Recall a memorable haircut or hairstyle you have had, given, or witnessed.
Leo scanned the coast warily with his spyglass as the rowboat made its approach to the island. He didn’t like not knowing where he was. Given their recent troubles, he liked less approaching an unknown shore where any manner of enemy might be lying in wait. Where any shadows could hide their ancient foes.
He glanced back to the second rowboat. Cyril had Phineas strapped to a litter as a couple of Leo’s men rowed them through the calm waters. His first mate needed a healer, though his medic had done everything in his power to keep Phineas alive after their last harrowing battle.
That blasted storm had blown them off course and into strange waters. And worse still, they had lost Cyril’s medicine kit along with half their cargo. This land excursion was his last ditch effort to gather ingredients to make enough of his remedies to continue to prolong Phineas’ life until they could make port. Desperation made men foolish, but the Captain was desperate enough to save his first mate to risk everything.
“Keep a weather eye out!” he shouted. “I don’t sense any movement out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe!”
A chorus of “aye’s” echoed back to him. If there were any ninjas in those trees beyond the beach, they would regret the day they met Captain Leo Peaches and the crew of The Eternity. If not for Phineas, then for the ancient grudge.
The prow of the rowboat made a channel in the sand and Leo leapt to the ground, searching for any sign of danger. His small contingent spread out around him, awaiting his signal, praying for the all clear. The second rowboat with the doctor and his patient settled in behind them, the rowers joining their mates on the beach, weapons drawn.
A soft breeze off the sea danced in the thick foliage. The Captain’s eyes tuned to movement off to his left that was not caused by the wind. Several projectiles followed before he could shout the alarm. Two of his men went down and the panic rippled through his ground team as they scrambled for whatever cover they could find.
The Captain held his blade steady in front of him. How many? More thrown objects from the right, another man down. Leo snarled. There had to be at least three of them. Probably more. Cowards, fighting from the shadows. “Come out and face me you bastards!”
A black and orange blur flew out of the underbrush and knocked down another of his men. Leo howled in rage. The ninja froze as he lunged toward them. Small and feminine. A woman? It didn’t matter to him. She and her kin had taken out four of his men.
He swung his sword at her. Her ice blue eyes registered surprise as she evaded his blade, flipping through the air to land several paces away. His remaining crew braced themselves for more attacks from the tree line that didn’t come, as Leo stared down the sole combatant.
She was as strange a ninja as he had ever encountered. She didn’t wear the traditional belted jacket, opting instead for a tight fitting long sleeved top that left her middle exposed. Her pants appeared molded to her and they melded with her calf-high boots. Those, at least, were the soft, laced boots he was familiar with.
Strange of all, though, was her mask. It covered her face except for her eyes, of course, but the hood had an opening at the top where her flame-orange hair plumed like a volcano spewing lava. He had never seen hair quite that color before, and certainly a ninja would do well to cover such a distinguishing feature. He wondered why she bothered with the mask at all.
He spared no more than a second wondering at her oddities before lunging at her again. This time, she pulled her sword free of its sheath on her hip and met his blow. They struggled against one another for a time. “What are you doing?” Her soft voice was full of consternation. “I’m trying to save you!”
Leo broke the stalemate and jumped back away from her. His crew gasped, expecting the ninja to take advantage of his retreat and go on the offensive once more. Except she stood where he had left her, her free hand on her hip and her sword pointed to the ground. “Has the sun gotten to you, ninja? In what world would a pirate need saving from a ninja?”
Her eyes narrowed as she took in the men and woman behind him. “They aren’t your captors?”
“Capt- that’s my crew!” he bellowed. “I’m the Captain of the pirate ship Eternity, Captain Leo Peaches!” He jabbed his thumb towards his beloved vessel.
She leaned as if to peer around him for a better look. Then she shook her head, her fiery hair swaying sinuously behind her. “That doesn’t make any sense. What’s a ninja doing captaining a pirate ship?”
Leo’s eyes widened as her words reached him. Him? A ninja? Was she trying to offend him? He leveled his sword at her. “Listen here, wench.” She raised an eyebrow and hardened her stare. Good. “You may be addled in the head, but you’ve killed too many of my men today and I will not suffer your life any longer!”
Fear flashed through her eyes for the briefest of moments before turning to anger. “I haven’t killed anyone, dumbass.” She sheathed her sword and folded her arms beneath her breasts. “If they’ve suffered more than a headache, you can kill me where I stand.”
“What?” This had to be some sort of trick. Leo refused to take his eyes off of her. “Rhea, check the men.” His most recent recruit had been sailing with them just shy of a year. He had been hesitant to have a woman on board, but Rhea had proven invaluable during her tenure.
His grip tightened on his hilt as he heard her gasp. “They’re… they’re all still alive cap’n.”
The ninja woman’s blue eyes were smug. Leo thrust his sword into the ground. “What game are you playing here? Where are your comrades?”
Her shoulders tensed for the barest of seconds. Her gaze turned to the sea. He hated that he couldn’t see the whole of her face, though he thought he saw a shade of a smile beneath the fabric of her mask. “I have no comrades,” she said softly, turning sad eyes back to him. “If you’re really in no need of rescue, as you say, I will depart now.” Her ponytail flipped in front of her as she bowed to them. “I am sorry for causing you trouble.”
Leo pulled his sword free of the ground as she vanished in a blur of black and orange. His crew tensed around him, the ones she felled stirring to wakefulness. He waited several long heartbeats. The leaves on the trees danced only with the wind. She was really gone.
He turned back to his crew as he sheathed his sword. “Set up camp. We’ve got work to do.”
Notes: When I got thinking about memorable hairstyles, Kita’s hair popped into my head because it’s such a distinguishing feature of her character. It also made me realize for the first time that, wearing it as she does, she could never pass as a civilian in an area where she had been seen in her full ninja getup. It’s just one more way in which she deviates from the “norm” for her people. She stands out instead of blending in.
Hairstyles can be important to character design. They can convey status, age, era, ethnicity, personality, etc. Robert Jordan does this very well in the Wheel of Time series. Different regions have different dominant hairstyles in addition to specific fashion. In some cultures, young girls keep their hair in two braids until they’ve reached a rite of passage. In others, a braid is a symbol of adulthood. It’s fascinating how something so simple can convey so much.
At least for Kita, it certainly makes her recognizable. I wanted to write from Leo’s point of view, spotting her in a crowd, or recognizing her from a distance. Instead I decided to rewrite their first encounter. I went a bit longer than I anticipated, but hey that’s a good thing! I certainly won’t complain about a good writing night!
So what about you? Have you ever had a wild hairstyle? Ever known someone who changed their hair every week? Think about your characters. Do their hairstyles add to the background of the story? Do they hint at personality? Do they distinguish themselves in some way? Write these thoughts down!
Alright that’s one heck of a way to kick off the week. Have a great rest of your night/day! I’ll be back tomorrow as usual with the next prompt!
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