Read an Excerpt
The Jamaican Maid was one of the fastest schooners in the Caribbean. With her sleek lines, narrow hull and shallow draft, her captain and crew were an envied lot among their brethren. The ship's two tall masts and billowing, full sails cut an impressive silhouette on the blue, Caribbean horizon. She was a coveted prize among the unscrupulous lot of cutthroats sailing this part of the sea, a prize that presently belonged to a rather clever and devious soul by the name of Captain Aidan Maymon and his deadly, but jovial dancing winged-skeleton flag.
Maymon was something of an enigma among his fellow pirates. At twenty-four, he was younger than most men who held the position of elected captain, but he made up for his lack of grizzled age with experience and clever wiles that usually kept him one step ahead of his peers and enemies alike. These characteristics served him well over his seventeen adventurous years at sea. Having served on every type of ship that hoisted sails since he was seven years old, and with all kinds of shipmates and captains running under the Red Jack flag, Maymon's talents were many and varied, most of them larcenous, underhanded and self-benefiting. He possessed a keen mind with a flare for navigating and charting the remote and sometimes hidden islands and lagoons dotting the waters in this part of the seafaring world. Lithe and quick-witted, the young pirate ruled his small domain aboard the Jamaican Maid with a casual hand and a sharp tongue. He was quick with his sword if his word was challenged, but even quicker with a biting retort or an amusing anecdote to diffuse a situation and restore the balanceamong his crew. Even still, there were always those on board who chafed under the command of anyone, especially a charismatic, younger man.
The Jamaican Maid had just chased down and captured a fine Spanish merchant ship. Her entire swag-hungry crew and their scallywag of a captain were busy plundering the ship's packed hold, transferring their ill-gotten fortune aboard their own vessel.
Maymon stood on the captain's deck of the Spanish vessel, surveying the activity below him, waist-length black hair stirring in the breeze, as restless and wild as its owner. A scarf of deep burgundy fabric held the mass of hair out of his coal black eyes and kept the blazing sun from scalding the top of his head.
Leaning into the rising wind, Maymon cast a calculating glance at the darkening horizon, then turned to watch men scuttle across the thin boarding planks precariously positioned over the gap of open sea between the two ships. Their arms were laden with bolts of fine silks, sacks of sugar, barrels of rum and precious medical supplies. Occasionally a man would stumble and pause in his task as the sea grew rougher with each passing white-crested wave.
In a hurry to set sail against the changing weather, Maymon jumped up onto the top of the railing, hand entwined in the rough rope of the ship's rigging. Cupping one hand at the corner of his mouth, he called out to the men below, "Look lively, you lazy dogs! The winds be aturning on us."
The men scrabbled to finish, shoving aside the less fortunate of the merchant vessel's officers, several of whom defiantly eyed the pirates, despite their disadvantage of being out numbered, injured and disarmed.
An older pirate, swarthy and scarred to ugliness, stood guard over the small group of bound men. Drawing a long, thin blade from his boot top, the pirate unexpectedly lashed out, grabbing the portly Spanish captain by the front of his ruffled shirt and finely-tailored, velvet waistcoat. The dagger had already drawn blood from the helpless captain by the time Maymon noticed the pirate's actions. The captain's crisp white collar was now smeared with a growing slash of bright crimson.
Jumping down from the railing onto the deck below, Maymon stayed the pirate's murderous hand with his own tar-stained fingers.
"Hold up there, Perkins! There'll be none of that." Maymon's voice was low and throaty, raw from years of salty sea breezes and too much cheap rum. He yanked Perkins' arm back, mindless of Perkins' snarling frown and muttered curses.
The injured captain wheezed, turning a paler shade of white as warm blood welled between the fingers of the hand he had pressed to his neck, but he refused to plead for his life or beg for mercy. Maymon admired that in a man. He clapped the captain on the shoulder and casually shoved him toward his own men, out of Perkins' reach.
"The Captain's been right generous in giving us all that he has. Only fair we leave him alive to tell others the benefits of doing the same." Maymon pointedly pushed Perkins' blade to one side and stared the pirate in the eye until the other man surrendered in the silent battle of wills.
Not bothering to hide his displeasure, Perkins backed down, a vicious scowl as large as the entrance to Port-Royale's bay on his florid, pitted face. Sheathing the deadly weapon, Perkins gave Maymon a murderous glare then spat on the deck, hitting the bleeding captain's boots with his spittle. With a final grunt, Perkins walked away and boarded the Jamaican Maid.
