A/N: Okay, so I am finally back to writing and here is a brand new tale. A few things before you read this story: it's not supposed to be historical fiction. It's an AU in a sense that it doesn't take place in the KP universe, but it doesn't take place in this universe either. There are some historical tidbits sprinkled in, but it's set in a universe built up in my own head. Also, you know what to expect, there will be KiGo, along with BetViv, BoNique, and RonYori. Please, enjoy. I don't own these characters; Disney does. You should know that.
For Fame, Fortune, and Freedom
1: Treachery on the High Seas
The water was choppy and a dark navy, even when calm. It never seemed to match the sky unless a storm was coming. So much like home, but then again, it was the same ocean. Supposedly, in the colonies the water was different. A warm, bright teal, like liquid turquoise. She could not believe that, not when it was the same ocean.
"Are you all right?" the smooth, mellow voice of her fiancé inquired.
Olive eyes turned to meet blue. "I'm fine. Just looking out into the water," she answered in a somewhat low voice.
He chuckled a bit, partly due to the volume that she used because it was like she did not want to disturb the water. "Kim, I don't know how you do it. I get seasick just thinking about looking over the side, yet you come out here and stare into the water almost everyday since our journey began," he commented.
"Josh, you get sick when you ride your horse too quickly," Kim pointed out, a teasing, but loving smile adorning her face. She turned to face her fiancé, looking into his sapphire colored eyes.
The brunette male, Josh Mankey, snickered a bit at the jib. He put his arm around the redhead, letting her know there were no hard feelings for the remark. She smiled, leaning into his warm body and taking comfort in his mere presence. A content sigh escaped both of them as her hand trailed up and down the soft material of his cobalt coat.
"So, have you seen any of those sea monsters that they claim roam these waters devouring ships?" Josh inquired, focusing on his fiancée instead of the rough waves below them. Sometimes, it helped to keep the seasickness at bay if he kept his attention on her more than anything else, not that he really needed an excuse to pay her mind, though.
"The only monsters I've noticed are the crew," Kim commented as olive green eyes glanced back on deck. Just from a quick look, she could see several crewmen leering at her. A disgusted snarl tugged at her top lip, but she managed to keep it from taking control of her face.
"Kimmie," Josh cooed, pulling her a little closer. "I told you this is a reputable ship. The Hench Company hires respectable men to work on their ships. Hench needs to if he wants to keep his company going through, carrying both cargo and passengers. So, don't worry about it. They're not going to bother you as long as you stay close to me," he assured her, kissing her hair as if that proved him right.
Kim smiled a little, even though she wanted to dispute his claim. So far, though, he had been correct. She stayed close to him and the crew did not bother her. Yes, they watched her in ways that she disliked, but no one had said anything or touched her yet. She hoped that it did not come to that or there would be Hell to pay.
"We'll be in the colonies soon, so you shouldn't even worry about it," Josh soothed her nerves, rubbing the small of her back. She did not really feel the caress thanks to her gown, but she could imagine it and that was good enough for now.
"I'm not worrying about," she replied confidently, which he expected. "You know, I don't understand how the colonies can have water that's supposed to be so bright and green when it's the same ocean as this," she commented, looking back at the sea.
"Well, the southern colonies are supposedly very beautiful places, so I can only imagine them having beautiful, calm water to go along with it," he said.
She nodded. "You've never been to the colonies before even though you had family there?"
"Nope. I've never been to the colonies before. It's a bit horrid that I have to go under these circumstances. I liked my uncle and I'm grateful that he left me anything in death, but I'd rather have him alive," the brunette stated.
"I know, sweetheart." She gently patted his arm.
There was a moment of peaceful silence between them before he spoke again. "I think when we get there, I'm going to do some painting. I want you to describe the water to me and I hope that I can recreate what you saw."
"Why would you want to? I haven't seen any of the sea monsters you're so interested in," she informed him with a teasing smile.
"I want to because you seem so interested in it," he smoothly answered.
