LEGEND OF ANN BOUNTY
by Anita Louise
Chapter Fifty Three
Ann watched for an instant, then she began to walk toward Asterea each step purposely taking her farther from the stranger she could not get out of her mind.
"You look well, I take it your living accommodations are not too drab?" The woman's words brought Ann back to the present. "Huh? Uh...Oh, I am fine. What is it with you?"
Holding out the bottle she had so carefully carried Asterea replied, "You seem to be off on another of your day or should I say night dreams. I thought you might like some company, since you refuse to come in."
Reaching out to take the bottle, Ann gazed at it. "You wouldn't have it in your mind to get me drunk on this by any chance?"
Smiling, Asterea, wrapped her left arm around the woman's waist, "Never. I have already seen that you can drink me under the table, easily. If you would rather I go...did I see you speaking to someone over there?"
Ann removed the cork, took a long drink and answered, "Hit the spot," handing the bottle to Asterea she continued, "no, I was merely in the shadows and possibly you mistook the tree near by, or the foliage."
Asterea grasped the bottle took a large gulp, wiping off the excess that had spilled down her chin, she smirked, "Either you were with someone or you were deep in conversation with a tree? I am not a fool you know."
Ann pulled away from the woman's hold on her waist as she said, "You do not own me. I think maybe we need to set a few rules."
Asterea took another drink, her eyes burning holes into Ann's. "You forget many things it seems. I could have had my way with you at any time, yet I have not. This is not like me, I am reminded every day of this by my crew. They would just as soon I get it over with and be on my way."
Tossing her head, Ann's flaming hair followed suit and in what moonlight there was, it looked as if sparks were emitting off. "Oh, so I have become talk among your crew...as well as many I am sure. That is why I chose to stay out here, nothing but the trees, the animals what little there are left to keep me company. And anyone else that happens to venture this way, will not be met with love. I have tried to talk to people, asking about you and about me, and I get nothing. It is as if neither of us ever existed before this." Ann walked further away, turned, her eyes set, her jaw clinched before she began to laugh.
It was Asterea's turn to become upset, the woman placed a hand on her hip, took another drink before she cursed, "Damn you Ann Bounty, what are you laughing at?"
"You, me, this crazy situation. Sometimes I become so frustrated, so filled with craze, I want to scream, kill the first person that looks at me. Woman, you drive me crazier than any of my aches. I know you as a friend, a person that I can stand beside and trust you will cover my back. I have no life before you. And...you have been kind to me. Still, I am not a fool. I know of your feelings, I know what your crew thinks of me, of us. Tell me Asterea, Ann which ever one you are this night, didn't it ever cross your mind that maybe, I could have taken you whenever I wished. That I knew deep inside I needed more than that, more than just a good time and a headache to greet me in the sunlight?"
It was Asterea's turn to be surprised, she had never known this woman to be so open and it had unnerved her. The woman was at a loss for words.
Suddenly Ann began to pace back and forth, her boots kicking at the sand, "It! You think of me as it?!"
Asterea smiled, "You are more beautiful the angrier you get. I did not mean for you to think I consider you...uh...er...an..." her eyebrows raised a little, "You are not an it, you are a beautiful woman and...why...I don't know you wield some sort of ungodly power over me."
Ann walked toward the woman reached out and took the bottle, "Truce, then? It seems the two of us are so alike, if we should ever tangle, I fear neither of us would walk away." She took a drink and handed the bottle back.
Asterea took it replying, "I hate to admit it, but you are right. That is a good reason to keep you on my side. How bout showing me your living quarters?"
Ann laughed, "I am afraid it is quite plain, nothing much there. I am sure it has none of the accommodations you are used to."
"Another reason I came down here tonight is to tell you that a ship has docked today. And it carries on it, fresh supplies, as well as a few slaves. Thought you might want to know."
Ann pondered the woman's words before she muttered, "Slaves? Why should this interest me?"
Shrugging her shoulders, Asterea answered, "Don't know, thought maybe you were tired of staring at four walls, maybe new faces, might put that color back in your cheeks."
Dropping to the sand, sitting, Ann gazed up at the woman, "Takes more than that and there is nothing wrong with the color of my cheeks. I think you missed me."
