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Entry 8: 1670

Entry 8: 1670
D S S Atkinson

Shakespir Edition

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Text copyright © 2016 D S S Atkinson
This is a work of fiction
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Entry 8: 1670

1.

 

‘Tis not until you’re alone in the dark that you begin to notice the sounds of your surroundings. I cannot recall the last time I was not awoken by the ocean waves washing against the woodwork of my prison cell, and as my eyes open, and I turn to look across the rotting floorboards beneath me, tis not water that flows across the deck, but blood. Every time I look at my reflection I can see only my captain, his stone visage gazes back at me in apathy until it slowly fades away, leaving the depressive sight of my own lonely face lost on the rippled surface.

They say when the last waves have settled upon the dead Caribbean Sea, you can hear the murmuring whispers of fallen pirate captains echoing upon the ocean’s endless surface, that to hear these words, is to fall victim to the curse of the captain’s call. My captain did not speak as he was mercilessly butchered, though he was most certainly murdered on the word of a man who knew only lies.

Everything I once knew and loved is gone, torn away from me in such a flash of destruction I scarcely have the words to recollect it, nor do I fear the time. I wait upon the sound of my cell door to unlock for the final time, doubtless my life is next to the noose. If these festering walls that bind me are to be the last place I can call home then it is my duty to document the final ventures of my captain before our story is lost. Let this be the final entry into the log of Captain Rike.

It seems our days were numbered the very moment we left the waters of Stoley’s Rest, a port most north east of New Venezuela. ‘Twas due to both a blind hunger for wealth and the sheer lust for adventure that lead us to our fall, Roselyn’s crew, her captain, my friends and family, we all are finished, dead or worse.

‘Twas our last day resting in the port of Point Gallinas, I recall it clear as day as I sat in the tavern waiting on Captain Rike to return from town with details surrounding the Grand Martona. The tavern was renowned for violence, the smell of stale mead and vomit lingered upon every inhale of breath, near every window was boarded up and the few that remained intact were stained with the blood and ale of pirates from decades past. Despite the foul aroma of the place and the lack of parading wenches the entertainment was most lively, a company of finely skilled musicians would often grace the stage keeping us in good spirits.

I rested at one of the tavern’s many derelict tables with our boatswain, Sollertis, a small man in stature, yet certainly not of intellect. He was the smartest, most insane looking man I have ever met, recognisable most distinctly by his greying matted hair and poorly shaved stubble. The man was responsible for Roselyn’s successes upon the high seas. With us was also a man named Christian Williams, quite possibly our most skilled carpenter and a close friend of mine, he always wore a distinct pair of ridiculously oversized glasses that made him look most amusing.

Upon this day we had been observing two males becoming incredibly rowdy at the bar, and the dear maid, who was of some age, though certainly a beauty still to be had was unable to understand nor care to be in agreement with their demands.

“Weiber und bier!” The larger of the two males slammed his first down upon the woodwork yelling at the maid. At this point we stood to our feet, needlessly, for crashing through a door came Damien Rones returning from the pit. Drunker than on any occasion I had ever seen him, he was staggering, and although he was a giant I still feared the alcohol would fell him. As he entered the larger of the two men again slammed his fist down upon the bar screaming in a drunken rage.

“WEIBER UND BIER!” The yelling caused the music in the tavern to cease and immediately caught our quartermaster’s attention as he stood on the spot swaying. Rones had a truly mean streak within him during moments of confrontation. He towered amongst any company with whom he stood and was as wide as he was tall. His black hair fell thick and long down his back, so too did his beard fall thickly off of his chin, all that was visible of his face was rugged and battle scarred. His shadowy eyes were made all the more fearsome by heavy bags that seemed to sink his face into an expression of psychotic darkness. He was indeed a horror to look upon.

Gaining his balance he lurched over to the strangers, and pushing the larger of them with a heavy right hand struck the man in the face with a mighty blow causing the sound of splintering bone to resonate throughout the room. Those that surrounded the male released a low mumble of shock for the strike caused the man to collapse to the ground on the spot.

As he fell I made a dash for the second male in the case he might react to strike our crewmate, yet everyone in the hall turned to statues. He hastily pulled a pistol from his breeches pointing it directly at the face of Damien Rones. Without hesitation the quartermaster locked focus on the male who stood feet shorter.

Fire then you worthless piece o’ shite!” Yelling with a grizzly irritation the foreigner’s hesitation was hastily quelled. In an abrupt outburst the giant grasped the stranger’s hand that held the pistol, dragging the man towards him as if he was a puppet Davey pushed the barrel against his own forehead and forced the man’s finger into the trigger.

Click. I flinched in horror as the sound of the empty pistol trigger rang out. The quartermaster’s face turned to a look of disgust, pushing the gun aside he head butted the coward into another band of men who pushed him to the floor. Seemingly through a sheer desire to fight every man in the entire bar erupted, as all hell ensued the musicians casually proceeded to play their instruments, as though it was just another day at Stoley’s.

“Davey you mindless moron!” Sollertis rushed over to the undaunted madman, “your brains could have been all over the floor!” Grabbing the giant’s great brown coat he attempted in vain to turn him about.

“Ah ‘tis true, I did not think o’ this. A pint o’ mead please, mi darlin’!” Smiling at the maid he stumbled and slouched over the bar, his enormous frame causing the woodwork and glasses atop to shake. I had never met a man who apparently had such little regard for his own life, I knew not whether it was due to some deep depression or that he simply had no fear of death, either way ‘twas not the first nor last time I had witnessed Davey display such lunacy.

In the chaos I noticed our captain enter the tavern, he paused for a brief moment to look for his crew and quickly noticed Davey sprawled out over the bar. Ignoring the madness which occurred around us he made his way through the brawling crowds to reveal the plans of our voyage, his deep husky voice yelled out over the bellowing mob.

“She’s passin’ through the vicinity o’ the Isle o’ cows within the comin’ days, lads, headin’ to Jamaica. Gather up a load o’ goods for we be leavin’ soon as the moon arise, Sollertis, round up the crew and let ‘em know what’ll be occurin’,” the captain looked over at Davey and shook his head, “and try to get that big bastard back on board wi’out ‘im killin’ anyone. Sailor, you’re with me, let us get aboard Roselyn and let ‘em know what’ll occur.” The captain had spoken, Sollertis nodded at Rike and turned about towards Davey, he released a great sigh before turning his head to look at the destruction the quartermaster had caused. Many a table laid legless, smashed glass lined the place and blood poured as though it was water across the liquor laced floor whilst the poor bar maid yelled out to no avail. Rike took one glance over the place and shook his head again as we made our way out towards the port.

The captain explained the Martona was an enormous Spanish galleon that was, until most recently, part of a Spanish trade fleet. ‘Twas said the captain had taken a turn into betrayal, rumour was that he plundered and sunk five trade boats and another, smaller galleon, which his vessel was escorting, robbing the loot onboard. For some time we had heard whispers about corruption amongst the Spanish elite.

For many years the Spaniards had shipped silver ingots from Peru across the Caribbean and beyond, there were whispers the source of wealth had dried up long ago, others said invested elites were taking advantage of secret trade deals and that the routes were ever changing yet as vibrant as ever. Whatever the case, ‘twas causing disruption amongst their ranks.

It was known the captain was heading to Jamaica for a final stop, though for reasons Captain Rike did not inform me of. His last known destination was said to be headed towards coasts south of San Domingo. Rike had strong reason to believe the Martona was to make a short stop at a port along the southern regions of San Domingo before making its way to the Jamaican coasts, without a doubt heading towards Port Royal. We were to rest at sea between the Isle of Cows and the most south eastern coasts of Jamaica. Rike was convinced the captain’s route would be so, for he held a grand wealth of knowledge upon seafaring.

‘Twas sure to be one hell of a journey ahead, still, Captain Rike was without worry. He lived for events such as these. The last known position of the Martona was said to be amongst the Leeward Islands, closest to the Gulf of Venezuela, we would be set to track her for many a moon. Fortunately for the crew, Rike was a close friend of the wench that ran the tavern upon Stoley’s rest. He attained a plentiful supply of goods, primarily sustaining foods and a vast hoard of mead and rum that would keep us merry and in good company during the long journey ahead.

Once aboard Roselyn, whilst waiting upon our crew, Rike briefed me upon the voyage so I was able to command the other men:

“Should winds be stayin’ as they are and seas be calm it shall be a fine and short venture, lad. The Grand Martona be headed north, then west so we’ll be travelling at a western bearin’ to get ahead, you shall inform Samuels ‘bout this. Should be takin’ us ‘bout thirty three moons to reach our destination, with any luck lad we’ll be crushin’ ‘er under the shadow o’ night. That, or me judgin’ be failin’ me in mi old age and we’ll miss ‘er all together.” The captain nodded at me and turned to sit so as to suggest I was dismissed, at which point I took my leave to inform the crew of the captain’s plans.

The seas were rough as we left port from New Venezuela, ‘twas nothing to fear however, for Roselyn was a fine maiden at taking the coarse waters. The fresh sea breeze and smell of salt water was a fine change to the air of Stoley’s, and as we sailed away under the moonlight, as Rike said we would, I stared up into the cloudless sky. The stars burned bright above. I often fathomed over them as a child, wondering if there could be something up there, something beyond our imagination. I recall Sollertis once saying to me:

“If there ever was something up there watching us boy, it left long ago.”

The distance between Stoley’s rest and our destination was somewhere within the region of one hundred and twenty leagues north bearing slightly west, though I too recall Sollertis once explaining to me that the distance of a league was subject to a nation. My own calculation comes from Captain Rike’s own, who often said he travelled in ‘British leagues’. I know not either of another measurement of long distance, so let us merely say, ‘twas a vast way to sail.

The moment we left port I had two deckhands, Jonas and Peterson, take it in turns up the primary mast’s crow’s nest to be sure we had our wits about us. There was never any telling in these waters whether a ship was hostile or neutral.

Onboard the vessel herself ‘twas a regular site: Achilles, the captain’s immense dog, which looked more like a monstrous beast than any domesticated pet I ever saw, stood at his chamber waiting endlessly on his presence before he would come to life. ‘Twas as if he was a stone statue when not in the company of his master. Various men, of whom it would take far too long to name in succession, patrolled the boat’s gangways resting above her one hundred and fifty foot hull ensuring everything was to an expected standard. The ship’s woodwork glistened a beautiful light brown on sunny days, ‘twas kept in fine condition by Rike who frequently ordered her to be scrubbed and cleaned. Each time we docked he would have new clean sails fitted to keep the ship looking truly magnificent. Roselyn was his pride and joy, she was everything to him.

Every man was dressed in black or brown breeches, the deckhands and cannoneers wore shirts and waistcoats though during the long summer days many preferred to work bare chest. Ranking crew mates aboard ship donned great coats and carried a swashbuckler at their hilt. Captain Rike and Damien Rones in particular were scarcely seen without their great coats resting upon their backs. Patrols were taken in turns and though the crew worked together in astounding unison, the rare quarrel that did break out tended to be rapidly quelled by those that caused it through fear of drawing the attention of Rones.

I myself, on breaks from patrol duty often stood on the top deck nearby Sollertis who could always be found sat at his chessboard, defeating man after man in quick progression at the game.

I have never been a large admirer of it, yet when watching Sollertis ‘twas quite intriguing to see how he remained steps ahead of his opponents at all times. ‘Twas always too an amusement to watch Davey play against the man, for he was eager in whatever he did, yet had never once to my knowledge defeated him. When Davey lost he could not help but demand they played again, I once witnessed him lose ten times in succession before his frustration boiled over and he hurled the board and the table which it rested upon overboard into the ocean. How Sollertis cursed him that day, yelling at him to jump overboard after the pieces, I believe half the crew was in hysterics at the sight. I do miss these times of travel at sea, many a memory does amuse me.

To prevent a chance that my script should be cut far shorter than I wish it to be, let me state that the journey from Stoley’s rest to our destination went as effortlessly as we could have wished for. Although the seas were somewhat rough to begin with, they smoothed out as the wind blew strongly North West. ‘Twas most certainly a well constructed plan by the captain. Summer time in the Caribbean seldom brought rough seas with it, and it seemed we had been blessed with a largely successful voyage across the great blue. I say largely, for upon the final day of the journey a deep, strange grey covered the skies above. ‘Twas most bizarre for it came on quicker than any change of weather I can ever recall occurring, almost as if it was meant to be, as if some ill fate was luring us to its call. Still, at the time it seemed a blessing in disguise, as you will soon learn.

As the hour grew late on the last day of sail, the air seemed to turn from a fine summer humidity into a chilling static. ‘Twas as if the winds fell dead, as if something was watching us from the depths of the ocean. Not moments after the moon was visible in the sky, and the burning sun began to fail under the horizon, a most strange fog began to develop, first, very lightly, upon the ocean’s surface. A few of the crew mates that had noticed this began to panic at the sight of the peculiarity.

“Sailor! There be somethin’ foul ‘pon the oceans, sir! This quest be cursed! Where be the cap’n? We must turn back!” The erratic behaviour was quickly quelled by an agitated Sollertis who sat at an apparently intense game of chess.

“It is merely a result of the sudden drop in temperature generating the mist, it is too much to explain to you at this moment but just relax yourself! It is nothing to fear…” He mumbled something to himself in his own language after yelling at Marven Pollus, who still appeared stricken by the sight of the fog.

“Just be back to your post, Pollus, shall be clear soon I have no doubt.” In an attempt to assure the man of Sollertis’ words I spoke calmly to him, however I am a man of suspicions myself, and I could not help but become slightly alerted by his erratic behaviour. I made haste to inform the captain. As I approached further shouts were heard calling out across the vessel.

“Sailor, sir! Mists be stirrin’ ‘pon the seas, they be raisin’ at a strange rate, sir!” Jonas yelled from the crow’s nest.

“They be risin’ quick, sir!” Another voice yelled from starboard. Sollertis slammed a fist upon his table and looked at me.

“There is nothing strange about a rising mist from the sea’s surface! Tell these morons to calm themselves down.” At this moment Captain Rike came out of his quarters disturbed by his shouting crew.

“Sailor, what be occurin’, lad?”

“There be some mists risin’ ‘pon the sea’s surface, sir, Sollertis insists ‘tis but an act of nature yet it be spookin’ the crew.”

“Sollertis,” he spoke to his old friend, “should the mists be risin’ will it be possible to track our target? What we can’t see we can’t be attackin’.” Of all the small disturbances that had triggered Sollertis’ anger, this direct interruption of his game did not cause him upset. He rose from his seat and walked over to myself and Rike.

“Send boats, no more than a few. Allow them each take a light and a small bell, keep them a set distance apart, any visuals of encroaching vessels generate signals with the said lights, or if the fog is too thick a small jingle creating a chain to send a message back to Roselyn.” The captain, apparently pleased with Sollertis’ answer took a step forward and padded him on the shoulder.

“Sailor, come night fall make it ‘appen. For now, gather up the crew, i’ll be needin’ a chat with ‘em all to be sure they’ll be calm come time. Gather ‘em upon the upper deck, lad, whilst I be feedin’ Achilles.”

“Aye, capt’n.” As I turned to do my duty I heard Sollertis make a remark to the captain.

“Which deckhand will you feed to the beast today, Rike?” ‘Twas a rare occasion to hear the laughter of our captain, yet it was a deep, warming laughter, one that always made me reminisce upon the few chances I had to see my grandfather when I was but a child.

“Any he chooses.” Rike replied, patting Achilles upon his broad head, who stood by his master taking deep powerful breaths. Passing crewmates looked on with half fearful, half amused faces, as if they did not truly know whether the captain’s words were but a joke.

I went quickly about gathering our fifty three man crew upon the upper deck’s gangways, it took but a brief time to assemble every man to attention as Captain Rike stood upon the roof of his quarters, at the back of the vessel. Achilles sat to his right, and Davey stood to his left. He waited for each of the men to arrive and looked over them to ensure each was present. Rike spoke out to his crew loudly and clearly, his powerful voice resonating across the entire ship.

“Crewmates! We be soon approachin’ our destination! This’ll be the grandest plunder that many of you shall ever see. The rewards shall be just, you shall be rich, gentlemen! Upon finishin’ the Grand Martona, and punishin’ ‘er bastard captain to the watery grave ‘e be deservin’ we shall rejoice for many a moon at the closest port we be knowin’, lads! Any man who wishes to leave us then may do so, for believe me, upon succeedin’ this quest you shall never again ‘ave to worry ‘bout riches nor nothing for all of time. The richest of men alive exploit and rob from the poor, no landlubber be moral, lads. We pirates be moral! We be stealin’ from those rich bastards that ‘ave already been plunderin’ the poor. We are pirates! And we shall be until the end o’ time!” The entire deck burst to life, filled with energy by the words of their captain they cheered and hailed Rike as if he were a king.

As we prepared ourselves in the midst of the Caribbean the fog continued to thicken and had risen up into the skies, ‘twas difficult to see but a thirty foot or so distance away from Roselyn herself. I began to have fears that the Grand Mortona may slip past us without even a hint of her presence within the close seas.