"I am fortunate to have someone so interested in my thoughts," she remarked.
"As if you would have it any other way," he pointed out with a smile of his own. "But, I do adore you, in spite of your many unladylike qualities," he jibbed, tweaking her small nose a little.
Kim giggled a bit and they fell silent. The salty breeze cut through them and this only made Kim think more about the colonies. She knew that she had to experience them for herself or she would always wonder about the things that she read. Was it true that the colonies felt like summer all the time? How could they when they were lying in the same ocean that she was now in? How could they when they were on the same ocean as her home? This dark, foreboding body of water that made everything around it seem bleak and cold. She just could not fathom the colonies being such a paradise if they existed in waters that looked like they belonged to the underworld.
"Come on, let's go in before we freeze," Josh commented, rubbing her shoulder as if that would keep them both warm.
Kim nodded, even though she really did not want to go in yet. The air did not bother her, but she gave in for Josh. He was kind to her most of the time through all of her quarks, so she liked to return the favor whenever she could.
Securing his hand around his fiancée's, Josh led them below the deck to their small cabin. Kim ignored the few leers they got on the way from greasy, salty sailors. A sigh of relief did escape her voice as Josh locked their cabin door, assuring that the crew would stay outside. This was the first time in her life that Kim preferred being in a tight, enclosed area rather than out in fresh air.
"I can't wait until we get to the colonies," the redhead commented, sitting on the flat straw mattress that was their bed for the voyage.
Josh smiled. "I hope you wait until no one's watching to turn a series of flips," he quipped. He suspected that he had the only lady in the entire Empire from a proper family that could do multiple somersaults.
She scoffed and threw her head back. "I'm going to do them as soon as I set foot on the dock. So, you might as well get your story straight as to why don't know me now," she countered with a grin.
"I'd never deny you, sweetheart," he cooed, eyes shining as he focused on her.
"You sweet-talker you. Can't be a wonder why I'm marrying you when we get back home," she commented.
"And here it is I thought you were marrying me because your dad had that gun at my back," he joked, walking over to her and leaning down. He pressed his forehead to hers, smiling dreamily from the simple contact.
"Is that it? That probably is. I mean, why else would I settle for a painter and musician?" she teased.
Those words got a laugh out of him. He placed a light peck to her willing lips before sitting down next to her. Silence reigned over the tiny cabin as they settled in, eyes scanning the small space as if that would make it grow.
"Honestly, if this is the only trip we ever make to the colonies, that'll be fine with me," Josh commented, leaning against the wall and pulling Kim back with him.
"Yeah? What is it about the trip that's getting to you? Aside for the fact that you can't stand outside for more than five minutes before you have to throw up?" she inquired, playing with his fingers in order to stay occupied.
"Like you, I don't like being in a small space for too long. Of course, I handle it way better than you do," he remarked, smirking a little.
"A rabid dog handles small spaces better than I do," she admitted with a laugh. She was not made for tight places. She had too much energy and liked being able to move around. The limited areas on the ship did not afford her that freedom. She suspected things would be better if she could travel the whole ship, but she made it a point to stay away from any place that could trap her with a crewmember.
"That's one of the things I love about you," he confessed in a mellow tone, warm breath tickling her ear.
"There goes that sweet-talk again. I have to admit that I do love that about you."
A soft smile graced his youthful face and he nuzzled his nose against her neck. Giggles escaped her and she reached up to caress his face. This was another thing that she loved about him; the fact that he brought out this girlish, almost silly side of her.
The couple took their evening meal in their little cabin. Josh then fell asleep, quite easily. Kim knew it was his way of escaping his uncomfortable circumstances—the rocking of the ship. Josh had been seasick for most of the trip and had quickly learned to fall asleep as fast as possible to avoid suffering. She helped by running her fingers through his hair; it was something that always relaxed him and made him nod off.
She listened to the sound of the waves outside, wondering if they were still that midnight blue or if they had gotten to the place where the sea turned teal. Underneath that, she listened to the boots and footfalls that went by the locked door. Sometimes, she noted pauses in the steps, mutters outside the door, and then the footsteps continuing on. Olive eyes glared at the door when some brave soul actually tried to open the door.
