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Pirate Fiction -- Blackthorne's Story
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Capt Peter Blackthorne
Cutthroat
Posts: 299



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PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 6:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SEVEN SHOVELS
__________________________


It was called “El Rincón” — “the Corner.” Once past this bluff jutting out from Puerto Rico’s northwest coast, a ship left the calmer waters of the Caribbean and entered the wild Atlantic. Sailors headed northwest would not see land again for more than 1,200 miles.

As Legacy neared the end of the island’s coast, El Rincón was literally the last spot of land where Ginnie could be buried. But it was also fitting, Blackthorne thought, that she would be interred at such a distinctive landmark. The commanding promontory would be easy to find again, should Mrs. Henry ever wish to return and sit at her daughter’s graveside.

Ginnie’s tiny coffin had been constructed from planks taken from Legacy’s spares. George Hughes, a grandfather himself, had also made a headstone from a two-inch-thick oaken board, carving into it a cross and an inscription — “G.H. – 1639.”

Legacy anchored a short distance from the rocky shore, and a small group of men and officers rowed Mrs. Henry through the surf and onto a sliver of beach. Blackthorne and Sims each took one of the coffin’s rope handles to manage it up the steep, sandy trail leading to the top of the bluff.

Pale and silent, Mrs. Henry trudged up the path, lifting the hem of her skirt to avoid stumbling. Her once fine yellow silk gown was dirty and torn. Her hair, normally pulled up neatly off her shoulders, was in disarray – partially up, partially down. She said nothing and grieved now without audible sobs.

In a sunny clearing surrounded by ancient palms and mango trees and within view of the vast ocean to the west, six Legacy sailors and Blackthorne himself opened the earth for Ginnie Henry. And after Sims’ last quoted Scripture and the “amen” of his final prayer, seven shovels closed it back up again.

Mrs. Henry and Sims lingered by the graveside for some time, while Blackthorne and the rest of the longboat crew waited on the beach. This would be the last delay, the captain vowed. There would be no more engagements, no more damage to his ship, no more injuries to his men, no more deaths of passengers or crew. The next port would be Jamestown, and then this misadventure would be behind them.
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Capt Peter Blackthorne
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Posts: 299



6125 Gold -

PostPosted: Tue Aug 01, 2017 6:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Capt Peter Blackthorne
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Posts: 299



6125 Gold -

PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2017 7:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Warning: May not be appropriate for younger readers)


DROWNING
___________________________


“Mrs. Henry?” Sims balanced a tray of food in one hand while he knocked lightly on the wardroom door. “I’ve brought your supper.”

“Thank you, no.” Her response was nearly inaudible.

“May I at least come in and pray with you?” He waited, listening keenly.

“I am not good company, Dr. Sims.”

“The Lord takes us as we are, in whatever wretched condition we—”

Blackthorne stepped in front of him and turned the latch, finding the door bolted from the inside. “Beg pardon, Mrs. Henry. I need into my cabin.”

“One moment.”

Blackthorne gave Sims a pointed look. “Leave her be,” he whispered.

They heard the rasp of the bolt sliding free. Blackthorne took the meal tray from Sims, counted to five to allow Mrs. Henry to return behind the canvas screen, then pushed into the wardroom. “Your dinner is here if you change your mind,” he said, and he placed it on the deck.

He crossed to the door to his cabin, bemused to see that she had locked it from the inside, even though he had been above decks all day. And so. She was fearful as well as heartsick. He shook his head faintly before quietly sliding the bolt aside. “I will be in my cabin for less than an hour,” he called softly back to her, “but you may bolt the door if you like.”

Mrs. Henry was not seen above decks for several days, but Blackthorne would catch glimpses of her as he passed through the wardroom. She had eventually allowed Sims to minister to her, and the Puritan’s sense of propriety demanded that the sailcloth curtain be left open to protect Mrs. Henry’s reputation.

