by Grace Swickard
Chapter One Lydia finished her chores inside the blacksmith shop and started to head inside. As she passed Benjamin Smithy, her father's apprentice, banging on a red-hot strip of metal, she asked, "Still going?"
"Yup. I want to finished this last batch before dinner."
"You're not going to finish that before nightfall, let alone dinner. Come on, I'm hungry."
"Alright, alright, just this last one."
"I'll help." Lydia sighed as she grabbed one of her father's large aprons and a long pair of tongs. She pinched the metal with the tongs, let Benjamin strike it with his hammer, then flipped it over. After a few minutes, she stuck it in cold water to cool, then took off her apron and put the tongs back.
"There. Now can we go to dinner?" She asked her friend.
"Yes. We can." Benjamin said in a dignified tone and offered her a sweat and dirt covered arm. Lydia giggled, then took it, and they headed to the house.
When they entered, they tried to close the door as quietly as they could, but to no avail.
"Lydia Christine Turner!" Lydia winced as Sarah, their housekeeper and cook yelled her name.
"Yes?" She called back.
"Don't you and Benjamin dare come into this house with dirty hands! Now go wash. Both of you!"
"Yes, Sarah!" The teens shouted as they went to go wash their hands.
When they came into the dining room, they found Mr. and Mrs. William Turner already at the table.
"Sorry." Lydia apologized sheepishly as she sat down. Her parents nodded, then said grace.
As they were eating, Lydia asked casually, "So, have you talked to the Commodore yet?"
Benjamin stopped eating and tried to look nonchalant and pay attention at the same time. Mr. William Turner smiled and shook his head. He knew both children had been planning this for two weeks now, and were only trying (rather badly, in fact) to pretend it didn't mean much.
"Yes I have." Her father answered slowly. The two children leaned closer. "And I decided you and Benjamin can go with Robert and his family tomorrow."
Lydia and Benjamin both shouted, "Yes!" then looked down, embarrassed, as Elizabeth Turner gave them a 'look' at yelling in the house.
"Thank you, Father" Lydia managed to conceal her delight enough to thank her parent in a normal tone.
Later on, as Benjamin slept in the hayloft and Lydia in her bed, neither of the children thought they would be able to sleep out of excitement. But they were mistaken, for soon after the moon arose, sleep claimed them.
The next morning, as Lydia and Benjamin piled their bags aboard the small sailing ship Courageous, the Turners were talking to the Norringtons.
"And you're sure they'll be safe?" Elizabeth asked anxiously.
"Quite, Elizabeth." The Commodore smiled at her, but, as always when he saw her, his expression and voice seemed to be tinged with a shade of regret. "The Courageous may seem small, but she's the sturdiest little ship on the water. And our getaway island is quite hidden, so we shall be very secure."
"Well, thank you both for taking them." Will Turner said gratefully.
"They'll be no trouble at all. Robert's been jumping about for weeks reminding us about this. I'm sure they'll have a splendid time." Mrs. Cassandra Norrington assured them.
Now, Mrs. Norrington was a very motherly woman. She was gentle and kind in every manner, and very pretty, from her gray eyes and ever smiling mouth, down to her slim figure. Many young men were disappointed when she married the Commodore, but all agreed they made a perfect and loving couple.
Soon, Lydia and Benjamin were waving to Lydia's parents as they and Port Royale shrank into the distance. When it had nearly disappeared, they turned to Robert Norrington, their best friend, who said, "Want to explore the ship?"
"Sure!" Lydia replied, and within minutes the three friends were running up and down the small vessel, trying and touching everything, and generally getting underfoot. But the small crew of three sailors laughed at them, and did not mind the children's energy.
After a few hours on board, a cry of "Land ahoy!" was heard from the crow's nest. Lydia, Robert and Benjamin raced to the stern of the ship and peered out to the horizon. Indeed, barely visible, was a small gray smudge of land against the blue of the sea.
"That's it! There's Valor Isle!" Robert pointed to it.
"I thought it was Violet Isle." Lydia said.
"Well, that's what Mother named it because it's covered in violets in the summer. But I call it Valor Isle instead."
"And why is that?" inquired Mrs. Norrington, joining the trio.
"Well, Violet Isle sounds so, so, girly." Robert wrinkled his nose at the sound of it.
"And what's wrong with that?" asked Lydia, hands on hips.