Not many things made the redhead skittish, but nighttime on the ship did just that. She could feel the intent of some of the crewmembers much stronger, making her suspect that they planned to strike her at night. She never knew what a loathsome thing it could be to be the only woman on a ship. Damned suspicious sailors and their tiny cargo ships.
As the sun climbed into the sky, sunlight peeking through the cracks in the boards, Kim decided to venture out on deck. She wanted to see if they had finally made it to the spot where the ocean turned from turbulent cobalt to a brilliant cerulean. She also figured she would pick up her and her beau's morning meals. Placing a gentle kiss to Josh's slightly parted lips, she pulled away from her snoozing fiancé and ventured topside.
"I can't wait until we hit land, just so I can take a warm bath," Kim muttered, strolling over to the side of the vessel.
The one thing aside for the crew that Kim disliked about being stuck onboard a ship for months was the lack of bathing. Not just for her, but for everyone around her also. The grim from days of simmering under the sun with little shade and the salty air drying her skin out made Kim long for land. The smell of the crew and even her fiancé made her beseech God almost hourly for the colonies.
Olive eyes cast off over the side and noted a change. The waves were still topped with white, but the water was a deep sapphire now. It looked like an evening sky with tiny clouds sailing along. Kim was now starting to believe that the water of the colonies might be the wonderful blue-green described to her by the many books that she had read, travelers that she spoke with, and her own beloved, but she would have to wait and see.
Her attention went away from the water as she felt movement behind her. She turned to see pair of the crewmen watching her. The sparks in their eyes made her curl her lip in disgust. Part of her wished that they would just go ahead and try, so that she could show that they picked the wrong girl to ogle.
She forgot about that little saying where she should be careful what she wished for.
Soup and stew were staple meals on ships; Kim had not known that until that voyage. She did not have many problems with it. In fact, she adjusted to it much easier than Josh did. To keep his ego from getting too deflated, she promised him that it was more than likely because he suffered from seasickness most of the time. Really, he just had a weak constitution and they both knew that. He did appreciate that she tried to spare his pride, though, and often went along with her.
With the food in hand, Kim tried to make her way back to the cabin, hoping that her beau would be up and ready to face yet another day on a ride that kept him perpetually ill. Her trip was delayed as her path was blocked by three surely crewmen, each missing teeth and in desperate need of a razor and comb. Kim hoped that they would let her by, but she could feel in her bones that it was about time for the crew to prove they were jackasses.
"Hey, there, sweet fishy," one of the sailor's commented, his raw breath slapping against her good senses just as much as his rough intent as they cornered her against the wall.
"You're looking mighty…tasty," another added in, hissing as he spoke. Kim flinched, getting the feeling that he thought he was being charming.
"If you're hungry, the kitchen is right down there," Kim remarked, a smart-ass smirk on her face despite her current predicament.
"We're looking for something with a little more substance," the third man quipped, open leer on his rotten face.
"I think your eyes might be bigger than your bellies here, gents," she informed them.
The trio decided not to heed her warning or even stop to think about the strange, confident smile adorning her face as they advanced on her. Reaching out for the lithe form before them without permission, they quickly found out why she was smiling. Not needing her hands to make short work of her would-be assailants, Kim carefully kept the food in her grip while whipping her foot across the faces of two of the men. As soon as she brought her leg back down, she used the other to take out the third man.
The force caused all of the men to fall back. Their hands automatically went to their faces as shock and pain rippled through their cheeks. Angry eyes glared up at the smirking redhead.
"Like I said, eyes bigger than your bellies," she commented again, wiggling her eyebrows at them.
"Wench!" one man screamed, causing his jaw to throb in pain.