A rumbling of discord rippled through the pirate crew, some disturbed by Perkins' disrespectful behavior to their captain, but most irritated by Maymon's decision to allow the Spanish captain to live. Maymon hastened his men back on board his own schooner before it could grow into more.
Back on familiar ground again, Maymon called for the crew to break out a few barrels of rum and opened a bottle of fine brandy for himself, newly procured from the merchant's captain's quarters, and he loudly toasted his crew.
After chugging a full quarter of the sharp burning liquor, Maymon bellowed, "Set the sails, me hearties. A mother of a gale from the east appears to be brewing to cross our bow afore the sun sets. The Maid'll need to be aport by then and our own fine selves have need of the pleasures of the Charred Horse and the charms of its lovely ladies. Step to it, mates!"
There were yells of agreement and crows of excited anticipation as the pirates hastened to release the Spanish vessel from the moorings that bound the two ships together.
As the crew made ready to set sail, Maymon rooted through a small pile of personal belongings taken from the Spanish ship's few passengers, tossing gold watches and strands of semi-precious jewels into a small heap at his side. Once he amassed a small fortune in glittering treasure, he carried the heaping handful of swag to the railing, all under the watchful, spite-filled eyes of Perkins and two of his more disreputable cohorts, Williams and Tate.
Maymon peered over the edge of the schooner's aft and studied the swirling waters twenty feet below. The rising wind tossed his long hair in the air until it danced around his head like a wreath of sea serpents hell-bent on taking flight. His body curved over the railing, the thin, worn fabric of his black breeches and stained white tunic clinging to the lean lines of his back and firmly muscled buttocks. The twisted length of burgundy and white-striped cloth he wore wrapped snugly around his waist defined the curve of his slim hips and the flatness of his abdomen. More than one man below turned to eye the inviting stretch of fabric over the rounded flesh of the young pirate's ass. Maymon knew it and ignored it, confident his position as captain and the sharp edge of his blade would be enough to keep even the boldest of black-hearted jacks from making a move on him he didn't consent to first.
Straightening, Maymon wormed a small statue from within the maze of folds in his waist sash, and lovingly rubbed a tar-stained thumb over the face of the worn stone. The four-inch carving was a deep jade in color, the primitive markings and curves fashioning a brawny, human-like figure topped with the head of sea creature the likes of which no God-fearing, seafaring man would fancy running into. The head and bare chest of the statue sported rows of stubby horns similar to a turtle's bumpy shell with fin-like appendages on its thick arms and legs.
The carving symbolized the Cemi gods of the afterlife that his Arawak Indian mother had raised him to believe in. His absent, Spanish sailor of a father had only given Maymon his first name, his fine-boned good looks and his devil-may-care attitude toward life.
Idol clutched tightly in one hand, Maymon murmured a short prayer in a soft, wistful voice before reaching down and throwing his small horde of treasure and gold overboard into the swelling waves of the green ocean waters. Behind him, several crewmembers grumbled and cursed, outraged, the cutthroat Perkins among them.
"What goes on here? That be our swag, Captain!" Perkins' alcohol-roughened voice had a threatening edge to it this time. His bloodshot eyes were narrowed down to slits, making him look more snake-like and villainous than usual to Maymon.
"Offerings to the gods, man!" A rakish smile on his lips and a dark gleam in his eye, Maymon showed his tobacco-stained, but even teeth. He defiantly tossed a small gold ring that had slipped from the pile over the side, then watched it swirl out of sight, swallowed by white foam and grasping black tendrils of floating seaweed. Once it was gone he turned back to face Perkins and his small band of disgruntled cronies. "Want them to be kind to you when your time to leave this world comes, don't you, man?"
"Sea Gods!" Perkins stepped forward and spit on the deck, gesturing at the Cemi statue still gripped in Maymon's slender, stained hand. "Heathen creatures only the likes of you believe in, whelp!"
Maymon moved up to meet Perkins' challenge, quickly drawing his long knife from its sheath at his side. He fingered its thin, sharp edge, letting the bright sunlight glitter menacingly off the fine Spanish steel as he talked.
"I can only hope you meet your maker first, Perkins." Smaller in build, but an equal to the other man in height, Maymon met his challenger eye-to-eye.
"Then your tortured," he lightly poked Perkins in the chest with the tip of his blade, letting the sharp steel slice through the first layer of the man's ragged clothing, "homeless, cursed, malingering spirit can come back from its watery grave and tell me which one of us was right." Dropping his voice to a less forgiving tone, Maymon shoved a little harder, forcing the blade to touch skin. "Until then, this is still my ship." One more push and the blade pierced skin. "Savvy?"
