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Adventure: The Deserted Island

You wake up with a mouth full of sand.

Where are you? What happened?

A memory flashes...

The ship makes a terrible tearing sound, a sudden lurch occurs. Suddenly there is no ship underneath you, and you realize that you've been thrown off it just as you crash into the cold water. You remember grasping at a wooden board as you watch the ship continue on its way, breaking up as it goes. Then darkness falls over your eyes and you pass out.

You look around you. You seem to be lying down on a beautiful, pristine beach. Land? How did you get to land? Behind you is a jungle of trees, and a small mountain rises out of it. The sounds of birds and animals drift over the trees. You don't see anyone else there. Where is THE HIGHLANDER, your ship?

Memories come trickling back. Your father has recently made new contacts in China, and in the hope of restoring his wealth, has sent you and your brother George on a sea voyage upon his only remaining ship, THE HIGHLANDER. The voyage was promising, and a sense of adventure sat in the air. You and your brother George are both excited by the prospect of seeing strange new lands. You think of George and your breath catches in your throat. Where is he? Did he make it? Did he drown. What will you tell your father?

These thoughts are running in your head, but you have more immediate concerns. You are getting very hungry and thirsty, and feeling exhausted from this ordeal. You want to find sustenance but you're afraid to miss any rescue operations.

What will you do?

You stumble towards the trees closest to you, soaked and feeling tired to the bones. The sun is still high in the sky but the wind makes you shiver as you reach the shadows of the trees.

Your mouth seems full of dust. First thing is first, you think, you have to drink. High up in the trees are fruits, but the effort of climbing and sucking them dry makes you shudder in exhaustion.

To your right, the ground rises up, leading you up a slope. You think you see a faint animal trail there, but it could just be your imagination. It's too faint to know what animals are using it.

To your left are more trees and the darkness of the forest.

Ahead of you is a weird smell, something you think you recognize but not sure from where. It is unpleasant, and makes your heart pump in fear, although you don't know why.

Will you...

The sun is high in the sky, the warmth of its rays slowly dries your clothes, and you stop shuddering from the cold. It's a beautiful day, the waves are gently reaching to the beach. And you think how weird it is to survive such a crazy event just to be sitting here surrounded by beauty.

You're hungry and thirsty, but this time is crucial, it could be that another ship will come. You see people's suitcases slowly drifting away on the currents, perhaps they will wash up on another part of the island.

You keep watching an unchanging horizon, hoping against hope that something will change. Eventually you drift off.

When you wake, it's almost dusk. You're not as sleepy but now you feel your thirst running amok. The salt water of the ocean dried you up There is no more time to hang around, if you don't drink something soon, you may perish.

Will you...

You carefully waddle into the water in the direction of the biggest group of suitcases and bags. Hopefully you will find something that helps you survive in this God forsaken place!

The water has been warmed up, and you are already soaked, so what's the harm. In the back of your mind, you know you must find water within the next few hours or perish. The salt and sun have dried you up. Better make this quick.

However, as you continue, you realize they are further away than they seemed, and you hardly have the energy for a long swim. Only one small, black bag seems to float towards you, and you reach out and grab it.

Returning to the shore takes more effort than you thought, you really are exhausted. You fall with a grunt on the sand and open the satchel.

No food, no water. Only 3 books that are now completely wet. You sigh and try to shake the bag to see if anything else is there. As you shake it, a tiny, slim knife falls out.

Now THIS is something you can use. You pocket it.

But what now?

Will you...

You decide to investigate the strange smell coming from straight ahead, and as you plunge deeper into the woods in that direction, the smell gets stronger. You soon realize it is the smell of rot and old blood, and your heart beats faster. Perhaps there is a killing beast around, and you are smelling one of its victims. You slowly creep forward, cautious now, until you arrive at the source of the smell.

It is not an animal.

A human body lies on the ground. You gently nudge it with your foot and turn it around. When it does, you see its hands locked around a rusted, plain sword, sticking from its rib cage. The flesh of the body has been eaten away by animals and bugs, but enough is left to for the smell to turn your stomach.

Shreds of what you think is a dress still cling to parts of the skeleton. A woman then. Skin very dark, almost black. A woman killed by humans, killed by violent humans. Which means you may be in danger yourself! Your tongue suddenly tastes like ashes. Is there no end to the trouble you are in today?

Ahead, you think you hear animal sounds, too varied to identify. You can turn back and take up the mountain slope, continue towards the animal sounds, or turn towards the forest deep.

What will you do?

You decide to follow the animal track up the slope. Where there are animals, you say to yourself, there will be water.

You start climbing up the slope slowly, giving your tired body the time it needs to make this extra effort. Sometimes you get dizzy and have to stop for a few moments. You HAVE to get water.

As you proceed up the slope the trees thin out, and eventually you seem to be climbing a large hill decorated by shrubs and bushes. You see birds above you and hear some kind of animal roaring in the distance. You hope not to encounter whatever made such a noise.

You start to notice more animal tracks on the ground as you get higher. You also start to get the lay of the land a little bit. From up here, you can see the beach you came from and that most of the island is covered by trees. You can't yet see the other side of it, but from the top, you reason, you will probably be able to see a source of water. However, you're very tired, and it's taking a lot out of you.

As you continue up the slope, the way suddenly splits, the animal path seems to be going down and to the left and most tracks follow it. But the top isn't very far, and you may be able to see what's going on from there.

Will you...

You walk deeper into the trees. The air is cool here, the soil soft. The sound of birds is everywhere. It would be a beautiful place to roam, you think to yourself, if you weren't so dizzy.

The time has come to make a choice. In the trees around you, you can see a strange purple fruit you've never seen before. Small and shiny. Some of the bushes around you have small red berries on them. You don't recognize either of them, and you curse yourself for not listening to your childhood tutor about the exotic plants of the world.

As you walk, you pick some of both fruit and berries to carry with you, but you're still not sure which to try. You can't take the thirst anymore, you must drink or eat something succulent now.

What will you do?

You lapse back into sleep on the warm sand. Your sleep is feverish, full of weird dreams of sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Some dreams have you drinking glass after glass of pure, sweet water and eating fine roast beef.

But when you wake up, you know you've made a terrible mistake.

It's night-time, and you are so weak you can barely move. You haven't drank in so long, you're severely dehydrated. With nothing to have eaten, all energy has left your body. You can't even think straight.

You make it a few feet and collapse again into feverish dreams. You wake up from time to time, but can never get the energy to move and find sustenance.

Eventually, the dreams recede and all that is left is deep darkness. This beach is now your last resting place.

The End.

You proceed towards the sounds of animals. As you continue, desperate to find water, you turn around a large rock.

The way before you opens to an entire valley, and it is full of animals.

Large groups of some species of deer are everywhere. Colorful birds are flying above. In the distance, you think you see another animal watching you, but it hides in the tall grass, so you're not sure what it is.

All this matters little to you, because the deer are all grouped near the WATER. A large stream flows through the middle of the vale, coming from down the mountain from some origin point you can't identify, but there is a slope going upwards towards the top.

What will you do?

You laboriously make your way to the top of the hill. There are no plant life here, just rocks and soil.

The whole island unfolds before you, and you can see it's mostly jungle, with several beaches around. More importantly - you see a ship! Docked on the other side, a large ship is anchored near the beach. If you can get to it, maybe you can get off this island. First though, you need to find some food and drink.

What will you do?

You turn and walk down the slope, following the animal tracks. It's cooler here, and you continue you see the way becomes wider and wider, the scant vegetation changing to rich, tall grass. The scent of plant and animal life is strong here. As you continue, desperate to find water, you turn around a large rock.

The way before you opens to an entire valley, and it is full of animals.

Large groups of some species of deer are everywhere. Colorful birds are flying above. In the distance, you think you see another animal watching you, but it hides in the tall grass, so you're not sure what it is.

All this matters little to you, because the deer are all grouped near the WATER. A large stream flows through the middle of the vale, coming from down the mountain from some origin point you can't identify.

Will you...

Your thirst first on your mind, you sprint towards the sparkling stream. The deer exploding out of your path. You make your way towards the nearest bend of the stream, and almost bury your head under the water, you're so thirsty. Finally, you get the chance to slack your thirst, and it makes you feel so much better. The cobwebs seem to be leaving your brain, and for the first time since the shipwreck you feel more like your old self.

Your new senses, however, alert you that someone is watching you. You slowly move your head around, trying to locate the animal you saw before. It's much closer now, and you realize with a fright that it's some kind of giant mountain cat, and that it's seeing you as its prey.

Panic races through your now refreshed body, and you freeze, not sure what to do. The stream is full of rocks, you could try throwing one at it, maybe scare it away, or you could try and escape.

