The pirates moved everyone down to the mess, located down below the officers’ quarters. It was towards the back end of the ship — the stern — and was right in front of the galley, where the meals were cooked. A couple of captured sailors had been ordered to make lunch for everyone and Wynefrede watched closely each time someone went through the galley door. Maybe there was a knife in there that one of the sailors could steal while the pirates weren’t looking, and free them all.
All the Royal Season captives, as well as the captured sailors and guards, had been stripped to their underwear and chained together in groups. Wynefrede, Benedicta, Margarett, George, Pleasance Pratt were all chained together, sitting on the floor, on one side of the room. Wolstan Babyngton was also still alive, but was chained up with another group. Without her bulky sixteenth century clothes, it would be easier to climb through a porthole, jump into the sea, and drown, Wynefrede thought. All they had to do was figure out how to break the chains or unlock the shackles. There wasn’t much they could do to free themselves while they were still yoked together.
“I didn’t even get a chance to do any fighting,” said Benedicta. “They took my sword right after I came through the door. And I think they broke my arm.” She held up her manacled wrist. It was already starting to swell. “I don’t think I’m going to be able to fight.”
“The lessons were useless,” said Margarett. “The pirates didn’t fight fair. And there’s no room to swing a sword around.”
“Once the season is over, there will be a survey,” said Pleasance Pratt. “You can mention the usefulness of the lessons when you fill it out. We value your feedback.”
“Shh, someone’s coming,” said George.
They all looked up. Captain — former captain – Clare Lestrange entered the galley, followed by a group of other men. Except she was really Clare, was she?
“What’s her real name again?” Wynefrede whispered.
“Gervis Gefroi,” George whispered back.
“I hope everyone is comfortable.” Gervis sniffed and wrinkled her nose. “For those still struggling with sea sickness, buckets will be provided. My job here is done, so I wanted to thank you all for sailing the sunny seas with Gold Charters. Please come again. Heh, heh.”
“Never!” said George.
“If you have any issues, you can take it up with the new management.” Gervis stepped aside. “You all know First Mate Harman Webb.”
“Fishy, you dirty bastard,” said one of the tied-up sailors.
“That’s Captain Fishy now,” said Gervis.
“No, don’t call me Fishy anymore,” said Webb. “Call me… Captain Fishbeard.”
“I’m out of here then,” said Gervis. “Can someone make it quick?” She turned around and pointed at the largest pirate behind her. The pirate lifted a giant mallet.
Gervis turned back to the captives. “Be good now, you hear?” She raised her hand to wave goodbye and the pirate struck her on the back of the head with the mallet, caving in her skull. Gervis collapsed and one of the other pirates bent down, snapped her neck, then began dragging her body away.
“Nice hit,” said Captain Fishbeard.
“The trick is to hit hard enough to knock them out but not heard enough to spill all the brains everywhere and make a mess,” said the mallet-wielder.
“Right.” Captain Fishbeard turned back to the prisoners. “So that’s how it’s going to go,” he said. “You behave, they pay your ransom, and you get a quick hit on the old noggin, and off you go. No muss, no fuss. See, we don’t want to keep you any longer than we have to. It takes work to feed the lot of you and we’re lazy. But if you misbehave, we start breaking things.” He nodded at Benedicta. “First, we break one of your arms. Then the other arm. Then a leg. You get the idea, right? Now, we have a few words from our sponsors.” He nodded back to one of the pirates, who immediately left.
“You won’t get away with this, Fishy,” said a captured sailor. “Everyone will be looking for you.”
“Why is he still alive? Get him out of here.” Captain Fishbeard waved his hand and one of the pirates unlocked the sailor’s shackles and dragged him away. “Just throw him overboard.”
Then another pirate walked in, a tall man with an enormous black beard, tied up with black ribbons and twisted into braids. Two thin ropes were hanging down from the top of his head, the ends burning and giving off clouds of black smoke. He had three pistols in holsters on a bandolier over his shoulder.