"Oh, no, here we go again." Benjamin said with a sigh. But before his best friends could start another of their well-known fights, the Commodore came up behind them and said, "That's your new home for three whole days. Now, when we get ashore, I want all of you to get settled, then come out for dinner before you go explore."
"Yes, sir." all the teens answered.
It was late afternoon by the time the boat was anchored and the passengers were heading to the house. The three children barely had time to run around the island before they were called into bed. All of them slept lightly, knowing there was so much fun to be had, and only three days to do it in.
On the evening of the third day, Robert, Lydia and Benjamin were sitting out on the sand, looking at the stars. As they lay there peacefully, Robert spoke. "Well, it's been fun, anyway."
"Yeah." Lydia agreed. "Except for the time you pitched me in the ocean."
"Well, you said you felt to hot to run, so I tried to cool you off!"
"And she ran after that!" Benjamin remarked with a grin.
"Yeah, after me!" Robert said indignantly. They all laughed at the memory, then fell silent again. Suddenly, the silence was broken by a far off rumble. Benjamin sat up and looked around. Robert sat up as well and asked, "What was that?"
Lydia joined then and said, "It sounded like thunder." As the three peered into the darkness they heard a voice calling, "Children! Time for bed! Robert! Benjamin! Lydia! It's time to come in!"
"Coming Mother!" Robert called back as they started to get up.
"I hope it doesn't rain tomorrow." Lydia remarked as they headed inside.
"You're probably scared of getting seasick!" Robert teased.
"I am not!" came the retort.
But if they had looked a little longer, the children would have seen small dots of fiery red flicker against the night sky.
Sunrise found the children saying good bye to the small island as their belongings were put onboard. When everyone was ready, the Courageous sailed away, leaving Violet, or Valor (depending on your preference) Isle behind them. When Port Royale started to come into view, the three friend crowded on the balcony, eager to see home again.
As they looked out, Benjamin squinted and looked puzzled.
"What're all those gray clouds? They don't look like fog, and they aren't rainclouds."
"It almost looks like…" Lydia shaded her eyes with her hand and peered out on the horizon.
"Smoke." breathed Robert in disbelief. "Father! Mother! Come quick!"
Both adults came at a brisk walk to the children. "Now, now, what's going on?" Commodore Norrington asked, a slight smile on his face, ready for whatever game they were playing. His smile disappeared as he followed Robert's finger to the columns of smoke. His wife, also looking serious, turned to him and asked, "Can we go any faster?"
"They're going as fast as we can manage. It's probably nothing." But the Commodore's words assured no one, least of all himself. The instant they sailed into the harbor, he yelled for his second-in-command, Gillette, who was running to meet them.
"Gillette, what's going on?!" John Norrington asked the question the entire crew had in mind.
They were all answered with one word.
"They attacked last night, sir. Took us all by surprise." Gillette was panting slightly from all the distance he had covered in a very short amount of time.
"Casualties?" Robert's father was quick to take charge.
"Nine dead, twelve wounded and two missing. So far."
At this, Cassandra Norrington gasped a little and held the children to her. Her eyes were wide, and her face pale, but she turned to her husband and asked, "John, what should I do?"
"Go help the wounded and reassure the others. Try to find out what happened." The Commodore told her as he ran off the ship and started for the town.
"You heard him, children. Let's go." Mrs. Norrington took a deep breath, then went to go help, the teenagers following. On the way, Lydia heard a familiar voice.
"Sarah!" Lydia ran and hugged the housekeeper. "What happened? Are you alright?"
"Oh, Miss Lydia. I was so afraid they'd taken you as well." That small sentence dropped like a cold stone into Lydia's stomach.
"Who'd've taken me?" She asked, but she felt she already knew the answer.
"Why, the pirates."
Lydia looked at Sarah, then in the direction of her house. "Father! Mother!" Lydia whispered, then ran off toward her house. Sarah started after her, but Mrs. Norrington held her back.
"There's work to be done, Sarah. Robert, you and Benjamin go after Lydia. Leave her be though. Just keep an eye on her." The boys nodded, and Sarah followed Cassandra to the wounded.
By the time the boys reached the house, they founded Lydia standing, wide-eyed in the entrance. They looked in, and saw Lydia's once orderly house left in destruction. Lydia took a small step in, then looked around. Right, into the study, left, into the dining room. She took some more steps, then paused, bent down and picked up something.
"Father's sword." Lydia whispered, then stared at the red stain near the end. She started up the stairs, then froze as a pirate stared at her. She yelped when Robert touched her arm.