Flinching slightly, Perkins managed a small sneer, but relented. "Aye, Captain." He jerked his head in a parody of a nod, his lips twisting to reveal numerous gaps where his teeth used to be. With a backward glance at Maymon, the gnarled cutthroat rubbed at the small stain of fresh blood on his chest and muttered ominously, "For now."
Wiping the droplet of red marring the gleaming knife's tip, Maymon's grin widened. Perkins' dissatisfaction with Maymon's style wasn't a new element in their relationship and Maymon had learned long ago not to turn his back on the man. It was the way of a pirate's life and he had come to accept it. It was part of the challenge of living free.
An older man moved past Perkins and stood close to Maymon's side in a silent show of support and protection. First mate Nathan Sterns had been on board the Jamaican Maid for the last eight years, two years under Maymon's dancing winged skeleton flag and six under the rule of its previous captain, Jonathan Street. An older, tired version of Street, Sterns was a loyal and fiercely protective friend. The tide was threatening to turn against him soon, but Maymon knew Sterns would stand by him at least until it did turn. Self-preservation was the only way to insure revenge on another day.
Bearded, dirty, but with a kindly, grizzled face twisted into a frown of fear and disgust, Sterns shoved his young captain back to the railing. "Put that heathen statue away, boy! Didn't Street learn you nothing in all the years he trained your sorry, lash-scarred hide!" He grabbed the statue and tucked it forcibly into Maymon's tight waist sash, blocking his actions from the rest of the gawking crewman with his own stocky frame. Slipping his hand out of the sash, he wadded the worn silk into his fist and gave Maymon a harsh shake, hissing, "And you gotta stop throwing away the men's hard-earned swag! It ain't right, boy!"
"Have to pay a proper tribute to the gods, Nate." Maymon deftly plucked his statue back out of the sash and waved the carved creature in Sterns' wrinkled, grimacing face. Sterns grappled with Maymon a moment before tearing the figure away and stuffing it deep into Maymon's pants pocket.
Playfully slapping the man's heavy hand away from his thigh, Maymon patted his pocket. "The Cemi spirits guide me way, man. Watch over me. A man can't forget who it is he needs to pay tribute to." Maymon tapped his lips with a dirt-creased finger and whispered, "Mark my words, Nate, it's the proper thing to do."
Sterns glanced back over his shoulder at the pirates milling around close by, trying to eavesdrop. "Those heathen gods aren't going to help you none if the men take a mind to toss you overboard in place of their swag." His voice was rough with concern, made harsh with a genuine fear.
"That's where you're wrong, mate. The gods'll be waiting when it's me time to join them down under the ocean's swell." Maymon winked at Sterns and clapped him on the shoulder, making the man sway on his feet. "I always say a prayer for you as well, mate. You'll see." Maymon smiled and shrugged, turning away to sort through the remaining treasure, seemingly oblivious to the pack of disgruntled men led by Perkins, who gathered to whisper behind his back.
The Jamaican Maid sailed into Tortuga just as nightfall settled its inky veil around the stench-filled town, softening the edges of the garbage-strewn streets and mold-stained, crumbling buildings. Comfortably ensconced in the bawdy, noise-filled Charred Horse, the Captain and crew were deep into their cups in no time at all. The smell of rotting fish and sea brine that usually permeated the air around them was replaced by the odor of alcohol, sweat and human waste.
The rum at the Charred Horse was only moderately watered-down and the rough-hewn, stout tables and chairs weren't prone to break easily, making it a favorite of many a ship's crew.
Seated at a table with his lean back to a wall, a disheveled, drunken serving wench on each side and third snuggled on his appreciative lap, Maymon gulped down the remains of his current tankard.
Bestowing a quick kiss on her lips and a sharp pinch to her backside, he pushed the giggling young lass off his lap, and tucked a gold coin between her partially exposed, tiny breasts. "Sally, my sweet, be a luv and fetch us another round of the innkeeper's best. Enough for all." He swung his arm in a wide circle, taking in the women at his side and the unconscious Sterns. "Everyone looks like they could use a few sips more, darlin'."
Sally blushed and giggled then hurried off to do his bidding, doing her best to avoid grasping hands and catcalls as she made her way toward the bar.