Kim prepared as all three men lunged for her again, pushing themselves up from the cold deck with their right hands drawn back. Kim expertly avoided their punches and managed another kick to one's head. Another grabbed her shoulder, trying to rip her dress open. She growled and force-fed him a bowl of hot soup, slamming her morning meal in his face. The bowl muffled his agonized cries as his face was scolded. With her hand now free, she turned it onto the third sailor and hit him with a force that would have made him beg to feel her leg again. The blow connected with his nose and instantly broke it.
"Now, you've gone and ruined my breakfast," Kim remarked, shaking her head like a disapproving mother.
The three men seemed to be down for the time, so she was going to continue on her way. A tug on her skirts halted her. She turned to see the man that she hit with the soup, yanking on her dress, apparently still intent on humiliating her. A snarl escaped her lips as she brought her foot down on his head several times until his hand went limp, falling to the floor.
Seeing their mate fall still, the two other men cowered out of her way as Kim walked by them. She made sure to face forward and look ahead, showing no fear and the utmost confidence in herself. The men wisely let her go to her room unmolested. She breathed a sigh of relief when she was tucked away inside the little cabin, making sure to lock the door behind her. As much as she knew she could fight the crewmen and win, she disliked having to do it because she did not want to put up with such wickedness in the first place.
"I hope that'll be enough to keep them from staring at me until I can get off this floating hellhole," she muttered to herself.
Green eyes turned to Josh, who was still sleeping soundly. Kim smiled a bit, shaking her head. She sat down next to him and rubbed his stomach. A groan escaped the sleeping body before his eyes fluttered open.
"I brought breakfast and you need to move around a bit before you go back to sleep," she told him.
He smiled a bit and knew better than to argue. He sat up, making a few noises as if it pained him to do so. Succeeding in his task, he earned a kiss on the cheek from his fiancée.
"Why'd you only get one bowl?" Josh asked curiously.
She smiled a bit. "Well, you know I don't like to be below deck too long and I didn't feel like waiting for the cook to make more soup for another bowl," she lied. She did not want to worry him about her actions because she did not think much of it. He had enough problems anyway with his sickness and he was still grieving from the loss of his uncle.
He accepted her answer. "I guess we can share. Not like I'm going to eat much of it anyway."
She did not comment on that, knowing it was true. They split the bowl; Josh did not eat much. Moments after eating, Josh's face became just a little pale. The movement of the ship and food in his stomach did not agree. He held on for a while, but eventually fell asleep to avoid throwing up. Kim stayed by him, caressing his head to help keep him relaxed.
After some hours, Josh stirred and she convinced him to move around a little. He stood on shaky legs; she held him to steady him. He groaned while walking around the tiny space. He shook his head.
"I think I need a little air," he said.
Kim nodded and helped him out of the room. They made their way to the top deck and Josh inhaled deeply as soon as they did. Glances came their way, but Josh did not notice and Kim ignored the looks.
"Hey, let's go look at the water while we're out here. It might be that beautiful green I was telling you about," Josh said, forcing out a smile. He had heard about the color of the water in the colonies through hundreds of correspondents with his now deceased uncle.
She chuckled a bit and they walked over to the end of the deck. She peered over the side while he kept his eyes focused on her. The water was as it was that morning, mimicking an evening sky. It brought a smile onto her face.
"It's getting there," Kim told him. He smiled because he could hear the excitement in her voice.
"I can't wait for you to see it. You'll love it," he told her. He knew that she would appreciate it, which was one of the things that he loved about her. She was not an artist in any way that most would define it, but she could appreciate little things with him.
"I know I will."
Josh nodded and then he looked around. The air around him was suddenly heated and harsh, and he knew that it had nothing to do with the climate. Cautiously, he scanned the ship with his eyes, noticing that he and his future-bride had the attention of quite a few crewmembers and they did not appear happy. The hostile glares was different from the leers of the previous days.
"Let's go back to the cabin," Josh suggested in a low voice.
Kim nodded, picking up on the fact that something was making him uncomfortable. They returned to their cabin, where Josh fell back to sleep almost immediately. Kim listened as footsteps passed their locked door. A few times, she heard hushed whispers and low, hissing voices. She shook her head.
