CHAPTER EIGHT – The Most Uncomfortable Tree You Could Be Tied Too

The tide drifted out slowly across the sandy beach. It was a peaceful morning. It was hard to believe that a couple of hours ago a deadly storm had ripped the surrounding waters to shreds.

A beaten and broken vessel had been chewed up and spat out onto the shore. Her wooden hull was missing important chunks. Her mast was gone. If you were to look at it for too long you would probably get splinters stuck in your eyes. The rats didn’t seem to mind. They were just glad to be dry and safe and able to walk on land again.

Further down the coast lay a bruised and beaten body. It wasn’t moving.

A rowboat hit the sand and several men leap out onto the beach. They quickly heaved the boat ashore and rushed over to the body.

“This one could be the boy”.

One of them pushed the body onto his back with his shoe. “Yeah, looks to be the right age and description. Check his pockets.”

The two men checked but found nothing. Gruel had no belongings even before the storm. “Well, at least the captain will be pleased that we found him alive if it is him. I don’t see any resemblance myself but better take him anyway.”

The bigger one picked the boy up and slung him over his shoulder with ease. Gruel remained unconscious for the rest of the journey to the main camp where he was thrown down and tied to a palm tree, the most uncomfortable tree you could be tied to.

A few hours later Gruel finally came too. The last thing he remembered was watching Pegleg Pete being swallowed up in the storm. Now he was looking at pirates and lots of them. Around twenty, he estimated. They were setting up camp. In the distance was their ship anchored. It was beautiful, just as he had always imagined a pirate ship to be.

Gruel thanked all the stars in the sky. He had made it to the island. He then recognised a voice in the distance and wished he was still floating in the ocean.

“At last, sleeping beauty awakes. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”

A figure walked towards him. It was the man from the tavern who was searching for something. He was covered in gruesome scars and scary tattoos. His curved sword danged at his side and glinted in the morning sun. He wore no hat on his bald head but was clearly the captain. The way he carried himself, with ruthless authority and plenty of bravado, made it obvious.

“The names Captain Bloodhound and welcome to my camp and my crew. Please, make yourself at home. You are our honoured guest.” The pirates close by sniggered. Captain Bloodhound continued his speech, “please, don’t get up. You must be tired of evading our capture for the past two weeks. Are you thirsty?”

He brought Gruel water and let him drink as much as he wanted. He then gave him a mouthful of bread to eat. “Tell me, what happened to the man you sailed with?”

Gruel finished his bread and replied, “if I am your honoured guest then why am I tied up. What do you think a thirteen-year-old boy could do against twenty grown men?”

He smiled. “So you’re a clever one.”

“Not really. I never went to school, but I can tell when someone is pure evil and you reek of the stuff.”

The whole camp erupted in laughter. Even Captain Bloodhound found it funny. “That I cannot deny. But what makes you think your friend is any better than us, ay?”

Gruel didn’t have an answer. He didn’t know much about Pete except for the elaborate stories he told of himself. They always painted him in a good light, but that was probably because he chose the words.

“I can tell you that he is no saint. In fact, he makes me look like Mother Teresa in an Angel’s costume. A ruthless pirate to the bone. I bet he hasn’t even told you his real name, has he?”

Gruel was speechless. He hadn’t thought of it that way. All this time he had been sailing with a pirate, and one that could have been the most bloodthirsty pirate in living memory.

The Captain knew he had hit a nerve. Satisfied, he turned to his crew, “come on men, let’s leave this young man to think through his next words carefully. Now that he knows he ain’t got no friends left to save him he’ll tell us where the map is or taste how sharp my sword is.”

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