A crew member in a ship in a bottle is caught measuring time.
|Blackbeard's Last Voyage
He was on his knees wiping his cabin clean when Tay knocked, or rather hammered once before shoving the small ship's door open. Blackbeard dropped the rag and straightened his back and scowled at Tay, who by now was inside, his face knotted in a furious twist.
Tay's tall and skinny body shook with anger. He paced back and forth in the small space, oblivious to Blackbeard's dark look, as he tried to formulate a way to express what was on his mind.
Blackbeard tried to suppress his own heated feelings as traces of dirt from Tay's leather boots started to leave marks on the once-shiny floor. He gave up in desperation and, with a polite hold manhandled Tay outside.
"Mister Vetter! Calm yourself down and please explain!" The Captain wasn't known to display his emotions often, but sometimes he needed a firm voice to calm this particular gentleman.
"It's Rory again Captain," Tay spat out as he was led inside the officers mess right next to the captains cabin.
Blackbeard sat on his chair and waited as Tay took a deep dramatic breath in the little room before he made his way his own seat. Tay lifted his arms in the air in a sign of surrender before slumping down.
"What has Rory done this time?" he asked, as he eyed a bottle of whisky behind Tay, golden liquid swaying with the roll of the sea. There hadn't been much wind for a long time and men up deck had begun to be restless with boredom.
"He has cut the ship again Captain," Tay clenched a fist and smacked it on the palm of another. "And Captain, I swear it is about time he needed a lesson. In front of everyone."
"What he needs is to be kept busy," Blackbeard simplified it for him. "Keep him busy."
"The ship!" Tay exclaimed. "Captain - the Queen Anne's Revenge is our bread and butter. We need respect for her first and foremost. And Tay treats her like his carving wood. This is just not acceptable."
"The problem with Rory is that he knows he is indispensible. " Blackbeard folded his arms and leaned back. He looked up and paused for a while, as if the answer for this problem was there. "I know that Rory likes to make things from the driftwood we snag, and he is mighty clever with that blade of his . . ."
"Captain! No!" Tay stood up in a huff and knocked his head violently with a deep thud on the top. He sat down almost at once, with a hand nursing the wound. A small trail of dark blood begin dripping down from his forehead.
Blackbeard reached out for his rag, but then remembered that he had left it in the other room.
"It's not bother, Captain," Tay assured him quickly about his injury. "What is bother is that Rory is counting with his cut marks . . ."
Captain Blackbeard's normally placid face lost composure as he reeled in fright.
"No. He is not. Hurry follow me!" He darted up to the quarterdeck, taking three steps at a time on the stairs.
"Rory!" He screamed with an unnatural hoarseness . "Rory! Get to me now!"
The crew of a dozen stood fast, their tasks dropped at their feet, as Blackbeard flapped his dark coat and moved like a mad man seeking Rory. The normal ship chatter and songs to while away the long hours fell into a deep and deadly silence.
"Yes Captain?" Rory was chubby with a mop of thick golden hair. He had been repairing an old net and stood up lethargically, a small whittling knife still in his hand. In amongst the netting was also some wooden carvings of items most of them sea related like whales, albatrosses and a half finished toy rowing boat. Rory always liked to do two things at once. He had been working on the net, and driftwood at the same time.
Captain Blackbeard closed the distance between them in two strides and grabbed his neck. Rory didn't flinch, instead he pocketed his knife and eyed his superior without fear.
They were both of the same height and same build. However where Blackbeard had his body gait filled with muscle like a brawler, Rory was simply fat and soft from doing light duties, and fulfilling his manual duties with a slowness that infuriated most of his fellow crew members.
Blackbeard waited motionless with a sharp glare at Rory until he felt his second in command beside him.
"Everyone get back to work!" Blackbeard growled out loud. He wasn't surprised when Rory stared back with a defiant smirk. Around him, the sounds of scrubbing, ropes swishing and the movement feet on the deck resumed without the usual energy.
"You want to see where he cut the ship Captain?" Tay asked as he towered over both of them. There was a big smear of blood on his forehead where he had used his hand to clean himself earlier, no doubt more food for conversation for the ship's crew later on.
Lost in a moment of musing, Blackbeard hadn't heard him.
Tay repeated himself.
Without thought, Blackbeard mumbled. "On the anchor. He left some marks of unclean. Using that to measure time."
As Rory's eyes widened in a deep suspicion, he stepped back and almost fell back, only to be saved by Blackbeard himself.
"Captain - how'd you know?" Tay asked in confusion.
"Tay - you are dismissed for now. I will deal with this. Go and check on the cannons or something will you?"
As it was a firm order, Tay shook his head and moved away.
