To the Bold Goes the Prize

OOC Comment: This is from Pan Historia and the group, Ile de Torture. It is a first draft, by no means complete.

I’faith there is nothing like the open sea. The heart and the soul rises with the pitch and roll of the waves and the spray and wind on your face is a constant reminder of what it is to be free. Yet, it also serves as a reminder of just how small, by the Goddess, that we are on this Earth. Salt in water in our bodies and in our souls bind us to that primordial place, where all life – everything began.

The Flying Star took to the sea and we headed out for the Japans and the promise of Spanish gold and riches beyond our wildest dreams. All of us madmen and women were scooped up in the promise and we took it to our own. As Douglas did the blessing ritual, I slowly made my way to stand beside him. That moment it felt as if every thing in the entire universe were right, and there was no other possibility that any of us could be anywhere else. The ship danced on the waves. I loosed my hair and let the wind take it up like a banner and symbol of our freedom. Douglas and I dined on the feast of silence between us. No spoken words interrupted the sweet voice of the sea, as he pulled me to him and wrapped his arm about my waist. I leaned my head back into the warmth of his body and I swear I could feel the his heart against the back of my neck. I would face every Harpy of Hell or Siren of the Sea for this man. In that moment I knewe that nothing could e’er be strong enough to keep us apart.

After a time, Douglas left my side and surveyed the decks below. I glanced behind us and saw the thin line of the island of Barbados fade into the horizon of the sea. I could not say that I was sorry to finally be underway. The sails were full and straining with the winds which bode fair and kind. The mood of the crew was excited and focused and that night there was hope in the singing of shanties and the whine of the accordion and the trill of the flute and the voices raised in song.

The morning was overcast and misty, the winds not so strong now, but there was a storm in the air and I could hear the anger of the ocean. Douglas would do his best to keep us out of it, and with the luck of the Goddess, we would stay out of its reaches. I pulled my cloak to me tightly and decided to go back abed. The preparations before we set sail had made me tired. I helped load cargo alongside the crew, and never shirked in my duty to assist where needed. Let it not be said that as a woman and consort to Captain Douglas Francis O’Riley that I took advantage of my position. The night was long, and we were somewhat tossed but we fared well enough.

At daybreak under the promise of a bright sunlit sky and calm seas, I found that another ship had been spotted. At first Douglas and Mr. deLacy had suspected that it was a British warship, but as it turned out it was a merchantman, armed with guns but obviously damaged from the storm as she was listing enough to be noticeable to us. There were no other sails on the horizon, so this merchantman was crippled and seemingly alone – a prize waiting to be taken by pirates. The call rang out and the crew cheered. We would take to us a prize. Already the journey was boding well in terms of profits and hopes soared once again. I came to stand beside Douglas, but resisting the almost overwhelming urge to press myself against him.

” Mayhap ye better get yer arse below decks and keep outta harms way,” he said softly. I knew that he only wanted to protect me and do what he felt to be ‘man’s work’. But mayhap he had forgotten that years ago we had faced battles together and I would not be put out of the way.

“I thank ye kindly,” I said locking my gaze into his, “ but no, I think I’ll be planting my arse right here on deck aside you. If for nothing else, to keep ye from doing something stupid. ”

Douglas smirked and then threw his head back and laughed, “Will ye now?”

“Aye,” I answered taking up blades and pistols at my waist in strategic places on my person. I then drew up my skirt to be fitted more like trousers and cocked my head, a challenging look in my eyes. His eyes never left me as I girded my loins to do battle by his side.

” Caw, she can take on a whole armada herself! ” he laughed, “take your place then aside me, Fanny Fae.”

Sharpshooters of the crew climbed sure and agile into the rigging while the swivel guns were primed and aimed. When we were at last close enough to see the British colors, Douglas called out,

“Hard to starboard, Lads!” The ship lunged forward in an arch and we bounded just past our prey and cut back across her bow in a raking position. Royal Navy men began spilling onto her top deck and our crew stood at the ready. We could literally see the whites of their eyes as we were that close!

The gunners on board our ship opened the gunports and ran out the guns. Shots rang out and exploded near the bow of the ship that we were determined to take. Smoke and spark filled the air. A second round landed squarely, blowing her bowsprite and part of her headrailing to bits of wood that scattered in all directions. The British were determined not to be boardes and the inevitable shots of flintlocks from both the Flying Star and from the prize that we intended to take were exchanged. A single shot whizzed past me and struck a mast behind me. I winced and returned fire, taking out a member of their crew Our crewmen threw out the grappling hooks and scrambled over the railings of the captive ship.

