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This is the newest chapter in our Antiquarian: A Choose Your Own Scent Adventure series! Make sure to read the other chapters in this order to get the full story: Antiquarian, Bohemian, Libertine, Avant Garde, Swashbuckler.
Scent Notes: Herbaceous greenery from sweetgrass, vetiver, galbanum, bergamot, and white thyme warmed by rich amber, spicy ginger and peppercorns, juicy grapefruit, and a sprinkling of pipe tobacco.
“I’m a five-star man!” Jackson yelled, whooping and hollering with glee. He found a bottle of rum on the deck, picked it up, and took a swig. He’d done it! He’d double-crossed Compass Rose, Julia, AND Carmen. Did that make it a triple-cross? A six-way-cross? Whatever, he’d done it! Now the ship was his, and he could enact his evil plan. “I’m such a scoundrel,” he muttered, then called for the crew to gather. “Men! For we are all manly men aboard this ship,” he began, before someone interrupted him. “No, quite the opposite, a lot of this crew is women, and you should know that since you’ve tried to sleep with half of us.” “Quiet, dog!” Jackson said, throwing the bottle of rum he’d been drinking from in the general direction of the voice. It hit nobody because his aim was terrible and everyone saw it coming. “Suuuper glad this guy’s the one in charge now,” somebody stage-whispered to the gathered crowd, making them all laugh. “Listen, I might not be the most experienced pirate, but I’ve been sailing for a long time, and now I need you all to do my evil bidding as I command!” “Well, what’s your plan then?” yet another voice asked, and the group began to mutter amongst itself. “I, well, the first part of my plan was to quadruple-cross everybody and I did that and now I’ll have to think about it! Where is the ship set to sail to, anyway?” “Carmen’s secret underground volcano lair, obviously,” one of the crew members answered. “Perfect, let’s just go there. I’ll pull some sweet pranks on her stuff there, because I am a legend at pranks, and then we’ll go from there. Now, I’m going to the captain’s quarters for some shuteye. Just do whatever the hell you do every day until we get to the island. And somebody bring me more rum!” With that, he stomped off to make his way down to the captain’s quarters. “What a prick,” one of the crew members said. “Sure we can’t have a mutiny?” “Nah, Carmen will be back. We’re going to her evil lair, after all. Let’s just take our sweet time getting there and give her plenty of time to plot her revenge. The crew muttered to themselves and dispersed, except for the first mate and one of the top crewmen. “Send word ahead via crow; they’ll make it to one of the small islands nearby, we’ll get them rescued, hopefully before this shitbag even makes it to the island.”
While all of this was going on, Julia and Carmen spluttered in the freezing cold water, watching Jackson float away on the ship. “I’m a five-star man!,” they heard him yelling down at them, cheering, clearly thrilled that he had enacted his own evil plan without their suspicions arising about him. “Fucking bullshit!” Carmen yelled back, but there was no way he would have heard her. “Come on, let’s swim in the wake of the ship for a bit; it’ll be easier for us. I think there’s an island around here somewhere.” “That’s only true for dolphins, but there is an island nearby,” Carmen said, diving under the water and towards the ship. “Wait, how do you know that?” Julia asked, diving in after her. Carmen didn’t answer, just kept swimming. Julia realized she had no choice but to follow or freeze to death in the water. Indeed, every stroke, every breath felt like needles all over her body. She wasn’t sure how far she’d be able to swim. Plus, it was just so dark. Were there sharks in these waters? Probably, she realized, which managed to propel her a little faster.
They were not very close to the ship, but swimming in its wake had moments of ease and some moments of pure terror. They’d been swimming for a mile or so, and Julia couldn’t go much further. “I’m going to perish out here,” she thought, and for a moment she slipped under the water. But Carmen’s hand lurched out and grabbed her, pulled her out and into the air. “Hold onto me,” Carmen said, pulling Julia’s arms around her waist. “We’re almost there. Don’t give up on me yet.” Julia could barely nod, just let herself float/be pulled along by Carmen. Sure enough, she looked ahead and found they were a few hundred yards from an island covered in palm trees and vegetation. “Almost there now, just hold on a little longer, dear,” Carmen said reassuringly, as Julia felt herself lose consciousness. “Oh, this feeling again,” was the last thing she remembered thinking before the world went fully black.
