Part the Two Hundred Fifty Sixth: The Fruits of Evil
“Ghastly,” Hope said, finally able to react after staring at the hung slaves.
While she found her voice, she could not look away from the sight. The five men and two women were naked, save for the ropes binding their wrists to their ankles behind them. Even with the minimal twilight coming through the canopy, she could see the extension of their necks by an inch or two depending on which corpse she focused on.
What disturbed her most was the angle each head skewed atop its neck. They varied from a slight nod, almost like one taking a nap, to being close to a right angle, as though caught in mid motion as an ax cleaved the neck right before the head flew off.
“Do we take them down?” Samuel asked. “It would be a mitzvah to them.”
“But not necessarily to us,” said Osei. “These have been here for over a day and were most likely left as a warning.”
“Seven of them?” Mason asked.
“How many would you have hung, then, sir?” Samuel asked.
“One, if I wanted to set an example. This seems excessive.”
“That statement sums up de Colera,” said Osei. “We watched him hang all the survivors from the Gale after he took the ship and left their bodies on her yards while he set fire to the decks.”
“How many slaves are under him,” asked Turely, “if he can afford to use this many as an example?”
“He’s a cruel man,” said Charity.
“Which means we’d best get on our way,” said Hope. “The sooner we get to him and rescue Abigail, the better.”
Hope took two steps before she realized most of the crew was still staring at the corpses in the trees.
“Yes, this is horrible,” she acknowledged. “Yes, it is the work of cruel hands. We can all stand here in fear and gape at what he’s capable of.
“But consider this, if you will: Anyone capable of such cruelties as these is someone to take one of two courses against. The first is to run and stay far away from him, something we have come too far for to do now, and the other is to take the fight to him and get the jump on him before he can do the same to us. And we are not going to do that now, are we?”
“No we are not,” said Samuel. “And a man capable of such acts, certainly he must have seized considerable treasure from his victims, mustn’t he?”
“There is that,” said Hope. “We should think about his cruelty, how such acts must draw a great deal of tribute to keep him away. So much that we may well need this boat to bring it back with us.”
“Then if we’re using the boat,” said Osei, “we must hide it again, in case his men find it before we return here.”
After the small craft was hidden, Hope started for the interior of de Colera’s estate again. “Let us be careful, now; we don’t want any surprises suddenly comi-”
She didn’t feel the force that smacked into her ribs and laid her flat on the ground until she was staring up at the sky…
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