The clamour of pistols and the strike of steel against steel could be heard and even in that relentless din, I trained my hearing upon Douglas’ voice. Even as each of us fought the men of hte ship that we intended to board, I managed to keep one eye on him. With raucous cries and ferocity we matched their determination. I was determined to show Douglas and the crew my worth upon this voyage as a viable member of the crew.

A hawk-faced British officer came over the side of the rail brandishing a short bladed cutlass, his red eyes glared at me and he laughed derisively, seeing that I was a woman. Of course he would not have any problem taking me and defending his ship. I fixed my gaze and with a wide striking arc, I struck the intruder across the jaw with the butt of my pistol, sending him over the rail and into the sea. But as soon as I had done with him, another man, came at me. Roaring like an animal, I was on my new foe with my pistol in one hand and my blade in the other. We crossed blades and when I saw an opening, I set upon him, thrusting my cutlass up into his belly and yanking up and over. Blood spilled from his gut onto my blouse and hitched skirt. With a low moan he fell with a thud onto the deck.

I wiped the sweat from my cheek with a bloodied hand.

Blades clashed and clanged and struck and the men of the other ship fell as did a few of our own. I looked up to see Douglas who had reached what must have been the Captain. The man was portly and sweating. Douglas made short work of the remaining sailors that the Captain of the other ship had around him. The man stood frozen and wide eyed as Douglas strode toward him like the Grim Reaper himself. The other man did not even unsheath his sword, but rather unfastened it and with a bow of the head and a nervous twitch, ungirded it from his waist and handed it over his arm to Douglas. Without a moment’s more of hesitation, the prize Captain called out to the remainder of his crew to lay down their weapons and to surrender unconditionally.

I took a hold of a rope from the rigging and swung to the opposite ship. If she was listing this badly, then the prize must be rich indeed. I made my way below to the ship’s hold. When I got to the stores, I couldn’t believe my eyes! There was so much in the way of munitions there that it was truly an awesome sight. There were cases and cases of guns, kegs and kegs of powder and shot. Unable to contain my excitement I stumbled up the ship’s steps, my skirts coming unhitched, my face covered in blood and soot from the battle. Frantically I looked for Douglas and came bounding up to him panting.

“Douglas! There be guns! There be a ton of gawd damned guns and powder as ye have ne’er seen! By the Goddess, Douglas, there are literal tons of it! So much we could take on an entire Spanish armada!”

Douglas did not move at first, neither did any man on the crew of the Flying Star nor our captive ship. Mayhap Douglas thought I was exaggerating, just for being a mere woman, but one of the younger crewmen aboard our ship had followed me down and had seen as well. He nodded emphatically, and a shout went up among the crew of our ship, whilst what was left of the merchantman’s crew hung and looked at us askance. They were all mutineers and we had captured them in a fair fight. Douglas looked at me and gave me a slow smile. I had proved my worth to the crew of The Flying Star.

Douglas turned to the members of the beaten crew and assessed them. They had been ridden hard and put away wet, as the proverb goes. It seemed that their mutiny was something that was one of almost desperation. Standing with his hands on his hips he addressed them all.

“Those of ye who are still amongst the living and are willing, will be asked to sign the articles and serve under a Captain of our choosing. I can promise that ye will be treated fairly.But make no mistake, I am not being soft or overly magnanimous, treachery is met by me and my crew with ruthlessness,” he said to the assembled, “What say ye?”

There were many shouts of ‘Aye’, and I knewe as well as Douglas that we would be needing the extra men to crew the prize ship. But what of a Captian? Douglas woulde want Mr. deLacy onboard the Flying Star, as no one knew that particular vessel. Mister Plunkett had proven himself to be far more of a calamity at leadership and Snelgrave was back in Barbados with Black Dianae and the Revenge.

“Mr. Plunkett! ” Douglas bellowed, ” Get these men back to that ship and have ’em sign the articles. I’ll have the new Captain sent along rightly. “Fanny Fae, come with me.”