Julia woke up to the sound of seagulls squawking loudly. Her head was pounding. At first, she thought she was coming out of another opium episode, because she was in a small cabin on a feather bed, wrapped tightly in many blankets, and lying beside her was…. Julia let out a terrible scream, straight into Carmen’s ear. Carmen woke instinctually, grabbing a knife from the floor and nearly impaling Julia’s face with it. “Woah woah, hey, it’s me, it’s Julia, I’m so sorry,” she cried, as she remembered the events of the day before: Jackson turning on them, swimming in the freezing water, being nearly at the island, floating on Carmen’s back before she lost consciousness. Carmen threw the knife back down on the ground, which Julia suddenly realized was actually just sand. “Dammit, Julia,” she said, sitting upright. Carmen took a breath, complete with a loud exhale. “It’s fine. I’m sure you were just trying to piece together what happened, right?” “Yeah, exactly,” Julia replied. “Where the hell are we? Is this your secret underground volcano lair?” “Pffft,” Carmen said, waving her hand dismissively as she stood up and walked out of the small cabin structure. Julia instinctively followed her, as she knew Carmen would keep talking even if Julia wasn’t right behind her.
“You know me better than that. I have spots on all the islands around here. If they aren’t mine, then I’ve at least brokered peace with the people who do live here for a little privacy. Or just killed them. Whichever was easiest,” she said with a nonchalant shrug of her right shoulder. They’d come to a little fire pit that was just embers now, but their soaking wet clothing had been hung nearby to help all the pieces dry out after miles of swimming. “This is just one of my little spots. My evil lair is not super far from here, but too far to swim, so this will have to do while we get our bearings. It’s pretty stocked with supplies, and the island is lush with fruit trees, so we should be fine for a day or so.” The breeze blew suddenly, and Julia grabbed her clothes and threw Carmen’s to her. “So … why weren’t we wearing anything, exactly?” Julia asked as Carmen tossed Juila’s clothes to her, which had fully dried, thankfully. Carmen rolled her eyes. “It wasn’t like that. I think we both know that would be a terrible decision.” “Yeah, right,” Julia said, throwing on her tunic, which was long enough that really, who needed pants? “It’s because we were both on the edge of hypothermia. Body heat is better for warming you up than just blankets alone. After I got us ashore, I quickly came over here, got a fire going, stripped us down, and first we cuddled on the beach under blankets together by the fire, then I carried you in to sleep with me. You should be thanking me, honestly, for saving your ass and literally carrying you away from the brink of death,” Carmen said, one eyebrow raised into a dramatic arch. Julia sighed, turning away from Carmen as she dressed. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I owe you my life now. I’m beholden to you,” she said. “Not like I wasn’t already,” she mumbled under her breath. She felt Carmen’s arms around her. “Oh, I know,” she said, giving Julia a tight squeeze before spinning Julia around to face her. “There is one thing I would absolutely love right now, though,” Carmen whispered, drawing Julia in close, breathing into her ear. Julia felt her heart palpitating, her body trembling. “Yes, anything,” she answered quietly, her voice trembling. “Make us some coffee, wench,” Carmen said, pushing Julia away so she stumbled back. “Supplies are in the small back of the cabin. I’ll get the fire back up and running. There should be tobacco and a pipe, too; bring them,” Carmen said over her shoulder as she walked to gather driftwood for the fire. Julia let out all the breath in her body, not realizing she’d been holding it so tightly in antici…. She shook her arms and turned around to rifle through the cabin. Maybe she’d get some intel on Carmen so she’d stop catching Julia by surprise all the time. She was a top detective, dammit! She was good at her job, and important, not just a rat-basher! But Carmen had always had a way of throwing her off her game. That’d been part of the appeal, in the beginning at least.
