The Rambling Man saw the skull and crossbone banners of the oncoming pirate ship. He saw exactly what it was that bore down upon them, and he understood, even if those around him did not.
He stood stock still, stationary and staring, as the crew ran frantically to and fro, preparing defenses, hauling up the gunpowder, loading cannons, and securing their pistols and long rifles. They readied for war, and upon the approach of the pirate ship, close enough to see the blackened points of rifles aimed back at them, opened fire. Thunderous reports rang through the air. Thick black smoke clouded men's vision, byproduct of the firing of the weaponry. Massive cannonballs exploded into existance. Grappling hooks leapt from one ship to the other, binding them together, cementing their fate. Men boarded: buccaneers covered in sweat and hair and stink, dressed as beggars and twice as ugly.
And during all of this, the Rambling Man only stood by, at the rear of the ship, watching with a hawk's eye, his long hair and travelling cloak caressed by the sea breeze, whipping them back behind him.
The others fought valiantly, but in their distress, were outdone. The Rambling Man knew this to be true before the battle even started. He did not fight.
He was not the only soul to not participate. The ship's newest guest, Cory the lively monkey, in his profound intelligence, had witnessed the Rambling Man's inaction, and went to him. When the large, bearded Captain of the pirate ship boarded with his wooden stump of a leg and leather eye patch, he looked about his latest conquest. Everywhere he saw men, recently conquered, subdued and tied up. More lively prisoners from his plunderous conquests. Every man in this ship would become his unwitting prisoner.
Save for one.
There, near the back, a tall man, head raised with bright eyes and long cloak, stood proud and erect, seemingly overlooked by his band of pirates. The Captain approached, and saw upon the man's shoulder a monkey.
And at once he knew.
"So, I've found you again, you little devil."
The Captain considered the Ramblng Man with fierce eyes. He, on the other hand, smiled pleasantly back, wordless.
The Captain growled, dismayed.
"You sure about this one?" questioned the Captain. To the monkey. "He looks like a pretty boy to me. Straight from the city, I reckon."
A squeal from the monkey seemed to have settled the matter. The Captain scratched his considerable beard and nodded.
"Fine. Be that way. But by my figurin', he won't last five minutes."
The Captain turned and stamped back to his dark ship, wooden peg clapping loudly upon the sea-warn boards of the deck. He ordered the prisoners to be transported onto the pirate ship. Cory the small monkey hopped off the Rambling Man's shoulder and boarded the ship with the Captain. A crewman approached the Rambling Man on their way to the other ship.
"What was the Captain going on about?" asked the crewman. "What are they to do with you?"
"I'm uncertain," replied the Rambling Man honestly. "But I suspect your position to be more appealing than mine now."
The pirate ship was under way, traveling the waters with great haste on an unknown course. The crew was below deck as hostages. The Captain of the pirates was seated with the Rambling Man in the Captain's private dining area, along with Cory the monkey.
"We have a job for you," the Captain soon explained after they had seated and settled. They say upon tall wooden chairs around a small wooden table. His legs, both flesh and wood, were stretched out before him, as he sat eating peanuts from a bowl. Cory was on his shoulder this time, eating from the bowl as well.
"You and the monkey?" asked the Rambing Man, curiously.
"Aye, that's right," grinned the Captain. "Me and the monkey. You see, there's this particularly large chest full of the shiniest gold this side of the good, round world. Brimming to the top with riches; enough to buy me and my mates whatever we'd fancy. Dare I say even enough to put this whole pirating business behind us, though I guarentee nothing.
"But there's a problem. A woman. A woman so beautiful and with such a voice as to lure any good man to his certain doom. Soon as we heard of this treasure, you could be sure we set sail to this island fast as could be. But this woman, see, she's a regular sea witch, a terrible creature from the depths who casts her spells over good men like you and me. Old Man Durward we sent first, and what he saw scared him so bad he left his skin behind as he ran away! Little Pete, who turned into your friend Cory here, was next. You see what became of him. And we don't even know the fate of Big Barlow; no one's seen sight of him in nearly two years. Rumor says he's turned into something much, much worse since stepping foot onto that island.
"This is where you come in," concluded the Captain as he handed Cory a handful more of the peanuts. "Your little friend here, since his unfortunate incident upon that island, has taken it upon himself to find the most likely suitor to battle against that vile woman. And he's chosen you. So you'll be the one going to this island, finding this sea witch, and stabbing her black heart through. As incentive, I'll have the boys do some unpleasant things to your friends in the hold if you decide not to go. And if we should get our treasure and be off with it, I may even be so generous as to tell you where your precious princess has gone off to. I own these seas; I hear everything that goes on over the water.
Well, what think you? Do you accept, or are you going to be uncivil about it?"
And so the Rambling Man considered the Captain's tale for a moment. At length, he returned the Captain's stare, smiled his Rambing Man's smile, and said aloud, "I've never met a woman I haven't liked!"