I hate surprises.
When you attack a ship, the last thing you want is a surprise. You want rum, gold, and new crew members.
But surprises? They’re usually not good for you.
Especially if they happened to be well-trained and armed.
I hate mercenaries.
“In-coming fire!” cried Jebediah, my quarter-master.
Cannon fire rained down on us, the balls ramming into my brig, rigging it with wounds and killing sailors almost instantly. Wood splintered as one hit a barrel next to me. Our quarry turned to us, slowly, its mast unfolding to welcome the gusts of wind. With an extra push, it sliced through the raging waters and plough into my ship, The Tyrant.
The crew of both ships froze on the impact –
Before the storm let loose.
There was a howl from the ‘captain’ of the other ship, or whichever mercenary had taken that place since there didn’t seem to be a sailing man anywhere aboard the other ship. The ‘captain’ – let’s call him Bob, eh? My hand’s hurting – ran along the banister, to the tip of the prow and leapt onto our ship, a trail of mercenaries running and leaping in after him.
My face still hurts from the damage they did.
I saw Bob slicing through the crowd, men falling like flies before his gleaming sword. I rushed at him. He had his head covered in a hood and veil, and thick leather armour covered his body. Admittedly, he was impressive. The amount of weapons on his body could have killed most men with just a look.
But we are not most men.
He seemed to meet my challenge with grace. There was a lot of… art in the way that he fought. Clean swings, professional movements… he was more of a fencer than a mercenary. Then again, he could have just been showing off. His sword was a heavy Arab type, a Damascus. It swung our thin cutlasses away like it were nothing. He cut my face at a diagonal, I only had a moment to turn away. I abandoned my weapon and grabbed his head, crunching mine into his nose. I heard him gasp, but no howl or shriek escaped him. I wondered if I’d done any damage at all, if the veil was guarded like the rest of his armour.
Blood darkened the cloth.
Bob sheathed his own weapon and head-butted me the same, taking my shoulders and shifting his slight weight onto be (which was surprising, given his size) and hitting me again. I never knew a man’s head could be so hard.
He caught me in the jaw with a back-handed slap, and swung a kick at my knee. One of the lads must have lunched himself at Bob while I sprawled to the ground, because Bob’s assualt on me had stopped momentarily. Then I saw him, holding the sailor’s head, the lad’s nails digging into Bob’s arms desperately, before Bob swung him overboard. Even if the boy didn’t drown, his neck had probably snapped from the throw.
Bob straddled me pressing his thumbs into my throat. This was the easier way to die, so I didn’t protest too much.
“Stop you’re bloody bollocking!” he barked. There was a gruffness to his voice, but… something else. Something softer. Like his voice wasn’t meant to be gruff, “You ‘ear me? You bloomin’ dandies? Lay off my lads, or you’re captain’ll get it.”
The silence that followed almost surprised me.
“Good sea-dogs,” he huffed, as if exasperated, “Never should’ve come out the Atlantic. Never!” he loosened his grip on my throat.
I took my chance.
Twisting my hips sharply, I threw him off and punched him hard in his face. Again and again and again. There was gristle on his covered face, I could feel it beneath my knuckles. I was about to punch him again, when he caught my fist. I froze for a second, waiting for the next move, fearing for my life all over again (and this is why I write in a diary. Because a book won’t laugh at me. It’s a little sad now that I think about it).
But he… no, she, tore of her veil, spitting thick gore and a few teeth.
“You’re going to regret that,” she said, sitting up as if I sitting on her chest was nothing. Taking my knees in both arms, she hit me against the banisters of my ship, almost as many times as I’d punched her.
She then got up and kicked me in the stomach.
Even as I was rolling around, groaning on deck – I was still in shock that this Bob was a woman!
She sat down next to me, banging her head against the banister deliberately and took a few breathes, “This has got to be the worst job ever!” she said, probably to one of her men, “I am never sailing to do a job ever again. It’s no fun, it’s long and boring, and it’s not even amusing – flinging sailors about. It’s like slowly stepping on bunnies, and watching them just splatter beneath your feet like gore-filled, fluffy balloons. It’s just mean and, and easy. I don’t like being mean. And easy things… Khadir, they’re so boring. Why did I agree to come out here again?”
The man she was talking to laughed, as if he’d heard this too many times, “You thought it would be interesting, remember? I warned you against it, ma’am.”
“Well, I stand corrected and humbled, Khadir. I’m an idiot – I should let you make all my decisions.”
The mercenaries laughed. “Aye, mad’m,” said another man, “that’d work.”
She shook me, “Oi, pirate,” she said, mockingly, “Our ship’s sinking if you still want anything from there.”
“Don’t… understand…” I moaned.
“Well, let me tell you how it’ll be, eh?” she said, turning my face to hers. The smile looked psychotic and wrong with all that blood on her face and the missing teeth, “You’re going to take what you need from our now sinking ship and then you’re going to take my lot back to Normandy, where we should be.”
I spat in her face. She seemed to recoil in revulsion. There was murder in her eyes once more.
“Don’t make me hurt you,” she rasped.
“Why… why should I help ye?”
“Well, first of all – you were the idiot that attacked our ship,” she said promptly, “and second of all, I don’t think you have many options. I’m certainly not giving you any more that what I’ve already said.”
I took pause, the tone of the conversation and everything in general, confusing me, and hauled myself up into a sitting position, “Ye’re… ye’re a woman,” I said, looking at her.
She rolled her eyes, raising them to the sky, “Oh, come on, not this again…” she muttered.
“How… how can ye be a woman?”
“Well, there are several ways to answer that – the first being, I was born one,” she said, sighing and shaking her head, “the second being, I had a sex change for the absolute fun and joy of it. The third being that this is all a dream,” she swayed her hands about theatrically, mocking me. Men on-deck laughed, “a very painful dream. The fourth being – that’s not what you’re question implied, in which case you’ll have to clarify.”
“I’m sorry… what was the second one again?”
She shook her head, “Look, man. You’re a pirate, right?”
“Your prize is sinking. Um… unless you have a diving bell and a few willing sailors to fish things out of the sea – and you’ve lost a substantial amount of sailors today – I suggest you order someone to go and take what they can.”
The world was dimming as I said, “…Sea?”
And then I passed out.
Never been so humiliated in my life. Lost my prize and my dignity today.
Well… now we’re on course for Nassau to resupply and repair – hopefully, the lady mercenary won’t mind so much – but we’ll be going to Normandy.
Damn, I hate mercenaries.