Nine days had passed since the battle began.
The navy fleet’s sudden appearance caused the celebrating pirates to suffer massive losses. It was complete chaos on the beach. Under Black Prince Sam’s persuasion, Brooke and some pirates not too sloshed from the drinking launched a bold counterattack against the navy.
However, their valiant efforts were not enough to alter the final outcome. Brooke and Black Prince Sam each lead their men to not only successfully board a pirate ship but also to employ its artillery against the navy. Alas, their attacks only lasted two rounds before the enemy sank their ships.
Some sailors lost their lives to the sea, and some, like Brook, swam to the shore and escaped into the woods. Not long after, they came across the second group of pirates who also managed to escape. They had brought along with them their other drunk men from the beach as well. Owing to time constraints and with gunfire and explosives raining on them, they only managed to bring less than a fifth of them.
Brook looked around him. Including those who died battle, fewer than a hundred men were left from six pirate ships that sailed together. After nine days of starvation and exposure, the one hundred men were frail and on the verge of death.
Due to the hasty retreat, they brought almost nothing with them. Most of the food and water were on the ship which was now at the bottom of the sea, no thanks to the enemy. Brooke knew very well what the navy planned to do – very soon, they would return, and the final battle will ensue. There was nothing he could do, though. He had lost his ship and was stuck indefinitely on the island.
Despite Parrot Island being rather large, it was devoid of freshwater. For the past few days, the pirates could only quench their thirst by licking off condensation on the rocks, much like mountain goats, or sucking on wet earth. The moisture tasted like mud, and there wasn’t much of it either. Brook’s lips were dry and cracked.
Thankfully, they successfully captured a goat last night. Not only did each of them have a piece of lamb, but they also had a drink of its blood. Though enough to relieve their hunger and thirst by a little, the goat was shared among nearly a hundred people. There was barely enough to go around.
To make matters worse, there were not many goats on the island to start with. Most had already been hunted for the party, and now it was becoming more and more difficult to find any of them. The goat they managed to capture was the only one they came across in two days.
Along with the lack of food and water, they were also short on medicine and ammunition.
They had nearly one hundred men but only twenty long muskets and eight blunderbusses. Even bladed weapons such as daggers and scimitars weren’t enough for every man. Whatever remaining bullets they had were used for hunting, and with no medical supplies, the wounded had to get by with simple tourniquets. It was safe to say that they had reached the absolute point of exhaustion.
Of course, the worst part of it all was the devastating blow to their morale. At this point, none could see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the dark of the night, agonized howls of their wounded comrades could be heard, many of them near the brink of mental breakdown. Some, unable to put up with the terrible conditions, threw themselves into the sea. Nearly every day, someone chose to end their life.
Brook got up from the ground and passed the last piece of lamb to Eric, the Quidah’s helmsman. The man had eaten practically nothing for the past eight days. Sitting motionless under a large, shady tree, there was an emptiness in his eyes, as if his soul had been ripped out of his body.
As he knelt beside Black Prince Sam, the most fearless pirate in all of the Caribbean, he broke down and cried like a child. He hugged his captain’s lifeless body, seemingly forgetting that he was still on the battlefield, reluctant to let go until the Warrior submerged under the water.
Thank goodness, one of the Quidah’s men managed to rescue him just as he was about to drown. When Eric came to, the first thing he did was look for Black Prince Sam’s body. When he realized that the captain’s body had been washed away, he completely shut down.
Brook pressed the food onto Eric’s lips, but the helmsman did not respond.
In a hoarse, cracked voice Brook said, “If you don’t try to live now, then you will never be able to avenge him.”
When the helmsman heard those words, something flashed across his pale, grey face. He finally opened his mouth and whispered in a weak, almost inaudible voice, “Revenge… how will we do it?”
“I don’t know, but if you give up now, then it’s over for all of us, for sure.”
“You haven’t comforted many people, have you?”
“I’m doing my best, but you insist on dying, I have no problem with that too. After all, in the situation we’re in right now, having one less mouth to feed isn’t completely a bad thing,” Brook shrugged.
“Is there only one ship out there?” asked Eric as he took two bites of the lamb. It wasn’t long before recovered some strength, finally turning his attention to the situation at hand.
“Yes. It seems that Jackdaw managed to get away that night, so the navy sent the others to pursue them.”
“It’s unbelievable how they could break through the blockade.”
“I guess it should be considered good news… which is rare these days. Unfortunately, it’s no use for us,” Brook smiled bitterly. “It would be great if we had a boat – whatever kind – at least we’d have some hope.”
While both of them were talking, the pirate on scout duty suddenly shouted, “There’s a ship over there!”
Brook and Eric looked at each other, knowing right away that when the ships sent out to pursue Jackdaw returned, their reckoning had come.
This meant that there wasn’t much time left. The pirates, however, were surprisingly calm even after knowing they were practically doomed. Their time on the island was only getting harder each day. Compared to the endless torment of waiting for death, they would rather die in battle.
But just as Brook and Eric were rounding up the men for the final battle, the spotter suddenly shouted with a look of disbelief on his face, “Jackdaw! It’s the Jackdaw! She’s back!”
“What??? I thought they were gone?!” Brook could hardly believe that Jackdaw had returned. Being able to escape was already a miracle on its own. Had he been in Zhang Heng’s shoes, he would never have returned to Parrot Island, especially since they had no clue about the situation there. There was no way Brook would’ve returned knowing that they risked coming under siege.
Then, as if to thwart his doubt, Jackdaw’s black flag rose to the top of its mast.