Well, it was brought to my attention that the original draft of this story had been plagiarized elsewhere. Having taken care of that lovely matter, I noticed that I've neglected this story for a few years, and I thought it was about time to do one last rewrite. So. Here it is.
"She's a bonny ship the ship I sail; a prettier ship you'll never see. 'Midst storm and thunder we won't fail, my bonny ship and me." –Traditional folksong
The sand was wet, though the sun had baked a thin, crust-like layer on top, which crumbled under Eva's raw and aching fingers. She lay facedown on the shore, hearing nothing but the hoarse and muted roar of the ocean behind her. Right now the sun was warm on her skin, while the salty spray that carried on the wind was cool and refreshing. But Eva's cracked lips and parched throat demanded fresh water, and her tangled, matted hair wouldn't resent a thorough washing as well.
Along with the sand that dusted her, she could feel the prickling heat on her arms and legs, a sure sign of too much exposure to the sun, and she wondered briefly just how long she'd been unconscious on the shore. Such thoughts were dispelled quickly as she felt a strange tickling sensation slowly creeping up her calf. It took her a moment before she suddenly realized what it was.
A crab had just crawled up her knickers.
Not a moment later, one very confused crab went sailing through the air, landing in a patch of seafoam left behind by a recent wave, while Eva scrambled up the shore, having found the impetus needed to start moving. Of course, the burst of energy didn't last long before her limbs started to ache and her head began to throb. Propping herself up on a nearby driftwood log that had been rubbed smooth and silver by the saltwater and sand, Eva started to survey her surroundings.
The beach upon which she rested was not very large. The sand only stretched a few paces from the edge of the waves before the land became rockier. Beyond the rocks, thick foliage obscured the ground, which seemed to rise in great green mounds and folds. These were the foothills to a massive volcanic mountain that loomed above the landscape around it.
Eva had never seen anything so untameably beautiful. She felt small, insignificant, and very, very alone.
A breeze had picked up, and clouds had obscured the sun momentarily as they scudded across the sky. She shivered and wrapped her arms around herself. Glancing down, she realized that her dress was hardly more than tattered shreds, and she seemed to have lost her shoes and one of her stockings. The remaining stocking was more like fishnet than clothing.
The sun peeked out from behind the clouds again, and Eva realized how low it was in the sky. By its position, she judged that she only had a few hours of daylight left, and she needed to find shelter and water. Even as the thought crossed her mind, her throat stung with thirst, causing her to cough dryly.
Once it passed, Eva glanced dubiously into the dark shadows of the foliage. The breeze ruffled the branches, setting them swaying gently, casting strange patterns of light on the ground. Every movement seemed to be a threatening creature, waiting in the darkness for an unwary traveler to pass by.
Hesitating, Eva frowned and took a moment to steel her nerves. Wild and unfamiliar as this place might be, she was tired, thirsty, and hungry. Braving the shadowy forest could be frightening—downright dangerous, even—but anything was better than freezing or starving on the beach.
So she gathered her courage and stepped into the undergrowth of the forest.
It wasn't as bad as it had first seemed, she thought as she continued deeper through the thick growth. Her eyes began to adjust to the dim light, and once she passed the first several paces, she came upon what looked like it might be some kind of game trail—a path worn through the foliage by small animals traveling to water.
At least, Eva hoped they were small animals.
As she followed the trail, trying to avoid sharp rocks and twigs that littered the path, Eva looked for signs of other people who might have passed through. She had yet to see any hint of civilization, but that didn't mean that there weren't people nearby. Perhaps they would be able to help her, if she could find them.
But what if there weren't any people?
Feeling a growing sense of panic arise at the thought, Eva hastily swallowed her fear. Worrying wouldn't do her any good. She had to remain calm, rational. As her father always said, reason was the key to solving any problem.
Her father. At least she seemed to remember him, foggy as her mind was. Arthur Ross, licensed merchant and owner of a fleet of no less than twelve cargo ships. That was right. She was Evalyn Ross, from Portsmouth. She could even remember the little townhouse where they lived not twenty minutes from the port—not too far, but not so close that the stench was overpowering—her room on the second story, painted yellow, with petunias in the window box and gauzy muslin drapes.