"It's alright." Benjamin said comfortingly, and pointed to the stain near the pirate's heart. If he had one. "He's dead."
Lydia swallowed hard, then crept up the stairs, easing around him. The boys did the same. Lydia picked up another sword, this one with a red point as well. "Mother must have used this one." She handed it to Benjamin, then ran into her parents' room. Robert was about to follow her, but Ben, being in front, stuck his hand out and shook his head. Lydia ran into each room upstairs, then slowly walked out of the last one, staring at the ground.
She walked past the boys and the dead pirate without a word. Reaching the couch in the study, she sat down and drew her knees up, looking at nothing. When Robert and Ben reached her, she raised her head and said softly, "They're gone."
The boys looked at each other, Robert made as if to speak, but they simply sat on the other couch in silence.
After she had gotten over the initial shock, Lydia began thinking furiously. Why? Why had her parents been taken? Why had the pirates attacked? A memory tugged at her, then drew her in.
"Why? That is always the question, love. Yeh've got to figure out what's happened and why. Ev'rything's planned. ‘Cept when it's not planned." Her uncle had explained to her when she was eight.
"That doesn't make sense, Uncle Jack." she declared after a moment of thought
"Nothing makes sense in life, love." He advised her soundly, then leaned back in the very chair Robert was sitting in now.
She had puzzled over this, then smiled and accepted it. "Alright."
Her uncle laughed. "I like this girl of yours, Will! She's quick."
"Well, you ought to. She's your goddaughter, after all." Her father smiled as he answered Captain Jack Sparrow. But Jack Sparrow was busy making coins appear and disappear for the delighted Lydia.
The present Lydia smiled slightly at the memory, then looked over at the large portrait of her family that hung over the fireplace. Her father was standing, his dark eyes piercing and wearing a secretive smile. Her mother was seated, hair curling perfectly around her face. Standing between them was a young Lydia, grinning with a hint of mischief in her eyes. Lydia stood and moved over to the picture to stare at the silhouetted figure on a small ship between her parents. Lydia's smiled at the reference to Captain Jack Sparrow in her family history. As she reached up to touch her mother's face, Lydia nearly knocked over a large silver candelabra. She righted it, then her eyes narrowed as she stared at it.
Robert looked up as he saw Lydia walk over to her family portrait, then stare at the silver candlestick. She put it back, then walked quickly to the door. She took a few steps in, then peered into the study.
"Robert!" she called. "Come here." Robert got up and walked over to her. "Look into that room," here she pointed to the study. "and tell me what you see."
Her friend gave her a strange look, but did as he was told in a confused voice. "I see chairs, couches, a table, a fireplace, a candelabra, your portrait,…"
"The candelabra." Lydia spoke insistently. "What do you notice about the candelabra?"
"Um, it's large, silver, valuable, … I'm not quite certain what you're looking for." He said as he turned to her, but she had already moved.
"This doesn't make any sense." Lydia mumbled to herself.
"What doesn't?" asked Ben, who had joined them by the door, but Lydia kept talking to herself as she re-enacted the pirates' moves.
"The pirates came in, obviously saw the candlesticks, but ignored them to go upstairs, not taking any valuables. Father comes out with his sword and kills one. Mother follows and wounds one with her sword, but the pirates don't run and don't kill either of them. Instead, they overcome both of them, then kidnap them. Why?"
"Your guess is as good as mine." Robert commented as he, too, tried to figure out this puzzle
Lydia's thoughts were lightening fast now. The pirates wouldn't attack Port Royale without a reason, and the reason was usually to get gold and jewelry. But in this case, the pirates didn't want those, as they had taken nothing from her house but her parents. So why else do pirates rob if not to gain riches? What else could they want? The ransom for her parents would not be as high as others in Port Royale, as her grandfather was no longer the Governor, and her father had no other family. So why take her parents? They obviously had something the pirates wanted.
"If not money, then what?" She asked, then sighed and looked up at her friends. "What do my parents have, besides money, that pirates could want?"
"Knowledge?" Ben guessed.
"But knowledge of what? Neither of them were that highly educated, and neither of them are doctors." Lydia bit her lip and walked back over to her family painting, staring at it. 'Help me, Lord.' she prayed silently, then stared harder.