To Blackthorne’s observations, every visit from Sims was the same. He would bring her meal, and she would refuse most of it, except perhaps for some tea. He would sit in a chair facing hers, his Bible on his lap, and read passages meant to comfort. He would try to engage her in conversation – at times superficial, at other times encouraging her to speak of her bereavement — but she was largely wooden and silent. At the end of his visit, he urged her to kneel with him in prayer, and she passively complied.

But each time Blackthorne passed and she glanced up bleakly at him, he saw bottomless grief behind her eyes. Despite Sims’ kind attention and well-meant efforts to heal her spirit, Mrs. Henry seemed to be drowning on a ship that was still afloat.


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


A handful of silver and copper coins. That was all the French sailors were able to rescue of their own possessions before losing their ship. It was a pittance, but the coins were added anyway to Legacy’s plunder in Blackthorne’s sea chest.

“There is also this,” Alden said, and he presented Captain Robineau’s great coat. “The buttons are gold. And that—” He didn’t know what to call the gold epaulets and gaudy trim.

Dickerson snorted.

“Should I remove the buttons at least, sir?”

Blackthorne shook his head. “The coat may yet prove useful intact,” he said, thinking a captain’s uniform could make Legacy more convincing when sailing under French colors.

Alden tucked the items into Blackthorne’s sea chest and added each to the ship’s log, with the notation for the great coat reading, “French navy justacorp bearing 16 gold buttons and etc.”


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


Legacy was under full sail that night, scudding across the Atlantic under the light of a waning crescent moon. Having retired at midnight, Blackthorne had been rocked to sleep by a placid sea, yet even in slumber, he was aware of the foreign sound of a slide bolt skating across its wooden hasps on the other side of his cabin door.

He lifted himself on an elbow, watching as his door creaked open, and Mrs. Henry stepped through. She was silhouetted against his gallery windows, the moonlight accentuating her naked form through the linen of her chemise. As he gazed, she slid the chemise off her shoulders and let it drop to the deck.

For an interminable moment, neither moved. Then Blackthorne drew aside his blanket in invitation, and Mrs. Henry climbed onto his bunk and sat on her heels, hands clasped before her. She took a shaky breath, tears shining down her face.

Rising to his knees on the feather tick, Blackthorne cradled her face in his hands. Gently, he pressed his lips to each tear and took the salt of her grief onto his tongue. She sighed and melted into him, turning his face to find his mouth with her own. Her kiss grew hungry, and with a low groan in her throat, she pulled him down to the sheets.

Moved by her need, driven by compassion as well as lust, Blackthorne withheld nothing while Mrs. Henry demanded everything, and together they were fierce and relentless, smothering their vocalizations into each other’s skin lest they be heard from the decks below.

At last Mrs. Henry shuddered, and he felt the pulse of her pleasure even as he surged into his own. Arms tightly around his neck, she nodded her face to his throat, pressing tears into his skin. He held her this way for a long while, simply listening as the pace of her breathing gradually eased. In time, she shifted away from him and rolled onto his pillow, closing her eyes.

He gazed at her in profile, memorizing in the darkness the curve of her breasts and pleasing contours of her face. He might have been content, if only she had been. But her lashes were wet, and her brow was knitted — and in a short while, she rose, collected her chemise, and slipped out, without ever a word between them.
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Capt Peter Blackthorne
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 04, 2017 6:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

LOVE AND LOSS
___________________________


For the next two days, the wind ceased altogether. Dense, gunmetal clouds hung motionless in the sky, their undersides dampening the pennant on Legacy’s mainmast. Though the ship was idle, the crew could not be, so Dickerson busied them with tasks too long deferred — polishing the ship’s brass fittings, changing the wicks on the stern lanterns, re-reeving worn lines, replacing the oakum where it had disintegrated between deck planks, painting over the chips and divots from the small arms fire of their previous engagement.