Blackbeard kept his grip on Rory's neck and carefully marched him to the bow of the ship. He let his anger dry up by the time they reached the front of the ship where there was plenty of privacy to be assured, and he let go of Rory.
The sun was bright above them, but it wasn't hot. The waves smacked against the side of the ship, and eventually the soothing sound of the creaking of Queen Anne's Revenge wooden frame suggested that things were back to normal. Almost.
Rory rubbed his neck and grimaced. He rolled his head around to taste the freedom of not having been held there.
Blackbeard folded his arms and leaned against the railing. He squinted into the distance before them. The sea was bluish green. There was some kind of algae here that would coat the sides of the ship, and had to be scrubbed off once every fortnight. In the more humid days, it would even stink.
"I can't do without you Rory." Blackbeard admitted to him when he felt Rory beside him.
"Captain I am sorry."
"It means a lot to me when everyone is working together. Working for the Queen Anne's Revenge."
"I won't do it again Captain."
"Thank you." Blackbeard heard himself say. He know that Rory would do it again. Not just on the anchor. But on the side of ship. Not cleaning algae everywhere. Rory liked to measure time as was in his many quirks.
"I'll clean up the anchor true and proper."
"Rory - only you can catch fish for the crew. No one else knows how to. There is no one else who have your knack for knowing what bait to use, where they are and how to even repair the lines. You help feed us. I really can't do without you."
"I try to be humble Captain."
Blackbeard chuckled and was soon joined by Rory. They then both roared with laughter. Behind them, some sailors had begin a chanting a haunting sing-along.
"Rory - what happened to that seahorse you were carving before?" He turned serious.
"Uh Captain, I threw it overboard. Just like all my carvings. I like to think that they will float in the ocean and one day reach someone who will find joy in it. Maybe they will put it somewhere in their house, and many people will see it. They may not know me, but a part of me will be with them."
"Very good Rory." Blackbeard told him. "Back to work please."
Rory nodded, and the tension vanished for now.
"And Rory, please tell the crew something will you?"
"We will be stopping at Paradise Island in six days time. We need fresh water, some more livestock. I think by now the island would have replenished itself with wild game by now."
"Aye Captain. Uh Captain?"
"Why don't you let the crew measure time? At least tell us where we are."
"Because of the threat of mutiny Rory." The Captain turned around and in a father's tone explained. "On our long voyages, the less the crew know about things, the less they can decide matter in their own hands. I have been at the sea for too long, and I know what works and what doesn't. For the better of everyone here."
Rory nodded. They both knew it was an outright lie.
"With the danger of our profession, it doesn't take long for an idea to gather supporters and next thing you know, the ship is aground. If crew are busy without the worry of time, these things won't happen. I know these things Rory."
They both folded their arms and contemplated the moment before Rory nodded once and headed off to pass the good news.
Blackbeard waited until he heard the loud whoops of joys and felt the morale rise as the singing grew even more boisterous. Only then he excused himself from the deck, feeling the eyes on him as he headed back to his cabin.
Tay was on the steering, he had a wide grin and tapping his boots with in tune with crew's song. What was even more comical, was that his forehead was swollen to almost twice the size and still coated red with blood. He waved out as the captain passed by.
In his cabin, Blackbeard picked his spyglass and in a matter of loneliness that only captains' know about, he flicked through his log, and remembered his days of old. The ink bottle had run dry a long time ago, well over a quarter of a century ago. And the one log book of nearly five years continuous entry was full, there was just no space to add anything else.
It was full of repetitive things.
This same event had happened many times. Rory was cleverer than most of the crew. His memory was good too. However, he choose to believe that one day the ship would reach a destination. To any other thought, he seemed too scared to fret about.
Blackbeard toyed with the spyglass before extending it and peering out from his round cabin window.
The waves rolled lazily. Once it had been clear blue with many fish in the deep, but age had caused the algae to form. In the distance a few seagulls flew, no doubt from Paradise Island. The island called out to him, and didn't he want to be there.
"Only six days," he whispered to himself. Holding his breath he focused further.
Another sail ship. It was a pirate ship too, except that it had a pronounced list, as if it had found a reef. Blackbeard observed her time to time, it was from an earlier period. The captain of that ship had let his crew run amok. He hadn't bothered with the things and rules that every mariner ought to know. Hence, the ship was destined to end at the bottom of the sea. The cold truth was that the ship was in a bottle too, just like his own Queen Anne's Revenge.
Sometimes he also saw the artist. He was very much in the likes of Rory. Always keeping busy with a dozen projects. The artist would glance up at the ships in the bottles, and other handiwork every morning, before getting down to making wooden toys.