All she saw was her father, with a blacksmith's hammer in his belt and a sword at his side, standing straight and tall, one arm on her mother's shoulder. Lydia cocked her head at her mother. Elizabeth Turner was sitting with one hand in her lap and one hand on her child. Lydia reached up again to touch her mother's face, then noticed the fine silver chain necklace her mother wore. On it was a gold piece with skull and crossbones etched on it, but it was partially hidden by the dress in the painting. She remembered her father asking the painter to paint it on her mother, even though it was his, as he thought he would look silly wearing a necklace. Even one that came from the…
Lydia froze. "Ben! Robert!" She turned to them. "What do you know about the Isla de Muerta?"
"Well, it's the island that can only be found by those who know where it is, but I don't see…" Benjamin answered her in a confused manner.
"It's an old wives' tale. It doesn't exist." Robert said in scorn.
"It does. Your father has been to it." Lydia spoke quickly, silencing Robert's laugh. She looked down and said slowly, "That's where the pirates want to go."
"But why take your parents?" Ben asked.
"Because they both know where it is. Both of them have been there, and they took both of them to make sure the other behaves. Father would do anything before he allowed men to hurt Mother, and the same with her." Lydia fell silent and bit her lip.
"So what do we do now? Tell the Commodore?"
"No." Lydia shook her head. "Even if he did believe us, he's got enough on his plate trying to clean up this mess without going to look for a blacksmith and his wife on the theory of a girl." She looked up at both of them. "We have to go after them ourselves."
"No! Absolutely not." Robert said emphatically. "Lydia," he turned to her. "try to be reasonable. We can't rescue your parents by ourselves. It's impossible. Wait for all this to calm down and then Father will send--"
"Didn't you hear me? Your father has enough to deal with, I'm not going to burden him with this!" Lydia retorted.
"So you're going to go off and get killed?"
Lydia bit back an answer and simply glared at Robert. Robert glared back, then sighed.
"Look, you're my friend, and I don't want you to get hurt. Promise you won't go after your parents alone." Robert looked her straight in the eye. Lydia glanced at Ben, then nodded. "Swear!" Robert commanded.
"I swear I won't go after them alone. Alright? Happy now?" Lydia said, and Robert nodded.
A little while later, Mrs. Norrington came to the house. "Lydia, are you alright?" she asked kindly. Lydia nodded silently. "Well, then, lets go to the house." She started to walk out when Lydia spoke.
"I was wondering if, well, if I could stay here tonight."
Mrs. Norrington's look was understanding, Robert's was disbelief.
"With him?" asked Robert, pointing to the dead pirate on the stairs.
"Ben and I can move him." Lydia said quickly, giving Robert a look. Robert suddenly felt very suspicious.
"I'd just like to, well, be where they were. And, just pretend they're still here, like always." She explained.
Ben piped up. "I can stay here with her, just in case."
Robert's suspicion deepened.
Smiling at her, Mrs. Norrington nodded. "Robert will help you, then come home. Won't you Robert?" The question was more of an order than a request. Robert nodded slowly.
Later, when the unwelcome visitor had been moved, Robert turned to Lydia. "Remember, you swore you wouldn't go after your parents alone. I'm holding you to that."
"I know, alright?" Lydia sighed as Robert eyed her with mistrust. "I keep my oaths, Rob. I swore I wouldn't, so I won't. Satisfied?"
Robert sighed, then looked at Ben, who widened his eyes and looked completely innocent. Robert nodded, then set off home, looking back often at the two figures on the doorsteps. Despite Lydia's assurances, he felt as if something was going to happen, whether he liked it or not.
It was midnight, and the town of Port Royale slept. All, except two small figures tiptoeing carefully through the streets. There was a small noise as the first person banged into a barrel, but other than that, they reached the harbor without incident.
As soon as the guards' backs were turned, the two shadows ran past. They climbed aboard a small ship, then started to sail away, keeping close to the shoreline so as not to attract attention.
A few hours later, Lydia lifted up her head and breathed in the cool night air. A smile started to grow on her face. She loved the feel of the ocean, the salty air, the endless horizon, everything about it. She jumped down to the steering wheel, then turned slightly to port. With the wind as it is, we'll be there in no time, she thought to herself, and her smile grew.
Then, Ben's voice sounded from down below.
"Uh, Lydia! I think you should see this."
Lydia quickly walked below deck, asking as she went, "What's the mat--" She stopped. Lying asleep on the bags of food was Robert Norrington. Lydia's eyes narrowed as she prodded him with her foot. Robert drew in a breath, then looked up sleepily at Ben's surprised face and Lydia's angry one.
