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Pirate Fiction -- Blackthorne's Story
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Capt Peter Blackthorne
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2017 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BY THE MARK FIVE
____________________________


“You sent for us, Capitaine?”

At the sound of the young man’s soft accent, Blackthorne glanced across the shadowy deck, making out the figures of a pair of sailors awaiting permission to step onto the quarterdeck. It was nearing midnight. Legacy had been under sail by moonlight for already five hours that evening, as darkness fell early in winter this far south.

“Indeed I did. Come up.”

The Boucher brothers — Marcel and Maurice — had signed on with Legacy in Montserrat two years earlier. Marcel, the elder of the two, had been a scholar at Collège Royal-Bourbon and had run afoul of the press gang while with Maurice at a wharfside tavern in Marseille. The brothers served in the French navy for several years before jumping ship in Montserrat and hiding in a cane field until their ship sailed without them.

Blackthorne waved them up to the poop deck and over to the taffrail, away from the helmsman and other officers and into the pool of light cast by the starboard stern lantern. “And so,” he said, studying their faces. “Legacy sails under a Letter of Marque from King Charles, and all aboard are pardoned of their crimes against England. In exchange, we are lawfully entitled to attack French ships.” He paused. “To attack your countrymen.”

The brothers gazed at him somberly.

“My Letter of Marque cannot protect you from the penalties France may impose do we take a French ship. If you wish to refuse to take up arms against your country’s navy, then let us part ways afore such time, and I will see that you get your share of what meager plunder we have managed to take thus far.”

“The crime would be treason,” Marcel replied quietly and looked at his brother.

Maurice shrugged. “We are already wanted for desertion, and for that the penalty is death. How many times could they hang us?”

Blackthorne smiled.

“We have no country but Legacy, Capitaine,” Marcel said, “and no family but this ship’s company. We will fight like Englishmen.”

Maurice snorted. “Non, not like Englishmen — like Vikings!”

A shout rang out from the foretop. “SHOALS AHEAD! SHOALS! SHOALS!”

Blackthorne dismissed the Boucher brothers and drew his glass for a better look. In the light of the half-moon, he could see the foamy chop of waves shattering against a shallow reef about a mile ahead.

“Bear two points larboard,” Captain Blackthorne said to Hudgins, the helmsman.

“Two points larboard, aye, Cap’n!”

“Hands to the braces to trim the sails, Mr. Dickerson. Mr. Alden!”

“Sir!”

“Signal Captain Bertie to bear to larboard.”

Two pairs of flags were raised — one pair to the top of the mainmast and one pair strung along a mizzen stay where it was illuminated by the stern lanterns. Brown and orange. The flags fluttered and snapped their message across the sea to Dove, trailing by about half a mile. Bear larboard, bear larboard.

“By the mark seven!” came the sounding call.

Forty-two feet. Blackthorne strode to the forepeak, anxiously peering into the dark waters for signs of shallows.

“By the mark five!”

Thirty feet.

Though Legacy’s hull design was newer than Dove’s, she was a much larger ship with a deeper draft — 16 feet. The smaller Dove could sail in waters as shallow as 14 feet. If Bertie steered Dove directly behind Legacy, Blackthorne could lead both ships through these shallow waters. His mind raced, trying to recall whether they’d worked out a signal for “Follow astern.”

“Captain! Captain!” Alden ran up to him breathlessly. “Dove is bearing starboard!”

“What?” Blackthorne looked to the signal flags, verifying that the proper colors had been raised. “Stay here and watch the waters, lad,” he shouted to Alden as he ran aft. “Call Mr. Dickerson if you see anything but black seas!”

From the stern, Blackthorne watched slack-jawed as Bertie steered Dove directly for the reef. Desperate to get Bertie’s attention, he reached into the binnacle cabinet and withdrew the loaded flintlock routinely stored there, then fired into the sky.

Seconds after the report of the pistol came the sound of Dove’s hull colliding with the sea bottom and scattered screams from aboard.


Last edited by Capt Peter Blackthorne on Sat Sep 02, 2017 5:08 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Salty Dog
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 6:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very nice story there! Good author! Surprised
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Capt Peter Blackthorne
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Salty Dog! More to come! I finally got the story worked out in my head. It's been knocking around in there for years. Everytime I play the game, I hear a little bit more. Smile
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fleetp
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've also enjoyed reading it. Smile
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Capt Peter Blackthorne
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad to hear it, Fleetp!
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Capt Peter Blackthorne
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2017 5:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

AGROUND
_______________________


Sound asleep, Johnathan Sims was thrown from his hammock when Dove slammed into the shoals. He landed on Jonas Fitch, a tall, red-headed Lincolnshire man who cursed and flailed as they jointly attempted to stand. Sims ran aft. Fitch, forward.

“Mrs. Henry!” Sims called, pushing his way through the crowd below decks. He could hear the cries of both children above the confusion as he sloshed through ankle-deep water.

“Are you hurt?” She was sitting on the deck, her linen chemise soaked and revealing. Holding her hand to her forehead, she was dazed and slow to respond. Sims took her face in his hands, peering in the darkness for a head wound. “We must go above, Mrs. Henry, in all haste! William, lad... Take this. Oh, and this.” He was shoving the family’s possessions into the boy’s arms — the children’s clothing, shoes, a doll, a blanket.

“My gown...” Mrs. Henry slurred. “I must dress.”

“Here.” Sims placed her dress into her arms. Take it and put it on above.” In the rising water he found her shoes, a comb and a locket.

“But my corset,” she said, “where is my corset?”

“You must do without. Please come. Now.”

Sims gathered Ginnie into one arm and took Mrs. Henry’s elbow with his other hand. “This way. Quickly!”

They passed Captain Bertie at the bottom of the companionway as he tumbled down to the hold, panic writ large on his young features. He held a lantern high to shed light on the flooding hold. Close at his heels were men whom Sims recognized as the ship’s carpenter and quartermaster.

After an awkward ascent up Dove’s cramped companionway, Sims and the Henry family staggered onto the main deck. The little galleon was pitched upward slightly, deck slanting underfoot. Sims led them to the stern, where the other passengers had already started to assemble. Mrs. Henry stopped abruptly. “Where can I dress?” she said with such urgency that Sims wondered if she were still addled from her fall.

He ushered her away from the crowd of men to the far side of the mizzenmast. “Here,” he said, and he turned away.

As he lowered Ginnie gently to sit on the deck, he remembered the items still clutched in his hand. He set Mrs. Henry’s shoes and comb on the deck and wrapped the children in the salvaged blanket. Stepping away, he cupped the locket in his hands and stole a moment to inspect it in the light of the half-moon. Inside was a man’s portrait painted in oil with a tiny brush, his pleasant, sincere expression so guileless that Sims immediately liked him without knowing him at all. Mr. Henry, Sims concluded, as the man possessed the same broad forehead and straight nose as William. He gently closed the locket, silently thanking heaven that he had been able to preserve this memento for Mr. Henry’s widow.