Recovering somewhat from their trauma, Dove’s passengers came above more frequently and, out of boredom, pitched in with the crew on menial tasks. Bertie loitered on the forepeak, too haughty to lend a hand but neither needed nor wanted on the quarterdeck with the officers.

Sims’ visits to Mrs. Henry had ceased – not at his choice, Blackthorne surmised — so the doors to the wardroom were always locked, and her sailcloth curtain always closed as he passed through. When he requested access, he could hear her stepping to the door to free the slide bolt, but she said nothing. She exchanged words only with Alden when he brought her meals and removed the empty dishes afterward.

Twice, in the small hours of the night, Blackthorne rose from his bed and stood barefoot at his cabin door, listening for some sense of her and nearly giving in to the temptation to knock. But instead he returned to his bunk, restless and mystified by her distance.

On the third day the clouds lifted and Legacy’s sails once again billowed with a fresh, strong wind. Bathed in sunlight and invigorated with this brisk easterly, the ship bucked and gamboled in the high swells. Every dive of the prow into the waves sent a white spray over the bow, creating momentary prisms in front of the foremast.

Blackthorne had just finished taking a reading with the backstaff when he noticed a flash of yellow at the waist. Mrs. Henry had finally come above decks. She placed her hands on the rail and turned her face into the sunshine, eyes closed.

Replacing the backstaff to the binnacle cabinet, he stepped down to the main and stood next to her at the rail. Her hair was in place — as neatly appointed as the first day he’d met her – and though still torn, her dress had been washed and smoothed out again. He was acutely aware of her every movement — the tiniest lift of her chin, her thumb absently stroking the rail, the rise and fall of her locket between her breasts as she breathed.

After a long moment, he said quietly, “Will we never speak of it?”

She opened her eyes slowly and gazed at him, her eyes kind, her expression composed. “I trust you will come to understand the meaning of it, in time.”

He was about to reply when he spotted Johnathan Sims approaching in his periphery, and he moved away — too quickly — for he noticed a change in Sims’ expression.


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


Sims had found the wardroom door standing open and Mrs. Henry’s sailcloth curtains pulled aside. She had not left the wardroom since taking occupancy there, nor had she ever moved about the ship unescorted. This unusual behavior – and her recent rejections of his visits, as kindly voiced as they were – had troubled him, and he’d immediately gone in search of her, finding her at the rail next to Blackthorne.

What had he just seen between them? He’d witnessed their flirtation in St. Kitts, and he was all too aware of Peter’s cavalier way with women. Blessed with a tall stature, broad shoulders and chiseled features, Peter Blackthorne never wanted for female attention. Had Mrs. Henry succumbed to his charms, even in her state of bereavement? Had he taken advantage of her emotional frailty? Had he deliberately insinuated himself into Mrs. Henry’s favors, despite his knowledge of Sims’ own feelings for her? In nearly every way, Blackthorne was Sims’ opposite – young, daring, ambitious, and worldly — but he’d never had reason to question his loyalty. Until now.

“Mrs. Henry,” Sims said as he approached. “Did you come above decks alone?”

With a small, puzzled smile, she turned to face him. “Should I not have?”

“I was concerned when I found the wardroom door open.”

At that, Blackthorne stopped on his way to the quarterdeck, his head tilting.

“Please allow Mr. Alden or myself to escort you,” Sims said. “For your safety.”


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


His heart pounding, Blackthorne hurried below, nearly bowling over Alden as he passed.

“Sir?” Alden fell into step behind him.

The wardroom door was standing ajar. Blackthorne’s stomach twisted when he saw the slide bolt on the captain’s cabin door also unlocked.

He pushed into his quarters and threw open his sea chest. It was empty, save for Robineau’s coat, which had been stripped of its gold buttons.