What WILL you do?

You can't see a dangerous animal, but it doesn't mean even these deer might not be a risk to you. You pick up a few loose stones and start throwing them at the deer, trying not to hit them (you don't like hurting animals) but just to scare them. You yell as well "Hiya! Hiya! Go away!" and wave your arms.

The animals react with surprising speed to your stones and shouts, almost as if they've been through this before. The deer are running and jumping every which way, and as you look, a huge cat lunges out of the grass and takes one of the smaller deer down.

That could have been you. Good thing the panicking deer created a good oppurtunity for it to grab its prey.

You're left alone near the stream. Your thirst first on your mind, you sprint towards the sparkling stream and almost bury your head under the water, you're so thirsty!

Finally you get the chance to slack your thirst, and it makes you feel so much better. The cobwebs seem to be leaving your brain, and for the first time since the shipwreck you feel more like your old self.

You're about to go back to the trees and find some fruit when you hear a soft sound behind you. You slowly turn around and are shocked to find a young girl, maybe 8 or 9, standing in front of you in silence. She has a short peeling knife in one hand.

Her face betrays no emotion, but her eyes and nostrils are open wide. She is wearing rags, crusted almost stiff with dirt. Her face gives no indication of what she thinks of you, but where there is a little girl, there are probably also houses and food. On the other hand, there may be violent adults who do not like trespassers..

What will you do?

You turn and run with every muscle in your body.

Behind you, the cat bursts into motion.

You make it about 10 feet before you feel a cut on your ankle, it burns and you can't help but fall. The next thing you feel is incredible pain in your neck, and you realize this vale will be your final resting place.

You keep your eyes locked on the cat as you slowly back away. At first, it seems like it's frozen in place. But then you see it starting to flow forward, its agile body weaving in the high grass as it advances towards you. Your breath comes faster and faster as you realize this predator is not going to let you just walk away. You turn and run with every muscle in your body.

Behind you, the cat bursts into motion.

You make it about 10 feet before you feel a cut on your ankle, it burns and you can't help but fall. The next thing you feel is incredible pain in your neck, and you realize this vale will be your final resting place.

You remember reading somewhere that throwing rocks at predators might drive them away. You pick up a large rock and, turning to the mountain cat, throw it directly at it.

The rock sails way off target, but the sound of its falling seems to disturb the cat, which takes a step backwards, looking less sure of itself.

Emboldened, you begin to throw as many rocks as you can at it, each one seems to bother it more, until one hits it straight on the nose. It gives a surprised yelp, turns away and streaks the other way, towards the trees at the other end of the vale.

You're left alone near the stream. You have water now, but no way to carry it around with you. Your stomach growls and reminds you how hungry you are.

You're about to go back to the trees and find some fruit when you hear a soft sound behind you. The cat must be back, and now it's behind you. You freeze in fear and crouch low, waiting for the inevitable attack... but none comes.

You slowly turn around and are shocked to find a young girl, maybe 8 or 9, standing in front of you in silence. She has a short peeling knife in one hand.

Her face betrays no emotion, but her eyes and nostrils are open wide. She is wearing rags, crusted almost stiff with dirt. Her face gives no indication of what she thinks of you, but where there is a little girl, there are probably also houses and food. On the other hand, there may be violent adults who do not like trespassers.

What will you do?

You decide you don't like the look of this girl. A small thing like her, yet she seems completely at ease, with a burning intensity in her eyes. What if she's mad or raised by beasts?

You turn and run back towards the trees, not wanting to be running up the mountain path. You don't look back, just focusing on speed. Only when you get to the trees do you risk a look behind you.

The girl is nowhere to be seen.

You run a little longer, into the shadows of the forest, then stop and hyperventilate for a while, leaning on a tree. Trying to look everywhere at once in case she's hiding somewhere, trying to follow you or jump out at you. You don't see anything and slowly your breathing returns to normal.

Your stomach growls and reminds you that although you've have water now, you need food as well. Might as well see what the forest has to offer...

You spread your arms wide, showing the girl you have no weapon with which to harm her. Her eyes follow your every moment, but she doesn't move.

You crouch, making yourself even less of a threat, look up at her and try to speak in what you hope is a disarming way.

"Hello, do you understand me? I mean you no harm."

The girl tilts her head, but says nothing, just keeps staring at you. It doesn't look like she knows the language. Darn.

You mimic eating in front of her. "Hungry. Will you take me to your people? Will you share some food with me?"

She watches you for a moment, then abruptly turns and walks away. She isn't walking fast, and you can easily follow her. She stops after a few feet and looks at you, then turns and continues walking away. In a moment, she'll disappear into the trees.

What will you do?

Sick with worry and exhaustion, you launch yourself at the girl, trying to get her knife away so you can force her to show you to her village. You're not sure what you're doing, but you know you have to get some kind of control over the situation.

The girl sees you coming. She becomes a blur, moving so fast you don't even know she stabbed you until you see the blood on her knife. Then you feel the pain in several places. She made quick jabs into your abdomen, legs and hands.

You fall forward, the strength draining away with your blood. As darkness slowly swirl down, you regret enacting violence, but it is too late...

You hurry after the girl, the only sign of help this cursed island has offered so far. She doesn't look back, but you're sure she hears your clumsy steps just as sure as hers make no sound at all.

You both plunge deeper into the woods, and you quickly lose hope of trying to guess where you are or how to go back. The girl walks with confidence, obviously familiar with her surroundings.

After a few minutes of walking in silence, you try to start up a conversation, but the girl turns immediately and puts a finger to her lips. QUIET. You think it prudent to oblige her.

A few minutes later your strange guide stops at a huge tree growing out of what seems like a huge rock pile. She looks around and then kicks something with her foot. A huge piece of the tree's bark seems to just fall off and an opening appears. The girl motions you in.

You squeeze through the opening and she comes in after you, closing the "door" behind her. You stand in absolute darkness and you feel her making her way around you. A few clicks sound and a small flame appears, revealing a small cave with rough, natural stone walls. There are animal skins and furs spread out on the floor. The child plops into one of them.

You sit next to her and think of what to do. There is a lot you want to know about the island but the fact she doesn't speak is a bit of a problem. Better focus on broad subjects. Who she is, and more importantly, how do you find a ship to get you off this island?

What will you ask about?

You pluck the little red berries and pop them one by one into your mouth. You have no idea if you're poisoning yourself, but it doesn't stop you from enjoying every juicy moment of it. It has been so long since you've had anything so fresh and delicious.

After a little while, you feel a little bit like your old self again, your head clears, and you become more aware of your surroundings.

Just in time to hear something... Are those... WORDS? There are people about, and from the sound of it their path is taking them right through where you're standing.

What will you do?

You bite into the purple fruit, they are sour and taste terrible, but you're too hungry and thirsty to care. You eat and drink the juices with relish.

Finally, you start feeling like your old self again, and your mind clears. Then a pain shoots through your lower abdomen like a hot knife.

Oh no.

You twist on the ground, trying to puke out what you've eaten, but you ate too fast and too much, it's too late. These fruit are not for eating, and you slowly lose consciousness.

When you wake, hours later, in the dark, you are feverish and foggy. Time passes and no one hears you moaning for help, dehydration sets in, and you become too weak to move.

It seems like this will be your final resting place...

You slowly make your way behind a large tree and you cling to it, trying to breathe quietly. You dare not look around as you heart the people coming closer. As they near, you realize there are two voices, both definitely male. They speak English, though one with a foreign accent...

"-ber where this is? It looks like any other in this cursed place."

"Ay, not to worry. I got a nose like a bloodhound for any treasure, especially me own, eh?" The Englishman laughs loudly at his own joke. The other does not.

"Will you keep it quiet?" He mutters angrily at the other.

"Why, this is our island? Who's gonna hear me?"

"You know who."

"Are ya SERIOUS? You're afraid of HER? That little slip of a thing?"

"Shhhh!!! And you didn't see how she cut Doggen. She's either a witch..." He audibly gulps. "Or a Spaniard ghost come to avenge that woman Doggen killed. She ain't human, that for sure."

This doesn't sound good, both men sound rough, and their talk of treasure and having their own island immediately puts you in mind of all you've heard of pirates lately. Your breath catches in your throat and you bless yourself for being careful. There is no telling what the pirates would do to a stranger they found on their hidden island, but you could guess it would involve a short life span.

The Englishman mutters something under his nose, but doesn't respond. They continue to walk away in silence.

Will you?

You call out "hello!" as you start towards the voices, hoping not to startle them into thinking you are a threat. You keep your hands where they can see them and wait for them to arrive.

Once they hear you, the conversation immediately dies out, and the steps come faster. Out of the trees two men step out.