.......................................................



Blackthorne did not ask permission to come aboard.

Following him up the Jacob’s ladder to board Dove were George Hughes, Legacy’s carpenter, and several able-bodied seamen who were skilled with a hammer and saw. Legacy had anchored 200 hundred yards away, which was as near to the shoals as Blackthorne dared bring her.

Bertie stalked over to him, and even in the pre-dawn light Blackthorne could see the flush of rage in his face. “You signaled me directly into the reef!” he shouted.

“I did no such thing.” Blackthorne brushed past him on the way to the stern, moving to the crowd on the quarterdeck. “Are all passengers accounted for?”

“You signaled green and red!” Bertie spouted. “Green and red flags mean Bear Starboard!”

Blackthorne stopped and turned. “The flags are brown and orange, your Grace. Brown and orange to bear larboard.” He glanced at Legacy, confirming for the hundredth time that the correct signal flags had been raised — the brightening sky proving the truth of it with every minute.

He spotted the Henry family by the mizzenmast. Mrs. Henry was sitting on the deck, disheveled, soaked and still dazed. After a nod to Sims, Peter asked, “Are you all right, Mrs. Henry?”

“I will be, Captain,” she smiled weakly. “I’m ever grateful for Dr. Sims’s care of all of us.”

“If you’re going below, Peter, would you have a look for my bag of medicinals? And anything of Mrs. Henry’s that might be saved?”

Blackthorne’s gaze fell on the children sitting against the gunwale. Though their faces were swollen from tears, they bore their suffering silently, and he was grateful for their composure. Kneeling to their eye-level, he murmured, “You are both very brave. Stay strong for your mum, aye?”

The hold had flooded to a depth of about 18 inches. Bertie’s carpenter had managed to pull up enough planks to reveal the damage to the hull below the forepeak. Blackthorne lowered the lantern, and its light filtered through a swirl of sandy seawater, dimly illuminating the hull’s injury. He took a cursory look and then handed the lantern to George Hughes with a shake of his head. “Find me when you’ve a measure of the damage, will you?”

Blackthorne located Sims’ medical bag in a raft of flotsam not far from the berths. Before returning above, he stopped by the screened-off area where Mrs. Henry had been sleeping and tore down one of the sail-cloths with a jerk, revealing a cot, two small hammocks and a sea chest, mostly submerged. The trunk would be too much for him to manage alone up the companionway, so he emptied its sodden contents into the sail-cloth and tied up its corners into a bundle. Before stepping away, he noticed one last item floating under the cot — Mrs. Henry’s corset. He flung it over his shoulder and proceeded up the companionway, the bundled canvas dragging along the ladder beneath him.

“Your possessions are soaked through but safe, Mrs. Henry,” Blackthorne announced, lowering the bundle to the deck. With a little glare, Sims snatched the corset off Blackthorne’s shoulder and dropped it discreetly out of sight.

“Are we sinking?” William’s small voice piped up from the deck.

“Not atall, lad,” Blackthorne replied. “There is a hole in the hull, true enough, but we are in shallow water, and we are safe.”

“Can the ship be repaired?” Mrs. Henry asked. She seemed more alert now, though a bruise was forming on her temple.

“I believe so, aye. And then we must move her off this ground and into deeper water.”

Dove had slammed into a sandbar just ahead of the reef, which largely cushioned what could have been a fatal collision. The ship rested on a sandy bottom in 13 feet of water, but the impact had cracked the keel and crushed a sizeable section of the prow below the waterline. With men constantly on the bilge pumps, the water inside the hold was evacuated in several hours. Though Hughes and his men managed to patch the breech in the hull, reducing the leaking to a steady seep into the bilge, the ship would need a more thorough repair before she was seaworthy again.

At Blackthorne’s order, soundings had been taken throughout the day, revealing that the tide was highest at about noon. So in the morning of the next day, the passengers were loaded into jolly boats and taken to Legacy, lessening Dove’s weight by about a ton, by Blackthorne’s estimation. Legacy’s experienced sailors then rowed out to deeper water with a kedge anchor, which they dropped onto a rocky seabed about 50 yards away. With two men on each capstan bar, Dove’s crew winched the slack out of the anchor line, then strained and sputtered as the capstan refused to turn another inch.

“It’s no use, Cap’n!” Dove’s quartermaster called.

“You must lighten the load even further, Captain,” Blackthorne told Bertie. “Cast off your guns.”

“What?” Bertie protested. “And sail completely unarmed? I think not!”

“Would you prefer to dump your cargo?”

“Certainly not!”

Blackthorne pointed at Legacy’s two decks of cannon. “There are your guns, your Grace. You sail under the protection of a man-of-war. Your rabinets would be of no consequence to a French warship or a pirate vessel, mark me. But toss them overboard and we will be 1,800 pounds lighter and may finally be upon our way.”

For a moment, Blackthorne thought the young nobleman might burst into tears. Instead he stomped away and ordered his men to uncouple the guns from their mounting brackets and hurl them into the sea. After each jettisoned gun, the men at the capstan shouldered the bars again, grunting and cursing as the ship failed to move — until the final gun had been tossed.

Feeling Dove shift under their feet, Blackthorne, Bertie and every available hand joined the men at the capstan, and with their joint exertion, the galleon slowly slid off the sand until it bobbed freely in open water.

“Well done, lads,” Blackthorne said, panting. “If you would, your Grace, kindly bring Dove abeam Legacy, and we will have the passengers returned to your ship by gangway. We’ve all had enough rowing and sweating for the day.”


Last edited by Capt Peter Blackthorne on Sat Sep 02, 2017 5:09 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Capt Peter Blackthorne
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2017 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Map for the story so far:

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Capt Peter Blackthorne
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 9:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ST. KITTS
_______________________________


With Dove needing repairs, Blackthorne was forced to alter the course for Jamestown by swinging west to St. Kitts, the nearest friendly port. The leaking galleon required men on the bilge pumps every hour of the two-day journey, resulting in an exhausted crew by the time Dove was moored to the shipwright’s dock.

The shipyard was situated on the far edge of the harbor, giving Blackthorne hope that he would not have to associate with Bertie while in port. Let him tend to his ship’s repairs and leave the rest of us be, Blackthorne thought, although he pitied the shipwright.

Unscheduled as it was, putting into St. Kitts did provide the opportunity to off-load the cargo taken from the French merchantman, so Blackthorne steered Legacy to the quay, where he found traders eager to purchase goods at a discounted rate.

