Female mercenary leader, Mariqah, puts faith in an organisation of rebellious world changers in an alternate history where the British colonialism still exists. These world changers seek to abolish all form of imperialism. Mariqah is in tw minds however, as she has friends in both camps. Things go horribly wrong when she sets foot into Bengal which is torn by civil war - where there seems to be deceptive conflict between factions.


21. 17

“Ship sighted, Capt'n!” cried the lookout.

 Callum barked orders as he traipsed up and down the deck. They had spotted a fine merchant ship flying British colours, named the HMS Glider.
 Easy pickings.
 Using his spyglass, Callum guessed the supplies aboard would be mainly tea, sugar and tobacco. It would make a fine profit if sold, yes, but it also meant that the ship probably belonged to the East India Company. Which meant the sailors (or more likely, the captain) would have answers to some very pressing questions.
“I'll take't from here, Miss Ha'Caste,” he told Amaal, striding up to the helm and taking the wheel from her. The bell was ringing aboard the merchant vessel, and the sailors aboard were readying arms, the cannons beginning to peak out of their holes.
“This is the ship we will be taking?” Khadir asked Callum, holding the banister with one hand and the hilt of his sword with the other.
“Aye,” Callum yelled, over the noise of the sea and the preparations the pirates were making for the on-coming fight, “but, jus' to be clear: if she's still in one piece after all this, I'll be takin' her if ye don't mind.”
Khadir shrugged, “No love for sailing anyway.”
Callum laughed, “If only Firdy could see you now, the novice that ye are!”

 “Incoming fire!” called the look-out.
“Brace yourselves, lads!” Callum said, pitching the wheel wildly to a side to avoid most of the damage . Cannon-fire rained on them, splintering wood and injuring crew-members. One man screamed as a ball tore through his leg.
“Amaal!” Khadir said, “Call the mercenaries from the hold!”
She nodded quickly and hurried across the main deck.
“Then secure the hatch, lass!” Callum added, before he called to his crew, “Ready? Fire!”
Cannons exploded, the shots hitting the Glider on port-side. Callum gave chase as the ship tried to flee, leaving burning barrels of pitch in its wake to hinder them. He managed to weave through most of them, but one exploded against the aft. Fearing damage to the Tyrant's rudder, Callum ordered his men to drop the main mast. A gust of wind pushed the Tyrant forward and quickly caught up with the fleeing ship.
“Cannons ready? Fire!” Callum barked.
 Both ships traded blows and the explosions sent men and equipment flying back on the impact. One cannon-ball sailed right passed Callum's head, taking off his hat.
“Oi!” he yelled, “That was one o' a kind, ye blind- Urgh!” he turned the wheel and growled, “I'll show them t'attempt on my head!”
The ship lurked sideways, “Brace yourselves!”
and the Tyrant's hull rammed into the merchant ship's side, the abrupt brake in speed and impact tossing some men like rag-dolls in the air and jittering the bones of others.
 Callum climbed up the shrouds, and drew his sword, “Reel her in and send 'em to Hell!”

The pirates whirled grappling-hooks in the air and threw them onto the other vessel and as each gained purchase, they began pulling the ships closer together. Callum jumped onto the opposing deck first.
 Khadir took a deep breath and ran the length of the Tyrant's quarter-deck before leaping over the railing, across the expanse of ocean and grabbing the banister of the HMS Glider. He climbed aboard and drew his sword. He picked out Callum in the thick of the melee, and Khadir cut and sliced his way through the panicking men in frilly red jackets towards the pirate captain.
 Callum parried the blow of a descending cutlass with the sword in his right hand and threw it back, before shooting the man with the pistol in his left. He turned marginally to see Khadir slicing down on a man's head as if his sword was an axe. It got lodged in as the man died and Khadir stepped on the corpse to ripe the blade out, making a huge mess of gore and flesh.
 God, that man over-did it.
“Please,” Callum said to him, “Please tell me ye landed right-foot first.”
 “Why is that important?” Khadir asked, unable to even remember which foot he used to climb aboard.
“Boarding on the left-foot bids horrible luck, mate,” Callum said, throwing aside another assailant, “Ne'er board wi' the left foot.”
Khadir rolled his eyes, throwing back the slashes of swords and ducking under gunfire.
 Sailors and their nautical nonsense.
 Luck? Really?
 His distraction got him a punch in the face and then fingers in his eyes. He bellowed in anger and leapt on the man that dare attack him and pinned him to the floor. The man managed to kick Khadir in the stomach, but Khadir absorbed the attack, ignored the pain and slammed his forehead into the man's nose. He screamed as the cartilage crushed and blood gushed out. A friend of his must have noticed, because Khadir heard the whoosh of a thin cutlass and rolled to a side, getting up quickly to see a man slice into the body of his friend. Khadir glared at his raging face, daring him to attack. The sailor charged at him, sword raised high, but Khadir lifted a leg and kicked him hard in his side, sending him sprawling to the ground. He looked around for Callum once more. He was climbing up the main-mast, passed the main top-sail to the main top-mast. His sword glinted in the sunlight, as he slashed through the ropes that held the Union Jack to the mast and it fluttered down to the deck as the pirates cheered in victory and the other sailors surrendered.