One is short and brawny, almost completely bold, in his mid 30s. The other is younger and taller, but narrower in shoulder and hip.

They both have swords in their hands and knives in their belts. They looked rugged and dangerous. The word "pirates' might have been written upon their brow!

They come straight towards you, and their faces don't look friendly, not at all...

Will you...

Staying as quiet as you can, you follow the sound of the pirates' voices. As they get ahead of you, you sneak a peek at them and notice they are both carrying small treasure chests.

"What are you going to do with yours?" Asks one of them.

"Birds and drink, what else?" Laughed the other one. "I'll aim to be known by every paid woman in England, hahaha!"

Both pirates laughed and walked on. This is when you make your move.

You jump from around your tree holding a large rock, and land on the taller pirate, hitting him on the head with your rock.

But this man has warrior instincts, at the last moment he moves his body so your rock hits him on the shoulder. Then he shakes you off and you end up on your back, looking up at two very unfriendly faces.

The short, bald one comes striding at you, looking you up and down.

"So, what is it we have here, then?" He shows his teeth, more like an animal baring its fangs than a smile.

"I.. I was shipwrecked this morning, I seek no harm nor to steal anything, I only want to return home to England."

"Is that right?" Both of the pirates laugh an ugly laugh.

You start explaining but a sword hilt comes at your face and darkness follows.

...

You wake up some time later with a terrific pain in your skull. That's the first thing you notice, the pain. Next is the smell. It reeks of unwashed human bodies, feces and burned wood.

With some difficulty, you open your crusted-over eyes and have a look around, then groan.

Looks like you are in the pirate camp now. Everywhere you look you see gruff pirates eating, yelling or working. It looks like a wood clearing just besides the waters. You can see the masts of two ships over the trees.

On the left you see a group of people tied with ropes - prisoners? As you focus your eyes a bit more, you startle.

These are YOUR people. The crew of your ship! At least most of them. You can't see the captain of THE HIGHLANDER, but most of them are there, alive and well! You can't believe it, you thought them all dead in the storm. Somehow the pirates must have seen the ship going down and have scooped up the survivors, either to be sold as slaves or kept for ransom, you couldn't tell. Your eyes immediately find George, his arms roped and apparently unconscious. He looks unwell, but alive, alive!

"Good morning sunshine." Says a voice. Taking away your momentary joy at finding your brother alive.

You look up and see the biggest man you've ever laid eyes on, wearing the most gold you've ever seen. Gems twinkle from his ears, neck and fingers. He has a large 3-point hat on. He looks to be about 40, making him a very old pirate indeed.

The pirate captain. You realize.

"So," says the pirate king in a friendly tone. "What have we here? Tell me, stranger, how did you get to our island? And who do you work for?"

You tell him your story since your ship got wrecked. You don't mention it was the same ship as the prisoners came from. A smile slowly spreads on his weathered face. "Got here by accident, eh? I'd like to believe that, makes more sense than the East India Company sending someone so inadequate as a spy. You see, this is our little slice of heaven here, boy. You may have noticed this island has deer, on the other side we even have goats and sheep, brought them from the mainland. We even grow crops. One day, the gold we take off rich merchants will make a stronghold of this island the likes you've never seen before."

He slaps you on the back and adds: "Of course we will have to insist on your staying, we don't get many guests do we boys?" He turns to his crewmen.

His men all laugh mockingly.

"Of course, we don't really keep useless people around, just more mouths to feed. What can you do for us?"

Will you...

Maybe you should have been more cautious, these pirates have murder in their eyes, and your legs turn and take you away before you even had a chance to think about it. A coward may die a thousand deaths, but only an idiot dies for no good reason.

But, in the end, it is their island.

They seem to know every rock and tree as they come after you, and although you stay ahead of them for a few precious seconds, one false step on a tree root sends you sprawling. You try to get up as fast as you can but a sharp pain in your foot announces it's broken.

"It's a bit of a shame, ain't it?" Says the English pirate as he appears out of the shadow of the trees, taking in the scene with one look. "I was gonna take ye back to our camp for ransom or some sport, but not with that leg I'm not. I don't do burdens."

And with that his sword is out and red flashes in your eyes as you realize this island is now your final resting place.

These two are obviously ferocious warriors. You are not, and so you don't really see any choice but to sink to your knees, place your hands on your head and surrender. You pray they will take you captive.

The short, bald one comes striding at you, looking you up and down.

"So, what is it we have here, then?" He shows his teeth, more like an animal baring its fangs than a smile.

"I.. I was shipwrecked this morning, I seek no harm nor to steal anything, I only want to return home to England."

"Is that right?" Both of the pirates laugh an ugly laugh.

You start explaining but a sword hilt comes at your face and darkness follows.

...

You wake up some time later with a terrific pain in your skull. That's the first thing you notice, the pain. Next is the smell. It reeks of unwashed human bodies, feces and burned wood.

With some difficulty, you open your crusted-over eyes and have a look around, then groan.

Looks like you are in the pirate camp now. Everywhere you look you see gruff pirates eating, yelling or working. It looks like a wood clearing just besides the waters. You can see the masts of two ships over the trees.

On the left you see a group of people tied with ropes - prisoners? As you focus your eyes a bit more, you startle.

These are YOUR people. The crew of your ship! At least most of them. You can't see the captain of THE HIGHLANDER, but most of them are there, alive and well! You can't believe it, you thought them all dead in the storm. Somehow the pirates must have seen the ship going down and have scooped up the survivors, either to be sold as slaves or kept for ransom, you couldn't tell. Your eyes immediately find George, his arms roped and apparently unconscious. He looks unwell, but alive, alive!

"Good morning sunshine." Says a voice. Taking away your momentary joy at finding your brother alive.

You look up and see the biggest man you've ever laid eyes on, wearing the most gold you've ever seen. Gems twinkle from his ears, neck and fingers. He has a large 3-point hat on. He looks to be about 40, making him a very old pirate indeed.

The pirate captain. You realize.

"So," says the pirate king in a friendly tone. "What have we here? Tell me, stranger, how did you get to our island? And who do you work for?"

You tell him your story since your ship got wrecked. You don't mention it was the same ship as the prisoners came from. A smile slowly spreads on his weathered face. "Got here by accident, eh? I'd like to believe that, makes more sense than the East India Company sending someone so inadequate as a spy. You see, this is our little slice of heaven here, boy. You may have noticed this island has deer, on the other side we even have goats and sheep, brought them from the mainland. We even grow crops. One day, the gold we take off rich merchants will make a stronghold of this island the likes you've never seen before."

He slaps you on the back and adds: "Of course we will have to insist on your staying, we don't get many guests do we boys?" He turns to his crewmen.

His men all laugh mockingly.

"Of course, we don't really keep useless people around, just more mouths to feed. What can you do for us?"

Will you...

"I'm a cook!" You say quickly.

The captain raises an eyebrow. "Really? That's fortunate, we lost our old cook John over that little tif with Roman, right Roman?"

An ugly pirate with one eye smiles and laughs, his teeth half missing, the other half all in gold.

"Roman didn't like his cooking. To be honest the man was useless, could barely keep down the burnt sloth he would make."

"I'm much better." You say.

"hmmmm," says the pirate captain. "I hope you aren't lying to me..."

"O...of course not!" You try to look confident. "I'm a great cook!"

"Tell me," he leans close to you, as if sharing an intimate secret, "If I gave you a cashew fruit with its nut, what would you do?"

Darn, it looks like he's testing you. You remember something about cashews being deadly if not properly cooked, but you can't quite remember...

What is your answer?

"I'm a pirate as well!" You rough up your voice, and look him straight in the eyes, willing him to believe you.

"Is that right?" The captain asks with a smile. "We've got ourselves a warrior then! How many have you killed in your rampages?"

"Many," you say with what you hope is a scary smile. "anyone who got in my way."

The captain looks impressed. He slowly rises, comes closer to you and looks into your face, as if trying to see something.

You feel the pain first as you fly backwards. Your nose is broken, is your first thought. Your second thought is that he just headbutted you. You fall on the ground, unable to move, chocking on the blood coming out of your nose.

"I hate liars." Says the captain amiably. He walks towards you and casually takes out a knife.

As he approaches, the look in his eye tells you this camp is going to be your final resting place.

Darkness follows.

You gather up all your spit and, as he comes in closer, you spit it all in his smug face.

That face becomes so fierce and red that for a moment the captain seems to have grown a tomato on his neck. You laugh out loud, knowing that it would irk him even more.

The pirate screams as his men giggle behind his back, and as he reaches for his sword, you think about how you'd much rather end your life on your own terms.

Then the sword flashes towards you and you know nothing more.

The captain closes his eyes for a moment and sighs. Then he stands up and shakes his head.