"What are you doing here?" She asked slowly, face darkening.
Robert looked instantly awake. "I knew it!" he said.
"Knew what?" Lydia asked in a dangerous tone.
"I knew you'd go off. Didn't matter if I made you swear or not, you're going after them. You're going to go look for your parents in my boat!"
"I swore I wouldn't go after them alone. And I'm not."
"Lydia," Robert said in an exasperated tone. "Ben is wonderful, but he's not going to be much help against thirty pirates. Sorry, Ben." Robert said as an aside, and Ben nodded to him. He turned back to Lydia "And what did you tell my parents about stealing our boat?"
"I left them a note saying I couldn't bear it anymore and that Ben and I are going to stay with a relative of mine. Sorry about taking your boat, I swear I will return it."
"So you're lying to them too, now?"
"I'm not lying to anyone!"
Ben sighed and took a seat on one of the bags Robert had vacated. He knew that this was turning into a shouting match, and the only way to deal with it was to let them scream themselves hoarse, wait a little, then continue on as usual. He was well accustomed to his friends' way of interacting with each other.
"Well, I highly doubt you're sailing away to a small country house to stay with your aunt!"
"So what if I'm not?"
"So what? This is my family's ship!"
"And I'm sailing it! So you can either come with us, or I'll throw you overboard and you can swim home!"
"Are you, or are you not, going after your parents?"
"I used to think you had brains, Lydia."
"And I used to think you cared about my family!" With that, Lydia stalked up the stairs to the deck above. Robert, sighing angrily, followed. Ben, wisely, stayed below.
"You know what your problem is? You're… difficult!"
"And what's that supposed to mean?" Lydia yelled from the stern.
"It means," Robert walked over to the steering wheel and was trying to take it from her. "you're stubborn, won't listen to anyone, and always think you're right!" He pulled it toward him.
"Well, you don't have all the answers yourself, Robert James Norrington!" She yanked it back.
"Oh, yes? Well, at least I'm smart enough not to go after thirty savage pirates on my own!" Toward him.
"At least I'm smart enough to have a plan! And listen to you! You don't even know what my plan is!" Toward her.
"I was trying to find out, but you just kept yelling at me!"
"You yelled at me first!"
"You kicked me!"
"You were lying on top of my breakfast!"
"Which is on my ship that you stole!"
"Borrowed! Borrowed without permission, but I swore I'd bring it back!"
"Well, let's bring it back now!" Robert gave a particularly hard yank on the wheel, which made Lydia stumble back a few steps. As soon as she regained her balance, she charged Robert like a mad bull. They both fell heavily onto the deck from the impact, then started punching each other.
Ben looked up when he heard a thump. ‘I'll give them two minutes'. he thought, estimating when the fight would be over.
Both teens lay on the deck, breathing heavily for a bit. Then Lydia sat up and said, "Fine. Ok? Fine. Hear me out, if my plan doesn't work in a week, I will give up and go home. Alright?"
Robert gave her a measuring look. "One day."
"One day! That is totally unreasonable!"
"One--fine. Five days."
"Tw-three days. I'm giving you three days, that's all."
Lydia glared at him, and Robert glared right back. "Fine. Three days."
"Good. Swear it."
Another glare. "I swear if my plan doesn't start to work in three days, I'll give up and go home. There. Happy?"
And with that, they both sat up and stalked off in opposite directions. Suddenly, Ben's head popped up from below deck. He looked at Robert, then Lydia. He walked over to Lydia and asked, "You guys done?" Lydia turned a menacing look on him and said, "Hmph."
"Yup. You're done." Ben glanced at Robert, who was hunched over on the other end of the small ship. "I'll give him an hour to cool off." Lydia muttered, "Hmph." once more. Ben looked at her with eyebrows raised. "And I'll give you two hours." Lydia started to look at him. "If you glare at me like that again, I'll make it three." She turned back around and "Hmph"ed again.
A little while later, Robert walked over to Ben. "So," he said casually. "Do you know where we're going?" "Nope." Ben continued to loop up the rope he was holding.
"Of course you do." Robert said through his fixed smile, which meant ‘You're not going to make me talk to her.'
"Nope, no idea. Lydia's in charge of the plan." Ben smiled serenely back at Rob, saying in his way ‘Oh yes I am.' "She over there if you want to ask her." Ben pointed to the barrel Lydia was sitting on. Robert sighed, gave Ben a dirty look, then casually walked over. He stared at the horizon for a while, then spoke without looking at her.
