Nassau - a rotting carcass of the island it used to be after it had been taken by the Brethren of the Coast and turned into a Piratical Republic - and the heat of the Caribbean sun didn't help. The residue of alcoholism, the stench of disease and the stains of poverty marked the island for what it had become.
It was the first time Mariqah had come to the island in person, and she couldn't say she was loving it. She didn't see it lasting very long either, but she hoped - now that Callum had been voted into office - things might brighten up. Although she wasn't the biggest fan of pirates, it must be difficult to establish a dream and then see it pissed away by neglect and indifference within the span of a few years.
Mariqah yelped as a giant fat black rodent scurried passed her to chew on the remains of a dead bird.
Good grief, but this place could use a clean-up!
Mariqah had left Vasquez on the fishing boat with the four scared-to-death sailors that had aided their journey here. She had told him that she'd speak to Callum and that it would be better if Vasquez's peers didn't see him - if his concerns were true.
Mariqah sighed and climbed up the steps to a run-down tavern that stank of stale fluids - drinkable or not - and swung the door open. A little bell rang atop the door-frame and everyone within looked at her.
She saw a man with greasy, black hair and felt her lip curling, her eyes narrowing. Morgan smiled at her.
“Come to see me, have you?” he laughed, drinking from his tankard and then slamming it down on the table, “Consider me flattered.”
“Be grateful that I haven't come for you,” Mariqah warned him, stepping passed him and taking a toppled stool by the bar.
She placed the stool properly and sat down.
“What can I get for ye?” asked the barmaid, who'd probably been beautiful at some point in her life.
“I'm not here for drinks, but I was hoping I could get some information from you-” Mariqah began.
“No information here,” Morgan interrupted, leaning against the counter next to her, “Bessie, another brandy.”
The barmaid went away and Mariqah balled her hand into a fist.
“No need for temper, lass,” Morgan said, “My argument isn't with you.”
Mariqah stood up, her stool scraping as she did, “And yet maybe if I was a man, it might've been,” Mariqah replied, “You're argument wasn't with me, but you still left me stranded on an inhabitable island with a man whose brains were all but fried with lunacy. I am not a very good loser, Morgan.”
“That's Capt'n Morgan, to you,” Morgan replied, “You weren't exactly making your presence welcome, now were you?”
“Maybe if all your back-stabbing louts weren't holding guns to my person and trying to feel me up, I would have been more accommodating to your unacceptable behaviour!” Mariqah said, “You know what they do to ingrates that belittle their superiors in the army? I'd gladly show you, if you'd allow me to demonstrate.”
Morgan grabbed her by the collar, “That's quite enough! This isn't the army! This is a land were all men are free from such tyrannies!”
Mariqah kneed him on the groin, “Aye, free from kings, clergy and basic hygiene.”
Morgan crumpled and the other men around her stood up.
The little bell rang again, “Mari?”
Mariqah - like everyone else - turned her attention to the door. She smiled.
“Callum! I think you might have saved every pillock in this pub,” Mariqah said, stepping over Morgan and moving towards Callum. Mariqah put her hands on her hips, “How ever did you find me?”
“By followin' the sounds o' trouble, obviously,” Callum replied, “Though, it's strange t'see you kickin' the shite outta Captain Morgan o'er there.”
Mariqah tugged his sleeve and moved passed him, “Oh, it's not strange at all. There's a very interesting story you should hear regarding him and an associate of yours and how I got stuck in the middle. Though, I'm sure the sheep-sodder hasn't got around telling you much about it.”
“You're here t'complain?”
“If I came to go home, that would have just been plain old boring,” Mariqah said, “I would have quicker swam home.”
Callum smacked his forehead and let her pull him along to his ship, “Oh, I'm in for it now,” he muttered.
They both got onto the Tyrant and Callum led Mariqah into his cabin and followed in after her. He took a seat and a poured a glass of rum from a brown bottle. He knew it was pointless to offer any to Mariqah, but he did anyway. She refused, as usual, and sat opposite to him.
For a moment there was just silence, until Callum - at his own risk - decided to break it, “So... Ye look like you've been on quite the adventure since we parted at Tortuga.”
Like a speeding bullet, Mariqah told Callum all that had happened since he'd left the island. Everything. She didn't leave out a single detail, though for Callum's benefit she should have.
Callum paused and gave her a look, “So... Why are you here?”
“What?” Mariqah said.
“Why've you told me all this?”
Mariqah raised her brows, “Uh, hello? Hello, Callum? Are you with us? Tortuga is still under British occupation and - if I recall correctly - I'm here to clean that mess up.”
“But you didn't,” Callum said, “And that's fine. I should probably... take ye home.”
“What are you talking about? It's not fine! I knock down their building and the island would be yours again! Guaranteed.”
“As nice a fantasy as that is, I don't think ye can manage it with a fishin' boat.”
Mariqah crossed her arms, pouting at Callum, “I don't intend to do it with a fishing boat.”
“Then what d'you want me t'do, eh? Lend you a galley?”
“Yes! One man-of-war would suffice!”
Callum sighed, “I don't believe you,” he muttered.
“What? What don't you believe?”
“You brought a disgraced man here? A traitor t'the code that binds us all, and you brought him here?” Callum shouted, “And you have the audacity t'tell me he...” he caught himself.