"I really don't like liars. Roman."

The ugly pirate comes at you, and before you know it you have a knife to your throat.

"A shame," says the captain as the knife goes in, "Would have loved a new cook."

Darkness comes swirling down, and you realize this will be your final resting place.

The pirate smiles broadly. "Well I'll be damned... More than I already am, that is. Hahaha!" He pulls you up to stand before him and turns to the rest of the pirates. "Lads! We got us a new cook!"

Shouts of hurrah and ugly laughter rumble from all sides. Obviously, this crew hasn't eaten well in a while.

"Ramsy, get him on the ship and into the kitchen, we're going to have a feast tonight!!"

And just like that you are jostled towards one of the waiting ships as the pirates all cheer around you. You stumble but manage not to fall as you are taken to the pirate ship.

You are thrusted into the dark, smelly belly of the ship, walking in its dark halls, you think you hear someone crying out in anger, it seems to be coming from deeper yet inside the ship. A prisoner?

You are taken to a little, grimy room where old cooking items and cracked plates signify this is their sorry excuse for a ship's kitchen.

The pirate who brought you is skinny but tough looking. "Get to cookin'!" He yells at you with a hungry look, then turns and goes to stand outside the kitchen.

What will you do? You don't really feel like spending the rest of your life as a captive cook to these bastards, especially since you can't actually cook!

The knives at this so called 'kitchen' are all blunt, none of them good to attack with. Have you found any knives in your travels today?

You grab a large, solid pan and sneak a peep towards the guard. He's facing away from you, but only in profile. You can't sneak up on him, so your only option is to be quick.

You turn around and storm the guard with your pan. Your timing is good, your aim... not so much. You hit him on the shoulder hard enough to crack bones, he roars in pain and anger.

He kicks you and launches you at the wall. This gives him time to pull out his short ax and come at you with murder in his eyes.

As he swings, you know you've made a mistake. Your story ends here.

You feel the little knife you pushed up your sleeve. Thank God you looked too pathetic to even be searched properly. This little knife may make all the difference.

You know you should not take a man's life, but these pirates are murderers and slavers, and you've heard too many tales of woe to feel mercy for them.

As the guard is not turned away from you, and you have very little chance of creeping up on him, the only way to take him down would be by acting with certainty and speed.

You throw a small cup on the floor and for just a second the guard turns his head. You rush him with all the speed you can muster and bear him down to the floor, and you use your weapon to keep him from rising ever again.

You don't have much time. Someone WILL come at some point to check on the new cook, perhaps hoping to get a morsel in advance of dinner.

What will you do?

You call to the guard.

"What?" He rumbles back.

You ask him if he'd like a snack while he wait, and a light jumps into his eyes. You could have sworn he was drooling.

"Aye, anything, and make me some juice, I'm tired of water and rum."

You start looking through the kitchen for anything you might use to poison the guard, or even better, all the pirates, so you can escape this death trap. To be honest, you're not sure how NOT to poison people, you've never really learned how to cook well.

You can't find anything but lots and lots of rudimentary ingredients. There doesn't seem to be anything you identify as poison.

Then you remember you still have some fruit in your pockets. You bring out a few of the weird, brown fruit you found on your way, the ones you didn't try to eat.

There is no knowing if they are good or not, but it's the only thing you have that might be bad to eat. You hope the time they spent mashed up in the heat of your pocket made them worse somehow.

There is one thing you know how to make, and that's a simple mix of bread and cheese. You prepare it and go to the guard with a cup of juice and the snack.

To your chagrin, the pirate looks suspicious, he takes a swig of his juice first, then inspects the food, sniffs it and pokes it.

He lifts his head and stares at you with rage. "Do you think me stupid, eh? Think to poison me, do ya?"

He slaps you hard and you fall back, hearing his steps coming towards you.. then they falter, and groan comes from the pirate. You quickly stand and look at him as he falls to the ground, moaning and clutching his belly. A swift kick to the back of his head knocks him unconscious.

Good idea to put fruit in the juice.

It seems he'll be down for awhile, which buys you precious time. What do you?

You decide you should try to free yourself before you start walking around in the ship, perhaps the prisoner is one of their own? Best to trust no one.

You take the guard's short axe from him. You've never been a fighter but better armed than not.

You walk softly up the way the guard brought you, listening for others. You finally see the entrance, and it doesn't look like anyone is standing next to it.

In desperation, you rush the exit, wanting to make a quick and quiet jump into the waters.

This just isn't your day.

A hand grabs you by the wrist the moment you come up, almost as if you were expected. Your speed carries you down to the floor and you smack your head on the boards.

The hand belongs to the captain, his other hand quickly grabs his sword. 'Maybe he felt peckish' is the last thing on your mind before death comes swirling down.

You hurry out of the kitchen, leaving the groaning pirate to his pains. You stop at the corridor and listen hard. You can't hear any steps, but the voice you heard before is audible, if very faint.

You advance towards the sound and take down the stairs deeper into the belly of the ship. It's dirty and old, creaking everywhere. Frankly you're surprised it still floats.

As you continue, the voice becomes stronger, is the person singing? The path ends at a small cell. Inside the cell is one of the biggest men you've ever seen. Built like a house, this giant is shackled inside the cell. He has a wild, blond beard and long, dirty hair. It seems he's been here quite a while, and he is covered in dry blood, welts and scratches.

The huge man continues to sing in a low voice, even as you come closer, until the song finally comes to an end, all the while he is holding a finger to his mouth. Don't talk.

As the echoes of his song fade away, he whispers: "They're used to hearing me sing, if I stopped in the middle they would know something is wrong. You aren't one of them, are you? Who are you stranger?"

In hush tones, you tell him about your day.

"Incredible!" The man laughs silently, his jubilation in stark contrast to his dark surroundings. "You've had quite a day! God has sent you my way, I know it! My prayers have been answered."

"Who are you?" You ask.

"My name is Jove, I was... AM the first mate of the GOLDEN PHEASANT, an East India trading ship. We were taken by these pirate bastards not far from here, half of us killed and the other half held prisoner on the island and our ship. Me they put here separately. They plan to torture me, as I've killed 4 of their shipmates, and 2 may never recover."

He stares at you with intensity. "FREE ME. This ship is almost deserted, they are on the island. We can take the few guards here and use the ship's cannons to attack the pirates on the beach! I will deliver such mayhem unto them!" His eyes almost glow with hatred and rage. So much so that he scares you a bit. "You must take down one of the guards, they have keys to the cell and my shackles!"

What will you do?

This is too much. Jove looks crazed, and you don't fancy being around him when violence erupts. He looks like he's just going to throw himself at them, which doesn't bode well for anyone accompanying him. You make the decision to do get out of here by yourself, trust no one.

You walk softly up the way the guard brought you, listening for others. You finally see the entrance, and it doesn't look like anyone is standing next to it.

In desperation, you rush the exit, wanting to make a quick and quiet jump into the waters.

This just isn't your day.

A hand grabs you by the wrist the moment you come up, almost as if you were expected. Your speed carries you down to the floor and you smack your head on the boards.

The hand belongs to the captain, his other hand quickly grabs his sword. 'Maybe he felt peckish' is the last thing on your mind before death comes down in the form of a steel sword.

"Well," you say to Jove, "I have one guard I put down, let me search him."

You run back to the kitchen as softly as you can, and find the pirate you poisoned unconscious on the floor. You slowly and ever so quietly start searching his pockets.

Eureka! There it is, a big ring with 3 big keys on it. You run back to Jove, who's grin is almost contagious if you weren't so scared someone might catch you two jail birds. A quick turn of the largest key opens the cell, while the other two open the shackles on Jove's arms and legs.

He slowly stands up, as if it is hard for him to believe the moment has truly come. He slowly stretches those huge arms of his, cracks his neck and knuckles. He looks up, towards the deck, and his smile is replaced by something almost terrifying. You can practically see the rage that is going through his veins, the eyes of a killer look at you.

"Come with me." And you do.

You both run, not outside like you thought, but deeper into the belly, where he looks around, opening chests seemingly at random, only to stop and pull out a broadsword and a dagger from two of them. He hands you the dagger.

"All right," he says. "We have one chance at this, so we better make it count. We have the advantage of surprise, they aren't expecting this, they think they broke me and that you are in the kitchen. If we create enough havoc, they won't be able to fight us and keep guard on the other prisoners. But we must move swiftly. Can you fire a cannon?

"My family trades in gunpowder," You grin at him. "What do you think?"

"Incredible!" And you both run back towards the kitchen.

Only it isn't empty anymore.

Above the silent form of your guard, stands the pirate captain himself!