Blackthorne stood on the quarterdeck of his ship, observing as nearly 100 tons of sugar, cotton and spices were hoisted out of Legacy’s hold and swung over to the dock, when a feminine voice called from wharfside.

“Good day, Captain.”

Mrs. Henry peered up at him with a smile, her face shaded by a white parasol. Her yellow gown had been laundered and smoothed with a flatiron, and a gold locket above her breasts glinted in the sun. Her two children stood obediently next to her, Ginnie holding her hand.

He gazed at her a moment, surprised to notice how truly pretty she was. His previous encounters with Mrs. Henry had been tainted — initially by his anger at her role in Legacy’s fate, and then by the confusion and crisis of Dove’s grounding. Now, on a sunny, breezy day — her matters no more pressing than a walk by the harbor — she was radiant and serene, and he allowed himself a thorough appreciation of her features from the proper distance between them.

“Mrs. Henry.” He tipped his hat and flashed a wide smile.

“You’ve a fine ship, Captain. She’s hardly weathered. Is she new?”

“She is at that. Built by Randall and Trent this past spring.” And financed by Spanish gold, he thought but did not say aloud.

“And how fare you, William?” Blackthorne called. He had grown to admire the fair-haired six-year-old, who reminded him so much of himself as a boy. Serious and quiet, displaced by forces outside his control, William was learning resilience and strength, qualities that would ably serve him as he grew up in the New World.

“I am well, sir,” William replied, but he reached for his mother’s skirt for assurance.

“Would you like to come aboard a pirate ship, lad? I’ll show you how to climb the ratlines. Perhaps even fire a gun?”

The boy nodded, and Mrs. Henry wrapped her arm around his shoulder. “Perhaps later, Captain, as we are to meet Dr. Sims at any moment.” She gestured to Ginnie, and a note of teasing crept into her voice. “May we come as well, or is it bad luck to have ladies aboard your ship?”

Blackthorne smiled. “I assure you, Madam, I have never had a lady aboard.”

Mrs. Henry blushed and laughed softly, turning away and almost stepping into Sims as he approached.

“Here you are,” Sims said, but he had heard the exchange between them, and he glanced at Blackthorne, his brow knitted faintly.

“The men are granted shore leave after they are done with the cargo,” Blackthorne said, “and then they will debark. Do have Dr. Sims show you aboard at that time — and take you wherever you would like to explore, William.” He tipped his hat to Mrs. Henry and stepped away from the rail.

.......................................................



Sims had taken a room at the King’s Arms, a respectable establishment a few blocks from the wharf — the same inn where Mrs. Henry was lodging while Dove was in dry dock.

Thus Blackthorne did not expect to see Sims in the seedier, cheaper part of town by the harbor. But on the third evening of their stay on St. Kitts, Sims walked up while Blackthorne was having a drink at an outdoor table next to a bawdy house. With a faint expression of disapproval, he glanced at the woman on Blackthorne’s lap, her clothing askew and her face heavily painted.

“Hullo, John,” Blackthorne grinned, relaxed and a little drunk. “This is Joan--”

“Jane,” she corrected.

“—from Newbury.”

“Naseby.”

He gestured with a bottle of rum, inviting Sims to sit.

“May we speak?”

“Please do.”

“Alone?”

With a little sigh, Blackthorne eased the woman off his lap. “There’s a good lass. Wait for me upstairs.”

Sourly, Sims watched her go, then turned again to Blackthorne. “Request permission to sail aboard Dove,” he said bluntly.

“Again? The girl looked well when I saw her.”

“She is well.”

“What then?”

Sims dropped into a chair, his face glum. “It’s just that — I love her, Peter.”

“The girl?”

“No, Mrs. Henry!” He snatched the bottle away from him.

Blackthorne smiled, sitting up straighter. “I cannot say that I’m surprised, John, and I am truly happy for you.”

“Thank you.”

“But I need you aboard Legacy.”

“But—“

“There are more than 200 men in Legacy’s company, John, and fewer than 30 souls aboard Dove. It is Legacy that will engage in battle, not Dove. It is Legacy’s men, not Dove’s, who will need your skills. I know you see the logic in this.”

Sims lifted Blackthorne’s bottle and helped himself to a long draft. At Blackthorne’s surprise, he muttered, “All things in moderation.”

“Please do not fight me on this, Johnathan,” Peter said quietly.

“Very well,” Sims sighed, and he took another swallow and grimaced.

The two men were silent a moment.

“I must wonder,” Blackthorne murmured, “if Legacy will lose her surgeon once arrived in Virginia.”

“It is too soon for me to discuss such a thing with Mrs. Henry.”

Blackthorne gave him a small smile. “But not too soon to discuss with me. Will you ask for her hand?”

Sims shook his head. “A fine lady such as her, with a common man like me? What have I to offer? I’ve neither land nor money nor title. Perhaps she will think I am too old and not handsome enough. Her husband was a fine-looking gentleman — do you know she carries his portrait in her locket? I cannot imagine her ever enshrining my plain face in her jewelry.”

“Johnathan Sims,” Peter said quietly. “You are the finest man I know, and any woman — with title or not — would be fortunate to call you her husband. Give her time to know you as I do.”

He paused, considering. “If you would like to abide in Jamestown for a time, then do so. Marry her if she will have you. We’ll sail back to Virginia after our raid on the Spanish Main, and if you are not married, happy and fat you may join the company again. Fair enough?”


Last edited by Capt Peter Blackthorne on Sat Sep 02, 2017 5:10 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Capt Peter Blackthorne
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 22, 2017 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ACCEPTABLE RISK
____________________________


From St. Kitts, the most direct route to Virginia would take Legacy and Dove northwest, past the nearby Virgin Islands, then into open ocean for 1,500 miles before reaching the coast of Virginia.

Blackthorne sat back in his chair with a sigh, rubbing his forehead as he studied the map. Once in the Atlantic, beyond the highly trafficked lanes between European colonies, it was rare to come across another ship, much less a rich prize. But if he were to sail from St. Kitts directly west, and skirt the southern coast of Puerto Rico, chances would be higher that he might encounter a large merchantman trading between Tortuga and the French islands in the Antilles. Then, continuing northwest, he could sell the cargo and prize ship at one of the English colonies in the Bahamas Islands and quickly be on their way to Virginia.

It would mean a delay, but only a short one. An acceptable risk, he reasoned, in exchange for the opportunity of plunder. The crew were growing impatient — two of his men had deserted in St. Kitts. Legacy needed a target, and soon.

