DREAMWEAVER: Pirate Flint captures Princess Anne and wrestles with a guilty conscience.
So many faces, pleading for mercy yet receiving the sharp blade of his cutlass instead. Faces sliced by cuts and browned by bruises that stared at him now. Just standing there in the forest, a mighty crowd of grey-cloaked, angry, staring ghosts. He ran at them sweeping his blade through them. Unhindered it flew like a stick through insubstantial smoke and connected with nothing solid. Then one spoke to him and he screamed waking into the world of men.
"Captain, ship to starboard," said his First Mate, called Black Jack among the men but just Jack by the Captain. The man was dressed in black with a black scarf also tied around his head. He stood at the entrance of the Captain's cabin. There was fear on his face as he looked at the cutlass in the Captain's hand pointed at him across the room in the flickering candlelight. "Sorry to wake you Captain, but we found the ship," he repeated.
The Captain felt the gentle movement of his caravel on the ocean, he could taste the salt in the air, standing to feel the hard wooden boards beneath his feet, they creaked as he moved. He was a big man by the standards of the age, his skin weathered by years at sea and with a large brown bushy beard that gave him an air of authority. He had slept in his clothes, in his expensive blue coat with the gold braid. A half-finished bottle of rum lay by his bunk in the wooden box he kept there to stop it spilling in stormy seas. He replaced the cork and moved towards the door emerging into the night, shaking off the sleep as he did so. It was still pitch-black because there were clouds to hide the stars and moon. The ship was running dark as was their custom when hunting prey. The crew stood before him, grey smudges on black, reminding him momentarily of his dream. But he was not going back to that place. He saw lights in the distance swaying side to side and recognized the pattern of a ship of the line. What a prize that would be.
"Captain on deck," the First Mate spoke in a subdued voice that he did not want to carry too far into the night.
The Captain spoke in a low voice that all his crew could hear. The sound of it was rasping and guttural and it blended into the wind, waves, and darkness of this black night.
"OK men. We have found her and she's a beauty. A three-master with three decks. We approach quiet like. From the rear and the side. Jack and lads climb with me to secure the landing," he nodded to First Mate Jack. "We slit as many throats as we can 'til they sound the alarm. Do not kill the prisoners and spare as many of the crew as you can or I'll gut you myself, we want the ransoms and we need the men. Joe, you secure the caravel to the rear of the ship. The rest of ya will follow once Jack and I give the signal."
They spoke no more, all of them understanding the value of silence and the importance of these next moments. Heavily outgunned by this ship of the line and outnumbered by its complement of soldiers they knew the odds were against them unless they achieved total surprise. Despite their fear, all of them shared the excitement of the hunt and the greedy hope of rich rewards.
First Mate Jack and the Captain sailed the caravel, called the Shark by Flint for its predatory tendencies, to the enemy ship's side, sailing to the back corner at an angle they hoped was the ship's blind spot. Flint led the way, scaling the ship's stern with practiced ease, using ropes and grappling irons. They threw these skillfully in synch with the crashing waves. The enemy had not posted a watch on this part of the ship so the pirates were lucky. They found a single soldier gazing at the sea on the far side of the boat. The Captain threw his knife the distance and it went through the back of the man's neck and through his windpipe. He gurgled an attempt at a call, however there was only a spluttering sound, lost in the wind. The Captain was upon him in a moment to finish the job with his cutlass and to retrieve his knife.
From this high point at the back of the ship, the men on the caravel climbed on board. They crept through the corridors of the ship slitting throats and murdering soldiers as they slept in bunks. When finally a man managed a scream rousing the rest of the ship's company it was too late to rally an organized resistance. The rest of the soldiers tried to surrender but were shown no mercy. The crew by contrast were assembled on the deck to be addressed by the Captain and a man and a woman of some status were found locked in a cabin. The prisoners were brought on deck along with the Captain of the ship. The crew also found four chests of gold coins which they dutifully hauled onto the deck.
