THE CURSE part 9
LEGEND OF ANN BOUNTY
by Anita Louise
Ann Bounty web page can be found at: http://www.cybertrails.com/~bounty
Silver stood, gazing out the porthole. "Are you telling me that, Ann Bounty is alive?"
Asterea, sat in a chair near her wooden desk, "That's what I said. I know the two of you are not the best of friends but I really need you to play along with me."
He turned, his jaw hardened as he spat, "You are going to have to do more than talk. I would soon as not slit the wenches throat myself."
Leaning back, Asterea replied, "Ah but if you did," she was running her tongue along the edge of her lips, " I don't think she would just stand there while you try. And I might add, neither will I."
The man was fuming as he stepped toward her. "No one tells me what I can or cannot do."
Oblivious to his impending threat, Asterea murmured, "I wanted to have you become aware, we will go topside in a few minutes. I have asked Ann to meet us."
He stopped, gazed at the woman, "So I am to believe that Ann Bounty has lost her memory and you have convinced her, that she is you and you are the famous, Ann Bounty?"
Pouring a tankard of ale, the woman answered, "That's right. We have become friends."
Throwing his head back he guffawed, "Yeah, right, and I am Ares God of War!" She took several swallows then set the tankard on the wooden desk, "Pursing her lips, she said, "Nah, you are better looking."
He reached out and grasped her tankard of ale, raised it to his lips, drinking every drop. Then slamming it on the desk he said, "I can finish you both off, just like that."
Within seconds, the woman was out of the chair, bounding over her desk, her feet landed solidly upon the man's chest throwing him backwards, he hit the wall of the cabin with a thud and slid down to the floor. Before Silver could move, the woman was straddling him, a gleaming knife placed across his throat. "What's that you were saying?"
He groaned, "My mistake, I meant finish off your drink." He could feel the blade touch his skin and his eyes darted downward, "Look, I'm sorry, come on Asterea, we meant more than this."
Slightly letting the blade draw blood, she stood, gazed down at the man, "Now, do I have your word you will not give me away to Ann Bounty?"
"Yes..." He seemed rattled, "Yes."
Offering the man her right hand, she said, "Come, let's have a drink to old friends."
He grasped her hand and was soon on his feet. Carefully bringing his left hand to his throat, he said, "Dam woman, do you always have to get so physical."
Her eyes met his as she smiled, "I thought you enjoyed the physical thing."
He strode past her, "I'll drink with you but tell me, how will you explain the woman Gina?"
"Gina? Why should I have to?"
He had poured her a tankard of ale and was holding it out, "Here. The woman is in Alexandria and she is looking for Ann."
Taking the tankard from the man, she answered, "Oh. The woman has become a thorn in my side. And it is your fault she is here."
He sat down, took a drink and said, "I thought I was bringing her here, to find out that Ann Bounty was dead. Woman wouldn't let go of the idea she was alive. I knew I didn't have a chance with her until she knew for sure."
After taking a drink, Asterea said, "Why the need to have her want to be with you? Why didn't you just take the wench?"
He finished the drink, "Because she is different."
Getting to her feet, Asterea's eyes grew cold, "She is human like the rest of us. Sometimes you men shouldn't think."
Getting to his feet he queried, "Yeah, and I suppose you will tell me that you and the legendary Ann Bounty have become more than friends?"
She started toward the cabin door her voice trailing back, "Within time."
He chuckled, "Sure, when Hades and the Elysian Fields combine."
Stepping topside, Asterea took a deep whiff of air, "I don't think I will ever tire of the ocean."
Silver strode past her, "Only if it tends to bore you. Where is this new woman, Asterea?"
She glanced around, "I told her to meet us up here. Just a minute, I'll go to her cabin and bring her up," her voice held a presence of authority to it, "you will promise to be good?"
He nodded, "Yeah, yeah, go get the bitch."
Looking at the man in disgust, she turned and went below. Nearing the cabin door, she called, "Hey! We are waiting on you, get a move on!" After several knocks on the wooden door, she opened it. Peeking into the room, she called out the woman's new name, "Asterea!"