A further trouble was that not one of the none essential crewmates I had asked was willing to go out to search for the Grand Martona, Rones was the only man to step forward amongst the crew however the quartermaster was vital for executing Roselyn’s naval assaults. It seemed more than just a few of the crew mates had become paranoid of the vast fog that surrounded us. Failing, I had no choice but to inform Captain Rike. Approaching his quarters Achilles rose and stood aside the door, as if he was aware something was at fault. I knocked on the woodwork, and hearing Rike’s acknowledgement I entered. The captain was sat at his table looking over a map of the Caribbean.

“Capt’n, the crew be fearin’ travellin’ out upon the boats. I cannot get a single man but Rones to attend to the deed.” The captain turned his head to look at me, yet he did not make eye contact, ‘twas as if he fell into some kind of hesitant trance, he spoke too without interest.

“I shall lead, lad, gather the crew upon top deck once more, quick as you can.” I did not hesitate to follow my orders. Leaving the quarters I saw Davey and asked that he would help gather the crewmates from the lower decks, he went immediately and before long we were again all on top deck. Captain Rike stood upon his quarters with Achilles and Rones as before, waiting to address his crew. They stood in silence. Many of them did not look at Rike, few it seemed wished to be by chance asked individually by the captain to sail out in the small paddle boats.

“Lads! What I be hearin’ does not disappoint me, that none o’ you will go by boat in search o’ our bounty. Though I fail to understand why, Sollertis ‘as made it quite clear that there be nothin’ to fear. Lads! I will be in the lead boat, come, who o’ you is man enough to sail with me?”

I know not if it was out of shame or inspiration, yet once the words of the captain had been spoken, fourteen of the crewmates stepped forward, as if their captain had instilled in them a renewed burst of courage, merely by the knowledge that by their side would be his presence.

As night fell the fog became mighty thick, ‘twas chilly in the air also, something that seemed to put every man aboard on edge. I informed Samuels, our ships navigator, to drop the anchor when time came to rest and wait for our target to become present. He was a stocky lad with a mass of bright orange hair that sprawled thickly outwards in all directions from his head. He had bright red cheeks and a large pointy nose. His features made him immediately distinguishable amongst any crowd for ‘twas such a peculiar array of physical traits.

A brief conversation was had with Captain Rike now that our plan of action had changed as he stood with Sollertis, waiting for the men that had volunteered to row out in the small boats with him to come up from the orlop.

“You’re in charge now, Sailor, ensure the crew be doin’ their duty, I’ve informed Davey to organise the cannoneers, you only ‘aveto worry about ensurin’ the men be calm and workin’ ‘ard. Keep an eye out for any signs, lad, this won’t take long, I ‘ope.”

“Aye, capt’n.” I replied nodding, Rike nodded his head repeatedly at me, as if reassuring me I would do a fine job running his beloved ship. At this moment he looked down at Achilles for the giant dog had begun wheezing erratically, I had never seen him in such a state.

“Don’t worry, lad, I’ll be back before you know it.” The captain knelt patting the beast on its head and it calmed down immediately. James burst from the orlop hatch and walked up the gangway of the upper deck followed by the seven men that Rike had selected from the volunteers.

“‘Ere be the ten men, cap’n!”

Ten?” Exclaimed Sollertis, turning abruptly about, though hastily recognising the deckhand’s mistake he shook his head and turned back to look out towards the ocean.

“Thank you, lad.” The captain acknowledged. Sollertis looked at the captain with raised eyebrows.

“There are three kinds of people in the world, Rike, those that can count, and those that cannot.” After a brief pause the captain released a burst of quiet laughter then nodded at myself and Sollertis, the men then made haste to their respective boats. ‘Twas an honour to have known such brave men.

As the crew stepped into action Davey went about ordering men to their cannon stations. Upon the upper deck rested sixteen cannons, six at port and starboard, and four more resting upon secured platforms at the ship’s beak head. Beneath in the orlop were stationed a further twenty two cannons, ten resting between port and starboard and another two positioned again at the front of the vessel behind Rones’ sleeping chamber. Six cannoneers were to remain at the front facing cannons on the upper and orlop decks.

A further fourteen men waited within the orlop deck in preparation for side cannon use and twelve upon top deck should the battle turn to an all out standoff, though generally our methods of attack prevented this from occurring.

Once anchored, Sollertis and his crew of carpenters dismantled Roselyn’s masts which were held up by an ingenious system of cogs, ropes, and pulleys. We could become almost unnoticeable upon dark nights so long as our masts were grounded. A secondary set of structures that supported another, smaller, yet vastly more numerous system of sails would be used to hastily approach the unsuspecting Grand Martona, Roselyn would be barely visible until the very last moments of our assault, or so it was planned.

Once the paddle ships had been deployed and had began to station themselves within a vast chain to scout for the enemy vessel we each took up our positions on deck. And so we would wait, wait until our unsuspecting quarry strolled right into our trap, for as Rike said, the greatest plunder we would ever know was waiting just beyond the cursed mists that consumed our vessel. Each man was as eager as the next, as excited and as ready to gain the prize we had come for: The captain of the Grand Martona, and all the treasures that laid amongst her hold.

2.

 

We waited on the Martona for many an hour into the night, ‘twas for some time we believed we had indeed simply missed her. As I patrolled up and down the ship, looking out constantly for the closest paddle boat to Roselyn, I could not help but have my doubts. ‘Twas my turn on watch, as I often took the same post as any man on deck did, I had never been one to exploit my rank onboard for I believe strongly in leading by example. To my great surprise Achilles came and sat by my side, as if to be watching out himself for the lights of the paddle boats to come alive. This gave me a strange reassurance that perhaps we were not late, but early. I looked across to him. Into his great blue eyes, and I mention this moment for ‘twas such a strange one. The dog looked over at me and after a moment of his piercing gaze capturing my stare, he nodded, as if he had learnt from his master what the action meant, then turned back to look out for the small boat floating some feet from Roselyn’s starboard.

In size and weight, when stood on hind legs, the beast was quite easily the height of an average man, and so too was his weight immense, no doubt heavier than most of the deckhands onboard. He was certainly something special. Rike purchased him many moons ago from a shifty dealer who claimed the puppies had brought him great amounts of misfortune. Always a man to smirk at such things, for as he once said, “I ‘ath been cursed be more captains than I care to remember lad, and I still stand as ‘ealthy as any other man. Those who believe shall be those that succumb.”

Rike took up the largest of the pups. The name Achilles came from a story Sollertis often spoke of from his Greek past, a hero who was unequalled in combat, not even by his gods. It seemed quite fitting for such a magnificent animal. His fur was thick all over, ‘twas completely black running three quarters of the way down his coat, as dark as the skies that surrounded the stars on a cloudless night. The dog’s underside and the majority of its face was white, yet the black came down upon its brow in a sharp arch joining at its walls to its intense, pale blue eyes, which were surrounded by a fine layer of black amongst the white. The dog’s gaze could pierce you, as though it was looking into your soul. Beneath each eye a lightly shaded triangle of blackness fell causing the animal to look truly fearsome. Captain Rike would tell anxious strangers that his dog wept the sorrows of a thousand dead pirates.

For some time we remained seated on the edge of the boat, ‘twas a strangely calming silence I could share with the beast, nothing like the atmosphere generated when a human you are not truly familiar with attempts to sit in your presence. ‘Twas certainly comforting and I quickly became aware as to why Captain Rike preferred the company of the beast over most men on his ship.

But a few hours on, and admittedly ‘twas at a point where I was beginning to daze into an uncontrolled sleep, Achilles sprung up from his seated position, he made a strange wheezing noise then burst into a flurry of powerful barks. I jumped for the dog startled me grabbing at the sleeve of my coat, I looked once over for the small wooden paddle boats and sure enough it was possible to hear a lightly ringing bell and the faintest firelight signalling through the fog. ‘Twas beginning, the feeling I gained from this very sight is unexplainable, for the levels of excitement that were surging through me were extreme.

I whistled to Samuels who rang a small bell himself, one that would not generate much racket, yet was loud enough for the majority of the ship to become aware that our moment was impending. We did not know from which direction nor from what distance the Grand Martona approached us, so ‘twas vital we remained as quiet as possible.

Moments after the bell had rung Davey Rones burst up from the orlop deck lusting for action, his gaze was rampant, he was riled up as he always was moments before a plunder. I almost feel pity for those upon whom Rike unleashed him for he was no different from a wild animal when caught up in conflict.

“Sailor, the ships be returnin’?” He yelled to me, glaring with an unbridled malice.

“Aye, Davey, they be signallin’ us now, ‘tis for sure the captain ‘as spotted our target, prepare the cannoneers in the orlop for we be soon upon our bounty.”

As I made haste to assemble the crew to their correct posts Achilles remained on watch for the encroaching boats, ‘twas surprising that the dog made no further noise, I was sure he was aware of that which was occurring.

“Sollertis, Williams, will ye help haul in the crew as they be arrivin’ upon the boats. Austin! Be sure the cannons be prepared on this top deck! Get your men in check, and Samuels, be raisin’ the anchor, matey, and prepare for plunder!” The men went without question, I returned to Achilles to join Sollertis and Christian assisting them in reloading the paddleboats to the ship. ‘Twas with great speed that we each acted, and so ‘twas necessary if all was to occur as planned.

I was not long before capture given a piece of written scripture by Sollertis. ‘Twas a recount of the plunder of the Martona, and ‘twas beautifully written. I shall reveal it here, and so save me much time writing out a much duller, brief recount of the events which occurred that night. Sollertis frequently wrote himself, and so too did he tell stories which he conjured from his own mind to the pirates of Roselyn, should I have been given the chance to again be in his presence I should certainly have spent some time with him detailing the tales he told. The thoughts of his death still plague my mind, so violent it was. This is the recount he wrote:

 

All that courage could assemble stood presently prepared upon her, as the fogs of the tempest engulfed the loan lady, laying in wait of the Martona. Amidst the depths of the endless blue, she sailed alone in wait, her departed sons returned from quest their lives in dear at stake.

– A man without knowledge would have doubtlessly assumed the very skies had fallen as the captain’s crew amassed. Courage, bravery, respect, imagine, standing in the gangways of the lady’s upper woodwork. One can see little further than six feet in any direction, a deafly quiet fills the air, only the dull footsteps of your crew, your friends, your family, covering the deck with haste. No man complains, no man questions the first mate’s orders, all present work as one in an act of unhindered unison.-

The captain and crew!” They cried, no man a coward stood, though unobservable a light did shine through the thickness of the fog.

First came James and Edwards, faces filled with fear, back from the darkness of the blue, their troubles yet unclear. The great beast stood on all fours, observant of his surroundings as Williams hurled the haggard ropes towards the vessels incoming.

Haul them aboard!” Commanded the first mate, and so the men were saved, out of the grasp of the Grand Martona, her captain momentarily reprieved. Once aboard the shaking sailors revealed to us their troubles:

The captain was sighted giving the signal, the Martona knows we are here.”

Where is the captain?” The first mate asks, yet the two have no idea.

Another boat came out of the night, saved from the savage seas, they too however were unaware of where our lost brothers could be.

As the sands of the time glass drained each man stood still prepared, the longest time did pass away before a dim light flared. We assumed it to be the Peter brothers, and so it was indeed, yet with them came a second boat. It was Captain Rike and Reid.

-“She knows we’re here lad!” The captain yells.

Edwards, go down to the orlop deck and tell Davey to prepare the cannons, the Martona may be upon us in but a moment. To your positions, men! Be prepared!”

The few that stood waiting upon their brave leader’s return struggled to drag him aboard, once on deck, we halted for breath, as Davey gave orders beneath the stern. The virtuous captain’s crew stood still, silently we gazed outwards into the eternal mist.-

Abruptly, the blackness beyond the thick fog was ruptured by thunderous flares of fire and fury, the sound of cannons broke the peace as the captain’s crew ducked and dived in hopes to evade the Martona’s blind flurry.

I was dragged to the floor by a crew mate, as the black pearls ruptured the captain’s beauty, her starboard hit, with accuracy split, the woodwork of her body. Marcus Reynolds, a quiet one, I saw stricken by one such pearl, straight to the sternum, his conscious fled him with the sound of crunching bone. For all the horrors seen in my time I would not wish to go, to darkness and death by the blow of a ball as the fate Reynolds had been thrown.

-Before all is calm, up from the orlop bursts the giant Damien Rones, straight to the head, he grabs Reynolds’ corpse and tosses it down to the locker. “Turn starboard Samuels!” The animal yells, commanding the crewmate with anger, and so does the navigator turn her about, on go us to the Martona and riches.

We’re getting nowhere!” Cries the virtuous, and orders we raise the masts, so me and Christian with others at hand hoisted her releasing the sails, at last, we were propelled by the calmest winds at night towards the Martona.-

A tranquil serenity returned to the air for but a brief moment in time, then without hesitance the captain yells FIRE! And cannons rumble and flame, ripping through the infinite fog, a boom and inferno did flare.

Direct hit!” The quartermaster calls, his excitement excessive and live, the crew did howl and burst to joy as new confidence in us thrived. On we pursued towards the ship that burned her bones alight, with woodwork wounded the captain called to all that stood present with might:

Prepare the planks! Boards and swords! Prepare to plunder the Martona…” Though his interest seemingly faded with each word he did roar, enough was done to gather the crew; I could feel their confidence soared. Each man with haste rose to his feet, believing the worst to be clear, but in a brief moment that split the silence again the crew cowered with fear.

It was a mere gamble the Martona did take, for by now her position was near, and head on we faced the enemy misplaced its judgement of our methods in war. The pearls she released did no more than break a hole in the primary mast’s sail, so on we prowled with confident knowledge her best attempts had failed.

Aim for the stern!” The giant yelled from the far reaches of the lady at night, to Samuels who stood at the bridge of the beauty, attempting to guide her right, into the Martona’s waters we washed, approaching her woodwork with haste, swashbucklers pistols ready to ride into the bounty who’s loot now was ripe.

With hooks and rope prepared to launch we encroached upon the Martona’s starboard, with power and accuracy the crew hurled cords and entwined we became with our hoard.

Prepare for plunder! All on deck! Into their gangways we go!” As the ships became one, and boards were lowered the pirates lust did grow. Fifty men, standing prepared, in thick fog the crew stood toe to toe, yet a silence fell upon the air, I sensed upon the Martona great sorrow.

“Not a man does stir, captain, what should we do?” But then the giant stepped down, off of the platform leaving his cannoneers he marched without thought through the gangway. As the pirates parted, one stepped out amongst many. I would without doubt place him amongst men of my Hellenic ancient past, the blood of a Spartan, his fearless nature standing tall amongst his company.

So powerful he was compared to the rest, an inspiration by which we were blessed. “What if it’s a trap?” One pirate yelled to he whom I’ve given a prologue.

Then I am finished.” Was his only reply, and with rapier high, he disappeared into the depths of the fog.

Few moments passed before the first mate too stood tall and raised his blade, with a furious call he charged down the gangway and over the planks to plunder, with the rest of the crew following to aid.

As we marched upon the deck of the Martona, it seemed that little life stood, yet within moments of our guards fall our enemy burst from the wood. Masses of the Martona’s crew came forth from many an exit beneath, the battle erupted, an ambush indeed, much to my disbelief. With swords drawn ready, steel did clash and many a crewmate cried out.

Kill them all!” I heard Davey yell his anger raged without doubt.

Amidst the fog, names were heard, some of Roselyn, yet more unknown, screams of pain, howls of victory, and the roar of Damien Rones. The crews would battle throughout the night, as death took all it wished, creeping silently amongst the chaos and blinding tempest’s mist. Amid the confusion and struggling, I lost the crew in the haze, as I turned about to find before me, one crazed pirate of the Martona’s party, no man of Roselyn could assist. Seemingly lusting to end my existence, he charged at me with a shriek, I raised my rapier in defence, as relief came pleasing but bleak.

From the vapour beyond him came the giant with blood all upon his cheeks. The man was unarmed, I had become aware, yet Davey still robbed him of life, straight through the abdomen his days were finished, the giant held still, he gave me a glare, the blood of many men covered his face, his eyes were filled with despair.

-Some time after Davey had disappeared back into the fog I heard the captain’s call,

Sailor!” He cried, clear as a sum, and the life of our leader I feared. The fog still thick, the time passing by, I hurriedly went about the gangways, in search of Rike, and the troubles he faced, in hopes he should not be stricken. As I made haste I slipped, the gangway thoroughly drenched, though it was not the water of the blue, but blood that did run thick, from edge to edge of the deck, from amongst the fog and beyond the Martona’s burning wreck. So too as I laid, for but a moment dazed, I saw the corpses amongst the fiery blaze. The limbs they flailed, as the darkness took them, their souls released to the locker, and kept their for eternity, but amongst the bodies, I felt great woe to see Christian Williams lay limber, deceased he was sure to be.-

With anguish I rose, hearing cries from the crew, I knew all was not as it seemed, and so I began with troubled step to follow the echoing screams. Across the deck I made my way but stumbled grabbing a beam, two further cannons blast away though why I could not dream. It surely was not Roselyn’s guns, for few men remained onboard, a moment later I viewed a smouldering blaze streaming from the Martona’s stern.