With a brisk easterly wind, the fleet made seven knots running before the wind, sailing westward within sight of the Puerto Rico’s southern coast. But after a full day and night of sailing, Legacy had encountered only small fishing craft and an English pinnace. The crew had learned by now that Blackthorne never took English ships or towns, but he knew there would be grumbling nonetheless once the pinnace was in Legacy’s wake.

Legacy rounded the island’s western coast, steering north and finding more empty seas, and Blackthorne was beginning to curse his luck.

Then, a call sounded from the foretop. “SAIL! DEAD AHEAD!”

Blackthorne ran to the forepeak for a better look. When he saw nothing on the horizon, he leapt onto the rail and scaled the ratlines to the foretop, joining the sailor on watch. “What have we, Thomas?”

The sailor passed him the long glass. “Just there over the horizon. Can’t make out the colors yet, Cap’n.”

The ship was perhaps 17 miles ahead, just entering a narrow passage between Puerto Rico’s mainland and Isla Mona to the west. In the imperfect circle of the glass, Blackthorne could make out two masts — no, three — clearing the horizon. Her topsails and topgallants were furled in the brisk wind, her hull not yet in sight. It was a large square-rigger, but what nationality?

He was silent, contemplating the strategies of wind and sea, and the risks and opportunities posed by an engagement in the limited sea room of this channel — a mere two miles at its widest point.

Blackthorne handed the glass back to the sailor on watch. “Sing out the moment you can see her colors, aye?”

“Aye, sir!”

“Mr. Alden!”

“Sir!” came a call from the deck.

“Signal Captain Bertie to lay to and wait here.”

“Straightaway!”

As Legacy entered the channel, Blackthorne ordered the log-line to be cast and learned that the ship’s speed had gained a knot from a strong following current. He glanced back toward Dove, relieved to see that Bertie had correctly interpreted the signal and had turned into the wind.

“FRENCH COLORS!” the watch called. “She’s a French frigate!”

Blackthorne pursed his lips. This was not the fat trading vessel he’d hoped to take. Still, even if this frigate carried little coin, a warship would command a fair price, especially at an English colony. It would mean one less French ship to attack English holdings — and, once refitted for the King’s navy — one more English ship to harass the enemy. Perhaps taking a French ship while escorting Mrs. Henry to Virginia would earn even more favor from King Charles — a fair prospect for an Englishman who had been on the wrong side of the Crown for most of his life.

“Do you know this ship?” Blackthorne handed his glass to Marcel Boucher, who studied the frigate a long moment.

“It is Beaufort,” he replied. “She is an older ship of 40 guns, but they are only 12-pounders.” He paused. “Anyway, that is what she carried last I knew, but it has been two years.”

Blackthorne’s gaze remained on the oncoming ship, now almost midway through the channel, and he knew that her captain was studying Legacy through his glass just as he had studied Beaufort through his own. “What will he think when he does not recognize this ship?” Blackthorne asked, for Legacy was flying French colors.

Boucher thought a moment, then shrugged. “Perhaps he will think she is a new ship.”

“And he would be right about that.”

“Or perhaps he will think she sails under false colors.”

“Right about that as well,” Blackthorne murmured. “Mr. Dickerson, order the men to prepare for battle, but have them stay out of sight. And tell Mr. Pound to load the larboard guns with bar shot — do not run them out until my command.”

Legacy’s sailors rushed for their weapons and then assumed their ready positions on the main deck — stationed by the guns, ducked below the gunwale where they could not be seen for the rabble pirates they were.


Last edited by Capt Peter Blackthorne on Sat Sep 02, 2017 5:10 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 24, 2017 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

THE MONA PASSAGE
___________________________

Blackthorne knew the closer Beaufort came to Legacy, the more likely her captain would notice the absence of uniformed crew and officers, for even those on the quarterdeck would be kept out of her sightline. Beaufort would most likely assume a defensive posture, in which case her captain had two choices: to engage in a broadside battle or to grapple and board. But boarding seemed less likely, for unlike a pirate captain who answered to no one, Beaufort’s commander would face the French admiralty did he misjudge the situation and attack his country’s own ship. For that matter, he was unlikely to be the first to engage.

Crouched behind the capstan, Blackthorne watched Beaufort’s approach. “Stand by, Hudgins,” he said softly to the helmsman. “Stand by,” he ordered the general crew, and the command was relayed in quiet calls below decks.

When Beaufort reached a hundred yards’ distance, Blackthorne rose and shouted, “Run out the guns! Hard-a-lee!” Legacy turned east into the wind, her strong forward progress enabling her to complete a 90-degree pivot before being pushed slightly aback.

Beaufort’s captain had surely been anticipating this action — and he too would turn his ship east to bring her guns to bear, Blackthorne predicted. Turning westward into this vigorous wind would have quickly taken Beaufort out of alignment for a broadside and driven her toward the lee shore.

Before Beaufort could complete her pivot, Legacy fired her first volley, sending a whistling flurry of bar shot into the frigate’s rigging, and instantly came the sound of screams, ripping canvas and splintering timbers. Legacy’s trained gunners reloaded with a speed rivaling that of a navy gun crew and delivered another broadside of bars.

The mutilation of Beaufort’s rigging effectively curtailed her maneuverability, and she lay helpless in the channel — caught in irons in a partial turn into the wind, her mizzenmast by the boards, fore and main courses shredded and spritsail in tatters. In desperation, her captain ordered a broadside, sending a round of balls into the sea well aft of Legacy. Beaufort’s crew resorted to small arms fire, but there were few Legacy targets visible on the main deck, and only a handful of crouched officers on the quarterdeck, largely protected by gunwale, mizzen mast and capstan.

“Load the round shot, Mr. Pound!” Blackthorne shouted to the gun deck below from his cover behind the capstan, his voice carrying through a grate.

“Aye aye, Cap’n! Round shot to the guns!”

“Aim for her gun decks, and fire when ready!”

A few minutes later, Legacy’s cannon roared again, and almost two dozen 24-pound balls slammed into Beaufort’s hull. This battle was nearly finished, Blackthorne knew — he was well acquainted with the sound of panic and confusion.

A cheer arose from Legacy sailors, for as the smoke from the broadside cleared, they could see that Beaufort had struck her colors.

“Well done, Mr. Pound!” Blackthorne laughed, shouting through the grate to the gun deck below. “If Beaufort has champagne aboard, we will toast our—”

He paused, having heard a distant gun. But the report had come from the south — near the entrance to the channel.

Dove, Cap’n!” Dickerson shouted. “And she’s makin’ right for us!”

Blackthorne’s frustration at the dim Captain Bertie was short-lived, for this time it was not stupidity that had led him to disobey the order to remain behind. Dove was being pursued by another French ship — a brigantine — whose bow chasers had started to lacerate the little galleon’s canvas.