He examines you both, his hand lightly touching the pommel of his sword. His eyes flicker over you and rest on Jove, holding his newly found sword. "So, you've found freedom once again, Jove. But look at the sight of you, more dirt and hurt than man. I doubt you can even swing that thing, boy. Why don't you put it down before I put YOU down, and maybe I won't punish you." His tone is light, but you recognize the emotion behind his words: Fear. He's been caught off-guard.

Jove doesn't bother to answer. One moment he's standing there, and the next he's proving the captain wrong, swinging his sword in a deadly arc, to be met by the captain's drawn weapon. The two big men stand locked for a moment, then separate, trying to maneuver their long weapons in the limited space they have, punching and kicking each other more than anything. Jove's anger lends him strength, but the captain seems more practiced, experienced. He gives more than he gets, and Jove is visibly getting tired.

You stand with your mouth open, holding a dagger.

You harden your heart and your grip on your dagger, and as the two big men trade blows, you wait for your moment.

And it comes. As the pirate captain swings at Jove, turning half his body towards you, you jump in and jam the dagger into his side. He screams and punches you away. Even wounded, the blow throws you back.

You look up just in time to see Jove holding his sword to the Pirate captain's neck. The captain is holding his side, breathing heavily. All bluster seems to have gone out of him, and he suddenly looked much older, as if all his years have gained on him.

Jove looks at you. "What do you think? Should we keep this scum alive? We might make use of him. He doesn't stand a chance without someone seeing to him, and he knows it."

What is your answer?

You've seen enough killing today. If you can take out the captain, you'll do it the clean way. You harden your grip on the dagger and wait for your moment.

And it comes. As the pirate captain swings at Jove, turning half his body towards you, you jump in and strike him on the head as strongly as you can. The man is a beast, though, and even though it dizzies him, he still punches you away. Even wounded, the blow throws you back.

You look up just in time to see Jove getting the upper hand. With a well-aimed kick to the captain's hand he sends the other man's sword flying, and before your eyes even register the movement, he is suddenly holding his sword to the Pirate captain's neck. The pirate is breathing heavily. All bluster seems to have gone out of him, and he suddenly looked much older, as if all his years have gained on him. His face is the face of a man waiting to die.

Jove looks at you. "What do you think? Should we keep this scum alive? We might make use of him. He doesn't stand a chance without someone seeing to him, and he knows it."

"Let him live." You say. "I have an idea..."

"Oh?" Says Jove.

You turn to the pirate captain. "May I ask, what is more important to you, your life, or your-"

"My life." Says the pirate hurriedly

Jove grins.

...

Half an hour later, two pirates are leading a score of the prisoners to the ship, on orders of their captain, which he shouted from the deck, Jove's sword point not far from his back.

As they come in, Jove, warrior-born and with the advantage of surprise, slices one pirate and spares the other, who presses himself on the ground in surrender. In a few quick motions, Jove cuts through the ropes holding the prisoners, and you rush into the embrace of your younger brother George. Both of you are crying tears of joy and mumble to each other, trying to get all the stories out all at once, then forgetting it all and just being happy to be in each other's company again.

"So, fellas." Says Jove. "Here's the plan, grab these swords."

"You." He points at the pirate who surrendered. "What is more important, your life, or..."

He got a similar answer.

A few minutes later, both the captain and pirate stood and shouted for their men to come on-board. With Jove and the other men from your ship waiting, the remaining pirates don't stand a chance, surprised and ambushed. Once they realize they are losing, the rest of them throw down their weapons and surrender immediately. Seems they aren't so brave when the odds are against them.

The battle is won!

The men all cheer around you, as some of the crew quickly tie the pirates up hand and foot, and lock them in the cells below deck. Jove sets guards on them, and you go with him, George and a few other men from your ship ashore.

You free the rest of the prisoners, some of them are strangers, slaves taken from other ships, other raids. Even a few women. They all cry in disbelief, after giving up hope of rescue a long time ago.

A few of your men bring some of the pirates' treasure chests out, and gold and sparkling gems spill onto the sand. You and George exchange quick grins. As owners of this ship this treasure is rightfully yours. But there is so much of it, you don't mind sharing with the rest of the prisoners, so they can rebuild their lives just like you will bring back the glory of your father's merchant fleet.

You load the pirate ship with the treasure and the rescued prisoners. You and George then stand for a while, supervising the work and looking around the remains of the camp.

"You know," says George, "This place has potential."

"I know." You say. "There are deer here, plantations, and someone is living on this island as well. This could become a merchant station for us, if we build a port we could probably charge ships for resupplying."

"Exactly my thoughts." Says George. "Maybe I should stay? This camp is pretty comfortable, there is plenty of food and drink. And I can map it out and start construction with a few of the crew members willing to stay with me. Or would you prefer to do that?"

What is your answer?

"Let him live." You say. "I have an idea..."

"Oh?" Says Jove.

You turn to the pirate captain. "May I ask, what is more important to you, your life, or your-"

"My life." Says the pirate hurriedly

Jove grins.

...

Half an hour later, two pirates are leading a score of the prisoners to the ship, on orders of their captain, which he shouted from the deck, Jove's sword point not far from his back.

As they come in, Jove, warrior-born and with the advantage of surprise, slices one pirate and spares the other, who presses himself on the ground in surrender. In a few quick motions, Jove cuts through the ropes holding the prisoners, and you rush into the embrace of your younger brother George. Both of you are crying tears of joy and mumble to each other, trying to get all the stories out all at once, then forgetting it all and just being happy to be in each other's company again.

"So, fellas." Says Jove. "Here's the plan, grab these swords."

"You." He points at the pirate who surrendered. "What is more important, your life, or..."

He got a similar answer.

A few minutes later, both the captain and pirate stood and shouted for their men to come on-board. With Jove and the other men from your ship waiting, the remaining pirates don't stand a chance, surprised and ambushed. Once they realize they are losing, the rest of them throw down their weapons and surrender immediately. Seems they aren't so brave when the odds are against them.

The battle is won!

The men all cheer around you, as some of the crew quickly tie the pirates up hand and foot, and lock them in the cells below deck. Jove sets guards on them, and you go with him, George and a few other men from your ship ashore.

You free the rest of the prisoners, some of them are strangers, slaves taken from other ships, other raids. Even a few women. They all cry in disbelief, after giving up hope of rescue a long time ago.

A few of your men bring some of the pirates' treasure chests out, and gold and sparkling gems spill onto the sand. You and George exchange quick grins. As owners of this ship this treasure is rightfully yours. But there is so much of it, you don't mind sharing with the rest of the prisoners, so they can rebuild their lives just like you will bring back the glory of your father's merchant fleet.

You load the pirate ship with the treasure and the rescued prisoners. You and George then stand for a while, supervising the work and looking around the remains of the camp.

"You know," says George, "This place has potential."

"I know." You say. "There are deer here, plantations, and someone is living on this island as well. This could become a merchant station for us, if we build a port we could probably charge ships for resupplying."

"Exactly my thoughts." Says George. "Maybe I should stay? This camp is pretty comfortable, there is plenty of food and drink. And I can map it out and start construction with a few of the crew members willing to stay with me. Or would you prefer to do that?"

What is your answer?

"You heard him." Jove shrugs. The captain starts to protest but is quickly silenced by the blade. You have a moment of regret, you've never killed a man before today, but you know this man is the lowest of scum, and many widows would thank you for this service.

"Now what?" Asks Jove.

"Well," you say, "I have a plan..."

After an hour, two pirates come onboard to check on the captain (or to make sure he's not eating all the food the new cook made). Jove and you are waiting for them near the entrance, and as they walk in, they find two sword points hovering before their hearts.

They surrender immediately.

You step to one of the pirates and ask: ""May I ask, what is more important to you, your life, or your-"

"My life." Says the pirate hurriedly.

Jove grins.

...

Half an hour later, two pirates are leading a score of the prisoners to the ship, on orders of their captain, which he relayed through the two pirates you captured, Jove's sword point not far from their backs.

As they come in, Jove, warrior-born and with the advantage of surprise, slices one pirate and spares the other, who presses himself on the ground in surrender. In a few quick motions, Jove cuts through the ropes holding the prisoners, and you rush into the embrace of your younger brother George. Both of you are crying tears of joy and mumble to each other, trying to get all the stories out all at once, then forgetting it all and just being happy to be in each other's company again.

"So, fellas." Says Jove. "Here's the plan, grab these swords."

"You." He points at the pirate who surrendered. "What is more important, your life, or..."

He got a similar answer.

A few minutes later, both the captain and pirate stood and shouted for their men to come on-board. With Jove and the other men from your ship waiting, the remaining pirates don't stand a chance, surprised and ambushed. Once they realize they are losing, the rest of them throw down their weapons and surrender immediately. Seems they aren't so brave when the odds are against them.