Asterea squatted, her eyes gazing into Ann's, "Missed you? You must be daft woman. We just recently got off a ship, a ship where we were running into one another constantly. "
Reaching out, Ann's left hand tapped the woman on her right shoulder throwing her off balance. Asterea fell backwards, as she hit the soft sand of the beach she laid still. Ann waited for the woman to say something but not a sound was heard. Finally she crawled toward her, and as she neared, it was apparent, Asterea was just laying back, taking in the heavens above.
Ann reached out and grasped the bottle, tugging it from the woman's hands. "Damn, give a person a fright would you!
Sitting up, Asterea grinned, "Sure glad it was soft sand I fell onto. Sometimes, Ann Bounty you remind me of a young child at play time. I never know what to expect of you and it keeps me on my toes."
Ann took a drink then said, "Seems to me you are on your back."
Chuckling, Asterea reached out and grasped the bottle, "Give me that, I need a strong drink right about now."
A soft breeze was caressing the women, sounds of night birds making beauiful music filtered through the air. The moon had come out from behind the clouds radiating the area. They seemed to be lost in each other for a few moments before Ann jumped to her feet, "Come on, I'll walk you back."
Holding up her hand, Ann grasped it and pulled the woman to her feet, dusting of her trousers, Asterea said, "I take it you are not going to invite me to your quarters this night?"
"You got that right, now come on, let's go."
Grumbling, Asterea started to follow Ann from the area. The two women kept passing the bottle back and forth, talking, laughing as they made their way toward the lights of the village.
In the foliage the woman that had spoken to Ann earlier watched, her teeth clinched, eyes, flared, as she hissed and cursed, under her breath.
Chapter Fifty Four
The tavern was filled with riotous sounds as the two women stopped to gaze into the melee. A devilish grin traveled Asterea's face. She poked Ann in the right side, "How bout it, feel like a little exercise?"
Grinning, the statuesque woman answered, "Not this night, I do not need to get my blood boiling."
Shrugging her shoulders, the woman muttered, "You don't like to do anything anymore it seems. What happened to the woman that loves to fight, have you lost your backbone?"
Gazing at the woman, Ann scoffed, "I have no need to prove anything and getting into a melee such as this is not worthwhile. Now, let me walk you back to your quarters then be on my way back."
Asterea stared at the woman, "All right, but you have to promise me to come in, at least share a toast with me."
Smiling, Ann asked, "A toast? You will go to any extremes to get me into your bed."
A look of amazement settled on the woman's face as she said, "I never know how to take you Ann Bounty. I think I know you and you go and say something like this. Just a toast between two friends. It is the least you could do. After all, I have heard tales of a treasure and would like to discuss this with you. We may put out to sea sooner than expected."
"Treasure huh? You have everything you would want. I must admit your talk of treasure has me interested, just where is this?"
Walking away, Asterea answered, "I do not have everything, though it seems you think I do. Come, my place isn't that far. You have an adventurous spirit, and I am sure you will enjoy a trip such as this."
"You may be wrong, I have enjoyed the quiet, the chance to settle for a spell. I had hoped my memory would return but I just get drabs here and there. It is enough to drive a person wild." She hurried to catch up with the woman.
As they walked the cobblestone streets, the sounds of boisterous gatherings filtered the night air. Neither spoke, taking long strides, and before long they were at the front of the dwelling. Ann sighed, "Here you are," Gazing toward the sky she added, "it is late, I should get back, we can talk another time."
Asterea grasped her right hand, holding it in a firm grip, "Time is just a matter of the mind. And for you and I we have all the time in the worldly realm. Come in, relax, share a drink and let me tell you about this journey."
Ann gazed at the woman's hand on hers before she said, "I should go. Do you keep all your guests this way."
Releasing the woman's hand, Asterea spouted, "No! If a person does not wish to visit, that is there right... I...you think it has all been wonderful for me here? I am lonely...I miss your presence, your words."
Reaching out to pat the woman's hand, Ann added, "My body."
A smile broke across Asterea's face, "Yes, damn you, I miss you. Are you going to dismiss me because of this?
Shaking her head Ann whispered, "No, lets go in." I want to hear of this treasure."
