Port Royal by Kelley Piper

 

General Disclaimers: I own all the characters as well as the story with the exception of the backstory of the reincarnated souls inhabiting the main characters (this includes references to Arminestra and Shakti, as well as the not-so veiled references to Xena and Gabrielle). That backstory and those characters are copyrighted by StudiosUSA, etc. The other characters in this work may bear some resemblance to characters we all know and love, however they are original and the property of the author (and appearances can be deceiving). I am, however, greatly indebted to the producers of Xena for much of archtypes behind these characters.

Violence: This is a pirate story so, yes, there is violence, although it is not very graphic. Also, there is physical and mental abuse of a teenager by a parent. It’s essential to the story. Finally, there is a suicide attempt (well kinda). If you are sensitive to these things, you may wish to read something else.

Sexual Violence: There is mention of rape (perpetrated against a minor), and it is handled primarily through the consequences of the act. While not graphic, it could be deemed disturbing, so if this will bother you please skip this story. Again, it was crucial to the plot.

Subtext: It’s maintext. If you aren’t old enough, have problems with two women expressing feelings for one another verbally and physically, or it’s illegal where you live then check out someone else’s stories.

Language: There are a few choice words (pirates curse) but not that many.

Helpful Viewing: You’ll understand the references to Shakti and Arminestra and the ending better if you’ve seen Between the Lines. If you haven’t seen it, you might be a tad confused with the ending and it’ll spoil parts of that episode for you.

Accuracy: Parts of this are accurate, other parts are complete hooey. Well, it’s Xena (sort of), isn’t it? (Oh, and I know zilch about sailing so don’t complain that I’m completely wrong about most of this, including how long it takes to sail around the Caribbean).

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Port Royal
by Kelley Piper

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
“Life is but an empty dream!”
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
–Henry W. Longfellow (A Psalm of Life)

 

 

Prologue
Outside the Kingston Residence, Port Royal, Jamaica
June 5, 1675

 
Port Royal was quiet, almost too quiet for a June evening. The balmy weather normally gave way to raucous activity from pirates and citizens alike, but on this night very few people were on the streets, lending it a silent foreboding that was almost palatable. In this heavy, ominous air, a small carriage came to a creaking halt on one of the city’s many back streets.

“You have a happy birthday, Jayne,” Roger Kingston said as he smiled over to the young girl sitting beside him in his carriage. He ruffled her long, dark brown hair affectionately, watching the soft curls bounce around her shoulders.

Bright blue eyes sparkled back at him, “Thanks, grandpa. I’m sorry you won’t be here tomorrow to help celebrate.” Her mellow voice was a mixture of sadness and excitement, but her face spoke only of sorrow, which broke the old man’s heart.

Roger sighed, feeling the loss in his life already, “I know squirt. I’m sorry I’m going to miss seeing my only grandchild become a teenager.” He wrapped a beefy arm over her shoulder and pulled her into a hug. “You’ve grown up so fast.” He did not often give into nostalgia, preferring instead to take each day as it came, but little Jayne made him see, finally, the cost of such a life. Living in the moment had cost him his wife and a better relationship with his sons. He had been too concerned about adventure, about what lie over the next wave, to see the threats that weaved their way from past to present, forming a tapestry of his life. Not until he had held the dark child with sky blue eyes had he noticed its presence at all. With the girl, who’s every breath seemed filled with the wonder of things, he had begun to notice the rich colors of those threads and their place in his life. It had, unfortunately, been too late for his wife and their youngest son, John. Both had died before the separation could be repaired. Even his older son, Jayne’s father, had remained somewhat distant despite attempts to bridge the gap on Roger’s part. And so Jayne, who now stood on the threshold of womanhood, found herself being the center of Roger’s world and neither of them would have had it any other way.

A muffled chuckle came from his shoulder where the young girl was pressed into him, enjoying the closeness they shared. She finally extracted herself from the hug and said seriously, “You have a good trip. Don’t forget to bring me back something nice. I wish I could go with you. I’ve never seen London.”

“I know sweetheart,” he stroked one of her cheeks with the back of his hand, noticing for not the first time how truly grown up she had become. Very little remained of the chubby-faced girl he had once bounced on his knee. “I’ll bring you back something very special.” He cleared his throat and then looked over her shoulder toward the nearby house, “You better get going. Your parents are going to be worried.”

Jayne looked toward her house and the single light burning in the first story window. Nodding solemnly, she said to her grandfather, “Looks like mother is waiting up. I better go.” She gave him another quick hug and then kissed his bearded cheek, giggling as the wiry hairs tickled her. With one last, silent smile, she climbed out of the carriage, only pausing to look back at him one more time before trotting up the path toward her home.

Roger watched as his granddaughter ran up the path toward the two-story wooden house. She was the best thing in his life and it hurt that he would not see her for a year while he went to handle some matters in England. Forcing an emotion-filled lump from his throat, he called up to the carriage driver, “Take me home.” He closed his eyes and took a deep breath of the warm night air, smelling the hint of salt that saturated everything in the port city.

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Jayne waited outside her front door and watched as the carriage pulled away. When it disappeared from view, she pushed the door open and poked her head in. She knew that her father would already be asleep, because he was a very early riser. To avoid disturbing him, she crept silently into the house, gently letting the latch on the door catch after she closed it.

She poked her head into the living room where the single lamp burned, but her mother was not sitting in her favorite chair as she had expected. Jayne’s eyebrows furrowed and her blue eyes darted around the mostly dark room. Shadows danced on the walls from the flickering oil lamp, lending an eerie glow to the area. She entered the room, her eyes scanning, until she saw something odd sticking up from the end table next to her father’s chair.

She squinted into the darkness and made out the hilt of a dagger. Her heart pounded as she stood over the weapon, which was piercing a piece of parchment into the table. Her shaking fingers grasped the hilt and pulled it out of the wood. Shivering from a deep-rooted fright, she noticed the design of an eye on the tip of the hilt staring up at her in the gloom. She picked up the parchment and held it up to the light of the lamp. With her fear steadily increasing, she read the brief yet cryptic note.

Roger,

That’s two sons gone. I got what I came for. The secret will be mine.

Jack.

She dropped the paper as if it had burned her and began to cry. She was not sure of the meaning behind the note, but she could feel her heart begin to flutter in panic nonetheless, knowing that something terrible had occurred. Frantically, she started calling out for her parents, “Mother! Father! Where are you?” She picked up the lamp and looked around, shining the light around the opulent living room. There was nothing else out of the ordinary. She took a deep breath, gathered up her courage, and went out into the dark hallway. Still calling for her parents and receiving no answer, she headed back toward the kitchen.

With her heart racing, she cautiously edged her way into the large room and gingerly placed the lamp on the counter. Her eyes darted around, instantly distinguishing between object and shadow, but finding nothing strange. She sniffled back a sob and jumped as the lamp’s flame flickered in a sudden shot of light wind, sending shadows skittering along the walls in a dance macabre. Jayne shivered, feeling cold even in the muggy night air. The wind blew again, coming from the main hallway and she found herself moving in that direction without conscious thought.

She stopped at the doorway, her feet suddenly rooted to the spot in fear. The darkness beyond was impenetrable, a true black hole. Remembering the oil lamp, she turned back toward the counter to retrieve it. But before she could move one step, she felt a strong hand clasp over her mouth. She struggled, but the man’s strength was overpowering as he picked her up off the ground and carried her into the darkness. As the oppressive night began to engulf her, she heard his raspy voice whisper, “Just be a good girl, now,” sending shivers to her very core. The darkness surrounding her began to infiltrate her thoughts until all that she knew was the blackness and the sound of rushing blood streaming through her veins. And then, mercifully, she knew only darkness.
Chapter I
On board the Freedom of the Seas
March 1, 1692

Jayne Kingston slashed out with her cutlass at the opposing captain, drawing blood along his white shirt. The din of battle raged around her as her crew made quick work of the merchant sailors they were overrunning. Blocking the noise out, Jayne looked deeply into the weary eyes of the older man. She breathed in the excitement around her, letting it course through her veins to give her the determination she needed. With the quick adrenaline rush garnered from her circumstances, she stabbed the captain in the chest. Her sword sunk into his flesh easily, sending the blade straight through him and into the wooden ship deck. Jayne had to kick his lifeless form off her weapon to reclaim it. Only when she had wiped the metal clean on the captain’s pant leg did she hear her men chanting her name, “Jayne! Jayne!”

A bright smile touched her lips as she turned to her men. They were an interesting assortment of nationalities. Most were in their twenties, the life of a pirate generally being a short one. Many had been on the crew only two years earlier when William Near, captain of the Freedom of the Seas for a decade, was killed in a raid near Tortuga. It had been a tough transition and many had left the crew, but when the dust settled, Jayne, as Near’s de facto adopted daughter, was placed at the helm of the ship with a mostly loyal crew. Those who had stayed and did not support her as captain had either learned to respect her, however grudgingly, or had been thrown off the ship for mutiny. Jayne felt a swell of pride race through her as she watched the three dozen or so men around her, some bloodied from the battle with the Spanish gold ship, some simply drenched in the sweat of a hard-won battle. They were her family.

Her family. Ever since that day when One-Eyed Jack, the notorious pirate and scoundrel had killed her parents and raped her, depriving her of the innocence of childhood, she had been robbed of most of the family she was born into. Only her grandfather had remained. When word had reached him that his only remaining son had been killed, he had canceled his trip to England and stayed to help mend Jayne’s spirit. It had been hard on him too. First, his youngest son, John, had been reported killed in a ship attack, and then his oldest had been brutally murdered. Roger Kingston had found out, through the message left by Jack, that the notorious pirate had been responsible for both his son’s deaths. Jayne had watched as the pain of that loss all but destroyed her grandfather, but through dealing with her own pain and the scars left behind, she was unable to console the old man. At first it had driven a wedge between them that only the healing sands of time could begin to soothe, although never fully.

Not until almost two years later, after the emotional scars and physical reminders had begun to recede into the background, did Jayne begin to learn the truth behind that night. Dying from consumption, her grandfather had finally explained to her that Jack had been after the secret that lay in the family crypt just outside of Port Royal. Her grandfather had whispered with his last breaths that Jack must have found the journal containing the secret to opening the hidden room in the crypt. The journal was the key to opening the room, but no mention of the room’s mysterious location was contained in its pages. Roger had fixed his weary eyes on his granddaughter and charged her with finding the journal. Jack had the key but no idea where the lock was located. Only Jayne could possibly someday put the two pieces of that puzzle back together.

After her beloved grandfather died, Jayne quickly threw away the idea of finding the journal. She was buried finally in a pitfall of grief. With no one to look out for her, she had been forced to go out onto the streets and make a life for herself. At fourteen, she was destitute and alone, forced into a life of petty thievery with no desire to better herself. Somehow, she reasoned, she had been guilty of some unknown crime and now had to pay. She lived like that for more than a year until a chance meeting in a bar threw her into the life of William Near, a middle-aged pirate of some standing. He had taken one look at her and seen the pain in her eyes. As she stood, barely out of childhood, and cringed at the punishment he wanted to deal out after discovering her attempts to pickpocket him, he had smiled and offered her a path out of her darkness and into a whole new world filled with both light and dark, salvation and damnation. It had taken him a week of repeated meetings with her to convince her to join him aboard the Freedom, but, finally, his offer had been accepted and she had joined his crew, soon finding a skill and love for the life of a pirate. She had been crushed when he was killed, but this time she had a large family there to support her and she found a surprising strength in their bond, giving rise to a new woman–confident, fierce, powerful, yet loyal and loving in her own often reserved way.

That bond, in a way, allowed her the freedom to get in touch with her feelings, if only on the basest of levels. Over time, she had discovered the burning hatred that still smoldered in her soul against Jack. Nightmares had tortured her ever since that night, but with the chance to get in touch with the hatred that blackened her being, she felt those dreams only stoke the rage at her very core. Through that anger, she had renewed her desire to regain the family secret, needing to take something from Jack besides his life to exact revenge against all that he had stolen from her. Over the years that desire had grown steadily, filling her in a way that nothing else ever had, and giving her a purpose in life that managed to exclude everything else. Her determination was certainly frightening to those around her, scaring most of the crew away and leaving only a small group of close friends who understood her on a level that no one else ever had, and even that was only superficial.

Her flash of memories ceased as a hand clasped her shoulder and a broad smile showered admiration on her from the open face of her best friend and first officer, Xavier Roberts. “You did well, Captain.” His mellow voice called to her over the sound of the waves slapping at the side of the two boats tied off closely to one another. “The spoils from this one will hold us for quite a while.”

“That they will, Mister Roberts,” she grinned back at him before looking past his shoulder at her men. “Take the loot on board. When we’re finished offloading this vessel, sink it, and then we sail for Port Royal. I think we are due a celebration, don’t you?”

A resounding cheer from the nearby men was her answer as the crew bustled off to their assigned tasks. They had been at sea for six weeks and the chance to spend some of the money they would all receive for this victory was a welcome opportunity. Jayne smiled and shook her head in slight amusement at their almost childlike behavior as they ran around the deck and sang as they either dumped bodies overboard or transferred coffers of money onto the Freedom. Her blue eyes tracked back to Xavier, and she asked in a muted tone, “What were our casualties?”

Xavier answered in his thick British accent, “Andrews is dead and Highsmith has a terrible gash to his leg. Looks like he’ll lose it.” He ran a hand through his blonde hair, pulling the curly locks back into a tight ponytail at the base of his neck. “All in all, not bad actually, although losing our navigator is a major setback. We’ll have to find someone soon to replace him.”

Jayne nodded somberly and said, “Andrews has a sister at Port Royal. Make sure she gets his share and another share for the loss. We’ll drop Highsmith off at Todd’s. Pay him his share plus the 800 pieces of eight for the limb whether he loses it or not. Todd’ll find something for him to do.” She took a deep breath, letting her lungs fill with the tangy sea air and the acrid smell of blood that clung to everything around them. “We’ll divvy up the shares on the way home and then everyone gets a week to enjoy it before we set sail again. Okay?” Even after her two years as captain of the ship, she often sought out the approval and advice of Xavier, who seemed to understand the crew better than she ever could.

“That will be perfect, and I’ll be sure to handle Andrews and Highsmith, don’t worry.” He patted her arm and then turned to help a group of burly young men wrestle a large chest up out of the ship’s cargo hold.

Jayne let a lazy smile brush across her lips as she watched her men. Only minutes before they were fighting for their lives, savages in sailor’s garb. Now, they were a well-oiled machine, each with his own duties to perform. The transformation was amazing. And back in port, another side would be shown–the partying, drinking men that all pirates deep down were. A chill ran down her spine at the prospect. She had some partying herself to do, some frustrations to rid her soul of, and she knew exactly what, or better yet who, would do the trick. With a mischievous grin reaching up to her sparkling blue eyes, she jogged over to help another group work on bringing the spoils on board the Freedom. The sooner they reached Port Royal, the better.

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Kumpan Family Crypt, Braunschweig, Germany
March 1, 1692

Liesel Kumpan swiped at the tears running down her cheek to no avail. She cried every time she visited the marble tomb on her family’s grounds, but this time was different. She was near sobbing as she sat on the steps of the small structure, her green eyes hidden beneath the storm of tears overflowing from them. With gulping breaths, she managed to gain some control over her emotions and was able to speak to the building, as had become her practice ever since she was eight and they had buried her younger brother, Wolfgang, after the accident that she always felt was her fault. Now, with her mother having died only a month before, she had become a daily visitor to the stone monument, her monologues to the marble-walled building a comforting part of her routine, but that would be ending after this visit.

“Mama,” she gulped hard against her emotions and forced herself to focus, “I will miss you. Papa, Birgit, and I go away today. I can still not believe that he does this to us.” She shook her head to herself and took a long breath. “He makes us go to this city named Port Royal in the New World. He says it lies on an island. I wish not to go. He does not understand why I wish to stay here.”

She stood suddenly and began pacing, a habit she had picked up from one of her many tutors long ago, “What is there still for me? I must leave my books, my studies, you. And you too, dear Wolfie. He says it is an adventure, but he only wishes to leave his memories here. I do not wish to do so.” She pushed a lock of her sandy blonde hair out of her face and looked at the gardens around her. “He says he perhaps has someone for me to marry, a Dutchman who works for his new company. I do not wish to marry, never. I was not born for such things. You were always the one to know that.” Defeated, she slumped against the cool marble of the crypt and slid down it until she again sat on the step. A snorted chuckle erupted from her as she shook her head disgustedly, “I must do what he wishes, but I will never again be happy. I know that. Why, mama? Why have you left me? You were the only one who has understood me.”

Her head bowed, letting her long hair fall over her face as she once again let the tears erupt from the center of her pain. She sat like that for a while until she heard her father’s voice, deep and authoritative, calling to her from nearby, “Liesel, we must go now.” She would never understand how he could be so cruel.

She stood up and placed her hand on the stone wall surrounding the caskets of her mother and brother, “I will always love you. Goodbye Wolfie. Goodbye Mama.” She stood like that for a few seconds more before turning and facing her father’s cool face, now only a few paces from her. She took a long, steadying breath, and rushed past him, not giving him the satisfaction of seeing the pain etched into her features.

Her father, Johann, watched her until she disappeared down the path leading to their house. He spared one final glance at the crypt and then turned to follow his daughter, allowing the anger that his incorrigible child always seemed to raise in him simmer below the surface. It somehow helped to dull the rest of his pain.

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The Rusty Spoon, Port Royal
March 15, 1692

Jayne lifted her mug of ale and grinned broadly at the three men seated with her. They were some of her closest friends and always the same group that she socialized with while not on board their ship, spending most of their time in their favorite tavern, the Rusty Spoon. “To another successful voyage.” She clanked the metal mug with the other three outraised cups as the men let out a resounding agreement to her toast before letting the cool ale trickle down her parched throat. Tonight was a night to enjoy the spoils of their work. First, they would relax and drink, and later they would spend time with the women of John Starr’s whorehouse. Jayne had worked for him briefly as a runner and knew that John ran an honorable establishment. Her men were permitted to patronize his women and only his women, although she knew many did not follow this guideline. As for Jayne, she knew that a few of the women who worked at that whorehouse were quite fond of the Freedom’s newest captain’s affections, if only for a change of pace. The reason did not concern her; as with everything in her life, she simply took what opportunities came to her and used them to her advantage.

Xavier grinned at his captain, recognizing her restless expression. He had known her far too long to not see that she was looking forward to a night when she could relax and enjoy having someone take care of her for a change. Most of the captain’s time was occupied with caring for her men and the Freedom. Rarely did the young woman, who was not quite thirty, allow herself the chance to be pampered and Starr’s women were especially good at that. Xavier drained his cup and slammed it down hard on the table before looking at his companions, “So, we ready for a night of ecstasy?”

Thomas, a young man in his mid-twenties, chuckled and drained his mug in one long swallow, “Sounds good to me. I hope Charlotte’s available tonight. She’s real sweet, if you know what I mean.” A round of laughter followed his comment.

The boisterous atmosphere was quickly broken into by a loud voice ringing through the tavern, “You bitch, how dare you!” Jayne’s eyes tracked to a man and woman standing near the bar. Before she could work out what was going on, the man backhanded the smaller woman across the face. “If I’ll pay, then you’ll go with me,” he sneered at the woman who was now prone on the floor from the force of his blow. The sudden quiet in the bar allowed the muted sniffling of the young woman to travel to their table.

The burly man stood towering over the woman, “Get up, you worthless whore.” He kicked her in the ribs with one booted foot before reaching down to grab her by the hair and lift her back to her feet. The woman cowered from him as he raised his arm again to slap her, only to have a strong hand grasp him around his wrist and keep him from delivering the blow.

“Get your hands off her, you worthless piece of shit,” Jayne spat out through a clenched jaw. She used all her strength and pulled him around until they stood toe to toe. Jayne looked up at the large man, thinking that his size might be a problem in a fight, but believing she could take him anyway. That belief only grew as she felt the reassuring presence of her friends behind her. “Now, you are going to leave this establishment and never return, do you understand?”

“Or?” One cocky eyebrow shot up under his unkempt black hair. He tried to wrench his arm from her, but found that her fingers had grasped a particularly sensitive area on the underside of his wrist, making it extremely painful for him to even flex a muscle in his arm, let alone manage to pull away from her.

“Or,” Jayne’s smooth voice was a whisper only loud enough for the man and her friends to hear, “I will be happy to take your family jewels as my spoils from this fight, got it?” To emphasize her point, she pulled the dagger from her belt and dug the sharp tip into his groin hard enough for him to be severely uncomfortable.

“Yeah, yeah,” he hung his head, “I understand.” He sighed a large breath of relief when she resheathed the dagger and finally let his aching wrist go free. He shot her an angry look and went to say something when her comrades came to stand abreast of her, forming an impressive wall of well-armed opponents for the arrogant giant. He shook his head and quickly headed for the door, feeling Jayne’s piercing blue eyes on him the entire way.

Only when he was gone did Jayne turn her attention to the woman, who stood crying softly nearby. “Are you all right?” She laid a gentle hand on the woman’s shoulder.

“Yeah,” the young woman whispered as she wiped away the tears from her cheeks. “He scared me.” Her brown eyes shot around the room before she leaned in to say even softer, “I’m new at this. My husband died and I needed some way to make money.”

Jayne squeezed the young woman’s shoulder and smiled, “Well, I can understand that. Come with us. We’ll take you somewhere you’ll be able to at least refuse anyone you want.” John Starr had so many clients that his women were able to pick and choose whom they accepted into their beds. It made for a better experience on all sides. “Our friend will look out for you, I promise.”

The woman nodded silently and let herself be steered out into the street. Jayne’s three compatriots followed, their libidos slightly dampened by the scene they had witnessed. Jayne, for her part, would enjoy this night regardless of what scum they ran up against. She needed the break from always being the one in charge, if only for a night.

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On board the Hyperion, Amsterdam
March 15, 1692

Liesel and her younger sister, Birgit, stood on the deck of the ship that was to take them to the New World, the Hyperion. It was a rather large vessel, larger than any Liesel had ever seen, but it did not carry many passengers. This, combined with the ruggedness of their destination meant that the sisters were the only women on board for this Atlantic crossing, a point that had not gone unnoticed by their strict and overbearing father. He had made it quite clear that they were to steer clear of the crew. He was banking on their virtue and the ability to marry them both off in the near future too much to have them risk it with a bunch of rowdy sailors.

Liesel knew that her father was embarrassed that he had not yet seen his eighteen year-old daughter down the aisle in a time and society when girls were usually mothers by her age. Birgit, at fourteen, could easily wait another two years before she, too, would be traded for some business favor into a marriage not of her choice. It made the older sister sick to her stomach when she allowed herself to ponder the fact that she seemed to be little more than a business transaction for her father. She could not remember the last time he had said that he loved her or done anything special with her. Since she was a child–no, since Wolfgang died while they were playing by the river without supervision–her father had always seemed to have it in for her. She knew it was at least partially due to him blaming her for his only son’s death. He had no heir now, no one to carry on his legacy. On top of that, she was a burden to him with her interest in intellectual pursuits, and he had allowed it only because her mother had supported her. Now, with that influence gone, he expected her to be the dutiful daughter by giving up her studies and agreeing to whomever he chose as her husband. At least marriage would get her out of his house. There was a silver lining to every dark cloud she supposed.

“Are you not excited?” Birgit asked as the young girl’s eyes danced over the ship. The bustle of the crew as they prepared the sails for their departure had held Liesel’s interest for all of a minute when they first boarded, but obviously her younger sister was taken up in the excitement of their new adventure.

Liesel shrugged, not wanting to let anyone know that part of her relished this chance at an adventure. The only thing keeping her sane was allowing herself to believe that she was taking part in a voyage to somewhere new and slightly dangerous, like many of the heroes in the books she had read over the years. This was her one chance to take part in something akin to those experiences she had read about, and, although she knew that in the end it would be dreadfully boring on the whole, the belief that this whole trip was less than routine did cause some butterflies of excitement to dance in her stomach. Only her foolish pride would not let that internal excitement be shown to anyone, especially not to her father. She would be letting him win if he knew.

“I am realistic Birg,” Liesel finally said, suppressing any emotion from her voice. “The next six weeks will be dreadfully boring. We have little to do and are trapped in this ship.” She shook her head and said a bit harshly, “And I will not spend the time to practice my knitting.”

“That is exactly what you will do,” her father’s deep growl made her jump as it came from behind her. “You have now enough time to work on those skills that were avoided your life long. No one will have you as a wife when you cannot do the simplest of tasks. Your sister will help, right Birgit?”

The younger girl nodded rapidly, “Of course, I love knitting and sewing. I will be happy to help you.” Liesel did not reply, not trusting herself to keep from spewing a stinging retort to the conversation going on around her.

“Great,” her father smiled. “Now, you two must go below. We leave soon, and I am sure it is better when we are not in their way.” He held his arms out, one to each daughter, for them to take. Once they had both folded their arms into their father’s grasp, Liesel much more reluctantly than Birgit, Johann guided them toward the steps leading down to their suite of cabins. Before entering the narrow doorway leading below decks, Liesel ventured one last look at the Amsterdam docks and swallowed hard. She knew it would be her last look at Europe, ever. She missed it already.
Chapter II
The Rusty Spoon, Port Royal
March 18, 1692

“Stimey’s in jail?” Jayne asked with a disbelieving glance at Xavier. “But he’s got a family. He wouldn’t risk that.” She shook her head slightly as her thoughts raced as to what to do. Jan Stijbuiten, or Stimey to his friends, had been their navigator for five years until he decided to hang up his cutlass and marry a woman he had been seeing on shore leaves for almost the entire time he had been on the Freedom. A year later, he had just welcomed his first child, a strapping son, and was making a name for himself as a mapmaker with his own business. To hear that he was in trouble came as a complete surprise.

“He beat up a British officer,” Xavier replied dryly before taking a long sip of cool ale. He had been wandering the streets when Jan’s wife, Martha, had found him and begged him for help. He had rushed back to the Rusty Spoon to find Jayne and see what they could do. “Martha says they’ll send him away to a work colony for twenty years if he’s found guilty, which he is.”

“Okay,” the captain let out a long breath as a plan clicked into place in her mind, “we’ll have to get him out. But that means us leaving Port Royal and going on the run for a while. I don’t want to push that no pursuit standing order, but I think we’ll be okay once we’re back on board. Just means no shore leaves for a few weeks at least. We’ll need to round everyone up and have them safely on board before we try this.” Her long fingers tapped on the table in a tattoo of aggravation. “I’ll pose as his sister and get in there tomorrow to let him know what’s happening. If he doesn’t want to escape, we won’t be able to force him. You start rounding up the men tonight and tell them that they are to be back on the ship by sundown tomorrow or we leave them behind. Got it?”

Xavier was lost in thought and did not answer her immediately. He jerked back to reality when she punched him lightly in the shoulder, “Oh, right, sundown. Got it.” He hummed to himself quietly before asking, “What are you going to do with Stimey once you get him out?”

A mischievous grin crept slowly onto her lips, “Simple. We need a navigator, don’t we? You did say that we needed to find someone to replace Andrews. I think we might have found our man. I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse if he wants to have a chance to be with his family.”

Xavier’s gray eyes lit up at the plan, “Yeah, it’ll be good to have ole Stimey back with us. Things just haven’t been the same without him.”

Jayne nodded and quickly drained the last of her ale from the mug clenched in her hand. “Okay, let’s get this plan going. We’ll meet back here at sundown. I’ll talk to Todd and make sure we have a place to meet in private tonight to hash out the rest of the plan. You just worry about getting everyone back on board. I have to get back to the ship to get something to wear tomorrow.” She looked down at her clothes and smirked. She wore black pants tucked into thigh-high leather boots. Her white shirt was covered with a red sash that protected her waist from the large belt housing her cutlass and two pistols stuck out of the matching bandoleer that she wore over her left shoulder. “Somehow I don’t think pirate duds are standard for proper young women nowadays.”

Xavier laughed as he stood to begin the long process of visiting every bar and whorehouse in the city to make sure the word got out to the crew that they needed to be back on board the following day. “No, I don’t suppose it is. You’ve got that one dress, the blue one with the white sleeves. That seems proper enough.” He shrugged as he fixed the tie in his hair at the nape of his neck. “See you tonight.”

Jayne watched him leave and then chuckled to herself, “The blue one? Xav, you spend entirely too much time with the wrong women. I’d spend most of tomorrow turning down offers of a good time and a few doubloons.” She shook her head and wandered over to the bar, holding her mug out to the large man working there, “Hey, Todd. We need a room tonight at sundown. Got one we can use?”

The burly man turned and showered Jayne with a broad smile, showing off a crooked set of teeth, “You betcha, Jayne. Ya know that I’d do anything for ya.”

“Yeah, Todd, I do know that. And I appreciate it.” She smiled back at him, feeling more at home here than anywhere else on dry land. Todd had always favored the crew of the Freedom, even after Captain Near’s death, and he welcomed them warmly every time they sailed into port. Without that type of reception, Jayne mused, she would rarely leave her ship. Here she had someplace safe to relax with her friends and catch up on the gossip of the greatest hotbed of pirate activity in the Caribbean. It was a perfect situation. “Well, I’ll see you later, Todd. I think I need to go get some shopping done. Seems I need a new dress, ’cause none of the ones I own are conservative enough for something I have to handle.”

The tavern owner’s stomach rumbled to announce a large bellow of laughter that soon erupted from his mouth, “Oh, that I’d like to see, lassie–you in some womanly outfit. Do we get a show later?”

“Don’t press your luck,” Jayne flashed him a glance that was half menacing, half jovial. Finally, she let a smile creep onto her mouth as she picked up an apple from the pile Todd was washing and tossed it once in her hand, “See you tonight.” She kept tossing the fruit into the air from hand to hand as she walked out into the streets to begin searching for the perfect outfit.
=-=-=-=-=
Port Royal Prison
March 19, 1692

Jayne stood outside the prison and scratched at her neck. The dress she had picked out seemed to fit the bill precisely. It was long, conservatively cut, in a nice shade of deep tan with a matching parasol. It had seemed to be exactly what she needed. She had not considered how scratchy the material would be, especially around her neck, which was used to being covered by the white, open-necked cotton shirts that she preferred for her grueling work on board ship. The close fitting material felt like an iron cast around her body, making breathing much more difficult than normal. “Just one more reason to get this over with,” she mumbled to herself as she entered the door to the prison office.

The room was dark even with the light streaming from a high, barred window and torches lining the walls. The thick stone of the building trapped moisture in and the room was quite cold, making it seem as if the afternoon sun of early spring were not shining in the skies above. Jayne felt a shiver run down her spine, although she was not sure whether that was because of the cold or because she was in a jail that she imagined someday could hold her. Often, when she lay awake at night, the fear that constantly warred just outside her conscious thought seeped in. It was at those most vulnerable times that she realized she had enough enemies in the British navy and administration to make her dread the future that could one day lead to this very prison and the gallows out on Hangman’s Point. She was not one of the privileged pirates supported by a government and given a letter of marquee, allowing them to raid the enemy’s ships. She was an independent buccaneer, out to make fame and fortune for herself, but most importantly, out for personal revenge on the scourge of her life, One-Eyed Jack. Just the thought of him made the shivers running down her spine intensify until she blanked out her mind and took a long breath of the damp air in the room. She noticed a young man, staring at her from behind his desk. “You gonna stand there all day, lady?”

“Oh, no, sorry.” She affected a slight non-descript accent that she hoped could pass for Dutch and fanned herself with one gloved hand as if to recover from some quick swooning spell. She smiled at the young soldier behind the desk and said, “I would like to see my brother, Jan Stijbuiten. I have been told that he is being held here.”

“Your name?” The young man moistened a long quill in an inkpot and poised the feather over a bound book on his desk waiting for her answer.

“Anna Stijbuiten, I am his sister.” Jayne almost laughed at the picture she was sure she was making–nervous, slightly ditzy, confused. It was a perfect cover and certainly not the attitude of one of the Caribbean’s most notorious pirates. While she waited for him to scribble the name down, she glanced around the room until her eyes fell on a wanted poster that bore her name. Worth 100 pounds? That’s all? At least the drawing of her was bad in the extreme. It gave her an almost perverse gratification to know that she could so easily slip in under their noses without standing a chance of being recognized, especially in the ridiculous dress she was wearing.

“You can go back. He’s at the end of the hall,” the young man motioned with his hand toward the long, dark hallway leading back to the cells.

“Thank you,” she smiled before bustling down the hallway, the sounds of her skirt swishing barely audible under the sudden noises of the cells she could see coming into view. Stimey, you poor bastard. This is pathetic. No one should have to live like this, even for a few days. She grinned to herself, realizing that he would be more likely to take her offer after having spent a few days in the dank and dreary confines of the Port Royal prison. With a confident bounce in her step she approached Stimey’s cell, noting the almost overpowering smell of human waste and unwashed bodies.

She leaned up against the bars and squinted into the dreary depths of the small cell looking for her friend. In an attempt to avoid giving herself away, she announced loudly, “Jan, brother, are you in there?” She waited, at first not hearing anything, until a quiet shuffle of feet made her focus on a shifting shadow coming from the back corner. She smiled, focusing her attention on the form that was slowly resolving itself into the wiry frame of her friend, “It is me, your sister Anna. I have come to see you.” She emphasized each word and prayed that he would catch on quickly.

“Anna?” his deep voice seemed to barely hold off a deep chuckle. As he approached the bars, a slight smirk could be seen on his thin lips. “It’s good to see you, sister.” This time he could not keep himself from laughing. His bony hands grasped the bars as he leaned in close to Jayne, his voice now barely a whisper, “Sister?”

Jayne’s eyes darted around, looking for any eavesdroppers. Satisfied that they could speak in private, she grinned broadly, “Somehow I don’t think they’d let me in if they knew who I really was.”

“Well,” Stimey shrugged good-naturedly, “they’d let you in, but on a more permanent basis. How are you old friend?” He reached between the bars and clasped her shoulder firmly. “It’s been quite a while.”

“Yes, it has.” She glanced around quickly again before whispering, “I’m here to get you out, if you want. We’ll spring you tomorrow. I’ve got it all planned.”

“What’s the catch?” Stimey moved away from the cell bars and crossed his arms, waiting to hear the price of his freedom.

“One year as my navigator, that’s it.” She tilted her head to the side as she shrugged, “Sure sounds better than twenty at some work colony, if you ask me.”

“Well, I didn’t,” he spat and paced back and forth a few times, shaking his head in time with his steps. Finally he came up to Jayne, his face pressed up to the bars, “I wanted to get away from pirating, lead an honorable and legal life for my son. I should do the right thing and just serve my time. At least then I could look my son in the eye.”

“Yeah,” the captain’s dry tone rang with sarcasm, “when he’s a grown man the next time you see him. Stimey, he doesn’t even have to know. One year, that’s it. Then you’re free and clear and maybe, just maybe, a bit richer.”

“Or dead,” the man’s voice was flat, resigned to his fate, whichever he chose. He took a few long breaths, giving himself time to consider his two options, liking neither very much. “All right, get me out of here. But one year and that’s all. You bring me back here to Port Royal in exactly one year and I don’t ever want to hear about me sailing with you again, understood?”

“Clear as a bell.” Once again her pale blue eyes shot around the cell area, looking for anyone that could overhear her. Finding noone, she whispered to her friend, “Okay, tomorrow when they have you guys outside for your little walk around the yard, we’ll come in and get you. Just stay at the far end, okay?”

Jan leaned heavily on the bars, his eyes focused squarely on the floor at his feet. With a defeated tone, he answered, “All right.” When he finally looked up a minute later, he noticed that Jayne had already left. “You are such an idiot, Jan, an absolute idiot. So, this is what you get for defending a woman’s honor? A year on the ship of the damned.” He sighed heavily and walked back to his place at the back of the cell to sleep until it was time for the slop they called dinner.
=-=-=-=-=
Port Royal Prison
March 20, 1692

The morning was cool as Jayne waited for the signal from the lookout telling her it was time for the small contingent of pirates to make their move on the prison. She always enjoyed this time before an attack the most. The anticipation heightened her adrenaline and she felt like she was floating on clouds. It was pure euphoria and always difficult to keep her head about her enough to recognize the exact point when an attack needed to take place, which is why she made sure to put one of her most level-headed crewmen in charge of signalling the attack. She looked over to Xavier, who knelt next to her just outside the prison wall, and smiled at the impish grin that lit up his tan face. He obviously enjoyed moments like this just as much as she did.

The chance to revel in the boisterous feelings of anticipation quickly passed as her lookout waved his hand in her direction. She nodded to Xavier and the four other men near her and they scrambled from their hiding places to quickly storm up the stairs to the guard post on the exercise yard wall. They had watched the guard patterns most of the day before and had noticed the two-minute intervals when the stairway up onto the wall was out of the guards’ line of sight. It took them only a minute to get up to the top of the stairs, allowing them to then wait for the guards to pass by their location and take them out.

The pair of guards were talking with one another when they were quickly pulled into the stairway and knocked unconscious by Jayne and Xavier. With this obstacle out of the way, they swiftly skittered along the wall to take out the guards on the other side. Jayne looked around and smiled as she noticed her men, now dressed in the uniforms of the unconscious guards, taking up the positions on the wall. A quiet sigh of relief escaped her lips as she peered below to see the prisoners being led into the yard. She grinned over at Xavier, who knelt next to her again, his pistol drawn and ready, “That was a close one. Here they come.” She pulled the coil of rope off her shoulder and went about preparing it in the safety of the waist-high wall around the guard’s catwalk. When she had it ready, she nodded silently to Xavier and looked over at her men across the yard. They were watching the guards stationed among the prisoners intently and fingering their weapons nervously, as if concerned that something might happen in the yard below. Jayne chuckled quietly, “Those two are great actors.” She motioned with her head to the pair and heard Xavier chuckle as he noticed it too.

A few moments passed as they waited for Jan to be near Jayne’s location on the wall. When he was finally within a few feet of her position, the four pirates masquerading as guards started shooting at the handful of guards within the yard. Guards and prisoners alike scurried for cover as Jayne and Xavier jumped into action. They tossed the rope over the side of the wall and held tight as Jan quickly began scaling the two story stone surface. One of the guards in the courtyard tried to take Jan out, but his shot went astray when he was hit in the shoulder by a bullet from Jayne’s pistol. No one else made a similar attempt and soon Jan was pulling himself over the edge of the wall. He grinned at the pair waiting for him, “Nice to see you.”

“You too,” Jayne grinned as she patted him on the arm. She could hear shouts coming from the streets below as they began to make their way to the staircase and their only chance for escape. Gunfire erupted nearby and she smiled broadly, knowing that the men she had left scattered in the streets near the prison were handling the soldiers sent out to stop them from escaping. Recklessly, she motioned for her men to follow her down the steps without so much as a pause to gauge the danger below, hoping that her crew had managed to keep the soldiers away from this side of the exercise yard. She was relieved as she jumped off the last step with her pistol drawn, to see it completely empty. She turned to the small group of pirates behind her and motioned with her head down the alley they had chosen as their path to the docks.

The group ran full out, pausing only at intersections to check for trouble. Xavier pulled up next to Jayne at the last set of houses before the docks, where their longboats were waiting, and chuckled through his heavy breathing, “Guess our boys did well.”

“Yeah, they did.” Her blue eyes darted around the docks, noticing a few soldiers and navy men near a far off British vessel being fitted for repairs. None of them seemed to be paying any attention to the area, so she motioned for the men to proceed her to the longboat. Finally, only she and Jan remained in the protection of the houses along the port. “Get going, Jan,” she hissed at him, her eyes still warily glancing at the men by the British ship every few seconds.

“Jayne, I’ve been thinking,” he swallowed hard and took a long breath. “I’m grateful for you getting me out and all, but I don’t want to die out there. I have a son to think about.” He shrugged and smiled weakly at her.

Jayne stood stock still for a moment before she turned on the Dutchman and had him pinned to the building in the blink of an eye, “What?” She did not expect an answer, so she simply pressed her elbow into his windpipe firmly and continued, “I risked my life and the life of my crew to get your sorry ass out of jail. You don’t want to die? Well, right now your choices are come with us or die, because believe you me, I will kill you this instant rather than let you go.” She moved up next to him until her eyes were only inches from his, their breaths mixing in proximity, “You got it?”

Jan’s hazel eyes blinked at her and she could feel him shake at the intensity of her hold. Slowly, as if he were drugged, he nodded his head and croaked out his answer, “I’ll come with you.”

Jayne held him a moment more, her eyes boring into his, before she relaxed her grip and gave him a slight shove, “Next time you say you are leaving before the year is up I won’t give you that choice. I won’t have my crew and especially my friends crossing me, do you understand?”

Jan held his tender throat by one hand as he drew in a labored breath. “Yeah, I understand,” he muttered under his breath, just loud enough for her to hear.

“Good,” she peered around the corner of the building to make sure it was still safe to cross to their escape boat. “Coast is still clear. Get moving.” She pushed him with her left hand and clenched her pistol in her right as they walked quickly toward the longboat holding Xavier and the others.
=-=-=-=-=
On board the Freedom, Kingston Harbor
March 20, 1692

“Think you can remember where everything is?” Jayne grinned broadly at Jan as he stood looking around the deck. She knew that he was angry with her for forcing him to fulfill his part of the bargain, but she had to find a way to make him feel at ease as quickly as possible and humor was always a good weapon.

“Yeah,” he grumbled under his breath as he continued to take in the crew bustling about in their attempts to get the ship ready for departure. There was no extreme hurry because the government of Port Royal was considered tolerant of pirates and everyone knew that once they were on board the Freedom they would be safe from the authorities. Besides, like any good bureaucracy, it could easily be days before the navy received orders to pursue. But even with this safety net, they all felt a need to be away from a city where they were now wanted criminals.

“Good,” Jayne grinned as she patted his shoulder. “You can share Xavier’s cabin. Your wife gave me some clothes yesterday when I went to see her. They’re already in there.” She turned to go about her business when she was stopped by Jan’s hand on her arm.

“You saw Martha? She knows?” He was obviously uncomfortable with the idea.

“Yeah,” Jayne answered quietly. “She was okay with it. I promised her we’d be in port occasionally so you’d be able to see her. The Brits will forget about you in a few days and you’ll be safe to return home when you can.” She patted his arm affectionately and then turned toward the large group of men collected near the mizzenmast. “Gather everyone up on deck!”

Quickly, men scurried out from below deck and climbed down off the masts to gather around their captain, who stood with Xavier and Jan in the center of the circle of men. Jayne looked around, making eye contact with as many of the sailors as possible. It always seemed to win them over to her side when she made them feel as if she at least knew of their existence. She always did more than that, calling each by their name as much as possible so they would feel important, because, as she often told others, each and every one was. Not only did they help keep her alive and in business, they each had equal say in matters of the ship and she would now need their support for what she had planned.

“If there are no protests,” she began, “we are sailing after One-Eyed Jack. Reports have him in the Leeward Islands so we’ll look for him there. He has hurt many of us and continues to spread rumors about this ship and her crew that have harmed us all. He must be stopped.” She looked around, noticing those that seemed to be nodding their approval, but making special note of those grumbling noticeably to their compatriots. “Are there any protests?”

“I protest,” said a voice from the back of one knot of pirates. Soon a man of medium height and build stepped forward, followed by four more. They stood, arms crossed, on the interior of the circle of men and waited for her answer. No one else ventured forward.

She recognized them as newer crewmembers, all having come on board within the last year. “Well, Mister Young,” she addressed her comments to the leader, “it seems as if you are outvoted. If you do not wish to take part in this mission, you are welcome to leave. I will spare a longboat. You will, of course, risk the wrath of the soldiers looking for members of this crew on shore. Your choice.” She stood with one hand absently playing with the small key that hung at her neck and waited for an answer.

The five men conferred quickly and then their leader, Young, turned back to Jayne. “Aye, Captain. We will disembark immediately.” He did not dare to break his gaze from hers, obviously needing to feel more like Jayne’s equal to save face.

Jayne stared at him for a long moment, understanding his desire to stay safe. After all, no one had ever defeated Jack and they all knew it. In fact, the crew had long ago heard that Jack was after them, and more specifically their captain. Even if they did not go in search of him, it was only a matter of time until the devious pirate found them. He had scouts everywhere throughout the Caribbean. For many, especially those who did not feel a kinship with the crew, the danger outweighted the payoff.

Finally, Jayne nodded and turned to a group of men off to her right, “Away the longboat. Take them to shore and come straight back. We sail for the Leeward Islands at dusk.” She watched as the men, knowing they were short on time, quickly went about their work of preparing the small boat that lay strapped to the main deck.

“Get back to work everyone,” she said as she turned and looked at Jan and Xavier. “You two with me.” She smiled slightly as she headed for her cabin to prepare for the journey. Now, with Jan on board, they would have an excellent tactical advantage against Jack. Jan’s skills as a navigator were legendary and he knew every island and coral reef from Belize to Barbados. She would have to rely on such skill from her crew. Jack was more experienced, more devious, and had better connections. Loyalty to one another and a few tricks up their sleeves were the only advantages they had. They would need that and a healthy dose of luck to prevail against the Cyclops of the Seas.
Chapter III
Governor’s House, Port Royal
March 23, 1692

Captain Ian Witherspoon straightened his uniform and fluffed at his shoulder-length brunette wig. Getting a chance to speak with the governor was rare, and Ian wanted to make a good impression. He had been trying for over a year to have action taken against Jayne Kingston, but the governor had been reluctant to stir up any trouble against the pirates. They were, after all, responsible for much of the economic success of Port Royal because a large number of them had chosen to call the port city in the south of Jamaica home. And, as had often been pointed out in meetings, having so many well-armed vessels in the harbor tended to discourage would-be attackers from trying to take the town.

