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~M.C. Cougar

Eight Bells

Book 1: The Seafarer

Song 1: Hoist the Colors

The king and his men

Stole the queen from her bed,

And bound her in her bones,

The seas be ours and by the powers,

Where we will we'll roam.

Yo ho, haul together,

Hoist the colors high,

Heave ho thieves and beggars,

Never shall we die.

Some men have died

And some are alive

And others sail on the sea

With the keys to the cage

And the devil to pay

We lay to Fiddlers Green

Yo ho, haul together,

Hoist the colors high,

Heave ho thieves and beggars,

Never shall we die.

The bell has been raised from its watery grave,

Do you hear its sepulchral tone?

We are a call to all

pay heed the squall,

And turn your sail towards home!

Yo ho, haul together,

Hoist the colors high,

Heave ho thieves and beggars,

Never shall we die.

The sun and the moon were like relics, the days passed by like rolling summer storms, and they never seemed to give me a second glance. The nights were harsh, sometimes cold, but always the same, salty and uncomfortable. The ship itself creaked as if it were moaning out in pain. The passengers of the vessel were navy men, rough, and hardy, with an insatiable appetite for gore. They spent their evenings boasting of how many men they'd killed and just how they'd gone about the feat. Every gruesome detail and more were applied, even how much 'fun' they had in doing it. How much glory they felt as they pulled the very life out of a man, and laughed at the sight of his anguish.

It seemed a strange place for me, it was, but it was not of my own accord. I was a prisoner of war. They had attacked my home, pillaged, took over, and any ounce of resistance was death. They didn't take male prisoners. What good were men to them now? They had no need for more, and women served them better. I was merely a girl of seven then, my mother and I held on to one another as if at any moment the very ship would be ripped apart and we would be separated forever by the sea. Neither being with my mother, nor being so young spared me from the horrors of my fate. No, not now, I was just young blood, it was natural to them. It never mattered to them how much I cried, how much my mother begged, they simply denied anything wrong with what they were doing, justifying it as they did at the end of their war stories, "I did it for my country, I did it for God."

I've despised God ever since. He was a reckless, heartless bastard if he thought this was fair and equal, as though I deserved a fate as this. There are still few things I remember and many I have left to myself and never bothered to irritate them again. I can remember the first time, the rest are just repetition. The same damned thing, the same pain, the same taste of tears, the same fear; it never wavered, never failed. We traveled from port to port and sometimes luck found me and they preferred a brothel girl, a whore. Those are the days I remember most. Those small pleasantries where my mother and I were alone and we could find comfort in each other, the smallest, greatest thing.

My father had died in the war you see, and my mother and I could not hide. They fancied my light red hair and my mother's complexion, and these were our faults. Had we been hags, ragged peasants with dirt clumped in our hair we might have found a better fate at their blades. My father had been an aristocrat, a close associate of the governor. My mother made a beautiful wife, and I an obedient daughter, with lesser care in the world than dressing my dolls in beautiful clothes, and riding my horse about the corral as if I were a princess in a fairytale. This fate had never been plausible to me, for had I foreseen such a fate, I would have been a gloomy child, with little interest in miniscule things.

Alas, I found myself a hater of any creator who would allow this horror. I knew little of him, I had never met him, all I ever heard was that he'd save us. My mother told me he would save us, he would send the navy men to their rightful place and free us as he did the Jews from the Egyptians. At the time I had hope, it was small and suppressed by pain and neglect but it was there. I can remember my mother's lullabies and her sweet voice singing to me as I drifted to sleep, and if I managed to stay awake long enough, I might catch her brushing away her tears as they softly flowed.

My mother was my only salvation, being a child of seven I was like a marsupial, having to grapple on to my mother to stay alive. It was this absolute bond that failed me. My mother shared my fate with the men of the ship and in doing so brought with her a larger burden. She could not spare me, and she could not spare herself. One day I had lost sight of my mother, for she had become someone else and I had never seen this woman before. My mother, kind, obedient had become raw, she had retorted to the men who asked her to come to them "No." It brought less surprise than violence, and I begged her to just say yes. I knew her fate then, and I couldn't bear such a thing. She retorted again and they dragged her from beneath the ship and flung her on the deck. I begged them, pleaded. They couldn't hear the voice of a crying little girl, and I could not hear my mother's voice over the loud cheering men.

