Theo’s knack for storytelling had been discovered quite by accident during dinner on his second or third day aboard. The crew was recounting the strangest tales they’d heard, going clockwise around the long wooden table, and when Theo’s turn arrived, he astounded everyone with a wild story about demons, princes, and magic.
After dinner the next night, the youngest boy, Daniel, had pulled on Theo’s sleeve, begging, “Tell us another story, Theo.” The rest of the crew agreed that there should indeed be a sequel, and so Theo wove a grand yarn, and then another, the practice becoming a nightly tradition.
So it was no surprise when the crew turned expectantly to Theo after dinner that evening. He pretended to be surprised, leaning back and raising his eyebrows. “What is it? Is my face a mess?”
“Shall we go out on deck, then?” Maldir suggested, grinning.
Theo heaved a dramatic sigh. “I suppose so . . .”
There was a great commotion as everyone rose at once, wooden chairs scraping noisily against the floor, the pirates joking and laughing as they streamed out the door. Once everyone was seated under the stars, Theo asked, “Are there any requests? Because you know I’m no good without an idea to build off of.”
“Something that’ll make us laugh!” Daniel yelled.
Theo scoffed. “Obviously.”
“There had better be swords involved,” Algreve growled. “There was a disappointing lack of violence in your last tale.”
“It was a love story, Al.” Theo grimaced. “I could only incorporate so much blood into it.”
Someone cleared their throat from in the shadows and spoke, tentatively. “How about . . . how about a story for Red? Since he can’t remember anything about his past, you can reinvent a new one.” Everyone turned toward the voice, an unfamiliar voice with an unfamiliar accent. It was the redheaded girl, the captain’s so-called niece. She seemed to falter under the gazes of the crew. “Or – or not, I was just – ”
“No, no, why not?” Silas, the captain’s right hand man, was being his usual sympathetic self. “That’s a fine idea.” He grinned up at Theo, challenging him. “What do you think, storyteller? Can you find a past to fit the boy with no past?”
Theo’s eyes flickered with an excited light, but he still glanced over at Red to check if the pirate himself was okay with it. Red shrugged at him from where he was perched on the stairs, then nodded. The look on his face clearly said: Give it your best shot, mate.
Any nerves that Theo might have had melted away as he leaned forward on the barrel he sat upon, shifting into the confident, easygoing character he always was when telling a story. “Sometimes, you can tell when a story begins. But other times, you slip into it as effortlessly as you might into water . . .”