As Ian waited to be given entrance to the governor’s study, he went over his argument to finally put a proper bounty on Jayne’s head. For the naval captain it was more personal, but he could not allow the governor to realize that. Ian had lost his son in one of Jayne’s raids on a British merchant vessel in the days after she took command of the Freedom. Since then, Ian had personally made every effort to find something that would bring the long arm of the law to bear against the most notorious woman in the Caribbean. Now that he had eye witness proof that she had helped a prisoner escape, he was sure that he would be given the resources necessary to arrest her. Of course, he mused to himself, if she should be killed during our attempts to bring her in, that wouldn’t be all that bad.

He was jarred from his thoughts when a well-dressed butler came into the room and said, “His Excellency will see you now.”

Ian smiled, tucking the portfolio containing his plans for Jayne’s capture under his arm, and walked briskly into the governor’s study. He stopped short of the old man’s desk and waited silently, as he had been taught to do early on in his military career. Now, as one of the navy’s ranking officers in Jamaica, he was not accustomed to such acts of deference, but he was still able to play the game when it suited his purposes.

“Ah, Captain Witherspoon,” the white-wigged man smiled broadly as he motioned toward a leather chair near his desk. “Please, have a seat. Can I offer you a drink?” He quirked a white eyebrow in the naval officer’s direction.

“No, thank you.” Ian quickly seated himself and positioned his portfolio on his lap. “I don’t want to take up too much of your time, Your Excellency, but we have a problem and I need your authority to pursue it.”

“Oh?” The governor leaned back in his chair, completely comfortable in his luxurious office, and steepled his wizened hands thoughtfully. “Do tell.”

“Jayne Kingston, the notorious pirate, helped a prisoner escape three days ago. Both she and the prisoner got away before we could find them and we were unable to pursue her ship because of the standing order against pursuit of pirates.” He cleared his throat, preparing himself to make his pitch. “Two guards were killed in the escape and four others injured. The prisoner that escaped was in there because he had assaulted a British soldier, an officer.” He paused, waiting to see if the governor would jump in, but when he remained silent, he completed his plea. “I need your authority to go after her and to raise the reward for her capture. When pirates attack us so directly, we can no longer sit aside and let that happen.”

The governor picked up his glass of brandy and swirled the brown liquid in the broad glass while staring at it thoughtfully. Finally, after almost a minute of silence, the governor looked up at Ian and asked, “Do you have proof that it was Kingston?”

“Yes, sir.” Ian quickly flipped his portfolio open and pulled out two pieces of parchment. He handed them to the ruler of Jamaica and explained, “One of those is testimony from two different soldiers that saw her during the escape. The other is testimony that the prisoner, Jan Stijbuiten, was the navigator on her ship, the Freedom, until a year ago.”

The older man nodded thoughtfully as he glanced over the two documents. “They seem in order,” he noted as his pale gray eyes fixed on the naval captain. “What do you suggest?”

“Well,” Ian began as he pulled out a final document from his portfolio, “I thought first of all, we should raise the bounty on her head. Right now it stands at one hundred pounds. I would like to double that if you have no objections.” When the governor nodded his approval, Ian smiled and continued with more assurance. “Also, I’d like to go after her. My crew is rusty and needs a cruise to sharpen their skills anyway. I thought it would be perfect to have us chase after Captain Kingston.” He finished the last sentence with an odd tone, making it seem somewhere between a statement and a question.

“Agreed,” the governor nodded. “I think that is a splendid idea. I assume you have someone to fill your shoes in the administration. I know that you are quite useful to the navy on shore.” He seemed to be saying something more with this statement, but Ian obviously did not notice.

“Yes, sir. My assistant will do fine without me. He is quite capable.” He closed his portfolio and then asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?”

The governor paused as if to say something and then shook his head, “No, there is nothing. Go find this Jayne Kingston and bring her back, dead or alive, although alive would be preferable. A good hanging would be wonderful to keep these pirates from acting up.” He smiled menacingly, letting his uneven teeth shine through thin, pale lips.

“Agreed,” Ian smiled and stood, standing momentarily at attention before hurrying out of the governor’s office and out into the spring sunshine. When he was almost to the street and his carriage, he looked up at the sky and said, “I’ll get her for you, son. I promise.” He laughed quietly and then entered his carriage, a broad smile never leaving his face.
=-=-=-=-=
On board the Hyperion
April 3, 1692

Liesel ran into her cabin with tears staining her cheeks. She slammed the wooden door behind her and threw herself on her bed, letting the tears continue to spill from her eyes. She pounded hard on the bed, and began ranting aloud, “He does not understand. How can he expect that I marry? I was not born for such things.” She repeated these words over and over until, finally, the tears ended their track down her face and she rolled over onto her back to stare thoughtfully at the ceiling.

She had never once seriously considered being married. She had no desire to be shackled to a house and husband and knew that she would not likely find a man who understood her need for the adventure of knowledge. She had never been allowed to go out and experience things for herself, so books and learning had become the lands in which she traveled. Now, with the prospect of her father finding her a husband, she feared for the end of those adventures. She had already been forced to leave the majority of her books behind in Braunschweig. Her father, in dismissing the hundreds of volumes that she had collected since she was a young child, had told her to pack only those that she could cram in with her clothes. She had chosen carefully, spending many days crying over the books and the friends she had found within their pages that she would have to leave behind.

Now, sitting in her cabin, she reached for one of the few volumes she had managed to fit in with her other belongings. It had been her favorite since she had stumbled upon it four years before during one of her frequent treks through her uncle’s bookstore. It was an old volume, a translation of an autobiographical Indian text, telling the story of a young warrior prince named Shakti, how he had ruled his land, and what he had learned from a wizened old peacemaker, Arminestra. Every time she read through the pages, she felt as if she were hearing a familiar story, one that she had heard many times before, yet told in a different manner. The first time she had read it, she had known what would happen in some of the passages pages before she would find the outcome. Something about them, perhaps their ideals of ultimate peace and love, touched her deep inside. She always found herself reaching for the familiar volume whenever her father was particularly mean to her. The words of the prince seemed to sooth her soul in a way no other balm could manage.

Smiling, she held it to her chest, imagining that she could see the proud young prince and the old peacemaker speaking about how to end war and hatred in their province. They would be sitting close, hip to hip as if joined there physically or at least spiritually, devoid of any worry concerning propriety, and whispering to one another, going over the various warriors who seemed to always attempt to wreck havoc with the citizens of the area. Shakti would listen intently to the old woman, feeling an immense sense of almost worship just by being in her presence. As they would conclude their talk about the need to end the war and let the prosperity of peace fill the hearts of all the men of their region, Shakti would smile a rakish grin that would be answered with a caring look from the old woman, who would lay one wrinkled hand on the young man’s face, stroking the cheek with her thumb, an action born out of a love and respect that shot through the two of them. Arminestra would nod, sending the young warrior out to fight for goodness, not particularly enjoying the fact that he had to use violence to end violence, but understanding that some acts of evil had to be stopped with force. Sitting alone, after the young man had left to foil another warlord, Arminestra would close her eyes and pray to the gods for the young soul, so innocent and yet so experienced in many ways, and for the peace and love that he fought for.

She could almost feel the bond that must have existed between the two, having spent hours going over the ending of the book where the young prince spoke of their connection. It had taken them time to discover the depth of their bond, feeling it inexplicably for longer than reason dictated. And then, one day, Arminestra had discovered a large wooden box with a symbol burned into it that had brought a spark of memory, not of that life, but of one previous, when she had been someone totally different, a warrior. Showing the symbol to Shakti had brought a similiar shot of recognition, finally answering the question they had both been asking since they had first felt the force that seemed to pull them together–they had known each other in a previous life, had in fact been lovers, and were destined to find one another again and again.

Liesel sighed loudly and opened her eyes. She had often spent hours on end pondering their bond. Her fingers caressed the leather volume in her hand and she flopped onto her stomach on the bed, continuing to smile as she always did when she held the prized volume. “There was such love between them.” She shook her head slightly, “Why do such relationships no longer exist?” She sighed, placing the book back on the small table they used as a nightstand, and sat up. “I wonder if they ever did find each other again? I hope so.”

“Not more of your stories.” She jerked her head up as she heard her father sneer the words at her. He stood in the doorway, an angry scowl on his face.

“I,” she swallowed hard, recognizing the anger in his body language, “I am just coming for dinner.” She stood and smoothed out her skirt, but did not make any move toward the door and her father.

Johann balled his fists and approached his daughter, “I should throw that goddamned book in the sea.” Without warning he struck his daughter across the face, smiling slightly at the loud crack his palm made against her cheek. “You made yourself late for dinner because of that? You know we are to dine with the captain tonight. How could you dare to be late? Do you not know how that makes me look?” His face was red as he stood only inches from his daughter, breathing hard from his anger.

A tear ran down Liesel’s hot, red cheek. “I am sorry, Papa. It will not happen again.” She lowered her eyes in deference to him, hoping to placate him with the sign of obedience.

“You are right. It will not happen again.” He turned his back to her to keep himself from striking her again. He knew that if he did, he risked injuring her, and that would further damage his reputation. “If you are late one more time I will throw that book from this ship. Understand?”

“Yes, Papa,” she said quietly, her eyes shooting to the book, trying to take comfort in its presence. She would forgive him, as she had every other time he had struck her. It was the lesson of those pages to forgive those that did not know any other way than violence. She would never understand how he could hurt her, but she could forgive him. It was her gift to her father.

Johann nodded, not saying anything else, and left the small cabin. Liesel stood rooted to her spot, shaking from the confrontation. Sighing loudly, she went over to the water basin and splashed the cooling liquid over her face, hoping to lessen the redness and wipe away the tearstains on her cheeks. Looking into the small mirror on the basin stand, she was satisfied with her appearance and quickly went to the door. Yes, she would forgive him, as the stories in her beloved book told her, but she would also continue to defy him where she could. Some values, as Shakti and Arminestra found out together, were worth fighting for.
=-=-=-=-=
The Wharf Rat, Port Royal
April 9, 1692

Alberto Rigeberto swirled his ale around in his mug, watching the froth of the drink dance up the sides of the metal and occasionally spill in small droplets over the side. He was sitting in the dark bar with his friend, Nathan Young, hearing about the confrontation over One-Eyed Jack that had led to his leaving Jayne’s crew. Alberto had heard much about both Jayne and Jack in the three years he had been in the Caribbean. He had come to Port Royal from Venice looking for adventure that was never to be found. Instead, he had found work repairing ships in the port, but it was unfulfilling, and he continuously longed for the adventures that friends like Nathan always seemed to have.

“I cannot understand it how you could leave,” he said to his British friend. They had met only days before when Nathan had come to the shipyard seeking work until he could find another ship, one on less of a suicidal mission, to set sail on.

“The woman is crazy. She’s got a screw loose if you ask me.” The sailor shrugged and took a long draught on his mug. “I wasn’t going to toss my life down the drain just for her revenge. One-Eyed Jack will eat her alive.”

They both jumped when they heard a gravelly voice behind them, “You can say that again.” Both of them turned around in their seats and gulped simultaneously as they took in the form behind them. The middle-aged man wore black pants and a black vest over a bare, very muscled, chest. The cutlass at his waist reflected the light from the torches on the wall. Short hair stuck out at odd angles around his head, lending him a wild look. What struck them both, though, was the black patch he wore on his left eye. They had no doubt, from the stories that they had both heard, that this was the notorious Cyclops of the Seas himself. “What do you know of dear Jayne?” the man asked as he pulled up a chair, turning it around so that he could sit in it backward, his burly arms resting on the back of it.

“Um,” Nathan swallowed hard, his mouth suddenly dry with the effort of speaking. “Jayne’s headed for the Leeward Islands. She’s going after you.” He grabbed at his mug, spilling part of its contents in the rush to bring it to his suddenly parched mouth. In one fell swoop he drained the ale from it in an attempt to whet his mouth, but to no avail.

“She’s coming after me, is she?” He laughed–a low grumble that seemed to erupt from the center of his being and escape through his mouth, showing off dark and uneven teeth. “Perfect,” he grinned, making the sun-worn skin of his face crinkle. “So, you fellows looking for a job? I could use some help when she shows up. You’d be well compensated.”

“Um,” Nathan stuttered again, thinking back to his reasons for leaving Jayne’s crew. Somehow he doubted that Jack would let him slip away into the night as she had. “Sure. I’m looking for a job. How about you, Alberto?” He kicked his friend under the table, needing company on this voyage of the damned he seemed to have found his way into.

“Uh, yes, sure. I would love to.” The Italian’s voice did not seem to underscore his words with any amount of confidence, but he smiled, hoping that the forced gesture would lend some credence to his acceptance.

“Splendid,” Jack smiled broadly as he patted them both firmly on the shoulder. “You,” he pointed to Alberto with a long finger, “will stay here in Port Royal. I want you to let me know if Jayne shows up here again. I have a base just outside of town where you can send word to me by carrier pigeon. And you,” his one brown eye fixed on Nathan, “will come with me on my ship. You look like you can find your way around a mast. I have need of experienced sailors.”

“Um, sure,” was all that Nathan could manage to spit out through his clenched jaw. He shot a scowl in Alberto’s direction, envying his friend the relative safety of land when he was being sent out into the middle of a storm that he knew was only a matter of time in coming.

Alberto nodded, ignoring the look from his friend, “It sounds well to me.” He smiled at his new boss, thanking the Holy Mother quietly in his head for her protection in seeing him into a relatively safe position. How a simple drink after work had turned on them in such an awful way was beyond him, but he was sure that it was divine intervention that kept him off Jack’s ship.

“All right men,” Jack said as he stood up. “Spread the word that the Cyclops is sailing for Havana in the morning. I want Jayne to know exactly where I am if she shows up here. And you,” he looked at Nathan again, “will report at dawn to the docks to come on board. Don’t go running on me. I’ve got quite a system of allies in this town and they’ll get you, got it?”

Nathan’s head bobbed up and down in a nod so fast that his head seemed to blur in its motion. Jack watched for a moment and rolled his eyes when the bobbing did not stop. He started to go, but turned to Alberto at the last minute, fixing the young Italian with his one eye. “You, come here tomorrow at noon and sit at the end of the bar. Someone will come get you and show you what to do.”

Alberto also nodded, a bit slower than his companion, and kept his eyes on Jack as the pirate turned and left the bar with two men that had been standing near the door. The shipbuilder turned to his friend and swallowed hard, “I cannot believe it that we have this happening to us.”

Nathan finally stopped his nodding and turned his head slowly to his friend, “I should have stayed with Jayne. Now I really am a dead man.” He swallowed hard and waved his mug over at the barkeeper, “Give me a double.” Then to himself he added, “I’m gonna need it.”
=-=-=-=-=
On board the Freedom
April 12, 1692

In the days after arriving in the Leeward Islands, Jayne had heard rumblings among the crew about the stupidity of going after Jack. She had always known that this particular crusade of hers was a tough sale. Although many of them had suffered because of the one-eyed man, they were loath to risk further injury and most possibly death by taking on a man known more for his brutality than anything. After all, it was Jack that had captured a vessel and hanged every last person on board, including the five women and seven children, just because he had received a scratch in the battle to overtake the vessel. Jack had no conscience and they all knew it.

With no sign or word of Jack, the rumblings became louder and louder until she knew it was no more than a matter of days before she had a major mutiny on her hands. Hoping to cut off any attempts to overtake the ship out of disagreement with her plans, she had made the announcement that they were looking for a nice ship to plunder in the meantime. She had no intention of giving up her pursuit of the man responsible for her parents’ deaths and her own rape. Her hatred of him was too great, regardless of the fact that he held the secret to her family’s fortune. But, she figured the search for prey, for wealth, would distract everyone else and allow her plans to continue unnoticed.

At first, the men seemed placated by the announcement that they were now on a routine mission and she thought she had outsmarted them, but the rumors began to circulate that Jayne was simply trying to buy them off. One bright afternoon, the boiling confrontation that she had dreaded finally came to a head when ten crewmen attempted to take the ship by force. She had to admit she was surprised that the remainder of her crew had backed her. Even Jan, who she knew was still upset about being forced onto her ship, helped defend her and her position as captain. It was a brief fight, ending in the injury of one of her loyal crewmen and the death of two of the mutineers at the end of her own cutlass. When it finished, she had the eight remaining men in chains, waiting for her pronouncement of sentence for their crime of mutiny.

She paced in front of them, looking at each of them in turn, and pushing the key on her necklace back and forth in time with her steps. She already knew who the ringleaders were. Two of the men, Underwood and Ingles, had been less than discrete in their protests in recent days and she did not need to ask whether they had incited their friends to try to take over the ship. Jayne stopped in front of the two of them and looked from one to the other, “You two masterminded this, didn’t you?” The smug smiles on their faces, even in defeat, were the only answer she needed. She turned to Xavier and ordered, “String them up on the mast. They are to hang for their crimes. The others will be marooned.” She turned and began climbing the ropes up the mast herself, wanting and needing to have their deaths come at her own hands, if only to prove to herself that she was still in complete charge.

When she reached the first cross bar on the mast, she edged her way out, holding onto the ropes as Near had taught her years before. She waited patiently and watched as the condemned men did not struggle as they were forced at sword point up the mast and out onto the same wooden beam. Two ropes were tied off and then looped over their necks. The ringleaders stood, proud to the end, and looked out over the blue sea around them. Jayne was proud of them in some small way. They would at least go out with their dignity intact. Looking down below her, she saw the gathered crewmen, and shouted to them, “Mutineers are not tolerated on this ship. You all know the price of disloyalty and betrayal. Now, Underwood and Ingles will pay that price.” Without further comment she pushed both men in quick succession off the beam and cringed slightly when she saw the ropes go taut. She quickly made her way back to the mast beam and slid down one of the ropes there until she stood on the deck just feet away from the swinging bodies of the mutineer leaders.

She turned to Xavier, who came up next to her, and said, “Cut them down and throw them to the sharks.” Then she turned to Jan and added, “Mister Stijbuiten, set a course to the nearest deserted island so we can drop off the rest of this trash. Then we head north in search of some loot.”

Both of her officers nodded and said “Aye” simultaneously. Jayne did not spare the prisoners or the executed men another look as she quickly headed toward her cabin. As she grasped the door handle she could hear the two quick splashes of the bodies being dumped overboard. Sometimes, she thought to herself, the price for your beliefs can be high. Very high indeed. She quickly entered her cabin and sat down at the large table, pulling out the navigational charts of the area. Jack was out there somewhere, if she could only figure out where.
Chapter IV
On board the Hyperion
April 15, 1692

Liesel stood at the bow of the ship, letting the cool breeze of the sea air whip through her hair. It had gotten very warm since they entered the Caribbean and the one sure method of avoiding the prickling heat of the confines of the ship was to spend time topside. Her father did not like that his daughter was spending so much time up among the crewmen, but for once he kept his peace, only making an issue of it in mumbled conversations over dinner. Liesel had simply explained to her father about the heat and the need to find somewhere to avoid it. In the end, he had agreed as long as she avoided the sailors.

Normally, Liesel would sit on the deck, away from the bustling men, and read, but today she had simply decided to stand at the tip of the ship and let her mind wander. Daydreaming had been a luxury that she seemed to be quickly losing as her father’s intrusive requirements of family duties and work on her “womanly skills” left the young German without much time of her own. Because of this, she relished times when she could give her imagination free reign, making up tales inspired by the books she had devoured from the time she could first string together letters into words. She would simply let her mind go and follow it where it led, often on adventures in far away lands where romance won out in the end. It was on such an adventure that she found herself as she stood with her head facing into the wind.

She imagined herself a young damsel, the daughter of an old king determined to find his child the proper marriage for her position in society. Unfortunately for her, her father had decided that an ally of his, a forty year-old king of a neighboring province, would fit the bill nicely. It was a time when obedience was required of girls in her place and so she had put up only a token protest. Instead, she had decided to undermine her father by spiriting away to spend time with a young knight she had met. They had fallen in love at first sight and would spend hours in the secret grove that they always met in. The knight knew that he was not of the proper station for her and that her father would never understand their love for one another. She would spend hours crying on the knight’s shoulder, wishing she could run away with him and give up her position in society to enjoy the love that they shared. One day the knight offered her just that, an opportunity to run away with him and become his wife. He had worked out everything, right down to the priest that would marry them, and it was simply up to her whether the plan would be put into motion or not. It was a difficult decision, one which required her to be brave and face the fact that life would be tough. Her father would certainly send out men to look for them and, in the end, the knight could very well be killed for his transgression. However, love won out in the end, and she agreed to the plan.

Liesel began to think about how they would escape the castle when a shout interrupted her fantasy. Finally opening her eyes, she blinked hard as the bright sun seared them and it took her a few moments to figure out what was happening. Finally, she caught sight of the approaching vessel, a smaller ship than the Hyperion, but with cannons running up both sides. She searched the ship, taking in the tan sails and the dark wood of its sides. It seemed normal enough until she noticed the flag flying from the mast–a black banner with a white skull and two cutlasses crossed underneath. Her heart stopped when she realized what she was seeing. She had heard the rumors of pirates in the area during her brief interactions with the crew, but she never thought she would see any.

Her father was suddenly at her shoulder, telling her to get down to their cabin. They had to stash away their valuables, hoping that the pirates would not only let them leave with their lives, but also with some of their possessions. With a final glance at the approaching ship, she ran after her father, her thoughts on the few things she held most dear–her books, the broach her mother had given her, and the painting of her brother and her that had been finished only weeks before his death. Somehow she had to protect these few things from the marauders barreling down on them. When she reached her cabin, her sister was already hard at work, hiding a few items in the recesses of one of the cabin’s closets. Liesel followed suit, putting the painting in the rear of one closet with the broach on the floor behind it. Finally, she stuck her few books, including the one about Shakti and Arminestra, under the covers of her bed and smoothed out the blanket, hoping that no one would disturb the covers and find what she had done. When she was finished, she sat down next to her sister and wrapped her arm around the younger girl. Birgit was shaking and crying about the impending attack. Liesel was shaking too, but her reaction was due more to the possibility of a hint of adventure in a very boring life. Although she knew that they could very well die in an attack, she could not help but look forward to the pirates. She was finally living a scene like those she had read in her books and she was excited about the prospect.
=-=-=-=-=
Jayne felt like a constable directing carriages on a busy market day. She stood on the deck of the Hyperion and ordered different groups of her crew to collect belongings from the hold of the ship. There had been no bloodshed with this attack. The Hyperion had surrendered without a shot fired which left Jayne feeling highly disappointed. She had been looking forward to some danger to siphon off the adrenaline she always felt before an attack. Now, as she stood pointing out different items that she felt were worth their while, she could feel her blood pumping through her veins with no real way to calm down. She would have to have a little fun with the crew and passengers if she were to have any hope of relaxing any time soon. She could only hope there would be someone among them who would play her game.

After her crew had collected a good portion, perhaps half, of the ship’s cargo, she turned to the group of crewmen and passengers gathered on the deck. Slowly, her blue eyes looked at each person, sizing up whom to toy with and whom to not waste an effort on. Finally, she found her prey–an older man who stood with his arms around two young girls, one in her late teens and the other a few years younger. She watched the three of them intently, laughing at the daggers being thrown by the father’s eyes. He was interesting and would be a fun opponent, but soon her attention was focused on the older of the two girls. There was something about her–a fire in her eyes–that drew Jayne’s attention like a light in the dark. Even being ten feet or so away from the young woman, she could see the intense green of her eyes, which met her own evenly with a surprising lack of fear. Under different circumstances she would act on the very raw attraction she felt immediately for the young girl, but it was a matter of pride for her never to force anyone into such circumstances and she knew that, while the girl might be interested from the glint in her eyes, her father would put up a protest. For some unexplained reason she did not want to hurt the girl by being forced to injure or kill her father. That would ruin her in the eyes of the young, obviously brave, woman, and she knew immediately that she could not do that. But, she thought, a little flirting will be fun as well as irritating to her father. Something tells me he needs to be toyed with.

She walked up to the group of huddled people with a confident swagger and rested her left hand on the hilt of her cutlass to make herself seem more menacing. Looked them up and down, she noticed how cowardly the crewmen seemed to be shifting where they stood. This feeling of power, more so than the actual act of harming anyone, was what gave the tall woman a rush. She finally let her gaze flicker over to the man and his daughters, watching how the father tightened his grip on the young women. He met her challenge with dark eyes fixed steadily on hers, but she could almost taste the fear that seemed to roll off him like an early morning fog. She smiled, flashing white predatory teeth at him, and then took a long moment to gaze longingly up and down the older girl’s body. She was beautiful and the fire in the pit of her stomach grew as she took in the dips and curves of the nubile form. Her eyes met the emerald chips flashing in the sun and Jayne recognized, or perhaps just imagined, the desire flashing from deep within the green pools. But more than that, she felt something deeper draw her toward the woman, as if destiny were trying to tell her something. Who was she to deny such a call, if only for a fleeting moment?
=-=-=-=-=
Liesel stood next to her father, her wide eyes fixed on the woman strutting before them. When she had been pulled up to the deck from her cabin, she had feared for her life and for the life of her father and sister until she caught sight of the pirates’ leader. She had been surprised, pleasantly surprised in fact, to find out that the leader of their attackers was a woman. It had never occurred to her that a woman could be a pirate, let alone their captain. It was fascinating for her and she had spent the entire time they were on deck watching the woman give orders to her men as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

The young woman swallowed hard the first time she caught the pirate’s sky blue eyes looking at her. She was captivated and felt herself drawn into the blue pools by some force that was much bigger than herself. It was the same feeling she got when she read the stories from India, as if she knew this woman, or at the very least, needed to know this woman. Something in this mysterious figure’s mannerisms calmed her, and, in that first moment of eye contact, Liesel knew that she could never fear the dark-haired pirate who stood watch over them.

She cringed slightly as her father tightened the grip on her shoulder, pulling her next to him. She felt childish, knowing that he felt she needed to be watched over. She barely stopped herself from protesting this act of paternal protection and, she also knew, ownership. He needed to defend what was his, not necessarily out of a sense of love, for she wondered often if her father did love her, but out of a sense of duty. She took a deep breath and frowned at the gesture, noting that Jayne had obviously seen her reaction as the woman was smiling at her in a rather appealing manner. She could not help herself from smiling in return, feeling an unexplained shot of warmth travel through her.
=-=-=-=-=
Jayne noticed the slight smile from the young woman at her own recognition of the girl’s discomfort. This father needed to know that his daughter was a force to be reckoned with, obviously a stronger personality than he was, and certainly not someone that required his puny attempts at protection. She moved and stood directly in front of the trio, looking at each in turn, until finally her eyes met the green ones of the young woman. Her voice was hoarse from shouting orders as she asked quietly, “What’s your name?”

She was surprised at the girl’s accent, sharp and biting yet oddly melodic in its tones. “Elisabeth.” The young girl’s face seemed to become redder as she added, much quieter, “Liesel.” Jayne smiled broadly. Yes, this girl was definitely someone worthy of her attentions, and she obviously was grateful for them if she was willing to give her name, and an obviously more familiar nickname, to an unknown woman and pirate at that.

“Well, Liesel, I hope that you are not,” she paused as she glanced to her father pointedly, “uncomfortable in these circumstances.” She watched as the father shifted his grip on his daughter’s shoulders and turned toward her.

“Liesel,” he said quietly, but just loud enough for Jayne to pick up, “hör auf damit oder du wirst es bereuen.” While Jayne spoke some Spanish and French, she had no idea what he had said to her, but his words seemed to have some effect on the girl because she immediately lowered her head and stared at the deck of the ship with a slight, obedient nod to her head.

There is never anything like defending a woman’s honor, even if you’re not sure what you’re defending it from, Jayne mused. The change from a fiery woman to one that was putty in the man’s hands angered the pirate and she immediately jumped to her defense, “I believe the young woman can speak for herself, if you don’t mind?” She took a menacing step toward the man, switching hands on the hilt of her sword so that she could pull it from her belt, or at least so that he would think that she would.

Her attack on him seemed to have little effect because he looked back at her with an intensity that would have killed a lesser person. “She is my daughter, and I decide when she speaks.” His accent did not seem nearly as endearing as the young woman’s had; instead it simply fueled the fire burning in Jayne. She knew she could do little here to help the young woman, and, obviously, the father had surmised the same thing. She could kill him or hurt him, but that would not accomplish a thing except to tarnish her in the young woman’s eyes.

Taking a deep breath to suppress the desire to do him bodily harm, she again turned to the young woman and smiled, letting a bit of the seductress she had learned to become over the years come out in her mannerisms, “It has been a pleasure to meet you, Liesel. It is a shame,” she again flashed the father a quick glance, “that we will not be able to continue this conversation, but I must be going.” The fire simmering in Jayne’s gut blazed up when Liesel rewarded her with the most endearing smile she thought she had ever seen. Yes, there was something there, all right. Too bad she would not be able to find out what it was.

Jayne turned her back on the trio and headed to the ship’s captain. Quickly, she told him, “We have left you quite a bit. Nice doing business with you.” She handed him a piece of parchment that she had prepared before boarding, “This is a letter of ransom. You should make it to port with no further troubles with this. Show it to anyone else who might try to board you.” Handing out letters of ransom was simple courtesy on the part of the pirates. It informed anyone that a ship had already been plundered and more should not be taken from it. It was a guarantee of safe passage for a vessel in waters frequented by buccaneers. Even the most vicious of pirates respected such letters, feeling that they had a code of honor among them in at least this one area.

With that formality finished she turned to her crewmen, who were just finishing taking their spoils on board. She called out to them, “Well done, men. Let’s get out of here.” She walked to the board joining the two ships and turned to look back at Liesel. The green eyes still held hers firmly, never once looking away. Jayne smiled again, feeling the desire, perhaps unintentional from the girl’s part, that flowed freely between them. It would be a long time until they were in port again and she could quench the flames that now burned steadily in her. With a slight nod to the woman, she turned and crossed the board, returning to her ship to get underway with the memory of those green eyes still burning in her.
=-=-=-=-=
Liesel swallowed hard as the blue eyes finally left her in peace. As the men around her grumbled loudly about the scourge of pirates in the area, she continued to stare at the woman’s ship as it began to pull away. With each passing second, as it moved further and further away, she could feel her heart sink lower. It was illogical of course, but she felt an odd connection to the dark pirate, something that tugged at her gut and drew her directly into the brilliant blue eyes of the mysterious woman. Liesel felt confused to the point of complete distraction at the feelings swelling in her, giving her a light spinning in her head. To think that a woman, and especially one so strikingly beautiful and charismatic, could lead a crew of men on such adventures opened up a world to the young woman that she had not known existed. Even in her beloved books, women rarely if ever held such a position of authority, and the thought that she had never realized that women could do such things made her laugh at herself and at the impossibly small view of the world which she had always held.

Blinking, she came back to reality, taking in the cacophony of voices around her. She turned to her father, who was now speaking with one of the ship’s officers, and listened to them discuss the attack. The officer said in a disdainful tone, “Her name is Jayne Kingston. She’s been sailing these waters for a few years now.”

“An abomination,” her father added, spitting out his words and shaking his head in disgust. “Pirates are bad enough and should be sent into the burning hell that waits for them, but a woman? That is an affront of nature!”

“Why?” she heard her own voice counter without consciously wishing the word to leave her mouth. She cringed, knowing that she had not only spoken out of turn, but that her questioning of her father would not be taken lightly.

“Why?” Johann repeated increduously, his voice rising in anger. “Why? Because that is not the place of a woman. She should be married, should fulfill the duties that God has given to women, not out killing and robbing from others.” His eyes burned into her and she trembled at the menacing glance that he showered on her.

She cowered, afraid that he would strike her, and nodded her head at his words. Although she could not agree with him, she could not find the strength in herself to disagree with him again, especially so publicly. She had already transgressed against his authority and she was sure that she would pay the price later. She stammered, her voice barely a whisper, “Yes, Papa.” Keeping her head bowed, she withdrew from the men, keeping them just in her range of hearing, but not obviously eavesdropping.

Shaking his head angrily in her direction, he turned back to the officer, “I will be sure to inform the authorities as we arrive. Perhaps they can do something to halt this sin.”

“Good luck to you,” the officer added, a hint of a nervous laugh in his voice. “The authorities in Port Royal support the pirates. They provide the city with protection against invaders by their simple presence. The odds that you will receive any assistance in stopping them is slim, although I do know that Jayne Kingston has a small bounty on her head, so perhaps targeting her will work.” He shrugged and quickly edged away from the angry man back toward a group of sailors gathered near the captain.

Liesel watched her father turn slowly toward her and her heart began to pound, knowing that she would now be punished for her words. He fixed his deep brown eyes on her, squinting slightly as the anger in him forced heavy breaths to send his chest up and down in movements that seemed to vibrate throughout his entire body. She swallowed hard and lowered her head in deference, hoping to steal some of the anger from him through her obedience. It did not work, as she heard her father grumble, “Get to your cabin.” He emphasized his words by pushing her in the direction of the stairs leading below deck. She stumbled forward, dreading the confrontation that was brewing, and knowing that she could not avoid it as her father was thick on her heels. She was sure she would receive a beating, probably worse than any she had experienced since they came on board, because her father knew no other way to abate his anger than to strike out, usually at her. As she reached her cabin door, she was resigned to her fate. She did not regret her defense of the woman who she now knew would haunt her dreams. In that moment, as she passed into her cabin, she understood that she could never look at the world through her father’s eyes again. She would always be affected by the knowledge that she could be so much more than he had planned for her and no amount of beatings would ever make her believe that again. With a long breath, she straightened up to her full height and turned to her father, prepared to pay the price of rebellion.
Chapter V
Docks, Port Royal
May 1, 1692

The oppressive heat seemed to intensify the stench of the city. Too many people, sweating in the moist warmth of the height of day, mingled with the odor of fish being loaded off of small vessels nearby to turn Liesel’s stomach. Her green eyes squinted in the bright sun as she stumbled onto the dock, her father and sister following close behind.

Swallowing hard against the bile rising in her throat, she let her gaze take in the area. Unlike her home city, with its majestic churches and estates, this city held little that could be termed cultural. Wood and brick houses crammed narrow streets which were barely large enough to handle the immense carriage and foot traffic that seemed to bustle continuously, without rhyme or reason. Her eyes went wide as she took in the varied races and clothes of those around her, wondering where these strange, and often exotic, looking people had come from. It was frightening in many ways–men wandered the docks with large cutlasses strapped to their waists and pistols jammed into their belts. Her father’s warnings that this city was notorious for its pirate population had not prepared her for the open way in which they went about their business.

Her father pushed against her shoulder and led her toward a waiting carriage at the end of the dock where she could already notice some of their belongings being strapped to the top. An older man, easily in his early forties, stood by the door. He wore a tan jacket over his wide girth, with a dark wig that hung limply to his shoulders in what she could only think must be a poor imitation of curls. As the trio approached, he bowed his head slightly and spoke to them in barely accented English, “Welcome to Port Royal, Herr Kumpan.” He nodded to her father quickly and then settled an appraising grin directly on her. “I am Henrik Bruyneel, the acting manager of the company. It is a pleasure to meet you.” His eyes roamed over her, making her feel violated by the lecherous glance he graced her with.

She heard her father’s voice, as if he stood far away, introduce his daughters. “This is my youngest, Birgit. And this,” he paused, and she looked up at him, noting the fake smile he shot in her direction, “is my oldest, Liesel.”

She stumbled slightly as her father gave her a small shove to her shoulder, pushing her toward Henrik. She caught herself, staying as far from him as possible, and held her tongue when he bent over to kiss her hand. Finally getting her limb back from the all-too-long touch of lips to knuckles, she wiped the area on her blue dress, making a mental note to wash her hand thoroughly when she got to their house. Clearing her throat, she said formally, “It is pleasant to meet you.” She noticed the hollow tone in her voice and prayed that her father had not heard the insincerity there, otherwise he would be sure to inform her, in his usual brutal way, how she should be greeting people.

After Henrik repeated the hand kissing with Birgit, he opened the carriage door, watching Liesel intently until all three were settled inside. He then climbed in and seated himself next to Johann, giving him the perfect opportunity to continue observing the older of the two daughters. After the carriage had begun its slow route through the busy streets, Henrik commented to Johann, “Your house is all prepared,” only giving the other man a passing glance before his light hazel eyes returned to Liesel. “The company has taken the liberty of purchasing you house slaves. They have done quite well in getting the place prepared for you. I’m sure you will be pleased.”

“I am sure that I will,” her father noted, his tone one of vague interest. She shot a glance at him and saw that he was watching Henrik’s unabashed appraisal of her with a slight grin to his lips. She swallowed hard, fighting down the bile that stung at her throat and dreading the coming comments, knowing from the look on her father’s face what they would be. “Henrik, Liesel would certainly like to be shown the city, correct?” His tone left no room for a negative reply.

“Y…yes,” she stammered, her eyes flicking between the two men seated opposite her. She dropped her eyes, playing up an air of innocence that really masked her desire to avoid their stares.

“That would be wonderful,” Henrik said with a syrupy tone to his voice. “There are not many women here in Port Royal. I would be honored to spend time with your daughter, Johann.”

Anger began to boil in Liesel at this remark. Not only was she being pushed off onto this man without so much as a concern for her desires, he was not even conversing with her. Her fury rose as she heard her father boldly say, “That would give me much happiness. It is time that Liesel knows a nice man with the proper social status.” She could not believe her ears as she picked up the familiar lines that he had used with her when discussing the need to have her married. He seemed to be blatantly offering this man her hand in marriage, if he would have her. As much as she always tried to be forgiving, this overt selling of her seemed a sin that was inexcusable and she found herself unable to offer him absolution.

Her mind tracked suddenly to Jayne and she frowned. Thinking of the beautiful woman standing on the deck of the Hyperion, giving orders and striking fear into the heart of the crewmen, made her realize how impossibly far away such a life of freedom was from her own reality. This was her destiny, one that had been with her from the moment of her first breath. There was no escaping it, no running from the stifling finality of the wedding vows in her future. She would soon find herself shackled to a man, very probably the one seated across from her, living her life for him, spending her time at his beck and call. She would never live the life of adventure she had always fantasized about. Better become used to it, Liesel, she told herself as her heart pounded in her chest. Just make the best of it. Perhaps he is not as bad as he seems.

She risked another glance at the pale hazel eyes staring at her, seeing the desire in them as he continuously took her in, and put the wishful thinking aside. She had no doubt that he was everything she had always feared a husband would be. To him, she would be property and nothing more and the reality of that made her furious. All her knowledge, all her desires, were nothing to him. She cursed the day she had realized she was different from the other girls she knew. The knowledge that she could be more than a wife and mother, bowing to the whims of society, crushed her. It would have been so much easier if she were an innocent, dumb and willing.

The carriage rocked to a halt and the four occupants quickly exited to stand in the cobblestone-covered street. They had stopped in front of a large two-story house made of brick with wooden shutters. Liesel glanced around, taking in the neighborhood. All around, similar houses stood in line with windows thrown open, hoping to garner a hint of the sea breezes that seemed to float across the city. It was a pleasant enough area, yet stifling in its ordinary and lackluster appearance.

Henrik left them to go into the house and inform the slaves that they had arrived. Liesel took this chance to turn to her father, tossing aside the knowledge that she would pay dearly for this later, and said, “Father, I do not wish to be courted by this man.”

“Silence!” he wheeled on her. She watched as he took two long breaths before continuing, “You will be courted by him and you will be polite. From what I know, Henrik is a kind and gentle man who lives a very comfortable life here. You will be happy when you only give him a chance.”

She shook her head, her arms crossed over her chest in defiance. She wanted to argue further with him and began to open her mouth when a flash of pure rage crossed her father’s face. She stopped short, knowing that to speak again on this matter, especially in so public a place, would mean a severe beating. The pain no longer deterred her, nor did the lack of love from her father trouble her. It was the fact that defiance would bring her nothing that kept her words at bay. In the end, as her father, he had the law on his side. She had no choice and it would not change matters anyway.

Standing there, she watched as he and Birgit moved into the house ahead of her, leaving her to settle herself down. She waited, letting the muggy heat of the street seep into her bones, and then she started toward the house. She stopped on the way to the door and looked at a small, round kiosk that stood on the edge of the street in front of their house. On it, she could see a variety of advertisements for bars and shops and the occasional wanted poster. She began to move off again toward her new home when one poster caught her eye. She sucked in a breath as she noticed a vaguely familiar face staring at her from underneath a broad-brimmed hat. Underneath the passable rendition, she read:

Wanted for piracy
Jayne Kingston
Reward: 200 pounds
Dead or Alive

Dead or alive? She swallowed hard. She had heard the crewmen speak of the bounty on the pirate’s head, but had not faced the reality of it until that moment. What has she done to cost so much money? she wondered. Shaking her head and filing the question into the back of her mind, she moved on into the house. Knowing that Jayne’s face, however poorly drawn, was nearby gave her a sense of strength that she knew she would need in the days and weeks ahead. However, a part of her already admitted it could never be enough.
=-=-=-=-=
On board the Cyclops
May 12, 1692

Jack signed the small note with a flourish and rolled the paper into a tiny roll, tying it off with a strip of leather. He then stood and handed the roll over to his first officer, Nelson Littlefield, saying, “Send a pigeon with this message to Port Royal. The rumors floating around Havana say that she is low on crew. She’ll be heading back there soon, no doubt, searching for replacements. I want to get someone on the inside.”

Littlefield nodded, grasping the small roll tightly in his right fist. “Aye, Captain. I’ll get to it right away.” He turned to leave, but stopped when Jack’s gruff tone called out to him.

“Wait a second, Mister Littlefield.” Jack’s eye was fixed on the map spread out on the table in his cabin, taking in the islands of the Caribbean with a knowing glance. “Make preparations to sail to Nassau. We need to restock. Jayne will be coming after us and we need to be prepared.”

Nelson chuckled quietly and shook his head, “She doesn’t have a prayer against you, Captain. Her ship’s slower, her crew less experienced, and she has even less experience as captain. Coming after you is suicide.”

Jack’s dark eye shot up to Nelson, fixing him in a steely gaze that left the first officer rooted to his spot. “We will prepare regardless. And you know very well that she is not to die until I’ve had time to get the information I need.” He swallowed hard and pounded his right fist on the table, “I will capture her, if it’s the last thing I do. Now go!” He pointed with one long finger toward the door of his cabin.

The captain stood and watched Nelson leave to carry out his orders. Not moving for a few seconds after his second in command left, he finally looked back down at the map and spoke quietly under his breath, “First I collect the journal at Nassau and then I get the location from Jayne.” A hint of a smile edged onto his lips, “I’ll have the secret, Jayne,” he called out louder, as if she could hear him. “I’ll have the secret, you, and my son. I’ll have everything.” His laughter started out quietly and then began rumbling louder until it filled the large cabin around him.
=-=-=-=-=
On board the Freedom
May 12, 1692

“Okay,” Jayne began as she looked at Jan and Xavier, “here’s the deal. Our supplies are low, we need to replace a few crewmen still, and we need to offload the booty we just picked up. We’re heading for Port Royal.” She paced around her cabin as she talked, not trusting herself to stand in one place for too long.

“Um, Jayne?” Xavier began tentatively, “the men are going to be hard to handle if we get near Port Royal. They know we’re wanted there. Can’t we go someplace else? Tortuga or Nassau?” He was hopeful that she would change her mind. The idea of sneaking around the city where they were certainly wanted for a variety of crimes was less than appealing.

“No,” Jayne faced him and stood, hands on hips, as she continued, “we are going to Port Royal. The crew will be fine. We’ll put down anchor in Dead Man’s Cove and no one will even know we’re around.”

Jan now piped in, “But, Jayne, what’s so special about Port Royal? We’re actually closer to Tortuga right now and there’s usually plenty of sailors there looking for work.” He swallowed hard as she fixed him with her steady gaze. Something told him that he should have let Xavier’s protest be the only one registered.

“We are going to Port Royal,” she spoke slowly, enunciating every syllable, “because I have something to do there. Any questions?” She took a deep breath, feeling the calming air fill her, and then releasing the tension she felt in every muscle when she exhaled. She had no reason to be cross with her two closest friends. She added more softly, “I want to go see Robbie.”

Both men understood the reference. They were probably the only two on board who would. Not many were privileged to Jayne’s secret, that she had a son living in Port Royal. Not even Robbie himself knew the truth, having been brought up by adoptive parents. He thought of her as a friend of the family and referred to her as “Aunt Jayne” whenever she came by to visit. His parents did not seem to mind the intrusions by his birth mother, but they had all decided when he was a baby to keep the truth from him for his safety. Now that his parents had both died of scarlet fever, Robbie was living in the port city’s orphanage and they both understood that Jayne felt terribly guilty about the turn of events in the young man’s life.

Jan nodded slowly, his voice soft as he said, “Okay, Jayne. As long as we don’t have to spend too much time there.” Although he would not turn down the chance to see his wife and son, he was afraid of being caught. He knew that escapees were often executed and he had no desire to leave his wife and son so early in life. After all, that was why he had agreed to the jail break in the first place.

Jayne smiled at them both, genuine gratitude playing in her eyes, “Thanks guys. I didn’t get a chance to see him last time we were there and I really need to. Your support means a lot to me. Make preparations.” She watched them both stand and leave her cabin before flopping down into the hammock hanging in one corner. Lying there, she closed her eyes and sighed heavily, “I’m getting you out of there Robbie. No one should grow up without a family. I know that better than most.” She wiped at a tear that escaped her eye and rolled over on her side, letting the weariness that had settled in her bones overcome her. She was asleep in moments, her dreams haunted by a pair of green eyes that had kept her company every night since she had first seen them.
Chapter VI
Kumpan Residence, Port Royal
May 14, 1692

Ian smiled his best business grin as he shook Johann’s hand. “Thank you for seeing me,” he nodded and sat in a new leather chair that Johann motioned toward.

