Letter of Marque

Okay, I had a complete change of thought on the story, moving it forward for better historical representation.

Anyway, enjoy:

"The year is 1711. With Great Britain plunged into the War of Spanish Succession, the country faces more enemies from all sides. But with the Royal Navy chasing down fleets of French and Spanish vessels, the country’s trade routes are left unattended, vulnerable to pirates and pillagers alike.

Across the entirety of the British Empire, hundreds of converted merchant ships set out under the title of Privateer. Commanded by hardy seafarers, and crewed by veterans and novices alike, they seek a mutual goal: to serve under the British crown.

With his father’s death still a mystery to him, Edmund Randolph join his ship, the Emerald Night, to embark on a mission to retrace the steps of history that time forgot. "


10. On deck.

   Within the ensuing hours, Edmund had come to know nearly the entirety of the trio’s individual lives, and to be honest, they knew just as much about him.


   Tivetshall was born to a wealthy family in Sussex, and joined the navy at nineteen. Surpassing the lowest ranks due to his heritage, he was immediately made purser, and was held in charge of the financial side of the ship – the seventy-gun HMS Suffolk.

   It was at the time he was soon acquainted with William Randolph, quartermaster of the very same vessel.

   For three years, they served alongside each other, co-operating with the rest of the crew in such hard and brittle times, like the Battle of Beachy Head in 1690, or that of Barfleur two years later.

   But soon enough – with William’s swift promotion to Master, and a transfer to the much larger HMS Venus – the two men parted ways, and Tivetshall continued serving as the accountant for a further four years.


   At the turn of the century, however, it was said that his father passed away. Having been in ownership of a shipping company in the capital, the business was soon handed down the heir apparent: Samuel.

   Within a week, he was Sir Samuel Tivetshall, owner of the London Shipping Company of Smith-field.

   With no siblings, and his mother passing away after two months, he came to find city life quite lonely, and so turned to the life of a sailor once more.


   The Great Ouse – once owned by the famous British East India Company – was his choice of vessel. In partial disrepair, it was snapped up for quite a bargain, and was immediately worked upon by a hardy group of sailors.

   Within a fortnight, the ship sailed out of the harbour at Liverpool under the new name Halifax, and set sail for Calcutta – the first of many voyages that Tivetshall personally captained.

   But alas, with over a thousand individual voyages under its name, its time had come to a close.


   Baring what was believed to be the French flag, a lone brig attacked the poorly armed ship, shooting dead any survivors.

   How the trio survived, was a miracle. By playing dead among the masses, they were able to evade the musketeers from ending their lives.

   Clambering onto the small boat floating around, they soon sailed around, helplessly trying to pick out any survivors.

   But there were none.


   Edmund was fully engaged with the story. It was like listening to a newspaper report, but hearing it from those who experienced it.

   Writhed with a sense of engrossment – as if he were suffering it himself – he filled the tankards up once more, and within a while, the story ended up with the Emerald coming over the horizon.


   To quite the contrary, Blake’s story was much more like an anecdote. As for Ford’s, even he couldn’t remember much of his early life.

   Born to a poor family in Croydon, Blake – for he did not know his birth name – was a cabin boy aboard the ships coming and going from the Thames harbour. Working alongside his father, he was soon employed by the Royal African Company.

   Promoted to Masters Mate, he ventured to and from West Africa, before leaving after several strikes led to a decreased pay.

   Making his way to Liverpool, he decided to find another company to join.

   Signing up to join the London Shipping Company, he was among the first to be welcomed among Tivetshall’s ship, and a blossoming friendship was soon underway.


   Listening intently to the tales, Edmund’s thoughts were cut short by a short sequence of wraps upon the door, and he answered immediately.

   “Yes?” He responded, and the door creaked open slowly, Hans’ face appearing in the dim light.

   “Sir.” He saluted to the captain, and yawned with his hand over his mouth, “I must take my leave, for I have been up far too long to keep awake. I’ve left one of the young lads in charge of the wheel.”

   “Of course, Hans.” Edmund replied happily, “What time is it?” He asked, looking out of the windows to gaze at the rays, swarming over the waves.

   “About five o’clock, Sir.” Again, the man yawned, “I do apologize, I must leave.” And within an instant, he disappeared behind the oak door.


   “Five o’clock?” Edmund repeated the words to himself. Time had moved so quickly on this particular day it seemed, and already everyone was feeling the exhaustion of true seafaring.

   “I think it’s time we got some more rest, Sir. Being awake for two days has wreaked havoc on our minds.” Tivetshall took a last swig of his water, and stood up from his chair, the others following in suit.

   “You can sleep down in the doctor’s quarters if you wish. There’s a couple of hammocks that you can use.”

   “Are you sure?” He replied, but the others seemed to exhibit a glassy stare of inattention, gawking at the ornate furnishings in the cabin, “We’re more than happy to sleep on deck.”

   “I insist.” Edmund contended, “It’s just through the hatch, and down the corridor towards the stern – it’s on your left.”

   “Well…we’re all very gracious for your hospitality, Sir.” The men all saluted, and Edmund returned the gesture quickly enough, before the trio exited through the doors.

   “See you tomorrow, lads.” He called, and the smiles from one and all warmed his heart as he slumped back into his chair.


   After a minute or so, Edmund decided to change his seat for a more comfortable one, and chose to watch out over the waves behind his vessel.