She suddenly wished she were there, curled up in a deep chair by the fireplace, reading one of her many books. Adventures were nice to read about, not so nice to experience in person.
Was her father worried about her? Did he even know she was missing? Or had he been with her? Was he hurt? Or worse—?
"Stop it," she muttered aloud, pushing through a waist-high flock of fern fronds.
It would do her no good to worry, she reminded herself. At least not until she had water and a safe shelter for the night. Then she might be in a more rational state of mind, ready to make sense of her own thoughts and perhaps recall what had brought her there.
In the meantime, she simply started to repeat facts that she was sure she knew.
"My name is Evalyn Ross. My father is Arthur Ross. He's a merchant. I've lived in Portsmouth all my life. Which wouldn't explain what I'm doing here, in rags, with no shoes, no stockings, no—"
She cut herself off, tilting her head curiously to one side. As she'd walked, she'd become accustomed to the noises of the forest—the chattering of birds, the play of the breeze in the branches, the buzzing of insects. Now, Eva realized, she heard another sound, low and faint, but audible.
Plunging forward, she stumbled through the low brush and soon came upon a small stream. It was hardly more than a soft trickle of water, gurgling over and around and through a bed of jumbled rocks. Eva could have easily stood with one foot on each bank. Still, it was water, and as she bent to taste it, she found that it was sweet.
Washing the dry saltiness from her mouth, she drank greedily, hardly able to bring handfuls of water quickly enough to her lips. Finally, with her thirst slaked a bit, Eva sat back, rubbing her wet hands over her face.
Now that she'd satisfied her immediate need for water, she thought next of her need for shelter. Thinking through her options, Eva noticed that the sun had continued its descent and was now hardly visible through the thick foliage of the trees. The shadows had lengthened, and soon seeing would be difficult. Perhaps there were other people on the island, but she'd seen no sign of them nearby. At least here, in her immediate vicinity, she had water, and the forest canopy was dense enough that she imagined it would provide good shelter should it rain.
She tried not to notice the glossy reddish-black body of an earwig as it patrolled the side of a nearby rock. She didn't relish the idea of sharing the rocky, damp ground with multiple insects and whatever other creatures inhabited the forest.
But what other choice did she have?
Eva glanced up, suddenly on alert. Frowning, she scanned her surroundings, wondering what exactly it was she was looking for. What had drawn her attention?
That's when she realized it. She'd become accustomed to the burbling of the small stream beside her, so much so that she hadn't noticed the other sounds of the forest. Or rather, the lack thereof. The breeze, the birds, and the insects had all fallen silent. The forest was still.
Something rustled in the brush directly across the stream from her, and Eva's eyes riveted on it. At first she saw nothing, but as she stared, something in the dark depths of the foliage stared back at her.
An icy feeling of dread settled in her gut, and fear lodged in her throat. Two bulbous eyes glinted in the shadows, glowing softly like two orange embers. Eva tried to move and found herself paralyzed, staring hopelessly as the creature slowly began to emerge.
She saw a hideous snout, the scales black and smooth, nostrils flaring. They glowed too, the nostrils, and tendrils of smoke wafted upwards as the beast snorted softly. Thick, reptilian lips parted to reveal needle-sharp teeth, each one at least the length of her small finger. A long, serpentine tongue flickered out.
A shout sounded suddenly in the near distance, drawing the reptile's attention away for a split moment. Startled out of her stupor, Eva scrambled away as quickly as she could, trying to gain her balance as she tripped and stumbled into the depths of the forest once more.
She tried to head towards the source of the shout—it had sounded human—but anywhere far from the strange creature would suffice. Crashing through the brush, she half expected to turn and see the beast chasing her. She hadn't seen much of it, just part of its head. Most of it had blended into the shadows, but it had looked big. Bigger than her, possibly.