No answer so she stepped into the room. The bed had not been made up, Ann was no where to be seen. "Damn!," she muttered and turned, hurrying topside.
Silver saw the woman come barreling up top, he looked around and walked toward her, "What's got you all steamed up?"
Stopping, she replied, "Ann Bounty is not in the cabin. It is evident she is not on deck. Damn, where is she?"
He shrugged his shoulders, "How am I supposed to know. You are the one that told me she would meet with us. This is rich, you tell me how to run my love life and it seems you cannot even keep tabs on yours."
Asterea stormed past him, calling out the woman's name. She stopped and asked several men if they had seen her. It seemed Ann Bounty had vanished.
Silver walked toward the railing, his eyes glancing down, a smile crossed his face as he called out, "Oh Anneee..."
Her hands were on her hips and she looked toward the man with disgust on her face, "What is it now Silver?"
Tauntingly he said, "Come see what I have found."
Throwing up her hands, she started toward the man. And as she approached, she said, "This had better be good. What, and why do you have that stupid look on your face?"
He pointed downward, "There, seems you have a boat missing."
Leaning forward, her hands on the rail, she exclaimed, "No! I didn't think the woman had it in her!"
"Looks like your new little bird has flown the coop."
Straightening up, she stared at the man, "Sometimes, you make me sick. I have no more time to spend with you today. I have to go find Ann Bounty before she goes and gets herself captured or worse."
Ann had rowed the boat close to a growth of rushes. The watery reeds were exactly what she wanted. Jumping into the water, she pulled the boat in amongst the growth, then she began to make her way toward land. It didn't take her long and she was soon standing, gazing back at the ship that was bobbing in the ocean. For some reason, she felt happy to be away from it, and from the woman named, Ann Bounty. Try as hard as she could, Ann Bounty was not making any points in her life.
The sounds of people near the boardwalk brought her around, she placed her left hand above her eyes, trying to shade them from the rays of the sun, as she surveyed the area. Since she had seen the woman on Silver's ship, she could not shake her. Ann had told her that the woman was Silver's whore but for some reason she just was not buying it. The one thing she wanted to do was meet this beautiful woman, maybe she might be able to give her more information on who she was.
Mary and Gabrielle were standing near the entrance to the Taverna.
"What now? We have been looking all night and have come up with nothing. Looking, that is, when we have not been dodging those men." Gabrielle stared at the woman, it was apparent she was becoming agitated.
Mary Ready had been gazing toward the ocean as she turned, her eyes now resting on the woman, heaving a large sigh, "I apologize. It is my fault they have been looking for us, or I should say you."
"Stop that," Gabrielle mumbled, "you apologize one minute and the next you are ginning like you have the secret to all the worlds riches."
Looking away for a moment then bringing her gaze back to the woman, Mary Ready said, "It's just, you are so darn cute when you get like this."
"Holy Zeus! It is bad enough to have those men and I use the word lightly, chasing after me, but you? Come on Mary, this is not the time."
"I know that, I am not pursuing you, just making a statement of fact."
Leaning against the building, Gabrielle smiled, "I wonder if Xena has made it back yet? I worry about her."
Joining her, Mary leaned against the wall, her left arm touching Gabrielle, "Xena is fine, if there is anyone in this world that can take care of herself, it is her. I am sure that she will show up soon. We are no better off than we were, if Ann Bounty is here, she has found a hole and crawled into it. Everyone we have spoken to, looks at us like we are crazy."
Mary turned her head to gaze down at Gabrielle, "Uh Oh? Am I supposed to know what this means?"
Poking the woman in the side, Gabrielle whispered, "We've got company."
Looking up, Mary could see four of the men walking toward them and they did not look too happy. Quickly straightening up, she stood tall, "How do you want to handle this?"
Gabrielle was now standing beside the woman, "Well, I'm not going to bed with any of them."
Clenching her jaw, Mary whispered, "I don't think it is beding they are looking for. I believe they want to slit our throats."
"Mary, don't try to make me feel any better." Gabrielle looked up at the woman, her eyes shining brightly.
