“Hornigold?” said Mrs McCarthy in a worried fashion.
Thom watched as his crew were already boarding The Tinker’s Curse, “There’s no time to explain now,” he said, remaining calm as he picked Margaret up and placed her on his hip. He made his way to his ship, “I’ll give ye the details in full, madam, I swear’t. But later.”
Mrs McCarthy hurried up behind them.
As they stepped on deck, Thom placed Margaret down gently, striding straight for the helm, and took the wheel, calling, “Weigh anchor, lads! All hands on deck! Brace yourselves, Ol’e Hornigold won’t let us slip easy!” he turned to Malcolm and said softly, “Escort my sister and her mother to my cabin. Tell them t’stay there until I give them leave to move out.”
Malcolm nodded grimly, “Aye, aye, captain.”
“Man the oars, lads!” Thom bawled, “And give me some sail! Let’s outrun these bastards!”
The ship lurched into the water, the sails being puffed with strong winds. Thom steered the ship towards the open sea, not making for any island or known location in general. It wasn’t long before the pirates cried in recognition as the giants sails of several man-o’wars could be seen chasing them.
“Release the barrels!”
The pirates at the stern lit barrels of pitch, and sent them into the sea, blocking the path of the pursuing ships. A barrel exploded as one of the ships hit it accidently, leaving a gaping hole in its hull. Two got around the barrels, however, and covered the distance quickly.
“Man the cannons!” barked Thom, “Aim! Fi–”
The Tinker’s Curse shook as cannon-fire rained down on it. Thom braced himself for impact and then rose, shaking himself as he tightened his grip on the wheel.
“Aim for the mast! Aim for the rudder!” he barked, “Fire!”
There were a few loud bangs as the cannons let loose and wood splintered, becoming ablaze as the heavy balls of metal hit their mark. Thom saw sailors and marines desperately trying to dowse the flames that were engulfing their sails to ash.
“Ready. Fire!” he barked again.
Another volley hit Thom’s ship, as he tried to sail out of range.
“Water, lads, water!” he bawled, “Get those sails out o’ flame!”
They want a fight? he thought menacingly, I’ll give ‘em a fight…
Turning the wheel, Thom turned the ship right around, “Man the oars!” he cried, setting the ship on a direct collision course with the first man-o’-war. Wood splintered and both ships lurched on impact as The Timker’s Curse rammed into the much larger ship.
“Let loose the pitch!” he barked, straightening his hat and walking away from the wheel.
Malcolm approached his post, “Take the wheel, lad,” Thom told Malcolm, “If this ship sinks, make sure you find my family first.”
“Aye…” Malcolm replied with uncertainty, “but what of you?”
“I’m finding that bastard and endin’ my business with ‘im, once and for all.”
“McCarthy, there’s no guarentee that Hornigold is on one o’ these ships.”
“He’s not restin’ in his pursuit for my head!” Thom snapped, “Why should I rest in my pursuit for his!”
“Erm… because you lack in resources and–”
“Enough o’ this!” shouted Thom, “Those sailors’ll recover from that hit in no time, and then we’ll be– ”
There was a large crashing sound, that was follow by a roar of flames.
Thom turned around slowly, only to see a sinking man-o’-war burbling into the depths of the ocean, as if it were drowning, and in its place stood a fine galley flying a black flag.
“Ahoy, Tinker!” cried the captain of the galley, “Got your ‘ands full, have ye?”
“Ahoy, Quick!” replied Thom, thanking his turn in fortune, “Aye. I could use some help, but you’ve clearly already got that idea!”
“Ye brash Englishmen!”
“Chalk and cheese, mate!” the galley edged closer, the name reading The Half-Caste, flying grappling hooks onto the man-o’-war and shooting the ship down with cannon-fire, “I know! Chalk and cheese!”
“Lay aboard, lads!” Thom yelled to his crew, “Tonight, we feast on the food of quantity and don the garbs of quality!”
Thom nodded to Malcolm and leapt aboard, followed enthusiastically by his brutish deckhands. Soon, Captain Quick’s men also boarded. Quick saw the flashing of Thom’s cutlass and heard sharp cracks of his pistols.
Not the most known pirate, aye, he thought, But definitely one of the most feared.
Thom carved an arc in the stomach of a marine before kicking him away. He looked up and saw the captain of the sinking ship, fighting valiantly to the death against three or four adversaries. He managed to cut one down, but sheer numbers soon overwhelmed him. Not that it mattered. He wasn’t Benjamin Hornigold. Thom sheathed his cutlass, and climbed the mast, aiming to reach the Union Jack fluttering at the top. He kicked the lookout out of his post and grabbed the flag, cutting it loose and sending it floating down into the sea.
The pirates cheered as the sailors surrendered.
“Lock ‘em in the hold! Take everything that isn’t nailed down!” ordered Thom.
Thom climbed down and went aboard his own ship, leaving the rest of the pirates to plunder the man-o’-war. He strode into his cabin, finding Margaret and her mother cowering in a corner.
“What happened, Thom?” asked Margaret, shaking.
Thom took the girl from the shivering woman’s arms and placed her on a chair, “Nothin’ ‘appened,” he said softly.
“But there were bangs and cracks and… and…” tears gathered in her eyes as she tried to find something to cry about, “and I think I got a splinter,” she raised her forefinger up and showed him.
“Oh, lass, that’s nothin’ t’worry about!” he said, “Oi, don’t cry, Margaret! Don’t cry. There’s nothin’ to be afrighted of. The worst is o’er, I tell ye!”
“But the yelling and the crashing…” Margaret sobbed.
“Aye, it’s what sailin’s about. There’s a reason why papa didn’t want me t’come ‘ere, ye know,” as he said the words, Thom felt another stab of guilt.
I… I guess I am a fool, he thought, The old man tried to warn me, rough as he was.
“Listen,” he told Margaret, anchoring down his own emotions, “listen: dry up now, and I’ll let ye steer my ship if the weather’s favourable.”
“You… you’ll let me sail your boat?”
“Ship,” Thom corrected, almost indignantly, “Ship. I’ll let you sail my ship.”
She brightened, “Yay!” she bounced out of the chair and skipped out of the cabin, apparently having forgotten all her fears.
“Oh, Thomas,” said Mrs McCarthy, accusingly, “Oh, Thomas, what fresh Hell is this?”
A shiver ran down Thom’s spine, “Madam, I can explain–”
“Yes,” she hissed, angrily, “You always had an explanation for everything! Everything! How you’ll explain this, though, only God in Heaven knows!”
“A pirate, Thom! A robber o’ the sea! That’s what’s become o’ you, is it?” she stood up, her brows furrowed and her teeth clenched in fury, “How will you take care o’ us, like this? Like you promised? Is your word worth nothin’, Thomas?”
“If you’d just let me–”
“Dead at the bottom o’ the sea, indeed! Just like your father said! But you couldn’t die alone, now, could ye!”
“Oh, shut your gob, woman!” Thom barked.
Mrs McCarthy recoiled immediately, “I…” she said, her voice catching, “I should check on Maggie,” she scurried passed Thom.
“Madam, wait!” he said, pained by her reaction, but she was already gone. He sighed, and looked away, “I’m sorry,” he mumbled to himself.