With the dawn light growing behind him, the Captain addressed his captives and his crew that guarded them on the main deck from the high point that looked down on them from the stern, the Jolly Roger waving in the wind from the highest mast above them.
"Gentleman, my name is Captain Flint and I am a freedom fighter in the cause of the enrichment of my crew."
His crew cheered many of them eying the chests of gold on the deck.
"My crew and I are the scourge of the seven seas, we attack the posh and the proud and we liberate their money for our own good purpose of whoring and drinking in every tavern we find."
The crew cheered again, each of them wondering how much gold they would get. But as they did so the male prisoner produced a knife. He shook off the crewman holding him and ran to the Captain of the ship of the line to slit his throat. Flint's crew was just about to cut him down when Flint raised his hand. He was curious as to why the man had taken such a risk and impressed with the speed, power, and skill of the kill. The Captain meanwhile fell to the ground spluttering indignation and holding his hands over the wound in a desperate and futile attempt to stop the flow of blood. He died seconds later, the crew hypnotized by the moment and silent for it.
The man dropped the knife and the crew held him, their eyes on Flint, ready to kill the man at a word from the Pirate Captain.
"Why risk your life like that?" asked Flint.
"The Captain insulted my mistress the Princess and he was a traitor who deserved to die," said the man.
"What is your name?"
"Godwin Jacobs," replied the man with an air of defiance. He clearly expected to die now and the steel in his eyes said that he was ready for it. Flint noted a gleam of respect in the eyes of the old hands among his crew as they recognized the look.
"Well Mr.Jacobs I respect your loyalty to your mistress," he eyed the woman registering her for the first time. She was a red-haired beauty with pale skin and a bright and clearly costly yellow dress and he instantly understood the risks that her beauty posed for her and therefore for his ransom on a pirate ship. "Your mistress will need a bodyguard on this ship. Since you have already demonstrated your loyalty to her you are the man for the job, but I will have no more attacks on people that do not threaten her, am I understood?"
With a mixture of surprise and relief, Jacobs nodded his answer and rejoined the Princess. She gripped his arm in a sign of gratitude before releasing it and turning again towards Captain Flint. The men who previously had guarded him no longer bothered to constrain him, seeing that a bargain had been struck and that the man was likely to keep it.
Flint turned to the beautiful Princess noting her regal demeanor and the angry indignity in her eyes with some pleasure. She was eye candy in the midst of ugliness, a patch of color in the greys, blues, and greens of the ocean standing among the filth and rags of the crew.
"So what should I call you?"
"I am Anne, Princess Royal, rightful heir to the throne of Fynn and you have no right to hold me."
"It seems you were a prisoner yourself, maybe I just liberated you."
"You want a ransom for me but you will not get it from the traitors who have taken my throne, so I am worthless to you. You might as well kill me now."
Flint admired her courage and her honesty and her voice was like sweet music to him.
"You are too beautiful and impressive to kill my lady and I may yet find a way to use your royal blood for my advantage." Then addressing First Mate Jack he said, "Jack take this man and this woman to the Captain's quarters on this ship. Search the room for any weapons or charts and transfer them to the First Mates' cabin instead. Post a guard on the door. Give her man Jacobs his knife back and make sure that provisions are made for her feeding and welfare. We keep this one, and her man should protect her from unwanted visitors."
Jack nodded and with three men escorted the Princess and her bodyguard below.
Flint took the time while Jack was away to study the people in front of him. His own crew knew what he was doing and studied his face with smiles on their faces. Flint knew that they had seen this interrogating look all too often and they knew something terrible usually followed, so he could trust them to be patient. The prisoners by contrast were terrified by the prolonged agony of the wait. The sun had now risen and was shining directly in the captured crew's faces. He could see the sweat and smell their fear. It was all quite exhilarating. The silent surveillance was too much for some. One man wet his pants much to the amusement of Flint's crew who jeered at him mercilessly. Then finally Jack returned with one of the men he had taken with him nodding to Captain Flint to indicate all was done as he had commanded.