Davey!” Again I heard Rike cry, being forced to go forth toward fire, the stern was engulfed by fog and smoke, it seemed her crew’s life death would deny her. One way of stairs, I made my approach then heard the great beast begin barking, twas Achilles and Rike.

Rike?” I called.

Sollertis!” He yelled, it was pleasing to see him alive.

Captain Rike, we have him!” We heard a Jefferson cry , and so forth dragged upon his knees was the Martona’s captain, bloody and bruised he denied, all that he had done to the innocent lives we believed he had caused to die.

Drag him aboard, and prepare jones’ plank. Harvey, go about the Martona, and plunder all you can, yet the moment she begins to fall away, return to the safety of Roselyn.” With orders said the first mate went about his business due, Achilles, Rike, Myself and Jefferson then dragged the captain through. Upon Roselyn the injured rested, many had already returned, the quest was done, the Martona secured, soon we would be on our way. The mists were still thick though had begun to fade as the earliest light of day did break, the time had passed away with haste, the Martona subdued under our wake.’

 

Much of these events I failed to see as I went myself to search the ship’s orlop quarters, though I do recall as I read, the sheer feeling of excitement, confusion, angst and anger that surged through me as we followed Davey across the plank onto the Martona. To describe all that I saw die upon that single experience I feel misery to recollect, ‘twas too much for the eyes of a single man, still I do not regret the actions I committed.

‘Twas a bleak sight to behold as I returned from the gangways of the Martona, many a man lay upon Roselyn’s upper deck crying and whimpering in agony, blood washed across the woodwork of our vessel as we attempted to aid the injured. Some men had been so badly wounded they had already passed away in the gangway, others laid without limbs and I recall nearly throwing up as I set eyes upon Arthur Smith holding his own severed leg to his chest. The fog had truly devastated our crew’s attack and we suffered greatly for it.

Once the majority of the survivors of our crew had re-boarded Roselyn we dragged the enemy captain and a number of his henchmen to the stern of the ship. The fogs by now were much thinner, and daylight lit up the darkness, though dim the light was for it seemed the skies were becoming covered in thick grey clouds. The captain of the Martona cried out pathetically as we dragged him down the gangway of the upper deck, up the stairs that passed Captain Rike’s chamber, and towards the plank of Jones. The closer he got the more erratic his flailing limbs became.

Please, spare me, I know not what I have done.” His accent was strange and voice light, a coward I had no doubt. Make no mistake whoever may come to read this recount, for this man had murdered many and stolen from the innocent without a troubled thought. ‘Twas his fate to pay for the misdeeds he had committed. Not one of us spoke to the scum. Suddenly shouts were heard from the upper deck.

“The Martona be sinkin’, quick, lads! Get the crew off ‘er, get all you can!”

“She be goin’ down! Be quick wi’ the loot!”

“What o’ the prisoners ‘neath ‘er orlop?!” Upon this call Captain Rike looked abruptly across ship, then at the Martona’s captain.

“You have prisoners upon your ship, you bastard?” He drew his rapier and held it to the male’s neck, yet he did not reply, a smile covered his thin face. Andy Jefferson quickly scuttled up the staircase to the stern.

“Cap’n, there be many prisoners locked up ‘neath the orlop, but she be sinkin’ too quick, sir, there be nothin’ we can do.” Rike did not reply, at first, he turned his head about to look at Jefferson who stood breathing heavily before us. When he replied he spoke quietly.

“Be sure the loot is secure, lad, be sure the crew are onboard.”

“Aye, cap’n.” Jefferson left us and Rike turned back to look at the Martona’s captain shaking his head.

“Ye be a fatherless, heartless devil.” The male spat on Roselyn’s woodwork at my captain’s words causing Rones to erupt across the stern and deliver a devastating backhand to the traitor’s jaw. More phlegm sprayed across deck joined by a whimpering moan.

“I am his father!” One of the Spanish captives screamed. “My boy is no heartless devil, it was you who drowned those people! You lie!” In a split moment Davey unsheathed a dagger from his belt and violently swung backwards at the aged man slicing the weapon across his gullet. I stood shocked, watching blood spout from the Spaniards wound.

No!” The enemy captain struggled but Damien grabbed his throat pinning him effortlessly against one of Roselyn’s masts. His sunken black eyes became fixated.

“Do you think mi captain to be a liar?” The Spaniard made effort to speak yet with a brutal thrust from Davey’s clenched fist was silenced. “’e said you were a fatherless, ‘eartless devil.” Rones glanced back at the aged male’s corpse. “Were ‘e lyin’, when ‘e uttered those words?” Shivering, and with tears in his eyes the captive whispered his reply.”

No.”

“But you’re still breathin’, lad.” Our quartermaster paused for some terrible moments. “Do you have a heart, or not?” The blubbering captain nodded.

“I do.”

“Damien!” Sollertis called out to the giant but failed to break his trance, nor did any of us dare approach the savage. With his dagger, and a swift, forceful stab the quartermaster pierced his target’s stomach. A commotion burst out amongst the other prisoners at Davey’s actions but were quickly quelled.

“Toss ‘em from the plank!” In a bleak moment that reminds me each time I think of it how dark a person Rones was, he forced the blade up into the captain’s sternum, which to my shock did not cause the male to scream or cry, but instead mumble out some last words.

“I am the devil… You will be stricken down by a great storm. A demon will come from the oceans, you will know misery that will take…” with a disgusting tear and crunch the Spaniard released a wheeze signalling his end. In a foul final act Rones drove his arm up into the male and wrenched his heart out through the hole in his stomach before tossing the body overboard.

The giant dropped the heart, and stepping down from the stern in silence amidst parting men, slumped against Roselyn’s woodwork in a gangway.

Rike turned about without a word said and made his way amongst the crew. Achilles followed and I felt without words being said that I should begin to assemble the men to action. We worked together in detaching ourselves hastily from the Martona, her wreck would be a ghost ship. So many innocent lives stolen, and without control we were forced to let them drown.

Once we had made clear of the Martona, and secured all the treasures of the plunder I made my way to the captain’s quarters for his distanced state worried my mind. On approach of his doorway Achilles stood and let me by, it seemed the moment we shared had brought some trust between us. I knocked the door and heard some slurred words spoken loudly, upon entry the smell of ale struck my nose. The captain was clearly drunk beyond all senses of rationality.

“Capt’n…” He nodded at me, his eyes glazed and face expressionless, he spoke quietly.

“Harvey.”

“The prisoner’s upon the Martona were not to be known ‘bout, sir. ‘Twas not your fault, their lives were robbed of ‘em, there be nothin’ else to it.”

“They were innocents, lad, no man should be dyin’ less he be deservin’ it. ‘Twas our cannon fire that sunk ‘er, ‘twas I who gave the order.” Though I disagreed with the words I said to the captain, ‘twas in efforts to improve his mood, it seems I only made his sorrow greater, however.

“They were strangers, cap’n, had ye not known they were there, you would not feel guilt.” My efforts were most useless and after a moment in silence he spoke words that he had never before mentioned.

“Do you know the last thing mi own father said to me as ‘e lay upon ‘is death bed, lad?”

“Nay, capt’n.”

“‘e looked up at me, with trouble, ‘e opened ‘is mouth and said: ‘Who are you, and ‘ow do ye know me?’” I knew not how to react to the words of the captain, it seemed his mind was heavy with thoughts of grief, I remained quiet whilst he spoke, gazing not at me, but at the walls of his quarters.

“The value of human life cannot be questioned, for so great can one man be, yet the millions that surround ‘im seemingly fail to recognise the purpose of one.” The captain began to breathe heavily, he took several large mouthfuls of mead as his eyes glazed over once more, returning to a slumberous fix into oblivion. ‘Twas not so many moons ago that I had never seen the captain in such a state as he had become in recent times, it seemed as though he was losing interest in life itself. ‘Twas clear there was far more on the captain’s mind than the knowledge he had caused the death of many innocent lives, so I bid him goodnight and left his quarters in hopes that the mead he consumed would quell his misery.

Stepping out onto the upper deck, the mists had resided, however daylight revealed the skies above were a dark grey, so too were the winds picking up. With tired mind I made my way down beneath the orlop to the resting chambers and made an effort to sleep for as long as my crew would allow.

3.

 

I was unaware of the hour upon which I was shaken from deep slumber, not by just my crew, but by Roselyn herself. From within heavy sleep I recall hearing the vessel’s woodwork creaking and cracking as the faces of our lost brothers passed me by, ‘twas not until erratic crewmates began yelling at me in fear that I was awoken.

“Sailor! We be cursed! The cap’n’s words be true, sir!”

I burst to life, my senses came about me, the entire ship yawned as thunder raged in the skies above. Near falling from my hammock I made haste towards the upper deck. As I reached the orlop I immediately heard the voice of Rones roaring out across the gangways of Roselyn amidst the violence of erupting thunder. Opening the hatchway from the orlop a mass of water flooded in upon me almost knocking me down from the ladder which enabled my way. I had scarcely managed to force my way upwards out of the hatch when a tremendous rumble cracked light into the skies above. I gazed up at the cloud swamped skies, momentarily lit up as lightning broke the endless horizon. The rain was thick, the seas were high, enormous waves surrounded us. I was drenched to the bone by the foul weather whilst piercing winds shed through my shirt and breeches.

The majority of the crew was on the top deck desperately attempting to shift water trapped onboard back out into the ocean. Rones was commanding chains of men to work together to remove the water with haste, he himself, despite being restricted by a heavily bandaged arm worked relentlessly to prevent the deck from drowning. Although his language was foul he spurred the men to work with great speed and efficiency.

Another rumble and burst of light briefly allowed me to glimpse the state of the captain’s beauty. The masts appeared unstable due to their design, to enable them be collapsed Sollertis built them to fold into three parts, allowing the rigging system to fold in on themselves. ‘Twas due to their design however that the tattered sails, scarcely remaining attached to the intertwining ropes, appeared as though they were going to cause the beams to be ripped apart, so ferocious was the storm’s power.

‘Twas a fearful moment I recall as I stood upon the lady’s upper deck, the waves were growing enormous and I feared for Roselyn’s safety. Amongst the creaking woodwork Achilles barked wildly in anger, not at us pirates, but at the lightning striking out in the dark sky. I too recall amongst all the chaos Sollertis sitting most calmly at his chess table appearing to be meditating over something quite irrelevant to the present dilemma.

“Sailor sir! She be drowning!” A deckhand yelled out through the sound of rolling thunder.

“Keep up the good work, lads, you be doin’ a fine job! She be floatin’ don’t she..? Sollertis! What o’ the masts!?” My voice was drowned out by the sheer thrashing of rain against Roselyn’s woodwork and the storm beating against the ocean’s surface, the boatswain however did hear me calling and hastily snapped out of his dreamy state to attend my call. He held his arms up as he walked, struggling to prevent the rain lashing his face.

“Allow them remain…” At that moment a deafly loud clap of thunder broke out in the skies directly above Roselyn and I recall every pirate I could see cower, Roselyn too cringed under the strain of the ocean and rain as a monstrous wave I am sure almost swallowed us whole. Each man struggled to keep a foothold on the slippery woodwork of the vessel.

“We must allow the masts to remain up, Sailor! It is too much of a risk to take them down, she will become unstable!”

“Are you sure, bos’n? It looks as though they’re ‘bout to come apart!” I looked up once more at the structures, I am sure the boatswain had never seen a storm so violent in all his days, nor had he anticipated one when he was designing the ship’s masts.

“They are fine, boy, far more resilient than they appear.” As Sollertis spoke over the storm James bounded up across the deck from his work point shouting out in excitement.

“I think it be a storm, sir!”

“Sai…” Sollertis stopped talking and turned abruptly to stare at James. “Were you fired from a cannon as a child? Or perhaps dropped from a great height?” Wide eyed James shook his head unaware of the boatswain’s sarcasm. In efforts to refrain from laughter and prevent him from triggering a further spur of anger in Sollertis I hastily replied to the deckhand.

“Aye, James, so it seems, back to haulin’ the waters, lad.”

“I simply cannot fathom the idiocy of that man.” In all the commotion this moment brought a smile to my face, as I stood upon the vessel that would either sale us to safety or drag us down to the locker, a moment of stupidity raised my humour. Whilst James turned to return to his post Davey erupted in frustration, shouting across deck.

“Which o’ you lazy pieces o’ shite be slackin’ off at the orlop! Get your arses back in line you useless bastards!” He rushed into view past the primary mast and paddle ships and suddenly withdrew at the sight of myself and Sollertis, “with respect, Sailor sir.” Sollertis burst to laughter at Davey’s sudden change of attitude. As menacing as Rones was he was incredibly loyal and displayed great respect for the ranking crewmates aboard ship. I laughed lightly at his honest mistake and nodded at the giant.

“You’re doin’ a fine job, Davey!” I yelled out to him before he nodded back and turned to assist the crew. Sollertis continued to laugh aloud and I smiled in amusement at him though our pleasure did not last long. While James and Rones made their way back across the drenched gangway a strike of lightning ripped down through the sky striking the rear mast of the vessel, the woodwork snapped like a twig and swung wildly down across the deck, crashing into James. As the wood and ropes flailed everywhere so too were the brothers Andrew and Mark Jefferson, in a mere instance, before my eyes, dragged away out into the darkness of the ocean. Davey too was caught and pulled across the upper deck, moaning in pain and anger, the loose ropes entangled him, felling him. The entirety of his bodyweight landed on his injured arm.

The crew ducked to the gangway surface to avoid the enormous wooden structure and whipping ropes. Our quartermaster held on desperately to the cannon hole woodwork, we rushed to assist him as a mass of pirates ran towards port side and looked over the side of the boat.

“Jefferson! James!” They cried, looking down on the ocean’s surface. As sad as it is to recall, it seemed the mast had stricken James to the head for he already lay face down with a thick red streaming from his skull. The top of the mast was beginning to sink and one of the Jefferson brothers was under the waves.

Help!” Cried Andy, his whimpering voice drowned out by the violence of the sea, flailing desperately, I feared he could not swim to save his own life.

“Hold on, Jefferson! We’ll lower a boat!” His head vanished for a moment beneath the waves of the black sea as another strike of thunder tore down through the skies roaring with mighty power. Roselyn groaned. Her woodwork struggled to handle the vicious assault of waves. Another moment passed and we, as fast as was humanly possible under the conditions, began to move a small paddle boat to be lowered down to the brave men. At that moment Captain Rike burst from his chamber and Achilles barked out in fury at him grabbing his sleeve. The giant dog dragged him over to the port side of the boat to look down at the lost pirates.

“Cap’n! James and the Jefferson brothers be knocked overboard, sir!” Upon hearing this Rike exploded into action, as though the very mention of his crew mates in danger struck him with an uncontrollable impulse to act. He removed his great grey coat, boots and swashbuckler with haste.

“Sailor! Be quick with that boat, lad!” And with those words said, much to the disbelief of every man that stood on deck, he leapt overboard down into the dark seas to join his crewmates. I struggled with Sollertis and a number of other men to untangle and free up one of the smaller vessels, Achilles’ behaviour became even more erratic at seeing his master delve into the chaotic ocean.

We had scarcely freed up a boat when every man on deck was felled to their knees, sliding across the gangway towards starboard. An enormous wave, one unlike any I had seen in all my days onboard the captain’s beauty forced the lady near upon her side and we were all washed violently across her upper deck. The released boat slid towards us and I recall for a moment a sudden fear of death as it tumbled across the gangway, though I am unsure how, with great fortune the boat missed all of us, crashing into Roselyn’s woodwork. I breathed a most heavy sigh of relief, attempting to stand up with Roselyn’s returning stability.

“Up, lads, up!” With a great struggle, rain beating down heavier and heavier upon us, against the fury of nature’s power, we pulled ourselves to our feet and dragged the boat with us across the sodden deck. There was no time to use Sollertis’ pullies to lower the boat so all that were present hoisted her up and over the side lowering it down with the ropes attached. I looked fearfully over the side of Roselyn and what I expected to see was so. No man was in sight, nor the top of the mast that the thunder had stricken down into the sea.

“RIKE!” The men called frantically over the sounds of the elements.

“O’er ‘ere, lads!” Looking upwards a vague figure appeared out on the ocean, ‘twas indeed Captain Rike, with one of the crew mates. We dragged the small boat up the port side towards the beak of Roselyn however the captain was a great way away from her, and the ropes would certainly not have reached out to him though it did not matter, he selflessly shouted out to us again.

“‘old the boat close to you, lads! I’ll swim o’er!” His voice was muffled and could barely be heard however I made out enough to understand the order. A good ten of us held the ropes that secured the smaller boat resting upon the seas, none of us could act any further, we were merely made to wait and watch as our heroic captain struggled against the turmoil of the stirring ocean.

A final great bolt of lightning lit up the darkness and the sheer grief of the situation became framed in memory for all of time. The waves rose leagues into the sky. We were but a dot in the heart of the storm, completely at the mercy of nature. Repeatedly did our captain disappear under the surface of the Caribbean, no man could have predicted what would become of him on that night, yet against all odds, against all that nature could throw at him he trawled his way to the minute boat which was itself being blown all over the water, barely remaining attached to the feeble ropes that held it. Suddenly something struck me. I turned to Sollertis whose face, dripping wet from the storm, looked miserable for the thought of his old friend perishing.