A shadow was moving from building to building, blue green eyes following every movement the women made. And as they disappeared into the dwelling, the woman stepped into the street. She was viewing the area for several seconds before she began to make her way..."A look of dismay traveled her face as she spat, "I don't know what has gotten into you Ann Bounty but you are teched in the head to be coverting with a she devil such as this. I must get you alone, I have to get you out of here and back to..." Her eyes glanced around the area, "back to us." Her hands were on the trellis leading up to the balcony.
The night wind was gently easing its way across the land. What had started as a cloudy day had subsided, stars were now out in all their glory. There was a calmness that had settled on the land. Cheery lights could be seen from windows. In the distance sounds of serenading birds could be heard..
Ann stood her eyes gazing toward the ships that were bobbing in the distant waters. Many had stopped to rest, stock up on supplies. She moved her shoulders back and forth, feeling the tightness losing its grip upon tired muscles. Emerald Green's straining toward the stable, as she watched every person's coming and goings.
When Star had agreed to go into Larrissa to aid several families, she became uneasy. But trying to talk Star out of anything was like banging her head against a tall tree. The woman was going to do what she felt was best. Ann knew in her heart that she would have done the same thing, still it pained her to be apart for even a fortnight.
Thoughts of the day Star left on this perilous journey still fresh in her mind. She wanted to go with the woman, but, they needed her there and so with a heavy sigh she bid the woman adieu. The time had past quicker than she expected, Linden kept Ann busy with the resistance movement. She knew that a lot of this was to keep her mind occupied and it was working to an extent. Her days were filled with excitement, but it was the nights...they were lonely. It made no difference if she was in a crowded tavern, she still felt alone.
Star had eased her way into her heart and before Ann knew what was happening she found herself wanting to protect and care for the woman. When Gabrielle and Sea had vanished in that whirling mass, Linden had sent a messenger to them. Ann remembered how Gabrielle with Xena's help had saved her from a terrible beating and death. She owed her this much and Star was ready to fill the spot left by Ann and Gabrielle. So they joined the resistance and took up where the others had left off.
"Looking for anyone in particular, or just looking? The cheerfulness of the words brought Ann out of her thoughts.. A warm sensation traveled her body and for a moment she was afraid to say a word.
"You cut a beautiful sight standing up here on this knoll, wind dancing through your hair, your magnificent form silhouetted by the moonlight. I wasn't sure my legs would take me up the path. Miss me?"
Swallowing, Ann turned, a smile traveling her face as she replied, "Miss you? Bout as much as you missed me."
Star smiled, "Then you have missed me deeply for I have been in agony since we parted."
Sea quickly covered the distance between them, reaching out she embraced the woman, "A knife could not have cut me so deeply, a moment without you, is a lifetime of pain."
"Sea, you have such a liquid way of saying things. I always feel as if I am listening to the strings of love and I relish in the glow."
Chuckling, Sea whispered, "As long as it is my glow you are relishing in, I will forever be happy."
Tilting her head back, she gazed into Sea's sparkling eyes, "Then my pirate, you will always be happy."
Gently placing a soft kiss on Star's forehead, Sea said, "If I could, I would lay the world at your feet."
Burying her head onto the woman's chest, her eyes filling with tears Star sighed, "I have all I would ever want, I have you."
They stood in silence their bodies melding into one another, wrapped in the moment.
Linden had been taking care of several horses in the stable, she knew when Star had arrived and was happy to see the young woman. The assignment she had been on was a treacherous one and Linden had been concerned. Not only for Star's safety but for her own had anything happened to the woman out of Ann Bounty's sight, she knew anyone in her path would rue the day they were born.
Meticulously tossing straw to several horses she remembered with fondness the two other women that had entered her life. Though they looked like Star and Sea they were different. Heaving a deep sigh, "I hope you are well and happy," she murmured.
To this day, she found herself traveling to that cliff, her eyes searching for the whirling mass that took them. She held within her hands a carefully wrapped gift, a gift she had promised to bring. When time would prevail, she made the trek, walked the pathway, and with each step her heart beat joyfully. She hoped beyond hope that on this day she would be met with their smiling faces.