"So, where are we headed?"
"Decided my plan would work?" Lydia spoke to the horizon as well.
"I'd have to find out where we're going first."
At a look from Benjamin, Lydia bit back her reply and simply said, "Tortuga."
Robert's jaw dropped as he stared at her. "Tortuga?" Lydia walked over to the wheel.
"Lydia, do you have any idea what Tortuga is? It's a haven for pirates and thieves, and, and assassins, and, and worse people! You can't be serious!"
Lydia turned to him. "Have you ever been there?"
"Has your father?"
"He's heard tales."
"Oh, I bet he has." Lydia looked at the horizon, then yelled, "Open the mainsail! Sun's coming up and a good wind with it!"
"Aye aye, captain!" Ben shouted from below.
"Well, have you been there?" Robert said.
"Yes." Lydia answered calmly. Robert stared at her with an open jaw. Lydia took no mind and simply shouted, "Hoist it up high now, Ben! We want to catch it as soon as we can!"
Robert shook his head to clear it Things were happening too fast for him. It was starting to look like there was a side of Lydia he had never known. And as he had been her friend for years, this was a little disturbing.
"What do you mean, you've been there?"
"I've been to Tortuga. Many times, in fact. Now, would you go help Ben? We're trying to get there in three days." They both glared at each other, then Robert went off.
While he and Ben were done raising the sail, Robert looked down, then spoke to Ben.
"Did you know?"
"Know what?" Ben asked, looking at the sky.
"That she'd been to Tortuga."
"So she thought it was alright to tell you, and not me?"
"Probably because she knew you'd react like this."
"Like what? Like I'm shocked and outraged that she commonly visits a pirate's haven? And that she kept it secret for years? Why shouldn't I be outraged?"
"Do you tell her everything that you do?" Ben said sensibly.
"Well, no. But she still should have told me. I mean, I feel like she's a whole other person right now. Someone who can steal a ship without a qualm and visits pirate coves often. It's quite, well, unsettling."
"You don't know the half of it." Ben muttered.
By the end of the day, they had arrived in Tortuga. They moored the boat on a small cove, hidden, but still accessible. Robert had the feeling that Lydia didn't just discover this extremely convenient docking place.
"Alright, here's the plan. Ben and I will go ashore into the town. Rob, you stay here Then we'll--"
"What?!" Robert protested. "I stay here and let you two go off alone on an island filled with pirates? Are you mad? And what am I supposed to do?"
"Ben and I know the town and know how to blend in. You stay here and make sure the ship doesn't get stolen."
"And what am I supposed to do if pirates do try and steal it?" Robert asked as Lydia and Ben started to leave.
"Kill them." Lydia said as if it were obvious, then left. Robert glared at her, but as she was no longer paying attention to him, it did little good. He sighed and sat on a barrel, thinking how unfair life was. But the other two only got a little ways from the boat when Ben whispered something in Lydia's ear. She looked surprised and sounded outraged, but Ben talked to her reasonably. As both were making gestures toward the boat, Robert's interest picked up. Finally, Lydia snorted, then shouted, "Oh, fine. Hurry up, Robert! We haven't got all night!" Robert looked up in surprise, then hurried to join them. Lydia looked annoyed, but as he drew near, Ben winked at him.
"What did you tell her?" Robert asked when he neared Ben.
"I told her you were probably so annoyed you would take the ship and leave us here while you got your father."
Robert stared at him a bit as the idea hit him, then said, "Hey! Why didn't I do that?"
Lydia snorted, then stalked off, obviously too superior to stay around such dunces. The two boys then had to walk quickly to catch up to her.
As they headed toward the town, Lydia stopped and gave Robert some instructions. "Whatever you do, try not to look like you've never been here. The moment you act as if you're unsure, all sorts of people are drawn to you. The best of them being pickpockets and thieves. Stick close to Ben and me, and don't get lost!"
"How do I not act unsure if I've never been here before?"
Lydia sighed in exasperation, and Ben said, "Pretend like anyone who messes with you will be killed in a slow, painful manner. But try not to look hostile, just mean enough that people will leave you alone."
Robert nodded, eyes wide and anxious. Lydia saw his look and her face gentled. "Don't look so worried! You'll be fine." She said with a small, encouraging smile, then turned to Ben. "Watch him, will you?" she whispered. "I have a bad feeling about this." Ben nodded, then motioned to Robert to follow Lydia as they moved slowly into the town of Tortuga.