“Sollertis! ‘ow will we raise the boat to the deck? It’ll surely tip’n drop ‘em!” I could see the frustration in his face rise as he had no immediate solution to my question, however his eyes quickly lit up.

“Gather up as many ropes as you can, men! Quickly! Time is brief!”

We went with great haste about Roselyn’s gangways and in but moments we amassed a vast hoard of rope. Sollertis then went about tying a huge noose, one similar to something I had witnessed be the end of many a man’s life. Without hesitance we hurled the ropes overboard, down to where the smaller boat rested. Rike was now within a bodies distance from the small vessel, we were all surprised that he had made it and with vigour we were spurred to return our captain to safety.

“Rike! Strap the noose around your wastes! We will haul you up, you lucky bastard!” Sollertis called out to the captain, this time his voice was not stricken out by the sound of thundering bolts in the sky however, the storm was appearing to pass over us though the damage was already done. With troubled minds we watched the captain clamber aboard the paddle boat and drag the remaining Jefferson with him. He clearly had little life left in him for it took what seemed an eternity for the noose to be secured. The very moment it was we began to drag the ropes up the vast woodwork of Roselyn’s port side. Even Achilles assisted us in our feat.

The endless streak of heavy rain was no longer a burden, for the moment I saw the captain’s arm lunge over the side of his princess’ frame the troubles of the present evaporated. The two bodies fell limply over her side and onto the gangway. Sollertis rushed to the captain and loosened the noose that held them secure. Jefferson’s body simply sprawled outwards, the captain however hunched up and began to cough frantically. Achilles went to his master as though to assure himself he was alive. We each stood and stared at the men whilst Sollertis checked the pulse of Jefferson. He was deceased. The boatswain stepped back as the captain rose to his feet. Standing in his aura shed goose bumps all upon me, his selflessness was immeasurable.

Rain drenched every one of us, we all seemed to stand in a circle around the captain and Jefferson, still laying on the deck, no man spoke a word, and though rain hailed down faster than ever the thunder had by this time certainly passed our ship.

“Work to do, lads.” The captain spoke at last, his voice was quiet, almost lifeless. With the command we went our own way to assist in hauling the waters from the gangways of the captain’s beauty. With the waves residing it became much easier to control her flooding. Not a man on deck spoke. Even Rones was quiet, the misery was too much. Our fallen crew mates, the Jefferson brothers and James were well known amongst us all, many a year had the Jefferson’s sailed the seas aboard Roselyn, and James was an amusing character. They were sorely missed by all and so still are by myself.

Once we had cleared the vessel’s top deck and the ocean’s waves had become acceptably calm the crew took up its usual posts. Many returned to resting. I myself went to visit the captain, who had retired to his quarters moments after he had hauled Andy Jefferson from the ocean, only to realise the poor man had passed away despite his greatest efforts to save him.

Achilles was nowhere to be seen when I knocked for Rike, he acknowledged my entry and I quickly noticed the beast was resting close to the captain who sat in his chair with a jug of mead in his hand.

“How do you fair, cap’n?” I asked, aware he was likely in low spirits.

“I’ve seen better days, lad, I’ve seen better days.” He swigged from the jug and without interest stared at the wall of his quarters.

“They lived the finest times o’ their lives upon your vessel I’m sure, cap’n. They’ll be remembered by us all.”

“Though forgotten once we ‘ath parted, lad, those men ‘ad no family to remember ‘em past their generation, they be gone as quick as they come, not a story to be told o’ ‘em, only that o’ their death. No one’ll know o’ your name once you sink down to the locker, only those who commit the greatest acts of all that stand alive are remembered.” He continued to swig at his mead. Achilles sat and stared at him.

“Do you think you’ll be remembered, cap’n?” Rike let out a small burst of disheartened laughter.

“Only pirates who are ‘ell bent upon sheddin’ nothin’ short o’ terror upon the seas are remembered, lad. No pirate is known for ‘is courage amongst ‘is crew, only for the misdeeds ‘e committed upon the oceans. We be imaged as raiders and murderers by the powers o’ the land, and so does all that look to ‘em think us so, but we are not the wrong doers, lad, there be corrupt justice in the world.”

On the many occasions that I sat and spoke to our captain there would be words which would be forever scrawled upon my brain. He often spoke wisely, though at times I could not help but feel he spoke of personal affairs, hidden away in his wisdom, as though he took comfort in expressing them to me without my knowledge. We spoke for some hours that morning upon mostly irrelevant affairs until we were interrupted by the knocking of Sollertis, as he entered I noticed day light breaking, I wished to reach land as soon as I possibly could for the last two nights upon the ocean had been the worst I could recall.

“Captain, the crew is becoming wild, they believe the storm was a result of the Martona’s Captain’s words, ridiculous as it may sound, and so now believe some kind of beast of ancient mythology is coming to eat them alive.” The captain erupted into a quiet burst of husky laughter. He stared at the walls of his chamber for a brief duration before looking at Achilles, stroking the beast he spoke to us.

“Wi’draw the mead from the depths, Sollertis, let ‘em be merry for the journey back to land, it’ll take their mind off the troubles o’ the words o’ men. Sailor, I prefer you didn’t drink, lad, we’ll be needin’ someone sober to get us back to land. Could you gather the crew upon deck, seems I’ll be needin’ another word with ‘em.” With an amused look I agreed, and so I went with Sollertis to bring the stashed mead supplies up from Roselyn’s stock rooms before gathering up what was left of our crew to the gangways of the upper deck.

As the new day made its way upon us it became clear ‘twas a fine one, the waters were calm, the skies were blue once more, and Roselyn was stable though there would be much work to do before she would be ready to take on another violent storm.

With the crew ready on the upper deck. I quickly realised just how many men we had lost in the plunder of the Martona. It is always a depressing sight to see, realising your friends, your crew, gone for good, some in the prime of their lives, their time extinguished. I recall the first time I was stricken by the grief of losing a close friend at sea, the misery brings you down for so long that you find yourself wondering if it will ever pass. It may seem somewhat heartless to state that after so many years the death of someone close does not bother you for long, however you have no choice but to block the woeful thoughts from plaguing your mind, for it would be the death of you if you let it.

The captain stood in his regular position to speak to his men, our quartermaster however sat in the gangway of Roselyn’s starboard, he had a fresh bloody blade wound that ran down the right side of his face that I had not noticed until I saw him sat against the woodwork in the daylight. Rones looked most miserable. He stared at the ship’s woodwork cradling his left arm which was freshly wrapped in heavy bandages, the fall he took as he was nearly dragged into the sea must have done him a great harm.

Damien had been Rike’s quartermaster for all the years I had sailed upon Roselyn. At times he was somewhat cruel to the lesser ranked crew mates, however it was generally in efforts to rile them up in times of conflict. I never learned much of the history of Rones, for he was a man of few words, and due to the nature of Captain Rike who did not speak of others without true reason, I could not learn of it through any other man.

Rones came to be known as ‘Davey’ over the years, for we would say, when caught in conflict he was more like the devil than a man. Death itself could not keep up. Many a time I had witnessed him return from rooms which he entered alone, covered in blood, with wounds a lesser man could not even have attempted to stand with. To see him sat injured in the gangway troubled my mind. He must certainly have come to some damage upon the Martona. He had not seemed himself since we returned from the Spanish vessel. I had never once heard him boast about anything he had done in his life, ‘twas as if he was not proud of the actions he committed, so too it seemed his history was shrouded in a darkness that he had never wished to recall.

“Pirates o’ Roselyn!” The captain began, “‘ave you ever ‘eard stories o’ great monsters o’ the sea? Of course you ‘ave. ‘ave you ever seen great monsters o’ the stories o’ the sea? Per’aps in your dreams. Per’aps in your mind. Per’aps even after drinkin’ a gallon o’ mead!” ‘Twas always impressive to see how the captain’s words could calm his men, laughter broke the paranoid silence as Rike put our minds at ease.

“I ‘ath sailed upon these oceans all mi life, lads, I was born upon the waves o’ the North and so sure as ‘ell I am I’ll die upon ‘em. I can promise you this, there be nothin’ to fear in these seas other than man, and it just so ‘appens that we ‘ave the most fearsome of ‘em alive onboard,” he looked over at Davey, “though it seems ‘e be bein’ a lazy bastard as we speak.” A cautious, quiet laughter mumbled amongst the crewmates.

“What we ‘ath seen these last two days, lads! What we ‘ath done! That be real, don’t be spooked by the words o’ a coward, for you are each more man than ever ‘e were. Raise your tankards to the sky for our lost crewmen, and for those lives who we could not save ‘pon the Martona. May they rest well in the locker.” The captain took a swig of his mead. The crew burst into cheer and followed his lead.

“We set sail to Port Royal soon as we ‘ath found our bearin’s, lads. ‘pon reachin’ our destination I warn you beware o’ your actions, for though this port can make a man feel more alive than ‘e ever ‘ath, it can also rob you o’ life before you would know it. When we arrive we’ll split the greatest plunder I ‘ath ever known, and rejoice until our ‘earts be content. You can lay with as many wenches as you can afford, and ‘ave your way until your bollocks fall off! Now drink your mead down, for all your troubles shall be no more upon reachin’ the greatest port known to man. Cheers!”

Another great applause burst out amongst the crew, ‘twas pleasing to see them grow calm and humorous as the mead stocks were consumed, and so they sang merry songs and danced about Roselyn’s gangways forgetting their troubles for the moment.

Once the celebrations thrived on deck the captain and Sollertis came to me. “Sailor, it seems we’ve been blown a distance unknown off course in the storm, though ‘tis surely not too far, I ‘ope, be sure Samuels be stayin’ somewhat sober for the journey, or we be lost forever.” The captain laughed lightly.

“Don’t worry, Harvey, I will be drinking nothing but water myself, let’s get her into the waters of Port Royal.” Sollertis patted me on the shoulder as we walked to the helm of the vessel and my imagination fell upon thoughts of what might await us in the renowned bay of debauchery.

4.

‘Twas not until the twenty ninth day at sea, after sinking the Grand Martona and her tragic hoard of prisoners, that we recovered our lost time in the midst of the Caribbean. We had been blown some leagues south east by the storm, and though many of the crew were left feeling disgruntled and tired from their time away from land, they were kept keen by thoughts of the Martona’s spoils. ‘Twas in good time that we first caught sight of the Jamaican coast, for the mead stocks had run dry and food was scarce, much more time at sea would have seen the crew succumb to some most fetid illnesses, and death would have been sure to ensue.

For those unfamiliar with Port Royal, which I at the time was not, for ‘twas my first visit to the port, and so seems ‘twas my last, know that it is a spectacle to behold. On arrival into the port, which appears most abruptly from beyond a great extending sand bank, the sheer excess of harboured vessels is astonishing. Some of them made Roselyn look like a paddle boat, others, where they lacked in size, made up for it greatly in beauty of craftsmanship and artistic brilliance. As we were washed into the port via her shipping lane the captain stood at Roselyn’s beak head starring out upon the vast wooden structures that lined the coast, Rike looked as though an old friend was welcoming him in.

“You see those two docks, lad?” The captain seemed excited. I joined him at the front of his vessel.

“Aye, capt’n.”

“‘Twas there where I first laid eyes upon this ship. She were bare at the time, nothin’ but a shell. But, you see just west, upon those docks was where I met Sollertis for the first time. A crazy bastard ‘e seemed to be.” Rike laughed lightly to himself, “if it were not for ‘im she would never ‘ath been what she is. We owe the man a lot.” The captain padded me on the shoulder before turning about and returning to the gangways of Roselyn, starring out myself upon the port I noticed that very few people were at the docks, ‘twas upon immediate appearance not as I had imagined, for all the stories I had heard of the place, however this would quickly change.

Washing carefully into a docking lane the crew fell silent, it seemed as though each man was awestruck by the sight of the enormous port as they gathered up to make for its streets. The buildings were vast and numerous, lining the bay, they were painted a vast array of colours, from light blues and whites to deep reds and black. I was expecting hellish crowds of drunken pirates and wenches to be cascading the streets and the smell of stale beverages to be in the air, yet all that could be heard as we drifted into the enormous bay was the sea gently caressing the shoreline and the constant screeching of countless gulls hovering above us in the cloudless sky.

“Stay close, lads!” The captain yelled out. He negotiated with a dock worker to have his ship hauled whilst we were harboured so she could be cleaned up and repaired from the troubles we had come across at sea. With little time else spent at the docks we made our way into the streets and I took no time in enquiring with the captain why the place seemed so lifeless.

“It must be a Sunday, this town ‘ath more trouble ‘mongst it than any you would see anywhere upon the earth, yet even the most savage minded men must pray for the forgiveness o’ ‘is sins if ‘e wishes to avoid the locker. Don’t be fooled though, matey, come nightfall hell shall return.”

It seemed the captain was familiar with the town as we walked amongst its cluttered streets. The nature of its inhabitants quickly became obvious, for you could seldom walk more than a few feet at a time without passing by a tavern or a brothel. ‘Twas indeed a place of wonder despite the streets being so empty of people, apart from the taverns and brothels, carpentries and churches too lined the streets, butcheries and blacksmiths, the air smelt of burnt metal and freshly sawn woodwork. Looking up to the skies the buildings rose stories from the streets beneath, thoughts of the evening excited me as much as it made me nervous, I was walking amongst the most renowned town in the Caribbean.

With a brief time spent amongst the streets of the vast settlement we came to Rike’s destination, ‘twas a small tavern along a narrow alley in what I assumed to be the very midst of Port Royal. The woodwork of the tavern’s outer walls were painted black, and upon that black, painted white were the words ‘Pirates welcome’.

“In you go, lads!” The captain shouted out with excitement. The crew carried with it masses of cases and packages, some were personal belongings yet the majority was the spoils of the Grand Martona. We had the tavern to ourselves bar the land maiden who rushed upon Rike with such excitement I could only assume the two had a thrilling history.

“Nataliya, mi dearest, ‘ow do you fair?”

“I be fine, you old bastard” she giggled, “so this be your latest bunch o’ scalleys that do your biddin’ ey? And this must be ‘arvey!” The aged lady approached me with an enticing smile upon her face and grabbed me. Her hair was greying though her dimpled cheeks threw a beauty about her.

“I ‘ath ‘eard much ‘bout you, lad!” She chuckled erratically and I recall being somewhat stuck for words as the woman went on to greet Sollertis, for in all the time I had known Rike I had not once heard of this tavern nor of the woman who owned it.

“Come, men,” he spoke up with a cough, “through to the back, let us be done with this business so we may rejoice.”

‘Twas warm and cosy inside the tavern, a grand fireplace rested behind the bar, burning alight. Vast amounts of copper tubing protruded from the ceiling behind the bar joining up to what I assumed to be a large mead filter. The entire place looked clean and well kept, truly different from the sight and smell of Stoley’s. Once every man was inside the doors were barred shut and we each gathered round the captain.

Rike was most generous when sharing the loot of the Martona. The lowest ranked crew mate was given as much as any other man on board, although it was with blind lust that the captain chased the boat out into the Caribbean Ocean, ‘twas once the task had been accomplished that his desires ended. He was not a greedy man, nor did he need to be, his home and all that was held dearest to him was aboard his beloved vessel. ‘Twas for this reason his crew remained so loyal to him, they put their trust in him and respected him for what he was.

With as little time spent as possible flaunting the riches of the Martona, the crew made haste to secure their treasures, I left my own in the possession of my captain for I knew it would be safe wherever he chose to secure it.

As night fell upon the town the silence slowly resided, the streets outside our tavern lit up and it seemed as though all at once they were flooded by such an array of differing individuals that no man could ever guess, should he wake up here, where or when he was.

Inside our tavern the crew drank heavily, the mead was fine and the music and company lively, I sat close to Rike and Davey whilst the captain recalled memories of the port to the crew.

“Thirty three years to the year!” He slurred, exchanging gazes with each of us at each passing sentence, “I washed up upon this bay with a bastard who went by the name of cap’n Rennigan, ‘e were a tough bastard, a greedy bastard! ‘e near cost me and our ‘ole crew our lives for ‘e lied to us, said we were to be chasin’ after a Spanish trade vessel and that it’d be an easy, ‘armless plunder. Upon catchin’ up with ‘er in the midst of the North Sea we found she be accompanied by a forty six gun frigate, a bastard like none I ‘ad ever seen. We ‘ad a sixteen cannon gunboat, washin’ upon ‘er in the depths of the night the cap’n ‘ailed the fire and so we were at the mercy o’ fate. ‘ow I should never know, our vessel were bein’ steered by a man named Zilon Arutan, ‘twas the strangest o’ names I ‘ath ever known, so remember it well. ‘e were able to out manoeuvre every last shot the frigate blasted our way, though with great precision ‘e allowed us bombard ‘er woodwork with constant fire until upon the seventh ‘our o’ battle the frigate fled its duty o’ protectin’ the trade ship, and upon witnessin’ this the vessel gave itself up and the loot were ours…” Realising his beverage was empty the captain immediately stopped his tale and found a tavern maid.

