Edgar and I ran for a good while before stopping in front of an old oak tree, like every other pine and oak we passed earlier, well, at first glance. "There it is," Edgar said with awe.
"The place is a tree?" I asked, confused.
"No!" Edgar guffawed. "Just look a little down."
My gaze fell down on a trap door that was nigh indistinguishable from the ground except for a small lock and a few hinges on the side. Edgar then knocked thrice on the door and recited, " Scroungers we be, looking for refuge."
For the briefest moment, nothing happened. I stared at Edgar wondering what I had gotten myself into when the door came ajar and I heard voices and cries of mirth.
"Edgar!" shouted the boy at the trapdoor. " What ya bring us this time 'round?"
Edgar replied, "Just some scraps of beef and potatoes along with a kid looking for a place to stay, John."
John then proceeded to eye me up and down before telling us, "Reckon the boss needs to look him over before he gets those scraps. Well, jump in."
Edgar dropped into the hole, and I started after him but then hesitated with doubt. "What? You ain't got much to lose, now do ya?" said John.
I pondered over this and came to the conclusion that he was right, what could I lose? I lowered myself into the abyss.
What I saw astounded me. I didn't expect the place to be larger than maybe a few cupboards or a hut, but it instead was larger than two of my houses combined. The place was illuminated by dozens of wax lanterns that hung onto the walls, letting no nook and cranny unlit. The structure was divided into 7 rooms, all with wide open entrances except one, where a wooden door polished to a shine blocked the way. Also in the place were things you expected to find in a household, such as a pantry stocked with food and tables piled high with whole assortments of things.
But what astounded me the most was the variety of the people inside of it. The age of it's occupants stretched from a little less than a decade old to the late 30's. They came from a whole variety of backgrounds, I heard some people who spoke with a very light English accent to somebody with a French tone to his voice. They were all dressed in a variety of garments, and very strange ones too, I could've swore I saw a man with a Women's wig on! Still, they all had food to silent their stomachs and drinks to quench their thirst.
"Neat, eh?" interrupted John. "Place was built by Spaniards who tried to smuggle in rum to get past the taxes imposed by local officials. Got caught though, and they all were hung. Was nearly 3 decades later before the founder of this Sanctuary,David Bladescar, discovered it. He furnished all the furniture ya see now. A great place, only trouble that we got is the heat. Hotter than Satan's place here. But, you'll get used to it, if you stay."
"If?" I said nervously.
John didn't hear. "Well, better go meet the boss."
John nudged me along until we came in front of the furnished door, which John knocked thrice upon like Edgar did earlier. "Come in,"yelled a gruff voice.
John opened the door, I walked in, and the door shut behind me. I was alone on this.
The room was barely lit, just enough so I could see a stranger in front of me and a crudely made desk in front of him. The stranger had a rusty beard and rusty hair that grew all over his head, ending up with a lot of the hair being up near the front of his head. He had green eyes, eyes that looked filled with wisdom yet that had seen much suffering. He wore normal clothes, a little better washed than the other urchins but dirty nonetheless. But what was the most intimidating feature of his was a scar made by a knife. The grisly scar wrapped around his neck and looked like it would burst open at his slightest movement. "So..... your Jack?" said the man in the same gruff voice
"No last name?"
"My parents died 3 days ago, I never did get to know my last name, sir."
"Ah.. My condolences" said the stranger with pure sadness. " I'm David Bladescar, the founder of the Scrounger's Sanctuary. Now tell me, how many winters have you suffered through?"
"Five years?" David said with astonishment. "Edgar, did you know about this?"
Edgar appeared out of the darkness, "I could see that was he young, but I didn't bother to ask how so."
David returned his tired gaze to me, "You aren't very old kid, you may be more of a hindrance than a help come hunting time. So, why should I let you stay here?"
I gulped and replied reluctantly, "I don't have any talents sir, I just seek shelter and food in my belly. Whatever you give me to do, I'll try my best."