Mariqah gave him a look, “You're jealous...”
“How many times, Callum? You don't get to be jealous! You don't own me!”
“And clearly shame doesn't either!”
“Oh, I'm sorry - was I meant to hide it from you? My nearest and dearest friend!”
“Nearest and dearest-!” Callum stood up, knocking his chair over and turned away.
“A band of pirates left me stranded on an island with the captain you introduced me to - just because I didn't back their treachery - and you're going to back them?” Mariqah asked.
Callum didn't say anything for a long time. Mariqah could hear his angered breathing.
“Your money is in the hold. I'm takin' you home,” he said.
Mariqah narrowed her eyes, “You know what, Callum? Keep your bloody money and stuff it where the sun doesn't shine,” she turned to the door.
Callum grabbed her arm, “Where are you going?”
“I came here to do a job. I didn't come here for your pity.”
“This is insane! You'll get yourself killed out there.”
Mariqah shrugged him off, “I am getting Tortuga back - with or without your help, with or without your money!”
Mariqah went to the door and opened it. She announced, “As far as any of you are concerned, Estaban Vasquez is dead. And mark me - I will go to the world's end to get him back, I will free Tortuga of the British with his aid and his aid,” she turned to Callum, “alone. And when Tortuga is free I'll see to it that he never suffers traitors again.”
Mariqah made her way across the ship, when Callum rushed up to her.
“Mari, I'm upset, but I don't want-” he began.
“This doesn't concern you,” Mariqah said.
“Where's the contract I signed?” she asked him.
Callum brought it out from within his coat and Mariqah snatched it from his grasp.
She tore it in four clean pieces and said, “You can keep your money,” she pressed it to his chest and got off the ship. She strode passed Morgan, who chuckled.
“What?” Mariqah demanded.
“That was a pretty speech, but it adds to nothing,” he commented.
Mariqah glared at him, “Remember this. I am not a pirate, I am not bound by your codes and creeds - I do not and I will not suffer traitors.”
“More pretty words?”
Mariqah turned away, stomped on his foot, and didn't look back as he cursed and howled in pain. She climbed onto the fishing boat.
“Weigh anchor and set sail,” she said.
“Where are we going, madam?” asked one of the sailors, as they hoisted up the anchor.
“Set a course for Martinique. We'll see if we can find anything there.”
“Find, madam? What are we looking for?”
Mariqah smirked, “You'll see,” she said, “Where's the captain?”
“Hiding in the longboat.”
Mariqah tried to stop her grin as she lifted the cloth that Vasquez was hiding beneath.
“This must be new for you,” she said, unable to help her laughter.
Vasquez rolled his eyes, “I heard you out there. You intend to kill me?”
“It's better every pirate thinks your dead,” Mariqah explained, sitting down and watching as the sailors worked to get them further out to sea.
“And Captain O'Brien?”
“Like a barrel of wet fish,” Mariqah muttered, “A man can run around, have any woman he likes for any reason whatsoever; but when a woman does the same - it's something to grouse about?”
Vasquez sighed, “It's not a good thing, amiga.”
“That wasn't my point. My point was equal judgement. If I was a man, I'd definitely have a man-of-war - we'd be sailing to Tortuga and blowing the King's fortress to smithereens. Would've sent them running across the pond back to England. But instead I'm a woman, stuck on a fishing boat with you, and four skinny-legged sailors hatching an insanely improbable plan to blow the King's fortress to smithereens,” she huffed and sat back in the boat, “A bit of soft flesh between a person's thighs makes all the difference.”
“You asked for a man-of-war?” Vasquez scoffed.
“Not in so many words,” Mariqah replied, nudging him with her elbow.
“Captain O'Brien's jealous?”
“He always is,” Mariqah replied, “In the beginning it seemed sweet, but it's just ridiculous now. Even my brother isn't this up himself. He'd know when it actually meant something or not, and it's not like it meant anything this time around!”
Vasquez laughed, “Perhaps I'm not the best person to talk feelings with. But this insane plan of yours, I'd love to hear it.”
“Sí. Why not?”
“You've never seemed ecstatic about any of my other plans.”
“In my defence, I didn't like you then.”
“And you like me now?”
“Mm... 'Like' is a strong word. I hate you less.”
Mariqah scoffed, “Thank you. I appreciate that very much.”
“Besides,” Vasquez shrugged, “I don't have any.”
“Well... Okay,” Mariqah smiled, “First, we'll need to steal a bigger ship.”
“Stop calling me that.”
“-We're not exactly intimidating in this floating piece of shit.”
“No. But I'm sure you still are.”
“Every pirate thinks you're dead. But as far as any other sailor is concerned - you're alive. Correct?”
“And you're teaming-up with a well-known mercenary with anger to spare due to recent failures.”
“We cause enough trouble and we'll catch the attention of...?”
Mariqah rolled her eyes, “A pirate-hunter, who come in...?”
“Vasquez, stop fucking with me.”
“You're right, once was more than enough,” he laughed.
“They come in men-of-war. So? More trouble for us?”
“No. We take their ship.”
“Princesa, have you ever seen a man-of-war?”
“Vasquez! I thought I told you to trust me?”