Eva's bare feet stung as the rough forest floor tore at her soles. She nearly tripped twice, catching her toes painfully on loose stones. The foliage around her was dense, snagging and pulling her clothes, each time sending a wave of fear through her. What if it was that reptilian monster grabbing at her? With every step she took, she imagined that she could hear the creature's breathing over her own labored breath, growing continuously closer.
Just as she cast a glance back to check, the ground suddenly gave way beneath her, casting her down the side of a steep, rocky slope. She came to an abrupt stop at the bottom, her body folded around the trunk of a young sapling.
The small tree shuddered and quaked as she grasped it tightly and pulled herself upright, pausing only to make sure she wasn't hurt. Banged up and a little worse for wear, but not seriously injured, though her weariness was beginning to catch up to her. Panting, she forced herself onward, stumbling and bleeding. Was she far enough away? She could hardly feel her feet as they dragged over the rough ground. She did, however, feel something hard close suddenly and painfully around her foot.
Thinking it was one of the beast's claws, Eva let out a terrified cry and yanked sharply on her leg, kicking and struggling to break free. The iron grip on her foot didn't loosen. In fact, it seemed to grow tighter, so much that it pierced her flesh. By then, despite her panic, she noticed the loud, metallic rattling of a chain, and saw the dark shape around her foot. A trap.
Dropping to the ground, Eva whimpered weakly, trying to remain calm as she felt along her leg with a tentative hand, her fingers meeting the cold iron jaws of the trap. She'd seen such traps before—the kind that hunters used to catch large predators like wolves or bears—two jaws with wicked teeth, set to snap shut on the leg of whatever unfortunate animal tripped it. Those teeth were buried deep into her foot, and a short chain attached her to a heavy stake that had been pounded into the hard ground.
"Help!" Eva shouted in as large a voice as she could muster. It wasn't very loud. Her voice was shaking, laced with pain and fear and doubt. She'd heard shouting before, but it hadn't been nearby, and she wasn't sure she had run in the right direction. What if in her frenzied run, she'd only distanced herself from any possible rescuer?
Or what if the "rescuer" wasn't friendly?
She shivered, and not entirely because of the damp chill of the forest.
It was much darker now, and the breeze had picked up again, gently rustling the trees. That fearsome reptilian monster could easily creep up on her, its movement shielded by the sound of the wind. It would be upon her instantly, and with her foot caught in the trap, there was nothing Eva could do to defend herself.
Clearly, she would have to find a way to escape.
Taking a deep breath, Eva braced herself and turned over so that she was on her hands and knees. Part of the trap scraped over the ground, sending a searing jolt straight up her leg. Biting back a pained cry, she began to drag herself towards the iron stake little by little, focusing on her goal and trying not to panic. What if her foot was broken? What if that reptile thing found her before she freed herself? What if she couldn't free herself and the trap's owner never returned? She could waste away slowly and die before anybody ever found her.
Her hands finally closed around the cold stake, and she realized exactly how firmly it was lodged. The ground was hard and rocky, but the stake had nonetheless been driven deeply down, leaving not nearly enough aboveground to give her any purchase with which to pull. After a few frustrating attempts, Eva tried pulling it out by indirectly yanking on the chain, but she soon gave that up when it seemed to jostle her foot more than the stake.
Drenched in cold sweat, trembling uncontrollably, with throbbing pain overtaking her in fierce waves of agony, Eva fell back and looked upward, watching as the last dregs of light were purged from the sky. Despair overwhelmed her.
She was going to die.
Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes, trailing slowly down the dirt and salt that had crusted on her face. She was still dehydrated, despite her stop at the stream, and there weren't many tears, making crying yet another unsatisfying endeavor.
Sniffling dryly, Eva gathered herself up, pulling her legs inward and wrapping her arms around herself. Her foot protested, feeling as if it had been set on fire, but the pain eventually dulled to a steady throb again. By then it seemed as if her entire body were aching, sympathizing with the pain in her foot. She was shivering with cold and exhaustion, but her face felt flushed and hot. Her throat burned for water, her mouth dry and cottony.
In such a state, Eva wasn't sure how long she could survive.