Now Legacy’s advantageous position in the wind had rendered Blackthorne powerless. It would take too long to brace the yards and get the ship moving under sail again. Unable to actively come to Bertie’s defense, he ordered the gun crew to run out the starboard cannon in the hopes that Dove would survive long enough to lead the brigantine into range.

Merde!” The Boucher brothers ran onto the quarterdeck — a noteworthy breach of protocol — and stared at the brigantine, their exchange in French so rapid that Blackthorne could not follow it.

“What is it?” Blackthorne demanded, joining them at the rail.

Marcel glanced at the brigantine and swallowed. “She is Galliarde. She was our ship.”

“Bloody hell. Follow me.”

As Blackthorne hurried to the gun deck, the Bouchers briefed him on Galliarde’s last known particulars — how many sailors and marines were aboard, the size and number of guns, the skills and character of her captain. He was fair with his company but fierce in battle, they said, and would slaughter the enemy rather than be encumbered by prisoners.

Blackthorne stopped abruptly. Prisoners of war! It had never occurred to him that he would be responsible for the sailors from the prize ships he captured for the Crown. Where would he lock them up? Was there enough chain and iron on board for fashioning manacles? How would the duty roster need to change in order to assign men to guard prisoners? Were there enough men in the company to add guard duty to the list of tasks? What would this mean for the ship’s food stores? Or... what would happen to his Letter of Marque if he just left them to die in the water?

Master gunner Nicholas Pound met Blackthorne at the companionway to the gun deck. “The brigantine will be within range of our round shot in a matter of minutes, Cap’n. What are your orders?”

Blackthorne peered through a port, moistening his lips. Dove had fallen behind, and now Galliarde was charging into her wake, less than 25 yards astern. “Can you hit Galliarde without risk to Dove?”

“We will aim high and hope to strike Galliard’s rigging.”

Blackthorne nodded. “With great care, Nicholas.”

By the time Blackthorne returned to the quarterdeck, Legacy’s guns had fired again, and his heart sunk as he saw the volley of shot sail over Galliarde’s masts. Sims had rushed to the quarterdeck as well. He stared, face pale, hands trembling on the rail.

Galliarde is heaving to!” Dickerson shouted.

The brigantine had broken off its pursuit, and Blackthorne watched with dread as his own tactic was now being used against him. Galliard swung into the wind, coming to a standstill with guns aligned for a broadside. But instead of firing on Legacy, Galliarde’s cannon were trained on Dove.

The little galleon was now close enough for Blackthorne to make out the faces of some of her crew, to see the shards fly as the first volley of Galliarde’s round shot tore through Dove’s upper decks.

“RETURN FIRE!” Blackthorne screamed.

Dove is a-flame!” Alden shouted, and he pointed to a wisp of smoke emanating from the forward hatch.

Legacy fired again, and this time the balls found their mark, but not before Galliarde was able to launch another barrage at Dove.

She had almost reached Legacy. She was less than a hundred yards from safety, only moments from limping past the man-o-war and into the protected waters beyond. Galliarde’s broadside shattered what remained of the Dove’s stern and split her main mast in two. Her timbers groaning, the ship heeled severely to starboard, exposing a shiny, barnacle-encrusted hull to daylight. Just when Blackthorne expected her to capsize, a massive explosion obliterated Dove’s bow, and she began to sink.

Sims released a choked wail Blackthorne had never before heard from him, and he stood staring, paralyzed with horror. Blackthorne grabbed the surgeon by his coat-front, giving him a little shake. “GO! Take a boat!”


Last edited by Capt Peter Blackthorne on Sat Sep 02, 2017 5:11 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2017 4:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

WRECKAGE
____________________


As the jolly boat threaded its way through the confusion of broken timbers, snarled rigging and downed masts that was once Dove, Legacy and Galliarde exchanged broadsides at excruciatingly close range. Grapeshot whistled over Sims’ head, and his eyes and throat burned from the acrid clouds of gun smoke intermingling with Dove’s burning wreckage.

“MRS. HENRY!” Sims screamed between volleys.

“Down, sir!” shouted Mackey, one of the sailors at the oars, and he tugged at Sims’ coat.

Sims ducked, leaning forward over the prow of the boat and peering through the smoke. He gasped, spotting a man’s hand among tangled lines in the water, the rest of the victim obscured by sailcloth. “There! There!” he pointed and cantilevered far out of the boat, grasping, fingertips nearly touching fingertips.

With a final lunge, Sims clasped the victim’s hand and pulled, startled to discover that the arm was severed below the elbow. Sims recoiled. He dropped the appendage and it sank, and he was immediately ashamed. He should recover all remains — even body parts — despite the remote possibility that such victims could be identified. But would this spook the men in his boat? Whoever they may be, Sims concluded, they deserved a Christian burial, even if it meant returning their flesh to these very seas.

Sims shrugged out of his coat. “Lads, this will be wretched business.”

With the help of the oarsmen, Sims was able to search under the heavy wet sailcloth for the rest of the victim. They found the body fouled in rigging, mutilated but recognizable as one of Dove’s older crewmen. As they were cutting the victim free, a woman’s scream sounded through the smoke.

“MRS. HENRY!!” Sims called back. “There!” Sims pointed in the direction of the voice and shook an oarsman’s shoulder. “THERE!”

Abandoning the entangled body, they rowed through the flames and smoke, and Sims dully realized that these waters were cluttered not only with debris from Dove, but human flesh — victims blown apart by the explosion in the forepeak. His rational mind tried to manage it. So many victims. So many remains. How to do right by these men but still save the living? The dilemma nearly paralyzed him.

“There, sir!” Mackey cried.

Mrs. Henry was treading water near a downed spar. Her eyes wild, face stricken, she screamed the names of her children, alternately swimming a few feet away in futile search before returning to the safety of the yard.

Sims leapt from the jolly boat, swimming out and calling for her as he could in the channel’s moderate chop.

“I cannot find them!” Mrs. Henry’s voice was strangled, and she clutched Sims’ shirtfront in terror. “I cannot find my children. I cannot find them.”

“Listen to me,” Sims said, and he pulled Mrs. Henry closer to the spar. “You must hold fast to this. A boat comes for us even now. Hold fast!”


.......................................................


For each volley of 18-pound shot from the brigantine’s ten larboard cannon, Legacy sprayed Galliarde’s upper decks with grapeshot from her 20 starboard guns, seeking to reduce the enemy’s numbers while minimizing damage to the ship.