“No, thank you,” Johann countered. “I will happily do what I can to lead that abomination to justice.” As soon as he had gotten moderately settled, he had searched out the authorities to make his report against Jayne. At first, he had wondered if anyone had cared about his run in with the woman, but now with the head of the city’s naval forces in his study, he finally had his concerns appeased. “She must be stopped.”

“Yes, I totally agree,” the officer’s smooth voice answered. He crossed his legs and settled back into the chair. “Now, tell me what you remember of the attack.”

“It was actually not an attack,” Johann began. “The crew did not fight at all. Cowards. Her men took part of the cargo, cargo that belonged to my company I must add, and then she taunted the crew. My daughter is not the same since.” He could feel the familiar anger begin to boil deep in his gut when he thought about this. Liesel had always been unruly and willful, but since their meeting with the pirate woman, her attempts to undermine his rules seemed to have increased and become more public. He feared that Henrik, who had begun to actively court her only days before, would see her lack of discipline and loyalty and drop her like a hot iron. She was already close to being too old to marry off. Something had to be done, and if the only thing that he accomplished was to bring Jayne to justice, he would have some sort of retribution.

Much to Johann’s relief, Ian did not press the point. He simply nodded and said, “Thank you for your report. I will be heading out personally to bring this creature to justice for her crimes. I hope you will be willing to testify at her trial when it comes to that.” Receiving an affirmative nod of his head from the German, Ian grinned. “Good, now if you will excuse me, I need to wrap this up. But, before I do, would it be possible to speak with this daughter that you spoke of?”

Johann’s head twitched at the request and he swallowed slightly. Liesel had always been a loose cannon, but now it seemed to have escalated and he feared what she might say to the naval captain. However, he could not deny the request, so he stood and said, “I will fetch her.” He quickly left the room, sliding the door to the study shut behind him.
=-=-=-=-=
In the sitting room, Liesel was busy concentrating on the intricacies of her needlework. So engrossed in it was she, that she stuck her finger with the needle when she heard her name called. “Ouch,” she muttered to herself and quickly sucked away a drop of blood that sat perched on the tip. Finally, certain that the bleeding had stopped, she looked at her father, “Yes?”

“Come into my study. Someone wishes to ask you a few questions.” He turned on his heels and strode back into the study, Liesel following close behind. When they entered the room, he introduced the captain to his daughter and resumed his seat behind his desk.

Liesel stood in the room and looked at the man warily. He was older, with sun-worn skin and intelligent eyes. Something about him, though, made her skin crawl. She did not sit, instead choosing to push the pace of this small interview by standing, hoping that he would spare her a long interrogation by noting her obvious impatience.

“Nice to meet you, Liesel,” Ian finally said. “Could you tell me about the attack on your ship by the pirate, Jayne Kingston?”

Her green eyes flickered over to her father, noting the tension in his muscles and the slight shake of his head. He would be certain to make her pay if she said the wrong thing. She knew very well what her father thought of the pirate woman. Swallowing hard and dreading what would happen, she made a snap decision, “She was very civil, I believe.”

“Civil?”

“Yes,” she continued. “I mean, obviously she did not have a right to steal from us, but she did not harm anyone. In fact, she could have taken everything, but she left us much.” She noted how the older man did not seem to be affected by her comments thus far, so she added, “I do not see the problem. Is piracy not supported by the government of this city?” She could feel the tension emanating from her father. Without looking, she knew that he was a coil of anger, waiting to be unleashed on her for her passive support of the pirate woman.

“That is true,” Ian answered calmly. “But,” he held up one finger to emphasize his point, “we only support those ships which hold a letter of marquee.” He noticed the lack of comprehension in the young woman’s eyes and explained. “The British government gives out letters of marquee to independent British ships, allowing them to take action against our enemies. This includes acts of what could be termed piracy. It is part of our war effort and all nations do it.” He cleared his throat, “Jayne Kingston does not hold such a letter. In fact, she attacks ships without regard to nationality.” He leaned back in his chair, a thoughtful look playing across his features. “I must admit this is a curious case. Normally, she has no qualms about attacking a ship and looting it completely. I have never seen her take only portions and not hurt a single soul. Very curious indeed.” He shook his head to remove himself from his reverie and nodded in Liesel’s direction, “Thank you, young lady. I will take your comments under advisement.” He stood, nodding to Johann, and said, “Now, you will need to excuse me. I have other matters to attend to.”

Johann nodded his head and stood to escort his visitor out. As he passed by his daughter, he hissed at her quietly, “Do not move.” Liesel watched as the two men left, fear holding her in her place. She recognized the fire in her father’s eyes and prepared herself for the lashing that was certain to follow. She did not have long to wait. He returned, his belt already pulled from his trousers, and an icy glare in his eyes, “I see that I must beat the disobedience from you. How dare you defend her.”

Liesel closed her eyes and turned to her father’s desk, placing her hands on the cool wood surface and leaning over slightly, assuming a position she had known since childhood. She took a long breath and filled her mind with a face that had haunted her daily, gaining strength for the coming onslaught from the independence she could still see in the clear blue eyes. Instead of listening to her logical conscience and giving into the world around her, she somehow continued to fight, more so now that she had a vision of what things could be like if only she had another life. As she heard the high pitched whistle of the leather descending on her, she tensed up, preparing for the sting, and fell mentally into the blue eyes in her mind. Strangely enough, those eyes kept the pain at bay and she found herself chuckling to herself as the first lash hit her. Much to her surprise, she realized that the pain held no power over her anymore.
=-=-=-=-=
That evening, as the Kumpan family sat at the dining room table, Liesel could feel the tension in the room. Henrik had joined them for dinner, as he had on a few occasions in the two weeks they had been in town. He sat next to her and spoke animatedly with her father, who had all the air of a man in extreme discomfort. Occasionally he would turn to her and make a comment, usually verging on snide. She hated him. With the exception of his atheist leanings, the Dutchman was so like her father it was scary. And the prospect of spending her life with such a man frightened her, more than she could truly fathom.

“Liesel,” her head jerked up toward her would-be husband as he addressed her. “Would you do the honor of accompanying me to the Governor’s Ball? It is next Saturday. I would be the envy of everyone there if you would.” He smiled at her evenly, as if someone had pasted the grin onto his face without bothering to move the rest of his facial muscles in a complimentary fashion.

Typical, she thought, he worries himself more about his own reputation than whether I will enjoy the evening. She paused her inner dialogue and thought back to that afternoon, to standing up to her father’s beating with quiet laughter and a dogged refusal to shed a tear. It was an act of rebellion that she was paying for presently as every muscle in her body seemed to ache, but inexplicably she felt wonderful and she wanted that feeling to continue.

She made her decision to turn him down and was about to say something when her father piped in, “Naturally she will go.” He turned to her, eyes like ice chips and an edge to his voice that brooked no argument, “Will you not?”

She swallowed hard under his gaze. She had stood up to him earlier, but this expression, coupled with the extreme frustration she knew he felt about her lack of reaction in his study, seemed to speak of something else. This was beyond a simple argument or punishment. It was a glaring menace that she could not remember seeing before. With quivering lips, she nodded and croaked out, “Sure, Henrik.” She took a long, cool drink of water from her glass, allowing herself a moment to compose herself more. “I would love to.” After all, she mused, how bad can a ball be? It may be fun. She looked into her suitor’s eyes, seeing years of virtual servitude there at his hands, and cringed. Not likely.

She wiped at her mouth and looked to her father, “May I be excused?” Her chest had tightened and the aches across her had backside intensified in the last minutes. She wanted nothing more than to escape, to go to her room and forget, for a moment at least, that her father and this man that she barely knew were in a constant state of bargaining for her. It was nothing more than glorified slavery. While she waited for her father to answer, she glanced at her sister–the perfect picture of propriety–and guessed that for her younger sibling, marriage would be a welcome gift. Part of her envied that simple view of life, that ability to acquiesce to society’s demands. Perhaps she too could play that role, if only she could find a man that would make her happy, or even, at the least, not totally miserable, as she guessed Henrik would. But, she figured her father was intentionally pushing her into a marriage with a man that was the antithesis of all she hoped to have in life. It was his life-long punishment for her and she knew it. And she guessed he consciously knew it too, making her hate him. Forgiveness and attempted understanding had started to melt away with each passing moment she spent on this path into hell.

“Yes, Liesel,” her father affected a small grin for Henrik’s benefit. “You have had a long day,” he implied the beating as a tacit threat to her. “You must be tired.”

“Yes, I am.” She turned to Henrik and offered her hand in parting, wincing slightly when he laid his cold, unforgiving lips on her knuckles. “It has been a pleasure, Henrik.” Her voice sounded hard, forced, but she did not care. She quickly stood and escaped the stifling atmosphere of the room, running up to her room and the comfort of her bed where she collapsed in tears the moment she hit the soft surface.
=-=-=-=-=
Liesel’s eyes fluttered open, only to be met by the deep darkness that meant night had long since descended upon the port city. She listened quietly for any noises in the house but found not a stirring within. Crossing to her bedroom door, she peaked out, seeing only more darkness in the hallway. The voices in the streets below–people, mostly inebriated, bustling from one location to another–told her that the hour was late but dawn was still long off.

She thought about the life on the streets below her, the lack of rules that governed the men and women wandering Port Royal even at this late hour. She yearned for such freedom, such utter lack of responsibilities, and it called to her from deep within, drawing her into the hustle and bustle. She thought briefly about the danger of giving into that desire and, deciding against her own fears, crept out her bedroom window. It was a slightly perilous decent down the lattice work just outside her window, but she made it quickly and without incident. Grinning when her feet found purchase on the cobblestones below, she quickly headed off down the street into the nefarious mysteries of the night.

She soon found herself outside a bustling tavern bearing the interesting name “Peg Leg Jim’s”. Inside, a cacophony of voices and clanking mugs called to her, willing her inside the dark room. Once there, her eyes lit up at the wide variety of men and women scattered throughout. They were mostly from a lower class of society than she was used to and her pulse quickened at the realization of the danger she imagined herself in. The flush of adrenaline only pushed her on, wanting the risk that lay within the tavern. She wandered up to the bar, only then realizing that she had no money on her, and tried to meld into the mass of people to avoid suspicion.

She only stood there for a few minutes, watching the men and women in the bar with an uneasy glance, when a young man, remarkably well-spoken for such a locale, came up to her and used a tired line, “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a joint like this?” He smiled at her gently and bowed before settling into a stool next to her.

Before she answered, she took in the young man, noting his tan jacket and white shirt, ill suited for the rough and tumble decor of the bar. His brown hair was well kept and bright blue eyes gazed at her with a mixture of mischief and genuine interest. Recognizing him as a sort of kindred spirit, she felt instantly at ease. “I wanted simply to experience the night.” She smiled shyly, playing coy with the young man as her mother had instilled in her early on when discussing initial meetings with men.

“Ah,” he grinned broadly, a hint of laughter in his voice, “rebellion has taken hold I believe.” When she blushed, he instantly knew that he had hit his mark. He held out a hand, treating her remarkably like an equal and not like some porcelain doll or object to be gawked at. “My name is Robbie. I also felt the need for some rebellion on a night like tonight.”

She showered him with a warm smile and took his hand. “Nice to meet you. My name is Liesel.” After shaking his hand firmly, she lowered her eyes and took a steadying breath. She had never been in such circumstances before and knew that she was walking as close to the edge of debauchery as she had ever dared. Her heart raced as she answered his implication, “Yes, I thought it would be a good night to escape.”

“Can I buy you a drink?” he queried, an impish grin on his face. When she nodded to him he called over to the bartender, who quickly brought them two mugs of cool, sweet ale. They raised their mugs to one another and then drank from the crisp amber-colored liquid.

“Oh, that tastes good,” Liesel grinned to the young man. Placing her mug on the bar, she probed, “Tell me something about yourself, Robbie.”

“Oh, me, well there’s nothing special. I’m living at the city orphanage right now. My parents died not too long ago from scarlet fever and since then I’ve been staying with all the sniveling children at the home. I’m trying to find work so that I can move out.” He shrugged but smiled, making light of his obviously dire situation.

“I am sorry about your parents,” Liesel answered quietly. “But I am sure that you will find something to do. What kind of job are you seeking?”

“Oh,” his eyes lit up like twin candles, “I want to go to sea. My aunt is a sailor and I’m hoping she’ll take me with her when she next comes into town.”

“Your aunt?” Liesel’s attention was now riveted on the young man, waiting to hear of yet another woman sailor. The idea that there could be more than one woman sailing the high seas really piqued her interest.

“Yeah, her name’s Jayne.” He was stopped from further explanation when he heard Liesel cough suddenly. “Are you okay?” Concern was written plainly on his face.

“Jayne Kingston?” she asked, her heart fluttering inconceivably at the simple utterance of the name.

“Yeah,” he smiled broadly, “do you know her?”

“Well,” she paused, feeling the heat rise inexplicably in her cheeks, “I met her on my way to Port Royal.” She left it at that, not knowing if Robbie understood the nature of his aunt’s chosen profession.

“Oh,” his mood soured noticeably. “I hope she didn’t hurt anyone.” He did not look up at her immediately, instead averting his gaze to glance around the bar. His eyebrows furrowed noticeably as he held his breath waiting for her answer, which seemed to totally surprise him.

She laughed. With a broad smile and eyes twinkling in the light shining from the chandelier candles above them, she said, “No, she did not. Actually, she was nice and did not take anything important to anyone. Well,” she admitted, “only things important to my father’s business, but honestly I did not care.” She shrugged slightly as his eyes finally found hers again, “He cared.”

“I can imagine,” he grinned, relief washing over him. “I’m glad no one was hurt. She’s quite nice actually.” He shrugged, unable to explain his enigmatic aunt. “If you don’t threaten her, she doesn’t threaten you. She’s lived a hard life and it’s a wonder that she can be as nice as she is.” His smile returned as he added, “I’m proud of her, even though I know she’s done some awful things to survive.”

“Sometimes,” Liesel answered sagely, “we do some things that others think are wrong because we have no choice. Something in us makes us to do such things.” She chuckled quietly, looking around her and recognizing the truth in her words as they covered her own life. Everyone she had ever known well, including most especially her father, would look at her and charge her with imaginary crimes against society for venturing into such a den of debauchery. But her implicit comparison to Jayne lightened her heart and gave her a surge of pride in her own rebellious nature.

“Yes,” Robbie answered her pronouncement, “I do suppose that is true.” He raised his mug to her, waiting for her to match the gesture and then offered a toast, “To following what drives us.” He smiled at her as they clanked the metal cups and then took a long draught of the ale. He had just put down his mug when a commotion from the door made him turn.

Liesel also turned toward the noise and jumped. Her father was trudging toward her, murderous intent flashing from his eyes. She could see that she would pay dearly for her night of rebellion. The thought that she could even pay with her life flashed through her mind, but she could not allow herself to dwell on that possibility. She would simply have to face the price of her transgression and pray that her father could be reasoned with. She turned to Robbie and said quietly, “I must go.” Before he could offer a challenge, she hopped off her stool and went to her father, head down under his intense gaze.

He grabbed her arm roughly and pulled her from the bar, not uttering a word until they were in the street. Only then did he send a sharp slap across her cheek and glare at her, his voice a low growl, “You will never do such a thing again, is that clear?”

“Yes, Papa,” she answered dutifully, allowing herself to be manhandled back in the direction of their house. She refused to think of the punishment waiting for her when they arrived, knowing that it would be severe. With one final secret glance at the bar, seeing Robbie watch her from the doorway, she left the evening behind her, tucking the memory away in her heart, certain that she would never have such an opportunity again and cursing the life that she found herself in–trapped in a prison called womanhood.
Chapter VII
The Rusty Spoon, Port Royal
May 18, 1692

Jayne and Xavier sauntered into the Rusty Spoon, eyes darting around the tavern warily in search of anyone that might turn them into the local authorities. Seeing none, they walked up to the bar and both greeted the barkeeper, Todd, with broad smiles. “Good to see you again,” Jayne grinned broadly at the older man.

“Great to see ya, too, Jayne.” He pushed two tall mugs of ale in their direction and then leaned into the duo to speak quietly with them. “I hear ya are not exactly welcome in town. What brings ya here then?”

Xavier shrugged, still not feeling entirely at ease with their mission, and answered, “We’re looking for a few crew members. Know anyone looking for work?” His eyes scanned the room as he spoke, searching himself for potential recruits.

“Well,” Todd drawled slowly, “there’s that man over there in the corner. His name’s Alberto. Came in here a few days ago and chatted me up. He’s looking to sign up with a good crew.”

Jayne’s blue eyes took in the swarthy man sitting alone nursing a mug of drink. “Spanish?”

“No, he’s Italian,” Todd answered. “Said something about having quartermastered a ship from there to here, but then leaving because of a dispute with the captain. Says the guy was a pig and he couldn’t deal with him anymore. Since then, he’s been working down at the shipyards.”

Jayne hummed quietly and nodded, the hint of a smile touching her lips. “So, an experienced quartermaster and a shipbuilder. Don’t think I can pass that up. He seems on the level?”

Todd nodded seriously, “Sure does.”

“Good,” Jayne’s smile grew as she patted the bartender’s beefy arm affectionately. “Be right back.” She took a quick drink of the cool ale and then headed to the lone figure in the far corner.

The dark man looked up as she approached, a guarded expression on his face. She smiled warmly at him, knowing that her open friendliness could be very disarming for many, especially for the type of people that hung out at the Rusty Spoon–people with things to hide and enemies scattered throughout the Caribbean. “Hi,” her voice was as friendly as the expression on her face, “my name’s Jayne. I hear you’re looking for work. Can I sit?” She pointed to an empty chair across from him.

Alberto nodded, “Sure.” He smiled at the negligent ease with which Jayne kicked the chair around and straddled it backward, resting her long arms along the back of it. “You have work to give?”

“I might. I hear you were a quartermaster and then a shipbuilder. Why do you want to go out again?” She propped her chin on one fist and tilted her head to the side. She looked more like she was sitting around, chatting with friends, than handling a business deal.

“Life in port is getting boring,” he began. “I miss the sea.” He shrugged, as if to say that was a simple enough reason.

“I can understand that,” Jayne answered. She watched him, taking in the strong build and calm expression on his face, almost too calm. He was putting on an act, which did not particularly concern Jayne. She had seen it when hiring other sailors. Discussing a tour with a known pirate often made men less than calm, but she did admire the even exterior he was managing to keep on his face, act or not. She guessed that he was a formidable card player and would be a good leader when the pressure was on. “Todd told me that you left your last ship position because you didn’t like the captain. What was the problem?”

Alberto fought to keep the smirk off his face. “He would use women, hurt them. I could not serve under someone who did not respect women.”

The pirate captain could not stop the smile that broke out on her face. One of the rules of her ship, and certainly one of the rules that no one dared to break, was the one prohibiting rape or abuse of women. It was punishable by death and she had been forced to carry out that sentence only once. It had been the most satisfying death that had ever come at her own hands. “That’s good to hear. Well,” she offered quietly, cautious of their surroundings, “I would like to offer you a spot on my crew as quartermaster. You do know what we do?”

He nodded in understanding and she smiled. “Good. You get one and a quarter shares of all our loot. Is that to your liking?”

The Italian smiled, “Yes, exactly what I have been looking for. Your reputation proceeds you and I am looking forward to sailing with you.” He extended his hand to seal the deal and seemed surprised at the strength in her grip. Returning his hand to his mug, he asked, “When do we sail?”

“Tomorrow. See that man over there?” She nodded in the direction of Xavier and he nodded. “He’ll get you on board. We’re sailing early so we need you on board tonight, if that isn’t a problem.” The shaking of his head indicated that it wasn’t. “Pack light.” She hesitated, hedging whether to explain their real mission, but decided it was better to lose such a prize sailor than to have him mutiny once on board. “I should warn you, before you truly agree to this, that we are going after One-Eyed Jack. He has half of a secret to a great fortune. I have the other. We’re going to get it from him. It’ll be dangerous.”

“No worry,” Alberto answered. “I have every confidence in you and your crew. Besides, I assume the payoff will be worth the risk.” His smile grew into an impish grin.

“Oh, it will be.” She, too, smiled and stood. “Well, I will see you later then.” She nodded and headed back toward Xavier and Todd. Shooting one last grin in the Italian’s direction, she turned to the two men and said, “Done deal. I’ll see you two later. I have something to take care of. Make sure he gets on board tonight.”

“Robbie?” Todd asked.

She drained her mug and nodded, “Yeah. I’ll catch you later.” She waved and trotted for the door.

Xavier turned to Todd and rolled his eyes slightly, “That kid is going to come back to haunt her one day.”

“I know,” the barkeeper’s gravely voice answered. “I know.”

=-=-=-=-=

Kumpan Residence, Port Royal
May 18, 1692

Liesel looked up at her father, meeting his gaze with a calm expression. She sat in his study, waiting for the pronouncement she knew was coming. She had overheard bits and pieces of a conversation between her father and Henrik the night before. The Dutchman had spoken with her father in this very same room and asked for Johann’s permission to marry her. Liesel, ear pressed to the door, had felt physically ill when she had caught that particular offer. Her father had not given his business associate an answer, giving her a splinter of hope, but one that seemed unlikely to work out for her. After her night of freedom, he had been even more oppressive. She could not entertain any hope that would suddenly change to benefit her.

“Henrik asked me for your hand in marriage last night,” he said tonelessly as he looked down at her. He paced slowly and let a smile tip the edge of his mouth, “I plan on giving my permission.”

Her eyes slitted and her heart began to pound quickly in her chest. Swallowing quietly, she said, “I do not wish to marry him.”

“I do not care what you wish. It is for your own good,” he answered, anger tingeing his voice. “You will do as I say. It is a good match. He is able to take care of you,” he said plainly, as if money were the only answer in life.

“I will not,” she growled at him, barely realizing that the angry tone had escaped her lips. She watched as her father’s eyes slowly grew wide in anger and waited for the usual tirade of yells and blows to begin.

“You will,” he said with a voice too calm for him, “or you will be sent to a convent. Those are your choices.”

“A convent?” She almost wanted to laugh at the absurdity. “We are not even Catholic,” she explained, hoping that his failure to realize this would make that option instantly absurd.

“No matter,” he said as he sat on the edge of his desk, grasping for a cigar from the box he kept there. “There is a convent that will take you. However, you will be forced to convert and you would never be allowed to leave it.” He already knew his daughter would abhor the idea, probably more so than getting married. He believed that she held a deep faith, although that faith had not been shown during recent weeks as she rebelled against everything her faith should have taught her. Regardless of this disregard of doctrine, he knew that she would find the idea of forced conversion and a life within the stifling walls of a convent even less appealing than the limited freedom of marriage.

Liesel swallowed hard, a hint of fear in her green eyes. With hands clenching tightly on the chair arms, she asked rhetorically, “Those are my two choices?” She then muttered to herself, but loud enough so that her father could hear, “Prison of the body or prison of the soul?” She sighed loudly, her eyes meeting her father’s, “You know very well I must choose Henrik.” Her voice sounded deflated, defeated, and her shoulders slumped to emphasize the loss she was feeling.

What little hope she had harbored when entering the room only minutes before quickly disappeared as her father said, “Fantastic!” He sounded entirely too happy to her. “I will inform Henrik today. Perhaps we can have a June wedding.” She looked up at him and cringed at the broad smile on his face. He had not smiled so happily in months, in fact not since her mother’s death. The happiness on his face was a dagger to her heart. Even after all this time, she could still not understand his utter lack of love for her. It was a betrayal of the highest order.

She stood and nodded, “I will be in my room.” Without waiting for him to dismiss her, she scurried out of the study and slid the door shut behind her. Leaning back on the closed door, she felt the dagger in her heart twist, tormenting her with very real lances of pain. Tears were already streaming down her cheeks as she pushed off the door and trudged toward her room. Only there, within the small world of sanity that she had built in her own space, could she let the sobs wrack her body until an uneasy sleep overcame her. For the first time in a month as she slipped into her dreams, she was not met with the blue eyes of her hero. Instead, she was met with only an unending darkness that threatened to engulf her.
=-=-=-=-=
Orphanage, Port Royal
May 18, 1692

Jayne popped her head into the large room, letting her blue eyes scan the children scattered about the beds–some talking, others playing games, a few loners daydreaming of lives of luxury or adventure. It took her a few seconds before she saw a tall lad, well kept in this den of neglect. He sat with a small girl, perhaps seven, reading to her from a tattered book. A proud smile crept onto the pirate’s face as she watched her son, and in that moment she thought her heart would break. It was so bitter sweet to visit him, even more so now that his adoptive parents had died. He was forced to live in this orphanage, the same orphanage in which he’d been born, and struggle for the meager supplies available to the children. Even Jayne’s generous contributions did little to abate the problems the orphanage faced and it broke her heart.

His eyes suddenly flickered up to her and she drew in a long breath. His blue eyes and planed face mirrored her own. Only his lighter hair, which hung in the loose curls of her own, was different. She had no real idea what his father, Jack, looked like. It had been dark and she had mercifully been unconscious through most of the torturous ordeal, but she thanked whatever power there was in the universe that her son resembled her. It made looking at him less painful.

She pushed herself off the doorjamb and crossed the room, meeting his approaching form halfway in a strong hug. Even though he knew nothing of her true involvement in his life, they had always been close for as long as she could remember.

When they broke their embrace, he grinned at her, “I was hoping you’d show up one of these days.”

“Is something wrong?” She was suddenly on alert, worried more than she felt she had a right to be.

“No, not really,” he grinned and shrugged. “I was just hoping I could convince you to hire me as a member of your crew.” His face reddened as if he had been caught in some embarrassing lie.

She had always looked forward to this day, certain that it was coming, with a mixture of hope and dread. She had missed out on so much of his life that the opportunity to spend time with him, especially in the easy camaraderie of the ship, was instantly appealing. Appealing at least until she considered the considerable danger he would be subject to. Although she thought Jack had no clue of the son his night of rape had brought into being, the danger that he could find out that Robbie did exist was very real and utterly terrifying for Jayne. Even though she had initially come to take him with her, she was suddenly unsure she could risk him, risk the pain of losing him. “Robbie, think about what you’re asking.”

“I have,” he answered, fixing her with eyes she had seen in every mirror she had ever encountered. “There’s nothing here for me now, Aunt Jayne.” He shook his head, turning away from her to hide the emotion that had suddenly swelled to the surface. His voice was quieter as he pleaded, “Please. I can’t live here anymore.”

Her heart broke in two as he begged her. She had denied him so much–the truth, her love, her guidance. As much as she feared for his life, she managed to convince herself that the danger from Jack was small, almost infinitesimal. If anything, his heritage meant that he had a good shot at having some innate talent for the job. With her to train him, she felt that he would stand a great chance of being able to protect himself against anyone. Pushing her final doubts away, she nodded, “Okay, but on one condition.”

“Name it,” he grinned, feeling victory in his grasp.

The smile was contagious and she matched his expression, feeling an odd giddiness at what lay before them. Coming back to the reality of the situation, she said more seriously, “You will train hard and not expect any slack because you’re my …” she stopped short, the word “son” perched on the tip of her tongue, and changed course, “nephew. In fact, I don’t want anyone to know. You’ll call me Captain or Jayne like everyone else. Understood?”

“Perfectly,” he was grinning ear to ear now. He turned to his bed and said, “Can we leave today?” His meager belongings–a few changes of clothes, some mementos of his family, and the family bible–were piled neatly on a shelf above the simple cot. It would not take him long to be ready.

“Let me go speak with the nuns,” she explained. “You pack your things. We’ll leave once I let them know.” She watched as he jogged over to his bed, quickly packing his few belongings into a tarp bag. She shook her head at how easily she had been convinced, and turned to go find the head of the orphanage to secure his release from it.
=-=-=-=-=
On board the Freedom
May 18, 1692

“Jan,” Jayne said as she climbed on board, holding out her hand toward Robbie as she planted her feet firmly on the roiling deck, “get this young man settled. His name’s Robbie and he’ll be joining us.” Her voice was loud, perhaps too loud, and she hoped that Jan would support her bluff and not give away the truth.

The Dutchman’s eyes went wide for a split second before he nodded almost imperceptibly to her, “Sure thing, Captain.” He placed a kind hand on the young man’s shoulder as he scuttled over the side of the ship. “Come on, Robbie. I’ll get you settled in.”

The two of them quickly disappeared below deck, leaving Jayne alone on the deck, the few crewmen working on ship maintenance her only companions. She looked around, searching for Xavier, and smiled when she saw him by the ship’s wheel, keeping an eye on the activity on deck. She strode up to him, taking the steps two at a time, and smiled, “How are things, Mister Roberts?” She grinned at him, using the formal address as a sort of joke with the amiable first mate of the ship.

“Hello, Captain,” he said with a broad smile. “She’s ready to sail when you give the order. Shall I prepare a course?”

“No,” she said, her head shaking slightly. “We still have supplies to bring on board and I have something to take care of onshore first” She looked out over the nearby harbor, taking in the varied ships anchored throughout the large body of water. “We’ll be sailing for Nassau at dawn. Jack is supposed to be haunting the waters there. Is Mister Rigeberto settled?” She had gathered more information on the young Italian from the men on her longboat that had also escorted the new quartermaster onboard.

“I am at that, Captain,” the Italian’s deep voice reverberated behind her. She turned to see him standing behind her, a shining new cutlass strapped to his waist and a pistol tucked into the sash perched over his hips. He looked every bit the pirate as he stood, arms crossed over his chest with legs splayed widely below him. “This is a fantastic ship,” he added, a genuine smile crossing his lips.

“That she is, Mister Rigeberto, that she is.” She turned back to her first mate and patted him lightly on the shoulder. “I’ll be back tonight. Get Jan to plot a course to Nassau. We sail at first light.”

“Understood, Captain,” Xavier nodded and moved past her in search of their navigator.

She turned once more to their new quartermaster and said, “We’ll talk once I get back tonight. You’ll have to sign our Rules of Conduct and be introduced to the crew. I’m sorry we don’t have more time to settle you in before leaving, but Jack is in Nassau and we need to get moving.”

“I understand,” he said quietly, nodding to her. “I will see you later then. Have a good final trip ashore,” he smiled at her and watched her jump down the stairs and head for her longboat. Once she was out of earshot and he was alone near the wheel, he smiled, “This will not be so bad.” He chuckled and descended the stairs to find something to occupy his time until his evening meeting with his new captain.
=-=-=-=-=
Kumpan Residence, Port Royal
May 18, 1692

Liesel woke with a start. Her heart was pounding as the nightmare she had been having kept a hold of her, even in waking. She could still see the utter darkness of the pit that had engulfed her, could feel the dank cold that had surrounded her. There had been utter silence. Not even her screams had made any noise.

It had been such an odd reflection of her life, she mused, as she settled down from the frightening scene she had been subjected to. Her own cries for release from the prison of her life had gone unanswered for so long that she might as well have been unable to speak them. For so long she had kidded herself into believing that somehow she would escape this reality, only to have every positive thing in her life stripped away–her brother, her mother, her life in Germany, her dreams of adventure. They were all for naught. The knowledge of another life only seemed to mock her, solidifying the shackles that kept her imprisoned in her reality. There was no way out.

She swallowed hard as the finality of that crashed on her shoulders. She had no options, none that she could live with at least. That thought pierced her brain, bringing with it a sliver of light that grew in her, bringing an odd peace. No, she could not live this life. That much was certain. There was only one answer and the realization of that led to a calm that relaxed her entire being. She would have to end this the only way left. She would have to end everything, including her own life.

It all seemed so utterly simple. This life was a wash, a loss, and only the prospect of the next gave her any comfort. Her eyes tracked to her beloved book and she thought of the truths revealed to her within its pages. Contrary to her strict Christian upbringing, which she subscribed to only in the most general of ways, she had found comfort in the ways of India, in the ways of Arminestra and Shakti, in their belief in reincarnation. That was her only way out. She might pay for her decision to escape this life by leading another life in dire straights, but nothing seemed worse than what she was experiencing at that exact minute. She would learn from this life and take that knowledge into the next. It would be better, somehow. Of this she was certain.

With a smile creeping on her face, she rose and quickly put on her heaviest corset and her favorite dress. Yes, she would sink like a rock, unable even in the panic her body would likely experience, to save herself. She could not swim, had never learned, and this lack of knowledge now seemed to have been the wisest choice she had ever made. It gave her an escape, a way to release herself from her own personal hell.

She crept to her window, looking out at the setting sun through her window. It warmed her face, shining the light of whatever Supreme Being ruled the universe on her, giving her permission for her course of action. She nodded to herself and to that power and swung her legs over the edge of her windowsill. In moments she was on the street, her feet taking her automatically to the docks and to her final release from this existence.
Chapter VIII
Docks, Port Royal
May 18, 1692

Jayne walked along the docks, lost in thought. With an impending sense of finality, she felt her meeting with Jack moving closer. She both relished and dreaded it. It would end everything, one way or the other–her need for revenge, the sorrow buried in her heart over the loss of her parents, the need to know the secrets contained in the family crypt. She had always believed that seeing Jack dead, the journal in her own hands, would end every nightmare and ounce of hatred in her. But now, as she kicked a stone pensively along the cobblestone street that edged the harbor, she doubted the answer was that simple. In a way, she also hoped it was not. Otherwise, she would be without a course to follow for the rest of her life, without anything to drive her through each day.

A very feral part of her wanted to never lose that desire to have an enemy. It was, after all, a wonderful motivator. But, on the other side, it was a prison of sorts, keeping her shackled to this course of action whether she resisted or not. She had always known that her life as a pirate did not come naturally. She enjoyed it, but a part of her wanted to pull her back into a normal life, away from the killing and plunder. Defeating Jack would mean confronting that desire for domesticity. She would have finished something she had been working toward for half her life. Beyond that, the unknown lay like an undiscovered island, promising nothing. The back and forth desires warring in her head gave her a headache that pounded to the time of her footsteps and gave her no rest.

As she continued to seesaw between a need to exact revenge and the dread that need caused her, she found herself wandering aimlessly. Her feet took her on a varied path, always along the water as if needing the life force it had given her for half her life. A small part of her mind, that part that kept her ever alert to danger, told her she should be minding her path and stay aware of her surroundings, but the desire to give into the doubts and dreams was too big.

Before she knew it, she had left the populated docks and moved down to the deserted area, finding herself amid the rundown piers and abandoned ships that signaled the old docks. For such a new city the area had quickly become dilapidated. Without the constant care that the newer docks received, the waters of the harbor and the thick salt hanging in the air had quickly eroded the wood structures. Here the first pirates, those that had called Port Royal home from almost the day the city was founded, left on journeys of adventure and plunder. Here the legacy that drove Jayne and the other pirates of her time called out from a recent grave, egging them on to feats of adventure and danger. This was exactly what Jayne was afraid of losing if she accomplished her goal.

Finally pushing the thoughts out of her head and allowing herself to return to the present, the raven-haired woman let her eyes cast a quick glance around her. She was all but alone. Unused to the silence, Jayne found herself ill at ease in the deserted area. Sounds seemed to echo off the cobblestone street, making her footfalls ring through the air. She concentrated on that sound as she turned back toward the city and was instantly aware when a second set of feet rapping on stone joined her own in a strange counterpoint.

She looked up, startled at the intrusion to her solitude, and stopped short. Walking toward one of the old piers was a familiar form, one she had seen in her dreams of late. Her heart lurched forward, drawing her after the lonely figure, and she found herself hurrying after the young woman. She thought about the encounter on the Hyperion, remembering quickly that her name was Liesel, savoring the memory of the green eyes that had held her own. She hung back, wanting to see what the young woman was up to, but finding herself unable to pull away. Sneaking along the pier, she noticed a rising fear inside her. Just by looking at Liesel’s back, she could tell that the woman was calm yet oddly defeated. Her shoulders were slumped, her steps small, and Jayne had an itching feeling what the woman’s intentions were. Something in her, from deep within the recesses of her subconscious, screamed at her to stop the impending tragedy. She could not let the woman jump. Something she could not name would die in her too.
=-=-=-=-=
Liesel looked down at the murky water of the harbor, intently focusing on the small waves that lapped at the old wooden pier supports. She could see her face reflecting up at her, and she wondered when she had suddenly grown so old. Serious eyes looked up at her, calming her further, calling to her. A smile edged to the corner of her mouth and she closed her eyes, feeling the first cool breezes of evening blow through her hair, tossing it about. At that exact moment everything seemed more real, more intense, as if life were giving her a final gift of experience. She took a moment to relish it, memorizing it for the time she felt she would spend between lives.

After taking inventory of all five senses, she slowly opened her eyes and raised her head to the heavens in supplication. She had already received her permission, making her decision easier. Now she simply thought of the overwhelming spirit she would soon be rejoined with, relishing in the thought that in just a few minutes all the pain, all the grief, would seem inconsequential compared to the grandeur of that power. She threw her arms wide and began slowly leaning forward, waiting for that moment when her body would tumble headlong into the releasing water.
=-=-=-=-=
“Wait!” Jayne ran, heart pounding and mind reeling, as she saw Liesel begin to move toward the water in slow motion. She was about twenty feet away, too far to even hope that she could make it in time, but her feet would not stop moving toward the suicidal woman. “Liesel, wait!” she yelled again, her throat burning with the effort of screaming and running simultaneously.

Much to her relief, the woman stopped her motion and stood, frozen half bent at the waist. In another moment, the pirate was within arm’s reach and suddenly stopped, her breath coming in long, hard breaths. “Please,” she said with a softer tone, “don’t do this.” When Liesel turned to her, she was startled by the distant look in the young woman’s eyes. These were not the green pools that had flashed in her direction on the Hyperion. These were the eyes of a lost soul, someone seeking an end to some unspoken grief.

She needed to plead, something that did not come easy to the proud pirate. “Liesel, please don’t do this,” she repeated, her heart now racing at the thought of what could have driven this woman to such lengths.

Liesel’s brow furrowed as recognition brought a hint of that animated fire back to her eyes. “Jayne?” The familiar tone of her voice sparked something between them and Jayne relaxed, knowing she had reached the woman. Part of her wondered how the young German knew her name, but she pushed that question into the back of her mind, needing to focus on the immediate situation.

“What the hell happened?” she asked, as if this total stranger would suddenly reveal the depths of her soul. And to Jayne’s complete surprise just that happened.
=-=-=-=-=
“My father wishes that I marry.” The words sounded strange, coming unbidden to her mouth. As Liesel thought about them, she realized how ridiculous it all must seem that she was standing here about to throw herself into the murky depths of the harbor for such a minuscule problem. Certainly Jayne would laugh at her and that thought scared her, because she did not want to seem childish in the eyes of this fantastic woman.

Jayne did not laugh. Instead she reached out her hand, taking the younger woman’s elbow gently. Liesel looked deep into Jayne’s eyes, seeing real concern there. How could a woman she did not know care so much? She shook her head slightly and laughed, the irony of the situation finally hitting her. “I am sorry,” she whispered, as if she were transgressing personally against the pirate.

“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” Jayne answered, pulling gently on the young woman to move her away from the end of the pier. When they were far enough away to put Liesel out of immediate danger, she added, “I don’t know what happened, but please talk to me about it before you do this. It can’t be that bad.”

Now it no longer seems so bad, she thought, marveling at the weight that seemed to be lifting from her chest. How the mere presence of this woman had suddenly changed her whole world and sent any thought of jumping out of her mind puzzled her. She smiled, “You are right. It is not so bad.”

“Good,” Jayne smiled easily, as she gently pulled the woman back toward shore, falling in easily along side her as they moved along the pier. “Why don’t we go somewhere and have a drink? We’ll talk and figure out an answer to your problems.” It was an easy enough offer, one that did not close off any course of action, yet one that seemed to open up a thousand opportunities at the same time.

“That sounds good,” Liesel answered, her troubles by now completely forgotten. All that remained was the fact that this woman, the one who had haunted her dreams and given her the only measure of peace in a sea of oppression she had felt since leaving Europe, was with her, offering her absolution of her sins and delivery from her problems. With Jayne walking beside her, she knew, to the bottom of her core, that her life was about to change and her heart leapt at the possibilities.
=-=-=-=-=
Witherspoon Residence, Port Royal
May 18, 1692

“Sir,” the lieutenant said, coming to attention in front of Ian’s desk. The young man waited to be recognized, not moving a muscle.

Ian looked up, his eyes flashing over the man. Not recognizing him, he nodded and said crisply, “Report.”

“Sir,” he repeated, “Jayne Kingston’s ship is in port. We just received word that she’s docked in Dead Man’s Cove.”

“She’s here,” Ian muttered to himself, caressing the words. Coming back to himself, he nodded to the young officer, “Thank you. Prepare my ship and call up the crew. I want to catch her on the open seas.” He did not share his reasons with the lieutenant, content to personally hatch his plot to attack and hopefully kill the pirate woman far away from port, where his actions would not be brought into question.

The officer nodded and swiftly did an about-face, trudging off to make preparations for the Allegiance to set sail. Ian watched his retreating form as a grin crept to his lips, ending in a full-blown smile. “Retribution is at hand,” he said aloud, his eyes lighting up at the prospect. He jumped to his feet, settled his coat squarely on his shoulders, and walked out of his office, his thoughts filled with daydreams of Jayne dying at the point of his sword.
=-=-=-=-=
The Rusty Spoon, Port Royal
May 18, 1692

“That’s awful,” Jayne muttered in sympathy as she held the door to the Rusty Spoon open for Liesel. On the long way to the bar, Liesel had related her tale of woe to the pirate, leaving nothing out. Jayne had felt her own anger grow with each account of abuse. Her memories of her own father told of a man who was very loving, even when he needed to be a disciplinarian. She simply could not fathom how any parent could hurt a child so. It went against every memory she had ever had of her father or the relationship that she had always wanted with her own son.

Liesel nodded as she entered the bar. She stopped just inside, letting her eyes adjust to the bright light from the torches on the walls and taking in the assorted clientele, mostly dressed in the flamboyant styles favored by the buccaneers. She smiled, feeling herself a privileged participant in this exciting life. Ever since Jayne had found her on the dock, she had begun to harbor a hope that she would be allowed to join this society. Certainly, she figured as she looked at her dark rescuer, this woman would not leave her behind, knowing what she knew.

Jayne nodded toward the bar and they approached it, leaning up against the worn wood between the pressing bodies around them. The pirate nodded to the bartender and smiled, “Todd, I’d like to introduce you to a friend.” Her heart skipped as she used that term, feeling lighter at the terminology. A quick glance at the beaming smile on Liesel’s face told the pirate that it was a title well placed. “This is Liesel Kumpan.” She turned to the young woman, “Liesel, this is Todd Barker, the proprietor of this establishment.”

Liesel shook Todd’s hand and showered him with a friendly grin, “Nice to meet you.”

“You too, lassie,” Todd answered. His dark eyes shot over to Jayne and one eyebrow crept slowly up his forehead. He said nothing further, not wanting to read anything into the sudden appearance of these two women. He was content to wait, knowing that Jayne never minced words.

“Todd,” she began, as if on cue, “I have a favor to ask.” She had formulated her plan as they walked to the bar, but had not asked Liesel her opinion. She had simply assumed that her idea would go over well with the young woman. “Can you put Liesel up? Give her a job?”

Todd started to nod when his movement was interrupted by Liesel’s exclamation, “What? You cannot leave me here. My father will find me.” Panic was written across her face and the bartender winced at the implication, not wanting to be brought into the middle of a family squabble.

“Liesel,” Jayne answered in a measured tone, “you’ll be safe here. Todd will look after you. If you want to really get out of Port Royal, I can find you something in Nassau when we’re there. We’ll be coming back here in a few weeks and if I find you something, I’ll be happy to give you a lift.”

Liesel looked at her with wide eyes, feeling the panic continue to rise. Her dreams had seemed so close to becoming true and now they lay in ruins at her feet. But try as she might to accept that, she fought, wanting, needing to be a part of Jayne’s life. There was something that drew her to the dark pirate and she could not let that simply wander off without so much as a stern protest. “Can I not come with you?”

Jayne chuckled quietly until she saw the hurt expression on the young woman’s face. Feeling awful that she had seemed to mock Liesel, she shook her head seriously, trying to appeal to the girl’s rational side. “Liesel, it isn’t safe. It’s not the life for you. Besides, I can’t just take anyone onto my crew. I’m sorry.”

The weight returned to Liesel’s chest. She felt as if she had jumped off the dock and were drowning. Fighting for breath, she realized she was crying. She lowered her head, not wanting Jayne to see her weakness, knowing that would only underscore the pirate’s determination to pass her off as a young girl who could not handle the life of a pirate. She needed to be strong. Raising eyes that had a sudden control pulled over them, she said, “I can handle it.”

“I’m sure you could,” Jayne answered, shooting Todd a look that pleaded for help. The barkeeper kept his thoughts private, forcing Jayne to continue on unaided. “Look, just stay here and when I come back we’ll talk about it. Okay?” Liesel did not seem convinced from the expression on her face. “We’re sailing off into a dangerous situation and now is not the time to come on board, even if I could allow it.” Even though I want to allow it. She could not deny that she was finding it difficult to leave Liesel behind. Something in her wanted more than anything to grant the young woman’s request. Fortunately, the part of her that remembered her mission and how dangerous it was won out.

“Okay,” Liesel answered, her shoulders slumped in defeat. She looked at Todd, waiting to hear whether he would take her in. With that small amount of hope in her that Jayne would eventually allow her aboard, she knew she could live here, even if it would be terribly difficult. However, her resignation did little to quell the pain of being abandoned.

