03/01/2007 - The usually welcome, comforting salt spray from the ocean did nothing for Duke Rogers today as he stood at the bow of the Silverado. His mind was miles away - and so was his heart. They were in (name of town) along with the angel he'd seen just a few days before, but they were also traveling back through time, back eight years ago. Duke could still smell the smoke as he recalled the scene...
The young boy of eleven was curled up in a fetal position atop the wardrobe in his bedroom. Always wild at heart, Duke had long fantasized about what it must be like to be under attack from pirates - or be one yourself, but now his curiosity was all too quenched. He had many times climbed the wardrobe, there was a secret method he'd dicovered which involved things he dare not do in front of the mistress of the house, but he never dreamed that one day he would need to climb it. At the top of the wardrobe there was a fancy carved scallop that, when he would crouch down, hid his flicker of a frame just so. He had used it for hide and seek many times and had never been caught. It was his own little secret, until today when his maid ran in looking for him. He had poked his head above the scallop and called to her. She could barely hear him above all of the noise, which was good for him because, he assumed, it meant that they hadn't, "they" being the pirates who burst into the room moments after he had revealed his secret spot. He ducked down just quick enough that he thought they probably had not noticed, especially because all of the smoke had drifted up to the roof and surrounded his fortress like a cloud, but he had heard them as they carried her off and now he was at a loss for what to do. He wondered if any member of his household had survived, but he was too afraid to leave the room. He just could not find his loved ones dead, but as the smoke grew thicker and his breaths more labored and interspersed with coughing fits, he knew he had no choice - especially since the house would be nothing but ash before long. The one he wanted to find most was his angel. His angel was what he called her, but she was really like a sister to him. The seven-year-old looked Heaven-sent though and he secretly hoped that since they weren't truly related he could someday make her truly his.
For now, he was content to serve as her brother though, because it meant he got to be with her all the time. With one last glance over the scallop, which revealed little as the smoke continued to grow thicker he jumped off and landed on his bed. He had even mastered the art of flipping off the top, but he did not bother with fancy tricks today. The only thing on his mind was survival. As he carefully made his way to the door a dirty hand clapped down over his mouth and an arm wrapped tight around his own so that he could barely move.
"I knew I'd heard something!" a gruff voice exulted.
"Yes, but doesn't matter much now seein' as ya got us caught in a death-trap. You know the Cap'n don't like much captives," came the swift reply "Who's sayin' he'll be a captive, mate? I had somethin' a little better in mind."
"Well if that's all you was thinkin' why didn' you just leave 'im 'ere?
Ya don't think a boy like that coulda made it out o' this mess do ya? He looks too dumb."
"Enough o' ya're talk, whether it was a good choice or not, we made it, so let's get ourselves out o' here before we're killed in this infernal carnage."
Duke squeezed his eyes shut as the men exited his room. He didn't know what he might see and he didn't want to find out. In a few moments he had lost conciousness from near-suffocation and did not awaken until he was too far away to see anything of the town he'd come from. What he did see was without a doubt the most frightening sight he'd ever witnessed.
He was looking up into the faces of at least a dozen dirty men with swords and pistols at the ready and many of them were missing eyes, teeth, hands or legs. In Duke's mind they might not all equal one body if you put them together. The picture he saw seemed to rock back and forth and he thought that it was just because something was wrong with his head, but when he heard the waves he knew what had happened and felt sick in the pit of his stomach.
"Aye, looky there, the scurvy brat is awake!" one of them said.
"Finally! It's been fifteen minutes since we fetched 'im out o' that 'ouse. I was about to say 'Just toss 'im overboard, 'e might be dead anyway!'"
The rest of them laughed and a voice that Duke recognized from back at his home said, "So, what was it ya had in mind, Ol' Mate?"
"Oh, you know that the Cap'n needs a cabin boy -- I was 'opin 'e could join our crew"
The first shook his fist across the circle at his comrade. "You coulna be more stupid - you might get the plank for that!"
A voice from the outside of the circle interrupted the conversation and made all of the men jump. "For what?!!" it bellowed.
The man who Duke presumed had originally taken him in the first place was trembling. "'Ello, Cap'n I's gone an' got you a new cabin boy."
"Cabin boy? I 'ave no interest...toss 'im overboard."
A collective cheer arose from the crew and they all reached down and grabbed Duke. "Wait! What are you doing?" he exclaimed, but they paid him no attention and the next thing he knew he was in the salty sea.