Julia stomped into the cabin, or was it a hut? Whatever, it had a makeshift door and a bed and storage boxes, which she began opening to search for the supplies, and hopefully some sort of alcohol. If she was going to be stuck on an island with Carmen for an indeterminate amount of time, she’d definitely need booze. She was also digging for clues, but came up empty. She found canned goods, matches, coffee, tobacco, some unlabeled bottles of alcohol (thank God), knives (mental note), cutlery, boring stuff like that, but not much else. “Dammit,” she muttered under her breath, gathering up the supplies and walking outside. To Julia’s great surprise, Carmen had stoked the fire and gathered a variety of fruits for them to have for breakfast. Julia’s stomach rumbled, suddenly starving. Coffee and the freshest exotic fruit she hadn’t gotten to taste since the last time she had dinner at the palace, which had ended … not particularly well. It wasn’t HER fault they weren’t expecting her swordcane and they didn’t know how to handle it so that when they tried to take it from her, they knocked over that elaborate sconce, thus setting a small fire in one of the parlor reception rooms. That was the last time she’d had exotic fruit, and now here she was, eating it on the beach with her former-friend-turned-lover-turned-enemy-turned-friend-again-maybe?, on a deserted island, with supplies to keep them alive. Things could be worse, she decided.
“So, what do now?” Julia asked through a slurp of some kind of exotic fruit she couldn’t recognize, but tasted absolutely delicious, like grapefruit with bits of ginger. “We take a few days to relax and plot things out on the beach and then what? Can anyone come to rescue us? Are we stranded here until we see a ship passing by and we send out distress smoke signals? What’s the plan?” She took another bite.
“Well, I suppose we should talk about teaming up and getting back at that conniving scoundrel, Jackson. I thought he was a friend of your friend! That’s so fucked up; this is your fault, you know,” Carmen said, taking the percolator off the fire and pouring cups of coffee for them. Julia nearly choked on her fruit. “Me?! Who was the one who broke into my flat, stole my journal, taunted me around most of Europe, and made me follow her onto a ship in the first place, huh?” Julia threw the fruit at Carmen, narrowly missing Carmen’s head. “I MISSED ON PURPOSE!” Julia yelled, getting up and sprinting away into the jungle. “You are such a bad sport!” Carmen called after her, but Julia soon found herself enveloped in lush greenery that took her breath away. It’d been a long time since she’d last been in jungle environs, and even then she had never really taken the time to explore and enjoy herself, because she was always working whenever she traveled. So she took her time, exploring the exotic scenery, coming to rest against a huge tree with tangled roots like she’d never seen in her life, to collect her thoughts. Carmen was right about one thing: Something had to be done about Jackson. But could she trust Carmen? Should they team up together, or go their own separate ways? It did seem insane for her to join forces with the woman she’d been hunting across part of the world for months now, but Carmen was also the person who knew her deepest secrets, hopes, and fears. Could she really have turned as evil as she portrays herself to be? Julia wasn’t sure about anything anymore, so she switched her mind off and tried to focus on living in the moment.