The rest of the plunder was gone.
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Capt Peter Blackthorne
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 12, 2017 9:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MUCH AFOOT
_____________________________


According to the Articles, the penalty for theft was keelhauling, so brutal a punishment that those who survived wish they hadn’t. It was unlikely that anyone in the company would chance such harsh consequences for such little reward — a few hundred coins, two pieces of jewelry and some gold buttons. But Dove’s passengers would know nothing of this risk. With more than 200 Legacy sailors roaming about, any thief would be hard-pressed to stash away stolen plunder where no eyes would witness it, particularly shipwreck survivors without even a trunk among them.

Blackthorne made all these mental calculations in the time it took to replace the lid to his sea chest and turn to Alden. “Say nothing to anyone,” he ordered quietly. “Go above and count Dove’s passengers and report back to me those who are not present.”

Arming himself with a rapier, Blackthorne rushed out and took the companionway leading below decks. He bypassed the gun deck, where the crew and male passengers berthed, for it was rarely unoccupied. There would also be no need to search the orlop deck, for the French prisoners were under guard there around the clock.

The thief would seek out a vacant area where the stolen goods would not be uncovered by a Legacy crewman going about his usual tasks. He did a mental inventory of likely hiding places: fo’c’sle, powder magazine, shot locker, stores, flag locker, hold, bilge...

As he clambered down to the hold, he saw Jonas Fitch’s upturned face at the bottom of the companionway. Fitch’s eyes widened, and he pivoted. Before Blackthorne could reach the deck, Fitch grabbed an axe from a nearby becket and swung, nearly striking Blackthorne’s leg at the ankle.

Blackthorne leapt off the companionway and rolled. Fitch struck again, missing Blackthorne by inches. The axe head sunk into the planks, and as Fitch struggled to free it, Blackthorne drew his rapier and held the tip at the man’s jugular.

“Yield!” he panted, “or I’ll run you through.”

Fitch slowly released the axe handle and raised his hands.

“Where is it?” Blackthorne’s eyes were fiery, his jaw clenched.

“I do not know what—”

With a flick of his wrist, Blackthorne caught the man’s ear with the tip of his rapier, lacerating the lobe and causing him to scream and cower.

“WHERE?”

“There,” he said meekly, and he led Blackthorne over to a crate containing bottles of Madeira plundered on Legacy’s previous campaign, which had been reserved for rare special occasions celebrated by the officers. Blackthorne shot Fitch a dark look, though a deeper part of him was impressed by his cunning. It could have been months before they’d had reason to open that crate again.

With his sword hovering at Fitch’s temple, Blackthorne watched as the man removed a sack containing the stolen items and spilled them onto the deck, then sorted the coins in stacks of ten.

“Aboard this ship, those who steal from the company are keelhauled,” Blackthorne said, watching as the last of the plunder was accounted for.

Fitch’s face went white. “No... please, sir... I had no choice. I could not land in Jamestown empty-handed. The Governor— He’d have had me horsewhipped and hanged.”

“What Governor?”

“Governor Harvey, sir. Of Virginia.”

Blackthorne squinted. “What has he to do with it?”

Dove were carrying goods meant for the Governor — goods... traded free of duties.”

Releasing an incredulous huff, Blackthorne replied, “So. The Governor of Virginia is a smuggler. Who sold him the goods?”

Fitch squirmed. “The Earl.”

Blackthorne gazed at him a long moment. “Was Bertie aware?”

“No, sir. The Earl—” He shook his head. “He had no notion how poor a captain his son would be. Dove’s sailing master died a month after the ship sailed. Bertie was not up to the task.”

“Clearly. What was the cargo?”

“Gunpowder.”

Blackthorne grew still, recalling the tremendous explosion that took Dove to the bottom of the channel. If that powder had not been aboard, the little galleon would not have sunk so quickly, and there would surely have been more survivors. Mrs. Henry’s children might yet be alive.

“You will face the judgment of the company for the theft of our plunder,” Blackthorne said tersely. “Now move.” He swept his rapier toward the companionway.

“No, please! Wait!”