The two were so much in love, so happy. When they left, Linden felt a piece of her heart break, they had done so much for the movement, and so much for her. It was as if she lost a member of her family. And so with heavy heart she made the journey, a promise to keep. The gift Ann Bounty had made especially for Gabrielle in her possession. As the woman stared at the swirling waters below, tears filled her eyes and she clutched the gift close to her, as if holding on to it would make her feel closer to the two women who had vanished. She knew she would always regret not being able to get the gift to Ann in time.
A horse nickered and she turned her attention to the animal, "Hold on, I'll get your feed, I only have two hands you know. " The animal whinnied as the woman went to get the straw. Tossing the feed into the stall, Linden scolded herself, "You have Star and Sea, they are doing a wonderful job, so quit your remorse you old fool." The horse was tossing the straw around, whinnying and stomping the ground. She smiled, "A lot you know so keep your opinions to yourself. " Laughingly she turned and left the area.
Chapter Fifty Five
Linden smiled as she watched Sea and Star riding into the square. Since the woman's return, neither left one another's side for a moment. They cut a dashing picture, and there was not one person in the land that did not know of the two.
Reining their horses in, the two women laughed. Before the animals came to a full stop, both had dismounted. A woman came running forward and grasped the horses reins, taking the animals toward the stable. Dusting off her clothes, Ann smiled, "Where did you learn to ride like that? It is as if you and the animal are one."
Star was busily brushing the dust from her leather britches, "Have to in order to keep up with you."
"You know, it is wonderful to have you back with me, I want you to promise never leave me again. I cannot take the silence."
Star was standing, her eyes gazing into Seas, "I have never known Ann Bounty to be without some sort of ruckus. So don't go telling me you were surrounded by silence."
Sea reached out, placing her hands on the woman's waist she drew her close. "Don't you know by now, I can be in a crowded room, and be alone. Without you in my life, by my side I am lost."
Playfully Star rubbed her breasts lightly against Sea. Dropping a hand from the woman's waist, Sea let it rest on her buttocks and at the same time, Star pressed her body closer. Wrapping an arm around Sea's hips she drew the woman tighter, against her throbbing body. At the same time, Sea's arm rose to the middle of Star's back, her hand curved around, fingers spread, caressing the side of her breast. A voiceless murmur flowed forth, the touch on her breast magnified the sensation Star was experiencing. Pushing her hips against Sea, she whispered, "I love you."
Words were not spoken as Sea lowered her head, lips softly kissing, trailing to the woman's waiting lips. Star met Ann's with a kiss that held touches of tease, desire, intrigue. The warmth of Ann's lips stirred a warm reply in her own. The woman's arm held tightly around her was a pleasure that gave Star a desire for even more closeness.
But just when these desires were coming to the forefront, there was an moderate slacking in Sea's grip and in the strength of the kiss. Instinctively Star placed a hand behind Sea's neck, she did not want to surrender the feel of her lips on hers. The response she received surprised her. Sea's lips parted, her tongue touched her lips, cajoling until Star's parted, and Sea's tongue, gently caressed hers. Star shivered, the sensation could be felt in her nether region. There too, the lips were full, moisture in abundance. An aching had gathered as she writhed in Sea's passionate kisses.
Sea raised her head, stared down at the woman's glowing face, "You move upon me like..." Feeling herself flush, Star cut in, "Like a woman that is feeling things she cannot control."
A satisfied grin traveled the flaming redhead's lips, "I shall never tire at seeing you like this. Tell me...you know we have never...," feeling flustered herself she spat, "damn, I am at loss for words."
Grinning, Star approached the woman, "Your kisses, they reach in and touch my soul, I feel your tongue on mine, brushing me with your love and I find you are also brushing me in other places."
Reaching out, she cupped Star's chin in her left hand, tipped the woman's face upward and said, "If you would allow me, I would paint a beautiful picture, for what you feel upon your tongue..."
Star reached out, wrapped her arms around Sea, pressed her body to the woman's. "I feel loved, I do not need to know anything else except you love me."
Sea lowered her head brushed a kiss on the woman's head and said, "The time will come, I am not in a hurry, and if it is to never be, as long as I have you in my life I will be happy. Come, let's go see Linden, talk strategy."
