Elias lay in his bunk, crammed between two other prisoners. The rhythmic sway of the ship and the foul stench of the hold had long since lost their sickening effect. They had been at sea for two weeks. The sea sickness had passed after only a few days. Now the soft pitch of the ship was a comforting constant — something to depend on even when the rest of his life was spiraling desperately out of his control. Uncertainty was the only thing left to nauseate him.
It was adequate to the task.
His trial had been a miscarriage of justice. But what did the French know of justice? They could hardly keep their own people fed and content. Their monarchs and nobility with their gluttony and excesses balked in the face of the poor and starving of France. Revolution was inevitable.
But what did that matter to Elias? He was bound for the French-held islands of the Caribbean to be sold into slavery and worked to death in the sugar cane fields. And he would never see his beloved Jaime again.
He allowed his eyes to close in a fitful sleep. Dreams of his new wife calling his name, begging him to return to her, besieged his mind. But iron bonds tightened around his wrists, and he couldn’t reach her.
Elias awoke to the rocking of the ship seeming to move with a wider pitch, though it was difficult to tell from his place in the hold with the other prisoners. When the sea water began spilling in torrents down through the hatch and filling the prisoner’s quarters, Elias grew concerned.
Movement on the bunk below him accompanied by frightened murmuring, brought him to the edge of the berth. Other prisoners were leaving their places on the wooden planks and dropping the short distance to the floor. He was forced to follow those next to him, since they were chained together. In a short time he was ankle deep in the cold salty brine.
Panicked shouts from the crew reached his ears. But he could only understand a word here and there. The roar of the sea outside seemed to drown out all other noises, except the wind as it screamed through the cracks of the deck above them.
Fear seemed to leap like wildfire from face to face in the hold, spreading from one trembling prisoner to the next. If the ship went down, they would all die down there, bound together and shackled to the hull. The walls of the ship creaked and shook as it rolled from side to side, moaning out the funeral dirge that sang of Elias’s death. His chest constricted and he closed his eyes, conjuring the image of his beloved Jaime one last time. If he was going to die, he wanted to do so thinking of her.
Somehow she would know he had loved her with his last breath.