Without looking back he strode below decks with me close behind. As soon as the door had closed behind us, Douglas spun upon his heels and his lips were upon mine. I could not evade him, not that I e’er would even want to. He he pinned me between the wall and his body, his fingers threading through my hair, consuming me until there was naught but the tiniest voice to acknowledge that threatened to overwhelm me, always tasting forever that familiar sweet salt spray. His hands dropped to my breasts, rubbing over the nipples until hardened into tiny frissons of pleasure. The kiss deepened and his hands wandered over my hips, down the curve of my back until I arched against him. Finally, he broke the kiss leaving me gasping for air. Certainly battle had done more to him than the taking of a prize. He looked down at me and a slow smile crossed his lips.

“I’m givin’ ye the tiller of the prize ship, and I will be wanting ye to Captain her in my name.”

I stared at him in shock, disbelieving. I was a Wytch, a woman, I knewe little about being a Captain.

“I canna, Douglas!”

“Nonsense! Ye are the one person qualified. Ye are the only one person that I trust in this.”

I’faith I stood and stared at Douglas with disbelief. I had expected the heat of battles to give rise to our passions, but never did I expect that he would hand me the command of my own ship! It was more than I could have e’er imagined for myself. How could I make the men of an entire ship see that I was worth my salt as a Captain, when it had been but moments before that I had proven myself a pirate and able to defend myself upon the sea beside Douglas? A fitting consort for him, I was, perhaps, but a Captain? It woulde have seemed nothing short of outrageous to even my owne ears.

“Fanny Fae,” he said, “tell me which of my crew you would have with ye. I would suggest Crispin Rogue for he is trustworthy, and Mr. Gibbs. Gibbs is a might superstitious but he will intercede on your behalf for certain. “ Douglas fondled a strand of hair and smiled down at me, both of us still covered in soot and sweat and blood from battle, yet there was ne’er a time I had ever known him to be more handsome and inspiring of my awe than right now.

I nodded, “ I have a few others in mind, but I would ask that ye let me ask them myself.”

“Then ye had best do it quick, Fanny Fae, “Douglas chuckled, “once repairs of the other ship are finished we continue on.”

When it was announced by Douglas himself, I stood aside him on the deck of the captured ship, Sorcière, there were surprised growls and a few cheers. The most vociferous among them was Mr. Gibbs who let out a whooping cry above the din.

“Aye! Let’s hear it for Fanny Fae! Long Live Captain Fanny, our very own Sea Enchantress!”

“Huzzah! Huzzah!” cried several members of the crew. I was simply overwhelmed and could only smile.

T’was no small thing that the ship was named Sorcière, which was French for Sorceress or Wytch, in fact there are those that said it was naturally auspicious. I was surprised to see that there were a few that volunteered to help, including the mysterious Moor and his lady that had opted to go on our journey to the Japans. From what I knew of his culture, certainly Wytches and magic were far from approved by the lords of Mecca and Medina. I could only hope that perhaps he, like the reset of us, had learned to put such things aside in light of the greater glories to be gained through our combined efforts.

As the last of the members of the crew of the Sorcière were signing the articles, I saw the outline of Hector Barbossa’s ship, The Harpy. I knewe not why, but I was filled with particular trepidation in spite of all of the assurances that he had given to Douglas and myself. The voice of the Goddess and the Lwa in the back of my head warned me that he was not to be trusted, and I knewe much better than to e’er doubt those combined voices.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Truth be told, I was still taken aback at having obtained my own captaincy so early into the trip to the Japans. Surprisingly, even among pirates, however, there seems to be a willingness to cut someone some slack, even if that slack would be toward a woman.

The crew of both the Sorciere’ and the Flying Star were hard at work repairing the damage that we had inflicted on the prize ship. She was a fine vessel to be sure, and I could’na help the feeling of natural pride that every Captain must feel for gaining their own command. Mr. Gibbs and several others had agreed to join my crew on board the Sorciere’. In what little light of the evening that the faintest sliver of moonlight and a few lanterns aboard either ship provided, I saw Douglas pacing along the decks of the Star, searching the expanse of sea out just off the port side of our ship. I knew that walk, I knew that mannerism as surely as I knew my own. Slowly, carefully I approached him, not wanting to disturb his reverie or his concentration, for he was ne’er without reason for being so.

“Douglas Francis O’Riley,” I came from the shadows to stand beside him, “ye been pacing and eying the sea like a hungry cat aching for a taste for fish.”

“Aye, Fanny Fae, that I have,” he smirked, turning his back to the ships rail. “There be something in the air. I can smell it. I can sense it just by the way the wake be lappin’ against the hull.”

