"Where are we going?" Mariqah asked, as Jaq sailed through the blue waters of the West Indies, "And for that matter, where did we just leave?"
Jaq manned the helm, barking orders to her crew while they sang. She sailed a vessel named the Southern Wolf.
Jaq smirked at Mariqah as she leaned against the banister beside her, "We just left Nassau, the headquarters of the Brethren of the Coast. We're making headway for Tortuga."
Mariqah nodded, "Tortuga, eh?"
"I have answers of my own to find, since we spoke last night. I'd like to know about this peculiar stone," Jaq said.
"Would mean crossing paths with Vasquez," Mariqah commented.
"Aye, that it would. And as sour as that might turn out, I feel the need to clarify your..." Jaq looked over at Mariqah, "possible existence."
Mariqah smiled and looked away, "How much control does the Brethren have, over the West Indies?"
"Our control here is immense," Jaq said, "Rarely see any merchants come by any more. Plantation owners are loathe to sail out on their own vessels, but the Brethren does offer to carry merchandise for a portion of the profit for them. But our greatest plunder was the Spanish and British ships that passed us by and we've missed adventure for some time. Jamaica is the last Colonial stronghold in the whole of the West Indies. After that, I fear we might need to search for plunder and prize elsewhere," she scoffed to herself, "All the corners of the world have been discovered now, it won't be hard to search."
Mariqah listened with an interest to these details and asked, "What about the slave trade?"
"The Royal African Company don't come this way much neither," Jaq said, "Not most days anyway. Plantation owners still keep slaves, but there isn't much doing about that."
"It seems to trouble you," Mariqah commented.
"It does, Mariqah," Jaq replied, "I do what I can, in whatever way I can. Not that I'm calling myself a saint."
"Of course not."
"Wouldn't be able to stand the silence or the monogamy, the abstinence. Not my strongest virtue," Jaq laughed, "What about you, soldier? You drink? Got a man in your world, perhaps two? Maybe a woman for your spare time?"
"No, actually," Mariqah said, "I'm more of a smoker than a drinker, and I've made a mess out of most of my love-lives."
"There's only one big mess i've made out of a love-life," she gestured behind her, where Mariqah saw the Tyrant at the head of a fleet of ships.
"The Tyrant..." Mariqah whispered, "You fucked up things with Callum as well? How?"
"You've known our Callum O'Brien as well?" Jaq said, laughing to herself, "Can't say I'm very surprised. Pretty one, isn't he?"
"What went wrong between you two?" Mariqah asked, trying not to sound aggressive.
"Just didn't feel inclined towards him after a while," Jaq replied, steering her ship, "Why? Why did you drop him?"
"Who said I dropped him?"
"Well, didn't you?"
There was a pause.
"I did," Mariqah admitted, "I just... felt like I was using him. It wasn't sincere."
Mariqah looked at Jaq, "The love," she said, "That man's always loved me."
Jaq made a face, "Don't look so glum, christ! You can have him if you want!"
"He's dead," Mariqah said.
"He died, in my world," Mariqah looked back at the Tyrant, only vaguely seeing Callum's figure as he commanded the ship.
"Sorry," Jaq said, completely removed of good humour, "You have my condolences. I assume Callum was as good a friend to you as he has been and is to me. An invaluable friend."
"Aye," Mariqah said, "I need to keep away from him. The sight of him here frightens me."
"Don't fret, you won't be seeing so much of him when we land in Tortuga."
There was cordial silence between them for a long time, before Mariqah said, "I have a question for you, Jaq."
"Aye?" Jaq said.
Mariqah took a deep breath, "Do you know of a man named Richard Shankar?"
Jaq growled and muttered curses under her breath, "Aye, the skeeving rat. He's said to be readying the English Navy against us."
"Do you have such a vile creature in your world?" Jaq asked Mariqah.
Mariqah looked at her hands and said nothing. She looked up, fixing the hat sitting on her head, "Yes, indeed. Richard Shankar exists in my world."