd get some rest if I were you," he advised. "It's going to be a long flight.
AN: Hello everyone and welcome back to yet another story I have somehow concocted. The good news about this one is IT'S ALREADY FINISHED! I know, I know. I actually finished something before posting it, we're all shocked!
You will have to forgive how rusty I am, I really have struggled to write this story.
This story idea came to me over a few days of binge-watching Agents of Shield followed quickly by Pirates of the Caribbean. Pirates in space? Sign me up! You will note a lot of Disney/fairytale relations as well!
Fun fact: All the planet names you see in this story are in fact Welsh names for our planets! Neifion is Neptune. (I've been pronouncing it as Nev-ion, but I think it is actually pronounced as Nay-vion) For those of you who do not know me, I am Welsh, and yes, I did have to google the names because it's been 9 years since my last Welsh lesson! That is not to say that this story takes place in our galaxy, or any galaxy you have probably heard of.
And finally, though he will never read this, I do have to give thanks to my brother who actually helped me flesh this story out when I started writing it over Easter. In his own immortal words "You're still writing Duncney?!"
All my love,