It smelled like alcohol, and it was like it had been absorbed into the wood of the ship. Two of the men pulled me along too. I had little resistance left and each grabbed my arms, one grabbed my head beneath my chin, and forced me to watch. Terrified, I watched on as the men whispered if I did the same this was my punishment and I tried to watch just her eyes but they went so black and lifeless, I couldn't see them anymore. I tried to tell myself it was a terrible dream, my mother wasn't there, she was safe somewhere else, and she was coming with God to save me from these men.

I would often imagine it so much I would believe it, I would believe it so much I didn't eat; I slept and prayed until I felt ravenous and desperate, and they saw this and refused me but their smallest scraps. They kept a dog on board too, they would give the dog even more. I would sit there and watch as the dog gobbled up his food, I would lick my lips and try to ignore the growing pain my stomach inflicted.

I was undoubtedly thin, this didn't stop them, but it caught the attention of another woman onboard, she was not a prisoner like I was, and she dressed nicely. I had never seen her before; she simply drifted in among the men one day. She would often bring me food when the men weren't around and she would ask my name and where I was from and how old I was. It was nice, even briefly, to have someone to talk to again; it made me sad also, it made me remember my mother and her sweet words and lullabies. The pain was overbearing and often I would simply cry instead of answer her, and she would pat my back and encourage me to eat. Then one day she didn't come. She never came again. I remembered her name though. She called herself Sarah, but never told me anymore about her. I crept back into the solitude and hunger.

It wasn't for a very long time that another major event changed my whole life, for of all the cruelty and pain I had endured, my number had come up. I was acknowledging the dog once more as he ate his scraps and then his ear twitched and he looked up from his bowl, which I gradually stole and began to eat from, there was no guard watching. Everyone had gone on deck and was yelling. The dog barked and scratched at the hatch, whining, and trying to push through. I stared for a moment and then heard a loud crack, the dog and I jumped back and then the dog snarled and growled and I tried to slip away into the shadows. A deep bellowing voice called out, "Take everything, leave nothing behind!" I had never heard this voice, and as the door was pulled open and strange men piled inside to investigate. They were not in uniforms, they were dirty, harsh, some wore worn or ragged clothes, others barely wore clothes at all. A word came to mind, but I had only heard it uttered once.

'Pirates.' I was in disbelief I attempted to not be seen, I held my breath, crawled towards a corner, but the boat creaked beneath me. A bald man with black and gold teeth smiled at me for a moment as his eyes caught mine, his eyes were strange, one blind, a faded blue film covering it, the other was a deep brown that reminded me of the dark of a demon's red eye. He grabbed my arm and pulled me on deck. "We got a live one Capt'n! What should we do with her?" I struggled against his grasp and looked around frantically on deck, the bodies of the men who had defiled me for so long were strewn about like lifeless dolls, a piece of me was in absolute horror, another was satisfied with God again. I looked straight at the captain who the bald man had addressed and I stared at him deeply, as if praying he were merciful.

He was dressed well, but still differently than any soldier or captain I had ever seen. He wore his hair long and unplaced, his beard was equally long and scraggly, and his clothes were not pressed and did not have the stiffness of a captain I'd ever seen. His boots were worn and his jacket missed buttons but had a charm of its own. His eyes were kind and as blue as the sea, and he looked at me with as much curiosity as a cat to a strange sound. "What's such a little girl doing on a ship like this eh?" His voice came to me as the voice from before, but it was not bellowing and it was very soothing and deep. I couldn't say a word. My voice was as frozen as the rest of me. He seemed to understand and looked over his shoulder. "James." he said sternly.

A man appeared looking in his mid 20's, his hair was a deep mahogany, more brown but the red was prominent, and it was short and choppy as if he'd cut it himself. His eyes though were striking, a deep emerald color, seemed to come alive at the captains mention of his name. "Why don't you take this young lady on the ship and see if she wants something to eat?" I looked at the captain for a moment, hesitant, and unbelieving. I stared back at James as if I were expecting him at any moment to drag me away. He seemed almost disappointed by the request, but didn't hesitate. He relieved the bald man and carefully pulled me along. He began to tug as I slowly walked across a board they had placed between the ships.