He stood in front of the captives and glared down at them. Wynefrede smelled urine. Someone near her had wet their pants.
“I’m Captain Kraken,” the pirate finally said. “If you are one of the members of the Royal Season, we hope you enjoy your time with us. You’ll be ransomed soon and humanely disposed of. If you are a sailor or one of the guards, I have a job offer for you. You can join one of my crews and enjoy the pirate life.” He paused and took time to look each of the captives in the face. “We live by the pirate code. Everyone on a ship gets a cut of the spoils, and a say in who the captain will be. It’s not a bad life. If you choose to sign the articles, I will assign you to one of my ships. If it makes you feel better, you can tell yourself that you’ll be spying on us in order to report us to the authorities.” He chuckled. “There are no authorities.” He paused and grinned. “If you decline to join, we will slice open your bellies, pull out your entrails, and throw you into the sea for the sharks.”
“I’ll join,” someone said.
“Sign me up.”
“Take those three to the Rambling Jenny,” said Captain Kraken. “Now, who else wants to volunteer?”
A couple of other shackled hands went up.
As all the volunteers were taken away, the captain turned to the remaining the prisoners. “As for the rest of you, we’ll be going to a little island paradise,” he said. “Very few people have ever seen it, but trust me, it’s beautiful. Captain Fishy…”
“Fishbeard,” said Webb. “Captain Fishbeard.”
“Right, Captain Fishbeard, please said this ship to Lamacoln.”
“I don’t know where that is,” said Fishbeard.
Captain Kraken turned around and crooked a finger at one of the last pirates still standing behind him. “Fishbeard, this is Zelda Zayn, your new navigator.”
Zelda Zayne was a freckled, red-haired woman who barely came up to Fishbeard’s armpit.
“Aye aye, Cap’t,” she saluted. “I’ll be at the helm.” She winked at Fishbeard. “I’ll get there you there in one piece, I promise.” She saluted again, turned smartly, and left.
“I think that covers our business for the day,” said Captain Kraken. “Before we adjourn the meeting, is there any other business?” He looked around at the captives. “No? Well, then, I bid you a good trip. I’ll leave a few of my people here to help Captain Fishbeard to take care of you. If you have any questions, just speak up. Yes?” He looked at George.
George lowered his hand. “Can we join up to be pirates, too?”
“Only after the ransom is paid,” said Captain Kraken. “We do have quarterly financial targets we need to meet, after all. You understand.” He smiled. “Now, which of you is Wynefrede Aumberden?”
“Oh, no,” Benedicta whispered. “They’re going to keep you.”
The last time Wynefrede had been kidnapped, her captives promised to let her go after the ransom was paid. But they never even asked for one.
“I’ll be fine,” she whispered back.
But next to her, Margarett had already raised her hand. “I’m Wynefrede Aumberden,” she said.
Wynefrede elbowed her. “I said I’ll be fine,” she hissed. “No, I’m Wynefrede Aumberden,” she announced loudly.
“No,” said Benedicta next to her. “I’m Wynefrede Aumberden.”
“Umm… I’m Wynefrede Aumberden,” George added.
Captain Kraken sighed and rubbed his face. “Fine,” he finally said. “Take all three of them…”
“And me,” said George.
Pleasance Pratt pursed her lips and didn’t say anything. George stared at her and she begrudgingly added, “Fine, I’m also Wynefrede Aumberden.”
“… take all five of them.” Captain Kraken turned to Fishbeard. “I’ll keep them on my ship. We’ll meet up with you on Lamacoln.”
Two of the pirates walked back through the prisoners and pulled the five of them to their feet.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” Wynefrede whispered as they were dragged out. “I had a plan.”
“Well, now we all have a plan,” Margarett whispered back.
“No, I had a real plan,” said Wynefrede. “And my plan won’t work for you.”
“Shut up,” said one of the pirates and smacked Wynefrede on the back of her head. “The only plan you should be thinking about now is our plan.”
“And what is your plan?” said Wynefrede.
“Our plan is for you to shut up,” said the other pirate.