“Ano’er round o’ mead please mi darlin’!.. ‘Twas upon the return to land that we set sail for Port Royal, and with nothin’ but anger for that bastard who ‘ad put all our lives at stake, upon reachin’ the port I took mi wealth and parted ‘is crew. ‘Twas upon the very same day I ran into the likes of the crazy bastard you see sippin’ upon a fine liquor over there.” Rike turned about to look at Sollertis, though he did not look amused, social gatherings were not an interest of his and the sight of a drunken leery crowd infuriated him. As Rike went on to reveal how he came to be close friends with Sollertis and build their crew and vessel, I recall becoming lost in the depths of my own sorrowful thoughts for the consumption of alcohol.

It had been nearly eighteen years since I had parted from the land and joined the captain’s crew. I was but a child when I first met him, I recall the night as clear as the crystal Caribbean shallows, for ‘twas a bleak, gloomy evening that he came to my home. My father was a deckhand upon his vessel, he had been slain at the hands of opposing pirates in a plunder, Rike later told me the story of my father’s fall and assured me his death was avenged by Damien Rones. On that night he had come personally to give condolences to myself and my mother, such a man he was. My mother herself however was very ill. I had been caring for her myself, along with the assistance of a few carers for the many months my father had been at sea.

Upon opening the door on that dark evening I was stricken by the sight of a large stranger who appeared heavily haggard. His old, worn grey leather coat hung the length of his body, he had thick black stubble that covered his broad chin and hair that was thick and matted, it fell just below his ears in most areas. His nose had a distinct, deep scar across its bridge, as though a rapier had taken a piece of it away. Under the darkness of the night his eyes appeared a lifeless black, the whites of them bloodshot and heavily baggy. The only way I could describe his expression would be one of great sorrow, ‘twas almost as if he lacked a soul.

“This be the Sailor residence?” He asked quietly, his voice deep and sorry sounding.

“Aye, sir, I am his son, Harvey.”

“Ah… and your mother, lad, she be ‘ere?”

“Aye, sir, she’s through the room, she’s very sick.” I recall looking at the ground when I said these words to the stranger, yet a moment later he placed a large heavy hand on my shoulder and I looked up to him.

“Life be… merely an endless struggle, lad, I am sorry to ‘ear, may I see her?” The stranger’s words did not bare much relevance to me at such a young age, however these were words I would not forget.

Some may state it naive of me to simply allow this stranger into my house, however I was but a child, no older than eleven, I was to know no better. My mother had brought me up as a child to have good manners, and before I saw the world I certainly held true to them. He entered the house and I took him through to my mother’s room where she lay resting in her bed.

“Mrs Sailor?” The large male asked. Her head fell to the right and she used only her eyes to look over the room, I could see she saw us both, yet she spoke first to me, still, the captain spoke over me.

“Who is this man, Harvey?”

“Captain Rike. I be sorry for the ill news, mam. Your husband, Martin, was a deckhand upon mi vessel, yet ‘e lately ‘ath become deceased.”

I looked at my mother. Her eyes fell to look at the pillow. She closed them for some time, and as she opened them I could see tears begin to run down her cheek. I ran over to comfort her though she did not react, I wanted to burst into tears myself yet I remained strong for my mother. It seemed she had gone cold, as if she had lost her very last will to live.

Captain Rike went quiet, a moment later he turned to leave but my mother spoke out. “Wait.”

“Mam?” He replied, not turning back to look at her.

“If I pass, will you take my son with you and look out for him? You took this family from the mainland, from the plantations. You gave us a new life because of what you saw in my husband. You will see the same in my son. Please.” The captain did not reply. He remained still for a moment then took his leave. I watched him out, he did not say a word to me either, ‘twas the last, I thought, I would ever see of him. ‘Twas dark outside. The rain fell heavily upon the cobbles as I quickly shut the door preventing the chilling breeze from reaching my mother.

Not but five months later my mother passed. The only occasion in my life I ever felt without family was the brief period between the death of my mother, and my uniting with Captain Rike. The captain stuck to his word, or at least, honoured my mother’s last. I was just twelve, and though I had never been forced to endure the dark realities of the life my parents had known, I fear I may have had Rike not taken me under his wing.

The experiences I would have missed had this occurred, I cannot begin to describe. I have witnessed more than any landlubber could ever imagine. To be a pirate amongst many may not be considered by the majority as honourable, however for myself and the many like me, ‘tis a way of life. A pirate can never be far from home, for their vessel is their home. Consider living without anchor, without the need to be responsible for something you would never reap the benefits of once you pass from this miserable earth. I speak of properties and overvalued images, the responsibility created by those few who claim to be in charge of the majority. Nay, living every moment of life for that very moment is far worthier an existence than any dull route of life upon land that you may believe keeps you safe or secure.

‘Twas from the day Rike took me under his wing that I became aware of his kindness. The qualities I have come to witness him display are those of the most virtuous man I have ever known.

Upon Roselyn I was a mere deckhand, to begin with. In reflection it seems he took pity on me, as I stood without parents in a life of uncertainty. He allowed me to wander as I pleased upon his vessel, frequently learning new skills and gaining knowledge invaluable to any seafarer. Captain Rike treated me as if I was his own son, though still, all of his crew mates were treated well. Over the many years I had served under Rike, I apparently earned enough of his respect for him to grant me the position of first mate aboard ship, and ‘tis indeed the rank I continue serve to this very day. Roselyn herself was truly magnificent, I remember the first time I saw her, certainly the most beautiful thing I can ever recall seeing.

As day became night few of the pirates remained in Nataliya’s tavern, many had ventured into the streets of the port, others taken to sleep. Sollertis had joined us now the crowds had cleared and we each sat exchanging stories, though Davey had scarcely spoken a word since we had plundered the Martona, still, the mead we consumed seemingly did him some small favour. He spoke quietly, starring down into his tankard.

“Thirty three years ago I left this place to avoid the gallows, I fled after murderin’ four men who tried to rob me o’ mi work load.” Rike shook his head.

“Silly bastards,” he slurred taking a large swig of ale, “still, least the reason you fled for won’t be stickin’ in your mind for what seems all o’ time.” Sollertis’ face fell to a forced expression of boredom. He raised his eyebrows, looking at me.

“What do you mean, capt’n?” I asked, glancing at Sollertis with a smile on my face, the captain had spoken of this story many times in the past when in good spirits and drunk, but I knew it would frustrate Sollertis so continued to press the captain with questions upon the subject.

“‘er ‘o I ‘ath named me beloved ship o’er.”

“Who were she capt’n?” I replied hearing Sollertis begin to tut.

“She were, the first woman, I e’er loved an’ lost.” The boatswain shook his head and rolled his eyes. The captain slouched back in his seat with a large ridiculous grin on his face. “We ‘ath not all ‘ad the pleasure o’ bein’ wed, Sollertis.” Rike hazily glared into oblivion for a moment before Rones spoke up.

“I was married once.” The captain’s beverage sprayed from his mouth in apparent disbelief. ‘Twas strange that I had known Davey for so long, yet each time we sat and spoke, particularly when mead was involved, I would learn new things about him.

“Davey married? I don’t believe it, you bastard! What poor wench ‘ad the ill fate o’ takin’ the ‘and o’ Damien Rones?” Rike yelled out, chortling with humour but Davey did not seem amused.

“She were no wench, Rike. ‘Twas only to escape the gallows that I were forced to leave ‘er. Before I fled, I promised ‘er, one day, I would return. Over thirty years ‘ave passed.” He exhaled a great sigh.

“In all these years, Damien, you have never mentioned you had a wife?” Sollertis seemed as excited as he was surprised.

“‘Twas not relevant in the past.” He paused for a moment, “this were the last time I set sail with you, Rike, we should never ‘ave gone for that ship, whatever were upon ‘er, ‘twas not for us.”

“Damien?” Sollertis hastily replied with intrigue.

“After I came to you upon the gangway’s o’ that ship, Sollertis, I were stricken down by three men, ‘twas upon ‘er beak, just three men, I thought I were a dead man. Stricken to mi knees, I blacked out, I thought, for when I came too ‘twas daylight upon the beak. ‘Twas. ‘Twas daylight. Every man I ‘ave ever butchered stood before me, masses o’ ‘em, every face, they flashed before mi eyes. I ‘ave done things to men that you would not find in your nightmares. Dark thoughts plague mi mind, cap’n. I dread to think of what be waitin’ for me on the other side. If I should die… I… I never want to die.” Water flooded the giant’s eyes and I recall becoming almost fearful, for as Davey spoke the captain looked down into his mead with a most troubled expression.

“The sea shall be the death of me, Rike, mi time upon the oceans be finished.” Without saying a word the captain slowly nodded, still staring down into his drink, for some time he seemed entranced.

“What will you do, Damien?” Our boatswain asked, breaking the strange silence.

“I know not yet, I’ll be headed in land, ‘twas from Jamaica I fled so long ago, I’ll keep mi promise, if she still be alive.”

‘Twas at that moment something struck me about Damien Rones, for all the foul deeds he had done in his life, he seemed disappointed in himself. How a man could carry such misery for so long is beyond my imagination. Suddenly Rike snapped out of his hazy state and spoke up, loudly.

“You shall always be welcome to return should you change your mind, Rones. There be a long day ahead of us tomorrow, lads, I shall be turnin’ in. ‘ath been an honour, Davey.” We all stood to our feet. Rike and Davey shook hands and said no more to one another as we each said our goodbyes. ‘Twas saddening to know that Rones would no longer be sailing with us upon the seas, it was calming to know he was amongst the crew, not just in times of dispute, he had an aura about him, one of security and confidence that was spread amongst his company.

“Shall you be joinin’ me tonight, cap’n?” From across the tavern Nataliya’s high pitch voice called out. She hastily tip toed over to Rike, now clothed in a dress that flaunted her incredible rack.

“Not tonight, mi darlin’, per’aps another.” A sorry look covered the captain’s face and thoughts troubled my mind on that evening as to why he had reacted so bizarrely to Rones’ story.

“And what about you, young ‘Arvey?” She loosened the lace that held her bosom, and I must admit, their sheer mass enticed me.

“Enjoy yourself, lad.” Rike placed a hand upon my shoulder, nodding, he stumbled towards the tavern door. Nataliya took my hand and to her dorm we hastily stepped. A beauty she was, her age certainly did not restrain her for we did not sleep a moment that night, nor each night I returned to lay with her.

During the days I spent much of my time with Rike. He was familiar with many of the brothel and tavern owners, particularly the female ones, and took little time in introducing me to them as though we were family. ‘Twas most warming and I even expected to be introduced to a female named Roselyn within the port, though it did not occur. ‘Twas upon one such day as this, that, within a bar the captain was approached by an old gaunt looking male who I quickly realised had no teeth, he carried with him a rolled sheet of paper that looked as filthy as it was ancient.

“Are you sailing out wi’ Cap’n Morgan?” He avoided eye contact with either of us and seemed to speak from just one side of his mouth, as though everything he had to say was a secret.

“I were not aware Morgan was ‘arboured.” The captain replied, sipping his mead at every available opportunity.

“’e be ‘aving a gathering at admiralty court, there be rumours o’ the greatest plunder ever to be known.” Rike laughed at these words, he did not mention it but I knew he was thinking of the Martona.

“Can I ‘elp you wi’ somethin’?” The old male handed us the rolled paper he held and I became disturbed at a further sight, every finger upon the man’s hand, including his thumb, had been chopped half off. With a sigh the captain took it avoiding contact with what was left of the stranger’s digits, unravelling the sheet he stared at a map of the Caribbean Sea. “What of it?” He asked with a hastily fading patience.

“The island in the midst you see there, it be the cursed isle o’ Davey’s locker. There be treasures there that’d give a man more than wealth, more than you could imagine, yet, there be things there, terrible things.” Once more the captain laughed aloud. Turning his back to the male he rerolled the map.

“You’re a beggar?”

“Nay, you be Cap’n Rike? Ye must reopen the map, cap’n.” With nothing else said by Rike he withdrew from his pocket a number of coins and put them into the mangled hands of the stranger.

“Come, Sailor.” He said shoving the map carelessly into my arms. We left the tavern and with pace walked up to the north docks and then along a street that led around the out skirts of the port. We walked along the street until we reached a huge building, Rike knocked the doors and a strangely dressed man led us through into a space packed full of people, each staring at a figure stood on a pedestal shouting out across the hall.

“Just because a man is alive, it does not mean he is living! Buccaneers! Come with me, this shall be the greatest success ever recorded, you will be remembered for all of time. It is often a blind leap of faith that a man must take to find his full potential, if you are not willing to look, then you will never find your purpose!” For some time the male, who I quickly came to be aware was Captain Morgan for his name was cheered frequently, enticed the crowd and explained how they would set sail, not just to loot an unimaginably large bounty, but to become figures in history.

Buccaneer? Capt’n?” I whispered to Rike out of curiosity, however he only huffed and gave me a vague answer.

“It be a term used by cowards who fear the imposition o’ landlubbers.” The gathering ended with Morgan telling us that any captain willing to sail with him should return to meet the following morning, and as we left the court I assumed Rike would be one of them.

5.

 

The final days of our stay in Port Royal passed hastily, ‘twas easy to lose all sense of time amongst its taverns and brothels, the streets were always lively with drunken merry crowds and the female company was something spectacular.

Since myself and Rike had parted from the court I had seldom seen him, he had retreated to his chamber aboard Roselyn and scarcely stepped foot on to land. For the time I was away from Rike I accompanied Sollertis. He frequently took excursions onto the mainland to further a project he told me he had been working on for many years. He spoke of a cannon ball that was unlike anything man had seen, something with such devastating power it would be capable of winning wars with great ease.

The boatswain owned a loft within the port town above a carpenter in which he stashed all his supplies. Within were countless pieces of apparatus resting upon tables and strange powders everywhere, masses of copper wires ran from glass containers to burning metal rods and back, ‘twas a most confusing sight. One afternoon he demonstrated to me the power of the weapon he had been working on, as we stood in the room he took two containers filled with some unknown substances, he mixed them up and told me to stand back. “What is it, bos’n?” I asked wearily.

“It is a plant residue mixed with nitric and sulphuric acids, and a final ingredient, from a friend, nitro something, I cannot recall.” The Boatswain stopped his work briefly, glaring at me with his manic grin. “When the formula combusts its explosive properties generate power unlike anything I have managed to fashion in the past. Look here.” He took a small scoop and lifted the smallest amount of his powder into a large metal basin, we stood some feet back before Sollertis set light to a twig and tossed it in. As the wood landed, up from the basin rose an enormous flare of fire that forced us both to raise our arms and lunge backwards so great was the outburst.

“You’re takin’ that upon the capt’n’s vessel, bos’n?”

“When I have encased the formula and placed it securely in a container it will be no trouble, Harvey, you have nothing to fear, I know what I am doing.”

“‘ow’ll you use it?”

“By packing the formula into a medium, in this case the form of a cannon ball, though firing it will be a great risk due to its instability. Fortunately a cannon can be crafted from whichever material you have at your disposal. I have calculated a number of outcomes using many different methods to propel the balls without a premature explosion, and I think I have found the answer.” Sollertis stood staring at the basin, his hand wavering in the air. He walked to a wardrobe and from within withdrew an enormous wooden pipe. “This,” he said, holding it up with great ease, “is our cannon, I had incredible amounts of trouble finding bamboo this thick and rigid, however my contacts on the mainland were a grand help to me. The shaft itself is lined at each quarter angle with gunpowder that runs right along the cannon’s barrel. There can be no friction as the balls leave the shaft, so, in practice, the ball is propelled with the force of the packed gunpowder, yet as briefly as it has used the cannon’s shaft to be propelled, the shaft itself splits, enabling it free flight towards its destination.” The boatswain excitedly made gestures and pointed out parts of his bamboo cannon as though the whole invention could never have been the death of us all.

“Surely, bos’n, when the gunpowder blows the ball out it’ll be enough friction alone to blow the bombs up? If they be weak as you say?”

“Indeed it would, however a simple reinforcement of the base of the ball from which the source of the explosion affects it most is all that is necessary to nullify the chances, greatly reducing the probability of it exploding in the cannon, instead of being propelled outwards.” Still smiling the boatswain continued to look over his work and tamper with powders and apparatus. ‘Twas just a few days after Sollertis had shown me his complete invention that we were to leave Port Royal.

Ever since Rike had heard the speech of Captain Morgan he had seemed intent on us looking for the island on the map the stranger had given us. A number of times he had brought the subject to mine and Sollertis’ attention, however Sollertis took little interest in the idea for upon his first look at the map he assured the captain that the island on it did not exist. I believe the words of Morgan however had already convinced Rike that it was to be our next destination, and against Sollertis’ disapproval informed the crew that we would set sail towards its shores, whether they had come from a swindler’s imagination or not. ‘Twas with ease we replenished the numbers of our lost crew on those final days, Rike had enough contacts to ensure the crew he was recruiting was of a decent standard for he despised men who did not have good values nor self respect.

We set sail from Port Royal merry and fearless. With a great new found wealth and an even greater confidence after our success over the Martona and a most brutal storm. The crew was in mighty spirits, ‘twas a joy to see once more a deck thriving with lively pirates. Of the new company a number of the men stood out: Aran Fox, a young lad who had lost his family, and so reminded me much of myself when I was at such an age, was an excessively hard worker on deck, he volunteered to stand at any post and was willing to work around the clock for the captain, such people are rare to come across in life.