Mary held up her right hand, in peace, "Hello boys, we have been looking for you."
The big man in front, stopped, his eyes narrowed, "I can see you have, you both look wore out. We have come for our payment."
Never moving a muscle, Mary spoke, "And we are the ones to give it to you."
He seemed surprised at the woman's words. "It will cost you more now, not just the little one."
Gabrielle steamed, "What? Little one...How dar..."
Mary had placed a hand over the woman's mouth. "Don't pay her any attention, she is pent up, after all, we both have been searching for you."
Licking his lips, the man said, "We were easy to find."
"Oh, we found your place but no one was there. We were detained by some of the Queen's guards, it took us longer than we thought."
He looked at the other three, it was apparent they were buying Mary's story. "Regardless, it will now cost the both of you and twenty dinars a piece."
Smiling toward the man, Mary said, "You will never have a more enjoyable time boys."
Chuckling among themselves, they all cried, "Yes, yes!"
Winking at Gabrielle, Mary said, "Then what are we waiting for." She walked toward two of the biggest, stepped between them and put her arms around each one's shoulders. Gabrielle followed suit as she stepped between the other two and they began to walk toward the alleyway. The men were already trying to grope the women. Mary smiled, "Now which one of you can kiss me like I've never been kissed before?"
In unison, both men exclaimed, "I can!"
Gabrielle could hardly keep from laughing when she saw Mary pucker up. She immediately followed suit. It was as the men turned to face the women, each man puckered and ready for a kiss, that the two women stepped back, their hands behind the men's heads, they knocked their heads together, sending all four men to the ground.
Staring at Mary, Gabrielle asked, "Now what? We may have fooled them once but we will never do it again and next time they will be mad."
Pondering the woman's words, Mary said, "You are right, help me remove their clothes."
"What!?" She took several steps back, "No way, it is bad enough having to look at them clothed."
Mary was on her knees, she was already removing one of the men's shirts. "Think of it as a learning experience."
Dropping to her knees, Gabrielle muttered, "Yeah and just what am I supposed to have learned?"
Tugging at a boot, Mary grunted, "That next time we just finish them off in the beginning."
Gabrielle began to remove the men's clothes near her as she said, "Right. let's get this over with."
A little later...
Standing, Gabrielle, held several items of clothing as she asked, "Now what?"
Mary bundled up the clothes she had, "We dispose of these, get yours, let's go," she urged.
The two stepped from the alleyway, both looking around as Gabrielle said, "We have to get rid of these, I think we might look a little bit suspicious walking around with these men's clothes."
Mary had already started toward a corral. It didn't take the woman long to climb over the fence and disappear inside. Gabrielle followed, calling out, "Hold up."
Mary smiled as the woman walked into the stable, "We can leave the clothes in there."
Gazing in the direction the woman was pointing, Gabrielle could see it was a small room. "The tack room? Won't someone find them?"
Shrugging her shoulders, Mary answered, "Probably," she began to make tracks for the room and Gabrielle picked up her pace. Soon they walked out into the light, empty handed. Mary had gone back over the fence, "Now we take care of the men." She expected an answer but there wasn't any, as she turned to see what was keeping the woman. Gabrielle was stroking a beautiful sorrel's face, and it seemed she was also talking to the animal. Climbing onto the first railing of the fence, Mary called out, "What are you doing?"
Turning to look at the woman, Gabrielle, replied, "Isn't she beautiful."
"Gabrielle, it's only a horse, come on before someone sees us here and starts asking a lot of questions."
Turning her attention back to the horse, Gabrielle hugged the animal, then turned and walked toward Mary, "It looked lonely."
Jumping down from the fence railing, Mary waited for Gabrielle to make it back over. "Gods woman! Are you going to stop and stroke everything we see that appears to be lonely?"
Tapping Mary on her right arm, Gabrielle replied, "I just might. What now?"
"We go to the Taverna, have a few drinks."
Gabrielle looked toward the sky as she said, "Yeah, that really sounds like a plan. And just what are you going to do when those men wake up with mighty bad headaches, and no clothes?"