The battle is won!

The men all cheer around you, as some of the crew quickly tie the pirates up hand and foot, and lock them in the cells below deck. Jove sets guards on them, and you go with him, George and a few other men from your ship ashore.

You free the rest of the prisoners, some of them are strangers, slaves taken from other ships, other raids. Even a few women. They all cry in disbelief, after giving up hope of rescue a long time ago.

A few of your men bring some of the pirates' treasure chests out, and gold and sparkling gems spill onto the sand. You and George exchange quick grins. As owners of this ship this treasure is rightfully yours. But there is so much of it, you don't mind sharing with the rest of the prisoners, so they can rebuild their lives just like you will bring back the glory of your father's merchant fleet.

You load the pirate ship with the treasure and the rescued prisoners. And you and George stand for a while, supervising the work and looking around the remains of the camp.

"You know," says George, "This place has potential."

"I know." You say. "There are deer here, plantations, and someone is living on this island as well. This could become a merchant station for us, if we build a port we could probably charge ships for resupplying."

"Exactly my thoughts." Says George. "Maybe I should stay? This camp is pretty comfortable, there is plenty of food and drink. And I can map it out and start construction with a few of the crew members willing to stay with me. Or would you prefer to do that?"

What is your answer?

Your brother smiles. "I thought you might say that, you always did complain about that London is too dirty."

"Indeed it is, my brother."

"I will miss you." He says. "But I will be back here as soon as I can resupply and tell this insane tale to father."

We both burst out laughing, thinking of our illustrious father's amazement at the story.

You part ways, and you watch the pirate ship sail away. You stand and look around you at this beautiful island, then turn to the few men that volunteered to stay with you.

"All right men," you say with a big grin, "Let's get to work!"

THE END

"Really?" Your brother is surprised to hear this. "I thought you've had enough of dirty old London, as you call it."

"There have been times," You admit, "but after the day I've had, brother, I think I'll take my chances again with civilization. Not that I will stay away long, I will be back with supplies and more men to build our trading station here."

"Fair enough," George grins.

You stand and watch his figure get smaller and smaller as the ship sails away. You've made Jove the new first mate, and the crew has asked you to be their captain. You agree, for this voyage at least. As the island slowly fades from view, you turn to the wind and inhale that fresh sea air.

Maybe you'll find more adventures on your way.

THE END

"Your mother and father," you say, delicately. "Where are they?"

The girl looks sad, she passes a finger on her throat, gently.

Suddenly you think you understand what you smelt and saw in the forest. Your heart aches for the little thing, all alone on this island.

"Listen to me," you say, putting your hand on hers. "I vow that if I get off this island, I will take you with me, all right? Back to England. You can live with me and my family, we have a big house, with lots of other children to play with and all the food you can eat."

The little girl looks confused at this, as if this isn't something she ever thought about. But she nods hesitantly. When the time comes, you realize, she may not want to go, this is her home now. Well first you have to find a way off this place, you can think about this later.

What will you do now?

"I need to get off this island." You say. "Are there any other people here?"

The girl nods. She stands and makes a swish swash movement with her hand, mimicking a sword. Then made a mean face.

People with swords who aren't nice. That's the message you're getting. Darn. That's probably pirates or smugglers or even some foreign army. Probably pirates at this remote location. Smugglers usually go nearer borders and what army would look to this remote island as a battleground?

Great.

"Do these people have a ship?" you ask.

Nod.

It seems your only chance of getting off this island is this ship. You decide you might as well go and see it. Perhaps these aren't pirates, maybe you can buy or ransom yourself for a trip back to England. You're not happy about it but you don't see any other way out.

"Will you help me?" You ask the girl. "Will you take me to their camp?"

The girl stares at you, then slowly shakes her head.

"Will you point me in the right direction?"

Nod.

What will you do now?

You think about what it might take to convince this unusual, and a bit scary, little girl into helping you. Begging might work, it is surprisingly useful in most societies, people are just too embarrassed not to help you. Or you might try to entice her with talk of a home for her. Or you might appeal to her sense of hate for these armed men.

What will you do?

You sleep for a few hours on the hard stone floor, too tired to care. At the first light of dawn the girl quietly wakes you, gives you a bit of water and guides you out of the cave.

She points north. You nod and she nods back.

"Thank you, girl." You say. "For the kindness you showed me."

For the first time, a small, shy smile comes to her face.

"Until we meet again." You say and set off in the direction she pointed at.

In a surprisingly short time, the trees start to thin and then open up to a huge clearing connecting to a sandy beach. A huge ship is anchored close to the beach, and the bustle of men can be seen even from this distance.

You quickly walk into the trees and start circling around to look at the camp from the side. You see the camp is open, men in rags, but armed to the teeth, are busy unloading cargo from the ship. From the way they dress and the way they look, you're sure these are pirates.

But what to do? Should you try to convince these people to take you with them? How?

Your thoughts are made irrelevant by the cold touch of steel on the nape of your neck.

"What have we here, a spy?" Says an amused voice behind you in a foreign accent.

You turn to one of the ugliest men you've ever seen, he is smiling at you, teeth part brown, part black, part gold. His arms are covered with tattoos and he is holding a sword to your neck.

"I'm not a spy." You croak in fear.

"No?" He tilts his head. "We will see what the captain says." And with that he clubs you on the head.

....

You wake up some time later with a terrific pain in your skull. That's the first thing you notice, the pain. Next is the smell. It reeks of unwashed human bodies, feces and burned wood.

With some difficulty, you open your crusted-over eyes and have a look around, then groan.

Looks like you are in the pirate camp now. Everywhere you look you see gruff pirates eating, yelling or working. It looks like a wood clearing just besides the waters. You can see the masts of two ships over the trees.

On the left you see a group of people tied with ropes - prisoners? As you focus your eyes a bit more, you startle.

These are YOUR people. The crew of your ship! At least most of them. You can't see the captain of THE HIGHLANDER, but most of them are there, alive and well! You can't believe it, you thought them all dead in the storm.

Somehow the pirates must have seen the ship going down and have scooped up the survivors, either to be sold as slaves or kept for ransom, you couldn't tell. Your eyes immediately find George, his arms roped and apparently unconscious. He looks unwell, but alive, alive!

"Good morning sunshine." Says a voice. Taking away your momentary joy at finding your brother alive.

You look up and see the biggest man you've ever laid eyes on, wearing the most gold you've ever seen. Gems twinkle from his ears, neck and fingers. He has a large 3-point hat on. He looks to be about 40, making him a very old pirate indeed.

The pirate captain. You realize.

"So," says the pirate king in a friendly tone. "What have we here? Tell me, stranger, how did you get to our island? And who do you work for?"

You tell him your story since your ship got wrecked. You don't mention it was the same ship as the prisoners came from. A smile slowly spreads on his weathered face. "Got here by accident, eh? I'd like to believe that, makes more sense than the East India Company sending someone so inadequate as a spy. You see, this is our little slice of heaven here, boy. You may have noticed this island has deer, on the other side we even have goats and sheep, brought them from the mainland. We even grow crops. One day, the gold we take off rich merchants will make a stronghold of this island the likes you've never seen before."

He slaps you on the back and adds: "Of course we will have to insist on your staying, we don't get many guests do we boys?" He turns to his crewmen.

His men all laugh mockingly.

"Of course, we don't really keep useless people around, just more mouths to feed. What can you do for us?"

Will you...

You're a proud man, but this day and the loss of your brother and ship have broken you.

You fall in your knees in supplication, your hands held together in front of you in despair. The very act of talking to this mute girl made you long for the company of humans again. The need to go back home to civilization is more than you can bear.

"Please.." you whisper. "Please, I will be forever in your debt if you help me get off this island!"

The child's flickers into hesitation, and then hardens again into a poker-like mask. She looks at you for a moment, as if trying to figure something out, but in the end she looks away, her refusal evident.

What will you do now?

"Do you know of England?" You ask her.

She shakes her head.

"Well, then..." You say. And you tell her all about the big buildings, the carriages, the dresses and factories of London, where you're from. You describe your big mansion and the many servants.

She listens like a child hearing fairytales, wanting to believe it true but not truly believing it.

You eventually trail off. It's clear this is not the way to her heart.

What will you do?

"These men..." You say. "They have hurt you?"

Quick shake.

"But they're bad men?"

Nod.

"They hurt someone you love?"

Slow nod. Her jaw muscles move.

"If you come with me, maybe we can teach them a lesson."

She looks at you, her eyes suddenly lighting up.

"I can't promise anything, but if these are pirates, and I think they are..." She nods, confirming your suspicions. "Then I hate them too. They've hurt many of my friends and sunk many of my father's ships. I will do what I can to make sure they receive justice, even if they help me off this island. They will pay for their crimes."