“Move!”

“The boy lives!” Fitch blurted, trembling.

“What? How?”

Fitch moistened his lips, gazing warily at Blackthorne. “I will tell you... only if you release me.”

“You are hardly in a position to negotiate!”

“He lives! I swear it!”

Blackthorne released a string of oaths. “Tell me.”

The boy was thrown from the ship by the explosion, Fitch said, and then carried by the strong current toward the French frigate. He saw the sailors toss a line and haul him aboard, shortly before the ship made its escape.

“You’ll say nothing of any of this,” Blackthorne warned, “Do you understand? Return above, and, by God, do not ever act against this company again.”

“Cap’n!” Alden’s voice sounded from the companionway. “Fitch is missing—” He stopped abruptly, seeing Blackthorne with Fitch — a wounded ear dripping blood onto his shoulder — and a pile of gold coins on the deck.

“Indeed. He was the thief, and he is paroled of the crime — for now.”

While Alden replaced the plunder to the sea chest in his quarters, Blackthorne spread out his charts, pondering wind and weather and the damage sustained by Beaufort which, by his estimates, would take at least two weeks to repair. From the site of the battle, the nearest French port with a sizeable shipyard was Port-de-Paix — a five-day sail from Legacy’s current position.

If Fitch’s tale was true, William was still in Port-de-Paix.

“Mr. Alden,” Blackthorne said quietly.

“Cap’n?”

“There is... much afoot... and I require of you the strictest confidence.”

“Always, sir.” Alden’s young face was earnest and puzzled.

“Say nothing of the theft of the plunder. Please convene the officers immediately on the quarterdeck.”


Last edited by Capt Peter Blackthorne on Sat Aug 12, 2017 3:14 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Capt Peter Blackthorne
Cutthroat
Posts: 299



6125 Gold -

PostPosted: Sat Aug 12, 2017 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Capt Peter Blackthorne
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Posts: 299



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 14, 2017 8:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

POISON
______________________

Blackthorne’s announcement to his officers of a change of course to Port-de-Paix was met with stunned silence. He wanted to dismiss them with no further explanation, but their puzzled stares — along with the expectations inherent in their long camaraderie — compelled him to say more. Dickerson had been a shipmate aboard the Draktarre. Pound was the gunner on the first prize ship he’d been given to command. These men had trusted him to lead them for campaign after campaign. And yet, Blackthorne could not reveal the whole truth of the matter, not even to them.

He knew these men, and knew they would have insisted Fitch pay for his crime. But Fitch was the Earl’s man, and the Earl was the King’s man, and if harm came to Fitch while aboard Legacy, Blackthorne was certain the King would hear of it.

And what if Fitch was lying? If Blackthorne failed to find the boy, he could possibly improvise another reason for the sortie, possibly cover the debacle with a deflection. But not if the officers knew the truth in advance.

So he told them only that the detour was necessary to complete an errand for the Crown, and would it not be advantageous to earn even more favor with the King under his Letter of Marque?

That lie again.

Blackthorne watched as his officers’ expressions shifted from confusion to dismay to indignation and then — most troublingly — to distrust. After they were dismissed, he saw Pound and Dickerson exchanging quiet remarks as they stepped off the quarterdeck. Both men glanced back at Blackthorne over their shoulders.

Sims’ bitterness carried over into the hour he and Blackthorne customarily spent together before supper on the captain’s gallery, causing an uneasy silence between them. Finally, Sims said, “Why Port de Paix, Peter?”

“You’ll know in time.”

“I must wonder what could matter so much as to risk mutiny,” Sims stated bluntly. “Or perhaps it is not a ‘what’ but a ‘who.’”

Blackthorne shot him an annoyed glance, but Sims’ expression was firm. “Is there something between you and Mrs. Henry?”