Todd had been watching the two, his eyes darting back and forth. Finally, he turned to Liesel and smiled easily, “Sure, lassie. I’ve got a room for ya and we can always use some help round here. Come on,” he motioned with his head toward the far door leading to the rooms beyond the loud bar.

Jayne smiled in relief as she put her hand on Liesel’s shoulder, drawing the woman’s attention back to her. “Todd is a good man. He’ll keep you safe and I’ll be back before you know it.” She fixed her gaze on the green eyes meeting her for a long moment and then nodded, “I’ll see you later then.”

“Yes, I will see you later,” Liesel answered with a quick nod. She turned to Todd and edged around the bar to follow the burly man. She could not trust herself to look back at the pirate because she knew she would find herself back by her, pleading again to not be abandoned. Surely, a few weeks here would not be so bad. Perhaps she could pick up something about being a pirate from the patrons and then she would be better able to make the transition onto Jayne’s ship.

They made it to a door at the end of the hallway and Todd opened it, standing aside so she could walk in. It was small but serviceable. Liesel turned to Todd and said, “Thanks. I am tired. I want to sleep.”

“Sure thing, lassie,” Todd said, beginning to pull the door shut. “Ya rest. We’ll figure out what to do with ya tomorrow, kay?”

“Sure,” she forced a pleasant smile as the door shut with a solid thud. Liesel turned to look around the room again, letting the light from the candle Todd had given her fall over the sparse furniture. Finally, her eyes fixed on the window in the far wall and the hint of a grin crept onto her lips. Patience had never been a virtue she had been graced with. She quickly sat on the windowsill, her feet dangling over side. With a broad grin, she swung over and ran off into the night. It was certainly worth a chance. If it worked, Jayne would have no choice but to take her in.
Chapter IX
On board the Freedom
May 19, 1692

“Mister Rigeberto,” Jayne screamed over the howling wind, “make sure the wheel is tied off. I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to stay topside.”

Peering at her through the heavy downpour, Alberto nodded and said something that was taken by the heavy gusts blowing across the deck. The storm had been brewing since before dawn but Jayne had decided to head to Nassau against her better judgement. On her way back from dropping Liesel off the night before she had heard a few rumors, some mentioning Jack and saying he should still be at Nassau, a few more disturbing ones spoke of the navy being after her and preparing to make a move regardless of the standing order to not attack pirate ships. They had been in town far too long and it was best to get away. If that meant heading into a ferocious storm with the payoff of catching up with Jack, then so be it.

She looked around at the men as they worked–pulling down and securing the sails, lashing the longboats to the deck, or rushing below to help secure their cargo. Any loose ends could damage, even sink the ship, and loose cargo was the greatest danger of that in a storm. They had taken on enough supplies to last a few weeks and with the steep waves they were just beginning to encounter, any piece of cargo that moved could rip a hole in the hull. It was not a possibility she was willing to face so she had sent Jan below to oversee the work of the men.

Not expecting the men below to be done so soon, she jumped when she heard Jan’s voice call to her. She turned toward the voice and stopped short, her eyes going wide at the sight before her. He held Liesel by the elbow with his dagger at her throat in his other hand. “What the hell are you doing?” she yelled over the wind as she stormed toward them, her eyes fixed accusatorily on Liesel.

The young woman’s eyes flashed back at her, a mixture of fear and defiance turning the deep green frosty. She stood her ground and pulled her arm away from Jan, feeling his dagger prick her throat for the trouble. She ignored the sting of the nick as well as the cold, driving rain, and said forcefully, “I did not wish to be left behind.”

Jayne shook her head, chuckling quietly to herself at the preposterous scene. The girl had guts, that was for sure. Unfortunately for her, that could just very well get her killed. “Do you realize the penalty for stowing away?”

Liesel sucked in a breath as her plans suddenly seemed to tilt and go astray. She had assumed that Jayne would acquiesce and let her remain on board long enough to prove she could handle it. She had never considered a penalty for her rash action. Fear gripped her chest as she looked into the blue ice chips baring down on her and she shook her head slowly, not trusting her voice at that exact moment.

“The penalty,” Jayne began, the words not coming easily to her, “is being marooned or death unless the crew decides otherwise.” She shook her head again and balled her fists on her hips. It would be out of her hands and she feared for the young woman’s life. “This was very stupid, Liesel.”

“You know her?” Jan finally chimed in, letting the knife drop slightly.

“Yeah,” Jayne looked over at her friend, meeting the dread that also played in his eyes. “Jan, take her to my cabin. I’ll deal with this once everything up here is settled.”

“But,” Liesel began, before being cut off when Jayne wheeled on her, a tempest of fury.

“No buts,” Jayne yelled as she closed the final distance between them. They were only inches apart as she hissed, “You made your bed, now you’ll lie in it. There are rules on this ship that even I can’t ignore.” Seeing Liesel cringe at her sharp tone, Jayne closed her eyes and took in a long, soothing breath of air. “Just go to my cabin. We’ll figure something out later.” While she could admire the courage it had taken for Liesel to make this move, part of her could not help but grieve for what could have been if she had just waited. Now, with the young woman’s fate out of her hands, she could very well lose the pull she felt so tangibly between them. She would do nothing to stop it if the crew chose to punish the stowaway. She couldn’t without sharing Liesel’s fate, or worse. She did not think she was brave enough for that.

Liesel watched her for a moment before letting her eyes fall. She allowed herself to be directed below deck, feeling the cutting rain like knives through her heart. She did not care what her punishment was. Feeling the disappointment radiating from Jayne’s eyes was punishment enough. It had been stupid to pull such a stunt and she should have thought it through more. But, as Jayne had pointed out, she had to live with her mistake, no matter the consequences. No longer feeling anything but a cold numbness, she let herself be pulled below.

Jayne watched Jan and Liesel leave, her chest heaving from the mixture of anger and sadness she felt pumping through her veins. Once they disappeared below, she shook her head and looked around, noticing that many members of her crew had stopped to listen, always anxious for a hint of gossip. She sighed and yelled, “Get back to work. You want us to founder?” A small measure of satisfaction cut into her other thoughts as the men rushed to get back to their duties. She took a long breath and then turned back to the wheel, wanting to insure that they were safely on course before retreating to her cabin and the wealth of problems it now held.
=-=-=-=-=
On board the Allegiance
May 19, 1692

“Sir,” the young officer said to Ian, shaking slightly at the prospect of questioning his superior, “are you sure we should head out? There’s a storm brewing out there.” He pointed to the thick black clouds on the horizon, directly in their current path.

“Nonsense,” Ian answered, tossing his hand in a nonchalant manner. “We are out here to accomplish two things, Lieutenant. First, we are going to work this crew hard and this will be the perfect opportunity to do that. Second, the governor himself has charged us with apprehending Jayne Kingston and we will not return to port until we do so. Is that understood?”

“Y…Yes,” the younger man stuttered, backing away slightly from the harsh tone of his captain. The wild-eyed expression that had suddenly appeared on Ian’s face brought a rising fear to the young officer and he thought it wiser to edge away. Taking another step back in fright, he watched as Ian turned around, raising his voice to the crew nearby.

“Did you all understand that? We are here to do a job and I will not rest until we do.” He fixed his gaze on each of the men nearby, pining them with the intensity. “Jayne Kingston will be brought in.” He watched as they stood, many dumbfounded, others with fear or dread written clearly on their faces. It was a young crew, relatively inexperienced, and that would make his mission tougher, but he would not be denied. “Now, get this ship ready for the storm.” He chuckled quietly to himself as he watched the men scurry around, trying to fulfill the order as quickly as possible. He knew the men feared him–or perhaps the better term was hate–but that did not matter as long as they brought him to Jayne and his chance for revenge.
=-=-=-=-=
On board the Freedom
May 19, 1692

Jayne tumbled into her cabin in a mess of water and limbs. Her hair was plastered to her and her clothes clung to every inch of her body. It took her a long moment to come to a halt, the tossing of the ship giving even her experienced sense of balance a test. When she was settled in one spot, she looked up and noticed Liesel lying in her hammock looking extremely pale. The anger that she had felt earlier dissipated as concern gripped at her.

She stumbled over and knelt down next to the young woman, laying a hand on her head. She was not overly hot, but her skin was waxy and it was obvious she was less than comfortable. “You okay?” It was more of a rhetorical question, but she had learned early on never to assume that someone wanted to admit they were in pain. Pirates rarely liked to admit weakness.

Liesel’s green eyes blinked open and she looked up at Jayne, a sad smile touching her lips. When she spoke, her words came out in a pain-wracked moan, “I am ill.”

“Stomach?” Jayne had seen seasickness enough in her life, having suffered from it at first also. It was common enough and with the ferocious waves tossing the ship around, it was a wonder that anyone felt anything but nausea.

She could not help but let a smile creep onto her face when she received a weak smile. “Here, let me show you a trick.” She took the young woman’s hand in hers and pressed two fingers into the pulse point on Liesel’s wrist. Her smile spread as she noticed the immediate change in Liesel and she helped pull the German up into a seated position. “Just press here when you feel sick and it’ll stop.”

“Wow,” Liesel answered, trying it herself with eyes blinking in amazement. “That is amazing, thank you.” She lowered her eyes, feeling a mixture of embarrassment and dread as Jayne pulled a chair over to sit next to the hammock.

Jayne did not let the smile leave her, wanting to avoid the anger she knew was bubbling just underneath her jovial exterior. “I discovered it by mistake a long time ago. But you have to watch it. You won’t be able to taste anything for a day or so after using that, so if you can avoid it, it’s better not to use it.”

“Oh,” Liesel nodded, her eyes still in her lap, “okay.” She paused, feeling the silence between them descend like a thick blanket. Outside, the wind and rain battered the small window in the back of the cabin and the ship creaked under the onslaught of nature’s forces. The spooky atmosphere, as well as the fear of danger, only added to Liesel’s discomfort. Finally, unable to stand the silence, she said, “I am sorry.”

Jayne took a long, sighing breath, and nodded. “What’s done is done. I wish you hadn’t, but since you did, we’ll have to figure something out.” She noticed that Liesel’s expression had not changed, so she altered her tactic. “Look, we will figure something out, okay? Question is, once we convince the crew not to toss you overboard or maroon you, what do we do with you?” Her left eyebrow slowly moved up in time with the matching edge of her lips and she chuckled quietly.

Liesel wiped away a tear that had somehow found its way onto her cheek. The lighter tone of the captain’s voice gave her a sense of hope, so she ventured, “You can let me stay on board.” She took a long breath and forced herself to meet Jayne’s gaze steadily, needing to prove to the older woman that she could handle what she was asking for.

Long moments passed as they looked at each other, Jayne testing Liesel’s resolve with a slight steely gaze, Liesel meeting that challenge evenly. Finally, Jayne blinked and let out a hearty laugh, “Well, you passed. After all, you did manage to stow away so you’ve proven you’re resourceful. If the men agree, we’ll talk about it.”

Liesel did not smile, worry still creasing her brow. “Do you not think they will?”

The raven-haired woman shrugged and said in a serious tone of voice, “It’s possible.” She stood up and walked over to the small window, looking out at the storm warring outside, lost in a moment of thought. Suddenly, she snapped her fingers and whirled around, “I’ve got it. Come on.” She reached out to Liesel and drew the young woman to her feet. “Let’s give them a chance to get to know you. They’re good guys. They won’t be able to hurt someone they know.”

A hesitant smile sparked to Liesel’s lips, “Are you sure?”

“Positive. Come on.” She pulled the woman along with her as she strode for the door. With nearly everyone below decks because of the storm, she would have a captive audience for her plan. She could only hope her assessment of her crew was correct because she was suddenly not prepared to say goodbye to Liesel even though her better judgement told her it was wrong. Bringing someone like Liesel into the den of sin that was her life only seemed to amplify those sins, but at that exact moment she did not care. She was content to pay the price. She could only hope Liesel was, too.
=-=-=-=-=
“So,” Xavier drawled, his eyes twinkling, and a hint of laughter playing in his voice, “we come stumbling out of the bar, drunk off our asses, only to find Captain Near standing there. Jayne looked up at him, said hello, and then puked on his shoes!” The circle of pirates that sat with Xavier and Liesel burst into raucous laughter and Liesel joined them heartily. She shot a look at Jayne, who sat to one side with Jan, and winked.

When the laughter began to die down, Liesel asked, “What did he do?” She had been listening to stories of Jayne and her crew for over an hour. At first only Xavier had seemed willing to give her the time of day, but now most of the crew sat around, sharing in the tales, enjoying the fun at their captain’s expense. Even the youngest member of the crew, who she had instantly recognized as the boy from her night of rebellion, sat enraptured in the tales.

“Oh,” Xavier could barely contain his laughter. “He offered to buy her another drink and she just got this look on her face. It was priceless. And then she passed out, right there in the street.” The laughter erupted again, this time even Jayne joined in from where she sat outside the circle of men.

Jayne let the chuckle come easily, remembering the time fondly as it was the first time the men had taken her out. It had been a sort of bonding moment when she had finally felt part of the crew. Now, as she looked at the men around her, many of whom had not been old enough to hold a cutlass when that event had taken place, she realized that she had her opportunity. Everyone seemed to be smitten with the young woman, enjoying her easy laughter and fiery comments. It was a bonding moment of sorts with Liesel at its center.

Taking a breath, she stood and hoped her assessment was again on the mark. “Can I have your attention?” She looked around as heads snapped in her direction. “While we’re all just sitting here, we might as well get some business done.” She looked at Liesel and nodded slightly before continuing. “Now that you’ve all had time to meet our young guest, I wish to offer you a point to consider. She has asked to join our crew.” Murmurs flew around the room in quiet waves and she gave them time to voice their concern to each other before saying, “She stowed away. We can’t forget that, but I ask you to vote whether or not to let her remain on board. If you choose not to, we’ll leave her in Nassau when we arrive. Understood?”

The men all nodded, comments again being shared between twos and threes. Most of them shot appraising looks at the young stowaway, attempting to size her up in that one moment. It was a complicated matter, one that would impact them all in many ways. They would receive slightly smaller cuts of any loot; they would have to rely on her, maybe even be defended by her. She would become part of their family, an honor which was bestowed upon few only because of the intense bond they all shared.

Jayne turned to Xavier and said, “Get the chips handed out.” She watched as Xavier quickly went about the process of handing out the voting chips to the crew. As with any controversial vote they would all have equal, and secret, say. They each received two chips, one with a “Y” painted on it, the other with an “N”. Once collected, Jayne and Xavier would tally the votes. It was simple and utterly democratic–one vote for every member, except Jayne. She would cast a vote only in the case of a tie.

Once the chips were distributed, Xavier took his hat off and went from man to man, letting them drop their votes into it. Liesel jumped with each click of chips falling into the hat. Her heart was racing. She had not expected her fate to be decided so soon and it worried her. Looking over at Jayne, she took strength from the calm exterior the pirate wore. Surely, she would not have asked for the vote if she had not been relatively certain of its outcome. She had to trust in this woman that she barely knew. Ironically enough, it was the easiest leap of faith she had ever taken.

When the final lot was cast, Xavier looked to Jayne, who nodded. She turned to Jan and said, “Collect the remaining chips. We’ll be back in a few minutes with the results.” Xavier and Jayne left the room silently, leaving an eerie silence in their wake. Soon, the familiar ring of chips clanking against one another stirred the silence again as the left over votes were collected and people began talking again.

Liesel swallowed, noticing immediately that everyone had moved away from her. She felt like she had some sort of disease or was being shunned. It made her feel very out of place and only increased the nervous rumblings in the pit of her stomach. Her eyes darted around, trying to catch anyone’s line of sight, but everyone averted their glance from her. With a heavy sigh, she sank against the wall, folding her hands across her knees. She could do nothing but wait–wait to fulfil a destiny she felt lay before her, or wait to have that fate ripped from her. She had never felt so helpless and lost in her whole life.
=-=-=-=-=
Jayne counted the chips for the third time, not wanting to make a mistake. With a long breath, she looked up at Xavier and said flatly, “It’s tied.”

“You’re joking, right?” Xavier bent his head over the desk in Jayne’s cabin and quickly tallied the two small piles of chips. Finally finishing his own count, he said dryly, “No, you’re not.” Slowly lifting his pale eyes to Jayne’s he said, “Well, guess it’s up to you.” He picked up two of the chips, one for each vote, and placed them in front of Jayne on the table. He then took his hat and upended it between them.

She stared at the hat, distant for a long moment, until she asked without changing her gaze, “Have you ever felt an instant connection with someone? Felt like you’ve known them forever when you just met?”

“Yeah,” Xavier answered as he slid into a chair, responding without hesitation. “This woman I knew when I was younger. She died.” He had long ago dealt with the pain, so he was able to keep a steady voice.

Blue eyes rose slowly until they held him in their gaze. “If you had to make this vote about her, what would you do?”

He shrugged and shook his head slightly, “I don’t know.”

“Think about it. What would you do?”

“I’d vote no.” The words tumbled out of his mouth in quick succession. When Jayne did not reply, or even move a muscle, he added. “I would want her out of danger.”

Jayne let out a breath and picked up the two chips. She clenched them in her fists and closed her eyes, digging deep inside herself for the answer. Suddenly, the choice was not simple. She could not afford to be selfish. She had to consider what was right for Liesel.

With her eyes shut, she whispered to herself, “I need to keep her out of danger.” She swallowed hard and reached out a hand until it was over the hat. She sat like that for a few long seconds before opening her fingers and letting the chip fall into the hat. Her hand fell heavily to the table and she opened her eyes to look up at Xavier, nodding with a wistful smile, “I need to protect her.”

Xavier fished the lone chip out of the hat and looked at the letter emblazoned on it for a few seconds, finally letting his eyes track to Jayne’s face. He studied her and nodded, the left side of his mouth quirking up into a slight grin. “You need to protect her,” he said quietly.

“Go get her for me. I’ll tell her the decision up here.” She leaned back and waited for Xavier to leave before letting her other hand open. She looked down at the lot and chuckled quietly, “N for nutball ’cause that’s what you are Jayne.” She tossed the small piece of wood into the pile of negative votes and leaned back in the chair, running her hands through her hair and praying that she had made the right choice.
Chapter X
On board the Freedom
May 19, 1692

Liesel felt her heart pound as she edged the door to Jayne’s cabin open. She had been unable to read Xavier’s expression when he told her to go see Jayne and that worried her. He had seemed guarded, as if he were trying to hide some emotion from her, or perhaps he was just worried, but as far as she was concerned that could mean only that they would try to leave her behind in the next port. How she could have hoped for anything else was beyond her, but determination reared its ugly head and she was unwilling to go quietly. She would make sure Jayne got an earful first. She saw her new friend sitting at her desk, head in her hands, and she said quietly, “Jayne?”

“Come on in.” Jayne’s voice sounded small, almost defeated, and Liesel felt her stomach churn at the implication.

“If you leave me behind,” Liesel began, hoping that she knew which buttons to press, “I will just find myself another ship to join. I will not return myself to my father.” She stood with her arms wrapped over her chest and waited for Jayne to answer. A long silence followed, making her feel even more uncomfortable, but she had chosen her course of action and would stick to it, no matter how much her mind told her to just give up.

The dark head rose slightly and Jayne looked at her, a resigned sadness in her eyes. “Why do you want to do this? Why do you want to join us?” She motioned around absently with her hand. “It’s not exactly a life of luxury. You could have so much more.”

“Jayne,” Liesel said as she moved to sit down across the desk from the captain, “I cannot explain it. I simply feel that this is right.” She paused, thinking over her next words carefully. She was about to take a leap, to expose part of herself, but it was a risk that just might help her. She had nothing to lose. Her voice was softer when she spoke. “Do you not feel,” she shook her head, trying to find the proper word, but, finding none, she just shrugged, “something between us? I feel it. I feel like I know you, yet I do not.” She paused, not seeing any change in Jayne’s face. Her nervousness rose and she chuckled, “Maybe we knew one another in a past life.”

This finally earned Liesel a laugh, albeit a dry one. Jayne sat back and shook her head in incomprehension, “I don’t believe in any religious mumbo jumbo. Heaven, hell, past lives, it’s all just an excuse to avoid our own problems and failings. Life is what we make of it, not what some supreme power has decided for us.” She snorted a final burst of laughter and then shrugged, “Still, I do know what you mean.”

“Then you know why I must do this,” Liesel said simply.
=-=-=-=-=

Yes, I do know. Jayne sucked in a long breath, letting the air calm her, making her resolution stronger. “You can stay.” Liesel made a surprised noise and Jayne headed off any comment quickly. “But, first, you have to know what you’re getting into. This will be dangerous and you could end up dead. Got it?” Liesel nodded and Jayne continued, “There are rules here that you’ll have to follow. Breaking those can be as dangerous as going into any fight.”

She paused, then added, “We’re going after someone, a very nasty someone, and it might very well end badly. He’s a guy with no scruples, no morals. Worst case scenario could mean being captured by him and trust me, that’d be worse than death.”

“Who is he?” Liesel asked.

“His name is One-Eyed Jack. He’s a pirate, real ruthless.” Jayne walked over to look out the window, her fingers absently playing with the key hanging at her neck, before continuing to reveal a part of her past that few people knew. “When I was twelve, well actually the day before I turned thirteen, I came home and found that my parents had been murdered. Actually I didn’t find that out until a few days later when,” she paused wincing at the memory, “the authorities came to tell me their bodies were found in our backyard.” She swallowed hard, feeling the tension coming from Liesel behind her that matched her own. “He killed them to get a journal that my grandfather had given my father. It contains the directions to open a secret room in our family crypt. He doesn’t know where the secret room is and I don’t know how to open it. We both want to get in.” She sucked in a long breath and added, “When I got home that night he was still there,” she shook her head, chasing the fear out of her that the memory still evoked. “He hurt me but I survived and I swore that one day I would not only get the journal, I’d get my revenge.”

“I am sorry,” Liesel said quietly.

Jayne turned toward Liesel, all the emotions she was feeling buried deep enough that she kept an impassive expression on her face, “So am I.” She shrugged, “So, you see, this could be very dangerous. I won’t rest until we get him and when we do, it’ll be messy. Everyone on this ship has already agreed to go after him with me, no matter what the cost. He’s spent most of his life hurting people and most of the crew has felt the sting of his actions. You’re an innocent in all this. You don’t have to get involved.”

Liesel watched her, her eyes filled with the pain that Jayne felt deep inside her. When she spoke, her voice was stronger than before, “I already am.”

Jayne leaned up against the desk and pinned the young woman with ice blue eyes. “Even if it means you’ll die?”

=-=-=-=-=
Die? A momentary rush of fear edged through her until she saw the icy blue eyes melt into warm pools. “Even then.” Danger, threats, fear–they all meant nothing to Liesel in the wake of the bond she felt tugging at her. She could not explain it, nor did she want to, but she could not ignore it. This was where she was meant to be, or better yet, this was who she was meant to be with. “I must,” she added in a whisper.

“All right then,” Jayne said as she pushed off the desk. She went over to a cabinet near her hammock and pulled out a roll of parchment. She turned and placed it on the desk then handed Liesel a writing quill. “Those are the rules of the ship. Read them and make sure you understand everything. If you do and you can agree to them, sign your name at the bottom and it’ll be official.”

Liesel dropped her eyes to the paper as she unrolled it. First there were prohibitions against fighting, drinking while on duty, bringing women on board, rape, mutiny. It was all cut and dry and easily things she could agree to. Next there was a paragraph containing the division of booty, each man getting his own part with the officers getting slightly more and those injured receiving bonuses. This last part put a worried crease in her forehead, but she let the momentary spat of negative thoughts pass, wanting to forget the danger she knew she would be involved in. She was unable to do so as she read the last paragraph, which covered the responsibility of everyone on board to fight to the death to protect the ship and her crew. She raised her eyes to Jayne and asked, “I will have to fight? I do not know how.”

=-=-=-=-=
I wish you didn’t have to. Jayne sighed internally, feeling a constriction around her chest, but she forced it away. “We’ll teach you,” Jayne said. She wanted to protect Liesel from any battles, but she knew the men would revolt if the young woman were exempted. She would have to train Liesel, and Robbie for that matter, and hope that she could keep them safe in any fight, knowing that she would not be able to stay far from them when there was danger around. She would be accused of favoritism, but that was a small price to pay. “Don’t worry, you won’t have to fight until I think you’re ready.”

Liesel nodded and returned her eyes to the parchment. She dipped the quill into the inkpot on the desk and took a deep, steadying breath. She paused for a moment and then quickly signed her name in a strong hand under Robbie’s, the last of five or six dozen signatures affixed to the bottom of the document, some with lines through them. She nodded to herself and then looked up at Jayne, “Okay, what do we do now?”

“Now,” Jayne said with a hint of a smile finally touching her lips, “we get you settled. You’ll have to find better clothes.” She chuckled as her eyes went over the young woman’s dress with the tight bodice and full skirt. “That is gonna be very uncomfortable for moving around. I’m sure we can scare something up for you. In fact,” she paused and went to a closet built into one side of the cabin. After rummaging around for a few seconds, she came out with a tan shirt and a pair of brown pants. “They’ll probably be a bit big, but not too bad.”

Liesel struggled to catch the garments as they were tossed at her. She looked at the strange clothing with a raised eyebrow and then asked, “Should I change now?”

“Yeah,” Jayne said, letting her eyes focus out the window to give the young woman some privacy. She could feel the desire building in her like it had at their first meeting, and she swallowed hard to dispel it. She called over her shoulder, “Oh, and you’ll have to stay in here with me. I trust the men, but I’m sure you’ll feel more comfortable sleeping in here. We’ll get another hammock set up later.”

“That sounds good,” Liesel said with a quiet grunt while struggling with her clothing. After another minute, she said, “Okay, how does that look?”

Jayne turned and instantly smiled. The shirt was big and she had had to roll up the sleeves. The tan garment was tucked into the baggy pants, which Liesel had cinched tight around her waist with the blue sash from her own dress. The pants were tucked into the calf-high boots she had obviously been wearing under her previous outfit. Jayne nodded slightly, “Not bad, but we’ll have to get you better shoes. They don’t look too comfortable. Remind me when we get to Nassau.”

“That would be good,” Liesel said with a hint of a grin. She moved around, obviously a bit uncomfortable in the unfamiliar clothing, but the smile never left her face. “I have never worn trousers before. They feel strange.”

“You’ll get used to them,” Jayne’s smile grew and she snorted another chuckle. “Once this storm dies down, we’ll get you up on deck and start teaching you about your duties. You’ll have your sea legs before you know it.”

She paused, about to say something else, when a loud explosion ripped through the ship, “Oh shit,” she turned and grabbed her cutlass from its location on the desk, slipping it into her belt without thinking, “that doesn’t sound good.” She rushed to the door, Liesel quick on her heels. As she pulled the door open, she stopped and said, “Stay here.”

“No,” Liesel said as she pushed past Jayne and ran toward the sound of the excited voices of the crew heading toward the deck.

Jayne watched her run down the hall and could not help but chuckle quietly and shake her head in amusement. Only the faint smell of smoke brought her back to reality and she quickly found herself sprinting after Liesel and up onto deck. Arriving topside, she blinked at the scene. The mizzenmast had been struck by lightening and had toppled over. The base of the mast was covered in flames while the top half was hanging precariously over the side of the ship. She ran toward the men, who were already putting out the fire and working on disentangling the fallen mast from the ship. A panic was rising in her at the thought that all could be lost and she would be powerless to prevent it.
=-=-=-=-=
It was pure chaos as Liesel came up on deck. The rain was not coming down quite as hard as it had been earlier, but the deck was still slick and the raindrops still stung as the wind whipped them into her. Flames and smoke obscured her line of sight, but she could see the crew of the ship was already working on the problem. She was unsure of what to do, so she moved off to the side to take note of exactly what was going on.

One group of men were passing buckets of seawater from the two men hauling them up over the ship’s rail to the two men tossing the water onto the flames. At times it seemed the fire was almost out, then a gust of wind gave it new life and sent embers flying through the air. She watched as the men jumped whenever the hot embers struck them, but everything was thankfully too wet to catch on fire, the men’s clothing included.

Another group of men, larger than the fire brigade, were struggling with the fallen mast. Ropes were being cut in an attempt to free the wooden structure, but the heavy weight of the mast made pulling it on board difficult, even after the ropes had all been severed.

Liesel watched as Jayne moved into the fray, shouting orders and lending her own strength to the attempt to pull the mast back on board. She found herself running to help, coming up beside Jan and taking a rope into her hands and pulling hard. She knew she would have little effect, but she needed to help out. As she suspected, it did not matter. The mast still would not budge.

After a few minutes of ineffectual effort, Jayne called out, “Just dump it. Push it over.” Liesel shot a look over at the captain, noticing the frustration on her face. Liesel sighed, knowing that Jayne must have found the order difficult. It was, in effect, admitting defeat. Even though she barely knew the woman, she guessed defeat was not something she would easily accept.

The mast was quickly pushed overboard, crashing loudly into the sea, even over the raging storm. By the time they were done dealing with the mast, the fire had also been extinguished. Liesel took a deep breath and tried to force her heart to calm down to little effect. She swallowed hard as she watched the battered crew mill around in the rain. The damage to the ship seemed to have hit them all hard, as if they themselves had been physically hurt. She surmised that the ship was as much a part of the crew as any one person, perhaps more so. It was one of the many things she knew she would be learning about in the days and weeks to come.

She leaned heavily on the ship’s railing and let the rain wash away her sudden fatigue. Her eyes popped open and she was about to go join Jayne when a voice rang out over the howling wind, “We’re taking on water!”

Liesel watched as everyone started to rush toward the door leading below deck. As she herself went to join them, she watched Jayne’s dark form push its way through the throng toward the front. Following the panicked mutterings of the crew, she sprinted down below, fear rising in her. The thought of the ship going down made her regret, if only for a second, her decision to join the crew. Then she was below and caught up in the swell of crewmen and all worries were chased away into the panicked need to help out.
Chapter XI
On board the Freedom
May 19, 1692

“We’ve got to abandon ship,” Liesel heard a man yell toward Jayne over the chaos. Men were busy vainly carting away the water that was rushing through the hole in the ship’s hull while a few others, Jayne included, were busy trying to shore up the gap in the wood. Liesel had been busy scooping up the knee-deep seawater into buckets that were quickly thrust into her hands and then passing off the filled vessels to Jan, who stood next to her with a worried expression in his eyes.

Liesel was distracted slightly by the call to abandon the ship. She had not realized the severity of their situation and now she was suddenly terrified. That terror only grew when she heard Jayne’s angry voice yell, “No! We will not leave. Now get back to work.” Shooting a look over at the captain, she noticed the fire burning in the deep blue pools, visible even across the hold.

“She’s crazy,” a man grumbled nearby. Another answered him, “Yeah, she’ll get us all killed for that damned need to get Jack.” A third’s voice was louder and challenged, “We should all just leave her here to die on her damned ship.”

Liesel felt a sudden anger fill her and she whirled on the disgruntled men, “I thought that you all have agreed to this? She tries to rescue your lives and the ship. Now shut up and work.” She could hardly believe her own tone and the audacity of her words.

The loudest of the three men stood up to his full height and came over to Liesel. Towering over her by nearly a foot, he looked down at her, “What right do you have to order me?” She watched as his hand went to rest on the dagger tucked into his waistband and she swallowed hard.

“She might not have the right,” she heard Jan say from her shoulder, “but I do. Now get back to work or you’ll pay the price.” She looked back at him and noticed the wiry man’s own hand was resting on the cutlass hanging from his waist.

She smiled as the men all grumbled quietly as they returned to the work of bringing water up on deck. She jumped when Jan put a hand on her shoulder, but relaxed as he whispered into her ear, “That was brave. I’m proud of you.”

Work continued for a few minutes in grudging silence. The water was slowly rising and the carpenters working on the hole in the side of the ship were just beginning to nail the wood into place, fighting against the pressure of the incoming water, when the same voice that had started the earlier protest again rang out over the din of the rushing water. “I’m getting out of here. Who’s with me?”

Three or four voices rang up in muttered agreement to his plan and the three men that Liesel had yelled at only minutes before quickly went over to where the escape leader was standing. Soon, a group of five or six men stood near the door leading to the deck. The leader looked over the remaining men who still continued their work in silence and shook his head. Finally, turning to Jayne, he said, “We’re gonna take the longboat and get off this damned ship.” He did not wait for her to answer before turning to leave the hold.

Everyone froze when a shot rang out through the large room, echoing over the gushing water. Liesel turned to see Jayne, eyes slitted in anger, and her pistol pointing at the exit. Swallowing hard, the young woman then turned to the men who were trying to leave and relaxed only when she saw that they were all still alive. The leader was staring at a hole in the wooden doorjamb only inches from his head. “One more step,” Jayne’s voice called over to him, “and the next shot won’t miss.”

The tension was thick enough to cut with a knife as everyone watched the group stand stock still in the doorway. The leader was obviously debating whether to take the risk. He must have felt it was not worth it, because he turned around to face Jayne and nodded, “We’ll stay.”

“Good,” Jayne nodded as she tucked her pistol back into her bandoleer. “Now get back to work. We’ll talk about this later.” She picked up a bucket and tossed it clear across the room, hitting the man squarely in the chest with it. She then turned back to the work at hand.

Liesel swallowed hard, feeling the tension only grow as everyone quickly went back to their work. Her heart was pounding and she stole a few quick glances at the captain, noting the feral and bristling anger that seemed to radiate off her. This alien expression on her friend’s face only made Liesel more uneasy. Jayne frightened her and she wondered what exactly she had gotten herself into.

She was so lost in her thoughts that she did not hear Jan speak to her at first. Only after he shook her shoulder did she snap back into reality. He smiled at her with a hint of fatherly concern and said, “We’re done. They’ve fixed the damage. Why don’t you go put some dry clothes on and then come down to the crew hold for some lunch?”

“Yeah,” she nodded a bit distractedly, her eyes shooting around the now mostly empty room. “I will see you there.” She turned, leaving him to watch her with a questioning glance, and headed back to Jayne’s cabin, their cabin, with a dread rising in her. She knew Jayne would be there and she was frightened of coming into contact with the captain so soon after seeing the seething anger that had overwhelmed the pirate. Gulping hard against the knot in her stomach, she let her feet carry her to the cabin, fear rising in her with every step.
=-=-=-=-=
Jayne flopped down into her desk chair and pushed her wet hair back off her forehead with one shaking hand. She hated having to seem strong and unemotional in dire times, needing to show a strength that the crew could feed off of, but that was part of her position as captain. Only now, in the relative peace and quiet of her own cabin, could she let her defenses down and feel the fear that had gnawed at her guts from the moment she had heard the echoing thunder clap. Only now could she admit that they had almost died. Only now would she admit that she had almost agreed with the men who had wanted to leave.

The men. They had disobeyed her and risked the rest of the crew by their actions. They had reneged on their promise to defend the crew and the ship until the bitter end. She could not blame them for wanting to get away, for wanting to live, but she also could not let their cowardice go unpunished. To do so would only invite similar attempts in the future. If there was one thing that Captain Near had instilled in her early, it was that the captain of a ship had to keep discipline at all times, and sometimes that required exacting punishment for transgressions. She would have to punish them or she would lose face in front of her crew. It made her sick to her stomach, as it often did when she thought about having to punish her crew, her friends, but she could not avoid it.
She sighed heavily and laid her head in her hands. She was so deeply entrenched in her thoughts that she did not hear Liesel edge into the room. Only when Liesel whispered her name did Jayne look up suddenly, her eyes rimmed in red as they looked at her soaked companion. The girl’s voice was soft and full of compassion, “Are you all right?”

“Yeah,” Jayne said as she wiped at her face, chasing away the salt water and tears that had mixed on her cheeks with the back of her hand. “How about you? That was a bit scary.” She chuckled quietly, letting the understatement chase away the last of her dark thoughts. She would have plenty of time to deal with the problems later. Now she wanted nothing more than to be sure that Liesel was okay and to relax after the exhausting happenings of the day.

“Yes, it was,” Liesel answered in a quiet, slightly distant voice. Finally, after a long pause, she looked up at Jayne and laughed quietly, “Is it always so exciting here?”

The captain laughed and shook her head, “No, normally it’s quite boring actually.” She shrugged before letting a mischievous grin trace her lips, “Guess you just bring trouble with you, huh?”

“Me?” Liesel pointed to herself with one finger and let a honey-colored eyebrow rise under her wet bangs. “I do not believe that it is me.”

Jayne chuckled quietly, shaking her head slightly, “No, I suppose it wasn’t.” She looked up at Liesel, noting the dark circles under the green eyes and the slumped shoulders. With a sigh she said, “Why don’t you get some sleep? There are a few nightshirts in the closet over there you can borrow.” She stood up and started to walk toward the door, “I’ll be up on deck.”

“Wait,” Liesel said quietly, putting a hand on Jayne’s elbow as she tried to walk by. “You too must be tired. Why do you not also get some sleep?” Her eyes flickered over to the hammock, “We can share.”

“No,” Jayne said quickly, almost too quickly. Taking a long breath, she added, “It’s better that I go up on deck to check things out.” Even though she was exhausted, she knew the desire would still be there, and now was not the time to deal with it, if she could ever deal with it. Besides, with the storm abating, she knew she needed to work topside to get things back under control. “I’ll get Jan to put up the other hammock and I’ll be back down soon. You just get some rest. It’s been a long morning.”

Liesel squinted her green eyes, seemingly mistrustful of Jayne’s honesty in the matter, but finally she simply nodded and quietly said, “Okay.” She looked at Jayne for another long moment, her hand still on Jayne’s elbow, before she turned and went to search for a nightshirt.

Jayne watched her for a moment, smiling unseen at the young woman. She was definitely feeling a growing affection for Liesel, and a growing desire. It left her all torn up inside, not knowing how to handle the feelings or how to express them. She had never felt this way for anyone before, and with Liesel’s constant presence in her life, it was something that could not be ignored. Jayne sighed and turned, heading for the deck. For today she would let it sit below the surface, left undealt with. She was too tired, the anger and fear that the morning had brought on still too close to the surface. There was always tomorrow, or the day after, and so on. Sooner or later she’d deal with it, but not today. Today was for dealing with the other problems and then getting drunk with her friends.
=-=-=-=-=
On board the Freedom
May 20, 1692

Jayne paced the deck of the ship, feeling the light wind of the clear morning air whip through her air. With the faint smell of rain still lingering, the morning had dawned with a bright sun and blue sky bringing a sense of calm to the crew of the Freedom. Jayne shook her head at how the beautiful morning belied what would soon be taking place. She sighed and looked around at the men now just coming up on deck from a breakfast of lukewarm cereal and muddy coffee. No one seemed very awake, but she knew they would be when she started her punishments against the would-be mutineers.

Finally seeing Jan, she went over to him and nodded silently. They had already talked about the proceedings and he solemnly went back below deck to gather those to be disciplined. She turned to look out over the sea, fingering the leather whip she had looped through her belt. Finally, a commotion among the men told her that the dissenters had arrived and she looked over at them, an abject sadness playing in her blue eyes for a second before she took a long breath and let the icy coolness of anger overwhelm her. She would need that emotion to fulfil her duties.

As if watching herself, she heard her own voice rise above the waves crashing into the sides of the boat, “Gentlemen, these men broke their word to us. They abandoned their duties to this ship and to her crew and now they will pay for those transgressions.” She found herself nodding to Jan, who led the five men in single file to the main mast. After tying the hands of the leader around the mast, Jan stepped back and watched her as she approached.

Jayne swallowed hard as she walked toward the men, uncoiling her whip as she went. Her eyes quickly glanced over to Liesel, who stood to one side next to Xavier with horror-filled eyes. She couldn’t let herself dwell on that for too long–duty was calling. She forced her eyes back toward the men and steeled herself for what lie ahead. Better to just get it over with.

Before she could stop herself, she let out the first crack of her whip, shivering slightly as she heard the man scream as the leather ripped into his back. Two, three, four, each lash reverberated through her arm, but she refused to show the pain she was feeling herself as she inflicting the stinging blows on the man. Ten lashes in all, delivered quickly in the complete silence that was the ship. Only the quiet moans of the man being whipped could be heard on the deck.

When the first was done, she waited while Jan untied him and went to tie up the second man. Her heart was pounding and she gripped the whip like iron, afraid to let it loose for fear that she would drop it and not be able to pick it up again. She jumped as she felt a presence behind her and she turned, looking at the tear-welled eyes of Liesel. The young woman hissed at her in a mixture of anger and sadness, “Why do you do this?”

Jayne stopped and took a long breath, not trusting her voice. She simply held Liesel’s challenging gaze, unable to justify or explain her actions yet also unable to give in to the accusations and stop the punishment. The pirate simply shook her head and turned back to the mast as the next man was ready.

One lash and she felt Liesel’s hand reach out and grab at her arm. She wheeled around on the younger woman, the anger she had built up to allow herself to accomplish her mission now being directed against the other woman. “Don’t,” she hissed through clenched teeth.

“Jayne, do not do this,” Liesel tried, a tear streaking down her face.

The captain wrenched her arm out of Liesel’s grip and took a step toward her until they were only inches apart, close enough that Jayne could whisper to the younger woman. “Go to the cabin, Liesel.”

“And if I do not?”

Jayne leaned in, her voice cold and emotionless, “If you don’t go below decks now, I’ll be forced to consider this mutiny and you know the price for that.” Both women stared at each other for a few seconds until Jayne added in a softer tone, “Please don’t make me do that.”

“Good already,” Liesel shot out in a quiet breath and turned on her heels before running below decks.

Jayne watched her go until she disappeared and then turned back to the man lashed to the mast. She chased the memories of Liesel’s dissent from her, letting her anger focus again on the man before her, and lashed out, saying quietly, “two.”
=-=-=-=-=
“What the hell did you think you were doing?” Jayne growled as she stormed into her cabin, her eyes pinning Liesel where she sat at the small desk.

Liesel jumped at the sudden rush of noise and came to her feet, backing slowly away from the seething anger that simply poured out of the ship’s captain. Her mind whirled, trying to order her thoughts and answer the other woman, “I …” She swallowed hard, shaking her head as she took another step back. “I did not wish you to hurt them,” she said in a tone barely above a whisper.

Jayne leaned over the desk, her eyes fixed squarely on Liesel’s, her voice even, almost too emotionless. “I had no choice. You know the ship’s rules. I could have had them killed. Would you have preferred that?”

“No, of course not.”

“If you want to stay here,” Jayne continued after nodding to Liesel’s answer, “you will never question my decisions again. Is that fully understood? Because if it’s not we can leave you off at Nassau and forget about all of this.” Her voice dropped to an even lower register, “But if you decide to stay I will expect you to follow my orders, my decisions. And if you don’t, you can expect to be in the same position as those men out there. Got it?”

Liesel stood, her heart pounding loudly in her ears. Jayne had been right, this wasn’t a life of fun and games. This was deadly serious. She hadn’t quite realized that until this moment and it scared her, more than she cared to admit. She wanted to run away, to find some place safe to live, to find a life that she could bear to live and that would keep her out of danger. Her mind screamed at her to choose safety, perhaps even comfort, and not the cold, wet danger of this ship, of this life as a pirate.

She opened her mouth to speak, to agree to leave, when she looked Jayne in the eye, suddenly becoming lost in the deep blue of the pools looking back at her. In that second she felt it again–some sort of bond that tugged at her and drew her to this woman, that made her feel like she had known the dark woman far longer than the three days she had. She could not leave and that realization crushed her, rooted her to her spot, and gave her no choice in her actions. Something bigger than she could imagine, than she wanted to imagine, was working in her life to bring her into contact with this woman and she was not about to fight that force. She swallowed hard and finally nodded, “I understand. I am staying.”

“Okay,” Jayne nodded, her eyes never leaving Liesel’s. A small smile edged onto her lips and she laughed, “I’m glad. Now, let’s go start your sailing lessons, okay?”

Liesel released a long-held breath and smiled with a nod, “That sounds good.” She walked around the table and started to walk out of the cabin when she came to a stop and turned back to Jayne, her voice barely a whisper when she spoke. “I could not have left.”

“I know,” Jayne smiled as she raised her hand to cup the younger woman’s cheek affectionately. They stood like that for a few seconds, the only movement being Jayne’s thumb as it stroked Liesel’s cheek. Their eyes simply held one another in silent understanding. Finally, Jayne nodded and said, “Okay, let’s get going.”

Liesel smiled and nodded, “Okay.” She turned and left the cabin with Jayne quickly on her heels.
Chapter XII
On board the Freedom
May 22, 1692

Two days later found Liesel starting to become comfortable with the daily routine of the ship. Up at dawn, she would have a quick breakfast with most of the crew and then head up on deck to relieve the skeleton crew that had spent the night keeping the ship in working condition. She was at the bottom of the ship’s totem pole, relegated to swabbing the deck or learning to twine rope. The men were generally nice to her, showing her little tricks to keep the rope taut when braiding it or demonstrating how to keep a steady balance even in rougher seas. Much to her surprise everyone seemed to welcome her presence.

While the crew were all very nice to her, she had developed a real bond with the other newest member of the crew, Robbie. At first it had seemed like an odd coincidence that the man she had spent her one night of rebellion with was also now a part of the Freedom’s crew. Then, once the novelty of that coincidence wore off, she began to develop a real affection for him, akin to what she thought she would have felt for her brother had he lived to be a teenager. After all, he would have been Robbie’s age, and his bright blue eyes reminded her of the young boy that had been her shadow up until the day of his tragic death.