As the brutal engagement dragged on, each ship successively lost guns. Several fires broke out on Legacy, extinguished before the flames could reach the magazine. One shot fractured the hull beneath the waterline, and George Hughes and his mates set to repairing it. Above decks, the ship sustained moderate damage to its rigging — the most concerning being the severing of vital lengths of standing rigging, threatening the stability of Legacy’s mainmast and foremast. Legacy’s wounded were carried to the surgery, and there they waited, and bled.

Galliarde was faring badly as well, and in the moments when the French brigantine reloaded her guns, Blackthorne surveyed her increasingly bloody decks and wondered when — if ever — her ferocious captain would surrender. By then, she was firing only four cannons to Legacy’s 17.

“CAP’N!” Dickerson screamed and pointed north. “Beaufort is under sail!”

Blackthorne stared, incredulous. Beaufort had dropped anchor upon surrender, but while Blackthorne was occupied with Dove and Galliarde, the channel’s current had swung the disabled ship around, pointing her north, away from the battle. Her wily captain then unfurled her largely undamaged topsails and topgallants, and it was enough canvas to get the frigate moving again.

There was no hope for it. Beaufort would escape, and by every indication, Galliarde would fight to the death.

Enraged, Blackthorne ordered his master gunner to load round shot and aim the next salvos at Galliarde’s hull. By God, if this French captain would not surrender, he would end this damaging exchange once and for all.


.......................................................


By now, a second boat had joined in the search for Dove’s survivors, led by Alden and manned by the few sailors that Blackthorne could spare from the guns. Sims watched the crew pull another body from the water, encouraged to see there were also survivors in the jolly boat, and they were strong enough to lend a hand.

As the two boats threaded through smoldering wreckage, Alden and Sims called out for the living in between the thundering of broadsides.

“HERE!” a man’s voice responded. “HELP! HELP!”

Bertie had found a large section of Dove’s hull that had not yet sunk and was sprawled across it, awkwardly waving from his prone position. “I’M HERE!”

He was shivering when they helped him off the wreckage. He tumbled into the boat, then quickly scrabbled way from the pile of corpses and disembodied remains that had grown too large to be concealed by Sims’ coat. “My God,” Bertie said, beginning to weep.

“Your Grace,” Sims took him by his shoulders. “Are there more? Have you seen others in the water?”

Bertie gestured impotently toward the wreckage he had just vacated. As the oarsmen brought the boat around to its far side, Mrs. Henry screamed, and Sims had to restrain her from jumping overboard.

The girl was overlaid by ratlines, bound against the hull as if trapped in a spider’s web, a tiny arm protruding through the mesh. With each dip of the waves, the bobbing hulk submerged her, causing her blonde curls to float momentarily on the surface before raising her up again. Her eyes were open, and her little brow was creased — as if in vexation, as if trying to remember where she had put her doll.

Sims gently placed the body of Mrs. Henry’s daughter into her arms. The two oarsmen turned away and were silent, their backs rounded. Bertie covered his face with his hands. Mrs. Henry’s grief was so acute, her wails so disturbing, the men almost didn’t notice that Galliarde had rolled on her beam ends. The battle was over, and she was sinking.


Last edited by Capt Peter Blackthorne on Sat Sep 02, 2017 5:12 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 3:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

THE LIVING AND THE DEAD
__________________________


The living were brought up before the dead. Out of 28 souls aboard the English galleon bound for Jamestown, 12 had survived. Nine bodies were recovered. Seven passengers and crew were still missing.

Legacy sailors laid the bodies out on the main deck, ushered the healthy survivors to the fore and carried the injured below to the surgery. When Mrs. Henry refused to relinquish the body of her daughter, which was now swaddled in the black wool of Sims’ coat, Dickerson wisely chose not to press the point.

“You are needed in surgery, John,” Blackthorne murmured. His eyes were apologetic, for he understood Sims’ impulse to remain with Mrs. Henry.

Sims nodded.

“The lad?” Blackthorne asked with a glance to the wreckage, and Sims only shook his head.

Blackthorne studied Mrs. Henry on the foredeck. She was sitting against the gunwale, gently rocking the bundle in her arms. Even watching her from that distance felt like an intrusion, and when Mrs. Henry nodded her face to the swaddling cloth and sobbed, Blackthorne turned away. “It is unspeakable,” he said quietly to Sims. “Please take her below and let her wait in your compartment while you treat the injured.”

A commotion on the main deck drew his attention away, and he saw the Boucher brothers gaping at what was left of Galliarde. A fraction of her hull remained above water, and a dozen survivors had climbed onto it. They were shouting and waving to others in the water, and now and then screams arose from the waves.

Blackthorne couldn’t follow everything the French sailors were shouting, but he did understand the word they were screaming most: “Les REQUINS!”

Sharks.

He joined the Bouchers at the waist. Their faces were ashen. Maurice trembled faintly. They leaned into the rail, staring and tense as a wound spring. After a moment, Blackthorne said quietly, “Go fetch your mates.”

The Bouchers scrambled into one jolly boat, headed for Galliarde, while Alden and Mackey launched the other to continue searching for survivors from Dove. By now the current had scattered the wreckage, so Blackthorne sent a man to the foretop to scan the waves with a long glass.

Blackthorne rubbed his forehead. Dove’s survivors were in need of berths, and probably food as well. The dead needed to be committed to the deep. Soon, there would be prisoners of war to manage. Legacy required crucial repairs, and until she could be under sail, Blackthorne feared being trapped again in this narrow channel.

George Hughes would see to the repairs, he concluded, while Dickerson sorted out where to hold prisoners securely — perhaps on the orlop deck near the livestock. As for the others, all but Mrs. Henry could berth on the gun decks with the crew. Legacy’s sailmaker could get the survivors started making their own hammocks. Although, with all the bodies requiring canvas for burial, would there be enough spare sailcloth aboard?

He made a note to assign a scavenging detail to haul in what canvas of Dove’s they could find still afloat. The dead could be buried in a dead ship’s sails.

.......................................................



At Blackthorne’s invitation, Peregrine Bertie entered the captain’s cabin and found him seated at his secretary, making a note in his log book.

“It is customary to rise and bend a knee when your betters enter a room,” Bertie snapped.

Blackthorne replaced his quill and turned to study him. Bertie’s once-fine blue doublet now hung on him like a wet sack. His black hair, normally managed in a neat queue, was spread over his shoulders in a confusion of stringy locks. He stood expectantly, hands on hips.

“Be seated, your Grace,” Blackthorne said, nodding to a nearby sea chest.

Bertie gazed dourly for a moment before settling onto the trunk. “What do you want?”

“First, I want to know what happened.”

“What happened?” Bertie cried. “The French navy sunk my ship!”

“Afore that.”

Bertie glared, stalling, but then seemed to realize that he had no choice but to answer the captain’s inquiries. “We were hove-to south of the channel — as you instructed. And then the brigantine appeared and sailed right at us.”