Revealing his intimacy with Mrs. Henry was out of the question, and so was lying to his oldest friend. He glanced dourly at Sims, irritated at the intrusive interrogation and infuriated to be forced into this position. He rose and walked out without another word.


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


Peter Blackthorne was guilty, Sims concluded. He had incriminated himself with his silence.

Sims’ chest ached to imagine Mrs. Henry complicit in — what, precisely? What had happened between them? It was all he could think about. This uncertainty — and the jealousy behind it — was so overwhelming, Sims could concentrate neither on his duties nor his prayers, and he felt it as a poison to his soul.

Sims intercepted Alden on his way to bring supper to Mrs. Henry and took the tray himself to the wardroom, relieved that she invited him inside. Pouring out her tea, and hoping for the most casual of tone, Sims said, “Curious. We have changed course and are now bearing south.”

Mrs. Henry’s gaze rose to him. “South? Whatever for?”

“I thought you might know,” he replied lightly.

Mrs. Henry’s brow creased in confusion. “I?”

“Mmm. On account of your... friendship... with the Captain.”

Mrs. Henry stared a moment. “Has the Captain spoken of a... ‘friendship’ with me?”

“No, no. Not explicitly. I have only observed a certain ... affinity... between you both.”

She bristled faintly. “I do not know why we are sailing south, Dr. Sims. And I would thank you not to speculate on my personal life. You were kind to bring my supper, but please allow Mr. Alden to do so henceforward.”

His skin burning with humiliation, Sims exited hastily. He had been dismissed by the woman he loved, betrayed by his closest friend, and even his communion with God had been damaged by his fears and resentment. He trudged the long corridor forward to the surgery, and stopped to check on the patient who concerned him most.

“How fare you this evening, Richard?” Sims murmured. He hung a lantern on an overhead beam and gently peeled back the bandage protecting the amputation of the man’s leg above the knee.

“Hurts like hell isself,” the sailor slurred. “A pistol. Give me a pistol, Sims.”

The skin flap covering the stump had become inflamed, and white pus was oozing from between the sutures. He pressed gently on the margins, forcing out the purulence and causing Richard to snap his head to the side from pain. “Very sorry,” Sims murmured, and he stepped to his cupboard for clean bandages and preparations.

“The wound is still festering,” Sims said softly as he sopped up the pus and cleaned the incision. He held a small pewter bowl over a candle flame, swirling its contents periodically as it warmed, and the scent of pine bloomed into the compartment.

“What is’t?” Richard murmured, his eyes closed.

Unguentum elemi.” Sims spread some of the thick, warm liniment onto the incision. “Yellow basilicon mixed with turpentine and pine resin. This will draw out the bad humors and hasten healing.” He glanced up to the man’s face, wishing to tell him that he would not be needing a pistol just yet, but he expected to smell gangrene when he changed the bandage in the morning. A shot to the head would be a more pleasant death.

When he finished redressing the wound, Sims placed a cup of rum in the man’s hands. “Drink it all, Richard, and then I will give you another. And then you will sleep.”

Sims watched the man’s face relax, and he took the cup from his slack fingers. He placed his palm on his forehead, feeling the heat of his fever. On any other day, he would have prayed for the man’s healing — for his soul — but Johnathan Sims could no longer feel a connection to the divine, nor hear the still, quiet voice of God in his own heart. He had crowded it out with suspicion, jealousy, anger, lust and self-pity.

He withdrew to his cabin, and took the bottle of rum with him.
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Capt Peter Blackthorne
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Port-de-Paix
______________________________

Every man aboard Legacy knew she had reversed course. Only one man knew why.

Perhaps, the crew conjectured, Captain Blackthorne had renounced his Letter of Marque and had washed his hands of the obligation to transport Dove’s survivors to Jamestown. Perhaps he will hold them all for ransom. Perhaps he is ravishing the beautiful Mrs. Henry in his cabin every night. They threw inquisitive and envious glances over their shoulder at Blackthorne on the quarterdeck but could read only resolve in his expression.