All similarity to her brother aside, she also felt a kinship with him in that they were both new to the ship and learning the ropes together. The young man seemed as lost on board as she did, and his naïve demeanor really appealed to the young woman. Her respect for him grew when she saw that he was not relying on his relationship with Jayne to get ahead. In fact, he seemed to work harder than anyone else, and she guessed it was to prove that he was there for his abilities and hard work and not simply because he knew the ship’s captain, although only a few people on board seemed to know this fact. She could sympathize with that, feeling much the same way, and so the two of them had been drawn to one another, feeling a bond in their youth and their need to prove themselves.

Now, as they sat together, watching the fishing lines that hung off the aft of the ship and twining yards of rope in the midday sun, Robbie turned to her and asked, “Have you ever been in a fight?”

Liesel’s head jerked up at the sudden question, pulling her out of the haze that had overtaken her exhausted mind, “Um, no I have not. Have you?” They had already spoken with Jayne about their need to be trained in weapons, both for personal protection and to fulfill the requirement to defend the ship and her crew. They were scheduled to receive their first lesson in working with a cutlass the next morning and would spend part of this afternoon with Xavier, who had promised to show them how to box. The thought of beginning this part of their apprenticeship had them both a bit on edge.

Robbie chuckled nervously, “No, I haven’t. Not unless you count scrapping with a few of the boys at the orphanage.”

Liesel reached over and put a hand on his shoulder, noticing the fear that seemed to haunt his blue eyes, “You will be fine. You know that Jayne will be sure that you are ready before she lets you to get involved in anything dangerous.” She smiled when he looked up at her, “I believe in you.”

Robbie showered her with a grateful smile, “Thanks.” He paused, being caught for a moment in the intensity of her gaze, and then thought to add, “And I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

Liesel laughed dryly, “I doubt it. I cut myself trying to carve a chicken.”

“Oh,” Robbie grinned at her conspiratorially, “I think you’ll do wonderfully.”

Liesel looked at him, squinting slightly in the midday sun, and started. There was something in his gaze that seemed out of place and she felt her heart pound, recognizing it as a glimmer of desire. She reflected back to their first meeting in that dingy bar in Port Royal and realized that even back then he was being flirtatious, and certainly her enthusiasm for the risky events of that night could have been interpreted by the boy as a return of his interest. Now, as she sat across from him and saw the sparkle in his eyes, she realized she needed to nip this in the bud before it got out of hand. “Robbie, I think we must talk about something.”

“What?” He slid closer to her, a nervous smile on his face.

“Um,” she took a long breath, reigning in the butterflies that seemed to plague her stomach suddenly. “I like you a lot, but I must tell you that I want us to be only friends.”

She watched as he fought to keep the smile on his face, failing only for an instant when a quick frown crept onto his features before he managed to get control of his disappointment, “Of course. I want that too.” His voice was quiet and he was unable to mask the hurt tone in it. He dropped his eyes to his lap and started to work on the intricate braiding of the rope.

Liesel watched him for a few seconds, feeling bad at the pain she had obviously caused him, but knowing it was for the best. She too went back to working on her rope, letting an uneasy silence develop between them. She was afraid to say anything else that might hurt him and he seemed afraid to say anything that might give away his true feelings. It was awkward at first, but time quickly healed their minor wounds and they were soon back to their friendly bantering as they went about their daily chores. Liesel was relieved that night as she lay in her hammock, feeling in charge of her life for the first time. She had had a choice about this relationship and she had chosen friendship, and that made her feel like she was finally free. She had the most restful sleep of her life that night.
=-=-=-=-=
On board the Allegiance
May 22, 1692

“How much longer?” Ian said with so much anger, it shook his first mate to the core. They stood on the deck, with crewmen and carpenters scurrying around, attempting to repair the damage the ship had taken in the storm. They had barely made it back to Port Royal after the heavy winds destroyed two masts and threw them near enough to a reef to cause some minor hull damage. After two days of repairs, they were still not anywhere close to being able to sail and Ian was growing angrier by the minute, knowing that his prey was getting away. He had already lost sight of her in the storm and now only had his gut reaction to follow, hoping that his guess that she was headed for Tortuga was correct and he could find her there. If he could not get underway soon, she would be long gone and it could be months before he had word as to her location again. This was his best chance.

The first officer took a deep breath and looked out over the crew, as if he were personally assessing the process and not simply passing on the reports he had already collected from each repair detail, “At least another two days, sir.”

“Two days?” Ian stormed past the officer to stand at the railing so he could look down on the main deck from his lofty perch by the ship’s wheel. He turned again, fixing the younger man with an intense gaze and grumbled, “We will leave tomorrow at noon or every single man on this crew will lose one week’s pay for every extra hour it takes. You got that?”

“Y…yes,” the first mate stammered.

“Now, get to it. I’ll be in port speaking with the fort captain.” Ian shook his head at what he considered poor work and gruffly stomped down the steps toward the plank that lead to the nearby pier. He smiled as he began to descend, hearing his first officer yell out behind him, “Okay, men, let’s get this ship ready to go. We’re leaving tomorrow and if we’re not ready you’ll be without your ale money, so hop to it.” There was still a chance he could catch up with Jayne, and he would not be denied that opportunity.
=-=-=-=-=
Orphanage, Port Royal
May 22, 1692

Jack looked up when the nun walked into the small room. He had changed into what he considered formal attire, a long sleeve white shirt with a nice blue hip-length jacket with matching pants and brown soft leather boots. He had even left his weapons with one of his men. He knew that the clothes did little to put people at ease around him, because he simply seemed to ooze menace, but it was better than nothing. The smile he wore on his face did little to aid his likability, but he tried. “I’d like to see my son, Robert Stevens.”

The woman blinked from inside the habit covering her head. It made her face seem small in the middle of so much white fabric. Clearing her throat, she said, “I’m sorry. Mister Stevens, is it?” Jack did not agree or disagree so she simply kept talking. “His aunt came and took him out of here. We were told both his parents had been killed.”

She only wishes, he thought to himself, remembering the time he had spent watching her and her grandfather after realizing he needed more information to find the Kingston family secret. He had taken a perverse pride in the pain he had caused her, feeling it as earned paybacks for a family that had done him harm as well. Even more so, finding out that young Jayne was pregnant only added to that pride, knowing that his mark was more permanent than nightmares. It had taken him weeks after the child’s birth to find who had adopted him, and since then he made a point of watching where his son was, albeit from a distance. He had no love for the child, but he always felt a sense of curiosity surrounding the boy, knowing that he had a possible legacy out there once the boy was grown. Now, with his adopted parents’ death from scarlet fever, he thought he had finally had his chance, but Jayne had gotten to the young man first. That side trip to Nassau to pick up the journal had obviously cost him.

Jack finally nodded, rubbing at the slight stubble on his chin with one hand. “Well, he was adopted. I’m his real father. I just found out where he was and came to get him back. His mother,” he stopped to whisper the word ‘bitch’ to himself, “never told me about him and I certainly didn’t have a choice whether to put him up for adoption or not.” He looked at the ground, letting his mind wander briefly, only stopping when a thought popped into his head, “Was it his Aunt Jayne?”

The nun nodded, seeming to feel a sense of relief in his knowledge of this aunt. Jack could only guess that she was afraid she had done something wrong in allowing Robbie to leave, but the simple knowledge that he knew of this ‘aunt’ seemed to redeem her. “Yes, they left only,” she paused to flip through a book on her desk, “four days ago. On the 18th. I’m sure she’s still in the city. She didn’t seem to leave an address.”

“No,” Jack’s voice rumbled quietly, “she wouldn’t have.” He blinked, realizing he was talking more to himself than to the nun, and looked up at her with his overly nice smile fixed back on his face, “Thank you, sister. I know where to look for her.”

“You’re welcome,” the sister nodded, looking down at the book again to make sure that there was no more information she had forgotten to give to the man. When she looked back up, Jack was gone. She shook her head, letting her eyes search the small and sparse office again, and then chuckled quietly to herself before heading out to attend to matters.
=-=-=-=-=
Governor’s Residence, Port Royal
May 22, 1692

Johann paced in the governor’s office, feeling the rage that was his constant companion bubble just below his seemingly calm exterior. He had spent the last few days trying to locate his daughter, thinking she had run away again once he made it perfectly clear as to what her fate would be. All he had managed to find out was that she had been seen in a seedy bar in the company of Jayne Kingston. The knowledge that his daughter had been cavorting with the one woman who was his epitome of every abomination known to man made his stomach turn and only served to increase the rage that boiled steadily in his veins.

He stopped his steady pacing when the governor walked in, supported on his cane, his white wig propped pompously on his head. The governor smiled at him, nodding slightly, and said, “I am sorry to make you wait, Mister Kumpan. What is it that I can do for you?” He took a seat behind his ornate desk and offered one of the chairs on the other side to the German with a nonchalant wave of his hand.

Johann nodded, sitting quickly, and said, “I am sorry to bother you, Your Excellency, but I do not know whomelse I may turn to. My daughter has disappeared, and I believe the pirate Jayne Kingston is involved. I know that you have a bounty on her, so I thought I should inform you of this.”

“Yes, yes,” the governor said with another wave of his hand. He did not seem all that concerned by the turn of events. “I will make a note of that on her record. Do you think your daughter was kidnapped by this woman?”

“Of course,” Johann piped in quickly. He stopped and cleared his throat before explaining, “My daughter would never do something like this. She was to be married. But Jayne Kingston knew my daughter and I believe she wanted her for whatever disgusting activities she engages in. Such a tool of the devil must be stopped.” He added extra emphasis to his last statement, hoping it would overshadow the doubt that must have been evident in his voice as he lied about his daughter’s upright nature.

“And it will,” the governor added smoothly. He waved his hand again, saying, “We have a ship out there hunting her down now. Your daughter will be returned to you, if she is found, once we take Jayne’s ship. Don’t worry.”

“I am not worried.” I am furious. Johann watched the governor for a moment before nodding, realizing that he would get nothing more than this simple assurance from the older man. He stood and said, “Thank you for your time. I do not wish to bother you further.”

“Thank you,” the governor nodded before letting his eyes drop to a document lying on his desk, the discussion with Johann obviously already quickly put into the back of his mind. Johann watched him for a moment then shook his head and stormed out. The frustration stemming from his inability to do anything about this was getting to him and he needed to get back to work, hoping that his duties would help chase the anger and fury away, if only for a little while. But when he saw Liesel again, he knew, without a doubt, that he would have his moment to prove to her that he was the be all and end all of her world. He would show her who ruled her life, her destiny. He would prove it to her once and for all.
Chapter XIII
On board the Freedom
May 23, 1692

Jayne stood with Liesel and Robbie on the deck in an area that was cleared for sparring practices by the crew. She held two cutlasses under her left arm, the blades pointing backward, and looked from her son to the young woman who was quickly taking hold of her heart. She had been dreading this, wanting to protect them both by keeping them out of any fighting, but she knew that the price of having them with her was making them full partners in the activities of the ship, and that often meant fighting. The best she could do was to train them well and trust that her tutoring would be enough to keep them alive, if not totally unharmed.

She quickly handed them each a cutlass, explaining as she did, “These are training weapons. The blades are dull and the point has been rounded off. They will still hurt you if you get hit, but you should survive any injuries. I suggest you do your best not to get hit, after all that’s what I’m going to try to teach you.” She smiled at them, trying to chase away the tension she felt from them both with a little joking. “Okay, any questions before we begin?”

She looked from one to the other, noting how Liesel hefted the cutlass in her hand, obviously trying to get a feel for it, as if she somehow understood the importance of that. Robbie, for his part, simply stood there with the weapon held at his side in a tense fist. Neither said a thing, so she cleared her throat, pulling her own cutlass from its location tucked into her belt, and moved toward them, “Okay, let’s get started.”

The next hour was taken up with everything from the proper way to hold the weapon to simple attacks and parries. Robbie was awkward with the sword, finding it difficult to maneuver the long thin blade exactly as Jayne explained. Liesel, on the other hand, had a definite knack for it. Her moves were fluid, her attacks forceful. Where Robbie’s arm was tense, Liesel’s was loose enough to absorb shocks and alter the course of the blade as needed. She was, surprisingly, a natural.

Finally finishing what she had to teach them and knowing that she needed to go over some course corrections with Jan, she left the two of them to work together. Before leaving, she pulled Liesel over to the side to speak with her. “Go easy on him, okay? And try to get him to relax.”

“I will,” Liesel said very seriously.

“Hey,” Jayne smiled at her young protégé. “You’re pretty good with that. I’m proud of you.” In reality, she was not sure she could call it pride, but she certainly admired the way the young woman had worked hard to fit into a world that was probably as far from what she had known her whole life as anything that existed.

“Thanks,” Liesel said quietly.

“Okay, I’ll be up near the wheel if you need me.” She patted the young woman on her arm and then jogged up to the wheelhouse. Once up there, she turned to watch her two students. They were slowly going through one of the strike and retreat routines that she had showed them earlier. Satisfied that they could get along without her constant attention, she turned to Jan to finish work on their course for the rest of the journey.
=-=-=-=-=
Liesel watched Robbie practice the series of thrusts and parries, shaking her head at how awkward his movements seemed. It had come surprisingly easy to her, as if she already knew the forms and routines. They seemed second nature, but she did not dwell on that for long, instead simply feeling fortunate that this one aspect of her new life would not be a struggle for her. When Robbie was finished going through the simple figure eight that he was working on, she said, “Okay, I will attack and you defend. Do your best to keep me in front of you. I will try my best to get to you.”

“Um,” Robbie said, raising his cutlass into a decent approximation of the defensive position that Jayne had showed them, “okay. Go ahead.” His voice shook slightly, giving away the nerves he obviously felt.

Liesel smiled at him, trying to reassure him, before raising her own weapon. She nodded and then started to advance on him, making slow attacking moves with her blade. She stepped forward, forcing him to retreat, making it her goal to back him up to the deck railing. It was too easy, her advances coming quicker than she had hoped. He simply was too quick to retreat under her steady attack.

When they neared her goal, she realized he had picked up her rhythm and was now anticipating her moves, so she decided to try a different tactic. Instead of the steady back and forth strokes at eye level, she decided to loop the cutlass around and try to come at him from below. Aware that she needed to be careful of this new move to avoid injuring him, she slowly went to attack, pulling him off balance as he tried to bring his own blade down to counter.

With a sudden horror in her stomach, she watched as Robbie tumbled backward, having tripped over a rope near the ship’s railing. It seemed like everything was happening slowly–his fall, her reactions, even the sounds of the ship seemed to be drawn out and sluggish. Robbie fell backward, landing with the railing at the small of his back and then the momentum carried him over the side of the ship and he was gone. Liesel found herself running forward, the blade dropping from her hands, as she searched for the young man who had been in front of her only seconds before. She could see him splashing in the water as she looked overboard, and, without thinking, she jumped over the railing to go after him.

The water was cold, not icy, but cold enough to shock her when she hit. She sunk underneath with the force of the impact, sucking in a swallow of salt water that burned her throat. She pulled at the water, trying to find the air that she knew was somewhere above her. Her body reacted, knowing instinctively how to pull her up through the water, and she finally burst to the surface. Gasping for air, her ears picked out the shouts from the ship as the crew began to react to the fact that two of its members were in the water.

Only then did she remember that she could not swim and she began to panic, kicking and pulling with her arms against the ocean swells that forced her to bob up and down and occasionally flooded over her head. Her panic made her limbs stiff and soon she began to sink, only occasionally being able to come up for a gasping breath of air, but more often than not taking in some water along with the much-needed air. She caught sight of a few people jumping off the ship and then swimming toward her, but her mind was wheeling too fast to realize that she would soon be rescued. She continued to fight against the power of the sea, but soon lost that battle and began to sink, the darkness of the water soon crashing into her mind, chasing out all thought and bringing her the relaxation of unconsciousness.
=-=-=-=-=
Jayne smiled over at Jan and patted him on the back, “That looks like a good course. Safe yet swift, as usual.” Her finger traced the line that he had plotted on the map, confident that they would shave a few hours off their arrival time by taking the short cut through the tiny islands between them and Nassau. She looked up, about to say something else, when shouts drew her attention to the deck below.

Immediately, she heard the calls of “man overboard” and her heart began to race. She instantly looked over to the practice area and felt sick to her stomach when she noticed it empty. Before realizing what she was doing, she was down the steps to the main deck and toward the railing. She called back over her shoulder, “Stop the ship,” and pulled off her bandoleer and cutlass, letting them drop loudly to the deck as she looked over at the water.

Her heart pounded even harder as she noticed Robbie and Liesel, both in the water, Robbie treading easily and Liesel struggling to stay afloat. Without a thought, she jumped over the railing, landing swiftly in the water. As she began to swim toward Liesel, she could hear a few others follow her lead, but her concentration was now focused on the woman who was alternately sinking for short periods and coming up for quick gasps of air.

Jayne’s arms ached as she fought the waves, making only slow progress to her goal. When she was finally only a few feet away, she saw Liesel go under again, this time not rising from the waves. Panic overcame Jayne and she took a deep breath and dived under the water, kicking toward the location where she guessed Liesel would be. She swam on, her eyes burning in the murky salt water of the ocean, searching, more by feel than sight, feeling her stomach tighten and her lungs ache from the effort. Finally, her hand brushed against something that felt solid and she grasped on, pulling with all her might until she managed to kick to the surface and pull Liesel up with her. When she saw the young woman’s face, she sighed quietly in relief and pulled her into a good hold to keep her face above water.

Before swimming back for the ship, she took a moment to slap at Liesel’s face to force her back to reluctant consciousness so she could breath. The woman jumped as her eyes fluttered open, coughing up water reflexively, and she instantly began to fight against whatever was restraining her until she heard Jayne’s soothing voice at her ear, “It’s okay, Liesel. I got you.” When Jayne saw the green eyes focus on her and the head nod in a surrendering recognition, she began pulling through the water toward the ship, which seemed impossibly far away.

It took quite a while to get to the ship, which had drifted in the water, even after every effort was made to change course and bring her around toward the people in the water. Every muscle in Jayne’s body ached as she reached the ropes and the men waiting in the water to help her and her burden back onto the ship. She looked up the sides to the people waiting on board and sighed in relief as she noticed Robbie’s worried face looking down at her. She smiled and handed Liesel off to Jan, who was waiting in the longboat that they had dropped into the water in the meantime, and said, “Let’s get her back on board and into my cabin. She lost consciousness for a little bit and I want to check her out.” Her muscles protested when she hauled herself into the boat, but then she simply collapsed from the exhaustion, unable to even keep her eyes open as she felt the boat lifting from the water.
=-=-=-=-=
Jayne looked down at Liesel, who was sprawled out in her hammock, “What did you think you were doing?”

“I did not think,” Liesel answered quietly. She was tired, almost to the point that she could not keep her eyes open. Finally dressed in warm and dry clothes, she had collapsed into her hammock, feeling the weight of the day’s fight with the sea hit her fully, making her limbs heavy and her thoughts fuzzy.

“I didn’t think so,” Jayne said with a grin. She was obviously angry but managed to keep her anger in check enough to avoid taking it out on the young woman. Instead, she let out the small part of her that was touched by the girl’s heroic, if misguided, act, and managed to keep her tone light. Liesel recognized that and was definitely grateful for it.

The young woman nodded, her eyes flashing over to where Robbie sat at the desk with a blanket thrown over his slumped shoulders. She then looked back up at Jayne and said, “I am sorry. It is my fault.”

“Shh,” Jayne said as she wiped a wisp of hair off the young woman’s forehead, “don’t you worry about it.” She smiled again, tucking the blanket around her like a mother would to a young child, and added, “Get some sleep. We’ll talk later.”

Liesel swallowed hard, her eyes closing without her permission. As she drifted off to sleep, she heard Jayne tell Robbie to go back to his bunk and also get some sleep. Then, just before the relieving darkness of sleep took hold, she felt a gentle hand on her cheek and she suddenly felt very safe and loved.
=-=-=-=-=
Liesel’s eyes fluttered open into almost complete darkness. Only moonlight streaming through the small cabin window gave any illumination to the room. She squinted, letting the dimness resolve itself into the now familiar shapes of her new home. She turned her head slowly, feeling every muscle groan in protest, until her eyes fell on Jayne, who sat slumped over in a chair next to her, snoring softly. Liesel smiled, feeling something warm inside her as she realized that Jayne was worried about her and had fallen asleep looking over her, like some sort of guardian angel.

She went to sit up, feeling a sudden need to use the chamber pot, and groaned as her tired muscles protested the sudden movement. Jayne’s eyes blinked open at the noise and she sat up with a start, “You okay?”

“Yes,” Liesel said quietly, the darkness compelling her to whisper, “I just need to get up and my body hurts.”

“I can imagine that,” Jayne said as she stood to offer Liesel a steady hand while she got out of the hammock. “I still can’t believe you did that.”

Liesel felt the blush hit her cheeks and she lowered her face, hoping that Jayne would not notice the sudden coloring in the dim moonlight. “It was stupid.”

Jayne took a long breath and shook her head, “No, it was brave. But you need to know that swimming in the ocean isn’t as easy as in a lake. You must have gotten tired cause you started to drown under the waves.”

Liesel’s eyes focused on the floor and she felt the blush continue to make her cheeks hot. She swallowed hard and said quietly, “I can not swim.”

“What?” Jayne reached over and used her fingertips to raise Liesel’s face so she could look her in the eye. “You came on board a ship and you can’t swim?”

Liesel shook her head, “No.”

Jayne chuckled and shook her head, seeming to find the revelation quite amusing. “I can’t believe it.” Her laughter increased and Liesel found herself joining in, not at all hurt by Jayne’s reaction. Finally gaining a bit of control over her laughter, Jayne said, “Well, if we have time in Nassau, I’ll show you how. It’s not hard.”

“Okay,” Liesel said, taking a breath in relief. Her lack of swimming skills had never crossed her mind until today and she realized that she needed to know how to swim if she wanted to have any chance of surviving on board the ship. There were any number of reasons, including her own inherent heroism, that could lead her into the ocean that constantly surrounded them.

An awkward silence crept up on them and hung in the air, making them both slightly nervous. Jayne finally coughed and shifted uneasily before saying, “I was frightened for you.” Her voice was quiet, barely a whisper, as if she were admitting something she was embarrassed about.

The tone was not lost on Liesel. She looked up, noting how Jayne averted her gaze, and smiled. “Jayne, may I ask you a question?”

Jayne’s eyes shot up to meet Liesel’s, fear playing in their blue depths. The pirate captain swallowed hard, obviously anxious about the question, but nodded, giving her tacit approval. Liesel smiled reassuringly and asked quietly, “Why do you hide your emotions?”

Jayne shrugged and turned her back to Liesel, an act that the young woman had come to recognize as a sign that Jayne was about to reveal something about herself, something that the older woman did only grudgingly. “I,” she shrugged again, “I was hurt pretty bad when I was a child. Since then, I’ve just found it easier to avoid emotion.”

It was a revelation of a part of Jayne that Liesel was unsure she should be privy to. In that one admission, Jayne had opened herself up, giving Liesel entrance to a part of her soul that few, if any, ever got to see and the younger woman understood that. Unsure whether to push Jayne, she decided to at least clarify the comment, “Jack?”

Jayne’s head turned slowly back to Liesel, her face falling into shadow so Liesel could not see the expression that it held. “Yeah.” She added no more, obviously not wanting to go into detail, but it was enough to help Liesel understand Jayne’s obsession with revenge. Jack had taken her parents and her emotional wellbeing, maybe even more. The fact that one person could so totally change another, so totally rob someone of the life they had always dreamed of living, sent a wave of sorrow through Liesel and she found herself hugging Jayne before she knew it. The pirate was all tension in her arms at first, but then she relaxed, tentatively returning the embrace. It only lasted a few seconds before they both pulled back, but it was enough to push them past another stepping stone in their friendship.

Jayne chuckled and tousled Liesel’s hair affectionately, “Okay, enough talking. I’m tired. Let’s get some sleep. It’s late.” She jerked her head toward the window, putting weight to her assessment of the hour by drawing attention to the darkness outside.

“Okay,” Liesel added as she moved past Jayne toward the chamber pot. By the time she was done, she noticed that Jayne was already sleeping in her own bed, a quiet snoring emanating from the dark figure. The younger woman smiled down at the slumbering figure, letting her fingers play with a strand of the raven-colored locks that lay around Jayne’s head. “Thanks,” she whispered, not wanting to wake the older woman, and then leaned down to kiss the crown of Jayne’s head. Snorting a quiet chuckle at herself, she turned to head back to her own hammock, not noticing in the dark the blue eyes that twinkled as they fixed on the far wall.
Chapter XIV
On board the Freedom
May 27, 1692

With a heavy sigh, Liesel pushed the mop across the deck for what seemed like the millionth time. She and Robbie had been at the cleaning project for most of the morning, spending the time talking with one another to avoid the boredom, but now as they were close to being finished, even talking could not help. The young woman pushed back an errant strand of hair and took a deep breath, catching a faint whiff of lunch mixed in with the heavy smell of the sea and the lye they were using to clean the deck.

Thinking solely of holding out for lunch, she almost did not hear the shout from the lookout high on the mast, “Ship ahoy.” She shielded her eyes, squinting up into the midday sun toward the man perched on the poop deck, and then followed the direction of his arm, seeing a small speck on the horizon that she would have thought was a distant island, or perhaps a whale that had decided to sun itself on such a gorgeous day.

Her quick flash of fantasy quickly dissolved, however, when she caught sight of Jayne climbing the roped webbing leading up to the lookout. Her heart seemed to pound with the danger that she perceived Jayne to be in, always feeling a mixture of fear and astonished awe at how Jayne could scurry among the high ropes and poles of the masts and sails. It was a sight to behold, and one she always hoped to take in from the relative safety of the deck.

Along with the rest of the crew, who had all stopped to see what the sudden commotion was about, she waited to hear what they were about to do. Liesel moved over to where Jan stood with Xavier, continuing to look up to where Jayne now stood with a looking glass held to her eye. Once there, she whispered, “Is something happening?”

“You bet,” Xavier said with a quiet chuckle, his eyes never leaving Jayne as she began to swing down a rope that hung from the top of the mast and ran to the deck. “Looks like we’re going after that ship. I can tell by the smile on her face.”

Low and behold, Liesel did see a huge grin on Jayne’s face like none she had ever seen before. As the pirate captain reached the ground, twenty or so paces away, the young woman could see her blue eyes sparkling even from such a distance. She was relishing what was about to happen and it made Liesel’s stomach turn, not out of judgement, but out of fear for Jayne’s safety.

It took the raven-haired woman only a few seconds to reach their position and she wasted no time in saying, “Well, gentlemen, I do believe we have found something to occupy a few hours with.” She jerked her head in the direction of the ship, which seemed to be getting larger on the horizon, “Spanish merchant ship, headed east. Probably laden with gold and jewels. It’ll be a good take.”

Xavier’s laughter seemed to rumble through his whole body, “Better than good. It’ll be fantastic.”

Jayne looked from Xavier to Jan, her eyes only quickly taking in Liesel, and then called out to the crew, “We’re going after that ship, men. Everyone to their stations. Man the cannons and prepare to board her once we’ve got her disabled.” She then said more quietly to Jan, “Bring us in, nice and easy. We’ve got plenty of light left for this.”

“Aye,” he said, smiling slightly as he ran off to man the wheel. He seemed suddenly anxious for the excitement as if he had returned to his former self, a pirate to the core. With a chuckle, Xavier also disappeared in the sudden rush of men preparing the ship for battle.

Once everyone seemed to be in motion, Jayne turned to Liesel and Robbie, who had long ago come up silently behind the younger woman, “I want you two below. Arm yourselves just in case, but you aren’t ready for a battle. It’ll be an hour or so until we’re in range to start our strike, but I want you down there now.”

“But…” Liesel began before being swiftly cut off when Jayne put her hand over the young woman’s mouth.

“No arguments,” she said with a tone of finality. “Remember what I said about obeying orders. This is an order.”

Liesel hung her head, knowing that she could not afford to buck against Jayne’s authority, and took a breath, nodding slightly without looking up. Finally, she tugged on Robbie’s shirtsleeve and muttered, “Come on. We can help old Martin get bandages ready.” They quickly disappeared below, out of the way of the crew’s practiced preparations for battle, and into the safest location on the ship, which, of course, was only relatively safe. When the cannonballs started flying, the whole ship was likely to become a floating death trap. Liesel tried hard not to think of that as she ducked down the corridor, searching out the ship’s cook and self-appointed doctor.
=-=-=-=-=
The fighting broke out over an hour later. First the loud boom of cannons rumbled through the ship, shaking every wooden beam in the crew quarters where Liesel and Robbie were folding blankets and putting away clothes left strewn over the different bunks throughout the large room.

Robbie jumped, clutching almost reflexively at the cutlass he had haphazardly stuffed into the sash at his waist. His eyes were wide and filled with fear and it pulled at Liesel’s heart to see the terror that played in their blue depths, mirroring an unspoken gut-gripping fear that shook her to her core. Somewhere, up above, Jayne was giving orders, bringing them closer to a battle that would soon be filled with men from both sides lashing out with cutlasses and taking aim at each other with flint-lock pistols. Any second could be the captain’s last. In Liesel’s mind, all it would take was a stray shot, a lucky swipe of a blade, and the future she had started to hope for, the one that tormented her dreams and which she would not speak about or even admit to fully, would be gone in a flash, leaving only the aching pain of could-have-beens.

Each booming of a cannon and the corresponding splashes of shots falling heavily in the surf around the Freedom made them jump, waiting for the one ball of metal that would crash into the ship and rip a hole in her side so large, no carpenter could save her. Much to their astonishment, the boom of such a hit never came, instead a sudden silence descended upon the ship, lending an eerie stillness to the cavernous room.

Liesel looked at Robbie, recognizing an echoing surprise in his own expressions. “Do you think it’s over?” Robbie asked, his voice sounding small, like a child’s.

“No,” Liesel said, her breath coming in slightly ragged breaths as her heart continued to pound heavily in her chest. As if on cue, they heard the sound of men’s shouts of excitement as the battle ensued. Pistol shots and sword clashes echoed down the long hallway leading to the crew quarters. Liesel felt her heartbeat increase and an image of Jayne, lying in a pool of blood, flashed through her brain.

Then she found herself running for the deck, her hand pulling the cutlass she had strapped to her waist out of its sash. It hadn’t been a conscious decision to run toward the fighting, it had simply happened, her feet acting of their own accord. A small part of her was aware of Robbie’s footsteps close behind her and she wondered if she should stop and send him back, but the pulling in her gut that drove her forward gave her no choice. She had to continue without pause.

Coming out into the blinding light of day, the first thing she noticed was the louder clanging of metal on metal as her eyes adjusted and she took in the mayhem around her. Men from the two crews were scattered around the decks of both ships, engaged in small groups of twos or threes, cutlasses slashing at one another. Screams broke the ringing of metal at irregular intervals, sending chills down Liesel’s spine. She searched frantically, trying to find Jayne amid the craziness around her.

She barely had time to take in the men around her when she heard a scream behind her, turning just in time to block a blade aimed right for her head. Much to her surprise, her body took over, knowing where to block and where to strike out. The man who was attacking her, a middle-aged Spaniard possessing an admirable skill with his cutlass, was even more surprised, stumbling backward as she quickly took control of the fight.

It did not take long for her to disarm him and leave him in an unconscious heap on the floor. She stood over him, chest just beginning to heave with the effort of the fight and the sudden pumping of adrenaline through her veins. Looking at the hand that held her cutlass, it seemed so foreign to her, suddenly strong and confident, and she almost dropped the weapon out of shock and fear. Licking her lips to combat their sudden dryness, she raised her eyes, again searching for Jayne among the mayhem.

Instead she found Robbie, fighting for his life against a much larger man wielding both a cutlass and a long dagger. Robbie ducked one swipe of the blade only to have his shirt torn and a streak of blood form from a long slice with the dagger. Liesel’s eyes flew open in fear as she ran toward the duo, terrified for her young friend. Much to her relief, Jayne jumped out of nowhere to rescue Robbie, but she did not have time to watch the pirate captain work because she found herself suddenly in front of yet another opponent. Sighing deeply, her body somehow revealing to her that it was not as challenged as she would think it was, she went to work on the man.

=-=-=-=-=
Jayne finished off the third opponent for the day, leaving him with a severe wound to his sword arm and effectively taking him out of the fighting for the day. The sudden calm near her allowed her a chance to take stock of the situation. Her men seemed to be handling things well, pushing the Spaniards back onto their own ship and then taking them down there. It would not take long before they had finished off the fighting, leaving enough alive to pilot their ship to port without its precious cargo. She smiled, letting her eyes proudly scan the ship and her crew, until she saw something that made her heart stop for a moment.

Liesel was on the deck, engaged in a rather skillful battle with a taller Spaniard, meeting his advances with able parries that allowed Jayne to begin to breathe again. She seemed fine, but Jayne’s fears did not disappear and she found herself heading toward the younger woman, only glimpsing Robbie nearby when she was almost on top of the her friend.

Robbie was scrambling under the incessant blows of a large man wielding a cutlass and a dagger. Seeing out of the corner of her eye that Liesel had finished off her opponent, she turned to run to Robbie, fearful that she would not arrive in time. Only steps away, she watched as Robbie’s arm was slashed with a dagger, but he did not falter. He came back, taking an unskilled but brave slash at the burly man attacking him. And then she was on top of them, kicking out with one booted foot to the top of the man’s head, pushing him back on his heels as she began slashing out with her own weapon in a flurry of strokes that blurred before her eyes.

It did not take long before the man lay dead at her feet, a massive wound to his chest and one arm barely attached at the shoulder. Looking down at her own hands, now covered with her opponent’s blood, she blinked, unsure whether they were really her own or not. They seemed cold and uncaring, a reflection of the self that had just killed the man, and she shook with the realization of that. It was not her first kill, just one in a long line of opponents bested and sent to the afterlife. Better them than her, she had always thought.

But now as she looked up to find Liesel next to Robbie, his head turned from the horror, her eyes wide and fearful, cringing when she moved in the young woman’s direction, she found herself so completely alien that it left her numb. Swallowing hard, she shook her head in Liesel’s direction, pleading with her eyes for understanding, for forgiveness of this act, and surprisingly found that absolution in her friend’s eyes, and her heart simply shattered open. She fell to the floor, a convulsion of tremors wracking her body, no conscious thoughts able to take hold of her brain. She was simply a quivering mass, withdrawn from the reality around her, until she felt a soothing hand on her shoulder, pulling her back to the present, to the horror of her actions but also to the love that Liesel’s eyes shown down on her–love that was not earned or asked for, but simply given. A gift of untold measure that again pulled at her heart.

She found herself falling into Liesel’s arms in the middle of the chaos of the ship’s fighting. The battles raging around them did not concern Jayne. Instead she felt the warring in her heart, tearing her between the love she was feeling from Liesel and the darkness that called to her like a lover, wooing her into its lucious depths and promising release from pains long held. It was a battle she hadn’t asked for and one she was not prepared to wage, one that she knew could not be handled with a swift slice of her sword or a simple act of her will. It was something likely to tear at her for time to come, and she took a long, deep breath, finally feeling the arms that Liesel had wrapped around her. Perhaps, just perhaps, with this young woman’s help she would find a way through that battlefield of her internal strife. The only question that remained was whether she wanted to find her way through it or give herself up to the darkness and the revenge she had always promised herself.
=-=-=-=-=
The Blackened Skull, Tortuga
May 27, 1692

“Okay,” Jack said as he leaned across the table, his one eye boring into Nelson. “I want you to head to Port Royal. The Gryphon is sailing for there tomorrow and you can catch a ride. If you see Jayne, tell her I’m here, sitting right in this damned room if you want, and get her to come here. I’m sick of all this pussyfooting around.”

Nelson nodded, his head bobbing up and down too quickly to be the result of a conscious decision to move. He wrung at his hands and managed to squeak out, “Yeah, sure, no problem.”

“Good,” Jack chuckled quietly, enjoying the fear he elicited from his men. It was part of the rush he always got from his chosen profession and he could never fail to laugh or smile at the effects of his intentional acts of malicious abandon. “And see if a young boy, about sixteen, who probably looks a lot like Jayne, is with her. I want him unharmed and would like a little warning that he might be coming into my den of mayhem.”

“Will do,” was all that Nelson could sputter out.

“Get out of my sight,” Jack said gruffly, letting a slight smile come to his lips as Nelson fumbled and tripped his way out of the bar. Yes, the rush was like a drug, coursing through his veins and giving him a power he had never known from another source. Well, except perhaps from the power of life, standing over someone he had just killed, when he often felt a rush even more intense than this, but that occurred less often, not allowing him the steady buzz of this sort of power trip.

After Nelson had managed to escape, Jack turned to look around him, noting the rag tag group of sailors and pirates, some members of his crew but many from other ships. A few citizens from the city sat in the far corner, keeping to themselves out of a need for protection. Jack smiled again, standing to address the room. “I want everyone to do something for me. If you run into Jayne Kingston, and I know you all know who she is, I want you to tell her that I’m here, sitting right in this tavern. Don’t let her know that I asked you to do this. Make her think she’s got some inside information. Understood?”

He nodded with satisfaction as the men around him grumbled their agreement to his request. He almost laughed as he heard wisps of conversation drift to him, the men saying that it was certainly better to do that than deal with Jack’s wrath. Sitting back down and folding his hands in satisfaction across his chest, he laughed quietly. Yes, the power rush was intense, but he was sure that it would be nothing compared to what he would experience when he finally had his chance to take care of Jayne and gain the secret to the family treasure. Now that would be a rush beyond comprehension.
Chapter XV
On board the Freedom, Nassau
May 28, 1692

The ship seemed to hum with life and Jayne smiled as her crew prepared themselves for two days of rest and relaxation in the relatively peaceful port of Nassau. It had not taken long to find out that Jack was nowhere to be found and had not been there in some time. A quick trip on shore to speak with some of her contacts had told her that much. With the prospect of a disgruntled crew, she made the decision to give them a break so they could enjoy their newfound wealth after the amazingly large take from the Spanish ship. That, coupled with her desire to spend more time with Liesel away from the confines and stringent routine of shipboard life, made her decision to let everyone run rampant for two days quite easy. She definitely had to admit that she needed the break herself after her collapse during that last battle.

Seeing Jan work to drop one of the longboats over the side of the ship, she walked up to him and quickly pulled him to the side. She looked around, making sure they were as alone as possible, and then said, “Keep an eye on Robbie for me. I’ve got something I want to do.”

Jan shook his head slightly in mild disgust, “I still don’t get why you brought him on board if you’re just going to protect him from every bump in the night.”

“I brought him on board,” she hissed, “because I thought it was for the best. And I’m not pampering him, just looking out for him. He’s still young.”

“He’s sixteen,” Jan said incredulously. “Most of the men on this ship were that age or younger when they started sailing. What are you afraid of, that he’ll get drunk or have a hang nail?”

Jayne took a long breath, suppressing the desire to yell at him, and said evenly, “Cut me a break, Jan. I haven’t been able to worry about him really for years. I need to catch up.”

“Okay, okay,” the Dutchman finally chuckled. “You know I just like giving you a hard time.”

A playful eyebrow quirked up on Jayne’s face as she said, “And paybacks are a bitch.” She patted him on the arm and headed over to where Liesel was standing, leaving Jan to watch her, a mixture of amusement and genuine worry playing across his face.

Jayne chuckled to herself as she came up to Liesel, her eyes sparkling from the exchange. Her grin only grew as she drew even with her young friend, “So, you ready for a little R&R?”

“R&R? I do not know that word.” Liesel’s brows furrowed at the term.

“Rest and relaxation,” Jayne explained with a quick smile as she leaned up against the ship’s railing next to Liesel. “If you have nothing better to do,” she shrugged slightly, “I thought we could head over to this small lagoon near here. How about a swimming lesson?”

“Really?”

“Yeah,” Jayne hitched her head in the direction of the boat being lowered over the side of the ship. “We can catch that boat and be out there by noon. We’ll stop in town and get something to eat to bring with us, make a day out of it. I’ll even buy you those boots I promised.”

“Sure,” Liesel started to head for the longboat, stopping a few steps from Jayne and turning toward her with a puzzled expression. “Shall I bring anything to wear?”

“Nah,” Jayne flipped her hand and shook her head. “You’ll be fine. Come on.” She started to walk past Liesel, pausing only long enough to pull on Liesel’s elbow so she would follow. It would certainly be a fantastic day to relax and get to know her new friend better, and perhaps get to know herself better in the process.
=-=-=-=-=
Lagoon, Nassau
May 28, 1692

Jayne started to unwrap the sash from around her waist and called over to Liesel, who stood on a nearby rock outcropping taking in the secluded lagoon with its deep blue water and low rocky cliffs, “Come on. Get undressed and hop in.” She dropped the sash and began pulling at her shirttails, her eyes still surreptitiously glancing at Liesel. The young woman stood, hands on hips, staring at Jayne in utter disbelief. After pulling the shirt from over her head and unwrapping the binding she used to keep her cleavage from bobbing around, she chuckled, “What’s wrong?”

“You want me to swim without clothing?” With you? The thought left her nervous and lightheaded.

“Sure. What’s wrong with that?” Jayne hopped around as she pulled off first one boot and then the other by the heel. Finally barefoot, she looked back up at Liesel, who had not moved, and shook her head, pulling her pants down in one swift motion and then running into the warm waters of the lagoon, diving swiftly beneath the still surface of the water.

Liesel watched Jayne’s strong body dip below the water, feeling herself flush. She took a long breath, thinking the reaction modesty or embarrassment. She shook her head, mocking her own sheltered and naïve thoughts, and jumped off the outcropping, landing with a crunch of her new boots on the dark sands of the lagoon. She swallowed hard, looking out to where Jayne was lazily sunning herself in the water, and quickly shook out of her clothing. Without pause, she ran into the water to avoid any more exposure than was necessary. She did not stop advancing into the warm liquid until she was up to her neck.

Jayne finally swam over to her, chuckling quietly at the girl’s modesty. “Um, I hate to tell you this, but we’ll have to go into more shallow water for the lesson.” The pirate felt her heart beating more rapidly as she approached the younger woman, feeling the desire she had recognized kindling in her growing into a slow burning fire. It only increased when Liesel, with a shy duck of her head, headed toward the edge of the lagoon until the water was only up to her waist. The full breasts with water dripping over their dips and curves in small rivulets felt like large magnets, drawing the pirate toward them, and she had to force her eyes away before she was caught.

She was not fast enough. Liesel turned to her friend, catching her eyes taking in her now half-naked body, and flushed deeply from head to toe. It sent a shot of adrenaline through her, one that she had never experienced before, that coursed through every vein in her body from top to bottom, ending in more than one erogenous zone. It startled her, but she did her best to give no visible reaction, instead digging her fingernails into her thighs, giving her nerve endings a different stimulus to worry about. The feeling passed, however grudgingly, and although she still felt lightheaded and warm, she managed to keep an even expression as she turned to look at Jayne, “Ready?”

“Huh?” Jayne’s eyes snapped back to reality from the far off place they had been viewing. “Oh, yes, the lesson,” she chuckled, covering her own odd reaction, feeling truly embarrassed for probably the first time in her life. She had never had a problem with modesty; thirteen years as the only woman on a ship full of men saw to that. She had heard, said, and probably done it all, but this was somehow different and it both confused and excited her. She took a long breath, making sure she was in complete control, and then nodded quickly, “Okay, you’ve got to lay on your back in the water. I’ll hold you up until you are flat, and then we’ll work on floating.”

“You will what?” Liesel squeaked.

“I said you lay down and I’ll hold you up until we can get you floating.” She moved closer and started to put her hands around Liesel, intending to place one hand on the girl’s stomach, and one on her back. She had barely touched the warm skin when Liesel jumped. Jayne chuckled quietly, recognizing a familiar anxiety in the knee-jerk reaction. “Would you please relax? I don’t bite.” Hard, she couldn’t help but add silently, letting herself smile at her joke.

When Liesel nodded, she finally got her hands around the woman’s midsection. Swallowing hard at the contact, she decided to forge ahead with the lesson. Better to get this over with than to let the feelings overwhelm her. “Okay, now just lean back. Don’t worry, the water doesn’t bite.”

“I know it will not,” Liesel shook her head and took a long breath, more to quiet her breathing and quell the warmth that once again had flared up at the touch of Jayne’s hands to her bare flesh. Finally having a modicum of control, she slowly began to lean back, feeling Jayne’s hand press into her spine to compensate for her loss of equilibrium. She tried to ignore the rising blush that tinged her face as she leaned back and exposed herself to the world.

Soon, she was floating, with Jayne’s hand keeping her steady while she sought out the proper positioning of her arms and legs to keep her balanced in the water. She could feel the cool breeze along her stomach, cooler because of the drops of water that clung to every inch of her, cooler even still in comparison to the heat that seemed to well up out of Jayne’s hand and seep into her spine and up into her face. She could feel her heart pounding and she took a moment to close her eyes, fighting the intense embarrassment that grew as her body reacted to the temperature changes. Finally, she forced herself to chuckle, needing to find these reactions to her situation humorous to escape a severity of the situation that she was not prepared, regardless of what every inch of her body was telling her, to accept.

It was at this moment that she realized the hand on the small of her back was no longer there and she was floating alone in the water. She panicked, thrashing about quickly trying to find purchase on the floor of the lagoon, but instead feeling Jayne’s hands on her again, working to settle her. “It’s okay,” the pirate said as she wrapped a long arm around Liesel’s waist, forcing her to settle down and relax. “I’ve got you.” Jayne’s voice was soft, caring, and it surprised Liesel.

“I,” Liesel swallowed hard as her feet found the lagoon floor, “I am okay. Sorry, I was surprised when your hand was no longer on me.”

“Oh,” Jayne purred with a humorous note to her voice, “so you wanted my hands to still be on you?” The flirtatious question was out before she could stop it.

“Yes,” she stopped, “NO!”