“From which direction? We saw no sails anywhere but north — in the channel.”

“Because she were on the western side of the island,” Bertie said bitterly. “She and the frigate were sailing in parallel. One westward of the island, and one eastward in the channel. We had no guns, thanks to you. No defense whatsoever. My father will hear of this, mark me well.”

Blackthorne felt his temper rising, and some of his ire was aimed at himself. How had he not seen the French patrol’s strategy until now? “You cannot believe that six rabinets firing one-inch shot would have made the slightest difference to the outcome!”

“At least I would have gone down fighting!”

Blackthorne paused, gazing darkly at Bertie. “How much gunpowder did you have aboard?”

He shrugged. “About 25 pounds, I suppose.”

Not possible. The blast had reduced the forward half of the galleon to splinters. Blackthorne would have estimated the powder at ten times the amount Bertie claimed. Unable to account for the discrepancy, he let it drop and reached again for his quill.

“I want to know who is aboard my ship. Let us begin with your crew. Name and place of residence.”

Bertie slouched, his expression sullen. “You are rather free with your commands, given your station, Blackthorne.”

“Aboard my ship,” Blackthorne replied tersely, “you will receive no gestures of deference from me aside from the use of your title. I will not bend a knee, nor will I do your bidding. You will do as I say for as long as you tread these planks.” Bertie started to protest but was met by such a scowl that he quickly backed down. “Your crewman’s names and places of residence. If. You. Please.”

Dove’s surviving crew, Blackthorne learned, included the ship’s carpenter, sailmaker and four able-bodied seamen. He mentally added these men to the manpower aboard Legacy — all the more to see to the ship’s repairs.

“And the passengers?”

“Matthew Duncan, County Kent. Stephen Walter, London. Arthur Ambrose, Bristol. Jonas Fitch, Surrey—“

“Which one is he?”

“Fitch? Tall fellow, red hair.”

Blackthorne sat back in his chair, recalling the defiant Fitch from his first day aboard Dove. As a captain, he’d learned to take note of men who seemed they could be trouble. “What do you know of him?”

“He was a laborer on my father’s estate. My father is his sponsor to the Virginia Colony.”

“Has he no family?”

“Oh, there were rumors of a wife in London — and another in Glasgow,” Bertie smirked. “We never knew for certain.”

“Hmmm. Any other passengers?”

“Mrs. Henry.”

“Given name?”

“Constance. Constance Henry of London.”

“How does she know the King?” Blackthorne asked.

After an initial moment of confusion, Bertie guffawed. “I’m quite sure she does not know the King! Ha ha ha ha ha!”

Blackthorne tilted his head.

“Why would she? Her husband was coachman, shot dead by a robber. If she were moneyed, do you think she would travel without a servant? Or own only a single gown? Good God, Blackthorne. She’s as common as you are.”


Last edited by Capt Peter Blackthorne on Sat Sep 02, 2017 5:13 pm; edited 4 times in total
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2017 5:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Story map so far:

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

DEAD AWAITING
______________________


Fourteen men were awaiting Dr. Sims in the surgery, a dark, poorly ventilated compartment in the bow below the waterline. Some of them had attempted to treat their own wounds, staunching blood with wads of bandages and making free with the rum from his medicine chest. Beneath his feet, the planks were reflecting the dim light of the lanterns on the bulkheads — a certain indication that the deck was covered with a slick of blood. Sims found two men dead where they sat against the bulkhead, and he knew they had died waiting for him.

In the next 12 hours, he would amputate two limbs, treat four men for severe burns, stitch and cauterize the lacerations of two others, and extract shards of oak from five men, one of whom would lose an eye. The wounded were given hammocks, strung nearly shoulder-to-shoulder in the surgery, only a few steps from his small cabin.

He’d placed Mrs. Henry there and closed the door to help muffle the sound of the wounded. Now with the last of the injured treated and the dead taken above to join the bodies on the main deck, Sims returned to his small compartment. He paused, rapping softly with a knuckle before entering.

Mrs. Henry was deep asleep, and he noted it as a mercy. Her daughter’s body had fallen from the narrow bunk, landing on her head and shoulders in an unnatural twist. He took the child gently into his arms, and although the physician Sims understood the condition, the feel of rigor in such a tiny body sickened him. While his heart reeled from the obscenity of an innocent’s death, his intellect recognized that the body needed to be disposed of, and soon. He feared the effect on Mrs. Henry to see the remains of her child begin to putrefy. And yet, were he to take the body without her consent, the breach of trust would be irreparable.

Rigor mortis would last another day, Sims concluded as he replaced the child’s body next to Mrs. Henry. He would persuade her in the morning, in the light of day when such dark matters might not seem so bleak.

He gazed at the woman in his bunk, longing to lie beside her, to fall asleep with the warmth of her skin touching his. But even if his sense of propriety had allowed it, even if Mrs. Henry had accepted his presence, there was barely room for one person on the built-in ledge that served as his berth. Even less so with a toddler’s body occupying a sliver of it.

Sims closed the door as soundlessly as possible and returned to the surgery. The floor had been doused with sand to absorb the blood, but he’d been too exhausted for a more thorough cleaning. With a little sigh, he dipped a rag in a basin of water and swabbed the operating table, wiping it clean of blood and bits of organs and bone. He swiped his shirt sleeve across the stained and glossy planks to dry them, then climbed onto the table, where he finally slept.


.......................................................


Governor Bainbridge lied! Peter Blackthorne could hardly process the thought. But why? If Mrs. Henry were not a favorite of the King, as Bainbridge had claimed, then why would it matter to the Governor if Dove reached Jamestown? Why would he insist that Legacy provide escort?

And what of the Letter of Marque? Was it also a deceit? A ruse needed to persuade him to this fool’s errand?

Blackthorne was still reeling from this revelation when he arrived above decks and found the Boucher brothers had returned. Dickerson had a dozen Frenchmen in manacles, lined up on the main deck with as many Legacy sailors guarding them with pistols. Blackthorne gave them a cursory look, then a harder one.

“Bloody hell,” he said to Marcel Boucher, for one of the prisoners was wearing a dark blue great coat ostentatiously decorated with gold buttons, gold piping and enormous gold-trimmed cuffs. “I told you to fetch your mates. Who is he?”

“Etienne Robineau,” Marcel replied, then swallowed. “Le Capitaine de la Galliarde.”

Blackthorne expression grew steely. He strode over to the French officer, and the guards stepped back slightly to give him room. “I am Captain Peter Blackthorne, privateer of the Crown of England. You are a prisoner of war aboard my ship.”

