Chapter 2: Rotten Scallywags

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Alestair Kincade is a man who's just as feared by some, as he is admired by others. The former privateer's been sailing the warm waters of the Caribbean for more than thirty years, pausing just long enough to either destroy or unite his enemies.

For Kincade, there is no middle ground, but this unique combination of ruthlessness and democracy has served him well. In fact, it's earned him not only an immeasurable amount of respect and gold, but also the coveted title of Pirate King.

We sail for a day and a half before I even have the chance to face my infamous captor. Until then, I'm locked in a small cell in the belly of the ship we boarded in Portobelo. The voyage is rough and unpleasant. It's my first time at sea and I am clearly not cut out to be a sailor. At times I wish someone would have just shot me while we were still back on land, just to spare me this agony.

I can neither keep water nor food down, not even the stale twice-baked bread Smythe brings me. All my remaining energy quickly seeps from my body and by the second night, I'm too weak to even shoo the rats at my feet away. They bite my ashen skin, leaving small, raw wounds.

By the time the vessel drops anchor again, the storms have finally subsided. The ship's entire crew seems to be topside, but instead of a whole gang of buccaneers, only one boat-load disembarks.

They make me join them.

I'm sitting in the middle of the rickety dinghy again, but at least now I have an old pair of boots and a heavy, leather jacket to keep me warm. As with everything else, these stink of sweat and fish. I don't even want to think about the last man who wore them, lest I get sick again.

The trip to shore is brief thanks to the calm seas and shorter distance to the beach than two nights ago. My kidnappers won't tell me where we are, but the landscape is already very different from what I'm used to. Back home, tropical trees cover the gently sloping hills that make up the narrow country separating the Atlantic from the Pacific. Here, even by the light of the full moon, I can see that hardly any vegetation covers the barren, rocky mountain straight ahead.

We approach from the north, which may mean our destination's on the mainland. No one helps me out of the craft and I end up hip deep in the tide. The dip itself doesn't bother me; I actually wish I could take a proper wash.  My wet clothes soon wear me down though, and I quickly become out of breath. This is the most I've moved around since being captured and my injured knee's definitely feeling the exertion.

Marching up an incline, I try to keep pace with my half-dozen companions as we head toward a nearby town. They're in jovial spirits, singing and hollering along the way. I believe they may have uncorked a fresh barrel of rum before leaving the ship.

Mister Smythe's the only person other than me who keeps silent. He walks behind, just a few paces back, dutifully steering the group toward our destination. When two sailors break into an impromptu fistfight, Smythe's the one who separates them with a shot into the air.

I'm about to test his reasonableness and ask for a short breather when a steep pitched roof comes into view. I decide to postpone the favor and instead, push through the pain.

Soon, we begin hearing other sounds besides those made by our own group. The distant laughs – and the occasional scream – get increasingly louder as we approach. Finally, we come upon the first example of civilization we've seen in two days.

When the building is in full view, I can tell it's just one of many lining a central street and I exhale in gratitude. Hopefully, I can rest soon.

"You have until daybreak," Smythe yells after his men as they disappear into the town. He then turns to me and smiles. "Lean on my shoulder, girl. It looks like ya could use a hand."

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