She nods, fascinated by the idea of justice coming to the pirates.

"Will you help me?" You press your advantage. "Will you help me find them?"

For a long time she looks at you, then looks around her cave.

She nods slowly, her look returns to you. She will help.

"Thank you. Thank you so much." You say. It's an incredible feeling, to have someone else with you.

"Do you mind if I call you a name? It's hard to just call you "the girl" in my head." You say. She doesn't shake her head, so you say: "I'll call you Maria, after my mother."

Nod. A small smile, the first you've seen from her.

You both go to sleep for a few hours. You nod off immediately, exhausted from the day you've been through.

Maria wakes you up early in the morning, and you set off from the cave north. In a surprisingly short time, the trees start to thin and then open up to a huge clearing connecting to a sandy beach. A huge ship is anchored close to the beach, and the bustle of men can be seen even from this distance.

You both stay in the trees, and Maria takes you around the camp, careful to go around sentries you didn't even notice yourself. Good thing she's there, you probably would have stumbled on one of them by now.

From the other side of the camp, you can see there is a large group of prisoners, tied with rope and sitting together. A second look... and you can't believe it! It's your crew! And there, between them sleeping, is GEORGE. Your brother is alive! How can this be? You thought them all lost for sure.

It seems the pirates saw their ship and fished out the surviving crew to be sold as slaves, or perhaps held for ransom.

"Listen," you whisper to Maria. "I have a plan, and we have an advantage - they think themselves completely safe, while we have the element of surprise. Once we lose that, we have nothing. So we have to do something decisive right away, and I think I know what. However, one of us will need to create a distraction, while the other sneaks in and cuts the prisoners free. While the pirates are distracted and not ready for a fight, my crew and I can fight them. There are quite a few more of us than of them."

Come to think of it, there were more prisoners there than you had crew members. It seems the pirates have been busy with more than one ship lately. There are even a few women among the captives.

Maria nods, her eyes cold and her breath relaxed. You wish you felt the same, but your heart is pounding.

What will you do?

You circle the camp while the girl stays where she is. Maria will wait until the pirates are all distracted before going in. You hope this works...

You go a way into the trees and start collecting stones and rocks wherever you can find them. Then you do your best ape impression while throwing rocks into the camp. You've only seen one once at the London Zoo, but you hope it will suffice.

It was a bit like kicking a hornets' nest.

The bored pirates swarm out of their camp, enraged and eager to hunt down the offending apes or monkeys that have been throwing rocks at them. Most of them rush out of the camp with daggers, leaving their larger weapons behind for quick mobility.

You make a few more sounds and then start running away, circling around the camp.

What will you do?

You circle the camp, keeping an eye on the pirates surging to where you were standing before, eager to find the offensive apes.

You get back in time to see Maria caught by one of the pirates, just before she could free the prisoners. But he doesn't see you, so while he is holding down the angry girl, flailing all around, you sneak up behind him and hit him on the head with a large rock. He drops down like a broken doll.

You help Maria up and you both hide behind the group of prisoners. The other pirates haven't looked your way yet, but you only have a few seconds to act.

Fortunately, Maria is very quick. Her little knife flashes out and ropes are being cut left and right. You look up to see George staring you in the face.

"Can it be?" He breaths. "Are you real, brother?"

"I am, brother. And I've come to save you. As usual." You grin at him.

He sticks a tongue out. Brothers will be brothers. "Let's do this." He looks at the other men. "All together now?"

They nod, hardening their faces and preparing for action.

"NOW!"

And you all rush towards the pile of weapons left nearby, swarming over the few pirates there and arming yourselves before the pirates who ran off could realize what happened.

Their captain, a huge man, leads them back with shouts of fury, but as they rush back with their daggers, they realize that you hold most of the guns and all of the swords and axes. They wouldn't have a prayer.

"Surrender!" You shout. "And we will let you live."

The pirate king stares at you with hate. But he knows they have no choice in the matter, no way to win.

"This isn't over, boy." He grates. He motions to the men around him, and they walk away slowly into the forest, leaving you with all of their belongings, and most importantly - their ship.

....

You free the rest of the prisoners, some of them are strangers, slaves taken from other ships, other raids. Even a few women. They all cry in disbelief, after giving up hope of rescue a long time ago.

A few of your men bring some of the pirates' treasure chests out, and gold and sparkling gems spill onto the sand. You and George exchange quick grins. As owners of this ship this treasure is rightfully yours. But there is so much of it, you don't mind sharing with the rest of the prisoners, so they can rebuild their lives just like you will bring back the glory of your father's merchant fleet.

You load the pirate ship with the treasure and the rescuees. And you and George stand for a while, supervising the work and looking around the remains of the camp.

"You know," says George, "This place has potential."

"I know." You say. "There are deer here, plantations, and someone is living on this island as well. This could become a merchant station for us, if we build a port we could probably charge ships for resupplying."

"Exactly my thoughts." Says George. "But there is still the matter of the pirates. Maybe I should stay? This camp is pretty comfortable, well equipped. There is plenty of food and drink. And I can map it out, start construction and fight these pirates. Or would YOU prefer to do that?"

You follow his eyes to the little girl, standing a bit further from the other people. You already asked her to come with you and she shook her head. This place was her home, and someone SHOULD take care of her.

What is your answer?

Your brother smiles. "I thought you might say that, you always did complain about that London is too dirty."

"Indeed it is, my brother."

"I will miss you." He says. "But I will be back here as soon as I can resupply and tell this insane tale to father."

We both burst out laughing, thinking of our illustrious father's amazement at the story.

You part ways, and you watch the pirate ship sail away. You stand and look around you at this beautiful island, then turn to the few men that volunteered to stay with you.

"All right men," you say with a big grin, "Lets get to work!"

They scatter in all directions, each with their task to perform. You turn to Maria. "I think I'm going to have a better time of it here now."

She points to herself, nods and smiles.

"You too, I promise."

And you both sit and watch the sun go down over the beach. It's a beautiful evening.

THE END

You are not a military man, but you have a small knife on you. This may be crazy, but you do have the element of surprise.

You jump out of the trees and land on the taller pirate's back, you drive the knife into his back, but he is wearing some kind of hardened leather jerkin, and it resists your blade.

You end up on your back, lying down and looking up into two VERY unfriendly faces.

"Who the hell is that?" Asks the smaller pirate.

"I don't know. Spy?"

"Maybe."

"I'm not a spy." You mutter.

"Well, that's for the captain to decide, ain't it?" Smiles the smaller pirate, and he smacks you across the face with the pommel of his sword.

Darkness descends.

....

You wake up some time later with a terrific pain in your skull. That's the first thing you notice, the pain. Next is the smell. It reeks of unwashed human bodies, feces and burned wood.

With some difficulty, you open your crusted-over eyes and have a look around, then groan.

Looks like you are in the pirate camp now. Everywhere you look you see gruff pirates eating, yelling or working. It looks like a wood clearing just besides the waters. You can see the masts of two ships over the trees.

On the left you see a group of people tied with ropes - prisoners? As you focus your eyes a bit more, you startle.

These are YOUR people. The crew of your ship! At least most of them. You can't see the captain of THE HIGHLANDER, but most of them are there, alive and well! You can't believe it, you thought them all dead in the storm. Somehow the pirates must have seen the ship going down and have scooped up the survivors, either to be sold as slaves or kept for ransom, you couldn't tell. Your eyes immediately find George, his arms roped and apparently unconscious. He looks unwell, but alive, alive!

"Good morning sunshine." Says a voice. Taking away your momentary joy at finding your brother alive.

You look up and see the biggest man you've ever laid eyes on, wearing the most gold you've ever seen. Gems twinkle from his ears, neck and fingers. He has a large 3-point hat on. He looks to be about 40, making him a very old pirate indeed.

The pirate captain. You realize.

"So," says the pirate king in a friendly tone. "What have we here? Tell me, stranger, how did you get to our island? And who do you work for?"

You tell him your story since your ship got wrecked. You don't mention it was the same ship as the prisoners came from. A smile slowly spreads on his weathered face. "Got here by accident, eh? I'd like to believe that, makes more sense than the East India Company sending someone so inadequate as a spy. You see, this is our little slice of heaven here, boy. You may have noticed this island has deer, on the other side we even have goats and sheep, brought them from the mainland. We even grow crops. One day, the gold we take off rich merchants will make a stronghold of this island the likes you've never seen before."

He slaps you on the back and adds: "Of course we will have to insist on your staying, we don't get many guests do we boys?" He turns to his crewmen.

His men all laugh mockingly.