Jayne’s laughter poured out of her. “It’s okay, Liesel. I was just joking.” It felt less like joking than she was willing to admit, but the comment seemed to calm her younger companion. Finally, when the deep red that had overwhelmed Liesel’s face had faded to a pale pink, she said more seriously, “Shall we continue?”

The next few hours were taken up with the rest of the lesson. Liesel learned quickly and was soon pulling herself through the water with a moderate amount of skill, enough at least to venture out where the water would be over her head. As the day wore on, she also relaxed around Jayne, enjoying the banter and fun they both shared during the lesson. It was quite relaxing, but also stimulating in its own way. All this puzzled Liesel, but she did not take the time to ponder the thought, instead filing it away for later reflection and allowing herself to relax and enjoy the camaraderie of the day.
=-=-=-=-=
As the sun began to sink slowly toward the western horizon, Jayne and Liesel lay spread out on a large rock, both wrapped in the towels that Jayne had brought along. The workout of the lesson and then frolicking in the water had worn them both out and they had finally ventured out of the water to share a late lunch and then to enjoy a lazy afternoon. With the sun shining and not a cloud in the sky, Jayne was hard pressed to think of a more perfect day to spend getting to know her new friend.

Turning her head to look over at the younger woman, the captain smiled, “So, having fun?”

A smile lit up Liesel’s face, but she did not open her eyes. When she answered, her voice sounded like she was in a dream, “Oh yes.”

“Good,” Jayne chuckled quietly as she sat up, her eyes never leaving Liesel. With the German’s eyes shut, she was able to take in the sight before her. There was no doubting her feelings, the power of them was almost frightening. In all her years, and in all the people she had been attracted to for purely carnal reasons, she had never felt anything quite like this. She could only guess it was love, as much as she did not want to admit it. The only question remaining was whether Liesel was feeling anything close to the feelings she herself was experiencing. There was only one way to find out. She would have to fish for some information. “So, Liesel, you never told me much about the man your father wanted you to marry. What was wrong with him?”

Green eyes popped open at the sudden question and the light-haired woman sat up and regarded her companion. “Um,” she began, her eyebrows furrowing as she groped to find the right way to explain things, “he was just not right.” She shrugged, “He was older, too old, and he seemed to want a servant or a shop window doll to have on his arm.” Sighing, she added, “He would have made me give up my studies and my dreams.”

Jayne leaned forward slightly, her voice soft as she asked, “What are your dreams?”

Liesel sat transfixed by the blue eyes meeting her own. She seemed lost in the gaze and took almost a minute to snap back into reality and stutter, “I want to live, not be trapped in some house. I need to experience life.”

The older woman could feel it–the tug at her that made her lean into Liesel and that obviously pulled Liesel toward her. They were only inches apart when Jayne whispered, “Then experience it.” Before she realized it, she was kissing Liesel, feeling the other woman’s warm lips lightly on her own, sending bolts of energy pulsing through her body. Any question she still harbored disappeared in that moment.
=-=-=-=-=
Liesel’s mind seemed slow to realize what was happening. Her body simply reacted to Jayne’s lips touching her own and she leaned into the kiss, enjoying the delicious warmth the other woman’s lips seemed to drape over her. She felt at peace and completely alive all at once, a combination that seemed so odd and yet so perfectly in tune with one another. Having never really kissed anyone before, she had nothing with which to measure the experience and simply resigned herself to think it perfect.

And then it hit her. She was kissing Jayne. That realization made every muscle in her tighten and she jerked back, her eyes wide in surprise, her face starting to turn suddenly red. She swallowed hard as she looked at Jayne, her mind reeling in an attempt to make sense of the situation, but nothing seemed to click properly. She slid back and rolled over onto her knees, finding herself on her feet and running away before giving herself conscious permission to do so.

Her heart pounded as she ran steadily up the path leading to the cliffs surrounding the lagoon. She refused to think, to wonder about the feelings she could feel bubbling up inside her, threatening to drive all sane thought from her. Instead she simply continued to run, pushing the reality behind her with each steady step until she reached the top of the cliffs. She looked around, chuckling quietly at the absurdity of it all, and slowly proceeded to the tip of the cliff.

Once there, where she could look out at the expanse of the sea before her, she sat down, running her hands idly through the grass. The comfort of the nature surrounding her seemed to calm her pounding heart. She had no idea what scared her so much or made her run away. Something was just not sitting right with her. It was not right to feel this way. The years of Christian doctrine pounded into her thoughts, telling her that everything about this was wrong and try as she might to rebel against that, to convince herself that she had long ago given up the lessons of her childhood in favor of other beliefs, she could not escape the oppression of her past. Battered down by the inescapable weight of the dilemma, she hung her head and began to cry softly, feeling the hot tears streak down her face.

She jumped when she heard soft footfalls behind her. Knowing it was Jayne, she did not look up, instead quickly wiping the tears from her face with the back of one hand. She smiled slightly when she heard Jayne say, “Thought you might want your clothes.”

She took a long breath, feeling the air cleanse her in a way the tears had not, and she turned slowly, holding out her hands for her clothing. “Thanks,” she said softly, hearing the quiver in her voice, and lowering her eyes once she had the clothes firmly in her grasp.

Jayne knelt down in front of her, concern written on her face as she said, “I’m sorry if I jumped to conclusions.” Liesel did not respond and the pirate frowned. She took a long breath and stood, “You get dressed. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Without waiting for Liesel to respond, she turned and walked away back along the cliff, giving Liesel a bit of privacy to change.

Minutes later, Liesel stood, now dressed in her clothing, the towel slung over her right shoulder. She stared distantly into the sea, not really seeing anything, simply taking comfort from the quiet sounds of nature surrounding her. This time, when she heard Jayne approach, she turned to her friend, more confidence playing in her green eyes. Liesel echoed Jayne’s earlier words as they stood only a few feet apart, “I am sorry. I should not have reacted like that.”

“No, I was the one who shouldn’t have acted like that.” Jayne walked over next to Liesel and sat down, motioning with her hand that the younger woman should join her. When she did, Jayne took a deep breath, debating whether to push the younger woman one final time. It was a risk, but one she felt she had to take, because it was eating her up inside. “Liesel, can I ask you a question?”

“Yes,” Liesel added in a quiet monotone.

Taking a deep, reassuring breath, Jayne asked quietly, “You do feel this right?” She motioned back and forth between them with her hand. “You told me back when you first decided to stay on the ship that you felt something between us. Don’t tell me that it’s gone now.”

Liesel stared out at the sea, not trusting her voice if she were to look at Jayne. She nodded slightly, her head barely moving, and said, “Yes, it is still there, but…” Her voice faded into uncertainty and she could only shake her head. A few long, heavy seconds passed between them before Liesel whispered, “I do not think that this is right.”

“Right?” Jayne’s eyebrow quirked up as she looked over at Liesel. “You don’t think that this is what you are feeling or do you think there is something wrong with what you are feeling?” Jayne already knew the answer, but she needed to hear it from Liesel, to make the young woman say it plainly so that she could later confront those feelings.

Liesel still would not look at Jayne as she said, “It is wrong to feel this way about you.”

“Because I’m a woman or because I’m a scoundrel?”

Liesel turned quickly and glared at her, “Do not mock me.”

Jayne moved around so that she was facing Liesel, forcing the young woman to look at her, “I’m not mocking you.” She started to reach out, but pulled her hand back when Liesel recoiled slightly. “Look, I understand what you’re saying. Not many people would say that it’s okay, but that’s a decision you need to come to yourself.” She paused, not noticing a change in Liesel’s demeanor, and decided to throw caution to the winds one last time and let out her feelings completely. “I’m going to tell you something I’ve never said to anyone before, because I’ve never wanted to, or for that matter needed to. I both need and want to tell you though.” She took a long breath, feeling her heart pound loudly in her chest, “I love you.”

“No,” Liesel shook her head, “you cannot.”

“I can too,” Jayne countered, “and I do.” She used her fingertips to force Liesel’s bowed head up so that she could look the younger woman in the eye, “And I think you love me too.”

Liesel did not answer. She simply sat, not averting her gaze, not struggling to get away. She was rooted to the spot, unable to move a muscle, and definitely unable to refute the accusation. Her lack of a response led to a long, uneasy silence that hung between them like a thick fog.

Hating the unease, Jayne finally shifted and said, “Look, I think we both need some time. Let’s just stay friends and see where things go, okay? No pressures, no expectations, and the next move is yours.”

This finally brought a smile to Liesel’s lips and she let out a long-held breath of relief, “That sounds good.”

“Great,” Jayne said, an answering smile lighting up her own face. She slapped her thigh and got to her feet, holding her hand out to help Liesel stand, “How about some dinner? I know a great restaurant in town.”

Taking Jayne’s hand and jumping to her feet along with Jayne’s tug of her hand, Liesel smiled broadly, “Sounds great. Let us go.” She headed back toward the city, which she could see on the other side from the lagoon, and laughed as Jayne ran to catch up, finally falling into an easy pace alongside each other.
=-=-=-=-=
Maggie’s Tavern, Nassau
May 28, 1692

The restaurant was quiet to the point of almost utter silence. There were only a few patrons scattered around the large room at various tables in groups of mostly twos. One man sat by himself in the far corner scowling at the room’s other occupants while a couple obviously out for a night on the town sat in the opposite corner having eyes only for each other. Liesel and Jayne sat amid the varied people, taking a clue from those around them by keeping their voices barely to a whisper. They both sent quick glances around them, conscious of the others in the room–Jayne out of a long-engrained desire for safety, Liesel out of self-consciousness–but finally their gazes tracked back to each other and the other patrons receded into the barely noticeable background.

Jayne chuckled as Liesel fiddled with her clothes for probably the hundredth time. Talking around a bite of chicken, she said, “What’s wrong?”

Liesel’s green eyes shot up to meet Jayne’s and she turned a deep shade of pink, “Um, I…” She chuckled self-consciously and then admitted, “I am not used to dressing like this in public. I guess it is something I must become used to.”

The captain leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms over her chest and nodding slightly, her eyes roaming over Liesel’s garb with an appraising eye. She shrugged one shoulder, “Hmm, I dunno. I think it suits you.”

“But,” Liesel leaned forward, her voice dropping to barely a whisper, “do you not think the clothes say what we do?”

“What?” Jayne chuckled quietly, looking around at the other patrons before returning her gaze to her companion. “You don’t think everyone here knows who I am? I could come in here dressed in a monkey costume and they’d know who I am. You, my friend, are guilty by association.” Leaning forward, she skewered another piece of chicken with her fork and then used the utensil to motion toward Liesel, “Besides, I hate to tell you this, but you’re a pirate now. Might as well dress the part.”

Liesel’s head dropped as she sighed quietly. What that meant exactly–to be a pirate–was something she was slowly becoming aware of. It was not all romantic swashbuckling and high adventure. There was a base reality that ate at her, calling for her to enter its darkness, to give into this new life. She felt as if she stood on the pier again, preparing to jump into the unknown, already having made her decision but finding at the last moment that one small step into the void was more difficult than she could have ever imagined. She was not even sure what exactly the payoff was, but Jayne was certainly part of it. It was the unknown that terrified her.

“Hey,” Jayne said, gently laying her hand on Liesel’s to get the woman’s attention. When the green eyes slowly rose and Jayne could see the welling tears in them, she took a gulping breath, “What’s wrong?”

Liesel snorted a quiet chuckle and shook her head at herself, pushing the darkness perching to devour her into the farthest recess of her mind. Finally shrugging, she said, “Oh nothing. So, you think I look like a pirate?”

Jayne grinned broadly, her eyes twinkling, “Sure do. You’re even starting to swagger a bit.”

“Swagger?”

“Yeah,” Jayne leaned over conspiratorially, “You know. That confident walk that we all have. It really comes from trying to keep away from the sharp edge of our cutlasses but don’t tell anyone. Old pirate secret.” She smiled, a mischievous light playing in her eyes.

“Well, from an old pirate like yourself,” Liesel joked back, “I will be sure to keep that silent.” She leaned back in her chair, taking a sip of the cool ale from her mug, her eyes continuing to regard Jayne from over the rim. It took her a few seconds, her thoughts warring between the precipice of her future and blatant interest before she lowered the mug and ask, “Why a pirate?”

“Huh?” Jayne asked around a mouthful of potatoes.

“Why did you become a pirate?” Liesel repeated a bit more plainly.

“Fate,” Jayne threw the word out nonchalantly as she dabbed at the corner of her mouth with a linen napkin and shrugged her shoulders. Settling back into her chair, she continued, “It was either that or continue life as a pickpocket. Captain Near rescued me and I couldn’t resist. I just figured it was better to take control of life instead of letting it control me.” She shrugged again and added in little more than a whisper, “Seems to me you figured out the same thing.”

Liesel sucked thoughtfully on her lower lip and nodded, recognizing the truth in the words. A slight smile formed on her lips, “Guess we are more alike than we thought.”

“Guess so,” Jayne smiled back at her.
=-=-=-=-=
Beach, Nassau
May 28, 1692

After dinner, they decided to spend the evening walking the beach near the port town. With the moon still below the horizon, the stars stood out in bright relief against the pitch-black sky. The sea quietly rushed onto the shore in the scratching rhythm of low tide, keeping the couple company on their slow meandering down the beach.

Dinner had been interspersed with discussions of their lives and Jayne was amazed how open she had been with the younger woman. Secrets that she had never revealed to anyone, not even Jan or Xavier, had simply fallen from her lips without so much as a second thought. She had even revealed that she donated most of her money to the orphanage where Robbie had been staying although it seemed to do little good with the number of children the nuns there were forced to contend with. But, as she had said, every little bit helps and she knew from her brief stint there that it had been much worse in the past.

Jayne smiled at Liesel, listening to her talk about the churches and estates of her hometown absently. As much as the inconsequential prattlings were sweet, Jayne found herself needing to know more about this young woman than the layout of her hometown. “Liesel,” she quietly interrupted after the younger woman stopped talking about some lion statue and prodded, “why don’t you ever talk about the rest of your family? I’ve only really heard you talk about your father.”

The younger woman shrugged slightly, never once missing a step, and said, “Well there is my sister Birgit. She is younger than me, only fourteen. My father loves her, which is lucky for her. She is good at following what he wants.” Another shrug accompanied the sad, regretful tone. “She is everything I cannot be.”

“Is that what you want to be?” Jayne asked, hoping to give the young woman some aid into insight.

A lilting laughter answered her, “No, I do not.” Liesel shrugged and said, “After my brother died, my father never gave me a chance. Only my mother seemed to understand me. My father just blamed me for Wolfgang’s death.” She looked down at the sand before her, her voice sounding hollow and distant suddenly.

“Brother?”

“Yes,” Liesel snorted a sad laugh. “He died when he was six. He drowned.”

“Was it?”

“What?”

“Your fault?”

Liesel took a long breath, expelling the emotion that had seemed to well in her, and shrugged, “To this day I am not sure. We were playing by the river and I threw the ball too near to the edge. He fell in. I could not have saved him.”

“Liesel,” Jayne said as she put a restraining hand on the smaller woman’s shoulder and turned them both so they were facing one another. “You can’t blame yourself. How old were you?”

“Eight.”

“Exactly,” Jayne continued. “You were too young to be able to help him and you can’t blame yourself about throwing that ball. Wasn’t there someone watching you?”

“Our nanny was busy with Birgit. She was not nearby. She had told us to stay far away from the water,” Liesel explained quietly.

“Don’t beat yourself up about this, Liesel. You were a child. You can’t look at yourself as a child and judge yourself as if you were an adult. As for your father, well I doubt he would have understood you regardless. He sounds like he could never understand an independent, strong woman.” Jayne grinned slightly and tilted her head to the side, “You scare him.”

Liesel’s head suddenly dropped and she whispered, barely audible over the rustling of the waves, “Sometimes I scare myself.”

“What?” Jayne reached out and tipped the sandy blonde’s head up with the tips of her fingers. “You scare yourself?”

Liesel turned and started walking away. She only made it a few steps before Jayne pulled her to a stop and whirled her around. Jayne’s voice was even and forceful, “What do you mean?”

Liesel’s gaze fixed itself over Jayne’s shoulder, unable to look her in the eye. “I, um, well sometimes I wish that I was like everyone else.” Her green eyes slowly moved to Jayne’s blue and she suddenly collapsed into the taller woman’s shoulder, sobs wracking her body.

At first, Jayne stood stock still, still unaccustomed to comforting those in need and surprised by the sudden shift in Liesel’s reaction. Finally, after almost a minute of Liesel crying on her shoulder, she was able to begin soothing the younger woman by slowly petting the girl’s hair and whispering quieting nonsense words into her ear.

After a few minutes, Liesel took a deep breath and pulled away from the pirate captain, wiping quickly at her tear-stained cheeks. She chuckled at herself and shrugged, “I am sorry.”

“Shh,” Jayne answered, rubbing Liesel’s arm affectionately. “It isn’t easy being different. I should know. But you have to follow your heart. Be who you need to be.”

The younger woman looked up at her, saying in a quiet voice, “Even when I am not sure that I can?”

“Yes,” Jayne nodded, “even then.”

She wanted to say more, to somehow comfort the young woman. She understood that Liesel was going through a tough time, experiencing so many things that were new and often very frightening. Part of her screamed that she needed to be a leader, a mentor, to this young woman, but she could not find her voice or the words within the good intentions. Instead, she simply rested her hand lightly on the smaller shoulder and said, “I believe in you.”

A wistful smile edged onto Liesel’s face but the doubt still played in her eyes. She hung her head for a moment before taking a breath and meeting Jayne’s gaze with more determination, “I will try.”

“Good,” Jayne said and started to walk, pulling Liesel along with her. “Now, let’s get back to the ship. I don’t know about you, but all that swimming has made me tired.”

“Sounds good,” Liesel agreed. She had wanted to say so much more, to open up to Jayne about her doubts, her fears, even her desires, but she could tell that now was not the time. She had pushed Jayne to her tolerance for revelations and emotion and she would accomplish nothing by pushing that. She was content with having laid the groundwork for a closer friendship, and, she almost hated to admit, something more.
=-=-=-=-=
They had barely made it to the first cobblestone-covered street when Xavier came running out of the darkness, waving his arms widely to get their attention. He was winded and took a moment to catch his breath before squeaking out, “Jack has been seen at Tortuga. Reports say he’s planning on staying there for a bit for repairs and rest.”

“Perfect,” Jayne bubbled out, rubbing her hands together in anticipation. Her eyes seemed to take on another gleam, one that was quite sinister in the shadows of the night. Everything about her was a taut bowstring waiting for release and the only release would be finding Jack.

Liesel watched the sudden transformation and was not surprised to find that she had backed subconsciously away from her friend. To see Jayne now that she had heard Jack was within her grasp, one would not recognize the woman who had let Liesel sob on her shoulder or who had laughed during their swim at the lagoon. This woman was all anger and fear. It simply radiated off her.

The young woman jumped when Jayne suddenly ran down the road toward the docks, leaving her alone with Xavier who also stood staring after Jayne with an incredulous look on his face. After Jayne disappeared into the black stillness of night, he turned to Liesel and shrugged slightly, “She always gets like this when she hears he’s nearby.”

The two of them came to the silent conclusion to follow Jayne and only after going for a block did Liesel ask, “What does she plan to do to Jack?”

“Kill him, I think,” he answered plainly.

Liesel sighed loudly, the noise echoing off the houses they were passing. “Why must she do that?”

“He took everything away from her.”

Liesel nodded absently and mumbled to herself, just loud enough for Xavier to make out her words, “And gave her everything in return.”

Xavier almost did not hear her. It took him a moment to be certain that he had understood her properly before he nodded slowly, with almost a sense of regret. He snorted a dry chuckle and said, “And if she kills him, I’m afraid he’ll take it all away with him again.”

“What do you mean?”

Xavier shrugged and shook his head slightly, “I mean that he is all that she’s thought about since she was twelve. I’m not sure what is left for her once she gets rid of him.”

I can think of one thing. The unbidden thought sent a rise of heat to Liesel’s face as she realized the implications of her own thoughts. Something deep down inside her knew that she could not resist the pull of Jayne and that this feeling was felt in return. If she could only let go of her inhibitions.
Chapter XVI
Witherspoon Residence, Port Royal
May 30, 1692

“Sir,” the young man said, his hand extending with a note in it toward Ian, “this message just came by carrier pigeon.” The young sailor stood at attention after the message was taken briskly from his hands.

Ian slowly unrolled the parchment and read the words scribbled in a shaky hand two times before he rerolled the paper and let a smile touch his lips. His grip on the note tightened until he had it crushed in a hand full of tension. He looked at the young sailor, his eyes gleaming, and said, “Go tell Commander Abrahms to prepare the Allegiance. We are sailing for Tortuga.”

“Aye aye,” the young man said before spinning on his heel and heading out of the captain’s office.

Once Ian was alone, he smoothed the crumpled piece of paper out on his desk and ran his finger over the words with a tender hand.
May 28th

Captain Witherspoon,

We have spotted the Freedom of the Seas in port here at Nassau. My contact on Kingston’s crew says that they will be sailing for Tortuga at dawn. Reports have it that One-Eyed Jack has made port there and she is going to confront him. I recommend that you make haste to Tortuga if you wish to find her.

TR

Finally slamming his fist down onto the paper, he straightened up and almost ran from his office in his haste. The thrill of the chase had already overcome him and he could feel the chance for his revenge near. It was so real that he could taste the metallic tinge of expectation and could feel a shiver of anticipation run through him.
=-=-=-=-=
On board the Freedom
May 30, 1692

Liesel watched Xavier trace his finger down the map. He had been showing her how to navigate for the past hour. Liesel had had nothing else to do except listen to Xavier’s teachings. Jayne had been unreachable since they left port. She spent her time prowling the deck, barking out orders to her crew, and impatiently climbing up into the ship’s rigging to do things herself. The entire crew was on edge because of her gruff attitude and it was only in quiet moments like this that those closest to Jayne could find any peace.

Jayne brushed past them, grumbling quietly about the weather they were heading into, and Liesel looked over at her with concern playing in her eyes. When Jayne was finally out of ear shot, the young woman sighed loudly and turned to Xavier, “I wish she was not so, so …”

“Tumultuous?”

Liesel chuckled quietly and nodded, “Yes, I think that is the word. Is she always so?”

Xavier nodded slowly as he leaned in to be able to speak quietly with the younger woman. “She’s had a hard life. Since her parents were killed she’s had nothing but hard times.”

Liesel spared a glance at Jayne and then whispered, “I am worried about her.”

“You love her,” Xavier said. It was not a question.

Green eyes slowly raised to look at him, a mixture of fear and embarrassment playing in them. The edge of her lips lifted slightly and she said, “I think so.”

Xavier placed a fatherly hand on her shoulder and said, “You’re good for her. Except for the last two days, she’s been happier since you came on board than I’ve ever seen her.” He watched as Liesel lowered her eyes and stiffened visibly. “Is something wrong?”

She ran a hand through her long hair before saying, “I am not sure that it is good for either of us. It is not right.”

Xavier leaned against the map table and regarded her in silence for a few moments, taking stock of her reactions and weighing his choices, before speaking. “You know, I think you need to follow your heart whether it’s right or wrong. If you don’t, you’ll regret it your whole life and it’ll just cause you more pain.”

Liesel turned her back to him and fixed her gaze on the horizon. Deep down she knew he was right, but it scared her to her very core. The war raging in her between her feelings and her conscience was making her feel very lost and alone. She doubted anyone could understand. Jayne did not and neither did Xavier. To them it seemed a simple solution to follow her heart. Finding herself standing on an internal cliff–one from which she could not see the bottom–frightened her like nothing before in life. She doubted she was courageous enough, but she so wanted to make the effort. Finally, she turned back to Xavier and put a brave smile on her face, “I will try.”

Xavier nodded and smiled supportively at her before looking back down at the map, “Shall we get back to the lesson?”
=-=-=-=-=
Robbie edged along the deck, seeing the object of his journey standing at the ship’s wheel. When he was near her, he asked quietly, “Can I talk with you?”

Jayne’s head shot up suddenly, anger filling her eyes for a second before they softened when she saw him standing nearby. All the fury that she had allowed to build in her over the past two days seemed to dissipate in that moment that their eyes met. Having her son nearby did not afford her the chance to be angry. She promised herself when she allowed him on board that she would never hurt him if she could help it, and lashing out at him when he did not know or understand the reason would definitely be unwarranted. She nodded to him slowly and moved over to the ship’s rail, “Sure, what do you want to talk about?”

“Um,” he took a deep breath and played nervously with a stray string on his shirt. “I’ve just been wondering why you let me come on board.” He wanted to add his frustration at being babysat during their stay in Nassau, but he feared the return of the blazing anger in her eyes.

“Robbie,” Jayne said with a quiet sigh, “you are so important to me. I know what it’s like to not have a family and I’m all you’ve got left. I couldn’t let you live without that.” She looked around at the ship, her eyes tracking to two men working on wrestling skills on the lower deck, and added, “I know it’s dangerous out here, but I think you deserve a chance at having family and friends. If you don’t want to stay, you can leave.” Although she knew that it would hurt, giving Robbie a chance to back out of his decision to join the crew was important to her.

“No, no,” he chuckled quietly as he shook his head. “I like it here, I really do. I was just wondering.”

The edges of Jayne’s lips turned up in a smile as she looked at her son. He was in many ways an adult but in all too many ways still a child. A sudden pain grasped her chest at exactly how dangerous this life was and the thought of losing him frightened her more than anything. Seeing that Robbie had noticed her unease by the wide fearful look on his face, she took a cooling breath of air and said, “When we get to Tortuga, I want you and Liesel and a few of the men to stay on board and protect the ship. Jack might try to take it over and I want a few people I can count on to stay here.” She hoped he would not see through her plan to keep him safe.

He did see through it, but being solicitous he let it go and nodded, “Sure thing. It’ll give Liesel and me a chance to work on our swordplay.”

“Away from the railing this time,” Jayne chuckled.

“Yes, ma’am,” Robbie laughed in return.
=-=-=-=-=
Liesel heard the door latch catch behind her as she stood just inside their cabin, her jaw slightly slack at the sight before her. Jayne sat in her hammock, a journal open on her lap, and a quill scribbling furiously over the page. The raven-haired woman seemed completely engrossed in her writing, so engrossed that she did not even look up at Liesel’s entrance. As far as Liesel could tell, Jayne seemed happy for the first time in days as witnessed by the hint of a smile on her lips.

Liesel coughed, which drew Jayne’s attention to her, and then she motioned with her head toward the journal, “I did not know that you write.”

Jayne dropped her eyes to the book and then back up at Liesel, “Oh this? It’s my journal. I’ve always written. Just what I do every day, some poetry.” She shrugged as she closed the book, holding her place with the quill, “I’m not very good, but I enjoy it.”

Liesel’s eyes seemed to light up as she sat in one of the wooden chairs, “Poetry? May I hear?”

The older woman shrugged, “It’s usually pretty depressing.”

“I do not care,” Liesel said, her voice dropping in volume, “please.”

Jayne paused, her gaze dropping to the book clenched in her fists, her heart pounding out of some unnamed fear. It took her a few seconds to take enough quick puffs of air to control the quavering she was certain would be in her voice. Without looking up, she started reciting one:

“The night cries tears of laughter
The stars are blinding with pain,
I don’t know what comes after
A life so cruel and insane.

Perhaps it is a teardrop
In a pool of shimmering gold.
Perhaps it’s nothing more than a stop
On a road which God has sold.

I know not what may follow,
I see now only pain,
But what comes after sorrow
Can be no more cruel or insane.

The night cries tears of laughter,
The stars are blinding with pain,
I hope that what comes after
Is an end to the cruel and insane.”

Liesel felt her heart ache for this woman, for all the pain she had obviously suffered over the years, for all the dreams shattered, the hopes crushed. It stirred something deep in her that she could not name. Finally, she looked up, meeting the cautious blue eyes that watched her, and said, “I wish I could take that pain from you.”

“You already have,” Jayne answered quietly.

The younger woman felt like time stopped in that moment. They stared at each other, neither able or willing to speak, both gauging the other with a mixture of caution and apprehension. It was an odd combination of tension and electric energy that passed between them and Liesel was unsure what to make of it. She felt it calling to her, pulling her in, and she wondered if she should fight it or simply let it happen.

The older woman swung her long legs over and sat in the hammock with her feet on the ground, her eyes meeting the green ones only a foot or so away. She waited, feeling the sudden electricity begin to build between them, noticing that same tugging that had drawn her to kiss Liesel at the lagoon. This time, she held back, needing to let her companion take the lead.

Liesel leaned forward slightly, her eyes dropping to the floor, cutting off the pulling she could feel. Her heart continued to pound heavily in her chest and she made a quick decision, one that she knew she really had little chance of denying. Without lifting her gaze, she said, “I have thought a lot about us.”

“And?” Jayne asked hesitantly.

Green eyes finally lifted to fix on blue as she took a hesitant step forward. “I cannot deny this, but it scares me. I wish to be brave. I wish to face my fears. I do not know if I am able.” She swallowed hard and wrung at her hands.

“Do what you need to do,” Jayne said in a voice barely above a whisper.

Liesel moved to sit next to Jayne on the hammock. Between the rapid pulsing of her heart and the ragged breaths escaping the constriction of her chest, she barely heard her own words, “I need to kiss you.”

Receiving her invitation, Jayne leaned forward slowly, giving Liesel ample time to back away if needed, but praying with every second that she would allow this to happen. And then her lips brushed against Liesel’s and the warmth there seemed to explode through her whole body, making her lightheaded. As the kiss went on, she eased a hand around to cup the back of Liesel’s head, her hands tangling in the sandy blonde locks of the younger woman, pulling her closer.

Liesel was tense at first, feeling slightly uncomfortable regardless of how right the kiss felt deep down. This unease lasted only a few seconds until she relaxed, letting her mouth open slightly and offering entrance to Jayne’s tongue. When the older woman took advantage of the opening, Liesel jumped slightly out of surprise, but soon relaxed and went with the new experience, tentatively at first, until she felt more and more sure of herself.

Only when they needed to breathe did they break the kiss and sit staring at one another while they gasped to refill their lungs with much-needed air. Jayne smiled broadly at her friend, feeling a continued warmth between them. She swallowed hard, trying to find her voice, and then said, “I really do love you.”

The German closed her eyes at the words, drinking them in to sooth the parts of her that were still terrified at this turn in their relationship. Hearing those simple words were a balm to her soul and she sighed contentedly. Finally letting her eyes open, she whispered, “I love you, too.”

Her words were almost cut off as Jayne leaned in for another kiss, this one more heated and urgent. While it began as sweetly as the last, both women soon found themselves going with the hunger that was driving them, needing release. The impassioned kisses continued with Jayne kissing a line down Liesel’s neck until the older woman took the liberty of running a hand under Liesel’s shirt and along her bare stomach. The younger woman jumped up to her feet, startled at the change in emphasis to Jayne’s actions, and she stood with her chest heaving, her eyes pinned on Jayne.

The pirate shook her head, “I’m sorry. I got carried away.”

“No,” Liesel said as she fell back into the hammock, “it is okay. Can we just go slowly? I am still not sure.”

“As slow as you want,” Jayne said as she held the smaller hand in her own. “We’ll do only what you want.”

A twinkle played in Liesel’s eyes, “Kiss me.” It took Jayne only a second to comply, and then time stood still for the two of them.

=-=-=-=-=
After an evening of becoming more comfortable with each other, the two women had gone to bed early, realizing that they needed time to recover from such an emotional day. Each settling in her own hammock for need of space, they drifted off quickly, heading into the land of dreams and nightmares with negligent ease.

Liesel’s dreams were happy, filled with visions of Jayne and passions quenched, if only in her dreams. Jayne, however, was not so lucky. As happened many nights, her dreams were filled with blackness and the panic that brought back that night long ago when her life was so irreparably changed. It did not take long for the voice that always rasped at her from distant memory to husk, “Just be a good girl now.”

“Hey, hey,” she woke with a start, Liesel standing over her, shaking her shoulder and trying to rouse her. She blinked, swallowing hard as she looked up at her friend. She could feel her heart still pounding and her breathing came in short huffs as she sat up and leaned forward over her knees, pushing down the nausea that tended to grasp her after such dreams. “Are you okay?” she heard Liesel say quietly.

“Yeah,” Jayne said as she sat back, running her shaking hands over her face, “I’ll be fine.”

“Jayne,” Liesel sighed as she pulled a chair over to sit next to the hammock, “you are not okay. Was it Jack?”

The captain looked at the younger woman for a few seconds, weighing her choices and the consequences before she let her head drop, defeated, and nodded.

“Do you wish to talk about it?”

The offer was simple, but inherent in it was such a risk that Jayne started to shake harder. Opening up had never been her strong point, especially when it came to Jack and that night. Only three people alive knew what had happened and even then only because she had revealed her true relationship to Robbie and they had put two and two together. This was different, this would mean explaining everything, and to someone who should not know of such things. It was a terrible decision to have to make. Part of her so wanted to unburden her soul to the person who was quickly becoming the most important person in her life, but the other part, the part that rode so closely to the surface, was afraid. Of what, she was not sure.

“Please,” Liesel pleaded as she put a gentle hand on Jayne’s cheek and pulled the blue eyes until they met hers. “He cannot hurt you here unless you let him.”

With a deep breath and her eyes focused on some unseen spot, Jayne started quietly, “That night I came home from dinner with my grandfather. The next day was my birthday, my thirteenth, but he was leaving town to go back to England for a year, so we’d been out to celebrate alone. I came home and no one was home. It was so quiet and dark in the house. There was only one lamp on.” She shook her head, feeling the prickling of her skin just as if it were happening right then. “I…I went into the kitchen, looking for my parents but they weren’t there.” She paused a moment to scrunch her eyebrows, forcing the memory from long blocked out portions of her past. “I must have put the lamp down, because I wanted to go down the hall but I didn’t have it, so I turned back to get it and I was grabbed.”

Liesel’s hand went to where Jayne’s were balled in a fist, and she gently laid it on the tense balls of fingers in an attempt to lend her friend strength.

“I, he, um, it was Jack. It was so dark and I was so frightened that I must have passed out. All I remember is a raspy voice saying ‘Just be a good girl now’ and then nothing.” She forced a smile, feeling tears welling in her eyes but holding them at bay. “I guess I was lucky that I lost consciousness.” She wiped at her eyes quickly, to keep the tears that were starting to spill down her face from overflowing and splashing down onto her lap. She heard Liesel begin to take a breath as if to speak and she held up her hand to stop her, “No, I’m not done.”

“Okay,” Liesel said quietly with a nod.

Taking a shuddering breath, she continued, “I woke the next day and I knew what had happened. I hurt all over but what was the worst was that my soul felt like it was gone. My neighbor found me and fetched my grandfather before he could leave. Thank God or I wouldn’t have survived. Between the rape and my parents being murdered…they were found the next day hidden in our backyard…well I couldn’t decide if the pain or the numbness was better, but being numb finally won out.” She blinked back another onrush of tears and looked up at Liesel, “Even when I found out I was pregnant I couldn’t feel anything about it. I had to give my son up for adoption and it was a lot easier because I just couldn’t feel anything.” She stopped, studying her hands intently for a long time until Liesel spoke.

“Robbie?”

A dry chuckle answered her, “That obvious, huh?”

Liesel shrugged slightly and said, “Well, no, but now when I think, there is a resemblance.”

A smile crossed Jayne’s face finally and her eyes lit up, “Yeah, I think so.” The smile grew as she turned to Liesel, “One good thing came of it at least.”

“More than one,” Liesel said quietly, touching a hand to Jayne’s cheek.

“Oh?” Jayne queried with one raised eyebrow, trying to dispel the emotions she was barely holding in check by lightening the mood.

“Well,” Liesel drew out, “I know you said you became a pirate at least in part because of Jack, and if you were not here on this ship and had not attacked my ship, we would have never met.”

Jayne nodded and leaned over to kiss the younger woman gently. When she pulled away, she chuckled quietly, “Somehow I think fate would have had us find one another regardless.”

“I want to think so.”

“I know so.” They sat, staring into each other’s eyes for a few seconds, sharing the love they felt for each other in a way they could not quite do physically. Jayne broke the silence first by nodding toward the other hammock, “You better get back to sleep. Morning will be here soon.”

Liesel nodded and stood, turning to her own bed before stopping and turning to say, “Thank you for sharing that.”

“Thanks for being here to listen,” Jayne answered, emotion making her voice warble slightly.

“Always.”
Chapter XVII
On board the Freedom, Tortuga
June 1, 1692

Jayne took a long breath, feeling the heat of anger stir in the pit of her stomach. Her eyes traced over the buildings and docks of Tortuga and she smiled. She could taste him, knew he was there waiting for her. Fifteen years of chasing him and he was in her grasp. It was intoxicating.

She turned, eyes blazing, and looked at the group of her men who had been picked to go with her. All her best crewmen, with the exception of Jan who was staying behind to command the ship, stood with cutlasses and pistols at the ready. Each and every one of them regarded her with a range of expressions from excitement to fear. She was proud of them, knowing they would stand with her to the end in her pursuit of Jack, but she would be damned if any of them died for her revenge. She would make sure they survived. She owed them that much. As for Jack, well his hours were numbered as far as she was concerned. The thought of him dying at the end of her cutlass, his blood pouring over her hands, quickened her breath and made her heart pound in excitement. Today was the day to end it all, all doubts as to her course of action falling quickly by the wayside.

Looking up suddenly, she caught Liesel’s eye and felt a bit of the anger seep away. In that one moment, she doubted her choice of action. She wanted nothing more than to turn away, to escape this part of her destiny, and to work on her life with Liesel, but she knew deep down she could not avoid her fate. If she did not go after Jack it would eat at her, taking bits and pieces of her over time, until there was nothing left. He had already taken so much from her–her family, her innocence, her youth–she couldn’t let him take what little bit of her soul there was left. She needed that for Liesel, for the new future she was hoping to build with her. This revenge was as much for her love as for herself, or so she let herself believe.

Jayne quickly walked over to Liesel, noticing that Robbie, the young woman’s ever-present companion, was standing just behind her. Neither was happy about what was happening, about the prospect of Jayne and Jack having a showdown. They both were terrified for her and it ripped them up that they would be forced to wait for word. Jayne knew that and it meant a lot to her that they had both agreed to stay behind. She would make it up to them later.

“Now,” Jayne said in a quiet voice, “you two do what Jan says. Stay alert. I don’t trust Jack. He could attack the ship.” She didn’t really believe it, but making them think they could also be in the thick of it helped them with the decision to stay behind.

Liesel stepped forward, heedless of what anyone might think, and laid her hand gently on Jayne’s arm, “Please watch yourself. And return to me.”

“I will,” Jayne said, her eyes speaking of a love that she dared not show in front of her men. “I gotta go.” She nodded to Robbie and then put her hand over the hand on her arm and squeezed. “I’ll be back.” She turned and headed toward the men starting to climb down the side of the boat into the smaller longboats waiting along side the ship. She refused to turn back and take a second look. Instead, she swung over the side and gracefully clambered down the netting on the side of the ship into the boat. When she was finally seated in the bow of the boat, she closed her eyes and let the anger wash back over her. She would need it.
=-=-=-=-=
Docks, Tortuga
June 1, 1692

Jayne’s eyes eased over the landscape. The half dozen ships in the harbor bobbed up and down with the light waves that she could hear lapping at the docks below her feet. Jack’s ship, the Cyclops, was not among those anchored in the shallow waters near Tortuga but this did not stop her from believing he could be nearby. She knew as well as anyone how many coves and bays there were on the small island. He could be hidden out in any number of places. Unfazed by this fact, she kept an even keel as she let her eyes drift over to the buildings that formed Tortuga, one of the more notorious haunts of the Caribbean. She had spent many a day wandering its streets and knew every drinking hole and den of sin in the small city. It would not be difficult to find Jack, although it might take some time as the locales favored by pirates and other scoundrels in this particular city were numerous.

Satisfied that they would not be attacked immediately, Jayne turned to Alberto and said in a hushed tone, “I want you to take a few men and stay here. Keep out of sight and be prepared just in case something happens. And keep an eye on the ship. If something goes wrong, get back there. Okay?”

“Aye,” he nodded solemnly and wandered off to gather together his portion of the sailors.

With a smile at the newcomer’s efficient manner, Jayne turned to Xavier and laid a hand on his arm to get his full attention. “We’ll head over to the Highwayman,” she began in a whisper, “and see if that old stick in the mud Alex is still there. He might be able to tell us something with the right persuasion.” Her eyes twinkled as she finished and a playful grin tipped the edge of her lips. She almost laughed out loud when she noticed the answering grin her First Officer gave her but managed to keep quiet and say seriously, “Alberto is keeping watch here. He’ll keep an eye on the ship too. Let’s get the rest of the guys together and get going.”

Xavier nodded and scurried off with her to begin getting the small group of men together that would help her scour the city for Jack. Only a few minutes later they had climbed up the main street’s hilly cobblestones and stood at the entrance to the Highwayman, one of Tortuga’s many taverns catering to the seedier side of life. Jayne motioned for everyone to remain as out of sight as possible, and then went into the dim interior of the building.

Scanning the room, she felt the hackles on the back of her neck rise as she took in the number of friends and enemies, old and new, that sat among the tables of the large room. It was a veritable who’s who of piracy and it immediately put her on edge. It did not take long for the whispers being exchanged around the room to all focus on her, as did virtually every eye. No one made any attempt to hide their attentions to her as she moved toward the bar, feeling every eye bore into her with a mixture of interest and fear. It made her pulse quicken and the adrenaline flow even faster.

Finally, she came up next to a lone man who was certainly the only one in the entire bar who was not watching her. In fact, he sat huddled over his drink, his hands clasping either side of the metal mug with a fierce grip. “Hello Alex,” she purred at him.

“Um,” he answered with a waver to his voice. “Hi, Jayne. Didn’t expect to see you around here.”

“Neither did anyone else,” she said loudly enough that everyone could hear her. As she had hoped, they all took the hint and went back to at least pretending to have interest in matters other than her. With a satisfied smile, she said, “So, Alex, want to go for a walk with me?”

“Not particularly,” he stuttered out.

She pried his grip away from the mug and clasped one hand firmly in her own. She slowly began squeezing his hand, watching as his whole body tensed with the pain beginning to emanate from his limb, and grinned, “You sure about that?”

“I,” he gasped and tried to pull his hand away. When that did not work he nodded, “I’ll go.”

Jayne’s lips curled into a smile that did not seem to reach the rest of her face, and she let go of his hand, “Good.” She turned and quickly left the bar, knowing that Alex, being the general coward that she had always known him to be, would dutifully follow.

When they were both outside and around the corner from the tavern, she turned on her former crewmate and raised an eyebrow, “Tell me where Jack is.”

“Jack?”

“Yeah, Jack. And don’t play coy with me. If he’s here you know where he is, so tell me.” She took a step toward him so that he would not doubt her sincerity in this quest. Fear always did wonders when it came to getting information.

“Um, Jack. Well,” his stuttering became worse as his hands seemed to shake in time with his voice, “you see, he, um, he’s at the Skull.”

“Should have known,” Jayne mumbled to herself, knowing the reputation of the Blackened Skull would fit Jack to a tee. She nodded at the quivering man and left without a further word.

Alex swallowed hard as he watched her leave and then took a deep breath before running off in the opposite direction as fast as he could.
=-=-=-=-=
The Blackened Skull, Tortuga
June 1, 1692

Jack tapped lightly on the table, his body humming with an energy he had not felt in years. Reports had already reached him that Jayne’s ship was in port. Now, he simply had to wait for his prey to enter his lair. Unfortunately for the one-eyed man, patience was not a virtue he had in abundance.

He was about to get up and stalk across the tavern for probably the twentieth time in the last hour when the door flew open and a young man ran in, his chest heaving with the exertion of breathing. Finally gaining his breath, he managed to stutter out, “She’s coming.”

Jack nodded to the younger man, his lips curling up into a bad imitation of a smile, “Good job, Alex.” He stood, grasping his cutlass from the table before him and looked around, “Everyone to your places.” He watched for a minute while most of the room’s occupants moved to different tables while others scurried behind the bar or into the hallway leading to the tavern’s storage rooms. Satisfied that everyone was in place, he nodded and went to join those behind the bar, kneeling down by the ale tap and closing his eyes to extend his range of hearing. Only practice allowed him to make out any noises other than the pounding of his excited heart.
=-=-=-=-=
Jayne held up her hand outside the door to the Blackened Skull, signaling a halt to the dozen men who walked behind her. She paused, taking a deep breath to calm herself, and put her ear to the door. Beyond the heavy wooden barrier she could make out the noises of men spending an evening drinking and gambling, but nothing out of the ordinary. Taking a deep breath, she nodded to the men behind her and edged the door open.

As she entered the large tavern, she paused at the door, giving herself a moment to let her eyes adjust to the flickering candlelight inside, and slowly looked around the room, searching every face in an attempt to make out the features of a face that she had never really seen, only imagined in her nightmares. None of the men had the one distinguishing mark that would have made her certain he was there–the eye patch. Sighing heavily and shaking her head, she turned to her men and said, “I don’t think he’s here. Let’s have a drink and see if we can find out where he might be. Spread out and find out what you can.” They all nodded to her before she moved to the bar.

“Give me an ale,” she called over to the barkeeper, who nodded and fished a mug off the shelf and went over to draw out a mug of ale from the barrel behind the bar.

When it was full he slid it across the wide bar and said, “That’ll be two pieces of eight.”