Smiling, Mary placed her right hand on Gabrielle's left shoulder, "I will take care of this, come on, I am dry."
Smiling, Gabrielle declared, "I am kinda thirsty, ok...let's go."
Once inside the room, Mary ordered several tankards of ale. Gabrielle found an unoccupied table and had sat. She watched as Mary talked to the keeper. Smiling when the woman began to walk toward the table, carrying the two tankards. As she approached, Mary offered one to Gabrielle then pulled out a chair and sat. It didn't take them long to sample their drinks.
When Gabrielle finally set her tankard on the table, she said, "Never realized how good that would taste. I was thirsty. Tell me, what were you talking to the keeper about?"
Leaning back in her chair, Mary replied, "Asked if he had seen anyone resembling, Ann, Asterea and Xena in the area."
"Well, what did he say?"
Shaking her head, the woman answered, "No. He said he would remember having seen any of them. I also purchased several bottles of port, don't go asking any questions. Sit tight, I will return in a few minutes."
Gabrielle's face was radiating questions as she muttered, "What? Why? What are you up to now?"
Winking at the woman, Mary stood, "Stay right there, I will be back." She walked toward the counter retrieved two bottles of port and strode from the building.
Gabrielle was startled at the woman's abrupt actions. She was tempted to follow but decided to stay put. Whatever Mary was up to, she decided to stay out of it.
Much later, Mary walked back into the room, a satisfied smile crossing her face as she walked toward Gabrielle.
After Mary had sit, Gabrielle leaned forward, her hands on the table and asked, "All right, what have you been up to? You have that satisfied grin on your face."
Suddenly there was a loud commotion outside and everyone but Gabrielle and Mary ran to the door to see what was taking place.
Pursing her lips, Gabrielle asked, "Did you have something to do with that?"
Nodding, Mary replied, "Let me just say, we will not be bothered by those men anymore."
Gabrielle was now on her feet and heading for the doorway. The second she glanced outside she was surprised. The men they had knocked out, and de clothed were near the Taverna, and they were surrounded by the Queen's guards. From what she could tell, it seemed they all smelled like port and were shamelessly parading the streets in a drunken stupor. She watched in amazement as the guards carted them off. Turning, she walked back toward the table. Sitting, her eyes sparkling toward Mary. "Quite the trick. I hand it to you, Mary Ready, you are amazing."
Mary called toward the keeper, "Another round over here!" When she turned her attention back towards, Gabrielle, she said, "Didn't want them causing us any more problems."
The keeper sit several filled tankards on their table and left as Gabrielle praised, "I couldn't have done it any better," raising her tankard toward Mary she added, "To you, Mary Ready."
Mary lifted her tankard in a salute, "To you," then took a lengthy drink.
Chapter Forty Eight
She paused taking time to catch her breath, as she stared at the city of Alexandria. It had been a cat and mouse game, but she had continually evaded the men that were looking for Ann, Asterea and herself.
After a few minutes, she began to take a lengthy stride toward the city. Xena had no idea whether she would find Ann Bounty and the woman, Asterea, she knew she was not going to give up. With each step, her mind drifted back to Gabrielle. She knew that Gabrielle really meant it when she told her that Ann was just a friend but Xena knew that somehow, someway Ann Bounty had carved a niche in the bard's heart.
Smiling, she mumbled to herself, "Come on Xena, don't go putting ghosts where there are none." It didn't take long before she found herself walking into the square. It had been a long run, and she was not only tired, she was hungry and thirsty. Heaving a deep sigh, she turned and started toward the Taverna.
Gabrielle and Mary were at that moment entering the famous market place. There were many people mulling around the area. "Want to split up?" Gabrielle asked.
Mary shook her head, "No, best we stay together, never know what we might run into."
There were many vendors, each one hawking their wares. The sounds of people talking, laughing and some yelling were echoing throughout.