Something rustled in the brush to her left. Eva hadn't realized that she'd closed her eyes until she opened them, lifting her head slightly and turning in the direction of the sound. The wind had died down, but she wasn't sure how long it had been. The darkness was all encompassing.
She heard nothing more, and for a moment, she thought she'd dreamt the sound. But then she heard it again, a sound like footsteps crashing through the foliage. A warm orange glow began to shine in the distance, casting eerie shadows that swung lazily back and forth.
Dared she cry for help?
Eva opened her mouth, moistening her chapped lips. She tried to vocalize, but only managed a faint croak. A faint flame of panic rose inside her. What if help passed a few paces by her, completely unaware of her presence because she was unable to make a sound?
She forced her aching, leaden limbs to move, scrabbling desperately for anything she could use to draw attention. Anything was better than being trapped out in the forest alone. Her hand closed around a rock and she managed to toss it a short distance into the undergrowth, where it fell with a disturbingly soft thunk.
"Help!" Eva called out, her voice weak and faint.
The light continued to shine, not seeming to grow any brighter, but not growing any weaker either. She heard more crashing, more footfalls, and then the foliage parted suddenly, and a figure emerged, casting a blindingly bright light into the small clearing where Eva sat shivering.
"What's this?" a heavy, thickly accented voice mused quietly.
"Help me," Eva pled hoarsely, squinting her eyes and holding a hand up against the light. As she blinked, the figure slowly came into focus, just as other figures began to emerge from the shadows. She counted five.
"What do we do?" asked one of the others after a moment.
"I don't know," said the first. He held the lantern out for a better look, blinding Eva once more with the brightness of his lamp.
"Do you think she's from the village?" another man inquired.
"Are you from the village?"
"Shut your gob, Mikael," retorted a new voice. "Look at the state of her. She's obviously new."
Eva peered up at them in bewilderment, listening to the hushed conversation with no small amount of confusion.
"All right," said the first man, cutting the others off. "Mira, she's obviously in trouble, whoever she is and no matter where she came from. By the look of things, she's probably drunk the water, too."
"What would you have us do, Mr. Ezra?"
The man sighed and shrugged. "First things first. Derwin, pull up that stake. Mr. Bird, you carry her. She's obviously unfit to walk. If she gets too heavy, Hughes will spell you. Mikael, keep eyes out. I don't want anyone coming up on us."
"But what about the—"
"It can wait," Mr. Ezra insisted sternly.
"And the captain?" inquired another wary voice.
"I'll deal with the capitan," said Mr. Ezra.
"Aye, Mr. Ezra."
Without further argument, the men approached Eva. A tall, lean man knelt beside her, flashing an encouraging smile her way. Despite his gray hair, his worn features had a spark of mischief that made him seem younger than he probably was. "Don't worry," he said with a wink, his gruff voice warm. "We'll have you free soon."
"Less talk, Derwin, more pulling."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Ezra, sir!" Derwin saluted seriously. Only Eva noticed the slight smile as the man turned back to the stake. He gave it two sharp turns and tugged it free, taking care not to jerk the chain.
Another man, this one dark and ox-like in build, bent down and wordlessly took Eva by the waist. She assumed this was Mr. Bird, the man tasked with carrying her. Lifting her, he slung her over his shoulder. She was hardly in a position to protest. She felt his voice rumble in his cavernous chest as he muttered, "Not sure what the captain's going to say about this."
Mr. Ezra, or rather his boots, came into view as he stepped behind Mr. Bird. He bent over and turned his face to meet Eva's eye. "Forgive the commotion. We'll have you safely tucked away as soon as we can."
"Who are you?" she managed to gasp.
The man smiled, displaying a wide row of teeth that seemed disproportionately large for his face. "My apologies, madam. In our haste we seem to have forgotten introductions."
He stepped back and pulled a loose red cap from his head, grinning broadly as he bowed.
"I am Mr. Ezra, bosun of the Bonny Lass, along with members of her fine crew." He gave a little flourish with his cap and popped it snugly back on his head, adding with a twinkle of amusement, "We, my dear, are pirates."