Duke was not a strong swimmer, but if they were only fifteen minutes out from his town, maybe he could make it just that far. As he looked around him, he didn't even know what direction in which to swim. There was no land anywhere in sight, so he turned his energies back to pursuing the boat that was swiftly escaping. "Wait!" he called out, "Please wait!"
One of the pirates looked off the back of the ship and called out to the rest, "Drop the anchor!"
"Aye Cap'n!" another pirate exclaimed and within a minute the ship had stopped. Duke sped up and when he reached the boat, grabbed onto the scalloped carving at the front. It reminded him of his wardrobe and he almost cried as his mind returned to his loved ones for the first time since awakening. He didn't even know if they were dead or alive. A rope dropped down in his face, catching him by surprise and he almost fell back into the ocean. "'Urry up, will ya!" the man snarled and it made Duke almost want to fall back into the ocean, but he grabbed the rope and was pulled back up onto the deck.
A man that Duke recognized as the one that gave orders to drop the anchor and was referred to as Captain pushed through the crowd that had gathered. "What war ye thinkin' when ye tossed 'im overboard - 'tis a good lad we 'ave 'ere!"
Duke knew the answer, but since none of the other crewmen answered, he figured he dare not. The Captain peered into his face intently. "You go down to yer cabin - Jikes 'ere will show it to ye - an' git out o' my face!" The pirate captain slapped Duke across the face and left.
Duke flinched as another pirate reached for him, expecting another smack, but when none came, he opened his eyes. Jikes, he guessed, was extending a hand to Duke. "Come on then," he said. "Better do as the Cap'n says."
Duke followed silently as he was lead down the steps until he was under the dock. The area was filthy and he could not help the look of disgust that came over his face. He wondered how rats even got onto the ship and there appeared to be a leak as they were walking in an inch of water. It was not hard for Jikes to read the boy as they made their way to the humble quarters where all of the crew bunked. "I know it seems rough,"
he said, "but you'll get used to it - just you wait."
Duke's face remained downcast as he sat on one of the hammocks and began to cry. Jikes was moved with pity, for he remembered when he was a boy, recruited by force onto the Silverado, but he remained harsh on the exterior because he assumed that it would be better for the boy to accept the reality of the situation than be coddled. He knew there was little hope of the boy's life ever being the same. "If ye're gonna be cryin' like a baby now 'twould be better for ye to be drowned in the depths. This ain't no life for a sissy." He opened a bottle of rum, took a swig and offered it to the boy, but Duke refused.
"Did any of them survive?" Duke asked. His eyes were still fixed on the floor and he did not hold out much hope, but he had to ask.
"Any o' who, Lad?" Jikes inquired, though he knew full well who young Duke meant.
Jikes shook his head, "I don't rightly know," he said, but he wanted to offer the boy some peace in order to afford him a good night's sleep, so he added, "What household did ye come from?"
"The Rogers family," Duke lifted his head a little.
Jikes was disheartened. "I'm afraid tweren't many survivors o' that one.
The enemy's leader always get it worst, Lad - what is yer name, by the way?"
"Pleased to make yer aquaintance. I'm Jikes an' I'd be happy to teach ya all the ways o' pillaging an' plundering...you'll be 'appier out 'ere - I promise ya," though the promise was halfhearted and, in Jikes case, untrue. "There ain't no 'ope o' 'avin' it all back any'ow."
Duke spoke with conviction. "I didn't have much. They weren't my family.
It wasn't my house. No one knows where I came from, but she...she was my angel."
"Ain't you a tad small to be chasin' after girls, Mate? I suppose there ain't no such thing as too small for that, eh?" Jikes jabbed Duke in the ribs with his elbow and laughed, but Duke's only response was, "I know an angel when I see one."
Jikes did not know how to reply to that, so he just stood up and said, "Well I'll leave you alone to get yourself acclamated, as it were, but when ya're right comfortable, come on up an' we can play cards er some such thing."
With that the man left Duke alone with his tears, which did not let up for many days. After several weeks on the boat many of the crewmen began to spread the rumor that Duke was bad luck, for he had a strange effect on the captain. One moment, the captain would seem angry and the next sad, and the next happy and in all the weeks Duke was aboard they had not raided a single town. Duke, however, no longer cared. He could endure the angry words and occasional slaps much easier than he could endure the grief that he was under. The weight of it was more than his small body could endure. Indeed, he grew very sick and the crewmen were all trying to encourage the captain to throw him back in the sea, but the captain refused. And that's how Duke grew up. He recieved the blame for every failed attempt at aquiring treasure and every monster or storm that attacked them at sea, but with time, he himself became a hardened pirate and gave no thought to burning towns to ash - until the day he saw her...