Walking into the Taverna, Xena walked directly toward the counter. When the man saw the tall woman heading his way, he gulped, dropped an empty tankard as he turned and headed toward the back. He was fast but not as fast as Xena, it took her two flips through the air as she landed in front of the man. His eyes were so wide, Xena thought for a moment they might fall from their sockets.
"Going somewhere?" She asked.
He began to stutter, "I...I...I..."
Placing her left hand on the man's shoulder, she queried, "What is it? Surely you have a tongue in there?"
Her right hand was holding the man's chin securely as he mumbled, "Please...don't hurt me?"
Releasing her hold on the man, Xena smiled, wickedly, "Oh I won't hurt you, I may kill you but I won't hurt you." It was apparent the man was confused, and frightened as she continued, "I just want some information."
His face was now beet red, his body shook as he vocalized, "This is a Taverna, we serve, food, and drink not information."
Slowly, she withdrew a dagger from the leather belt that adorned her waist. Raising it so that the man could see the gleaming steel blade, she said, "Might want to think that answer over."
"All right, what do you want to know?"
"That's better. I want to know if you have seen two women in here." After describing Ann, and Asterea to the man he answered, "No. Seems those two are mighty popular, you are not the only one looking for them."
Xena's eyes lit up, as she asked, "Really? Who else has been asking?"
After he told her about Mary and Gabrielle, Xena slipped her dagger back into it's sheath, walked toward a table and said, "Bring me something to eat and drink."
Gina had been walking the streets her heart heavy, with each step she took she felt Ann Bounty leaving her life further and further. She had almost given up, there were not many more places to look and everywhere she had been turned up nothing.
She had sent word to Silver the night before, telling him that she would be staying and he could leave. Yet her eyes could still the man's ship anchored off shore. She had not seen the man nor any of his crew but knew he was around.
The last place she had been, a woman told her to try the market place. Many people socialized there and perhaps she might get word of her friend. This was where she was heading at that moment.
Mary was gazing at the strawberry blond, Gabrielle was busily trying on multicolored turbans. Smiling she walked toward the woman, "They are all beautiful, but you do not need a turban. Are you always like this?"
A turban half on and half off her head set precariously as the woman turned to beam at Mary, "Like what?"
Mary reached out catching the turban before it fell, "Shopping, seems you love to look and try and talk."
Standing on the tip of her toes, Gabrielle placed a turban on Mary's head, "Might give it a try, " she seemed satisfied at her endeavor, "looks good on you."
Reaching up, Mary removed the turban and set it back among a group of others. "I find it hard to believe that Xena goes shopping with you?"
Sifting through the turbans, she answered, "Usually Xena goes somewhere else, shopping is not her forte."
Glancing round the area, Mary muttered, "Doesn't like it huh?"
"Well, if it is knifes, sharpening stones, feed for Argo, leather supplies, she will do it, but usually sends me."
Mary leaned down and whispered, "Have you learned anything while trying on the different merchandise?"
Shaking her head, the woman said, "Not about Ann or Asterea. No one has seen them and if I mention Ann Bounty's name they all tell me she has been executed."
Taking several steps back, Mary said, "I am beginning to think Ann Bounty and this woman, Asterea have gone into hiding. Who knows they could still be out there somewhere." She was pointing toward the far off dunes.
"Shaking her head, Gabrielle said, "Nah, neither one would be crazy enough to go out there. I have a feeling they are close, but still out of reach."
Holding back a chuckle, Mary said, "I am sure you are right, close but out of reach. Come on, we are getting no where here, let's go check out the temple."
Turning to face the woman, Gabrielle asked, "Temple? You don't think they would have gone there do you?"
"No, but I had to think of something before you ended up buying all the turbans in the market."
Slapping at the woman, Gabrielle laughed, "At least I would have them, seems to me you have been doing a good job of trying out the many drinks available." There was no answer and she hurried to catch up with the woman."
They hadn't been gone from the spot but a few minutes when Gina approached the vendor. She surveyed the many turbans then asked, "Have you seen..." She never even finished her sentence before the woman cut in, "Look around young woman, lots of people, everywhere. I see them, I do not know them."
"Maybe I should have asked if you had seen a beautiful woman, tall, with flaming red hair?"