"Idiots. Don't they know they can't beat me and they definitely can't have me?" she bragged to the air.
Even though Kim was certain that the crewmen could not defeat her, she did not leave the cabin. When Josh woke up, his stomach was in knots, so there was no point to go get dinner. He knew that he would not be able to keep it down.
"I'd rather you not go out there anyway," he muttered to Kim in a low voice as she settled in the bed next to him to sleep for the night.
"You shouldn't worry about me. I can take care of myself," she replied.
"I know you can, but sometimes I'd rather you play it safe rather than tempt fate," he countered.
"I'll try to be careful. We don't have to put up with this too much longer anyway, right?"
"No, we should be in the colonies soon."
"Soon" was definitely not soon enough for either of their liking, but they could not do anything about it. The next day, Kim woke up hungry and knew that she had to leave the cabin; they needed food. Besides, she did not want those filthy sailors to think that they scared her. She wanted to make it clear that they did not rule her. So, while Josh slept, Kim unlocked the door and left. She made sure to lock it back before going about her business.
She went to the top deck, wanting to see the water and what the weather was like for a moment. Before she could make it to where she wanted to go, she paused as she heard voices just out of sight. She would not have thought anything of it, but she heard one of them say "the girl." She was the only girl onboard, so she knew that they might be talking about her.
"So, I hear the girl is the one that thumped up Pete and his two lackeys. Those idiots should just listen to the captain. He told them not to touch her."
"He tells them a lot of things, but they don't listen half the time. They're dumb enough not to listen, but smart enough to pull off stupid shit. Pete's not the type to just sit back and take something like that, though."
"No, he wants that girl to sit back and take it. I gotta admit, he's got a good eye. That girl is cute."
"That she is. I just hope he don't cause no trouble. The captain ain't gonna be kind if something happens on this trip."
"Knowing Pete, he ain't thinking about that. He's just thinking about getting in them skirts. All he talks about is her ass, after all. I'm shocked he held out this long."
"Yeah, but now he's just gonna want her more now that she's kicked his ass. He's just going to have to figure out how to get her in a position where she can't whip his ass again."
Kim frowned, hating to know that things were not over yet. Turning, she rushed back to the room, thinking that it would be best if she just stayed in the cabin for the rest of the journey. For some reason, as she practically ran to the cabin, her stomach dropped into her feet. Something was wrong; she could feel it.
She paused at the door, feeling an intense ache in her chest. A trembling hand reached out for the door and tried to open it. She found it still locked, which she knew should have set her at ease. Only she and Josh were supposed to have keys to the cabin, so if the door was still locked nothing should be wrong, she reasoned. Her emotions were not buying the reasoning, though.
Hurrying, she opened the door, nearly going through it just to get inside. The sight that greeted her caused her to scream at the top of her lungs. Josh was on the bed, covered in blood, throat slashed from ear to ear.
"No, baby, no," Kim muttered, shaking her head as she bolted over to him.
The redhead embraced the body of her fiancé, blooding splattering onto her. Panicking, she murmured how everything would be all right while trying to cover his mortally wounded throat. Tears streamed down her face and her heart squeezed in on itself as she wrapped the sheet around his neck, hoping to save him somehow. Josh was already dead, though.
"It's okay, baby. It's okay. This is nothing! I can fix this and we'll be in the colonies soon and everything'll be fine!" Kim ranted, sniffling and wiping away the crimson liquid hiding her beloved from her.
Sobs escaped her, tears mixing with blood, as she tried so desperately to "fix" her future-husband. Barely a minute passed before there was a crowd outside her open door and a familiar face at the forefront of the mob. An open leer was thrown the distraught woman's way before the rest of her world was blown apart.
"Murderess! Murderess!" her one time assailant—Pete she believed he was called—shouted above the din of the crowd. He pointed at Kim as if she was the worst human being in the world and the mob was drawn by his accusations. All eyes looked at Kim as if she was a demon.