I nodded my agreement and looked out at the new ship, my new ship over Douglas’ shoulder, “Aye,” I said, “‘tis rather curious. “ I glanced out at four shapes upon the water, “And I find m’self wondering if it also might happen to have something to do with those four jollies I see siding up to the Sorciere’, all sneaky-like.”

Douglas pulled his attention at where I was looking and arched his eyebrow. He saw it now, too.

“ Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear,” I said with feigned distress. “‘Tis Pirates, or worse, I fear!”

Douglas let out a low chuckle,”Indeed, miluv,” he was still smiling, not at all unlike a predator having scented blood upon the wind. “‘Tis a sneaky bastage at the helm o’ this maneuver. I can feel it in me bones. Now, we gotta decide what we’re gonna do about it, mi’darlin’.”

I felt a thrill go through me, my first order and tactic as Captain of the Sorciere’! “I say we stand ready to cut anchor and leave em out there, “ I said, “then we get us a safe distance and blow them all to perdition.” I gave him a death’s-head smile..

“Aye,” he agreed with a small nod, “It’d be no more a daft doin’ than comin’ here in the first place.” Douglas narrowed his eyes and appeared thoughtful, “Still, I’d like ta know just exactly what be goin’ on o’er there.”

“I think we’ll know soon enough.” I pulled myself against him and tickled my fingers through his closely cropped beard.

“I’ll get some o’ the lads up inta the riggin’ quiet-like ta ready the sheets an’ you get yer shapely arse back aboard the Sorciere’ ,” he said with a slight swat of my behind, “and just you be ready with an axe fer the anchor cable. As soon as every man jack be at their stations we’ll ride the wind. ”

“Aye-Aye, Captain,” I smiled.”

Like leprechauns and elves and all Fae folk, our crew scurried about signaling each other so effectively with slight whistles and sounds that were no greater than those of porpoises. None of the blokes that were in the four jolliboats would be the least bit aware that we were on to their approach until we pulled away and left them in the wake of our sail and their own confusion.

When I was back aboard the Sorciere’, I summoned Mr. Gibbs to my side. Joshamee was in fact the most superstitious man I had ever met, but as a First Mate, he was a good person to have on your side.

“I sincerely thank you for taking my offer, Mr. Gibbs, “ I said, “Since I be but new to commanding a vessel, so I will needs rely on your help until I get my sea legs. I’faith, I hope that I can count on your help, Sir.”

“Aye, Captain Fanny,” Joshamee nodded sharply to me, “We’ll get ye ship shape and ready to take the Sorciere’ under yer own hand in no time. No one will e’er know it weren’t ye calling the shots the whole while!”

“I appreciate that, Mr. Gibbs. Thank you,” I said, “Now we are a bit pressed for time, so make sure that the crew be at their stations and we’ll give those whoresons a bit of a surprise, eh?”

“Whoever they are, they’ll be mighty sorry they tangled with the Sorciere’ and ‘er Captain!”

Mr. Gibbs went off and gave the word. I found the axe and made my way toward the cable that had held the ship in its place while we made necessary repairs. I could hear the slight swish of carefully placed oars on the water that seemed to be edging ever nearer to the ship – again, my ship!. I looked back over the decks and made eye contact with Mr. Gibbs he gave me a nod, that all was ready. I looked back over and on board the Flying Star I was able to pick out Douglas’ own form. I watched him expectantly, holding my breath, almost not daring to move. Slowly I saw him raise his hand, watched it hold for a moment when it reached just over his head and then sharply made a fist, pulling it down.

“Cut the anchor and sail HO!” I shouted. Mr. Gibb’s burly frame stood firmly at the wheel, as he called out my order to the crew. The flurry of sails being dropped almost all together and all at once, was startling. With a sweeping blow I brought the axe in my hand over the anchor cable, Once…Twice…Three,….Four times….The weight of Sorciere’ s anchor snapped the last bits of rope that held it in place and the ship leaped forward with the wind, leaving three of the four jolliboats in its wake and closing in almost on top of the fourth. As we closed in on top of the hapless smaller vessel, I swear I recognized one or two of the sailors that looked up at us in horror. I had seen them on land at the Boar. With a scraping and the loud cracking and splintering of wood against the hull of the Sorciere’ s, the jolliboat disintegrated into a million pieces, leaving sailors with varying degrees of swimming ability in our wake. It was all that I could do to suppress a laugh. As we leaped forward into the wind, I could make out the shape of the Flying Star, quickly closing on the three remaining jolliboats.

TBC

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