   Over by the bookshelves, an old parlour chair was dragged out and, with his tankard filled with more spring water – and then brandy once it was emptied – he sat and watched.

   Finally, after all that had happened during the past few days, he was content, serene, finally carefree.


   Edmund didn’t plan on falling asleep. In fact, it was his intention to make it out onto the deck and watch the sunset, maybe listen to another one of the crew’s shanties, but his tiredness – bourgeoned by the alcohol – soon got the better of him.

   Instead, his eyes closed, and his hands lay lifeless on the arms of his chair, and before he knew it, the night was upon him.


   A chilled breeze sliced through the boards of the deck above, and soon the captain got too his feet once more.

   After finishing off the liquid pooling in the base of the cup, he made his way towards the doors and, while scratching a persistent itch amongst the stubble on his chin, strolled out onto the deck.


   “Captain on deck!” This time, it was not Charles which called out to the crew, but instead the young helmsman.

   He was no older than eighteen, but he steered the vessel with the skill of a veteran. Edmund watched as he swung the wheel to and fro, counteracting the vast Atlantic winds which trying to topple the boat.

   Edmund climbed the stairs under the moonlit night, and caught sight of Charles, watching over the stern with a manner of tranquillity and serenity.


   “Captain.” The young lad offered the wheel to Edmund with a covertly triumphant tone, and he gracefully accepted.

   “Thank you.” He gripped the handles firmly, swinging the wheel with the vigour and readiness that sleep had given him, “Get yourself some rest, lad.”

   The young boy nodded happily. Any sleep upon the ocean was good sleep, and with a battle coming up within the next two days, it was of paramount importance that everyone be fully rejuvenated for the meeting.


   “Mornin’ Captain.” Charles sauntered up to the railing, and leaned over it, watching the crew as they performed their morning duties.

   “And what a fine one it is too, Charles.” He replied happily, taking time to marvel at the many constellations and groupings the sky of stars had to offer.

   “Absolutely.” Charles answered, but soon submitted himself to a brooding silence.

   “Thinking, Charles?” Edmund was soon to pick up on this. Something seemed to be troubling him, and as Captain, it was Edmund’s job to find out what it was.

   “Just surmising, Sir.”

   “And what’s that?”

   “What exactly is the plan of action, once we meet the French?”

   There was no doubt he had surrendered himself to a melancholy thought.


   “Well…” To be quite honest, Edmund hadn’t thought that far ahead. Bearing in mind the Topaz and Vanguard would have more accurate information on the blockade, it was too early to call right now, “We’ll use our chains to destroy the masts, and try to bring her home.”

   “You don’t plan to tow her home, do you Sir?” Charles showed serious signs of worry in his face, but Edmund laughed the idea away.

   “Good heavens, no!” He chuckled, “We’ll get her rigged up overnight, and have her sailing again by sunrise. That way, we’re sure to double our prize money, Charles.”

   “But surely we’ll be more vulnerable with less men.” Again, the negative tone returned, “And we’re to be travelling down the American Main, Sir, it could be disas –”

   “Less of the pessimism, if you will Charles.” Edmund protested.

   “Sorry, Sir.”


   “Of course we’ll be down on men, but that’s the risk we take. We’re Privateers, Charles. The more we plunder for the crown, the more we earn, the more majestic our names become.” There was certainly an air of triumph around the Captain, and soon, it began to infect Charles.

   “Let’s just hope we don’t end up like old Kidd, ey?” He chortled, “Bugger’s rottin’ away at Execution Dock for what he did.”

   “We’ll be alright, Charles. We just need to keep our heads straight – don’t let all the greed get to you.” Edmund responded, and Charles nodded in accord, “How about another shanty, lads!” He shouted across deck, “Let’s start the day off with a bit of singing!”

   Cheers ensued, but Charles was less than pleased. Shanties were becoming somewhat monotonous now, and the quartermaster attempted to protest again them.

   “Please, Sir.” His hurrying thoughts clamoured for utterance, “I must retire for some well-needed rest.”

   But his voice was unheard, under the bellowing first verse of Edmund’s song:


“Oh, my name was Captain Kidd.”


   And once more, the crew answered with the next verse:


“As I sailed, as I sailed,

Oh, my name was Captain Kidd,

As I sailed.

My name was Captain Kidd,

And God's laws I did forbid,

And so wickedly I did,

As I sailed, as I sailed,

So wickedly I did,

As I sailed.


   And it didn’t stop there. In fact, the crew sung more verses than Edmund could recall or remember:


“Oh I murdered William Moore,

As I sailed, as I sailed.

I murdered William Moore,

As I sailed.

And I laid him in his gore,

Not many leagues from shore,

Oh I murdered William Moore,

As I sailed, as I sailed,

I murdered William Moore,

As I sailed.


I spied three ships from Spain,

As I sailed, as I sailed,

Oh I spied three ships from Spain,

As I sailed.

I spied three ships from Spain,

And I fired on them a-main,

And most of them I slain,

As I sailed, as I sailed,

And most of them I slain,

As I sailed.


Come all you young and old,

See me die, see me die,

Come all you young and old,

See me die.


You are welcome to my gold,

And by it I've lost my soul,

Come all you young and old,

I must die, I must die,

Come all you young and old,

I must die.”


   And so, this song – and a couple more – saw the Emerald glide across the sapphire waves, and finally the moon began to creep towards the horizon.

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