Sterns was sprawled on the table beside Maymon and his flock of whores. His fitful snores and swine-inspired grunts lent a certain rhythm to the jeers and catcalls punctuating the rowdy conversations and frequent outbursts of fighting going on in every corner of the dingy, lively room. Maymon playfully let the last few drops of drink trickle out of his tankard and onto Sterns' face, smiling affectionately when the older man turned in his sleep to capture the small rivulet of beer with an open mouth before it could disappear from his lips.
Maymon's attention was caught by three men standing apart from the more active carousing by one end of the bar, an unwashed trio of stubble-covered, pox-marked faces, all twisted in various dark and foreboding sneers, kept a watchful eye on Maymon and Sterns. In the center stood Perkins, blatantly staring at Maymon, his half-hooded eyes doing nothing to hide the hatred in them.
It was no secret among the crew that a few of the newer men felt the Spanish/Indian half-breed was too young and too undeserving of the command. But none could dispute that Maymon had earned the title of Captain fair and square through a majority vote after their prior leader, Captain Jonathan Street, had met his fate at the end of the hangman's noose two years gone.
Perkins had signed on six months ago, accepting Maymon's station and the plundering and swag under his carefree and clever command. Maymon was calculating, inventive and tricky. He outmaneuvered and outwitted many a seasoned sea captain, robbing them of their luscious cargoes with few major human losses on either side of the battle. Until such time as death or the majority rule changed things, Aidan Maymon would remain captain of the Jamaican Maid, no matter how much Perkins envied and despised him for it.
Leaning against the bar, Perkins hunched over the counter, one hand down the barmaid's blouse. When she grinned and saucily slapped his hand away, he frowned, but pulled a red leather purse from his shirt and threw a coin down in front of her.
The barmaid quickly grabbed up the silver piece, tested its authenticity with her few remaining teeth and moved around from behind the bar. Joining Perkins, one hand grabbing at his groin as she plastered her elf to his side, she pushed a fresh tankard into his hand and murmured something in his ear.
Thrusting his crotch into her grip, Perkins' grabbed the tankard with one hand, and her chest with the other, dragging a sagging breast out of the top of her soiled and ragged-edged blouse.
Sally finally arrived at the bar and tried to worm her way past the groping couple. In her haste, she accidentally bumped Perkins' drinking arm as she wiggled past. Sally smiled at the ugly lout she had jostled and murmured, "Sorry, sir, bit crowded, what?" She managed to get one step away before Perkins reacted.
Shoving the scowling barmaid to one side, Perkins jumped back with an indignant roar. His complexion turned a deeper shade of crimson and one corner of his mouth curled up, revealing an ugly gap of broken teeth. Snarling, he bellowed in the young girl's face, "Stupid, gutter-sniping whore!"
Not a single drop of Perkins' drink had spilt, but he instantly swung at the startled Sally, slapping her viciously across the side of her face, his rough knuckles abrading the skin off her cheek with the force of the blow.
Caught off guard, Sally shrieked and crumpled to the floor. Perkins raised a slop-covered boot in the air. Sally scrabbled backwards across the filthy flooring, navigating an erratic, panicked path through a sea of boots and heedless legs to put herself as far away from Perkins as possible. Once she reached the relative safety at the other end of the bar, she pulled herself up off the floor. Dabbing at the blood gathering in the corner of her mouth with the hem of her skirt, her lips quivered as she appeared to try to stop the flow of tears.
Maymon watched the exchange from his seat across the room, dark eyes narrowed and lips pinched tight at the sight of blood on the young girl's sallow, pale face. Perkins' harsh manner and blatant bullying of anyone smaller than he was had been a sore point for Maymon since the man had signed on to the crew. It was bad enough when the sod turned his abusive and sadistic attention on another able-bodied man, but to bully and abuse a small slip of a girl didn't set right with him.
Rising from his chair, Maymon grabbed each of his trollops and pulled them close. He wove an unsteady path through the crowd of drunken pirates, buccaneers and sailors, his own weight supported largely by the women.
Heading toward the stairs that led to the tiny barren bedroom on the second floor the ladies used to pleasure whatever customer could afford them for the night, Maymon swayed his way to the bar and passed Perkins and his men.
Tripping over his own feet, Maymon lurched drunkenly into Perkins. Hands fumbling over Perkins' body, Maymon finally latched onto the man's shirt and worn vest to right himself, then smiled a cheeky grin and mumbled a slurred, "Sorry, mate. The floor keeps moving out from under me boots."