Nodding, Star asked, "You're not mad?"
The woman's emerald greens sparkled toward Star as she said, "Gods no. Come on woman, we've work to do."
As they began to walk toward the woman's headquarters, Star grasped Sea's right arm and said, "You know Gabrielle, when she was here, she told me we should not wait."
Sea lifted the woman's hand to her lips, caressed it with a kiss and replied, "The woman has a mind of her own, much like you. You will know when the time is right. I am in no hurry, for there will be time."
Linden smiled up from some paper work, "Hello you two. That was quite a ride in, I take it everything went as planned?
Each pulled out a wooden chair and sat, Sea answered, "Exactly like you said. I hope we will have time to rest a bit."
Linden chewed at her lower lip, "Seems the army has gotten wind of us and we will have to pull out of here soon. I want you both to be ready to move at a moments notice."
Star leaned back in her chair, "We have a price on our heads on the ocean and now here. I wonder how Gabrielle and Sea are, have you no word on what happened?"
Shaking her head, the woman answered, "None, I believe they made it back to their world. I must believe this for anything else would be disastrous."
Ann walked toward a table, picked up a bottle of port, poured some into three goblets, then carried them to the women. "Here, we will toast their valiant souls and wish them well."
The next day, a message arrived from Linden, asking Ann to meet her behind the tavern. Ann read the scribing before she said, "You will come with me, I will not leave you here alone."
Star smiled, "Really Sea, I can take care of myself. I will be fine. Just don't be gone long."
Sea promised the meeting would not take long and she would return. Star stood and watched the woman stride toward the tavern before she went back inside.
It was late afternoon, when the woman stormed into Linden's quarters. Jumping to her feet, she blinked her eyes trying to see who had come barging in. Seeing it was Star, she asked, "What is the matter with you? You come barreling in here like some God was shooting fire at you."
Her right hand grasping the hilt of her cutlass, Star spat, "Where is she?"
Linden seemed perplexed, "Where is who? Calm down, what has gotten into you? Where is Ann?"
Fuming, her eyes emitting fire from within, "That's who I am talking about, what have you done with her?"
Seeming to relax a bit, she replied, "Haven't seen her since the two of you were in here. Don't tell me you have lost Ann Bounty? That would be quite difficult to do."
The woman's fingers were turning red from the grip she had on the cutlass, "You sent her a message, Ann left to meet you and has not returned."
A look of concern traveled the woman's face as she said, "I never sent a message. Are you sure about this?"
"I was there. Yes, I am sure. When Ann left she said she would return soon. It has been too long. If you did not send the message than who did?"
Linden grabbed her cutlass and replied, "I hate to think...Let's go!"
The two women made a hasty path to the tavern and within seconds found themselves walking the ground behind it.
Star had been haunched down, her fingers tracing the footprints in the dirt. "Ann was here but so were many others. I can tell by the marks there was a battle."
Linden stared at the woman, "Yes, and the tale tale signs of dried blood. There was a fight and I have a sinking feeling Ann was set up. "
Standing as she walked toward the woman, Star muttered, "Set up? How, why?"
Linden looked around the area as she said, "Reward, there is a big reward for the two of you. I thought I had checked everyone that came in and went out of Emerald Bay."
"Then do something, sound the alarm, I have to find Ann."
Sighing, "We must leave, the army will be closing in soon and they must find no sign of anyone having been here."
Star grabbed the woman's right arm, her fingers digging in, "Not until we find Ann!"
"I will send scouts out but we both know there is only one way on and off this island and that is by water. I will check the port, while others scout the area."
Star could feel her body trembling and it was then the woman wrapped an arm around her, "Come, let me take you back to your quarters."
Pulling away from the woman Star scowled, "I will not dismiss Ann this easily. Until I find her I will never rest. You do what you have to, I will go in the tavern and see if anyone has heard anything."
Managing a slight smile, Linden voiced, "Good idea. We will meet back here when the moon is in the center of the heavens."
