We spent the night in Nassau. It was disgusting. For the benefit of future readers, should there be any, I won’t go into too much detail but – I think the smell of several bodily fluids (emerging from several different places) and the stench of alcohol that is probably clinging to these very pages is enough to go by.
Stupid sailors in general.
My sulking aside – I spent the night as close to Rogue as I could. He seemed to keep his distance from most of the debauchery and, also, I wanted to kill him. I wanted to kill him so bad, but the temptation and the chance would have to hold. He still needed to take me to Normandy. He sang along to a ballad, the words thoroughly slurred by all the other drunks singing it. To Rogue’s credit, he had a nice voice and he wasn’t too drunk. He sat next to me after a while and passed me a bottle. It wasn’t until then that I realised I was sitting in a circle of pirates.
“Got a story t’tell, lass?” he asked.
Why did I ever come to the Americas?
“Not one I want to share, Captain Rogue,” I said, passing the bottle to the woman sitting next to me.
“But ye have to!” she cried, pushing the bottle into my hands, “ye held the bottle.”
“And what is this?” I asked her, swirling the liquid in the bottle. She was grimy and had a scar across her eye, “The bottle of truth?”
“If ye want, aye!” she said, “Take a drink and tell us a tale o’ your past! Our good Captain Thomas tells us ye’re a mercenary, from the Europe.”
“Okay, firstly: no,” I said, putting the bottle down, “and secondly: no,” I said, looking at the woman, “and thirdly, yes. I’m a mercenary from Europe.”
“A bit too civilised, maybe,” said a pirate across from me.
There was some muffled laughter.
“I keep to myself,” I said, “It has nothing to do with civility. If it did, I wouldn’t go around killing people.”
“Let’s start wi’ someth’un simple, eh?” asked Rogue, “Why not tell us o’ your first kill?”
I turned to him, putting a hand on my hip, “And why should I do that?”
“Well, lassie – we’re lonely sailors out here, wi’ little entertainment, far from home and far from what we’ve known all our lives. We’ve left our wives and our children, our dams and our sires – and we miss all who we love. Such strangeness as a mercenary on our island is someth’un t’be celebrated. Humour us a while, why don’t ye?”
“You’re asking me to pity you?”
“That’s one way t’look at’t.”
“I choose not to.”
Rogue looked hurt, “Ye’re a woman wi’ a hard heart that should be softer.”
“And you’re a man who’s soft in parts he should be hard.”
Rogue laughed, with the other pirates, “Don’t tempt my hardness, lass. Once ye’re struck by’t, ye’ll not want softness e’er after.”
“Oh, aye,” I said mockingly, “because who could resist the putrid charm of Captain Thomas Rogue – with his horrible breath and his wandering hands and his soft hardness.”
There was a gruff guffaw, “I think she fancies ye, lad!” cried the owner of the laugh.
“I wouldn’t be sure, Captain Straw,” laughed Rogue, “This woman here cleared my deck like’t were nothin’ a few days back. I’ve attacked many ships and many crews – but I’ve ne’er met a bitch wi’ more bite.”
“Tell that tale then,” said Straw, “who is this mercenary who cleaned the deck o’ our feared Captain Rogue, eh?”
“Midnight,” said Rogue, putting an arm over my shoulder. I didn’t appreciate the gesture, “This is our Captain Edwin Straw. One o’ the founders o’ the Piratical Republic o’ Nassau. Straw, this is our mercenary: Midnight Shadownight, who was on her way t’Normandy wi’ her ha’-troop – before I decided t’attack their brig, and what a pillock I was for doin’ such,” he laughed, and put a hand to his face, “Was my face not a fair one? Ere this lass scarred it? They rammed the prow o’ their sinkin’ ship against The Tyrant. Has any man here heard o’ such a thing? A sinkin’ ship makin’ a stand against its defiler? She leapt in with her countenance covered and her sword drawn, howlin’ a curse more fierce than any tinker’s, her blade flashin’ in the sunshine and dampening the blue sky wi’ our blood. Ere I uncovered her, I thought she were a man or a Demon o’ some kind,” he spat, “There were only ten o’ ‘em, the mercenaries – each six feet tall or more. There were thirty o’ my lads. By the time our Midnight was done and up, there were only twelve o’ us left. I barely managed t’survive,” he laughed again, “I passed out like a fussock in shock.”
Straw regarded me for a long time. He was a giant of a man, tanned, but British-looking. He had a great, black beard, and twelve pistols holstered in his belt.
“What brings ye t’our ocean, lass?” he asked solemnly, “Every rogue and renegade, every thief and scoundrel, every maverick and turncoat is welcome t’Nassau. But what brings ye here?”
I paused, “I’m bound by oaths, Captain Straw, I cannot reveal my purpose, even if I’ve more than given it up,” I said, “But I seek questions and I seek answers. I seek fortune and I seek infamy. I seek justice and I seek wrong. And I am nothing, if not a seeker.”
“Or a riddler,” muttered the woman next to me.
“What war did ye come t’fight, Miss Midnight?”
I scoffed, “I came to fight no war, Captain Straw.”
“Ain’t that the fare o’ mercenaries?”
“That it is.”
“I’m no ordinary, petty mercenary, Captain Straw.”
“Then why’ve ye come, Miss Shadownight?”
I paused and then, “I came to kill a man. A traitor, who would be sorely missed in both the camps that he deceives.”
“There’s a traitor amongst us pirates?” Rogue blurted. I looked at him murderously.
The circle began to mutter and mumble wildly.
“Who might this be?” asked Straw.
“I cannot disclose such information,” I said slowly, the circle drawing closer, “Secrecy is a priority in my field.”
The woman next to me stood up, and unsheathed her cutlass, “We’ll bleed’t out o’ you, damn it, tell us!”
“I wouldn’t try your luck with me,” I rasped, sitting rigidly in my seat.
“Come with me,” said Rogue, pulling me to my feet and dragging me towards his ship.
“Oh, joy…” I said, following reluctantly.