Jerking out of Maymon's grip, Perkins gave him a small shove backward into the waiting arms of his two whores. "Useless whelp. Can't even hold your liquor like a man."
Smiling, Maymon pursed his lips and tilted his head in an agreeable shrug, before moving off, pulled along by his eager entertainment for the night. As he moved past Sally huddled by the bottom of the staircase, Maymon surprised her with a quick kiss and leering grope. He used the lecherous advance to covertly empty the coin from Perkins' red leather purse down the front of her dress, unseen save by the two of them. He leaned in close and murmured a soft, low whisper of slim comfort to the girl, knowing Sally couldn't be more than fourteen. "Makes up for the damages, Sally, me dear. A man should pay when he blemishes the face of a pretty young woman."
Tears welled again in Sally's eyes and Maymon chased them away with a playful pinch to her bottom that made her jump and yelp, her feathery, young laughter still light and high-pitched like the child she was beneath the harsh make-up and grown-up petticoats. The sound made Maymon sad for a moment. He touched her cheek and whispered, "Go home for the night, missy, there be enough coin in there to make up for a quiet night or two."
She gave him a hesitant smile, but shook her head no and slipped out into the crowd of men, eyes nervously glancing at the watchful innkeeper. Maymon sighed and refocused his attention on his companions as they began to drag him up the stairs, undressing him along the way.
The whole time he moved Maymon was aware of Perkins' unrelenting gaze boring into his back, following him up the creaking, rickety staircase. With a last glance over his shoulder as he turned to enter a shabby little closet of a room, Maymon caught a glimpse of Perkins as the man nudged Tate and pulled Williams closer. The three of them hunched together in conversation, like squalling rats locked in a ship's empty hold.
Three days later, ship's stores replenished and a few minor repairs accomplished, the Jamaican Maid set sail for open water. On the fourth morning, Maymon woke to the sound of fighting and a knife tightly held to his throat. Tate, the bigger of Perkins' lackeys, overpowered him by the grace of his sheer size and physical strength. The scoundrel pulled him from his berth, already manacled and still half-drunk, the unusually heavy after effects from several fine bottles of stolen brandy he had consumed the night before. By the time Tate dragged him out of his cabin and onto the main deck, the fighting was all but over. Only the most loyal or the most rebellious pirate resisted during a mutinous overthrow of a sea captain.
The first body Maymon stumbled across, literally, was Sterns, face down on the deck outside his cabin door, his sword at his side where it had fallen in an obvious attempt to defend the cabin. Sterns had been a good, loyal friend to the end.
Shackled in irons, Maymon was pushed through the crowd of mutinous sailors, but he held his head up high. Until the moment he died today, he was still Captain. Yells and curses filled the air and more than a few threats and jeers were spit in his face. Dead crewmen lay scattered around the deck, a full dozen by his count, his only true mates gone.
"The best of the morning is yet to come, lads!" Perkins stepped forward and grabbed Maymon's arm, wrenching him over to the side of the ship's railings. He leaned in close to Maymon and whispered, "Sleep well, Captain? Amazing what a little laudanum in a bottle of brandy will do to a man, ain't it, boy?" With a harsh, biting laugh of triumph, Perkins addressed the crew again. "We'll be free of this heathen whelp and all his 'offerings' of our hard earned swag to the cold bowels of the ocean."
A cheer went up from the men, knives and swords brandished in the air like triumphant flags of glory.
Maymon stared at his attackers, a sudden, surreal feeling invading his mind and body. Sterns had been like a second father to him. Losing the older man was a blow to his heart, but he was glad Sterns had died like a true pirate, at sea, a sword in his hand, and probably a curse on his weather-chapped lips, fighting for something he believed in and cared for. Leaving this world for the next wouldn't be so bad, knowing that his friend would be there, too.
Maymon tilted his chin in the air, defying Perkins, refusing to cower or beg. "The deepest, darkest bowels of the ocean have a place for a murderous bastard like you, Perkins. Mark my words, you'll be seeing it for yourself soon enough. The gods'll see to it."
Perkins grabbed the hairless, jutting chin and clamped his hand hard enough to leave marks on Maymon's smooth skin. "Maybe, but you'll be there first to greet me, boy!"
Releasing his hold, Perkins shoved Maymon closer to the edge, face turned to the dark water below. Caught up in the bloodthirsty wave of excitement the mutiny had inspired, the crew began to slice open the dead and throw the bodies overboard to attract the few hungry sharks always trailing the schooner.