Another male named Arnold May was a greatly skilled woodworker and displayed great levels of intelligence, Sollertis took little time in testing the man’s wits in a game of chess. Of all the new recruits however there was none that could replace Damien Rones. ‘Twas a great shame to have seen him step down from the crew, though I do not blame the man, for he had lived his life under the shadow of death for long enough. ‘Twas high time he left his days of piracy behind, still, the amount of bloodshed he had witnessed and caused, I am quite certain in reminiscence he could never live the life of a true landlubber. I still expect him as I sit to rip off the doors of my prison cell and drag me away to the safety of Roselyn’s gangways.

‘Twas mid day by which we left the port. Delving back into the seas off the shores of Jamaica the weather was beautiful. In fact, ‘twas far hotter than any day I could ever recall, a fine time to be returning to the great blue. Once we were clear of the port’s main shipping routes I went about ordering the new recruits to their future posts. We had lost Peterson in the plunder of the Martona so I introduced Aran to the post of look out upon Roselyn’s primary crow’s nest. I was confident he would not fall unaware at any moment. On the top deck of Roselyn there was a continual movement of pirates coming up from the orlop, others going down, men were constantly patrolling the deck to keep an eye out in all directions for potential dangers to the ship. ‘Twas not always from other vessels we could sail into trouble, there are known places within the Caribbean where ships can come into collision with great reefs and other natural oddities of the earth’s surface. ‘Tis vital to be alert at all moments when sailing in the waters of this sea.

With the reconstruction of Roselyn’s rear mast complete it seemed she was taking the winds as strongly as she ever had. Sollertis calculated our knot rate was maintained at an average of six, something he concluded after taking a number of tests on our distances and times taken to travel between them, ‘twas a good speed, expected from a vessel such as our own.

‘Twas pleasing to see the sea calm after the troubles we had faced not long ago in the storm. We were destined to travel south west, into the great expanse of the Caribbean Sea in search of the mysterious island found on Rike’s new map, however drifting into open waters as we did was always going to herald trouble. Travelling outside known shipping lanes leaves you vulnerable from all angles to potential attacks from both opposing pirates and Spanish warships, and as was always so, no two days are alike for a pirate. Never is a warning given of events that lay ahead. It had been many turns of the hour glass into our journey that from the primary crow’s nest Fox yelled out to me.

“Sailor, sir! It seems we’re bein’ followed by two vessels! They ‘old up no banner, sir, I can’t be sure of where they come from or if they’re troublesome!” It was enough to alert my wits, for no man can be trusted who is not one of your company.

“Samuels! Raise the alarm! Cannoneers to your stations! Fox, keep your eye upon those vessels, lad. Sollertis can you tell what they be? Marks alert the orlop, men to their stations, go. Inform the cap’n on your way.” I could not tell myself what the vessels were as I glanced over them with my spy glass. They were enormous however, ‘twas with a weary mind I looked whilst the crew gathered to their stations.

‘Twas not long before we had been alerted to the ships that Arnold May identified them as Spanish Galleons, impressed as I was there was no time to dwell on their intentions, ‘twas vital to be prepared for a stand should they be hostile.

“What be the situation, Sailor?” Rike came from his quarters with haste to join me in looking over the Spanish vessels, Achilles stood by his side too peering out onto the horizon.

“Are ye sure they be Spanish?.. Tis Arnold, no?” The new recruit nodded at Rike.

“Unmistakable sir.” His accent was very plain and easy to understand.

“Have Samuels continue headin’ south west, Sailor, we’ll be seein’ where they head before we act on the situation. Keep the crew alert, lad, this seems awful suspicious.” Rike headed to the beak of the vessel and I went myself to the helm to inform Samuels of the plan. ‘Twas a strange atmosphere without Davey onboard in such a situation as this, although he would often yell at the cannoneers with language fouler than I care to recite, ‘twas too this behaviour that spurred the crews energy, driven by fear of our quartermaster, the men would be irate and ready for action.

“As fast as you can get her goin’, lad!” The captain yelled at me as I made my way, though our speeds had trouble increasing for ‘twas such a fine day, the seas were barely stirring and ‘twas with the weakest of winds we were pushed.

With anxiety we continued to watch the pursuing vessels, alert as we were the day drew on and we had not made any distance between the galleons. It was clear the captain had a troubled mind. He was to make a bold decision upon that afternoon. As we each stood at our stations, myself with Samuels at the helm of the vessel, he came to me with Sollertis and Achilles.

“Samuels, slow ‘er up, much as you can, upon my command turn starboard upon the bastards.”

Sir?” Our navigator looked at our captain with fear in his face.

“We’ll let ‘em think we be givin’ way. Sailor ‘ave someone take the roger down, place a white flag upon the nest. When they be close enough we’ll blow ‘em out o’ the water. Sollertis is confident ‘is new bombs shall be doin’ the trick. ‘ave the rear mast collapsed, we need to lose some speed.” I had never once questioned an order of captain Rike, but I stood for a moment feeling a great unease strike me.

“Aye, capt’n.” I nodded, going myself to have Fox replace our jolly roger. Sollertis too went on his way as Samuels attempted to slow Roselyn by steering her in and out of the winds.

Captain Rike came down from the helm onto the upper deck of Roselyn. “Be calm, men! Away from your cannons, you shall not be usin’ ‘em upon this day, down to the orlop, go, you can be watchin’ the enemy from within. We do not wish to startle ‘em. Come, lads, quick as you can!”

We each fell quickly down into the orlop, through the cannon’s barrel holes we could view the ocean and the Spanish galleons who were still a vast distance away from us. The only men who remained on top deck were Samuels at the ship’s steering post and Fox who remained up in the crow’s nest, brave men they were.

Down in the orlop Sollertis burst from the door of his chamber with a small box and his three makeshift bamboo cannons which he struggled to carry in his arms. “Harvey! Help me lower them.” I relieved him of his awkward load and together we rested the box on the woodwork of the orlop deck, hastily the boatswain prized it open with a small blade. Within were three cannon balls. I quickly realised they were not regular, and indeed were the bombs Sollertis had been designing whilst we rested in Port Royal.

“You have only three, Sollertis?” I asked.

“It shall be all that is necessary, Harvey. Believe me,” he leaned towards me and whispered with a manic grimace, “should these bombs fail to fire, our boat will be no more.”

“How does the captain know they will work?” I retorted, alarmed by Sollertis’ calmness.

“Well, he wishes to.” The boatswain smiled at me and I knew he was confident in his own abilities. Sollertis’ face was rather distinct, other than the sheer look of insanity that seemed to seep from his eyes, he was very rugged looking. I believe his constant working and lack of resting was the result, for he looked incredibly worn down, even from my days as a child, ‘twas something I had always noticed. It was clear he rushed almost everything that was personal to him so he may continue with his work. The only time he appeared to rest would be at his chessboard, allowing any man on deck to play him, even in his free time he wished for his mind to be constantly challenged. He seemed always to express a look of suppressed madness, as if his brain was constantly burning with ideas that often even he himself could not begin to understand or create.

“Which of ‘em’ll I put ‘em inner, bos’n?” One of the cannoneers asked lunging forward to grasp a black pearl.

NONE!” Sollertis flinched, protecting the bombs before releasing an uneasy laugh. “That you will, Everett, leave well alone that which does not concern you. These must be placed with utmost delicacy. Captain, we must steady her up, should the boat be turning when we shoot we may well miss our targets, or worse.” The captain looked at Sollertis, then at the wall of the orlop, he swallowed and I knew even he was concerned over the potential outcome of Sollertis’ plan.

“What’s you mean be worse, bos’n?” Everett asked.

“Nothing to fear.” The boatswain replied looking up at Rike. We all stared at the captain in silence. He looked at the floor for some time before a number of men jumped. Fox burst through the hatchway that lead to the upper deck startling the entranced men.

“They’re gettin’ close, captain!” He was sweating and out of breathe, Rike looked up at him.

“Tell Samuels to line ‘er up with ‘em, lad, and let ‘em come close, then quick as you can lad down ‘ere.” Fox went with haste as we continued to peer through the cannon holes out at the incoming Spanish vessels.

“Do you think they be chasin’ us for the Martona, cap’n?” One of the crew asked.

“Aye, lad, ‘tis most likely, though they be makin’ a foolish mistake, there be not a chance in Davey’s locker that I be givin’ up this ship.” The entire crew cheered and I remembered where I was and who I was amongst: Fearless, loyal pirates.

“Withdraw these three cannons, men, and remove the barrels from the woodwork. Hurry!” In a moment of desperation the entire crew worked together to move the three centre cannons away from their firing holes within the orlop’s starboard, in the struggle a large deckhand named Adam Liner stumbled backwards and crushed one of the fragile bamboo cannon shafts under his heavy weight. I recall expecting an enraged Sollertis to begin cursing the man however it seemed in the moment his concentration upon the present dilemma was far more important.

“Two shots it is! Thank you, Liner. Please make sure the barrels are clean, men, and then pack the powder. Not a thing must go wrong.” Sollertis rose with one of the bombs. The crew began to pack gunpowder into the two remaining bamboo cannons, whilst the cannoneers worked away the rest of us lifted the metal shafts of our regular cannons off of their woodwork and with a great struggle rested them upon the orlop’s surface.

“Be careful with them, they are extremely fragile.” Sollertis’ eyes darted back and forth between the bamboo cannons ensuring none of the cannoneers were too rough with them. The very moment the powder was packed we hastily rested them on the woodwork of our regular cannons. Sollertis sweated immensely, watching the men. He clutched his inventions tightly before placing them with utmost delicacy into the fragile bamboo shafts.

“This must be done with precision.” Sollertis glared at the cannons, he began to breathe more heavily. Sweat poured from his forehead.

“They be restin’ on our woodwork, sir.”

“Raise them, with care, for us all, with care.” As the boatswain whispered Fox once more yanked the upper deck hatchway up causing more men to flinch.

“They’re turnin’ starboard upon us, cap’n! They’re preparin’ fire!” He yelled down.

“Sollertis!” The captain glared at the boatswain.

Wait!” He snapped staring out through his spyglass. We each stood in silence with fearful anticipation, helpless in the current situation thoughts of my childhood flooded my mind and the faces of those whom I had ever held dearest throughout my life. After two heavy breathes he at last gave the command. “Fire.”

Softly he spoke and the cannons were lit. The crew cowered as the flaring sound of the ignited gunpowder combusted with the resonance of a great clap of thunder, releasing Sollertis’ bombs across the Caribbean Sea. I have heard hundreds of cannons fired in my time, yet the sound these made was like nothing I know. Through the deafening sound of the blast the splitting of the bamboo along the powder lined seams could be heard, it was the sound of life, for had those shafts not split, our vessel would have come under the same fate as those we were firing upon.

Moments after the balls released a brief moment of peace overcame the ocean. Within an instance of time which seemed to last forever the balls took free flight towards their destination. The sea was so calm that for much of their journey the two black pearls could be seen reflecting most harmlessly off of the ocean’s surface. We each stood staring in the tranquillity of the moment before two great eruptions broke the silence, and what we saw was as much disturbing as it was relieving. I had seen in practice the small scale by which the concoction Sollertis had created caused a wild explosion, yet on this scale ‘twas far more horrendous than anything I could have imagined.

As the two ships were hit it seemed their very wood work and construct were torn and split asunder, the thunderous explosion roared fire outwards from the ships’ interiors, the blast causing even the crew of Roselyn to cower so violent was the tremendous outburst. The galleons’ starboards were completely blown outwards into the consuming ocean, and before my very eyes men of the Spanish vessels became air born, tossed high up, their burning corpses splashed limply into the water below. ‘Twas almost with guilt I watched the vessel to the left of our starboard stricken so brutally it was literally torn in two before the crew’s gaze. Fire and debris rapidly covered the ocean’s surface as the horrendous blasts violently consumed all visible woodwork of the ships.

Sollertis breathed heavily and slid down the wall of the orlop onto his back without watching what his invention had done. Some of the crew drearily cheered, others simply gazed with amazement. Even Rike seemed stricken. He stared with astonishment through his spy glass at the destroyed vessels, stunned by that which he witnessed.

Looking out again into the sea I could see now the damage clearly. The flames consumed the vessel to our right, ‘twas nothing but a burning wreck, the vessel to our left was nearly sunk. The explosion seemed to have cause the galleon’s powder room to ignite, ripping the woodwork into an infinite number of pieces.

Every man bar Sollertis stood watching the galleons burn away for some time, the men onboard did not have a hope, I had never seen such damage caused by anything in all the days of my life. I dare not think of what may have been on those vessels, nor what the men on them experienced during the last moments of their time. What is done is done.

“Back to your stations, lads.” The captain at last spoke breaking the hypnosis.

“Sollertis, re-raise the mast and be showin’ the new crew folk ‘ow, we must be makin’ ‘aste away from these parts. It shall be nothin’ short o’ trouble should we take our time.” Still slouched the boatswain did not react. Rike approached him helping him up from the floor.

“‘Twas our lives or theirs, bos’n, they would not ‘ath ‘ad pity for you, matey, nor would they ‘ath appreciated your greatness.” Rike stared at Sollertis, who was stricken in a state of what was either relief or guilt. After some moments he slowly nodded and Rike padded him on the shoulder.

“Come, lads!” He shouted out, “much work to be done!”

Making my way to the upper deck, ‘twas apparent the day was becoming late, the remaining burning galleon would become a beacon in the fading light. ‘Twas vital we made our way into deeper seas as fast as the light breeze would carry us. I ensured our Jolly Roger was replaced and Sollertis made haste to raise the rear mast, he had a number of new recruits including May assist him in efforts to teach as many men on board the knowledge to do so.

Roselyn’s Jolly Roger was simply black with the face of a female painted upon it, who I had always assumed was the female whom the ship was named after, her face appeared slender and she had long cascading hair though little else was distinguishable.

On we sailed, into the unknown, towards what Sollertis had already promised the captain did not exist: The strange isle that was shown to lie in the midst of the Caribbean Sea, and the treasures that were hidden beneath its earth.

6.

 

‘Twas a peaceful night we sailed after the destruction witnessed at the hands of Sollertis. During quiet moments my mind had often strayed back to the site of those vessels, blown apart without a moments warning, nor hope. We were still sailing south at a western bearing in search of the captain’s island though I had great doubts in my mind that we would ever come across it. ‘Twas so small upon the stranger’s map, to find it would have been nothing but sheer fortune, if it did indeed exist.

As the very first strands of dawn’s light began to reflect upon the Caribbean’s surface, I recall as I sat at the ship’s starboard stroking Achilles a strangely dim, hollow sound, echoing in the wind. ‘Tis such a vivid memory for it caused Achilles to act most peculiarly, he seemed enticed as much as myself for ‘twas not the sound of the sea breeze.

“Sailor sir! There be some floatin’ wreckage it seems ‘pon the ocean!” Fox yelled out to me, pointing outwards off of the port side of the vessel. “I think there be somethin’ amongst it, sir! It looks like a body! It could be some of the wreckage from the Spanish galleons!”

“Nay, there be no chance o’ that, lad. We ‘ave come far too far from those ships for their flotsam to be ‘ere.”

‘Twas not clearly visible to the eye so dark was the sky still, though I could make a dim outline of the floating wreck from my spy glass and it did indeed appear as though some life form rested upon the woodwork.

“Samuels! Steer ‘er portside! Fox, down from the nest, matey, come ‘elp me lower ‘er sails. Bill and Adams, sort the rear mast, lads, and be quick, we’ll get a boat lowered.” ‘Twas always an exciting prospect to make a discovery. Whatever was amongst the flotsam could have been of great worth, though ‘twas nothing any one of us could have imagined.

With excited minds we lowered a vessel down to the sea on Roselyn’s portside, I approached Rike’s quarters and lightly tested his door, he had been back and forth to the deck from his chamber upon that night so I did not fear I would disturb his sleep. With but a brief time passed Rike and I made our way down to the small craft and with thanks to Samuels’ skilled steering abilities rowed out but a small way to the wreckage which rested mysteriously in the midst of the Caribbean.

The light was still incredibly dim though ‘twas enough by now to see with ease by candlelight. As we approached an eerie silence came about the sea. Slowly we washed up by the waterlogged wreckage.

“What be that stench!” I nearly hurled for an odour unlike anything I had smelt struck my nose. Rike himself immediately barfed into the ocean, and slouching back in the small boat released a flurry of coughs.

“What do you see, ‘arvey?” The captain whispered to me covering his mouth and nose. I glared over the wood and ruined sails. Suddenly I noticed something alarming resting upon a piece of the wreckages woodwork, ‘twas a hand, though it led under a mass of wet sails.

“There be a body, sir, it must be a corpse for the smell be terrible.” The captain huffed quietly and seemed to think for a moment “See if it be alive, ‘arvey, no corpse I ‘ath ever smelt be none like that.” I paused at the thought. As my hesitance became apparent the captain whispered to me with a humorous tone to his voice, “don’t be a coward.” By now he had pulled his entire grey coat over his face to fend off the wretched smell in the air, shaking my head I stood up on the small boat.