Jayne took a long draw on the liquid, enjoying the peppery sweet flavor of the amber ale, and placed it down as she pulled two small coins from a pouch on her belt and slapped them down on the bar. Turning to look back out over the room, she took another drink, letting the unique flavor briefly take her mind off her troubles. She could see her men talking with different customers, obviously doing their best to get information on Jack. She sighed and put the drink down, pushing herself off the bar and moving to join in the effort when she heard a gravelly voice behind her, “Just be a good girl now.” She felt the blood in her veins turn to ice as the words that had haunted her nightmares on many nights hit home.

Slowly, she turned around and let her hand rest on the hilt of her cutlass, every muscle in her body at a bowstring’s tension. She could not help but feel the tremor that ran down her spine as her eyes fixed on the grizzled features of Jack. She took it all in immediately–the eye patch, the small scars over his face, the tall but muscular form, the short-cropped graying black hair. There was something eerily familiar about him, because he did not look much like what her nightmares depicted him as. She could not put her finger on it and quickly pushed it to the back of her mind, needing to keep her wits about her for this confrontation. Her moment was at hand.

“Hello, Jack,” she sneered back, doing her best to keep her voice even and menacing. “It’s always nice to receive a warm welcome.”

Jack’s lips curled up slightly as he pulled Alex from behind the bar, “Thanks go to your friend here, Jayne. He made sure we knew you were on your way.”

Jayne felt the wind rush out of her as she saw Alex stand up. While the man had never been a close friend, she had never done anything to hurt him. In fact, she had protected him from some members of the crew that wanted to pick on him. Now, as he stood next to her greatest enemy, having betrayed her, she felt a mixture of fury and pain grasp at her chest. She had been betrayed by someone she had trusted, someone she had once considered a friend, and to the one person on Earth she hated more than anyone. It was an unforgivable sin and one that cut her deeply, “Why, Alex?”

The wiry man shrugged, his voice coming out with its trademark stuttering, “Power, money, he got here first, who knows. It just seemed the right thing to do.”

She snapped and went to charge Alex when she felt strong arms reach out and wrap themselves around her, holding her immobile. She had been so focused on Jack and Alex that she had not noticed the change in posturing throughout the room. Now that she was effectively restrained, she took a moment to glance around and saw that her men were all being held by the patrons of the tavern. Several more men stood throughout the room with cutlasses or pistols drawn, ready for any trouble that may sprout up. They had walked into a trap, one which her anger and need for revenge had not let her see. That knowledge made her feel sick, but she knew she could not let it show. She turned back to fix her blue eyes on Jack, who had moved around the bar and now stood in front of her. She spat at him, hitting him squarely in his good eye, and growled, “You haven’t won.”

Jack wiped at his face calmly until all of the spittle had been removed. Only then did he tense up and, in a quick move, punched Jayne hard in the stomach, causing her to double over in pain. “You bitch,” he breathed in her ear so only she could hear. “You couldn’t learn your lesson when you were a child and now you’ll pay for that.” Straightening up, he spoke loud enough for everyone to hear, “Now, tell me the location of the secret room and I will let you go.”

“Bite me,” Jayne hissed.

Jack slapped her hard across the face, drawing blood from her lip, “Not the right answer, bitch.” He pulled on her hair to force her eyes to meet his, “You will tell me or we’ll go to your ship and I’ll kill every last member of your crew in front of your eyes until you do.” He smiled and added, “Slowly.”

She could not give up the information, not before trying to at least put up a fight. While she still had her reserve force at the docks and Jan on board the Freedom to offer resistance she had hope that she could overcome these odds. They were outnumbered even if she had had her entire crew in one place, but she had to believe that the fact that they all believed in her, were loyal to her to the death, would give her an edge she could not believe a man like Jack would hold. It was worth a shot and she still held what he wanted as backup should that plan fall through. She met his gaze evenly and only allowed her head to dip slightly in ascent. “It’s on my ship.”

“Splendid,” he cackled quietly and bowed low, pointing at the door in a bad mockery of gallantry. “After you.”

With an indignant snort, she brushed past him and headed for the door.
=-=-=-=-=
On board an Allegiance longboat, Tortuga
June 1, 1692

The soft rustling of oars glancing through the small waves was the only noise discernable in Ian’s longboat. They had maneuvered the Allegiance close to Jayne’s ship and waited until dark to make their move, wanting the cover of darkness to aid their move on the pirate woman’s ship. They had watched the vessel all day, noting when the party headed for shore and watching the smaller contingent of sailors go about their duties on the main deck. From what they were able to discern, it appeared that only a small number of men were still on the Freedom. Ian doubted that Jayne was among the few on the ship, but he knew of her reputation as caring only for those that were under her command. He figured holding some of her men would be good leverage to get her to give herself up. Then he would watch her die at Hangman’s Point, and revenge would be his.

Ian blinked and brought himself out of his thoughts, letting a smile come to his lips as he saw the looming shadow of the Freedom. His heart began to beat harder, the anticipation of finally making progress against Jayne giving him a rush of excitement that he had only felt in the heat of battle. When the boat brushed up against the side of the Freedom, he turned to one of the men on his ship, “Okay, we have to move silently. I can’t believe they haven’t seen us before now.” His eyes drifted back to his own ship, waiting for the flashing lamp that would signal that all was clear, a signal which he received promptly, putting a smile on his lips. He nodded to the men in his ship, “Let’s go.”

Ian watched as Waters shimmied up the anchor line. Waters was the sailor who always did the advance work for such operations. He had an uncanny ability to infiltrate a ship or other enemy position and get back with the proper scouting report. It only took the wiry sailor a moment to pull himself up the rope and peer over the railing to the ship beyond. He spent a long moment searching the ship, taking in the position of every visible crewmember before tying off an additional rope and dropping it toward the boat below. A few moments more saw the addition of further ropes being dropped down to the boats below.

On Waters’s signal, the men of Ian’s team started climbing the ropes, some with daggers between their teeth, many with pistols strapped to their bandoleers, all with large cutlasses or swords hanging from their belts. Ian was the last from his boat to make the ascent, and, as he neared the ship’s railing, he could hear the beginnings of a fight breaking out on board. There were cries of pain and alarm from the besieged crew that were like music to his ears. The smile on his face only grew as he looked over the edge at the melee taking place on the main deck. His day of reckoning was at hand.
Chapter XVIII
Docks, Tortuga
June 1, 1692

Alberto squinted into the darkness, his heart pounding as he saw the group approaching. It took him a moment to recognize what was happening–that Jack had captured Jayne and her men–but the implications of that hit him instantly. This was his chance to do what Jack had hired him for, to help defeat Jayne by betraying her confidence, and he found he could not do it.

At first he had been resolute in his plans, finding it easy to keep himself at an emotional distance from Jayne and her crew. And then, one night as they sat playing cards, he had realized something that should have hit him right away. He had not asked to be in this situation, had not volunteered for this job. He had been bullied into it by someone who was not there to look over his shoulder at every turn. After that, he had begun to open up, finding good friends among the crew and beginning to feel a real affinity for them. Even the crew’s sometimes caustic captain soon wormed her way into his heart, making the decision to betray her harder every day until it no longer seemed a possibility. He had already lived and worked beside these men, even fought to stay alive on more than one occasion. What did Jack have over him that could compare to that?

The easy answer was nothing. He already had his dream of sailing the high seas; Jack could offer nothing more than what he already possessed. With a ghost of a smile on his face, he turned to the men squatted near him and whispered, “Get ready. When they get here, we will jump them and free our friends. Just wait for my signal and then go, all right?”

They all nodded at him and he turned his brown eyes back toward the approaching group, his hand pulling the pistol from the bandoleer across his chest and his attention riveted on Jack. His life would be a whole lot easier if the Cyclops of the Seas were dead and he intended on making sure he was.

=-=-=-=-=
Jayne’s eyes darted around the docks as she was pushed forward by Jack. Her backup was nearby, she could feel their eyes on her and the other captive members of her crew, and her fingers itched in anticipation of being freed from this humiliating set of circumstances. Alberto and the men who stayed behind with him were one of only two chances she had to keep her family secret. Now, her main concern was to escape, to keep everyone alive and unharmed while retaining that secret. There would be other chances where she would hold more cards to capture the journal from Jack and gain her revenge.

Her skin crawled as she felt Jack come up next to her and lean in to rasp into her ear, “So, my dear Jayne, have you missed me?”

It took all the restraint Jayne could muster to keep from sending a sharp elbow into the older man’s gut. Luckily for her she did not have to wait long for her chance to attack the scoundrel as the sound of gunshots brought an instantaneous mayhem to the procession of enemies. She took the chance to turn around, winding up her arm as she did, and unfurling a massive punch to Jack’s stomach before he could move, causing him to double over in pain and giving her the opportunity to knock the cutlass from his hand with a roundhouse kick, sending it skittering across the wooden dock toward the mainland.

Jack slowly looked back up at her in time to notice her coming at him, anger born of years of tormented nightmares playing in her eyes. He tried to regain his breath by taking huge gasps of the gunsmoke-laden air into his lungs, but found it difficult to prepare for the furor raging down on him. Two further quick punches and a swift knee to his groin left Jack on the ground, a whimpering mess of an enemy.

Jayne looked down at him, amazed at the ease with which she had overcome the older man. She had always remembered him as powerful and strong, a vision obscured by years of her imagination distorting the reality as well as her relative weakness during their last and only other confrontation. The desire to finish him off was strong but she let her cool reasoning settle in before she could reach down and kill him with her bare hands. He still had something she needed, something that she could not give up if only to make it up to her father and grandfather who had both suffered at the hands of this man. Determined to get out of this fight and regroup before going after Jack again, she took advantage of his defeated stance and kicked him soundly in the head, sending him into unconsciousness.

From there the fight turned quickly in their favor. The ambush by Alberto and his men had done much to even up the odds in Jayne’s favor. The rest was won out of the deep loyalty they all felt for one another. The higher morale gave them an advantage, fueling their determination to overcome the sheer number of men that had accompanied Jack and before long they had done that, sending their enemies running away in retreat as the last few finally realized they had been defeated. Jayne smiled as she watched the last disappear back into town and turned to search for Jack’s unconscious form, but found him nowhere in sight.

“Shit,” she muttered under her breath as her eyes scanned the area, searching for Jack, hoping against hope that she had simply overlooked him. She was preparing to go in search of her enemy when Xavier came over to her and nudged her shoulder, bringing her back to the present.

“Look,” he pointed agitatedly toward where the Freedom was docked offshore, “something’s going on.”

Her eyes shot out toward the ship, squinting in the darkness to see the torch burning up on the lookout, a signal to those ashore that something was amiss on the ship. As her gaze trailed down the main mast to the deck below, she felt her heart pound heavily. She could barely make out the forms of people, many of whom were obviously not part of her crew, fighting with swords and pistols on the ship. “Shit,” she said more to herself than anyone else before raising her voice to the men scattered around the docks. “Let’s get back to the ship. We’re under attack.” Only a minute or so passed before they were in their longboats and rowing as fast as they could to get back to the ship. They could only hope they’d get there in time.
=-=-=-=-=
On board the Freedom, Tortuga
June 1, 1692

“What do we do?” Liesel called out over the din of swords crashing and pistols being fired. It had only been minutes since the invasion force had boarded the ship, but they were already quickly on their way to losing. She shot a glance to Jan, who stood between her and Robbie, before turning back to face another opponent that came at them.

Many of the members of the crew that remained on board lay dead or injured on the deck with barely a single redcoated victim mixed in. They were losing and quickly. As Liesel parried a slash from her opponent’s sword, she called out to Jan again, her patience dissipating quickly, “Well?”

“I don’t know,” Jan puffed out as he ducked under a cutlass swipe designed to separate his head from his body. “Keep fighting, I guess,” he finally added as he kicked at his opponent’s midsection, sending the man sprawling across the deck.

“Figures,” Liesel sighed to herself as she managed to take a nice slice into the arm of the young man who seemed intent on cutting her into little pieces. He fell backward, grasping at the bleeding appendage, and dropped his sword, giving Liesel a moment’s respite from immediate danger to take stock of their situation.

Looking around, she saw that they were down to little more than a handful of crewmembers, all fighting desperately, many with more than one opponent. Her eyes quickly flashed toward shore, not noting any sign of Jayne’s return on the dark waters. She immediately let her thoughts go to the pirate captain and to the new feelings that had been overwhelming her for the mysterious older woman recently. It filled her with an intense sadness as she let herself take in the carnage around her again, because she was sure that they would all be killed or worse, and she knew that she would never be able to further explore those feelings. Worse still, Jayne would be left to deal with the death of not only the woman she loved, and was slowly beginning to truly trust, but also her son and a number of friends and colleagues. It would be devastating for her, damaging her soul even further than the years of hardship had already managed.

Liesel blinked, forcing herself back to the present, suddenly finding herself unwilling to give up so easily. She owed it to Jayne to fight, to protect both herself and the rest of the crew to the best of her abilities. Taking a breath to steal herself for the battle, she took off running toward a small knot of crewmen busy defending themselves against a larger group of British sailors.

For a few minutes, it seemed as if they might just manage to hold their own. The crew of the Freedom fought hard and began to take out more of the enemies, slowly evening the odds. However, just when things seemed to be swinging in their favor, a fresh wave of British sailors scurried over the ship’s railing, swords and pistols drawn. The opponent’s unexpected backup quickly took the hard won advantage back from the pirates, leaving them in an impossible situation.

Liesel was busy trying to fend off two men when she heard Jan’s voice over the clang of metal on metal, “We surrender!” It took a few seconds for the small skirmishes scattered over the deck to come to a grudging halt, but finally all the men had turned their attention to Jan, who walked purposely over to Ian, who was obviously in charge, and repeated, “We surrender.” To emphasize his point, the Dutchman threw his sword down onto the deck, sending it skittering along the wooden surface.

“And who are you?” the naval captain asked, looking pointedly down his nose at the sweaty man.

“I am Jan Stijbuiten, navigator of this ship, and currently the officer in charge.” He stood, arms folded, and regarded the older sea captain, but kept his face an impassive mask of stone.

“Very well,” the officer said, “I accept your surrender.” The older man turned to the scattered pirates, “Throw down your weapons and come peacefully and you will live,” his lips curled up in a snarling smile, “for now.” His pale eyes turned back to Jan and held the taller man for a moment before he called out, “I hereby arrest this crew on the charge of piracy. You will be taken to prison at Port Royal and held there until a trial can be held. The penalty for the crime of piracy against the Empire is death, so I can unfortunately not guarantee that you will live for long.” His smile continued as he watched his men disarm and take the pirates into custody. “Good, put them in the longboats and let’s get going. Once everyone is off the ship, burn it. I don’t want Jayne following us too quickly.”

Liesel watched Ian from her uncomfortable position of being held by a rather large sailor, her arms pinned behind her by his strong hands. Something about the way he was taking pleasure in this victory seemed odd. It was not simply a victory won, it was something more base, more visceral, that sent a shiver of dread down her spine. She resisted as she was pushed toward the railing, her eyes quickly darting about to take in the other captives as she struggled. She noticed some of her friends but could find Robbie nowhere among them. Panicked, she quickly scanned the deck, praying that she would not find his body lying in a pool of blood on the wooden area. From her position, she could see most of the deck and did not notice his young form anywhere, giving her a bit of hope, but leaving her confused nonetheless.

“Get over there,” the man holding her grumbled as he pushed her toward the railing, sending her into the wooden barrier and bringing her next to Stimey. She looked over at him and mouthed, “Robbie?” silently. A breath of relief escaped her as he motioned down at the water and then let his gaze move toward land. Her eyes followed his and she saw a small speck in the water, moving steadily toward the shore, and a smile found its way to her lips as she realized that someone had gotten away. At least Jayne would have him if she could not find a way to get the rest of her crew out of custody before their execution.

The moment of relief changed as she felt the hot breath of a man on her neck, “So, Liesel was it?” It was the voice of the British captain, and it made her blood run cold in its deep menacing tone.

“Um, yes,” she squeaked out.

“I thought so,” he drawled in her ear before pulling back to say loud enough for Stimey and a few others nearby to hear, “Your father has been looking for you. He’ll be happy to see you, I’m sure.”

Her voice stopped in her throat and she was aware of only her heart beating a mile a minute in her chest. She struggled to keep from throwing up as the realization hit her that she would be returned to her father and to the nightmare life that she had tried to leave. She knew to the bottom of her core that he would never let her leave once he had her back. She had had her chance and had blown it, making it all the worse. Before she could only dream of a life of adventure and freedom. Now that she had experienced it, had found her own identity and a love that was just beginning to change her entire perception of life, she knew that to give that up would destroy her. She was being punished, probably by God himself, for disobeying her father and going against her lot in life. She was sure of it and that realization crushed her. She felt defeated to the point that she withdrew into herself and barely realized it as she was lowered down into the boat below and tied up next to Jan. Only minutes later did her eyes raise and her mind take in anything, letting her see the flames begin to lick at the Freedom’s sails, sending the ship, as well as her hopes and dreams, up in smoke.
=-=-=-=-=
On board the Freedom, Tortuga
June 2, 1692

“You made the right decision,” Xavier said to Jayne as he wiped the grime of smoke from his forehead. They had made it back to the boat just as the flames were beginning to devour the main mast and part of the deck. They had seen the British boats taking off with the rest of their crew and Jayne had had to decide whether to go right after her crew or save her ship. She had decided on the ship, knowing that an escape attempt would be fruitless without a means for leaving Tortuga. It had been a difficult decision, but once made she had shown no remorse, helping to put the fires out and working hard to get the ship in sailing order. It had taken hours and the night was well on its way to giving way to dawn when the last of the fires had been put out and the sails repaired enough that they could get underway.

Jayne sighed and leaned on the ship’s wheel, her arms tangled in the spokes of the wooden steering implement. “They’ve got almost six hours on us and we’ll be slow because of all the damage.”

“We’ll get them back. You’ll find a way.”

She turned weary blue eyes to Xavier and just looked at him for a long moment before sighing loudly, “Sometimes even I can’t always win. They’re bait for me. It won’t be as easy as getting Jan out. In fact,” she shook her head and let her eyes fix on the reddening sky that signaled the coming dawn, “I don’t think I can do it.”

“Don’t sell yourself short,” he advised her quietly, laying a hand on the small of her back in an attempt to comfort the pain he could read on her face. “We’ll figure out a way. They’re our family and I don’t think a single one of us will rest until we get them back.”

The captain took a long, slow breath before she dropped her head and nodded slightly, “Okay, we’ll find a way. Let’s get going. Set a course to Port Royal. That’s where they’ll be.”

“Right,” he smiled at her and patted her once on the shoulder before he walked down onto the main deck to make the preparations to sail.

Jayne watched him go and then let her eyes drop to the wheel. It took her a moment before she could convince herself that she could do this, but finally with the memory of Liesel and Robbie jumping into her mind, she squeezed her eyes tightly shut and nodded to herself, whispering, “I’ll get you back or die trying. I promise.”
=-=-=-=-=
The Blackened Skull, Tortuga
June 2, 1692

Jack massaged his head, feeling the solid lump that was forming from the impact of Jayne’s boot. His men had brought him back to his favorite bar while he was still out cold so he had no first hand knowledge of how the battle had progressed after being defeated by Jayne, but all accounts had told him of his humiliation. He could feel the anger boiling deep in his stomach, but he also recognized that he was not entirely in a condition to go after his prey. It frustrated him, making every muscle in his body tense, as he pounded his fist on the table.

He was busy going over his plans for his next attempt to get to Jayne when two of his men came barreling into the bar, dragging a wet young man between them. “Hey Captain,” the taller of the two goons said, “we found this little weasel down by the docks. He looks like that kid you told us all about.”

Jack’s eye went up and down the young man’s body, taking in the brunette hair, the blue eyes staring at him in fear, the thin yet muscular build. A slight smile spread over his lips as he nodded to the goon, “Yeah, that’s him.” His eye went back to the captive, “Hello, Robbie. How nice of you to join me.”

Robbie watched him with nothing but contempt in his eyes. He tried to struggle against the strong arms holding him in place, needing to fight back even if he knew he stood little chance of actually getting away. When their grip on him only tightened, he stopped his fight and instead met Jack’s gaze, but refused to answer.

Jack had moved in front of him and nodded to the two men holding Robbie, “Leave us alone. Just block the door so he doesn’t get away.” He waited a moment until they were alone, taking a strong grip on the young man’s arm, “Is that any way to act when your father speaks to you?”

“What?” Robbie’s voice cracked as his eyes widened.

“Oh,” Jack grinned slyly, “so Jayne didn’t tell you, huh? Yes, Robbie, you’re my son. Your mother didn’t think you should have any contact with me, so she gave you away to be adopted.” He waited a moment, trying to gauge his son’s reaction to the news, as well as trying to get a feel for how much else he knew of his parentage. The young man seemed to jump at the mention of his mother, as if his curiosity at been piqued. His grin grew as he added, “Then she came and got you when she knew I’d have a chance to finally get my hands on you.”

Robbie’s eyes jerked up to Jack’s face involuntarily, telling Jack exactly what he wanted to know. “You didn’t know that either, huh?”

“No,” he whispered in disbelief.

“Well,” Jack said quietly, “sit down. There’s a lot you need to know then.”

Robbie nodded, seeming to not really be part of his body, and sat woodenly at the table. He listened quietly as Jack told him more information about his heritage and past than Robbie had even known he was missing.
Chapter XIX
Port Royal Prison
June 5, 1692

Jan stumbled as he was pushed into the large holding cell by Ian. After gaining his footing, he turned angrily toward the naval captain and sent daggers at the older man with his eyes. Ian watched him as he slammed the heavy barred door shut and chuckled quietly. “You will be tried tomorrow and if found guilty hung at sunset on Hangman’s Point for all to see.” He moved over to where Liesel was standing and said more quietly, “If your father wants you back, he’ll be free to take you. Otherwise you will be tried and hanged with the rest.” Obviously, from his tone, he had already convicted them and this resolution as to their guilt sent a pallor of defeat throughout the room. Ian’s blue-gray eyes slowly raked over the assembled group of pirates and let the satisfaction he felt play in their murky depths. With a self-gratifying nod, he turned on his heel and left them all to mutter amongst themselves as to their fate.

Liesel sighed heavily and turned to lean heavily against the cell wall, her shoulders slumped against the red brick surface. She felt a sense of panic start to grasp her chest as her mind worked its way around the double-edged sword that was her fate. In many ways, execution seemed to be preferable to going back to her father, but she was certain he would not allow her that out. He would be sure to get her back, to ruin every dream she had ever held, to destroy the future she had been slowly building, and to enslave her into a life of repression from which she would have no legal recourse. Death, as it had been when she stood on the dock before Jayne intervened, still seemed the better choice. At least then she would maintain some control over her fate. It was little consolation, however.

Stimey came over and leaned up next to her, matching her slumped form in a taller mirror image. “So,” he began cautiously, waiting for her to lift her head before continuing, “do you think your father will come for you?”

“I hope not,” she answered in a desolate monotone.

“What?”

Liesel’s head shook sadly before she turned to face the navigator. “I would rather stay with you and take responsibility. My father will only say that I was tricked and then force me into a life that I hate. Everything that I have worked for will be gone.”

Jan nodded silently and just watched her for a few seconds before leaning in to say, “If he doesn’t come for you, the men and I will say you weren’t responsible. We’ll get you free.”

“No,” she answered firmly.

“But, Liesel,” he tried to counter, “Jayne wouldn’t want you to die. Think about her. If you can get away, maybe you’ll be able to find her and move on. We’ll hang one way or the other. If we can save you, then it’s worth it.”

Liesel began to say something and then stopped, starting and stopping half a dozen times as various answers popped into her head. A very large part of her wanted to be honorable and stand with her crewmates and take their fate as her own, but another part of her understood the truth of Stimey’s words. Standing with them on the gallows would not help any of them, except to perhaps make her not have to live with the knowledge that her friends died while she lived. Finally, the realization hit her that it would take more courage to take his offer, to survive while her friends could not, than to sacrifice herself for some idealism that would mean little to anyone. Surviving, and through that, keeping her friends alive in her memories, suddenly seemed like the wiser choice. She raised her eyes to meet Stimey’s and nodded, saying in a hushed tone, “Okay.”

“Good,” he patted her on the shoulder with a broad grin. “Now, go get some rest. It’s going to be a long day I fear.”

She nodded and went to lie on a low bench under the only window in the cell. Looking up at the sky overhead, she wondered where Jayne was and if she even knew what had become of her crew. With a vision of pale blue eyes playing before her, she slowly drifted off to sleep and dreams of the woman she had come to love.
=-=-=-=-=
On board the Freedom, Kingston Harbor
June 5, 1692

“Okay,” Jayne said to Xavier and Alberto, who stood around her as she eased the ship’s wheel to port, “we’ll dock at Dead Man’s Cove. We won’t be as easy to find, but just in case hoist the British standard. I don’t want to advertise who we are.”

Alberto nodded and trotted down the stairs from the wheelhouse to the main deck on his way to carry out her order. Jayne smiled at the young Italian, acknowledging the ease with which he had taken on an important role among the crew, most especially during this brief, yet vitally important, trip from Tortuga back to Port Royal. He was an asset who, along with Xavier, had managed to keep her mostly sane over the last three days’ voyage when the anger and fear would well up in her and send her into fits of rage or reticence. She would have gone insane without them and, when everything was said and done and this nightmare was over, she knew that they would still be with her to share her triumphs and defeats. For the first time in her life, she felt that she stood on the cusp of something great happening in her life, and the thought that she could lose that if her plan did not work ate at her and fueled her determination like nothing, not even her pursuit of Jack, ever had.

Snapping out of her thoughts, Jayne shouted over her shoulder, “Hoist the British Standard.” When she heard the telltale sounds of the flag being unfurled, she turned her attention back to Xavier, “Ready to hear the plan?”

He nodded silently.

“Okay,” she said with a slight smile on her lips, “we’ll head ashore under darkness and then have the longboats taken to the tip of the peninsula.”

“By Fort Charles?” he asked in surprise.

“You bet,” she smiled more broadly. When she watched him stand, his mouth slightly ajar, she could not help but chuckle. “They won’t expect us to run toward their big military fort. If we can get away without being followed, we can use the dunes to hide our progress and get back out here before anyone is the wiser. If we are followed, we’ll cut through town and head back here on foot. The caverns will hide us until the search blows over. We’ll have the longboats come back here day after tomorrow if we don’t meet up with them.”

“You’ve thought of everything, haven’t you?”

Jayne shrugged nonchalantly and then chuckled again, “That’s why I get the big bucks.” She patted him on the back and nodded toward the main deck where most of their reduced crew were busy preparing the ship for putting down its anchor. “Get down there,” she said more quietly as she leaned into him, “and get everyone ready to go. We’ll leave an hour after sunset. That way we can get ashore before the moon rises.”

He nodded and walked away without any further questions. After years of working together they knew they could trust one another implicitly. She was glad for that familiarity, hoping that the sense of family and duty that was prevalent among the crew would go a long way toward making this mission a success. While she had a more personal stake in it than perhaps anyone else on board, she knew that they would all follow her to the death if there was even the slimmest of chances that they could rescue their friends. Luckily, Jayne knew they had enough confidence in her to realize that she would give them a fighting chance when it came to succeeding on this mission. It was comforting to have that confidence put in her.

She felt it fill her as she turned to the west and the fading warmth of the setting sun. That support helped to abate her own fears of failure. Unlike many missions where the only thing at stake was some gold or a few slaves, this time the two biggest positives in her life were on the line–her son and her love. She felt the determination bundle itself up in her stomach and begin to spread outward, setting every nerve on edge to a point she had never experienced before. Even her excitement at the prospect of getting Jack in her grasp paled to nothingness in comparison with the emotions that welled in her as she contemplated the costs of failure and the spoils of victory. To fail was not an option, because she could not live without Robbie and Liesel in her life. They were as important to her as the heat from the setting sun, the salt-tinged air that filled her lungs with each breath, and the water that gently rocked the ship beneath her feet. Without them, she would have no reason to live, not even revenge against Jack could tempt her into thinking she could possibly survive without them. She would get them back in the morning or she would die trying. Of that there was no doubt.
=-=-=-=-=
Port Royal Prison
June 6, 1692

Liesel entered the small office with her head down and her feet shuffling unwillingly under her. Ever since Ian had come to inform her that her father would be arriving soon, she had felt as if her heart had been ripped from her chest, leaving her oddly cold and distant from herself. Now, as she could feel her father’s presence in the room before he even spoke, she willed herself to be confident, to prepare herself for the fight she knew she owed herself. She might not win, in fact she did not expect to, but if she was going to prove that she had learned anything from her time with Jayne, she would have to show the courage she knew burned deep in the pit of her stomach. “Hello, father,” she said in a monotone as she looked up to meet his gaze evenly.

Her calm exterior seemed to set off something in Johann. His eyes blazed as he watched her, not saying anything at first, instead letting his piercing brown eyes bore into her and send their own vicious intent. The edge of his lips curled up in grim satisfaction as he noticed his daughter avert her gaze for a moment. He could win this war of wills, all it would take was his own determination. Slowly, he turned to Ian and said, “Please leave us alone for a moment. I want to speak with my daughter before taking her home.”

“Of course,” the captain nodded as he backed out of the room, leaving a heavy silence in his wake.

Johann was in front of Liesel in a heartbeat, towering over her with barely contained fury. His voice hissed out slowly as he sneered, “Do not think that you will get away again. You will do what I say, or I will see you dead, do you understand me?”

Slowly, Liesel’s green eyes tracked up to meet her father’s brown ones. She took a breath, refusing to be cowed by his bullying. “You can lock me away, but you will never stop my dreams or take away these last weeks. I will never be your meek, fearful daughter again.”

The sudden slap across her cheek startled her more than it hurt. With eyes that were suddenly filled with tears, she took a step back from her father, overcome with the feeling of helplessness that had so often incapacitated her before her time with Jayne. She could not help it and part of her tried to fight, but in the end she lowered her eyes and conceded the battle, although not the war, to him. She let her head fall, as she had learned he liked over the years, and let herself feel distant again, not wanting to be too emotionally involved in this small surrender and hating everything about it so much it made her blood run cold. Admitting that he had beaten her for now hurt more than the stinging of her cheek.

“Good,” Johann said with a satisfied smirk. “Now,” he chuckled quietly, “we will go back to the house and you will not give me any trouble. Tomorrow, you will board a ship to Boston where you will go to a convent that I have found.” His smile grew, “And then I will not have to listen to your outrageous dreams or disobedience any more. You will learn your place, all right, I will just not have to teach you myself.”

Liesel stood rooted to her spot for a second before she quickly brushed past her father and knocked on the door, calling to Ian who she was sure was just outside. Before her father could stop her, Ian was coming through the door, “Yes?”

“I wish to be returned to my cell,” she said, hoping that she could somehow convince him that it was for the best. “I was not kidnapped and I will not sign anything that says that I was.” She crossed her arms over her chest defiantly.

“No matter,” Ian said with a quick shrug. “You forget that your father is your guardian. We are releasing you to his custody and you have been pardoned from your crimes.”

Johann was at her elbow by then, a strong hand tucked under her arm, “We are going home now. Do not make this more difficult than it is already.”

She lowered her head, feeling the defeatist thoughts attempt to creep into her consciousness. Before they were able to entrench themselves, she took a deep breath and pushed them away, letting the fighter in her take their place. She lifted her head, eyes blazing, and straightened her shoulders. She might not be able to stop what would happen to her legally, but she would not let it defeat her. She had changed and there was no going back.
=-=-=-=-=
“Shit,” Jayne muttered under her breath as she watched Liesel being shoved along the road heading away from the jail, her hands in shackles and her tear-streaked face impassively looking straight ahead. Her eyes blazing after the woman she loved and squinting with utter hatred at the man she could guess was her father, she muttered a heated string of curses as she watched the young woman disappear around the corner. Turning to her crewmates, she said to Xavier, “Follow them. We’ve got to get everyone else out of here before it’s too late, but I don’t want to lose her. When you know where she is, meet me at Todd’s. Hurry.”

With a silent nod, Xavier jogged off down the street, quickly disappearing around the same corner that Liesel and her father had turned only moments before. Relieved that one problem was at least being worked on, she turned to her men and whispered, “Okay, we have little choice. Follow closely and stay as quiet as you can until our cover is blown, then move quickly. You all know how to get out of here, so get a few of our friends and get back to the ship as soon as you can. Any questions?”

Her eyes slowly looked at each of her men, spending a moment with each to make eye contact. This was a risky mission, probably the most risky thing they had ever done as a crew, and she needed them all to believe to their core that this was worth fighting for, and even worth dying for if need be. Finally letting her eyes fall on Alberto, she let a smile come to her lips, all doubts chased away by the resolute expressions on their faces. “Okay, let’s go.”

They made good progress at first, finding it surprisingly easy to slip into the jail and make it to the outer door of the holding area. Here they came across their first obstacle in the form of two guards standing with their backs to the would-be rescuers. Jayne motioned for everyone to wait while she snuck up to the door, pressing herself on the opposite side of the two guards, and then tossing a rock she had brought with her against the far wall hard enough to make a loud thud against the brick surface. To her satisfaction, the two guards turned and quickly came through the gate to investigate the noise. She waited a moment, allowing the first guard to make it completely through the gate before she struck, smashing the metal barrier into the second gaurd and then coming up behind the first guard and stabbing him quickly, felling him with the small dagger from her boot.

Her men came out of the shadows and quickly pulled the two men, one dead and one unconscious, into the holding cell area as they streamed into the corridor, swiftly moving along the row of cells, searching for their friends. Jayne found them first, in the last set of cells on the row. Grinning broadly she said to Jan, who had jumped to the cell door the instant he heard the quiet scuffling of people nearby, “You ready to get out of here?”

“You bet,” he grinned back at her.

She looked over his shoulder, “Where’s Robbie?”

“He didn’t find you?” Jan asked with a sudden worry in his voice.

“No,” Jayne’s voice echoed his concern.

“He jumped overboard when we were taken. He was swimming toward shore when we left.” Jan shook his head in exasperation. “He must still be in Tortuga.”

Jayne’s blood ran cold, knowing that Jack was still there when she left. For a moment, she was frozen, letting that fear run through her and take control of every inch of her until she could push it down to a small corner of her being, left to simmer in the background while she handled this more pressing matter. She turned her attention to the lock, using her dagger to try to pry the device open, without any luck.

Jan put his hands on hers and took the dagger from her when she looked up at him, “Let me try.” When she nodded, he began fiddling with the lock, taking only a moment until it popped open with a quiet click. Without waiting, he moved to the adjoining cell and quickly had that door open as well. In a matter of seconds, the entire crew was gathered in the hallway, muttering quietly to one another as to their plan of escape.

Jayne came up to Jan and said, “I’ll see you back at the ship. I have to go after Liesel.” She began to move off but stopped when she felt his hand on her elbow.

“I’ll come with you. You might need some backup.” He pinned her with his eyes until she nodded and then followed her out of the hallway, edging slowly through the short maze of hallways that led to the outside. They were so intent on getting out before the rest of the crew needed to follow them that they did not notice the bluish-gray eyes that followed them from an alcove near the front door.
=-=-=-=-=
“I can’t believe you let them get away,” Ian bellowed at the guard captain who stood cringing in his office. With a face reddened with rage, he screamed, “Send out every available man. I want them caught and then I want them executed!” His voice continued to rise as he yelled at the rapidly retreating guard, “If not them, then you!”

The naval captain’s eyes continued to bug out of his head long after the guard captain had made his hasty retreat from the scene, leaving Ian alone with his anger. He waited a few minutes for the fury that seemed to be erupting from the bowels of his being to slow to a steady simmer and then headed out of his office with determination in every step. As he passed his assistant he said, without stopping, “We’re going to Fort Charles to see if there’s word of her ship. If we have to chase her all the way to Europe we will. Come on.”

Before his lieutenant could protest or even follow, the captain was out the door and heading toward the fort to the west of town with a single goal on his mind–seeing Jayne at the end of a hangman’s noose.
=-=-=-=-=
On board the Cyclops, Kingston Harbor
June 6, 1692

Jack tightened the knot holding Robbie’s hands behind his back. As he had feared, the boy had not taken the news of his parentage well, choosing not to believe the man he had only ever known as an enemy. He had been forced to keep his son bound to prevent him from any escape attempts, and now, as they prepared to go in search of Robbie’s mother, he wanted to insure that the young man would not be able to get away. “You be good now,” he said as he tugged the rope tight.

Robbie simply slitted his eyes at the man who claimed to be his father, causing Jack to rumble with laughter. His eyes quickly left the young man and looked toward the lights of the city, trying to feel, somehow, if Jayne were nearby. “You sure her ship isn’t in the harbor?” he tossed over his shoulder to Nathan, who had come aboard when word reached him that Jack had made it to Port Royal.

“No, captain,” he answered quickly, his eyes subconsciously scanning the harbor again to assure himself of its absence. He quickly added, “Doesn’t mean that she’s not here.”

“No,” Jack’s voice hissed quietly, “she’s here. I can feel her. Let’s go.” A smile formed on his lips as he heard the oars in the water slowly taking his longboat toward shore. With Robbie in his custody, he was sure to get what he wanted–the family secret and Jayne, all in one day.
Chapter XX
Kumpan Residence, Port Royal
June 6, 1692

Liesel closed her eyes in sudden exhaustion, feeling the ropes still burning into her wrists from her hour of struggling. She was tied to the bed in her room, arms and hands strapped to the four posts. She had fought as her father had forced her down and had one of the house slaves keep her immobile while he secured the ropes. More than the pain of the rope burn, the humiliation of her situation brought tears to her eyes that blocked everything out in a sudden rush of water.

She heard the door open and she jumped, unable to wipe the tears from her eyes, leaving her all but blind on the bed. Not wanting to raise further ire from her father, she stayed silent except for the quiet sniffling that came unbidden.

“Liesel?” Birgit asked quietly as she edged into the room with a final glance at the hallway outside.

“Birg?” she lifted her head and squinted through the tears clouding her eyes. “Birg, you should not be here. It is dangerous.”

Before she could protest further, her younger sister was sitting on the bed, resting a concerned hand on Liesel’s shoulder, “Shh, he is busy with making plans for you to leave.” The brunette shook her head and asked through tear-strained tones, “Lies, why did you leave me?”

“Oh, Birgit,” Liesel said as she tried to sit up only to fall back heavily to the bed in frustration. “I could not stay here. You know how he is. I,” she swallowed hard and shook her head, “I did not mean to run away, not like this. It just happened.”

The younger sister leaned down, whispering in more conspiratorial tones, “Is it true? Did you become a pirate?”

A sigh escaped Liesel’s lips before she could stop it. It was painful to remember her life on the Freedom, but she needed to face the fact that it might very well be only a memory for her now. She could only nod her head at first, taking a moment before she said, “Sort of.”

“What was it like?” The fascination was audible in Birgit’s voice as she moved closer to her sister, her attention riveted on the woman. She was waiting so intently that she did not hear her father enter the room.

“Get out!” he yelled as he moved like lightening to the bed, hand raised to Birgit with obvious intent. A small smile crept onto his lips as he watched her cower away and scamper out of the room before he could make good on his silent threat. When he was sure that she was out of earshot, he leaned over Liesel, planting his hands on either side of her head and said softly in her ear, “See what you have done?” She did not answer him and he felt the anger rising in him, “Since you have been gone, she has started questioning me. You have risked her well being. Now do you see why you must leave?” Her continued silence only served to fuel his temper, “I will not have you ruining her life like you have ruined your own.”

Frustrated, he pushed off the bed and walked to the window to stare out at the midday sun glancing off the windows across the street. “You have always been trouble, since you were born. You never listened to me, had your mother fooled. Look at Wolfgang. You killed my son,” he wheeled on her suddenly, feeling the satisfaction return as he saw the fresh tears streaming from her eyes. “If you could only have been a good girl, we would have all been happy and Wolfgang would be alive.” He started for the door, feeling the pointlessness of talking to someone who would not answer. When he reached the door, he turned one last time to add, “You have brought this on yourself,” and walked out, letting the door close behind him.

Liesel felt the mixture of emotions course through her like a fire burning her veins. Somehow, her father always managed to rub right at her raw spots, knowing instinctively what buttons to push to get her to bend to his will. A small part of her understood what he was doing, but the rest wanted to succumb to the pain that he had offered her through those taunts. It was comfortable in a way, easy to fall back into the routine that had been her life with him for what seemed like forever. Although she found it difficult to concede to his will when it came to her actions, she almost yearned to fall into the black pit of emotional pain that he seemed to always dangle over her. In a way, knowing this all so logically only intensified the pain as she recognized her own self betrayal, feeling the hopelessness that had led to her desperation at the pier, wishing with every fiber of her being that she was back there right now, waiting to fall into the inky depths that would give her relief.

She closed her eyes, trying to sink into the blackness in her mind, waiting for it to pull her into its calming emptiness. She felt her body relax as if she were somehow outside herself and enjoying the barren depths that edged at her mind, sinking further with each breath. Slowly, she realized that she could hear her name being called, somewhere on the other side of the blackness, and she felt compelled to move back through the comforting emptiness toward the voice.

Her eyes fluttered open slowly and she winced at the bright sunlight that streamed down on her. At first she could not make out the form that was sitting over her, but as her eyes adjusted, she made out the long dark hair and angled face of her friend, Jayne, smiling down at her. “Hey,” was all she could croak out, her voice overcome with emotion.

“Hey, you too,” Jayne smiled broadly at her. She turned her attention to quickly remove the bonds holding Liesel in place and then pulled the smaller woman up into her embrace, “I was worried about you,” she whispered as she wrapped powerful arms around the smaller woman.

“I missed you,” Liesel said as she returned the hug warmly, feeling herself slowly return to her normal self, no longer plagued with the insecurities and depression her father had brought out in her.

“Well,” Jayne grinned as she pulled back and wiped a strand of hair out of Liesel’s face affectionately, “what do you say we get out of here and get back to life on the high seas?” A mischievous eyebrow crept up underneath Jayne’s bangs, bringing a grin to Liesel’s face.

“You bet,” she said as she stood, only then noticing that Jan was standing by the window. “Jan!” she ran to him and hugged him tightly, “you got out.”

“Well,” he chuckled quietly, “Jayne got us out.” He pulled back and motioned with his hand toward the window, “After you, my lady.”

Liesel chuckled and looked to Jayne, who quickly swung over the edge of the window and scrambled down the latticework on the side of the house. Liesel’s chuckling continued as she followed, with Jan close on her heels. It was easy, probably too easy, but before they knew it, the three of them were in the street, running toward the western edge of town before any of the startled pedestrians could raise an alarm.
=-=-=-=-=
Near Fort Charles, Port Royal
June 6, 1692

Liesel bent over to catch her breath, reveling in the cool shadows cast by the fort looming over them. They stood among the dunes, having just run all the way from the city. Their haste had been necessary, because shortly after leaving the residential part of the town, they had run into a group of prison guards who had run after them with a frenzy born of obvious desperation. Liesel was unaccustomed to running and had found it difficult to keep up with Jayne and Jan, both of whom had a considerable advantage in terms of length of stride. She had been forced to run faster than she thought possible and now that they had finally seemed to have lost the guards, she realized she would be paying for the effort for a while.

“You okay?” Jayne’s concerned voice reached her ears between the ragged breaths that came from her lungs and filled her hearing.

“Um,” she swallowed hard, taking a final gasping breath and letting it out slow, trying to calm the pounding of her heart with the effort, and looked up, “yes, I will be.”

“Good,” Jayne smiled down at her with an unhidden pride and affection that melted Liesel’s heart. The pirate captain was about to lean down and kiss the younger woman when she was stopped by Jan’s voice.

“Uh, Jayne, we have trouble.”

She looked up suddenly, following Jan’s line of sight and noticed Jack and four other men coming their way in a tight group. Every muscle in her body tensed as she walked over to get between Liesel and the approaching men, coming up next to Jan so she could whisper, “Stay with Liesel. Keep her safe.” She did not wait for an answer before taking a few steps further toward her oncoming enemy, distancing herself further from her friends. She affected a cocky air and crossed her arms over her chest. Only then, as they were perhaps a boat’s length away, did she notice the smaller figure in the middle of the band of men and she faltered a moment, her heart pounding suddenly in her chest. Robbie! It took her a second to regain her composure, if only on the outside, and focus on the older man standing in front of her son, willing herself to push her concern for the young man to the back of her mind. First thing’s first.

When they stood only a few feet away from one another, she tilted her head, only then noticing Nathan standing in the back of the group. It threw her for a loop, but she recovered quickly and tried to sound nonchalant as she said, “Why hello Nathan. Sorry I can’t say that it’s nice to see you again.” Her attention then returned to her true opponent and she fixed him with a steely gaze, “Feeling better Jack?”

He shrugged, an unreadable expression on his face, “Now that I have my son back I am.” He watched, a smile slowly growing on his face as he saw her eyes go wide at the implications of his statement. Finally, a chuckle rumbled up from the pit of his stomach, “You thought that I didn’t know? How naïve. Dear Jayne, I’ve been watching you your whole life, did you think I could miss a pregnancy? And so soon after our night together?”

“You bastard,” she hissed out as her hand fell to the hilt of her cutlass. She could feel every hair on her body stand on end with the fury that was building in her. “I’m going to split you open, right here.”

“Now, Jayne,” Jack said in a reasonable tone, “you couldn’t kill your son’s father could you?”

Her eyes darted to Robbie, noting the pain in his face. Their eyes met and she almost faltered, feeling the guilt she had carried from the day of his birth flare up in her suddenly. They held each other’s eyes for a moment until Robbie nodded ever so slightly and let the edge of his lip curl up into a smile. Her heart broke then, recognizing forgiveness in his expression and realizing that, in his surrender to the circumstances of his life and to the inevitable reality of the death of one of his parents at the hand of the other, he had lost an innocence that she had so wished for him. It took her a moment to gather her senses and turn her attention back to the one-eyed pirate, “Yes, I could,” she finally said, confidence returning to her in large waves.