She must’ve fallen asleep, because she woke up some time later, the sun already on its descent. “Shit!” she mumbled, standing up. “Carmen probably left me behind on this damn island and floated away on a secret boat she had stowed away here somewhere. I’m a nincompoop!” Julia suddenly realized she had begun walking in the opposite direction of the beach where they’d landed and now she didn’t know where she was. “For fuck’s sake,” she mumbled, stumbling through some dense brush. “If I had my swordcane, I could clear this away in no time flat!” But she managed to scramble through, and suddenly found herself at the door of another hut. “There you are!” Carmen said as she opened the door. “I was wondering where you’d gone off to in your huffy superiority. Come in,” she said as she disappeared back into the hut. Julia was flabbergasted: Carmen hadn’t left her to die on some uninhabited island! There was another hut! Perhaps this was where Carmen stored all her private information, and indeed, Julia was partially right. Upon entering the cabin, she found most of it was taken up by a makeshift table that was covered in maps, and multiple baskets full of scrolls of paper. “I call this my war room,” Carmen said. “I keep copies of maps and papers on all of these islands, hidden in the jungle where they’re less likely to be discovered. Which is why your initial search of the sleeping cabin found nothing, you little snoop,” Carmen explained. She pulled a large map out of the basket, and spread it over the ones already on top of the table that appeared to show the path Julia had been following Carmen on. “This is where we are now,” she said, pointing out a nearly impossible to see island circled in the smallest bit of red. “My main evil volcano lair is over here,” she said, pointing to a slightly larger island that was just a few inches away on the map, but was clearly much further in the grand scheme of the actual ocean. “How on earth are we going to get there?” Julia asked, exasperated. “Unless you happen to have a crew and a ship on hand? I doubt we can get there in some kind of rowboat.” Carmen raised an eyebrow and scoffed. “If a boat full of my crew doesn’t show up here within 4 days, then when they do show up, I’ll kill them all and take the boat over ourselves. My crew is loyal to me. They’ll be here soon enough to rescue me.” “Wow, you have a lot of faith in people. That doesn’t sound like the Carmen I remember.” Carmen waved her hand dismissively. “Please. I have a lot of faith in money, and my crew are very well-compensated.” Julia started laughing. “Okay, THAT sounds like the Carmen I know. But what are we going to do once your crew does show up?” Julia asked. “That, my darling,” Carmen said, reaching up to stroke Julia’s face, “Is precisely what we have to figure out together.”
Julia backed away, a little shiver running down her spine. “Yes, we should talk about next steps with what to do about Jackson. He betrayed us, and my friend Compass Rose, and he stole from us. He deserves to die!” Carmen sighed. “Yes, yes, we have to take care of Jackson, but we have to talk about us, dear. You’ve clearly missed me. I’ve missed you terribly. I could use you back by my side, in every way possible. So, think about that,” Carmen said, taking Julia by the arm and leading her back out into the jungle. “Let’s make our way out of the woods and back to the beach so we don’t have to sleep on a table covered in maps tonight. We can talk around the fire and have some whiskey and split a pipe or two of tobacco.” Julia just nodded, her head too full of thoughts to answer. Carmen led the way through the jungle and back to the beach, where the embers of the fire lay awaiting reignition. “Restart the fire, I’ll pour us some whiskey, pack a pipe, and get some fruit ready. It’ll be dark soon, and that means cold. Might even have to snuggle up tight again for warmth,” Carmen said with a wink. Julia gulped and knelt by the fire, using a stick to stoke the embers back up, then covering them with dried palm fronds. Soon enough, the fire was blazing, and Julia settled into the sand nearby. Carmen came and sat next to her, setting a plate brimming with fruit between them. The pipe was lit and in her mouth, and from her other hand she passed a brass cup with a hefty pour of whiskey in it to Julia. “Cheers,” Carmen said, clinking her cup against Julia’s. “To us.” Julia said nothing and downed the whiskey as fast as she could, chasing it with a large piece of … mango? It had gotten very dark, very fast, and she wasn’t sure exactly what she bit into, except that it was delicious. Julia stood up, fruit still in hand, to pick up the whiskey and bring it back to where they were sitting. She took a large swig, then started walking back over. “Alright, Carmen, let’s decide what we should actually do about this Jackson ass….” But the rest of her words died in her mouth. She stumbled over nothing and fell down into the sand, dropping the whiskey and the fruit. Carmen got up slowly, brushing the sand off her clothes. “My dear, dear Julia,” she said quietly. “You are still so trusting even after all these years.” Julia tried to speak, but her lips wouldn’t open; her tongue felt swollen in her mouth. She turned her head toward the ocean and saw the light of a ship in the distance. No! She was so close to rescue, she had to fight Carmen and make it off this island! But her body couldn’t move. She felt paralyzed and absolutely terrified. Suddenly, Carmen’s face came into view, blocking the light of the ship. A terrible smile was on Carmen’s face as she said, “I told you they’d be here to rescue me soon. I didn’t say they’d rescue you, too.” Julia’s eyes closed as she heard Carmen begin to laugh, then everything faded away to nothing.
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