Chapter Fifty Six
Entering the tavern, her eyes quickly surveyed the room. There were a few men and women sitting at tables but most seemed to be wrapped in their own conversations and gave her little thought. All that is, but one man that had been leaning on the counter top. Several empty goblets in front of him, he was downing another drink when he saw her walk in the room. She had seen enough to know that his eyes were filled with fear. Quickly setting the goblet down, he turned to leave.
Star stood in his way, "You in a hurry?"
His voice was raspy, "Must get back to my ship."
She glanced toward the counter and said, "Looks to me like you have been doing your share of drinking, and I doubt with thoughts of getting back to a ship. What ship are you from?"
He tried to stand up straight, "Who are you to be asking me this questions? I owe you no answer, now step aside and let me pass."
Star reached out grasping him by his throat, her fingers gripping, cutting off the man's air. "I asked you a question. Now do I have to kill you? What ship?"
He grasped her hand trying to pull himself free. Realizing he was not going anywhere he blurted, "The Raven."
She had released her grip, allowing the man to gasp out the words but she knew what he meant. Chills ran up and down her spine at the words. "Raven? You did say, The Raven?"
He nodded, "Ye...s. Let me go, I must get back."
An evil look stretched over her face as she replied, "Go? I may send you to Hades but that is all. My friend Ann Bounty is missing, I want to know what happened to her and I have a feeling you know."
"I know nothing, release me."
"Oh I think you know plenty," She took out her dagger and held it near the man's throat, "Ann Bounty? I want to hear words come out of your mouth!"
His eyes moved back and forth, perspiration seeping from his pores, "All right, don't cut me. What is it you want to know?"
Pointing to a table she said, "Sit, and tell me where I can find my friend?"
He sat, his eyes seeming larger than before, "She is gone."
Star's jaw tightened, the muscles began to twitch as she asked, "Gone? Tell me before I end your scurvy life!"
He began to tell her how Captain Blackird had set the plan in motion. Capture Ann Bounty and reap a big reward. This making him the most powerful pirate on the ocean. Ann went to meet with Linden so she thought but what she found was a group of cutthroats. A battle had ensued and though Ann was one she did enough damage to foil this particular attempt.
Star leaned lose to the man, her lips pressing against his right ear, "If this failed, where is she?"
He tried to speak but only inaudible sounds were emitting. Once more he found the dagger at his throat, "I have no more patience, you tell me where Ann is and I may let you live."
In a shaky voice he continued, "She evaded us, leaving many with wounds, jumped on a horse and ran off. The men followed, close at her heels. Up the mountain, to the fjords and it was here that your friend had no place to go. The plateau is surrounded by water. She dismounted, sent the horse away and stood her ground, feet spread, hair blowing in the wind."
Star's grip had tightened, "What happened?"
When they saw her standing, waiting they dismounted and began to push forward." Star was leaning in, anticipation and fear on her face, "She urged, "And where is she?"
He began to cry, "Please don't kill me? He pleaded, "I had nothing to do with it, I was merely a look out."
Her knife was now skimming the man's skin, leaving trails of blood. "Where is she?"
In a mournful voice he cried, "Dead, fool woman would rather jump into that whirling thing than to be taken prisoner."
Jumping to her feet, Star mumbled, "Whirling thing? It's back?"
He nodded, "She turned and jumped we never saw her again."
"Get up!" She demanded and roughly pulled the man from the chair. "I am taking you to see Linden and she can have your cowardly hide."
When Linden heard what had happened she tried to console Star but the woman would have none of it. "I am sorry for your loss but you have to let her go."
Shaking her head, Star replied, "Can't, had I gone with her, the two of us could have fended them off. I owe it to Sea to find her."
Linden placed her right hand on the woman's shoulder, "Think about what you are saying, you jump down into that whirling mass, it could mean your death."
Star swallowed with difficulty, tears forming in her eyes, "I would rather die looking for her than to live a life without her in it. Wish me luck."
That was the last anyone saw of Star. The woman rode to the plateau, walked to the edge and stared down into the Swirling mass, "I'm coming Sea, I will find you and bring you home." Before the last words were out, she had leaped and disappeared into the waiting arms of the vortex.
As some of you may have guessed by now, I am bringing several characters from Mystic Encounters into this story.
Continued in Chapter fifty seven
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