"I didn't! We have to help him! Please! Please!" Kim begged.
Yet no one moved. Seconds later the crowd parted and a tall, dashing figure stepped into view. It was the captain.
"What's going on here?" the Captain demanded.
"That demon lass, sir! She gone and killed her beau!" Pete hollered.
The accusation instantly lit a fire in olive eyes and she glared at the man as if she was the demon he accused her of being. He flinched in fear and his heart raced, thinking that she might be able to kill him from across the room. But, then he remembered that he was the one in control this time.
"I would never!" Kim screamed in defiance. "I came in and found him like this!"
The Captain gave her a hard look. "You found him like this? Isn't your room always locked, Miss?"
Kim frowned, which turned into a scowl when she noticed Pete smirking. "You bastard! You killed Josh, didn't you?" she screamed, getting up to rush the filthy cur. The Captain blocked her path.
"Miss, you and your husband are the only ones with keys to this room. I made sure of that, so if your room was locked as always then I have to assume you're the one that did this. Some of my men have reported that you and your husband argued quite a bit, so this was more than likely one quarrel that you did not see fit to lose," the Captain assumed.
"We never argued! Your crewmen are disgusting liars!" Kim roared.
Kim was done with his calm accusations. Using leverage, she took his legs out from underneath him and went right for the beast she was certain took Josh from her. The fires of Hell burning in her eyes, she leaped on Pete like a lion on a zebra. The only thing that saved him from feeling her wrath were that other men in the crowd pulled her off of him before she could inflect major damage.
"If you're pleading your temper, lass, I think we can all rest assured that you're guilty," the Captain decided as he climbed back to his feet. "My crew had orders not to bother with you and my crew always follow orders," he stated, needing to salvage some of his ego now.
Everyone on the crew knew that was a lie, but the Captain needed to at least have the illusion that he was always in command. Besides, it would be bad for all of them if what Kim said was true. Not only would they never work on another ship again, but they could possibly be brought up on charges of some kind, the Captain especially since he was in command. The Empire did not play when it came to crimes committed at sea because it could affect the economy as well as travel between the colonies.
"Chain her down in the brig. We'll deal with her once we get to port!" the Captain ordered in a firm tone.
Kim only released a guttural roar; enough to send shivers down the spines of the men that held her. They began to drag her away while she glared at Pete with all the malice in the world. He smirked at her, blew her a kiss, and waved a familiar looking key at her; apparently, she and Josh were not the only ones that had access to that room. She cried out at the top of her voice again, whipping around to break free of the crew.
Several men hit the floor, not quite sure what caused them to fall; Kim's legs were very deadly weapons. The redhead took off, wanting to rip Pete apart, knowing he was the one that stole Josh from her and this world. Pete wisely put the Captain between them, hoping that Kim had the good sense to not attack the Captain again.
"Get her! Make sure she's chained down good!" the Captain commanded.
The redhead balked, some sense replacing her anger. If she was chained down, Pete and his cronies would be able have their way with her. She would be broken by the time they got to port and no one would believe that she had not slain her beloved if a ship full of men swore otherwise. Plus, it would be very difficult to get revenge for Josh if she was swinging from the end of a rope. So, instead of pursuing Pete, Kim made a break for the top deck.
"After her! Get her!" the Captain shouted to everyone around.
Kim leaped up the stairs as she heard heavy footfalls behind her. It was not until she got to the top deck did she realize that she did not have anywhere to go. She backed up to the edge as the crew marched closer to her, Pete at the forefront.
"Come on, Miss. There's no place for you to go now," Pete pointed out, a leer gleaming in his eyes.
Kim glanced behind her, seeing the sapphire waves beneath her. Her mind quickly pointed out her options—stay on the ship to be chained up and left to Pete and whoever else felt like violating her until they pulled into port where she would be tied and hung for the murder of her fiancé or escape into the sea and possibly drown or freeze to death. It did not even take a second.
Next time: Kim wakes up in the last place she wants to be—on another ship.