Waking up wasn't nearly as bad as it had been yesterday. That potion of Bev's really did keep the nightmares at bay. After a lengthy trial and error process I made it out of bed and to a window. They town looked no worse for the wear. Any signs of the battle had been cleaned up and it appeared to be a rather busy day in Padres. Well, as busy as that island got, anyway. There wasn't much on Padres besides Fort Dundee and the EITC silver mine. Crops were difficult to grow, and the heat from the volcano made the water too warm for most fish to survive. The only saving grace the island had been the pirates. True, few ever strayed this far south, but the ones that did plundered the powerful war ships. The shops served as fences for the stolen goods, and the pirates then spent their money in the shops. It was nice little system.

"Hey amigo, I got something for you!" Rico's call shook me from my revelry. He brought in a chest that I recognized from my ship. "I figured you could use a change of clothes. I don't need you stinking up my tavern," he said with a grin. I thanked him profusely. My whole life was in that trunk. "If you get dressed you can go take a little walk around town. Bev and Rosaline said it would be fine. Just try not to hurt yourself." I nodded and set about picking out some clothes to wear. My black checker coat, a pair of black breeches, and a broken-in pair of boots. Comfort was my main concern.

It was warm outside, but there was a cool breeze coming in off the sea. I'd always liked Padres del Fuego. Sure there was a heavy presence from the Navy, the EITC and even dear old Jolly Roger, all of which wanted people like me dead to varying degrees, but it was isolated, fairly quiet, and the people were tough as oxen. As I walked through the town, I saw a woman waving me down. She was short and thin, (petite I think was the word I heard a French sailor use when describing a woman of similar stature) with dark skin, her black hair tied back in braids. She introduced herself as Perla Alodia, the owner of the Padres jewelry shop. She asked me to follow her inside, that she had something for me. I took a seat by her counter while she rummaged around for something. Finally she stepped out from behind her display case, a small black box in her hands. I opened it and marveled at the craftsmanship of what she had given me; it was an earring, gold with two stones, a ruby and an amethyst. Certainly not the kind of thing one gave away. We pirates used earrings and the like as a kind of emergency fund. Should we die at sea and our bodies wash ashore where none of our friends or family are, the earing would serve as payment for whatever soul was decent enough to give us a proper burial. Otherwise it was just another thing for someone to steal from our corpses. "Why," I asked, my voice still hoarse. She smiled at me.

"Because you saved us all. Roger would have burned this whole town to the ground. If he was feeling pleasant he would have had us all killed. Otherwise we would have ended up in his undead army. You prevented all that. You're a brave man, Solomon." I assumed she knew my name from the gypsies, or maybe a loose-lipped sailor. She took the box from me and bent over me. "Easy now, I'm just doing the honors." Her hands moved so delicately I could scarcely tell she was removing my old earing and putting in the new. She smelled like the exotic spices I plundered merchant vessels from the East. I gulped, trying to prevent my natural reaction. She was very pretty, after all. Her fingers brushed past the lobe of my ear as she finished. "Now for your second reward, Mr. Hero," she muttered softly. Supple as a panther she slid into my lap and cupped my face with those small, gentle hands. With my wounds I would have protested, but to my surprise she weighed practically nothing. She dipped her head down and pressed her thin lips to mine. My arm wrapped around her thin waist, my free hand moving up to rest on the back of her head. I was acting on pure instinct, as if I was a ship that was driving itself. Suddenly she pulled back, slipping off my lap before straightening her clothes. I must have looked confused. "That was far more valuable than that earring. You're the only man on this island that I have ever given such a reward to. Keep up the heroics and there may be more to come." She winked and gave me another, more chaste kiss before moving to go back to her duties. "Off with you now, I do have a business to run." I rose to my feet, still unable to find my voice, and moved out of the shop, stealing one last glance at her bottom before shutting the door. Yet another thing I liked about Padres: the women.

Almost as soon as the door was shut behind me, a large man put his hand on my shoulder. "You are Solomon Ironskull, yes?" He had a thick accent, Swedish, or something similar. I nodded. "Good. You will come with me." Couldn't really argue, and I wasn't exactly in the shape to physically resist, so I followed him. He led me to a blacksmith's shop owned by a man named Ferrera. I found out the large Swede was named Sven. "You did a good thing, and it cost you a fine blade." That's right, I never did get my sword back. Now that was a crying shame. It was Royal broadsword that I'd had enchanted by a gypsy to heal me. I'd taken it from a Dragoon on Kingshead. "We cannot replace such a blade, but we have something for you until you can find a more suitable weapon." Fresh off the anvil he handed me a fine steel broadsword. It was sharp and heavy, but balanced as a good sword should be. I thanked them both, but asked if they could drop it off at the tavern. I wasn't feeling up to lugging around a heavy sword for the rest of the day. They agreed, and I set off once again. After a bit more wandering, maybe an hour or so, I considered heading back to the Skull when a sign caught my eye. Mercedes Corazon Tattoo Parlor eh? I had a bit of ink on my left wrist, a design I picked up from a trader from Tahiti that he said would ward off evil spirits. Adding more had never occurred to me before, but for some strange reason I felt compelled to go into that shop.

It was very clean inside, an excellent thing considering the type of work going on. "Ah, welcome. I am Mercedes Corazon. How may I assist you today," a lilting feminine voice called out. Why didn't I ever come in here before? Mercedes was vision of loveliness on an otherwise barren rock. She was tall and lithe, with all of her womanly curves prominently displayed. She wore her jet black hair straight down, her face soft with a thin nose and full lips. I was left speechless for a moment. "Sir?"

"I-I'm sorry miss, I was lost in thought. I was considering having another tattoo done. I was hoping you could help me find a design.."

She smiled. "Of course, sir. Is there a special reason for the tattoo?"

"… To commemorate an important event. I was thinking of having it done on my chest, but I'd have to check and see how my injury is progressing. Could I trouble you for a knife?" I caught the offered blade with practiced ease, cutting through the linen bandages that encircled my torso. She had a mirror on the wall that I used to get good look at my chest. What I saw was surprising, to say the least. There were obvious scars where I had been stabbed and shot, but what was curious was that more scars branched out from where I had been shot. It almost looked like one of the old trees back on the Continent.

"Oh my word… Are you quite sure that you wish to have it done there? Perhaps on your back, or maybe…"

"No. No I think this is exactly where I'd like it. In fact, if there's some way we could work in the scar that would be ideal."

We spent the rest of the afternoon discussing possible designs, colors, and any possible risks. I bid my fair hostess a good evening, promising to return tomorrow to start. On the way back to the tavern I passed the jewelry shop. Perla blew me kiss as she swept up the storefront, a gesture I responded to with a saucy wink. Time enough to deal with that later. Grabbing a bowl of stew and hunk of bread from Rico I headed back to my room. A lot had happened today, all of it good, a rare thing in the life of a pirate. Perhaps my stay on Padres wouldn't be so bad. If nothing else, I had beautiful women to look at.

A/N: Read and review. Perla and Mercedes never really came off as having any strong character traits so I filled in the blanks, and made Perla a flirt, and Mercedes will be a bit more reserved. Also, that earring thing, historically accurate. Learn something new every day.