"Of course, we don't really keep useless people around, just more mouths to feed. What can you do for us?"

Will you...

You circle the camp, keeping an eye on the pirates.

The sound of apes suddenly rises from the other side of the camp, in amazing detail. Maria. Stones start flying at the pirates, little stones that bounce off their heads.

"Bloody monkeys!" Some of them yell. And most of them dump their long swords, pull out their daggers and run quickly into the woods in search of the stone-throwing monkeys.

Only one pirate is left to guard the tied prisoners, and as he looks with interest on the chase taking place after imaginary monkeys, you creep up behind him and knock him on the head with the largest rock you can find. He drops in place and your momentum tumbles you into the group of prisoners.

You look up to see George staring you in the face.

"Can it be?" He breaths. "Are you real, brother?"

"I am, brother. And I've come to save you. As usual." You grin at him.

He sticks a tongue out. Brothers will be brothers.

You pull out a knife and start cutting through their ropes as fast as you can while the pirates are busy elsewhere. In short time, most prisoners are free, but you all keep sitting as if nothing has changed.

George looks around. "Let's do this." He looks at the other men. "All together now?"

They nod, hardening their faces and preparing for action.

"NOW!"

And you all rush towards the pile of weapons left nearby, swarming over the few pirates there and arming yourselves before the pirates who ran off could realize what happened.

Their captain, a huge man, leads them back with shouts of fury, but as they rush back with their daggers, they realize that you hold most of the guns and all of the swords and axes. They wouldn't have a prayer.

"Surrender!" You shout. "And we will let you live."

The pirate king stares at you with hate. But he knows they have no choice in the matter, no way to win.

"This isn't over, boy." He grates. He motions to the men around him, and they walk away slowly into the forest, leaving you with all of their belongings, and most importantly - their ship.

....

You free the rest of the prisoners, some of them are strangers, slaves taken from other ships, other raids. Even a few women. They all cry in disbelief, after giving up hope of rescue a long time ago.

A few of your men bring some of the pirates' treasure chests out, and gold and sparkling gems spill onto the sand. You and George exchange quick grins. As owners of this ship this treasure is rightfully yours. But there is so much of it, you don't mind sharing with the rest of the prisoners, so they can rebuild their lives just like you will bring back the glory of your father's merchant fleet.

You load the pirate ship with the treasure and the rescuees. And you and George stand for a while, supervising the work and looking around the remains of the camp.

"You know," says George, "This place has potential."

"I know." You say. "There are deer here, plantations, and someone is living on this island as well. This could become a merchant station for us, if we build a port we could probably charge ships for resupplying."

"Exactly my thoughts." Says George. "But there is still the matter of the pirates. Maybe I should stay? This camp is pretty comfortable, well equipped. There is plenty of food and drink. And I can map it out, start construction and fight these pirates. Or would YOU prefer to do that?"

You follow his eyes to the little girl, standing a bit further from the other people. You already asked her to come with you and she shook her head. This place was her home, and someone SHOULD take care of her.

What is your answer?

You follow the two pirates as quietly as you can, and for the next hour, you follow them North.

After a while, the trees start to thin and then open up to a huge clearing connecting to a sandy beach. A huge ship is anchored close to the beach, and the bustle of men can be seen even from this distance.

You quickly walk into the trees and start circling around to look at the camp from the side. You see the camp is open, men in rags, but armed to the teeth, are busy unloading cargo from the ship. From the way they dress and the way they look, you're sure these are pirates.

But what to do? Should you try to convince these people to take you with them? How?

Your thoughts are made irrelevant by the cold touch of steel on the nape of your neck.

"What have we here, a spy?" Says an amused voice behind you in a foreign accent.

You turn to one of the ugliest men you've ever seen, he is smiling at you, teeth part brown, part black, part gold. His arms are covered with tattoos and he is holding a sword to your neck.

"I'm not a spy." You croak in fear.

"No?" He tilts his head. "We will see what the captain says." And with that he clubs you on the head.

....

You wake up some time later with a terrific pain in your skull. That's the first thing you notice, the pain. Next is the smell. It reeks of unwashed human bodies, feces and burned wood.

With some difficulty, you open your crusted-over eyes and have a look around, then groan.

Looks like you are in the pirate camp now. Everywhere you look you see gruff pirates eating, yelling or working. It looks like a wood clearing just besides the waters. You can see the masts of two ships over the trees.

On the left you see a group of people tied with ropes - prisoners? As you focus your eyes a bit more, you startle.

These are YOUR people. The crew of your ship! At least most of them. You can't see the captain of THE HIGHLANDER, but most of them are there, alive and well! You can't believe it, you thought them all dead in the storm.

Somehow the pirates must have seen the ship going down and have scooped up the survivors, either to be sold as slaves or kept for ransom, you couldn't tell. Your eyes immediately find George, his arms roped and apparently unconscious. He looks unwell, but alive, alive!

"Good morning sunshine." Says a voice. Taking away your momentary joy at finding your brother alive.

You look up and see the biggest man you've ever laid eyes on, wearing the most gold you've ever seen. Gems twinkle from his ears, neck and fingers. He has a large 3-point hat on. He looks to be about 40, making him a very old pirate indeed.

The pirate captain. You realize.

"So," says the pirate king in a friendly tone. "What have we here? Tell me, stranger, how did you get to our island? And who do you work for?"

You tell him your story since your ship got wrecked. You don't mention it was the same ship as the prisoners came from. A smile slowly spreads on his weathered face. "Got here by accident, eh? I'd like to believe that, makes more sense than the East India Company sending someone so inadequate as a spy. You see, this is our little slice of heaven here, boy. You may have noticed this island has deer, on the other side we even have goats and sheep, brought them from the mainland. We even grow crops. One day, the gold we take off rich merchants will make a stronghold of this island the likes you've never seen before."

He slaps you on the back and adds: "Of course we will have to insist on your staying, we don't get many guests do we boys?" He turns to his crewmen.

His men all laugh mockingly.

"Of course, we don't really keep useless people around, just more mouths to feed. What can you do for us?"

Will you...

You lunge at the pirates in desperation, but the pirate you jump has warrior instincts, at the last moment he moves his body so you hit him on the shoulder. Then he shakes you off and you end up on your back, looking up at two very unfriendly faces.

The short, bald one comes striding at you, looking you up and down.

"So, what is it we have here, then?" He shows his teeth, more like an animal baring its fangs than a smile.

"I.. I was shipwrecked this morning, I seek no harm nor to steal anything, I only want to return home to England."

"Is that right?" Both of the pirates laugh an ugly laugh.

You start explaining but a sword hilt comes at your face and darkness follows.

...

You wake up some time later with a terrific pain in your skull. That's the first thing you notice, the pain. Next is the smell. It reeks of unwashed human bodies, feces and burned wood.

With some difficulty, you open your crusted-over eyes and have a look around, then groan.

Looks like you are in the pirate camp now. Everywhere you look you see gruff pirates eating, yelling or working. It looks like a wood clearing just besides the waters. You can see the masts of two ships over the trees.

On the left you see a group of people tied with ropes - prisoners? As you focus your eyes a bit more, you startle.

These are YOUR people. The crew of your ship! At least most of them. You can't see the captain of THE HIGHLANDER, but most of them are there, alive and well! You can't believe it, you thought them all dead in the storm. Somehow the pirates must have seen the ship going down and have scooped up the survivors, either to be sold as slaves or kept for ransom, you couldn't tell. Your eyes immediately find George, his arms roped and apparently unconscious. He looks unwell, but alive, alive!

"Good morning sunshine." Says a voice. Taking away your momentary joy at finding your brother alive.

You look up and see the biggest man you've ever laid eyes on, wearing the most gold you've ever seen. Gems twinkle from his ears, neck and fingers. He has a large 3-point hat on. He looks to be about 40, making him a very old pirate indeed.

The pirate captain. You realize.

"So," says the pirate king in a friendly tone. "What have we here? Tell me, stranger, how did you get to our island? And who do you work for?"

You tell him your story since your ship got wrecked. You don't mention it was the same ship as the prisoners came from. A smile slowly spreads on his weathered face. "Got here by accident, eh? I'd like to believe that, makes more sense than the East India Company sending someone so inadequate as a spy. You see, this is our little slice of heaven here, boy. You may have noticed this island has deer, on the other side we even have goats and sheep, brought them from the mainland. We even grow crops. One day, the gold we take off rich merchants will make a stronghold of this island the likes you've never seen before."

He slaps you on the back and adds: "Of course we will have to insist on your staying, we don't get many guests do we boys?" He turns to his crewmen.

His men all laugh mockingly.

"Of course, we don't really keep useless people around, just more mouths to feed. What can you do for us?"

Will you...

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