Lydia and Ben walked through Tortuga with the ease of long experience. Lydia ducked through fights and around trysts, Robert following her, still wide eyed at her easy confidence in this dangerous place. Ben brought up the rear, smiling slightly at Robert, and trusting Lydia to know the way. They eventually made their way to a noisy pub, where a full out fight was going on. With Lydia walking confidently around the raging mass, they headed toward the counter.
When the rather pudgy bar master saw them, he threw his towel over his shoulder and said to them, "Here, this is no place fer children! Get yeh gone!" waving his hands at them. Lydia simply smiled.
"Good evening, Samuel."
The bartender peered at her at moment, bald pate reflecting the lamplight, then broke into a full smile, showing he had lost a few teeth.
"Why, if it isn't Miss Turner! How yeh doing, lass?"
"Fine, thank you. I was actually wondering if you'd seen my uncle recently."
"Ah, now, let me think…" Samuel's face contorted with thought.
Robert leaned toward Lydia and whispered, "Are you sure this man is trustworthy? He looks like a man who has sampled his wares far too much."
Lydia turned to him with an icy look. "Do not judge on appearances, Robert. If you do, you will be dead before the day is out."
Samuel now lit up as he remembered. "Ah, yes, got hisself dead drunk three days ago. Woke up the next morning and staggered off somewhere. That's the last I've seen of him."
Lydia's face fell, but she managed a smile and thank you before she left, the boys following behind. Robert stared, wide-eyed, as he edged past, and Ben nodded in respect to Samuel as they walked back through the fight.
Outside, Lydia leaned against an unoccupied alley and thought hard.
"What're you doing?" Robert asked curiously.
"Thinking about where my uncle would be now." Lydia answered without looking up.
"Who is this uncle of yours? I thought both of your parents are only children. And what kind of person would he have to be to get drunk on a pirate's island?" Lydia suddenly looked up and motioned Ben and Robert to follow.
"And why do I feel like no one's listening to me?" Robert asked no one in particular, as he walked after the other two.
They walked until they reached a group of ladies who were dressed in garish clothes and wore bright make-up. Lydia walked up to them and asked for a person by the name of Giselle. A woman with blond hair, a false beauty mark, and a dress that was having trouble keeping the straps where they were supposed to stay, came up to the trio.
"Hello Giselle. Have you seen my uncle lately?"
"Nah. He didn't come to see me, if that's what yer askin'. Not lately, anyhow." Giselle replied.
Lydia sighed. "Well, thanks anyway."
"Sure thing, Lydia." Then, as Lydia and Ben walked away, she spotted Robert, who was still staring at the rather revealing dress. Giselle smiled, then, looking him over said in a saucy tone, "Well, hello there handsome."
Robert looked on either side and behind himself to make sure she wasn't talking to some one else.
"Hello." he replied. How strange, his throat was suddenly starting to constrict, and his heart started beating louder. It slowed to normal when Lydia turned, saw what was happening, then grabbed his arm.
"We'll just be going now." She said as she started to tug Robert away.
"Aaw. I was about to have fun, too." Giselle said in her normal, nasally voice.
"He's my friend, Giselle. Remember? My friends --"
"Are off limits, yeah, yeah I know. Too young for me anyhow." Giselle then turned and walked back to the group of women.
"Thank you!" Lydia called, then dragged Robert away to a safe distance.
"Your uncle has some strange friends." He commented in a breathless voice.
"You don't know the half of it." Lydia muttered under her breath. When Robert didn't answer, she looked back at him, and saw he was still staring at the group of ladies. She glanced down, then asked quietly, "Did you think she was pretty?"
"Pretty? She was beautiful." Robert said without looking at her. If he had, he would have seen her hurt look that only lasted a moment. Then she turned around and said softly, "Hm. You don't say."
Robert did turn at that, and saw Lydia staring out to sea, and Ben staring at him with a horrified and disbelieving expression.
"What?" Robert asked Ben, who jerked his head at Lydia, and stared at him as if it were obvious what he had done was absolutely idiotic. Problem was, Robert had no idea what he had done to earn such disgust.
"What?" He asked again, not understanding and feeling as if he was accused unjustly of a crime he didn't even know of. Ben simply rolled his eyes and sighed in exasperation at his friend's density.
To be continued...