“Try to get a bit closer, cap’n.” The craft came to a halt as the captain guided her into the wooden spoils. The oceans were deathly calm, not a sound could be heard other than the waves softly washing up against Roselyn and our small vessel. I leaned out of the boat, resting on the wreckage’s woodwork and reached over at the hand with the handle of my paddle. I am sure I was nearly shocked to death at that moment for upon contact with the hand the body sprang up and the hand snapped my paddle as though it were nothing more than a twig.

I yelled out nearly falling from the boat though the captain steadied my balance, quickly realising the body which I had stirred was in just as much shock as myself. Rike appeared quite un-startled, he had drawn his rapier with incredible haste but sat slouched in the back of the small vessel clearly more concerned about blocking the stench in the air than the potential hostility of the stranger found.

With a swift recovery the body removed the sails that were layered upon it. He lifted the hand that had split my paddle in two to block the glow of the candle. The light seemed to reflect off of his glazed eyes in a most peculiar fashion. ‘Twas not until he focused upon Captain Rike that I noticed the entirety of his eye had been black for the brief moment before they adjusted to the brightness, I saw his pupils shrink to the size of a normal mans.

“Do you know where I be?” The male asked hesitantly, his voice was deep and rough. It sounded erratic, his eyes were covered in deep rings of red appearing as though he had not slept for weeks. The stranger looked to be middle aged, his skin appeared youthful and his hair was a deep shade of light brown. Still startled I held the candlelight up to get a good view of the man. He winced and covered his face from the light with his hand. Something was smeared in his beard and around his mouth.

“You’re in the midst o’ the North sea, lad.” Captain Rike spoke to the stranger who looked at us both through his hands then beyond us towards Roselyn.

“Bastards,” he whispered. “Is that your vessel?”

“Aye.” The captain nodded.

“She be a beauty.”

“‘ow did you come to be like this, matey?” I asked the male, still stricken by what he had done to my oar.

“Mi crew mutinied against me. I know these seas as good as any man alive though I know not ‘ow many days I been floatin’ nor where I be.”

“‘ow ‘ave you not frozen to death, lad? Floatin’ in seas cold as this?” The captain seemed genuinely concerned for the young man’s health, though it was in his nature to be so.

“I know not.” The young man stared at us, his face barely visible in the darkness, a sorry look it was until the captain made a decision.

“Come aboard with us for the moment, lad, we’ll get you to some dry land, do you ‘ave a name?”

“Aye, ‘tis Cap’n Lupino, owner of She, though as I’ve been sayin’, I were turned ‘pon by mi own.” My captain glared at the male, I doubted myself that such a young man would be a captain of a vessel of any worth, however the stranger was in no position to gain anything from lying so we allowed the matter rest whilst we learned more about him.

“Come, we shall get you some food and cover, floatin’ ‘bout alone in the midst o’ the sea ‘aint no place for a man.” Lupino nodded and I helped him aboard, he smelt terrible, the odour was like nothing I had ever smelt, his grip too nearly crushed my hand as he hauled himself up from the wreckage, I assumed it at the time to be merely the cold of the sea. “So where do you come from, cap’n?” Rike sounded so uninterested in his own question I recall being surprised the man actually answered.

“It be, a small place in the Caribbean,” he said with hesitance, “I know little of it, for I never knew mi parents, and was away from it long before I can recall much.”

Day light was coming along quickly, the air was still warm and the seas remained calm. Returning to the upper deck of Roselyn, the pulleys raised our small boat level with her gangway. As it came level Achilles came rushing at us, with ferocity he lunged at the stranger barking and snarling. ‘Twas only due to Captain Rike’s restraint that the beast did not rip the man apart, I had never in all my time seen the animal behave in such a manner.

“Down with you!” The captain yelled out before laughing lightly, “welcome aboard.” Rike struggled with Achilles for some time dragging him away to his chamber for the safety of our guest, the dog was rabid, ferociously gnarling and lunging at the male as though it was desperate to end his life. The crew helped us in coming aboard and as Lupino stepped out from the small boat I noticed something most irregular about how he stood and walked. He stood hunched over and kept his arms held at the same angles as he moved, ‘twas almost as though he was not comfortable simply walking.

“Are you alright, matey?” I queried the man, feeling somewhat disturbed by how strangely he held his posture.

“Aye,” he replied, again with hesitance, “the cold of the sea ‘as gotten to me.” He looked wearily about the crew as we returned the small boat to the centre of the vessel’s gangways, upon securing it Rike returned from his quarters.

The light was slowly coming about the Caribbean and pirates would soon begin coming up from beneath the orlop to begin their patrols allowing the night watchers to rest. Rike appeared excited by the discovery of the stray sea captain and was quick to familiarise him with his ship.

“Sollertis, will you show our guest ‘bout the vessel, get ‘im some food and be sure ‘e be welcome. ‘is name be Lupino, ‘e be a cap’n so treat ‘im as one.” Rike nodded at Sollertis and the two went towards the orlop hatch.

“What of questionin’ ‘im ‘bout the galleons, cap’n?” I spoke quietly.

“‘is voice be none at all like that o’ their kind, lad. But worry not, I’ll be keepin’ a keen eye upon ‘im.” The captain winked at me reassuringly, so, with little else required of me and with the crew awakening from slumber I made my way down beneath the orlop to get some rest.

It had been a bleak few days and my mind was troubled with miserable thoughts and memories, ‘twas with great pleasure I took to deep sleep in hopes I would not be disturbed by any more melancholy.

‘Twas the midst of the day by the time I came too, the heat and sweat of the lower decks never allowed you a long rest. As I made my way up towards the orlop it seemed awfully quiet, there were few pirates around. Forcing my way up onto Roselyn’s gangways the heat of the day and light breeze of the sea rushed all upon me, ‘twas indeed fine. A large group of the crew were gathered near the captain’s quarters on the starboard of the ship. I quickly realised they were surrounding Lupino who sat now dry in a loose white shirt and black breeches. I recall the crew’s amazement as the stray captain stimulated excitement in them, though as I approached they were broken up by Rike who ordered the men to their posts. In his hand was the sea map he had attained in Port Royal.

“Lupino, come lad.” The man stood. He was of no significant physical stature, so too was it clear just how young he appeared, as a result I had my suspicions of the man’s words. The stray captain nodded at me, his facial hair and hair upon his head were most unusual, for they were the same length and appeared completely similar, as though it were the fur of an animal. I immediately noticed one of his eyes was a deep brown, whilst the other was a pale blue, almost as capturing as the eyes of Achilles, he too held a constantly relaxed facial expression, as though it were forcefully put upon his face. I had only once in his time amongst my crew’s company seen him appear shaken, and ‘twas in reflection for a most unusual reason. He was indeed a unique individual and the events that would go on to surround him put my mind in a state of complete confusion and wonder.

I walked with the men along Roselyn’s gangways. Rike showed the stranger his map. “You say you know the North as good as any who ‘as ever lived, Lupino. Do you know o’ this isle?” The stranger took the map and looked over it, with a glance of amazement he focused on Rike’s island, he hesitated then slumped down upon a barrel.

“That be the cursed isle o’ Jones ‘imself, cap’n.” Rike released a burst of husky laughter, heard often amongst the crew of Roselyn when something of a ridiculous nature amused him.

“Your words o’ superstition shall be pullin’ no man’s leg upon this ship, lad. Come, ‘ave you seen sight o’ such a thing before?”

“I kid you not, cap’n. I ‘ave ‘eard stories o’ this isle, ‘tis said that there be things upon it that no man could make up. ‘Tis said that the dead walk the isle, lost souls who ‘ave escaped the locker o’ Davey Jones. Where did you get this map, cap’n?” Lupino stared at Rike with a grave look upon his unmarked face.

“‘Twas from a beggar in Port Royal lad.” Lupino appeared to think to himself briefly.

“Did ‘e appear to ‘ave any odd features?” Rike looked at me before nodding.

“Aye ‘is fingers ‘ad been chopped ‘alf off.”

“And ‘e ‘ad no teeth.” I butted in. Lupino stared at the map for some time, then rested his head in his hand before he spoke up.

“‘Tis by no chance that you should come across me upon the ocean with this map, cap’n. This isle be the land o’ mi birth. I thought I would never find a map o’ it for all the stories I ‘ave been told.”

“You said you knew not o’ your birth ‘ome, lad.”

“Aye,” The hesitance that the man frequently fell into put further suspicions in my mind about the reliability of his words. “Indeed I ‘ave never been amongst it. Though many a story of it I ‘ave ‘eard. An isle in the midst o’ the North Sea. A place where the shadow o’ death lingers, but can’t engulf. Where Davey Jones can’t reach. A place where lost souls walk, and beasts that you couldn’t dream o’ lurk in the fogs o’ decay.” Rike quietly laughed once more however Lupino was not amused.

“Sounds like a fine story, one that I hope you shall be sharin’ with mi men, but this be no laughin’ matter, mi bos’n insists that no such isle exists.”

“‘Tis said that only the cursed and their company may come across the isle, cap’n. I ‘ave ‘eard stories o’ great treasure upon the isle, gold more valuable than any man could fathom, treasures that can keep the curse o’ Davey Jones from corruptin’ ‘im for all o’ time.” I could see that even Captain Rike was becoming enticed by stories such as these. He had never been one to believe in fables of the sea, but these mentions of such relics were clearly blinding him.

“Come,” Lupino went on, “show me where you ‘ave come thus far, I will try to bear you in the necessary direction.”

I accompanied Rike and Lupino to the captain’s quarters, he had Sollertis take Achilles below deck for the dog would not let up its hostility towards the stranger. The stray captain had since my nap washed himself down of the foul odour which he perspired yet still smelt most peculiar, ‘twas not the smell of a normal man.

As the day grew on we remained in Rike’s chamber continually studying both the captain’s treasure map and the one he used for navigating the Caribbean Sea, ‘twas for many hours we made efforts to pin point our direct position upon the treasure map though to little avail. Later in the day both Sollertis and Arnold May joined us in the effort as we came to a rough conclusion upon a serious guess at just where to navigate the captain’s beauty.

With dusk sweeping across the ocean we departed from Rike’s quarters to inspect the ship and crew. “Where be Achilles, Sollertis?” The captain asked.

“I left him beneath the orlop with Austin and Everett, captain, I knew how he would react to our guest.” The captain nodded his head a number of times.

“Would you mind fetchin’ ‘im for me?”

“Not a problem.” Sollertis went on his way, momentarily afterwards May left us, retiring beneath the orlop to rest.

“There be little space left beneath the orlop, Lupino lad, though I be sure ‘arvey ‘ere will find you a place of privacy should you seek it.”

“I thank you, cap’n, most kind. However,” he paused, “there be something odd about ‘ow I sleep upon ship, I know not if I be cursed or be dreamin’ but for your crew’s safety I suggest you lock me away during the hours o’ mi rest.” Again Rike laughed at the man’s words.

“You’re full o’ amusing tale’s, Lupino, an interesting character indeed. If you truly wish it be so then allow mi first mate to lock you away.” The captain turned about shaking his head and returned to his quarters, leaving me to take Lupino beneath deck in efforts to find a room with space enough for the man to sleep within.

‘Twas upon the orlop deck where my own quarters were found, next to Sollertis’, however I seldom slept there. At the far side of the orlop was Davey’s old chamber, no longer used by any man. Within the chamber ‘twas most peculiar, ‘twas bare but for a wooden shelf which the giant had evidently used as a bed for marks where his great brown coat had been laid upon stained the haggard woodwork. On the far wall were also engraved five words:

 

Into the darkness I stride

 

I shivered as I read them. I am sure no man alive has seen the sorrows Damien Rones has experienced, I could only image the event that preceded the etching of these words. ‘Twas likely the giant had believed his time was up.

The doors of the chambers upon the orlop had been fitted with a number of circular steel frames through which chains could be thread. The purpose was in the case we should be holding prisoners of any significance, I had not in all my time upon Roselyn been required to lock someone away as I did with Lupino, however ‘twas at his own wishes.

“Be sure it’s secure, Sailor.” We nodded at each other and Lupino went into Davey’s chamber. I secured the door with a number of chains and locks and put little thought on the matter for the captain seemed to speak so much it was difficult to part truth from lies.

Once the locks were fastened I departed from the orlop, I went beneath in efforts to sleep for the few hours I had previously taken had done little to settle me. The night that lay ahead of me on that evening would truly be one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. I had never once had a fear of the unnatural until Roselyn’s journey was to cross ways with the stray captain, events that persisted after our uniting with the man I would rather have no memory of.

I cannot be sure of what hour I was awoken from slumber that night. ‘Twas with an eruption of calls from my crewmates I was brought to consciousness. “Sailor sir! It be Lupino! ‘e be locked away wi’ the cap’n’s beast!”

“It be tearin’ ‘im ‘part, sir! Quick ‘fore there be a thing left o’ ‘im!”

It took me some time to fully stir from slumber and admittedly I thought I was within a dream. As I sat up near half the crew surrounded me with looks of fear stricken upon their faces. “You’re sure?” I asked, still half asleep.

“Aye, sir! The beast be nowhere in sight, you can ‘ear ‘im inside the room!” After a moments more hesitance I rolled down from my hammock and slowly made my way up the ladder towards the hatchway that led to the orlop. Softly, I pushed the heavy board upwards and looked across the orlop deck towards Lupino’s door. Most abruptly an almighty bang caused the door and the chains that held it secure to erupt, flailing all about the door scarcely held in place. I immediately ducked back into the resting chamber and looked over to the crew who stared at me with horror.

“Whad’ you see, sir?” Bill whispered to me poised in his hammock as if ready to defend himself.

“You’re sure it be Achilles, lads? The capt’n ordered Sollertis fetch ‘im earlier.”

“I ‘as, aint see’s ‘im, sir. I was sleepin’ ‘neath ‘ere all the time.” Liner was a mess, he was not the sharpest of men on deck and his face looked as confused as it was scared. His unkempt beard was dripping with some kind of liquor. He stood swaying, resting a hand on his bald head.

“Liner, ‘ave you been drinkin’ again?” Austin stood staring at the man and as I shook my head every man I could see suddenly flinched for another great crash shook the door in the orlop.

“What else could it be, cap’n? Err, Sailor sir?” Liner slurred before falling face first into a hammock, probably unconscious.

“Davey’d of already ripped the door off and been done wi’ it, sir.” These words were enough to make me feel ridiculous. I took one deep breath to steady my nerves and jumped up into the orlop though immediately froze in fear as I heard deep growls coming from within the room.

“Lupino?” I yelled out. Other pirates rushed up through the hatchway joining me within the orlop.

“Let ‘im free, sir! ‘e’ll surely be dead otherwise!”

“Nay, sir! The beast will eat us all now ‘e ‘ath tasted one o’ us!”

As I listened, the sounds coming from within Davey’s chamber were most disturbing. Growls and gnarling mixed with strange whimpers and screams. It’s true I recall thinking, our guest was being mauled to death by Achilles. Austin brought me the keys from my chamber to unlock the great locks that imprisoned the stranger yet I simply could not bring myself to release the chains. A man’s imagination is as much his worst enemy as it can be his most valuable asset, and at that very moment I was unable to act through fear of the dog having tasted blood.

“Let ‘im out, sir!” Reid pleaded, however I was stricken by an endless number of dilemmas in that moment should I have opened the door. At the time it was for fear that we would have had no other choice than to have slain the captain’s beloved companion. The beast could have broken free and no man knew its true strength, it could have been the death of us all. In reflection, I truly know not what would have occurred should I have unlocked the door on that night, though I am quite certain the sight we pirates of Roselyn would have beheld would have haunted us to our graves.

7.

 

‘Twas not long before the feral sounds within Davey’s room resided that we returned to rest. I struggled to sleep that night for such a feeling of guilt engulfed me, in my time I have taken men’s lives and sat beside friends as they passed away in the grimmest of ways, the thought however of imprisoning a man with a wild beast that had taken his life made my stomach churn. As first light came upon the Caribbean I rose to the upper deck of Roselyn, all was quiet, Fox stood upon the crow’s nest and Samuel’s sat at the steering post. The majority of other pirates remained beneath the orlop for the hour was young and little was required of them.

In the quiet of the morning I made my way to captain Rike’s chamber, if Achilles had tasted blood then he might have been the only man onboard who could bring about calmness in the beast. I stood for some moments outside his door before knocking lightly on the woodwork. From within the room I heard claws scraping at the door. Rike acknowledged my entry. Pulling open the woodwork Achilles forced his head through the slight gap and startled me barking loudly before pushing the doorway wide open making his way out onto the deck.

“Be there a problem, ‘arvey?” The captain asked looking over his map of the Caribbean.

“Achilles ‘as been in your chamber all night, cap’n?”

“Aye, lad, I kept ‘im in for ‘e ‘ath been awful unsettled ‘round our guest.” Un-alarmed, the captain leant over the map to measure something.

“Cap’n, I thought your dog ‘ad been locked away with our guest last night, for it seemed and sounded as though ‘e were bein’ eaten alive.” The captain looked up at me at this moment with a most peculiar look on his face.

