Chapter Twenty-Three

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1868, the First Witch's Island

Adelyn wasn't sure how much more walking she could do. She figured they had to be at least half way there, if not further along, but half-way was not enough for Nikolai. They had yet to find anything that resembled treasure, or magic, or a pendant. Their hands were empty, and time was running out.

Two days nearly gone and wasted, and Nikolai was stressed. He didn't hide his worry well, Adelyn had observed, and it showed in the tapping of his fingers and the clenching of his jaw. No one spoke, not even Nina, and Adelyn wasn't sure what to make of it. The air around them bubbled with a mess of emotions she couldn't figure out.

Her clothes were still stained, and though she'd spent a solid hour that morning sitting next to the creek in her underdress, scrubbing the fabric in the stream, it had done little. The colour was forever dyed, a reminder of the horrors she had faced the night before. She jokingly thought that, if she was to spend more time with Nik and his crew, she ought to invest in clothing that wasn't so white.

Only after the thought had come to her mind did she realize how gruesome and sad it was. Good men and women, and who knew what else, had died, and though Adelyn knew there hadn't been much she could have done to save most of them, guilt still pricked at her skin. The men that had died fighting Greywell, the crew members that had been drowned by the sea monster... It wasn't a joking matter-- not to her.

"The seas grow cold and the night goes dark," Nina hummed under her breath, a menacing song in a quiet voice. Adelyn listened, though she barely heard the words as the pirate woman mumbled. "The ship sets sail, creaking loud, swiftly bound,

"There's no hell beneath them, nor a heaven above. The pirate's life is endless, a pirate's heart is gone. A restless road before them, no food but a bottle o' rum."

Nikolai's voice joined Nina's, gruff and bored. If Nina had been muttering, Nik was a but a whisper in comparison. "Yo, ho. Yo, ho, they sing a jolly song, but they hold no hope, their light is lost, they are forever gone."

Adelyn stayed quiet, the tune troubling her. Nina hummed it again, without the words, but Adelyn relayed them in her mind. Her eyes drifted up, watching the backs of her companions as they walked ahead of her. She couldn't help but think of all of the tales she'd been told, of all the times she'd been warned of pirate's cruelty and mercilessness, and yet there she was. The crew, though a rough bunch of thugs, hadn't done much to harm her. If anything, they'd been kind-- aside from whomever had stolen her coins.

She supposed it was from ships like Greywell's that the rumors were born. The thought brought a chill to her spine, and she let her eyes close for a second too long when she blinked. She hoped --even more than that, she prayed-- Harlem would have no macabre stories of his own when they met again.

The trio was not far from the mountain, and above their heads, the sun had begun to make it's slow descent. It'd be dusk soon, and the others would be waiting for them.

Finally, Adelyn begun to hear a sound that made relief flood through her: men laughing. She hadn't noticed it, but she'd been tense. She'd been afraid that maybe none of them would be there-- she doubted she was the only one that'd been faced with something during the night. Over the while, she'd gotten to know some of the crew. They'd shown her kindness, from giving her her first taste of pirate's rum-- it'd been horrid, and she'd spat it out, and they'd laughed-- to teaching her the tricks and cheats to poker. Though some had been reluctant at the thought of having her on board, most had gotten used to her.

"Well, if it isn't the Captain," James said, grinning when they stepped out of the tree's. Four men waited for them at the base of the mountain, where a lake the size of their ship took up a hunk of space, water so blue it seemed unnatural. It was like sapphires, Adelyn thought, admiring the way it glinted in the sun's last few rays. Dusk was falling fast.

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