Sharp, rancorous laughter carried on the rising wind and several pirates began to shout and point as more and more sharks circled the ship, feasting on the mutilated bodies, drawn by the scent of fresh blood. The ocean churned and rippled with swirls of dark crimson that grew and ebbed, marring its jade-colored waves, as the sharks grew increasingly frenzied with each new offering.
Perkins transferred his brutal grip to Maymon's thick hair and forced him to watch, calling out to the feasting sharks. "I'm saving the sweetest meat for dessert, you bloodthirsty bastards." Laughing, Perkins pulled Maymon back from the railings and gave him a hard shake with the hand fisted in his hair.
"You'll make a lean meal, to be sure, but I know you'll be right pleasing to them, lad." Perkins sneered in Maymon's face, a menacing, lustful gleam in his eyes. "Unless you'd like to live a few hours more and be pleasing to me and the boys. Might even decide to let you live, if the pleasing is good enough."
Maymon smiled, then spit in Perkins' face. Perkins backhanded him, but he couldn't stop the feisty young captain from proclaiming, "Rather take my chances with the sharks than play with barracudas like you, Perkins." Casting an accusing glare at the men surrounding him, Maymon added, "You lot make the cold-blooded creatures down under look infinitely more inviting."
Snarling, Perkins shoved his face to within an inch of Maymon's, his fetid breath releasing the stench of tobacco and beer-laced fumes into the young man's face. "Let's see how you feel when their teeth start tearing out your innards, boy."
Maymon wrinkled his nose, lips twisting in disgust. "That'll still be better than the thoughts of your reeking mouth anywhere near me, you triple damned, scurvy swine."
Outraged, Perkins fisted Maymon's shirt then ripped it open down the front. "Arawak bastard whelp. Think you're better than most." He pulled Maymon away from the railing, wrapping a stout arm around Maymon's waist, pinning the young man's back to his own chest, groping at Maymon's ass with his free hand.
At the sudden, intimate contact, Maymon began to struggle, twisting and trying to butt his head, but Perkins' greater height and strength gave the older man the advantage. "Get the wine barrel and some rope, boys. We got us some entertainment."
The remaining crew scrambled to comply. Maymon tensed, prepared for a fight to the death, refusing to surrender to gang rape.
He was surprised when Perkins threw him into the men's arms and commanded, "It'll be more satisfying to watch him eaten alive. I've waited a long time for this and I'm not going to wait any longer. Tie him down good boys. I want to see him struggle long and hard."
After tying Maymon, hands still shackled, face-up around an empty wine barrel, several men heaved the barrel up onto the railing. Perkins grinned and leered once more, grabbing the ties to Maymon's breeches with one hand. "Last chance, lad, me or the fishes."
Maymon spit his answer, hitting Perkins directly in the eye. "A curse on you and your bitch mother's black heart for ever giving birth to the likes of you, you son of a cunt-slurping whore."
Perkins slowly withdrew his hand to wipe the spittle from his face, his glare hard and eyes narrowed.
"Drop him. Leave him to Davy and the sharks."
The men obeyed, shoving the barrel off the railing and into the water.
Helpless, Maymon tumbled down into a circle of fins. He lay bent and spread across the wooden surface, torso bound tightly to the curved barrel. Suspended in time for a brief moment, Maymon looked up into the clear Jamaican sky, getting what he knew would be his last glimpse of sunshine in his life before his weight offset the balance and the barrel rotated, plunging him under the foam-capped waves.
Underwater, air slowly escaping from his nose in a thin stream of bubbles, Maymon struggled against the ropes binding his torso to the barrel. Eyes wide open, he kicked out, legs heavy against the force of the churning water, and the wake of the swimming predators. He kicked one particularly aggressive shark that came too near, raking his boot against razor sharp teeth and solid muscle.
Just as the last of his breath leaked from his lungs, a huge shape rose up out of the depths directly beneath him. It was unlike any sea creature he had ever laid eyes on. Twice his physical size, with rough nubs of bone on its head and chest, it had scores of fin-like growths protruding out of its massive arms and broad back. Even as it cut the ropes that bound him to his fate, Maymon realized this was the Cemi god come to save his miserable soul and take him to the afterlife, just as his mother had said it would. The tribute paid over the years had been worth the sacrifice after all.
Letting the hazy cloud of darkness that pushed insistently at his mind have its way with him, Maymon smiled a greeting and passed out just as he felt his limp body enfolded in a pair of strong, cold arms.