The man sat there and stared at me for an eternity. My eyes never left his, and his never left mine. He let out a slight smile. "That's all I ask for."
I let all my pent up breath out and returned the grin. " Thank you sir."
David then continued, " Today you shall be fed and clothed and sent to bed by Edgar here. Tomorrow, you'll learn some tools of the trade."
Edgar then came out from behind the desk and led me out. That night I ate like a savage and drunk to my heart's content, and somewhere around midnight I was let to my bed. I continued to think about my new home and new caretaker until my thoughts passed and my eyes shut for good.
It was early morning, and the crack in the ceiling were just starting to let the sunlight in. I started to wake up, opening my eyes and stretching when a pail of water was thrown over me.
"Wake up Jack!" yelled Edgar.
"Already was awake!" I responded, before climbing out and falling to the dirt floor.
"Look around ya then! Everybody else is gone."
Only then did I notice that me and Edgar were alone, all the beds vacated and the previously joyful atmosphere turned into one of drab.
"Where did they go?" I asked.
"To make a living, fetch the food that feeds us every night and day, left nearly an hour ago. Don't fret though, we aren't looking to get anything, just to make sure you know how to help us to help you," Edgar hurriedly replied. "Alright... let's get you a suitable weapon." And he walked off.
"Weapon?" I gulped, following.
Edgar laughed at this. "How did you expect us to feed ourselves? We don't steal everything we get our hands on, that usually is just a fall back method. The real game is hunting and gathering."
"But a weapon? Won't gathering be a better place for me?"
"Maybe, but first thing we need ta do is make sure you can use a weapon. You show promise, you get to hunt alligators and such. If not, you gather. Simple stuff."
We stopped in front of a cabinet and Edgar opened it up, inside were a whole assortment of gear, reaching from blunderbuss to broadswords. However, Edgar picked a sword, if you could call it that. It was a dull gray and the handle a rusted brown.
"Um.... this?" I asked reluctantly.
"Yep. Didn't expect you were going to get a king's sabre the first day, did ya?" Seeing me still unconvinced he added, " It ain't the shiniest thing, but if you use it right, can be a match for even the mightiest sword in Tortuga."
"I guess so. But, where are we going to test it out?"
"The Tortugan Graveyard. Not too hard of a place. Now, let's hurry up, need to get back by noon!"
We dragged ourselves through the hammocks and reached the trapdoor. We climbed through, and started walking. We went for a while before I dare asked, " Who is David Bladescar? I mean... what is his story?"
Edgar took a time before answering, "Our leader. He hasn't told many of his stories before the Sanctuary, but he let slip that he once served on a ship and is fairly good at handling a cannon and helm. But he doesn't recount stories of the ship. Won't even tell us the name of the vessel."
The rest of the journey continued in silence until we arrived before the graveyard. "Here we are. Now, take your cutlass out. I'm gonna' kill an alligator, and you will do the same afterwards."
Edgar proceded to walk up to the beast with his sword drawn. He stared over the gator, and then jumped up and brought the sword down. It pierced through his whole body and killed it instantly.
"Now, kill yours."
I gulped down and proceded forward. I stood silently and looked over the opponent, looking at him for a good while. He charged forward. Scared, I side-stepped his rush and watched as he ran past. He turned around, looking bloodthirsty. I gulped again and waited before realizing that waiting wouldn't work. He wasn't smart, but neither was he dim. He had one downfall, and that was his anger. The gator charged again and this time, I met him straight on. We both ran at each other, both intent on death of our adversary. At the last moment, however, I slid down, legs first., and put my sword in front of me. The alligator was on a dead run, and had no time to even remotely slow before he was speared through the head.
"Christ!" Edgar called. "Never have I seen a little kid do that before, let alone kill the thing! Well done Jack!"
I grinned with pride. We spent the next half hour gutting and cleaning the carcasses for meat, ands then got ready to return back. I was going to be a hunter.
To be continued...
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