“And yet you fly the fleur des lis,” Robineau replied, with barely a trace of accent. “I take you for a liar, monsieur. A liar and a coward. And no servant of a King — merely a pirate.”

“You sank an unarmed passenger ship,” Blackthorne said, his temper flaring.

He shrugged. “To clear the way for a shot at you. She was nothing.”

Blackthorne reared back and delivered a vicious blow to Robineau’s face and, after he fell, stepped in for another. Grabbing the lapels of his great coat, he yanked him back to his feet, his fist cocked. “That was for the girl. This is for William.”


Last edited by Capt Peter Blackthorne on Sat Sep 02, 2017 5:14 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2017 11:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SAILING SOLO
________________________


Legacy was under sail by sunset of the second day after the engagement in the channel, her pace sluggish, as if the battle had taken the life out of the wind. She was sailing solo again, but for Blackthorne, the absence of Dove was both a relief and a reminder of his failure. Checking on her had become a habit, and he was annoyed to find himself glancing astern without thought at damningly vacant seas.

At supper that evening, the officers were largely quiet around the table in the wardroom. Nicholas Pound had taken a small shard of oak into his right shoulder, which Sims had seen to earlier. He ate awkwardly with his fork in his left hand. None had bathed since the battle of the day before. Sleep had been a luxury for most.

Blackthorne broke the silence. “Port Royal is the nearest English fort that will take the prisoners of war.” He held up his hand to stay their protests. “I do not intend to sail for Jamaica.”

“Then what, Cap’n?” Dickerson asked. “We’ve had ’em aboard for less than a day, an’ already the men are gettin’ chafed. Nobody signed onta Legacy just ta play nursemaid, I tell ye that. Feedin’ ’em. Takin’ out their shit and piss in a bowl. That’s duty fer no man.”

“I say we toss ’em,” Pound declared. When there were murmurs of agreement, Sims shot Blackthorne an alarmed look.

“Gentlemen,” Blackthorne replied with a reasoned tone, “sailing as privateers, we are all pardoned men. Sims may return home to his family in Oxford. Dickerson could marry that lovely harlot in Tortuga — I know she is your favorite, Neville — and retire into a true home. And Nicholas Pound —” He laughed softly. “Your wife is a harpy so you might not wish to return to England, but you could.”

The officers roared, Pound joining in good-naturedly.

“Let us not endanger our Letter of Marque by committing crimes against the Crown,” Blackthorne urged, and even as he said it, he regretted deceiving the most loyal men aboard his ship, for the document was likely a forgery. “Shackle the prisoners’ hands before them, so they may eat without aid. And lead them above decks one at a time to piss over the rail. I will sort out what to do with them, I swear to you.”

Blackthorne paused for a sip of rum. “Now. We must find a berth for Mrs. Henry.”

Sims’ eyebrows rose. “She may remain in my compartment.”

“John,” Peter replied quietly, “she is not safe there.” Isolated and dark, the surgery was no place for a woman under the best of circumstances. But with an increasingly angry crew, in that vulnerable place Mrs. Henry would be an easy target for men demanding compensation for a poor voyage so far.

Sims sat back glumly, knowing the truth of the matter.

“Here,” Alden interjected. “She may berth here in the wardroom.”

Just forward of the captain’s cabin, the wardroom was a bright, spacious compartment lined with gallery windows where the officers took their meals and met to confer in private. Typically, the door to the wardroom was left open — a convenience for Blackthorne’s access to his cabin — but it would surely need to be locked if used as a woman’s berth.

“How will I get to my quarters?” Blackthorne asked.

Through the wardroom, Alden explained, but a section of it would be curtained off with sailcloth so Blackthorne could pass through without disturbing Mrs. Henry’s privacy. A slide bolt would be added to both doors, allowing Mrs. Henry to block access not only from the corridor, but also from Blackthorne’s quarters.

Blackthorne cocked an eyebrow. “So Mrs. Henry could lock me into my own cabin?”

Alden flushed, his ears turning red. “It is not a perfect plan.”

“But it is a workable one, I grant you,” Sims admitted. “She would feel protected. And she would have—” He gestured toward the officers’ privy built into the starboard quarter gallery — the only privy aboard Legacy — and the officers’ heads nodded. “We will take our meals with the men or in our own quarters.”


.......................................................


Legacy sailors were not given to attending church, nor to allowing Dr. Sims to read them the Scriptures and pray in their presence. But when a ship-mate died and was about to be buried at sea, they assembled for the service with reverence, heads nodded, hats in hand. Each man supposed this would be his ending someday as well, and each hoped not to be alone on deck when their remains were cast aside.

As Legacy skimmed along the western coast of Puerto Rico, ten bodies were committed to the deep. After sliding off the plank, there was a timeless moment when each body’s white shroud hung in stark contrast against the dark blue sea. Then with a foamy splash — no more than a blink in time — it vanished forever.

Sims closed his Bible and the Legacy sailors dispersed. He approached Blackthorne, his expression distressed. “She will not give up the body, Peter,” he said quietly. “It will soon be gruesome. I do not know what to do.”

Blackthorne nodded. He’d wondered why there had not been a child’s body among the corpses. “I will speak to her.”

She was still in the surgeon’s compartment, still unwashed and uncombed from the disaster of two days before. Peter stood in the doorway, as Sims pressed in behind him to listen. “A moment, please,” Blackthorne said to him softly.

He pulled the door closed behind him, muting the dreadful and distracting moans of the injured in the surgery. She sat on the edge of the bunk, rocking the body of her child. “Do not take her,” she pleaded, fresh tears tracking down her face.

He nodded and sat next to her, eyes downcast.

“I cannot express how very sorry I am, Mrs. Henry,” he whispered, and he felt his own eyes beginning to burn.

“I cannot put her in the sea,” she said, as if not hearing him at all. “My poor William, there with the— I cannot think of it. But I can think only of it.”

He swallowed and nodded, understanding the horror of sharks in the water that morning. Mrs. Henry had refused to go below decks while Mackey and Alden continued to search for William. She had heard the screams of Galliarde’s sailors and had seen the bloom of victims’ blood in the water, their expressions of shock and confusion and terror before they were dragged below. They were the kind of memories that resurfaced against one’s will.

“I cannot send my Ginnie into the cold and dark... to be torn asunder... I cannot bear it,” she sobbed. “I cannot bear it.”

Blackthorne was silent a long moment. “You are quite right, Mrs. Henry,” he said finally. “Treasures are buried on land, not at sea.”

He rose, placing a hand on the door latch. “We will find warm sands for her. Warm sands, I promise you.”


Last edited by Capt Peter Blackthorne on Sat Sep 02, 2017 5:16 pm; edited 5 times in total
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