Flint pointed out five soldiers from the men assembled before him and slid his finger across his throat to indicate his intent. The targeted men realizing they were now going to die, shouted and screamed and struggled to no avail. The crew slit their throats and having checked their pockets for gold and their fingers for rings they threw the men overboard. The rest of the ship of the lines crew looked on nervously wondering if they were next.
"OK, I need a crew and am willing to pay for each man's service. You will get five doubloons for signing on and a share of the plunder for future expeditions. Or you can take your chances with the devil and the deep blue sea," and he pointed to the ocean with theatrical effect. All but five of the crew took the gold which Jack handed each of them from one of the chests open on deck. Flint regretted having to kill the five men that defied him, admiring the courage and the character that they demonstrated. But he knew all too well that such defiance could not be tolerated and he needed their deaths to send a message to the others. Four of the five died well with hardly a whimper but the fifth screamed and the ugly fear on his face was another image that Flint knew would be hard to purge from his dreams.
"Jack, take one of those chests of doubloons and share it equally with the men that took the ship and the crew we left on the caravel. Take a fivefold portion for yourself and a threefold portion for Joe. Stow the other chests in the hold on this ship and set a guard on it. Then bring me the keys to the chests and to the hold. Split our crew between the ships, take five of the new men with you and become the skipper of the Shark. We need new titles, so I will call you Captain Jack and I am now Admiral Flint. Tell Joe to come across as he will be my new First Mate. I will lead the fleet from this ship. Have my stuff brought over and put in the First Mates cabin which I will make my own while her majesty is on board with us."
"Aye, aye Admiral," said Captain Jack his eyes ablaze, and the crew all cheered.
"When all this is finished we sail for Devils island and home with our new prizes."
The Princess noted with some satisfaction the fortifications that she had built up on Devils island were now finally complete. With Flint's authority, she had organized the construction work using slaves taken from a slave-ship the pirates had taken. The ship had been added to the extensive fleet in the harbor and its 200 slaves were now the main workforce on the island. Gun towers were manned at the entrance to the harbor and a large stone fort looked down on the small town that had grown around it. She stood now at the highest place of the highest turret next to three gun emplacements looking down on the town and across the open sea in every direction. There were more guns, on other towers and walls, all trained on the harbor entrance. The height at which the guns were placed gave them a range that exceeded the best of the ships of the line that might threaten the island.
The fleet in the harbor now numbered three ships of the line, two of them three-deckers and one a two-decker. There were also some seven caravels ported here.
Jacobs gave her the report of the day as she stood there looking out over what she had created.
"Maam, the slavemaster reports the apples are ripe for harvest and we are picking those now. A sewer in Blackbeard street overflowed last night and I have sent some slaves to clear the blockage. One of the water cisterns has a leak which we are fixing. We need to give the whore Jacky a new role because none of the men are sleeping with her anymore. One of the pirates beat up a slave last night. I had him thrown in the brig and we are looking after the slave."
Anne nodded and replied,
"It seems you have things in hand. Jacky can help with the care of the new babies, we can move her into new quarters tomorrow." She paused having noticed a glint on the horizon. Flint's man on guard watch duty had seen it too and trained his telescope on it.
"It's a fleet of ships." The watcher said. He ran to the giant church bell in a wooden frame in the middle of the tower turret and cranked the rope to get it ringing. The sound activated the town below as men streamed out of houses and ran to their positions.
"Where's Flint?" said Anne.
"He was in the tavern last night and the barmaid saw him leave with two of the whores who helped him home because he was 'three sheets to the wind' as she put it," replied Jacobs.
"He needs to climb here to see what's coming for himself, he will know what to do."
Jacobs was dispatched to collect the Pirate Admiral.
Sometime later Flint appeared wheezing from the effort of having climbed the hill. The Princess could see that his face was red from the exertion and that he looked like he had just been woken with sleep still in his eyes. He had grown a little fat in recent years from too much rum and big meals and he had an air of indolence about him from his night with his whores. But as he looked out over the sea he seemed to snap out of it and the Princess was grateful to see the old Flint reappear, the one she needed right now to defend the island.
