Chapter 5: Loaded to the Gunwales

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His eyes light up at the potential severity of the task and I continue.

“I need you to make sure every one of these injured men drinks at least one cup of grog each hour. If they can’t do it by themselves, you help them. Understood?”

“Yes, miss!” he straightens his shoulders and grins, before running off toward the drinks barrel.

Until Smythe returns, I take the chance to evaluate each of the men’s injuries. They range from simple cuts in the flesh to deeper punctures of their insides. I know I probably won’t be able to help them all, but I know I have to try. Hopefully, we’ll reach port soon and find a proper physician.

They move Butler last, down into the bowels of the ship and place him on a cot. Here, I have to work by the light of lanterns, but it’s cooler than in the full sunshine above. Smythe assigns me two men to help with holding the injured down, while I clean and stitch their wounds closed. Some pass out, while others clench their teeth stoically. I make the more severely hurt drink two servings of rum before starting. This seems to either ease their pain or make them not give a damn. Nevertheless, the result is the same.

We work for hours until the last man is stabilized. I never see the captain this whole time, but the men reveal he’s on the captured ship negotiating terms.

I rejoice when we’re finally finished not only because all the original survivors are still alive, but also because I can now get some sleep. I quickly wash up, but as I head up the stairs to the quarterdeck, someone shouts, “Land ho!”

Running to the railings, I look southward and see a palm tree topped strip of land in the distance. It’s futile for me to lay down now; we’ll be dropping anchor before I can even start dreaming. I sigh and slide into a sitting position with my back against the hull.

Someone hands me a stale biscuit and a cup of drink. I take them without even bothering to look up. It’s the first thing I’ve eaten all day, and by the position of the sun, I’m sure it’s already nearing dinner-time.

“Ready, miss?”

I open my eyes at the words. I must’ve dozed off and now Smythe’s standing above me holding out his hand. I take his offer of help and get to my feet. I follow him to a rope ladder leading to a dinghy precariously bobbing in the water below.

Climbing down, I squeeze between Femi and another man whose name I still don’t know. They both escaped the fight relatively unscathed, but most of the others in the small boat are ones I worked on earlier.

After untying the tether, the two, healthy men begin to row. We follow another dinghy that’s halfway to shore and soon enough, we also disembark on the beach.

I never did manage to put my boots on, and the hot, white sand feels wonderful between my toes.

Once again, I don’t get a chance to dally because more than a dozen locals emerge from the tree line to meet us. The dark-skinned men are wearing nothing more than grass skirts and shell necklaces, and their toned bodies glisten from the setting sun. The pirate crew must know our hosts because they readily greet them and even hand over sacks of offerings. The natives quickly assist with carrying the wounded, taking us to nearby huts.

I’m grateful that we don’t have to walk far, but the location’s lack of sophistication worries me. The injured men need proper medical care and I’m uncertain that these indigenous islanders can provide that.

Dear God, things are in your hands again and I trust your judgment.

I sigh and cross myself. I follow the somber procession quietly and on the way, I listen as the locals speak a language I’ve never heard. Luckily, one of our sailors does his best to translate.

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