The Captain panicked as his sails were burnt to ashes, the pirates that had been pursuing his ship generously rained cannon-fire and mortar onto it. He ran hastily from one end of the ship to the other, barking orders to the deckhands to dowse the flames and to prepare for battle. He yelped inwardly as grapple-hooks flew into the sky – floating there for a moment almost timelessly – before they dropped down viciously on-deck, the chains that bound the hooks being dragged slowly back, clink-clinking as it searched for purchase. It slithered on the ash-speckled wood – like an iron snake – and drew taut as it held onto the banister. He could see the pirates pulling the chains – bringing the two ships closer. The Captain only had a moment to read the pirate ship’s name, The Tinker’s Curse, before he turned with eyes widened – with little but hurried orders to offer as consolation to rest of his distressed crew.
As the ships came closer, the Captain’s men armed themselves, drawing their cutlasses and readying their muskets. They were no marines, but it would have to do.
Slowly, slowly, the noise was relatively blocked out during the limbo of preparation. The Captain could feel his insides churning, and his bladder become loose. He gulped down a sob and tried to control himself as –
“Lay aboard, lads!” cried the pirate captain, “Take everything that isn’t nailed down! And make a meal for the fish out of these plain sailors!
The pirates climbed aboard, determination and desire raging in their eyes, as they attacked the ill-experienced crew. Gunfire and the crash of blades, the cries of anguish and the grunts of pain rang in the air.
The pirate captain ploughed his way through, his cutlasses slicing through the throat of a descending sailor and then fending off the blow from another. The clash of swords was broken as he kicked the second sailor away and slashed the blade down on his skull – making blood spray upwards. The pirate pulled out two blunderbusses and shot two approaching sailors, before dislodging his cutlass. The pirate spied the piteous Captain holding a sword and cowering in fear.
The pirate stepped towards him.
“Stay back!” he cried, “Stay back, you demons!”
The pirate did not respond. He continued to advance.
“Stay back, please! In mercy’s name!” the Captain dropped his sword and edged back, stumbling over a keg of rum and trying desperately trying to crawl away, “Take anything you want, but spare me: Please!”
The pirate paused, his sword raised, “D’you know anythin’ about Ben Hornigold? Where he is? Who he’s lookin’ for?”
The Captain’s mouth remained agape, as if he was unable to comprehend the pirates question, “N-no, sir, I don’t,” he replied in a small voice.
“Then, I’ve no use for you.”
* * * * *
The sky bloomed a blood-red as the sun set, appearing to sink into the ocean, the fluffy clouds tainted pink in the mottled heavens. Captain Thom McCarthy sat watching the dolphins in the distance leap out of the ocean and dive back in, in front of the dying sun. He took a swig of his green bottle of rum, before sitting back a little and looking into the flames before him pensively.
He was a man in his early thirties, but looked to be trapped within the age of twenty-five – save the creases in his forehead. His beard was scarce and he seemed to have a countenance of naivety. Thom was not of the greatest stature and his width was not the most built.
It only made him all the more dangerous.
He was accustomed to wearing simple, loose clothing – but recent indulgences had him wearing a red coat, sewn with brass buttons and white tassels. He’d also recently invested in a wide-brimmed, feathered hat – and he seemed to cherish the item of clothing.
The Tinker’s Curse lay docked on the coast of an uncharted island after the crew had raided the modest schooner only a few hours ago. It was a nice place that Thom had discovered – with a long stretched beach and a jungle of exotic trees and creatures beyond it. The crew were spread out across the beach, sitting around small fires: eating and drinking, and singing old ballads to each other in mirth. It was a nice place to idle, especially after the… fall of the Pirate Republic of Nassau. It now belonged, once again, to the British, as pirates were being hunted up and down the Caribbean. A Pardon had been offered by the King to any pirate that wanted to give up his crimes.
There were only two decisions if you were caught and captured: Accept the Pardon and walk penniless, but free. Or be hung by the neck until dead.
Gibbets hung the dead and rotting carcasses of pirates in places like Jamaica and the Bahamas, as a sign and warning for anyone who wanted to attempt a life of piracy.
It was a hard time for Thom – with the famous pirates Blackbeard and Calico Jack drinking damnation at the bottom of the sea, and with the ex-pirate Benjamin Hornigold betraying the rest of them by turning pirate-hunter – but after his little… disagreement back at home in London, England and then the twist of fate with the Anglo-Spanish wars… Thom had little choice but to continue his life as a pirate and earn the fortune he’d promised his family. His pride wouldn’t allow him to go back: empty-handed and proven wrong. Well… perhaps, not so empty-handed, but not enough to be a gentleman.
Thom brushed his light brown hair back with his gloved hand, wiping the sweat off of his forehead and his neck, and taking another long sip of his drink.
Thom looked up, his tanned face looking darker in the firelight and the dying rays of the sun.
“Malcolm,” he smiled, as the young man approached, “don’t call me that.”
Malcolm, Thom’s quarter-master and close-friend, sat opposite him on a wooden box, “I don’t see why not,” he said, laughing, and taking off his black leather coat and rolling up the sleeves of his worn, greying tunic, “seems t’suit you well.”
Malcolm Smith was Thom’s physical opposite. He was a brute of a boy with closely cropped black hair, but had a face that smiled often.
“Aye, I, perhaps,” said Thom, passing Malcolm a bottle, “but Captain Tinker doesn’t ring right, mate.”
Malcolm took the bottle, “A fine catch today, eh?”
“A schooner, lad. Not some’un I’d call fine… but good enough.”
“Aye… after all o’ the things that’ve been workin’ against our favour,” the young man reached into his boot and pull out a folded piece of paper, “Here.”
“What’s this?” asked Thom, taking the sheet and unfolding it.
“Reply t’your yearly letter ‘ome,” said Malcolm, “Picked it up for you when we docked in Kingston. Forgot to hand it t’ye.”
Thom didn’t reply. He just read the letter with a frown and furrowed brows, trying to absorb the tragedy it detailed...