Resentment was building in the men who brought the prisoners of war above to relieve themselves. Knowing the guards could be easily needled, the Frenchmen had taken to deliberately undershooting the rail and spraying piss all over the gunwale and deck — and sometimes their guards’ bare feet — even if it earned them a kick in the kidney. The crew would not stand for this humiliating duty much longer, Dickerson warned the Captain. Something must be done — and soon.

So the steady rain of the next few days came as a relief to Blackthorne. It shortened the time the Frenchmen spent above decks and washed away their errant piss. It encouraged Sims to remain in surgery, tending to his patients, so Blackthorne was not subject to his suspicious, angry glares.

And it kept Mrs. Henry confined to her sailcloth cabin, reducing his impulse to speak with her — to ply his charms and perhaps persuade her back into his bed. He knew this to be the path of a lesser man, and he resented the temptation at the same time entertaining it. But a part of that lesser man justified his interest in Mrs. Henry with her apparent disinterest in Sims. If Sims had no chance of winning this woman’s heart, then would it be so wrong for Blackthorne to dabble with her? True, she was complicated and enigmatic, but he preferred to dwell instead on the raw simplicity of their mutual lust. Questions of friendship and loyalty were shoved aside by the power of his skin’s memory and the feel of her body beneath him.


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


“Wake.” Blackthorne gave Sims’ shoulder a not-so-gentle nudge with his knee.

“What?” Sims scrabbled to sit, blinking at the light from Blackthorne’s lantern. “What is’t?”

“Shhhh. Get dressed.” He pulled Sims’ knee breeches from a peg and tossed them to him. Then, taking his white linen shirt in hand, he ripped the square Puritan-style collar from the neckline.

“Here now!”

“SHHHH!” Blackthorne glared. “We are going ashore, and you must look more ... worldly.”

“Ashore? Why?” Sims struggled to pull on his leggings with Blackthorne occupying almost half of his tiny compartment.

“William may be in Port-de-Paix.”

At that, Sims froze, gaping. “How—“

“I will explain later. Just... get on with it.”

Sims muttered, looking down as he tied his breeches. “You might have told me afore. Do you not trust me?”

“I trust my old friend, but this one — with a heart besotted — is new to me. No, you may not take your coat. Or hat. Come with me.”

The Boucher brothers were waiting on the waist, along with Alden and Dickerson, who were lowering a jolly boat. It was four in the morning, and Legacy had hove-to three miles east of Port-de-Paix and now bobbed in calm seas under a sliver of a moon.

As the others climbed down to the boat, Blackthorne turned to Dickerson. “Be here in this place in 24 hours,” he said quietly. “If we are not returned by dawn, then ... you are in command, and you decide what next.”

He gazed at his quartermaster for a moment, recognizing how easy it would be for Dickerson simply to sail away here and now and assume command of a crew discontented with Blackthorne’s recent leadership. He studied Dickerson’s face, searching for some sign of commitment, some sign that his loyalty had withstood the strain between them.

“Understood,” Dickerson said. And that was all he said.

At the till on the mile-long row to shore, Blackthorne briefed Sims and the Bouchers on what Fitch had told him, admitting that all of it could have been a lie.

“What would the French navy have to do with a boy so young? William is only six years old,” Sims said, exasperated.

Marcel pulled on the oars, his pace matching that of his younger brother on the thwart behind him. “Aboard Galliarde,” Marcel said, “they would sign a powder monkey at eight years of age. Six is not so far from eight.”

“Outrageous.”

“Do you suppose they intend to return the boy to his family?” Blackthorne asked.

“Perhaps in time,” Marcel said. “Perhaps in a long time. After the war?”

They beached the boat on a secluded stretch of shore hidden from the road, a hundred yards inland. Armed with cutlass and flintlock, Maurice remained with the boat. The rest of the men set off for Port-de-Paix.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 7:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The story so far.

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