“And what would your father say?”

“My father?” she asked, confused.

Jack’s eyebrows furrowed for a moment as he regarded her with one impassive brown eye. “You don’t know, do you?”

A wary expression cloaked the sudden fear that burned in Jayne. She could feel the tension all around her–from the men with Jack, from Robbie, from Liesel and Jan. It served to only heighten the nagging fear that edged into the back of her brain. Part of her wanted to run, to escape before this beast of a man could hurt her further, but she held her ground. Long ago she had sworn to the young girl that she had been that she would make Jack pay, no matter what, and she was not about to go back on that promise to herself. Taking a breath, she spat out, “Know what?”

Jack snorted a chuckle, shaking his head at some improbability that only he understood. After a moment he looked back at her, a toothy grin plastered on his face that did not make its way to his eye. “Your father would not want his only brother killed, would he?”

Jayne felt as if she had been hit with a cannon shot and she actually stumbled back a step. My father’s brother? Part of her brain recognized what he was saying, but she found she could not believe it, would not believe it for a few seconds, her mind reeling at the revelation. My own uncle. She felt sick and her instant reaction was to fight back. She turned her gaze back to him and shook her head, “No, Uncle John is dead. He died when you attacked the ship he was on.” She knew that her protest sounded weak as part of her began to realize he could be speaking the truth. Only now did she see the resemblance to her father–the deep brown in his one eye, the tall, muscular frame, the dark hair now graying. If it were not for the eye patch she could believe that an older version of her father stood before her.

Jack smirked and shook his head at her, “So typical of you my dear niece. You always did want to fight, didn’t you? That’s what made that night so satisfying and that’s what will make today even more so.” In a flash his cutlass was out and he was approaching her, deadly intent shooting from his eye.

It took Jayne a second to recognize the change in circumstances and it almost cost her. She only just managed to duck from under the first slash of his cutlass, whirling around and drawing her own blade without thinking. She pushed everything away, deep into the depths of her mind, focusing entirely on the fight. Part of her was aware that her friends were moving to take on the rest of Jack’s men and that part wanted to rush to their aid, to insure their safety, but she could not. The rest of her was screaming for revenge, for not only the pain he had caused her as a child but for the pain so recently inflicted on her. With the knowledge of Jack’s true identity, Jayne had felt the last of her innocence being stripped away, leaving her naked to the raw emotions that threatened to overwhelm her. She was fighting herself as much as Jack as she plunged into the duel.
=-=-=-=-=
Liesel listened as Jack revealed his familial relationship to Jayne, her heart breaking with the words. She could see by the sudden slumping of Jayne’s shoulders that she had been hurt, terribly, and it ripped at her own heart, knowing that this battle they were about to enter would only be the beginning. If and when her friend had managed to defeat the man, she would be forced to fight the demons that so obviously tortured her soul. It would not be an easy process, and certainly it would be difficult for Jayne to open up and let anyone help her, but she was determined to help her friend through this difficult time, to somehow find a way to ease the ache in the dark woman’s soul.

Hearing the clash of metal on metal, Liesel jerked herself out of her thoughts and took in the fact that Jayne and Jack were fighting. She unconsciously moved forward, her desire to help her friend so deeply rooted in her that she could not stop herself. Jan held out a hand, stopping her in her tracks and turned, letting his voice drop to a whisper, “Leave her be. We’ll handle the other guys, okay?”

She nodded to him and jumped slightly when she felt something pressed into her hand. Looking down she noticed a cutlass gripped unknowingly in her fist. “Yours?” she asked as she looked back at Jan.

“Actually, Xavier’s,” he grinned at her and nodded toward the ruffians who were starting to edge around Jack and Jayne and head in their direction. “I’ll get a replacement soon enough,” he chuckled and ran toward them with a broad grin on his face.

Liesel watched for a moment, unsure of what to do, and waited until she saw that he had indeed quickly disarmed one of the men and turned the newfound cutlass on its former owner. Snapping out of it, she charged the remaining two men, engaging them with a subconscious ease.

The fight only lasted a few minutes. Jan took out Nathan with quick slashes of the broad cutlass in his hands, sending the traitor off to whatever awaited him in the afterlife. By the time he had finished with his task, he turned to notice that Liesel had injured her opponent badly enough to take him out of the fight without actually killing him. Beside her, Robbie stood, with his bound arms wrapped around the neck of the last man, strangling him into unconsciousness before letting him fall bonelessly to the sand. The navigator quickly went over to the teenagers and used his cutlass to sever the rope holding Robbie’s hands together. Only then did he turn toward the heated battle between Jack and Jayne that continued to rage nearby.

=-=-=-=-=
“You know you can’t win, Jack,” Jayne hissed before sending a powerful kick toward the man’s midsection which missed as he twirled out of her reach.

“Why not?” he taunted back, aiming a powerful slash of his weapon for her shoulder and narrowly missing as she jerked her body out of the way. “I already have,” he grinned, just beginning to breathe hard with the effort as he parried a strike intended to decapitate him.

“You’ll never win,” Jayne huffed as she scored a blow to his thigh, drawing only a thin line of blood, but reveling quickly in the knowledge that she had landed the first hit of the contest. “I won’t let you,” she said with the determination that always seemed to wash over her in battle. With renewed hope of finally defeating this animal across from her, she went at him in a flurry of blows which drove him back along the sand toward the gentle waves of the harbor.

Both the opponents were beginning to tire slightly, so they held their tongues and simply concentrated on the exchange of blows that each rained on the other. Neither seemed to be making much progress for long, holding their own and refusing to give up any more ground, when a sudden flash of movement surprised them both. Jayne’s heart missed a beat as she saw Jack suddenly fall to the ground, Robbie wrapped around him, pinning the shocked man into the surf with a strength that seemed impossible for his slight frame.

Fear forced her feet into action as she joined Robbie’s attempts to subdue the man, quickly landing a boot to his head and sending him into a sudden state of unconsciousness. She was about to finish the job, having raised her cutlass for one final blow to rid herself and the world of this tyrant, when Robbie looked up at her with pain-filled eyes and she melted, unable to commit this act of vengeful murder. She swallowed hard as her arm dropped dead to her side and she muttered, “We can’t let him go.”

“No,” her son nodded, “we can’t. Can’t we put him on some deserted island somewhere? I,” he stopped, emotion starting to overcome him for a moment before he got it under control. “He’s evil and I know he has to be stopped, but he’s still my father.” He watched the mixture of emotions pass over Jayne’s face and found himself speaking without really thinking, “Please, mom?”

Her whole world stopped for just an instant and filled only with Robbie. It was as if every barricade she had ever built around the pain of a lifetime crumbled in that moment and she was helpless but to answer his request. “Okay,” was all she could mutter, finally dropping her eyes in a mixture of sadness and abject guilt, finding herself suddenly unworthy of the title he had bestowed on her. Without lifting her head she said, “Jan, tie him up. We’ll take him back to the ship with us and find someplace to leave him.”

She could sense people moving around her but would not open her eyes. Part of her wanted so much to take Robbie into her arms and apologize for the lies, the deceit, the years without her, but the part that knew she did not deserve that won out and she stood frozen to her spot in fear. Only his hand on her face, lifting it to meet his, and his gentle voice asking, “Are you all right?” brought her back from her tumble of thoughts.

She swallowed hard under his gaze and shook her head, “Oh, Robbie, I’m sorry.” Before she could stop herself she realized she was in his arms, being supported by him in a fierce hug of redemption.

“It’s okay, I understand,” he whispered into her ear. They pulled apart and he smiled at her as he wiped a tear away from her cheek with one thumb, “You did what you had to do. I can’t fault you for that.” His voice cracked under the emotion and he found himself chuckling quietly. “I’m proud of you, proud that you’re my mother.” He pulled her back into a hug and said more quietly, “I love you.”

His forgiveness and acceptance washed over Jayne, healing parts of her that had ached for years, and she felt suddenly more whole than she could ever remember. “I love you, too,” she whispered back to him and then just held him. Silence lingered everywhere, not even the sea lapping at the sand at their feet seemed to make a dent in the peace that surrounded them. They stood like that, wrapped in each other’s arms, for what seemed like hours, but was really only a few minutes, peacefully enjoying the contact that had been denied them for so long.

A sound entered Jayne’s consciousness finally and she lifted her head, blanching at the sight of a group of guards approaching them, their red coats visible even at this distance. “Shit,” she hissed and pulled back, putting her emotional walls back up for the next crisis that was looming on the horizon. “They’ve found us.” She took a moment to look around, her eyes finally tracking up to the fort that loomed over them and a smile formed on her lips. Then, as she bent to rifle through Jack’s clothing with panicked hands, she said, “I want you all to head back to the ship and take Jack with you. I’ll cause a diversion.”

Liesel was suddenly at her elbow, standing with arms crossed over her chest. “I am coming with you,” she stated resolutely.

“No!” Jayne countered loudly. “It’s too dangerous.”

“I am coming with you,” Liesel repeated calmly, turning intense eyes toward Jayne. “Do not argue.”

The captain sighed, knowing that this young woman could not be deterred. “Okay, but stay close.” She turned back to Jan and Robbie, “Get back to the ship and prepare to sail. We’ll be there soon enough.” She knew it was a lie. This was probably a suicide mission, but if it meant her son would survive, then it was worth it. She had gotten the only thing in life she had truly ever sought–love regardless of her past–and she could accept her own death if it meant that her son would live. The only problem was how to save Liesel, but she would worry about that once she got rid of Robbie and Jan. Finally finding the journal tucked into the back of the Cyclops’s pants, she looked at Jan and Robbie and fixed them with a calm, yet serious expression. If they knew what she planned, they would never leave. “Go!”

They both jumped and, carrying Jack’s unconscious form between them, ran down the beach in the shadow of the fort, letting the darkness hide their presence. Jayne smiled, knowing she only now had to convince Liesel to leave. “I want you out of here, too,” she added with her eyes pinned on the rapidly approaching guards.

“I said no,” Liesel growled.

“Look,” Jayne turned to the younger woman, grabbing both of her arms tightly and shaking slightly to emphasize her point. “I probably won’t be coming back. I can’t let you come with me.”

For a moment they stood, wills facing off through glinting eyes, and then Liesel pulled Jayne into a fierce kiss, one born of passion and desperation. It did not last long for they had little time, but when they pulled away, both breathless from the intensity, the younger woman said, “Do you not see I would die without you anyway?” It was not something she had ever consciously thought of, it was simply a fact that Liesel felt to her very core. Having finally found this woman, this person who was so obviously part of her soul, she was sure that to live without her would kill her as certainly as any pistol shot to the heart.

Jayne swallowed hard, acknowledging the truth of those words and hating them all the same. Finally, she nodded, not wanting to, but finding that she needed to. “Okay, but follow close. If I can, I’m getting us out of this.” They started to scamper up the hill in the direction of the fort as shouts finally rang up behind them from the guards and gunshots glanced off the nearby rocks.
Chapter XXI
Fort Charles, Port Royal
June 6, 1692

“What a way to spend my birthday,” Jayne mumbled in Liesel’s direction as she scrambled over an outcropping and paused long enough to haul the younger woman after her. A gunshot ricocheted off the stone where they had been only moments before, sending them both ducking out of reflex.

“Your birthday?” Liesel inquired as she turned to run up the dirt hill that was now the only obstacle to the fort looming over them. She was grateful for the distraction of the conversation because it kept her mind off the guards chasing them up the rocks and the occasional all-too near gunshot.

“Yup,” Jayne answered as she ran around one of the fort’s corner turrets. When Liesel also cleared the corner, she pulled the smaller woman into a small alcove in the wall, and whispered into her ear, “you can sing for me when we get out of this.” With a grin she raised her finger to her lips for silence and pulled her further into the shadowy protection of the niche.

A few moments passed before the guards came tearing around the corner, not once stopping to look around them. Jayne waited a few more seconds, cocking her head to listen to the noises nearby. When she was certain that they were well past their location, she peeked her head out of the alcove and then ducked back in. Turning to Liesel she said, “I want you to head back toward the beach and I’ll keep them distracted.”

“No,” Liesel answered resolutely. “I will not leave you.”

Jayne looked at her again and chuckled quietly, “Can’t fault me for trying.” She took a long breath and said, “Look, this is very dangerous. I want to go into the fort to keep them busy. If we can cause enough of a distraction the crew can get away.”

Liesel’s brows furrowed, “How do we get back out?”

“Honestly?” Jayne waited for the nod from Liesel before saying, “I’m not sure we can. We’ll have to play it by ear. Still in?”

A twinkle played in Liesel’s eye as she said, “Where you go, I go.”

A smiled edged its way onto Jayne’s lips as she nodded, “Okay, whatever you say.” Slowly, she leaned down and gently kissed Liesel, savoring the feel of the younger woman’s warm lips on her own and trying to convey in that one moment all the love she felt for her. Pulling away, she took a moment to gain her breath again before she said, “I think we both have a good reason to survive this, so let’s get it over with, okay?”

“You bet,” Liesel grinned, her cheeks still flushed from the kiss. She watched as Jayne returned the smile and then led the way out of the alcove. Following quickly, she said a quick prayer that they would make it through this plan. There was still a lot to be said and done between them, and she was determined to have a chance to do that.

=-=-=-=-=
Ian trudged purposefully into the fort commander’s office and grunted, “Any word?”

“No,” the commander said, folding his arms and raising an inquisitive eyebrow to his counterpart. “Don’t you think you’re taking this a tad personally, Ian? I’ve never known you to get this involved in a simple pursuit.”

The naval captain looked up at his friend, “Look, Tom, you know why I want her. Now, don’t try to talk me out of this, because I’ll get her if it kills me and you know it.” He paused and then added, “Thanks for worrying about me though.”

“No problem,” Tom answered, a smile on his face that he hoped would somehow reduce the anger that he could feel emanating from his friend. He wanted to say more, but in the pause to gather his thoughts, a loud ruckus from outside his office made him look up, his train of thought completely forgotten. Without waiting for someone to report to him, he dashed out into the hallway, Ian thick on his heels, and came to a halt at the scene before him.

Men were running everywhere in a confused jumble of soldiers and sailors, most armed with muskets or pistols, some waving swords around, ready to do battle. Ian reached out from behind the fort captain and grabbed the sleeve of one soldier, “What the hell is going on?”

The young man huffed slightly, catching his breath before saying, “They’re in the fort, sir.”

“They?” he questioned sharply.

“Jayne and some of her crew I think. They’re on the wall.”

Ian let go of the young soldier’s arm and said, “Show me.”

With a nod, the young man headed down the hallway. He did not get a chance to see the devious smile that now graced Ian’s face or the twinkle in his eyes that gave him an almost childlike appearance.

=-=-=-=-=
“What do we do now?” Liesel asked as they ran along the wall escarpment, half crouched over to avoid the frequent pistol shots in their direction.

“I wish I knew,” Jayne grunted from in front of her as they started to turn a corner, only to stop and jump back as she saw the men rushing at them along the parapet. “Shit,” she growled as she leaned around the corner and shot at the men with the pistol gripped tightly in her fist. “Can’t go that way.”

Liesel turned to look behind them and unconsciously backed into Jayne, “We cannot go back, either.” She swallowed hard, recognizing the captain who had captured them back at Tortuga. “It is that man that hates you.”

“What man?” Jayne asked as she sent off another shot around the corner. Not waiting for an answer she said, “This is not good.”

Liesel swallowed hard, raising the pistol Jayne had given her and shot at the approaching men, cringing when she noticed that she hit one of the soldiers, sending them all scrambling for cover. “They are hiding.”

“So are mine,” Jayne breathed heavily as she glanced back at the men Liesel was watching. They were definitely pinned and it did not look good at all. “I think this is the end of the line.” Part of her could not give in so easily, however, and she glanced around, desperate for any chance at escape. Straining her ears over the shouting of the men around them, she could hear the crash of waves nearby, on the other side of the wall if she were not mistaken. It soothed her somehow, as it always seemed to, and she felt a calm like none other she had felt, the panic of the moment simply draining from her. Somewhere in that peace it came to her, an idea that was crazy but worth a shot.

“All right,” Jayne said as she sent the last shot from her last pistol at the men she had been covering, “we have one chance or we’re dead. We go over the wall and pray to God that there’s only ocean below, and deep ocean at that.” She knew that the fort was set on a cliff and if she were right as to their location they were at the corner that ended over the deep waters at the entrance to Kingston Harbor.

Liesel looked up at her, panic in her green eyes. It took her a moment, but she nodded, putting her trust in Jayne, knowing that it was their only hope. She took her hand and smiled, “I am with you.”

The pirate smiled and pulled the smaller woman into her body as they stood up. She could hear shouts and guns being loaded as she wrapped her arms around Liesel and sprinted across the short distance to the waist-high wall. As they reached it, she jumped up with every ounce of strength she could muster and then they were over the wall, falling fast. She looked below her and smiled as she saw the waves crashing into the cliff below. She had guessed right and they were far enough out that they would not land directly on the rocks.

She did not have time for further thought as they landed in the waves, the sudden impact ripping them apart from each other. Jayne kicked for the surface, coming up into a lull between waves and looking around for Liesel, her heart pounding. A few seconds elapsed and then Liesel’s head broke the surface and Jayne smiled in relief. She began to swim over to her friend when a powerful wave hit her, dragging her under into the tug between waves and undertow that kept her below the waves. She kicked hard but was unable to break the grasp of the sea as it sucked her in further. Her thoughts went immediately to Liesel, wondering if she were safe and then just feeling the pain of losing the one person in her life that seemed to complete her. Then, the darkness started to edge into her conscious and, just before losing consciousness, she found her thoughts of Liesel receding to the background and she chuckled internally at the irony of it all, that the sea would finally kill her just when she stood at the threshold of a wonderful new life. And then she fell into the darkness and knew no more.
Chapter XXII
Cavern near Fort Charles
June 7, 1692

Liesel sighed heavily, looking down at Jayne’s face and feeling the worry that had overcome her for the past few hours continue to grow. She was not sure how they had reached this cavern. When she had woken up, she was lying prone on the sandy floor, waves lapping at her feet. She had immediately gotten up, her eyes searching the dismal cave until she saw Jayne lying face down in the sand. She had moved quickly, before she ever realized it, and soon had Jayne pulled from the water and laid in her lap. She was relieved that her friend was breathing, but no amount of talking to her or slapping her face could bring her around. At first, she had assumed that it was only a matter of minutes, but as time wore on her concern increased. Now, with the damp darkness firmly ensconced around them, she was cradling Jayne’s head and telling her stories to keep herself busy and keep the panic that continued to creep into her gut from overwhelming her.

“And when the battle was over, Shakti went to Arminestra and bowed before her, letting his sword fall before him. Without looking up, he said, ‘Mother,…”

“I will be your sword,” Jayne’s voice came softly to Liesel’s ears and the young woman looked down at her, noticing that the pirate’s eyes were still closed, although she was definitely speaking. “I will be your sword and fight for the greater good so you do not have to.” With that the blue eyes fluttered open and looked around in confusion. Finally fixing on Liesel, she smiled, “Hey there, are we dead?”

A light laughter rang through the cavern as Liesel shook her head, “I do not think so.” She leaned down, planting a light kiss on Jayne’s forehead and then pulling back, letting the older woman roll out of her arms and sit up. “How do you feel? You were out for a while.”

Jayne took a moment to roll her shoulders and arch her back, assuring herself of the fact that she was in one piece and not even that sore, considering the beating she knew the waves had given her. “I’m great,” she said with a broad smile.

Liesel fell into Jayne’s arms, feeling her strong embrace wrap around her. They stayed like that for a few minutes, silently enjoying the comfort of the bond they both knew they shared. It was inexplicable and yet so real they could almost touch it, now more than ever. A sudden fluttering in Liesel’s stomach caused her to speak without thinking, needing somehow to break the intensity of emotions she was feeling at that exact moment. “Jayne? How did you know the story of Shakti and Arminestra?”

“Who?” Jayne asked as she pulled back and looked down at Liesel.

“When you woke up,” Liesel explained, “I was telling you a story and you knew what Shakti had said to Arminestra when they first met.”

The pirate shrugged and shook her head, “I have no clue. I don’t remember that.”

Liesel’s eyes unfocused for a second while she thought but then she shrugged with a quick chuckle, “It does not matter. All that matters is that we are safe and together.”

“That we are,” Jayne said with a slight grin on her face as she leaned in to kiss Liesel. It started as a slow, simple kiss, but without any conscious decision on either one’s part, it quickly intensified until it filled with the desire they had both long been holding back.

Minutes passed as they explored each other’s mouths with inquisitive tongues guided by their rising passion. When Liesel finally pulled back to take in a hasty gasp of air, Jayne moved to trail kisses along Liesel’s jawline, occasionally letting her tongue dart out to taste the salty tang of her skin. Finally reaching the hollow in Liesel’s neck, she let her teeth rake over the sensitive skin and grinned slightly when she heard the moan escape the younger woman’s lips.

Continuing to work along Liesel’s neck, pausing over spots that seemed to make the young woman’s breath catch, Jayne let her hands move slowly over the strong back, strengthened in the weeks of working on the ship, and felt the desire build in her, shooting out in waves of heat that snaked from the very center of her being into every inch of her. She continued on until she heard Liesel ask breathlessly, “Can we . . . I mean, I do not, oh Scheiße.”

Jayne pulled back and looked at Liesel’s face, noticing the deep blush that could have been solely from the passion of the moment but was more likely a mixture of embarrassment and desire. She reached up a hand and caressed her hot cheek gently, “Shh, don’t worry. Tell me what you want.” Her words were barely a whisper and yet they seemed to echo off the cavern’s walls.

“I,” Liesel began, her voice tightening up suddenly. She chuckled and shook her head, averting her eyes as a deeper red shaded her face. She took a deep breath, willing herself to make the decision, to take a step into something she could not name and was not even sure of what it entailed, and yet it seemed too right to ignore. She looked back into pale blue eyes that seemed to shower her with love and smiled, leaning forward as she said, “I want you.”

“That I can do,” Jayne grinned rakishly before returning to her slow exploration of Liesel’s flesh. Time seemed to stop as they slowly explored each other’s bodies and souls, reveling in the intensity of emotions and raw physicality of the experience. What started as a slow smoldering fire between them quickly developed into a fierce inferno that could only be quenched by the sating of their carnal desires. Fevered hands pulled at clothes and glided over sweat-soaked skin while mouths tasted and nibbled at sensitive spots, trailing down to take in breasts and, further still, to finally drink from the very font of their desire, sending their passions to heights neither had known before.

Only when the whirlwind of their lovemaking receded and they lay in each other’s arms were they able to fully comprehend the melding of souls that had taken place within the melding of their bodies. It was a comfortable feeling, one oddly familiar to them both as they snuggled into each other, enjoying the giddy afterglow of the act. It was not long until they both fell into the exhausted sleep that so often follows such lovemaking, drifting off into a heavy slumber devoid of dreams.
=-=-=-=-=
Waking just as the first sun rays danced off the lapping waves, Jayne smiled down at the figure snuggled into her arms with her sandy blonde head tucked onto her shoulder. She felt free somehow, as if the weight that had been on her shoulders for almost twenty years was gone and replaced with a joy she had never dreamed of. She was not sure that she deserved such happiness, but she was not about to argue with whatever force in the universe had deemed her worthy of this woman’s love.

Her smile grew as she watched the fair lashes flutter and the eyes underneath open and look up at her with such adoration that it was almost painful to behold. “Hey there,” she leaned down and planted a kiss on the younger woman’s forehead. “You okay?”

“Never better,” Liesel answered as she stretched languidly.

Jayne’s smile grew until it beamed straight up into her eyes, sending flashes of light off in the pale blue depths, “I’m glad.” She pulled her lover closer, wrapping her arms around her tightly, before sitting up and running a hand through her disheveled hand, feeling the sand trapped in the raven locks. “Yuck, there’s something to be said for making love some place less messy than a beach.”

Liesel was also sitting up, wiping sand off the back of her arm and nodding at the comment, “I did not notice this before, but I agree with you.”

“That’s because,” Jayne said in a sensuous tone as she leaned toward Liesel, “we were a bit busy before this.” She planted a slow, sweet kiss that kept its passion in check while somehow promising more in the future. She broke the kiss and sat back, saying, “Let’s get cleaned up and get out of here. I want to get to the cemetery and see what’s in that tomb.”

Liesel nodded and stood, shaking sand from her body and giggling a bit self-consciously at Jayne, who stared up at her, “What?”

“You sure are beautiful,” was all that Jayne could answer.

Liesel looked down at the sand, a brilliant red rising in her face. She held out her hand to offer Jayne aid in rising and cleared her throat, pushing down her natural reaction to being embarrassed. “Actually,” she said as she pulled the older woman to her feet and into her arms, “it is you who are beautiful.”

“Hmm,” Jayne grinned and then started backing up into the sea behind them, pulling Liesel with her. “Come on, let’s get rinsed off.” When she was up to her knees in the water, she wrapped her arms around Liesel and fell backward into the small waves, feeling the cool sea shock her.

Rinsing each other off lead to another round of lovemaking that left them both sated and strangely invigorated. When they were done, they left the water and got dressed quickly to avoid the need for yet another distracting round of passion. Finally, with their libidos satisfied and the sand removed from places that should never have sand, they started the precarious journey along the craggy rocks of the shore until they reached the expansive beach that lead to Port Royal in the distance and the family secret that Jayne had spent the better part of her life seeking. It was finally time to uncover it.
=-=-=-=-=
Kingston Family Crypt, Port Royal
June 7, 1692

It took them most of the morning as they made their way to the cemetery on the eastern edge of the city so that the sun was almost to its zenith as they wended their way through the crypts and tombstones of the cemetery. Finally, toward the rear of the graveyard, the large family burial chamber loomed in front of them. It’s marble walls were covered in the green vines that seemed to creep up out of the ground all over the island, leaving very little of the white visible underneath. The vegetation obscured even the name on the arch over the entrance.

Jayne and Liesel went in through the front gate, using the key that the captain always wore around her neck. Once they were inside, Jayne pulled the journal out and flipped through its wet pages quickly, searching for the page she knew would be there. Finding it, a smile tipped the edge of her lips and she moved to the back of the room, kneeling down by a slightly discolored slab of marble. “This is it, Liesel, I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.”

“What is it?” the German asked as she leaned over her lover’s shoulder.

“The entrance,” Jayne whispered almost reverently as she pushed on the slab, feeling it start to give under the pressure she was exerting on it. She leaned into it more, putting her full weight into it until the slab started to pivot on unseen hinges, revealing a dark space behind it. As a smile edged onto Jayne’s lips, she stood and grabbed a torch from the wall next to the door. She took a moment to light it with the flint left by the torch for just that purpose, and then she waved the light into the dark space and let out a quiet gasp.

Liesel was at her elbow in a moment, her eyes going wide as she peered into the room. Shelves were overflowing with crates and chests, some with sparkling jewels spilling over the sides. It was more riches than she had ever even dreamed could exist and it was simply breathtaking.

As one, the two of them moved into the room without a word. They started wandering around, letting their eyes take in the opulence even when their minds could not fathom it. Then, finally, Jayne turned to her lover and laughed, letting a broad smile light up her face. They hugged, reveling in the wonderful feeling of a day filled with discoveries and accomplishments beyond even their wildest expectations. Finally breaking the hug, they slowly moved off into different directions to search the room’s contents.

While Jayne searched through the shelves of jewels, Liesel moved to the opposite side, finding herself pulled toward a large wooden footlocker that was covered in years of dust. She knelt by it, wiping off the grime, and squinting at the engraving on its lid, feeling something nibble at the back of her mind. The engraving was blackened, as if it had been burned into the wooden lid, and appeared to be an intricately carved circle bearing an odd serpentine design with a plain cross underneath. It was hauntingly familiar, and her thoughts tracked quickly to her beloved book. Suddenly sucking in her breath, she thought about how the symbol seemed to perfectly fit the description of the symbol which gave Shakti and Arminestra the key to their past lives.

She turned slowly to Jayne and was about to call her over when the ground started to shake below her feet and she had to scramble to keep her balance. She watched as Jayne tried to collect some of the riches off the shelf while crates began to crash around her. Without conscious thought, she found herself at Jayne’s side, pulling on the taller woman, and screaming, “Jayne, we must leave.”

For a split second it seemed as if Jayne would protest, but then she acquiesced and let the smaller woman pull her toward the door. In the few seconds it had taken for this to come to pass, the earthquake had intensified, making the marble floor undulate violently. They scrambled as quickly as possible toward the door, reaching it just as part of the roof collapsed behind them. It was slow going as they avoided falling marble, but they made it outside with only a few bruises.

Just a few seconds after they reached the relative safety of the outside, the tremor subsided, leaving everything eerily quiet. Only the heavy gasps of air that they were both struggling to take into their chests punctuated the silence. Finally catching her breath, Jayne sat down on the ground heavily, her eyes taking in the tomb–most of the ceiling had collapsed in the front, making it obviously impossible to enter. Behind this rubble, the tomb seemed remarkably in one piece. “Shit,” she muttered angrily and she stood up, stalking around the side of the tomb to assess the damage. “Shit,” she repeated and said over her shoulder to Liesel, “it’s cut off.” When she got no immediate answer, she turned to the younger woman and saw how she stood, eyes wide and staring off into the distance. The captain turned to follow her line of sight and she froze in shock–down the slight hill leading to the city, she could see the devastation that had occured to her hometown. Fires burned everywhere, causing a steady dark cloud to settle over the entire city and obscuring her view of the farthest end of the town. There was no telling what other damage had occured. She swallowed hard and turned again to Liesel, but she was not there. She looked around and found her after a few seconds. The young woman was running toward the city as fast as she could. With a muttered curse under her breath, Jayne sprinted after her lover.
=-=-=-=-=
The devastation was overwhelming. People, many injured, scrambled through the streets, screaming out loved-ones’ names or running into damaged buildings to loot belongings in the mayhem. Many of the brick buildings were toppled over and glass from windows lay in shards over the cobblestones, making any progress through the tight streets very treacherous at best. Taking it all in only made Liesel’s legs pump harder as she sprinted down the street, only vaguely aware that Jayne was close on her heels. She fought off the doubts that her sister and father had been killed or injured, making herself believe that she would reach her home and they would be all right. Even her anger with her father could not dampen her concern for him and her desire to see him well when she arrived. With this dogged determination she continued on, weaving in and out of people, her boots slapping against the debris so quickly she did not have time to slip and fall. Finally reaching the last turn onto her street, she scampered around the corner and came to a sudden shocked halt.

Much of the city was simply gone, having slipped completely into the waters of the harbor. Those buildings that were only partially submerged were being ravaged by waves four or five times their normal height. Some people could be seen trying to escape the terrible currents of the water, making slight progress toward dry land only to be pulled back out further with each receding wave. Further out where the buildings were completely submerged, bodies could be seen bobbing up and down on the heavy waves.

Liesel could not believe her eyes. She searched the area, knowing instantly that her house now lay completely below water, but unable to understand that fact. Her eyes darted around in panic, taking in every person nearby, hoping and praying that she would find her sister or father among them.

For the next few minutes, she simply stood and looked around, her feet rooted to the spot and never feeling it as Jayne came up to stand behind her and place strong, comforting hands on her shoulders. She was numb as she pushed the reality away, unable to deal with it right away and needing to deny the fact that they were likely both dead and that she was without any family. But these thoughts nibbled at her, not letting themselves be pushed into the furthest reaches of her mind, and she finally shook with the emotion, letting herself fall back into Jayne’s embrace and give into her sobs.

She probably would have continued to cry if an aftershock had not suddenly erupted around them, sending even more bricks and glass raining down on them. Liesel felt Jayne huddle over her, bending them both over so as to take the brunt of any blow on the back, but no major hit came and the tremor quickly passed, leaving them both panting from the sudden adrenaline rush.

“Liesel,” Jayne finally said as she pulled the smaller woman up to a standing position, “we have to get out of here. It’s dangerous.” She tugged on Liesel’s arm for emphasis when it seemed for a second that the young German would protest.

“Yes,” Liesel nodded, letting her eyes glance around one last, desperate time, willing her father or her sister to appear to chase away the nightmare. They were nowhere to be seen and she dropped her head, letting a moment pass as the realization that her family was gone truly washed over her. Then she opened her eyes, about to turn to follow Jayne away from the danger when she saw what would have looked like a small rock to anyone else, but to her sent a sudden spark of energy as she found herself running for it, dropping to her knees at the water’s edge as she reached out for it. It was her beloved book from India, remarkably intact with its intricate cover that was designed to protect the fragile paper within from the ravages of time, and, in this case, the destruction of the sea. In the overwhelming loss of the day, it was little comfort, but it was something, giving her hope as it always had, and making the pain recede, if only somewhat.

She stood and turned to Jayne, who held a quizzical expression on her face, and nodded, “Come on, let us leave.” As Jayne took the lead, heading them to the other side of the narrow strip of land that Port Royal was on, Liesel spared one final glance back at the watery grave that had taken everything about her past except for the book in her hand. Faced with the overwhelming sadness, she instead let a small smile etch her lips. Leaving the past in the past, she turned and took Jayne’s hand, aware that she could truly make her life what she wanted now and letting that fact be her consolation.
Chapter XXIII
Beach Near Port Royal
June 7, 1692

Almost four hours later, the two women had only made it about half way to Dead Man’s Cove, where they hoped to find the Freedom still in tact and waiting for them. Both of them had been unusually quiet, each too lost in her own spinning worries or sadness to spend much time speaking. Every so often their thoughts were reinforced as the source of all the day’s catastrophes made itself known through a series of aftershocks, some mild, some serious enough to pose a very real danger to the duo.

They were just recovering from the last aftershock when voices carried to them over the sounds of crashing waves and falling rocks. Looking up, Jayne’s eyes instantly fixed on three figures running toward them, needing only a moment to distinguish Robbie, Xavier, and Jan. Relief hit her hard and she stumbled, falling backward before Liesel reached out a hand to steady her. She looked over at Liesel and recognized her own expression of relief mirrored back at her in the younger woman’s bright green eyes. For the first time since the earthquake, something had gone right. Without a word passing between them, they broke out into a run to meet the oncoming trio, scrambling over sand and rocks in their haste.

Finally, they reached the three men and Jayne instantly wrapped her arms around her son, pulling him into a tight hug. She could feel tears stinging her eyes, but she fought them back, needing to remain in control. Letting him go, she looked at the three men and chuckled to hide her emotions, “Fancy meeting you here.”

They all joined her laughter for a brief time until Xavier took a long breath and spoke up, “Um, Jayne, we’ve got some bad news.”

Jayne was suddenly sober, her eyes pinning her first mate with a measure of genuine fear in their blue depths, “What?”

“Um,” he paused and shifted from one leg to the other uncomfortably, “the Freedom, she um…” His eyes darted to Jan and pleaded with the Dutchman for help.

“She sank,” he said simply, his eyes shooting away from the captain out of fear.

“What?” Liesel was the one to respond first as she turned to Xavier, looking for confirmation from her friend. “It sank?”

Xavier nodded, dipping his head to avoid both women’s gazes. He continued to study the sand as utter silence decended on them. Finally, it got the better of him and his eyes searched out Jayne, noting an unreadable expression on her face. “I’m sorry, Jayne. When the earthquake hit, I evacuated. We got everyone off before the waves hit and she just couldn’t hold out against it. She ran aground on the cliffs and ripped a huge hole in her hull.” When the captain still made no move to answer him, he continued to ramble on. “The water in that damned cove is so deep that she disappeared before we could think about getting back on board.” He paused and swallowed hard, “Look, Jayne, I’m really sorry.”

The raven-haired woman closed her eyes and took a long breath before nodding slightly, “As long as everyone’s safe, that’s all that matters.” She blinked and squinted up toward the darkness forming on the eastern horizon, “What about Jack?” The three men all shot glances at each other, pointedly ignoring Jayne’s piercing blue eyes. She got the hint and shook her head, “He got away?”

This time Robbie spoke up, his voice calm, “It was chaos and we lost him in the mayhem.”

Jayne appeared to be fighting some internal struggle for a long time, her face shifting through a plethora of emotions. Finally settling into a calm facade, she let out a long breath and said, “We’ll deal with him later once things settle down.”

“Um,” Robbie answered, shifting nervously from foot to foot, “I know he’s bad and all, but couldn’t we just let him go?”

The captain looked at him in sympathy before glancing at each of her friends, noting their wary curiousity. Taking a long breath, she moved over to her son, placing a hand on his shoulder and giving it a light squeeze. “I want you to know, Robbie, that it’s not about revenge any more.”

“It’s not?” His voice squeaked back at her.

“Look,” she said in a steady voice, “I don’t need that any more. I have you in my life.” She answered the smile that broke out on his face with one of her own. “And I have Liesel and all my friends,” she looked at each in turn, her smile growing as she saw the wide grins on all of their faces. “I don’t need that anymore.”

Robbie continued to smile at her for a few seconds until he let a questioning brow creep up his forehead, “But if that’s the case, why go after him?”

“Because it’s the right thing to do,” she answered evenly. When he did not react, she elaborated, “I know he’s your father, Robbie, but he’s bad. If we don’t stop him, well,” she shrugged and shook her head, “a lot of people are going to end up hurt.”

She watched as Robbie dropped his head, spending a long moment to ponder her words before looking back up at her and nodding, “You’re right. I don’t like it, but you’re right.”

She pulled him into her arms and embraced him tightly, whispering into his ear, “I’m sorry.” She could hear him crying quietly, so she continued to hold him, letting him release his frustrations and sadness in a circle of security. When he seemed to quiet down, she let him go, wiping a tear off his cheek with a sad smile, “We’ll talk about this later. We’ve got a lot to do before we can even think about going after him, so let’s not worry about it now.”

“Okay,” he said quietly, wiping at his eyes to regain some control. He stepped back, rejoining the other two men and smiled at her. “So, Captain, what’s first then?”

Jayne shrugged, giving herself a moment to consider the question. Everything was so overwhelming, but at the same time the prospects seemed endless. They all had a chance to start anew and it was a very liberating feeling. Letting that wash over her, she smiled, looking at her friends each in turn until her eyes fell on Liesel and her smile grew. Receiving a beaming grin in return, she finally turned back to the three men and said, “I’ll have to think about it. Why don’t you guys head back to the crew. We’ll be along shortly.”

Xavier grinned at her, a glint playing in his eyes, “Sure thing, Captain. Everyone’s waiting on the far plain past the cove. We’ll let them know you two are safe.”

Jan cleared his throat and shifted nervously from one foot to the other, “Um, Jayne, if you don’t mind I’d like to check on Martha.” There was a glint of panic in his eyes.

“Oh, Jan,” the captain said suddenly, her eyebrows furrowing in worry, “of course. Go ahead.”

Jan smiled weakly and quickly scurried off along the beach dunes toward the smoke that signalled the runes of Port Royal.

After he disappeared from view, Jayne walked over to stand next to Liesel, wrapping her arm around the smaller woman’s waist, enjoying the freedom among her friends to be even remotely affectionate toward her lover. She nodded to Xavier and said quietly, “Go ahead. We’ll be along shortly.”

The two men quietly turned back and headed up the shore toward the cove, leaving the two woman standing by the churning surf with the sun setting behind them.
=-=-=-=-=

When they were finally alone, Liesel turned to Jayne and smiled, “I am proud of you.”

“What for?” the taller woman asked as an amused eyebrow quirked up under her bangs.

Liesel took Jayne’s hands in her own and squeezed them warmly, “For not wanting revenge still.”

“Oh that,” Jayne said with a nonchallant tilt of her head and a quiet chuckle. “That’s nothing.” She paused, catching herself and adding quietly, “I don’t need that anymore. I have so much more to live for now.”

When Liesel spoke again, her voice was heavy with emotion, “Jayne, that means much to me.” More quietly she added, “You mean much to me.”

“Likewise.” They stood in the golden glow of the sunset and simply enjoyed each other’s presence. It had been an emotional day and they took the chance to enjoy the bond they both felt from each other. After almost a quarter hour of reveling in that connection, Jayne finally said, “All tragedies aside, I’d say today wasn’t such a bad day.”

“No, it was not,” Liesel acknowledged as she pulled Jayne down to the ground so they could talk more easily. “I am sorry about the tomb, however.”

Blue eyes looked out over the churning sea, watching the large waves crash on the nearby shoreline. When she spoke, her voice held a measure of regret, “Yeah, it’s a shame, but when things settle we’ll go back and see what we can find.” Feeling suddenly uneasy, she turned to her lover and added quietly, “I’m much more sorry about your family.”

The sandy blonde head dipped and she stared down, watching her finger draw figures in the small patch of sand. It took her a long minute to sort through her feelings, not quite understanding at first why she could not feel more sad than she did. It confused her to know that her father and sister had died and yet she could not feel the utter sadness she was sure should accompany such a loss. Taking a breath, she closed her eyes against the guilt she was feeling. When she opened them, they finally took in what she had been drawing in the sand and she noticed the figure from the box in the tomb etched into the ground in great detail. She swallowed hard, feeling something nibble at the edge of her consciousness, and she looked back up suddenly, thoughts of her family chased from her mind, “I will miss them, but you are my family now. For me our friendship binds us closer than blood ever could.”

The German shivered, feeling a strange recognition edge closer to her and hearing a familiar voice echo those words in her head. It was not her own voice and yet it was one that she seemed to know better than her own. She scrunched up her forehead in thought, trying to ponder through the sense of déjà vu she seemed to be having, when she heard Jayne answer quietly, “For me too.” The voice matched the one playing in her head and it was suddenly clearer. The young woman found herself jumping to her feet, her eyes wide, seeing in her mind’s eye a young woman who looked remarkably like herself smiling at her with shining green eyes and saying those same words. It was eerie until she looked at Jayne and then it clicked and she simply knew that her joke about knowing Jayne in a past life was real. She could see it all clearly and it suddenly seemed so simple in its utter irony. No wonder she had felt instantly drawn to the pirate. They had been here before, only in a different time and each playing a different role. A broad smile traced her lips and she reached down to pull Jayne to her feet, laughing at the incredulous expression on the pirate’s face.

“What’s come over you so suddenly?” Jayne asked, her ever-expressive brow finding new heights under her bangs.

She was unsure of how to explain it, needing to confirm her suspicions but unable to think straight as she was overwhelmed by the feelings churning through her head. She swallowed hard and looked back at her drawing in the sand, finding her figure and pointing to it before she could think, “Do you know this?”

Liesel watched, her heart still pounding in her chest, as Jayne knelt to study the etching. It seemed to take forever as the older woman peered long and hard at the figure, but finally the blue eyes rose to hers and a smile broke out on the captain’s lips. She chuckled and shook her head in amusement, “Yeah, I think I do.”

As the sun set on the western horizon, the two women enjoyed the newfound realization of their past and the bond that they had shared as soulmates for eternity.
=-=-=-=-=

As darkness finally took hold, the two women slowly made their way along the beach toward the plain where the crew was holed up. They had spent the last hour reconciling the feelings and slivers of memory each had. Things were not totally clear, but each knew without a shadow of a doubt that they were two souls who had found one another yet again. It was strange and they were both sure that it would take a long time to come to terms with everything that had changed in their lives, but they knew that together they would be able to weather every twist and turn in their lives.

A minor tremor shook the ground under their feet, bringing them back to the reality of the day and Jayne sighed, turning back to look toward the city. A reddish glow over the hill told of the fires that obviously still burned and she shook her head at the enormity of it all, “You know, I always hated that city.”

Liesel turned to look back at the hill blocking their view of the port town and nodded, “I did not want to come here, but I am glad I did or we would not have found one another again.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Jayne answered with a hint of amusement in her voice. “Somehow I think fate would have brought us back together.”

“I know so,” Liesel answered with a broad smile as she wrapped her arm around Jayne’s waist.

They stood in comfortable silence for a moment until Jayne chuckled and said, “You know what’s so funny? Looks like I finally get to be the hero who overcomes the odds this time.”

“I have something to say to you,” Liesel said as she looked up at Jayne with adoring eyes, “I have a feeling that you were always such a hero.”

Jayne raised an eyebrow at her and then laughed again, shaking her head as she pulled Liesel into resuming their progress back along the shore. “Come on, we’ve got a lot to do.” They walked on in silence, leaving the glowing sky hovering over the city that had brought two souls back to one another — Port Royal

 
=-= The End =-=

Author’s Note: Port Royal was once one of the richest and busiest ports in the Americas. Only Boston came close in size. For much of the latter part of the 17th century, it was home to a mixture of people, most notoriously the pirates. So prevalent were they among the city’s population (estimated anywhere between 6,500-10,000 people) that it became known as “the Wickedest City on Earth”. All of this came to an end shortly before noon on June 7, 1692 when an earthquake devastated the city, killing 2,000 people immediately and up to 3,000 later due to disease and injury. Approximately 2/3rds of the city sank into Kingston Harbor. Today the city is home to less than 2,000 inhabitants. It is also the site of an extensive archaeological project to investigate the ruins below the waters of the harbor.
Note: This is the final draft. Many thanks to Jenn for some wonderful points to ponder and to Redback for beta reading.

Please Note: I am currently heavily reworking this whole story. I’ve found an amazing beta reader and am trying to make what I think is a good story into a fantastic one. Be patient as it’s alot of work. The story itself will change little, but how it is told and other factors will change. This should be up toward the end of the year.

Although I’m tempted to remove the story from the Web in the meantime, I’ve been persuaded by a few people to keep it up with just this warning attached.

started: March 29, 1999
posted: July 6, 1999
last update: August 3, 1999

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