And while I waded through the filth and tried -- as best I could -- to tend to the squalor and sickness, James sat idly at the Captain's table and ate great quantities of salted meats.

"Delicious," he mumbled through a full mouth and greasy lips.  His tongue slipped through like a serpent designated to wipe clean his mustache, but he belched before it could finish, and a little chewed pork escaped his grotesque mouth and landed on his plate before him.  Seeing this, both he and Captain Leandeuves barked out a peal of sharp laughter together before James finally regained his upbringing and reached for a silken napkin for which to blot his face.

"Well, enjoy it my young friend.  It shan't last much longer."

"What's this?"

"We are very nearly out of food.  Now, you are well aware that seamen are prone to Scurvy should they stay out at sea for too long, am I right?"

James ran a fork along his chin, "Yes.  Something to do with lack of vegetables, correct?"

"Right," Leandeuves shook his head and blew a dark strand of hair from his eyes, "so there's that.  Also, most of the fruit has rotted away by now."

James frowned, "I had noticed that.  Disturbing."

Leandeuves waived a dismissive hand at James' remark, "Worst of all, we were forced to throw in two barrels of salted meat back there, when we made the deal for the 'Cargo.'  We may run out of food before we return home."

Hearing this, the blood drained from James' face, "Is this true, Captain?"

A single nod was James' answer.

The color returned to James' face in such a wave of heat that he became flushed with something other than wine, "Why would you do something so irresponsible so as to endanger the lives of your crew?!"

"Now calm down, James.  I am certain we will be safely docked before we starve, but... because of those two missing barrels of meat, we will be forced to start rationing out our food supply."

Anger flashed in James' face, and his mouth contorted into a quivering portal of rage.  He slammed one fist down upon his plate and broke it, then threw a shard across the cabin until it struck the far wall and exploded into a fine dust, lost in oblivion, "Why then, pray tell, did you decide to give away our food to those awful traders?!"

"Because the slavers are growing wise.  They knew we weren't about to sail back across the sea with an empty hold.  They squeezed us because they knew we would pay."

"And we did."

"We surely did.  Now your father will turn that carrion in the hold into a fortune unlike that you could ever imagine.  A year from now you will be pissing gold, my friend.  You needn't worry."

James sighed, a closed-mouth snort that resembled the sound a child might make after causing a huge public disturbance with yet another tantrum, "'Tis a shame we have to waste food on that miserable lot down below.  Can we cut their rations at all?"

"Har har!  James, they barely eat as it is!  Be reasonable, lad.  You'll get nothing from a ship full of dead slaves, and then this'll be a tremendous waste of a trip, won't it?"

Another sigh.  That imbecile was right, and James detested being shown up by someone of Captain Leandeuves' status, "And Annie?"

"Her rations will have to cut as well, I'm afraid.  But she's young and tiny; she probably consumes a quarter of what you eat!"

James allowed himself a little smile as the captain chortled at his own witty retort.  When the captain had finally settled down James said, "No.  What I meant was: what do we do about Annie?  I fear she has gone utterly mad.  You should have seen the way she attacked me!  I locked her in our quarters for her own good."

Leandeuves shook his head sadly and muttered, "The sea's no place for a woman.  How she finagled her way aboard this ship is beyond me.  I pity her a little.  I hope that once we land she'll have regained her senses.  Having one's feet on dry land can often do wonders for one's general temperament."

A derisive sneer cut across Jame's wan lips, "Are you sure?  Pity?  Or fear?"

"Aye, pity."

The End

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