 * * * * *

 Khadir welcomed Amaal aboard and gestured for her to take her place at the helm.
“I suppose you'll be piloting this vessel, Captain Ha'Caste,” he laughed.
“I don't know,” she replied, making her way to the quarter-deck with Khadir, “Will the men take kindly to that?”
 “These men have no qualms in taking orders from women,” Khadir assured.
“Oi! Khadir!” Callum called.
 Khadir turned around and gestured for Callum to come. He walked his way towards them, stepping over the dead bodies as they were cleared away and tossed into the sea and putting a hand on his head like he felt uncomfortable with the idea that it was now uncovered.
“I don't understand why you don't just take one of their hats,” Khadir commented, gesturing to the lavishly-dressed corpses lying around the deck.
 Callum gave him a look, “Take a bloody Redcoat's hat? You don't know anyth'un about anyth'un, do ye?” he replied indignantly, as if it was the most ludicrous suggestion Khadir could ever make.
 Khadir sighed, “What did you want?”
 “A decent hat, for one,” Callum muttered bitterly, “But to more collectively important matters: we need to stop somewhere to repair the ships and restock the supplies. The cargo on-board here should do to pay for it.”
 “I know. I know we've t'hurry for Mariqah, but we won't get far if we don't take a break.”
Khadir paused, frowning in clear misery, but nodded.
“Look, let me and Amaal talk maps and harbours, a'right? The captain's tied up in his cabin. I thought you'd might like t'have a word wi' him.”
 “I think I might,” Khadir said, making his way to the main-deck.

 Then he stepped away and climbed down the steps to make his way to the captain's cabin, which was situated below the quarter-deck. He paused by the door, and heard voices. He furrowed a brow, and opened the door carefully. Silence. And then he heard the drawing of a sword and so pulled out his own.
 Khadir entered the room. The captain indeed was seated, half the ropes that had been lashing him down to a chair now unbound, but another man stood armed and ready to attack beside him.
 It took a moment for Khadir to recognise him.
“Joel?” he said, lowering his weapon.
 Joel, his hair and beard over-grown and tangled into an uncomely mess, stared at Khadir and then dropped his weapon.
“We thought you were pirates,” Joel said, trembling in what could only be impossible relief.
“Desperate times,” Khadir shrugged, smiling, “What are you doing here?”
 “Mariqah sent us from the prison to find you in Masyaf, so we paid this captain for safe passage to Syria,” Joel explained, “The rest of us are below decks. I'll go and get them.”
Khadir grabbed his arm when Joel tried to walk passed him, “You left Mariqah behind?”
 “Only on her insistence, sir,” Joel replied, “She said she wanted to free the other men, find the bastards who started all of this.”
 “So, she's free?” Khadir said.
“That's how I left her, Khadir.”
Khadir paused and then let him go, “How many of you are there?”
 “Bring them to me.”
Joel nodded and left the cabin, shutting the door behind him.

 Khadir turned to the captain, who was panicking so much he couldn't possibly untie himself without tangling all the rope. He froze when he realised Khadir was looking at him. Khadir took a chair and brought it around, sitting front-facing against the back-rest.
“I'm not going to hurt you if you play this right,” Khadir said firmly, “but I am in no mood to chase your tail, so make this easy for yourself and just answer my questions.”
The captain gulped and nodded.
“You came out of a Bengali port, yes?”
The captain nodded.
“Which one?”
 “Chittagong, sir.”
 “And how far is this from the battle frontier?”
 “The frontier is on the west end, fairly north. Chittagong is situated just east of the Mouth of the Ganges. It's quite the distance in between.”
 “But it's a sea-port?”
 “Yes, sir.”
 “The route - how well do you know it?”
 “Very well, sir.”
Khadir stood up and unbound the captain, “Your life depends on getting us to Chittagong in the quickest possible time, is that understood?”
 “Yes, sir.”
 “My associates have requested that we rest and gathered ourselves for a moment,” Khadir said, pulling the man out of the chair, “You will find them at the helm, speak with them.”
The captain bolted out of the room without another word.

 Khadir sighed and looked through the things scattered across the desk. Compasses, maps, a dusty old ledger... and some letters.
 Khadir picked up the most recent one, finding the seal already broken, and read:


Captain James Rigby,
 It has been reported that there has been a disruption in Calcutta. Twenty men noted to associate with the fugitive, Mariqah de Saint-Omer, are on the loose. They are both resourceful and ruthless, and will probably be armed and dangerous. I bid that you refuse any passengers at the present time, for your own safety. The mercenary general herself is on the loose, but we believe she will remain in Calcutta where she was held.

 That is all for now.

 Kindest regards,
 General Javed Singh.


 It didn't mean anything much to Khadir, but he was glad that Captain James Rigby had ignored the letter. This Javed Singh appeared to be a person of interest though, so Khadir stowed the letter in a pocket. He was about to leave the cabin, when his eye caught a second envelope, unopened.
 Addressed to Richard Shankar.
 Khadir stared at it for a while, considering whether he should take it or not, and then he took it from the desk and stuffed it in his pocket.
 Why would Richard be receiving letters from a British ship?
 Khadir decided he wouldn't open it now, but would show it to Mariqah when they found her.
 If they found her.

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