"Well shiver my timbers, looks like we are buggered now me hearties they have twenty ships of the line out there. What flag do they fly?"
"The flag of Fynn Admiral," replied the Watcher.
"So my day of reckoning has finally arrived," said Flint, "Well we have a good position here and they cannot starve us out thanks to the Princess. We will have the advantage in a firefight. But they can land marines at night on the far side and they probably outnumber us five to one in fighting men. Wait there is a boat with a white flag approaching. This could be interesting, let us go down and hear what they have to say."
"Five chests of gold for the Princess you say, and what will you do with her when she is yours," asked Flint his eyes gleaming with avarice and curiosity.
"What does that matter to you so long as you get your gold?" replied the ambassador from Fynn. He was a small bespectacled man in a very well-kept red uniform with tassels on his shoulders and a sword which must have been for show only as he hardly had the muscles to use it.
Flint felt a little guilty about selling the Princess but he wanted that gold.
"No, I want to know what will happen to her?"
"She will be brought to the throne room of our ruler the illustrious King John and tried according to the laws of our land."
"So he is going to kill her then." Flint decided, he was a pirate first. He liked the Princess but the offer was better than a fight, especially since he suspected that the Kingdom of Fynn might win that fight.
"OK you have a deal, bring the gold in a ship of the line in the range of the harbor guns, we will bring the Princess and her man Jacobs out to you in a boat. When the trade is made you will have your Princess and we will have your gold."
"We do not need Godwin Jacobs, you can slit his throat for all I care," said the man.
Flint was feeling guilty. There was not enough rum in all creation to drown this feeling. He had all that he had ever wanted but now the army of ghosts that haunted him by night had a terrible new Queen. Every night she led her army of dismembered and mutilated ghosts into his mind. They keelhauled him on his own flagship, they fed him to sharks, they cut him up piece by piece eating his parts before his eyes. All the time that beautiful young fresh face staring at him pleading with him not to hand her over to the evil King John tore at his heart and butchered his insides. Every night the horror was new and he knew that he deserved every moment of it. His guilt crushed him into a kind of paralysis. The men under his command had noted his tardiness and he knew that soon one of them would make the bid for his pirate throne. Would it be Black Jack or that old Seadog Joe that took his place? He was no longer sure he cared, the fight drained out of him by too much whoring, drinking and this ever gnawing guilt.
It was with some surprise that, in the middle of his wallowing in the pirate tavern, he saw the Marines enter and kill all the pirates there but him. They dragged him into a ship to be transported away to the kingdom of Fynn. They had taken the island by surprise, at night when most of the pirates were drunk.
Four days later this stinking, soiled mess of a man stood before the Queen of Fynn in chains in the white marble throne room of the main Palace of Fynn. The contrast between the sculpted statues and pictures of monarchs that filled this regal hall and Admiral Flint could not have been more clear.
"So lass, you are alive! Thank Neptune."
A soldier nearby him struck him in the face,
"You will address her majesty properly, she is her Royal Highness the Queen of Fynn."
Queen Anne held her hand up to indicate the soldier should back off and spoke now,
"So Admiral Flint, as you can see justice has a way of making itself heard and I am restored to my throne by the twists and turns of fate and God's good grace. You had my man Jacobs killed. You rewarded all the help I gave your little kingdom, building it up, with an act of betrayal and cruelty. What penalty would you give if our roles were reversed I wonder?"
"Well lassie it seems my time has come and I would hope you would drown me in the ocean that was my home these long years. Then I would go down to the silence of the deep, wet with the salt of the sea on my face, on my way to meet the Devil himself in the fires of hell."
The Queen waved her hand and nodded to the man at her side. The sentence was carried out that very hour. Devils island was annexed to the Kingdom of Fynn and renamed Jacobs island instead.
Word Count & Notes ▼