The sun was shining on the sea, the waves breaking into cascades of blueish-green sparkles. The port of Tortuga was in its usual element: utter chaos. Sailors, long at sea, rejoiced to finally return to their second home, to their lovers, to heaven on earth. No one noticed the bedraggled figure - soaked through and through - staggering up the beach and cursing under her breath.

"Bloody pirates.." in her right hand, she gripped a rather worn- looking overcoat and tri-cornered hat - both also quite drenched. It was obvious she'd taken a swim in the recent past; a very long swim.

Glancing at the goings-on around her, she wrinkled her nose in disgust: this was the kind of place that took a bit of getting used to. She hoped she wouldn't have to, however. Searching out the most reasonable- looking person she could find, she settled on a man tying a fishing boat to the dock.

"Oy, mate!" she called, stumbling over to him. "Where can I find the nearest lodging?"

The fisherman never looked up from his work. "Lee's Tavern. Just up the road there." He pointed at a random street, and she stuffed her hat onto her head.

"My thanks to you, good sir." The fisherman merely grunted in reply.

Stepping around a drunken sailor and his girl, who were so lip-locked that they didn't notice her, she started down the narrow alleyway that served as a street, marveling at how a single port town could be so disorganized, and yet, so famed. She'd heard many a story of the grandeur of Tortuga, and THIS was it!? A gathering of run-down whore houses and taverns that were so fortunate to have a port to call their own? Some grandeur THIS was. But, it was a town all the same, and she was grateful to be there with her life. Though - from the looks of it - she may not even have had THAT for long.

A roughly-painted wooden sign proclaimed a derelict little building to be Lee's Tavern, probably the worst-looking lodging in the whole god- forsaken place. She was about to turn away and start looking for another place to stay, when the door burst open and a man tumbled out, knocking her to the ground.

"Watch it, you miserable cur!" she hissed, pulling herself to her feet and brushing herself off. The stranger stood for a moment, wavering unsteadily on his feet, an empty rum bottle in his hand. When he finally seemed to realize what he'd done, his eyes widened, and he opened his arms to her, motioning to the open doorway.

"Terribly sorry, love." His voice had a drunken sort of lisp to it. "Please, let me buy you a drink, by way of apology." He looked as though he'd already had several drinks, and she wondered if he'd be able to handle another. The mangy rat would probably drop if he had any more, but, a drink was a drink, and she was in need of a few. Sizing him up slowly, she nodded.

"Good," he put his around her - ignoring her soaked appearance - as though guiding her through the door; almost causing her to fall through it, more likely. "Wot's your name, love?"

"Caelar. Captain Ryenne Caelar." She pushed his hand off her shoulder and glared at him. "And don't call me love."

The stranger blinked uncomprehendingly and sidled over to a small table, waving for the bartender. Ryenne sighed and sunk in to a chair across from him. The bartender - a squat, portly, balding man - hurried over with tow mugs of sour-smelling liquid. She sniffed it and took a tentative sip. It was probably the worst rum she'd ever come in contact with. The stranger tilted his mug bottoms-up and downed it. She stared at him in horrified awe.

"What's YOUR name?" she demanded as he slammed the mug back down onto the table.

"Uh..Bill. Bill Cunnings." He mumbled, wiping off his mouth with the back of his hand. "What ship do you belong to, Captain?"

Ryenne narrowed her eyes, distrusting of "Bill's" slow answer. She'd given her own name freely enough, while he seemed to search for his. It could've been on the account of his drunkenness, but she doubted it; he was obviously lying. But what would he have to hide? Taking another swig of rum, she weighed whether or not to answer him true. Yes: she had nothing to hide, did she?

"The Silver Gryphon." The name came off her tongue like a lead weight; the weight of truth. Her ship. Gone. "I put into port a few hours ago."

Bill narrowed his eyes. "You're the captain of the Gryphon?"

Ryenne looked up from her rum. "You know it?"

"I've heard of it." He watched her intently as she gulped down the last of her rum, wincing against the bitter taste. "Want another?"

"Umm...." Ryenne studied the bottom of her mug for a minute, then shook her head. "No, thanks. Something else, maybe?"

Bill furrowed his eyebrows, confused. "Something else?"

"Yes. Isn't there anything else?" Ryenne blinked; her head was beginning to throb already. This rum was strong.

"No. What else would there be?"

"Never mind." Ryenne signaled to the bartender. "I'll have another."

???

Quite a few drinks later, Ryenne had almost forgotten how bitter the rum was; it nearly tasted sweet now. Bill had turned out to be more enjoyable than she first thought. He tossed the silver readily to the bartender, and the rum flowed more freely than water. It reminded her of stories she'd heard as a child, stories of the ancient Greeks with their grape presses and ever-flowing rivers of wine. Their liquor-loving god, Dionysus, would easily become friends with Bill.

Ryenne shook her head, trying to clear it. It didn't work. Other men - riff raff of the high seas and washed-up sailors, desperate for a drink to ease the pain of not belonging to a crew - crowded around them. It was clear that Bill made friends easily, or perhaps his silver did. And - distracted from her thoughts by loud, raucous laughter at some off-color joke - she joined in with a will, draining her mug as she did. Bill eyed her leerily.

"You've got quite a head for liquor, eh, Captain?" he slurred with a half-smile. Feeling pleased despite herself at the use of her title, she noticed that the room was beginning to spin slowly.

Slightly alarmed, she stood quickly, and Bill stood with her. Seeing him sway more drunkenly than he had before angered her in some strange way, and she had just enough time to snap, "And you have none!" before the filthy floor rushed up to meet her and thick darkness stole her senses.

???

Had she been conscious to see the scene that followed, some of the later discomfort might have dissipated and a whole fiasco may have been avoided, but, she wasn't, and that was another problem entirely.

Her fall didn't catch Bill off-guard, however, and he caught her with a surprising grace, lifting her into his arms. There was another wave of raucous laughter - which he merely shrugged off - and a few lewd jokes - which he ignored all together. Brushing past the small crowd gathered around his table, he motioned to the bartender, and started up a narrow staircase near the back of the bar. The bartender grabbed a ring of brass keys and scurried up after him, muttering thickly under his breath.

"Room 13.....room 13..."

Bill stopped abruptly and turned to the bartender, brows furrowed. "This is NOT like THAT, Lee." The bartender smiled mischievously.

"Isn't it always THAT way, Captain Jack?"

"No. And it's Bill, while she's around." Bill nodded to Ryenne. "Some other room, please."

The bartender shook his head knowingly. "Very well...Bill."

"Thank you." Bill stopped in front of room number 9 and watched patiently as the bartender fumbled around for the key, still shaking his head. "I'll be down in a few minutes, Master Lee."

"I'm sure, Bill." The bartender winked and hurried back down the narrow staircase.

Bill, his head clear of the rum's effects, turned the door handle and shoved it open, revealing the familiar dusty darkness of the tavern's rooms. Cleanliness didn't much matter to most of the customers, however, as the rooms were mainly used for one purpose; he knew that well enough. It would have to do for now, as well.

Crossing the room with a few short strides, he lied Ryenne atop the narrow bed and reached over to light the small oil lamp that sat on the table next to it. The flickering light shining across her face did something to him, but he quelled the feeling and placed a hand across her brow. It was unnaturally warm. He began to remove her coat, realizing as he did so, that it was strangely damp. Why hadn't he noticed before? She could be taken with fever, now. Shedding his own coat, he leaned over her once more, just in time to see her eyelids flutter open.

???