It was the shadow on the wall that first told me of his approach. My back was to the light and more importantly, the threat; a mistake my instructors would later scar me for. I had stolen a fillet knife from the galley before turning in for the night. I gripped it now in front of my chest, the knuckles wrapped around it turning white. Behind me I heard the floorboards groan under the stranger’s weight. My opponent was larger than I, as the floor did not object to my earlier footfalls. I questioned my reserve as the thought of taking another man’s life began to sink in. Doubt muddled my thoughts as I planned my attack. Left hand, throw blanket off…turn and stand in same motion…right hand, thrust upwards from hip…aim for kidney…I can do this. Surprise would be my ally in surviving this attack. I would only need to stop him for a moment, just enough time to run for the door.
He was close now, I could smell the sweat on his clothes. Two more steps until I would attack. It was odd, but the scent of his sweat calmed me slightly; a trained assassin would have a much more approachable body odour. The man behind me was of the common people, probably one of the crew planning to abduct me for the ransom money my release would grant him.
“Isn’t your family wealthy enough to buy your own knives?”, came the deep, gruff voice.
The words caught me off-guard. I froze momentarily before hurriedly sitting up against the wall. I held the knife in front of me, still unsure if he was friend or foe. The adrenaline I had built up was rapidly abandoning me. I felt weak in the man’s shadow.
“I need to prepare the fish for tomorrow’s meals. Can I have my knife back?”, he asked me.
It was difficult to read his silhouetted expression, but I could make out his eyes, searching my face for an answer. He cautiously took the remaining steps towards me and knelt just outside of my reach. His large frame making it seemingly difficult to assume the position. He paused as he searched my face again. My grip had now loosened, and the natural colour of my hand had returned. The man leaned forward and gently pried my clammy hands from the knife before pushing himself to a standing position.
He stood there for a moment, head tilted slightly to one side arguing with himself whether he should stay since I was visibly shaken. He knew his place though, and daren’t risk the consequences his prolonged presence would normally accompany. He instead turned and ambled towards the door, disappearing into the bright corridor to make his way back to the galley.