"Don't look down." he said sternly and pulled me across. He took me onto a ship that dwarfed the navy vessel, which was hard to believe, but I hadn't seen many larger ships before and it had seemed so huge to me. James seemed to notice and acknowledged, "Captain swiped this old merchant galleon back in his navy days before he went off on his own." he said boastingly and led me towards the cabin. There was a table of maps inside and he cleaned it off. "What'll you have, hardtack? Sheet iron crackers?" he said sarcastically and pulled out something from a cupboard and placed it in front of me. It was hard as a rock, but I gnawed on it, attempting to put anything in my stomach to stop the hunger pangs. His eyebrows furrowed for a minute. "Stay here." he commanded and went out of the cabin. I waited patiently and looked about the room. I stopped and listened at the door when I heard voices on the other side.

"Capt'n, the girl can't stay here. She needs to go back to where ever she's from." I recognized James's voice now.

"What are you talking about?"

"Capt'n, we don't even know what she was doing on that ship, on top of that, she could cause us a lot of trouble. Besides she's a girl, which never mixes well on a ship of rowdy men."

"Then you'll take care of her. You're the boatswain deal with it."

"Capt'n she can't stay here, I can't watch over the men and a little brat all day, I'm not a babysitter! I say we drop her off wherever she needs to go, or leave her at the next port; she's not our responsibility Capt'n!

"We found her. She is OUR responsibility."

"Be reasonable! She can't do anything, we can't sell her, we wouldn't get much of anything out of her.. Capt'n we can't take her!"

"But we will James, and that's final."

"What if she becomes a problem?"

"Then you'll just have to discipline her like the rest of the crew."

"Capt'n... fine."

"Good then! See to it she gets settled in, she can bunk with you."

"But Capt'n!" there was a short silence and I backed up as I heard a boot stomp towards the door, and James angrily stomped in. "Damn it." he mumbled under his breath and glared at me. "Well, hurry up! You're bunking with me you little brat." he pushed me forward and towards the hatch he made me go down first and then he came down after. We walked into a large room filled with cots, nets, and bunks. He walked past them all and opened up a door to a side room. It was a small room with a bunk bed, and a small desk, he showed me towards the bed. "You sleep on top, and don't move around, or keep me up asking stupid questions. I'm not your friend, I'm not your older brother, and I'm not going to let some stupid little kid get in my way, got it!"

I nodded nervously and swiftly crawled up the small ladder on the side and lay down on the mattress. It was the most comfortable bed I had slept on in nearly a year and I closed my eyes and slept for once since my mother had died. I didn't know what to make of it all, just that it was like a heaven I thought I'd never live to see.

I continued a vow of silence, I was given two main meals a day, and the cook, a large black man they simply called 'Big Guy', would often sneak me second helpings. I began to see him as a friend instead of what most normally see him as, just intimidating. He was very gentle and kind and the first person besides the captain who showed me pure kindness. James I felt had his own way of showing it, he was mostly really angry at me. Even so, he sometimes would put a cover over me when I slept and shivered, he said it was because the shivering kept him up. There was once when I was turned on my side that he saw the marks on my back, long burns from yet another game the navy men played, see how long they can keep hot iron on your back before you scream. He stared at it for a bit and then looked away without saying a word and went to sleep.

I rarely saw the captain, but when I did he appeared more and more glorious each time, as if he were a beacon. Whenever he saw me he would simply smile or pat my head, and then continue on. I had never thought or heard anything highly of pirates. But to me they were like gods, even James, who didn't like to show anyone his kinder side. They had saved me from a fate worse than death, more than God had ever done and I was beginning to wonder if they were his messengers or they were simply there as his replacement, doing what he never did.

Author Note/: I am going to post this story for a bit while I attempt to revamp some of the older ones on here, I doing a full revamp of KL and debating on just totally wrecking WtSBS and starting anew. Trying to give my work a facelift here. Well hope you enjoy this piratey-distraction. The warning on the summary is mostly for this first chapter and one or two others that involve similar content but are not nearly as "graphic". I hope you enjoy! -M.C. Cougar