The woman cackled, "Must be some woman, you just missed two others that were asking about her."
"Really! Who? Where are they?"
She shook her head, "Have no idea, they went off and I went back to my duties."
"Well, what did they look like?"
She stared at Gina, her eyes taking in the woman. "I have to earn a living, you want anymore information it will cost you."
Gina asked, "How much?"
The woman's hands were busily placing turbans in strategic locations as she replied, "Ten dinars."
Gina removed the small leather pouch that she now carried on her belt, removed ten dinars and handed them to the woman, "Now, tell me."
She licked her lips, and told Gina all she knew, when the woman was finished, Gina exclaimed, "Gabrielle and Mary, which way did they go?"
Shrugging her shoulders the woman answered, "What am I, a psychic? Now if you are not going to buy anything be on with you, I have a family to feed."
Gina turned, her eyes surveying the area. She was straining them, and with each observation she hoped to find a friendly face.
When she saw a tall figure standing near one of the pathways she stopped, her mouth fell open, her heart begin to beat rapidly as chills traveled her body. Quickly she began to make her way through the throngs of people. Gina didn't know many people who looked like this. Though the woman was wearing a turban, she was sure by the dress, it was a woman.
The person had turned and seemed to be fixated on something when Gina neared. Stopping, she felt as if her blood would boil from her body, Gina had never felt so nervous. "Pa...Pardon me," her voice trailing off.
The woman turned, her emerald green eyes gazed into Gina's, "Yes? Oh it's you."
Gina was tongue tied, there was only one person she knew that had emerald green eyes like these and it had to be Ann. "I've been looking for you. Gods I have missed you!"
Ann stepped back, drew her cutlass and said, "Stay back, I will kill if I have to."
Amazement shown on her face as Gina asked, "Kill? You would kill me? Sea, don't you know who I am?"
Ann's eyes darted around the area as she replied, "I know that you are Silver's whore. What do you want with me?"
"Put the cutlass away, I mean you no harm. I have been looking for you," suddenly the woman's words sank in as Gina spouted, "whore! You think I am Silver's whore!"
Ann gazed at the woman, she was more beautiful than she had remembered standing on Silver's ship. She holstered the cutlass and said, "Yes, this is what I have been told."
"Well I am not! You of all people should know that."
"I saw you on Silver's ship, if you are not his whore, what were you doing there?"
This was not working out like Gina thought it would, she was becoming uneasy at the woman's questions, "You saw me on the ship? How?
"I do have eyes."
"Look, something must have happened to you. We need to get out of here." She reached for Ann's hand and the woman stepped away.
Ann fixed her gaze on Gina as she asked, "Why would you want me to come with you? I don't know you. I will not be captured again."
Tears were welling up in the woman's light brown eyes as Gina said, "We are in love. We have promised our hearts to each other."
Laughing, Ann replied, "Right! Your love to me, to Silver and Gods know how many."
"Damn you Ann Bounty! After all we have been through, you treat me like this."
Ann's eyes grew wide as she said in amazement, "Ann Bounty, I think you have me confused with someone else, I am the pirate Asterea."
Tears were finding their way down Gina's face as she spurted, "Asterea!? No, you are Ann Bounty! Who told you that you were this horrible woman, Asterea?"
Ann gazed toward the ocean, "Ann told me."
"Look at me," Gina reached out and grasped Ann's right hand, brought it to her chest and held it over her heart. I have never lied to you, I swear, and may Zeus strike me dead if I am telling you an untruth, You are Ann Bounty."
For a moment, Ann could sense a warmth invading her body and for some reason she was feeling tender sensations toward this woman. "I don't know who you are, but I want to know more about you."
Gina smiled, "Then we must get out of here. Say you will come with me."
Nodding, Ann Replied, "I will come."
It was at this moment, Gina was grabbed from behind, something smelly was roughly placed over her nose. Before she could even struggle, she passed out. Ann struck out at the person that was holding Gina and it was then she felt something hit the middle of her back, within seconds, she also collapsed.
continued in chapter forty nine
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