“Were you dreamin’, lad?”

“Nay, I be sure ‘twas occurrin’, cap’n. I be sure.” In the midst of the moment I questioned myself, the event simply did not make any sense.

“Come, let us see what ‘ath become o’ our guest.” Somewhat hesitant I followed the captain down to the orlop deck, the chains and the door of Davey’s room looked undisturbed yet I quickly became aware ‘twas not a dream for a mass of Roselyn’s crew had also gathered on the orlop deck.

“Beware, cap’n, your beast be inside!”

“‘e ate Lupino, sir! We ‘eard the screams.”

“Achilles be upstairs, lads, ‘e ‘ath all night. Calm yourselves down and back away from the door.” The men parted and Rike stepped forward with the keys to the locks.

“Lupino?” He called, banging upon the door heavily. With no reply the captain rapidly began unlocking each of the locks that held the chains secure. As they came apart one after the other the crew fell silent, finally the chains fell from between the metal frames crashing to the floor with a clunk.

A hand immediately forced the door open, I was as shocked as any man with whom I stood as Lupino’s face appeared, he looked as though he had experienced the finest sleep of his time, he smiled at us and nodded at Captain Rike who began to laugh to himself.

“Sailor, keep the cap’n company. I wouldn’t want no ‘arm to come of ‘im.” Rike padded me on the shoulder smiling and made his way between the crew back up to Roselyn’s gangways. We stood staring at Lupino, some of the deckhands whispered amongst themselves, others hastily made their way to other areas of the vessel.

“Sailor,” the man smiled, nodding, “I thank you for comin’ out to me upon your boat, I was surely a dead man wi’out the ‘elp of you and your cap’n.” We made our way up to Roselyn’s upper deck as we spoke.

“‘Twas not a problem, Lupino, no man should be left abandoned at sea. Tell me though, for what reason is it that you wish to be locked away at night, matey?”

“I, ‘tis ‘ard to explain, ever since I were a young lad I ‘ave ‘ad trouble with mi sleep. Sometimes the dreams be bleak, I often wake up in places I ‘ave not seen nor know of, ‘tis per’aps for this reason that mi crew mutinied. Fear, I suspect… And too, why Jones struck me down to the seas.”

“What do you mean, matey, when you say that Jones struck you down?” The moment I finished speaking, as though he was waiting for me to ask the question, the captain took a deep breath and rested himself upon a paddle ship in the midst of Roselyn’s upper deck.

“‘Twas a thunderous night mi crew turned upon me, I know not ‘ow many moons ago, though it were a storm like none I ‘ave seen, the lightning lashed out in the skies and me crew feared for the worst. I knew the crew were whisperin’ about me for they ‘ad ‘eard mi nightmares, though they did not approach me for they feared me. Upon that night, we rushed to get the water clear o’ our decks, in the commotion I took a mighty fall upon the deck’s slippery surface almost splittin’ me ‘ead apart upon the ships woodwork. In a most dazed state I saw mi crew rush to me, mi own first mate, ‘e dragged me with the crew each drawin’ their rapiers upon me and the bastards lowered the plank yellin’ out you walk you cursed bastard!” The male made great hand gestures as he told his story and his expressions changed with near each word he spoke, his loud charismatic voice had gathered a large number of the crew to where he rested, even Sollertis stood by my side listening to him.

“I stood to mi feet, with a struggle, for I were still in a bad state for the fall I ‘ad suffered. ‘ad I been approached in a state none like that, I would ‘ave butchered ‘em all for their disloyalty, yet as I made my efforts, with great trouble, forty men, with forty rapiers pointin’ at me, I knew there were no ‘ope. Mi first mate, with a great smirk on ‘is bastard face threw me ‘is rapier. ‘Twas the very moment I recall clutchin’ at the blade that I were stricken by Jones, a light brighter than the sun come upon me, ‘twas a strike o’ lightnin’, the sensation were most peculiar, for in a brief moment of seein’ n’out but white, I were halfway to falling down into the darkness o’ the North Sea. SPLASH!” Lupino slammed his fist into his open hand and the crowd became enticed by his words.

“Into the ocean I fell, down beneath its turbulent surface, down deep into the darkness, with n’out on me but the rapier which I ‘ad managed to keep a clutch upon despite bein’ stricken down to mi death by Davey Jones. I know not ‘ow many leagues under the sea I ‘ad sank before something most terrifyin’ occurred, a sound louder than thunder an’ cannon fire. It called out across the entire ocean I be sure, and upon the verge o’ death, I took one last gaze out as mi conscience faded away. Before mi very eyes, I kid you not, some enormous tentacle the size o’ an entire vessel thrust through the darkness o’ the water graspin’ me an’ draggin’ me down further beneath the North. Wi’ what were left o’ me last breath I ‘acked and slashed away wi’ mi rapier, cuttin’ and woundin’ the tentacle o’ the beast as it dragged me through the water. ‘Twas as I reached the deepest depths o’ the sea, and the entirety o’ the beast become alas visible to mi eye, that I could look upon the ‘orror that I feared would be me death!” Completely captivated, near enough the entire crew had gathered around the stray captain to listen to his tale.

“‘Twas n’out other than Jones’ kraken itself, its wounded tentacle draggin’ me in wi’ a vile eagerness to its gapin’ beak, it roared once more and the entire sea become as warm as the sun on your bare chest. Wi’ a new found spur for life I took one last mighty swing at the monsters tentacle, the blade cut clean through its bastard skin and at once I were free. Down to the depths I swam, to where no man ‘ad been, the bastard were consumin’ all things that were livin’ or dead. Suddenly, all upon me rushed many a tentacle” the stranger glared at us all with focused eyes. “Out from the darkness they thrust! Ten o’ ‘em at least, though I managed to evade ‘em all wi’ swift movements, I pushed onwards to the great demons beak, and as ‘e were feastin’ ‘pon beasts unknown I saw its beatin’ ‘eart pumpin’ away under its thick purple skin. Wi’ vigour I swam amongst its lashin’ tentacles, ‘twas wi’ many a great effort I evaded its finest attacks upon me ‘til alas, there, before me, its life source thrust away, beatin’, beatin’ louder than the most colossal drum you could imagine. Wi’ a great roar I thrust me rapier deep into its ‘eart, deep into the ‘eart o’ the beast that might o’ devoured me ‘ad I much longer given it the chance. Twice Jones ‘ad tried to claim me, yet twice I ‘ave avoided ‘is clutch, I fear ‘e will not stop until I’m a dead man, trapped in ‘is locker for all o’ time.” With the audience enthralled Lupino lowered his arms and stared at the crew.

“‘ow did you survive?” A most immediate response called out as the captain came to his conclusion. For the time the stranger had spoke Sollertis had stood with his chin in his hand, seemingly making conclusions over the stray man’s story with each turn of his tale, and with no words needed to be said I could tell by his single raised eyebrow that he thought it was most ridiculous.

Sometime between the start of Lupino’s story and the end Rike had come from his chamber, and until the very latter stages of its entertainment I had not noticed his presence. As I turned about and acknowledged him he made a gesture at me and we left the crew to the captain’s explanation as to how he survived sinking to the very depths of the Caribbean Sea.

Together we retreated down into the orlop deck; from there we entered Rones’ room to investigate what occurrences had caused such trouble the previous night. We stood upon the orlop and within a brief moment he forced open the door. Within caused as eerie a reaction as it caused confusion, for all upon the walls were rapier scars, numerous in more ways than a man could imagine, as though it was a lifetimes work, yet I knew it was not so for I had seen the state the room the quartermaster had left it in and any such damages to the vessel were fresh.

“What be this, Sailor?” The captain asked me, scraping his rapier along the walls of the small room.

“Seems as though our guest be ‘avin’ trouble with ‘is sleep, cap’n.”

“These words, lad, what be these words.” He drew his rapier over the words of Damien Rones and I knew not what to say.

“Those were etched before the stray cap’n came to be amongst our crew, cap’n.” For some time Rike was silent, he drew his blade lightly all across the walls. ‘Twas most chilling to be within the room for fresh carvings lined the woodwork, it seemed as though a mad man had been let loose for the walls had been ravaged by hacks and slashes. Rike looked once more at the etched words then at me in a most irregular fashion and as we both stood without answer, he made the same expression he had when Davey had announced he was leaving the crew.

“Were it shock or ‘orror, cap’n?” I did not have to mention names nor anything else, for I knew what was on the captain’s mind. He took a moment then sat upon the woodwork that Davey had used as a bed, he spoke quietly and slowly.

“I saw that light, ‘arvey. The light that Davey spoke of, I saw ‘im kneelin’ in it. I thought it were a trick o’ the mind for the stern were alight with fire, but it were real.” The captain rested his head in his hand for a moment. “I called out to ‘im, but ‘e were entranced. I ‘ath not seen such a thing in all mi days alive, light in the midst o’ the darkness, ‘twas for me own mistakes it ‘appened to ‘im too.”

“‘ow so?” I looked at the man with a puzzled stare.

“After Davey rushed over the plank to the Martona and the rest of the crew followed, I made mi own way to the chamber upon the vessel that were identically positioned as mi own in search of the crew’s cap’n. I ‘oped I would find the coward there, yet it were a trap, for four of the Martona’s crew rushed upon me within the room and I were assaulted.

Amidst a struggle I ended up pinned in a corner of the room upon mi knees, though within the room were a stairwell, and comin’ up from beneath I ‘eard screams o’ pain, ‘orrifyin’ moans o’ agony and sufferin’, and too the bloodthirsty roars o’ Rones. You ‘ear that? I ‘uffed with a bloody mouth at the fear ridden scum. You stupid bastards ‘ath no clue, do you?

Up from the stairwell Rones come, ‘is face were grizzly with blood and the mere sight o’ the man were enough to cause one o’ the cowards to drop ‘is rapier and flee the quarters. Somethin’ were up with ‘im, upon ‘is face were a look of such rage, such disgust and bloodlust that I felt sorry for the bastards upon whom ‘e ‘ad come across.

One man were killed by mi self in the distraction, the other two by Rones, and in such a foul fashion I ‘ath tried not to rest thoughts upon it. ‘e dropped ‘is own rapier upon killin’ the first man, for the second ‘ad forced ‘is own weapon into ‘is upper arm. ‘e grabbed the man and with no remorse caved ‘is skull in upon the woodwork within the room, over and over again, crashin’ ‘is ‘ead into the wall o’ the room with the dead man’s rapier still in ‘is arm. ‘e be dead Davey I yelled, the cap’n must be ‘idin’ beneath, or ‘e ‘ath run to the beak o’ the vessel.

‘e picked ‘is rapier up and crashed through the doors o’ the quarter’s without sayin’ a word. In a daze I slowly made mi own way out o’ the room, as I near fell out o’ the door Achilles rushed upon me and ‘elped me up. We made our way to the ‘elm o’ the ship and ‘twas at this moment, as you must recall, two more cannons were fired, and the stern become ablaze. ‘Twas not long after this I saw Rones kneelin’ upon the beak with light all upon ‘im.”

We sat for some moments in silence, it seemed Rike was reflecting on his memories so I remained quiet whilst he reminisced. Without a word said Rike stood and signalled we leave the room to return to the upper deck of Roselyn. As we made our way towards the orlop hatchway a sudden eruption of shouting and calling sounded out above us and we rushed through the hatch towards the ship’s gangway. With Rike upon deck and me still climbing the ladder we looked over to the commotion as it came to its conclusion. Sollertis was running towards May and Collins as the primary mast came crashing down upon Roselyn’s top deck, her ropes and hinges had been incorrectly secured by the novice crewmen.

“Stand clear!” Sollertis yelled for the mast weighed more than enough to crush a man, in the chaos the mast came tumbling down, its dismantled beams would have torn a great hole into Roselyn’s upper deck had it collided with the woodwork however the impact was avoided as the folding beams collided instead with Lupino’s upper body. He yelled out as the mast crashed into him felling him to his knees, yet he cupped the parts of the enormous structures in his arms, clearly uninjured, and with a struggle lowered them to the deck. As surprised as I can recall being, ‘twas more surprising to see that the sight of this caused Rike to pull his rapier upon the man, and with steel drawn, almost immediately, every one of his crew too pulled their weapons pointing them at Lupino.

What are you?” The captain encroached upon the man as he rested the enormous collapsed mast safely onto the deck’s woodwork and raised his arms.

“I be no different to you, cap’n, please, I don’t understand.” Lupino kneeled on the spot staring at Rike.

“You should be crushed, lad, and mi walls in the orlop, what’s your problem?”

“It be the nightmares, cap’n, I can’t control them, I ‘ave done no ‘arm to anyone, I ‘ave nothin’ but gratitude for you takin’ me in.” For some time Rike stood with his rapier held to the man whose face remained most calm looking, the captain was clearly thinking of a solution and after some moments he spoke.

“Sailor, take ‘im back to the orlop and lock ‘im away. Somethin’ aint right ‘ere, you’ve got some explainin’ to do, lad, if you do not wish to be cast back out into the seas.” With no more said, and with no objection from Lupino I escorted him back towards Davey’s room. He did not try to resist nor was it necessary for us to restrain him, despite the fact that Rike had as good as informed him he was now a prisoner. ‘Twas possibly the most unbelievable thing I have witnessed in my time, ‘twas simply not possible for a man to have survived Roselyn’s primary mast falling upon him from such a height.

I sat for some time with Lupino in Davey’s room, for despite the fact that the few words I had heard him speak could not have possibly been true, he had indeed done nobody any harm aboard the vessel, nor did I fear that he had any intention of doing me any.

“I cannot ‘elp ‘ow I be, Sailor, it were instinct to stop the mast from smashin’ ‘er woodwork. What ‘appened ‘appened.” Lupino rested his elbows upon his knees and looking down sounded most sorry for himself.

“Look around you, matey, what you ‘ave done be needin’ an explanation, ‘tis not natural. I shall inform the cap’n you wish to speak to ‘im.” Standing up I exchanged nods with the stray captain and made haste to speak to Rike. Entering his chamber he was already accompanied by Sollertis, I joined them as Rike questioned me about Lupino.

“What did the bastard say, ‘arvey?” For the first time in a long time the captain did not seem distanced from reality, he had great focus in his eye nor had I seen him consuming mead since we had left Port Royal, our stay must have done him a great good.

“‘e said only that which ‘e already said to yourself, cap’n. ‘e be ‘ow ‘e be, ‘an ‘e cannot ‘elp it otherwise.” As I sat Rike’s gaze moved from my eyes to Sollertis’ who spoke himself.

“A man who is pert enough to come aboard a vessel and tell ridiculous tales to a crew of strangers is either a scheming bastard, or a natural entertainer unable to help himself. I have heard similar stories to the one he told, though I have never heard anyone stupid enough to tell it as though it were truth, nor, until this day, anyone stupid enough to believe it as a truth.” His face lightened up and Rike quietly laughed at the boatswain.

“‘e wishes to speak to you, cap’n.” I interrupted, and with a nod from the captain I made my way with haste between Davey’s room and back to the captain’s quarters escorting our guest. Within the room, with Sollertis still present, Rike had us both sit and we began an effort to discover what we could about the strange male.

“So you don’t know what your problem be, matey? This is the truth?” Rike fixed his glare upon Lupino, not a moment passed throughout our duration within the chamber that his eyes rested anywhere else.

“I ‘ave been this way since I ‘ave ‘ad memory, cap’n, I cannot apologise for it, for I cannot change it. If you wish to cast me out of your crew then I accept your decision without quarrel.”

“What of the mast, lad? You should be a dead man, but look at you, not a trouble.”

“I know not, cap’n, ‘twas not as ‘eavy as you make it out to be.” Rike rested his broad chin in his hand addressing Sollertis without breaking eye contact with Lupino.

“What do you make of it, bos’n?”

“I am quite stuck for words as to how you are not dead. My only explanation is that some of the men still had a grip upon the ropes supporting the mast, though I have since spoken to them and they insist the woodwork fell upon you on its own weight. As for your fables, captain, it would be more favourable for the crew if you were not so persistent in filling their minds with that most ridiculous imagery.”

“Sollertis, be that jealousy I feel in the air?” Rike laughed quietly once more.

“I have my own imagination at least, reciting a seafarer’s version of Beowulf, though excluding the part where you die after your heroic feat, is hardly impressive.”

“Per’aps, but catchin’ a fallin’ mast be indeed. Lupino lad, if you take us to our island, you say be your ‘omeland, we will not abandon you at sea, and you can go your own way once we ‘ath anchored. Wat do you say, cap’n?” Without hesitance the young male nodded repeatedly at Rike. “Take ‘im back to ‘is room and lock ‘im up, Sailor.”

“Cap’n?” I hastily retorted, somewhat confused by Rikes words.

“The crew be sayin’ ‘e be a demon, lad, we’ll ‘ave to make it seem as though you’re a prisoner for what they ‘ath seen. Sailor be sure ‘e be kept fed and well, and any more sounds that come upon the night, be sure to give a good explanation. We shall meet within mi quarters upon noon of each day to see ‘ow far we ‘ath come, and ‘ow far we must go.”

Over the following weeks and days I would escort Lupino to and from the captain’s chamber. He remained locked within Rones’ quarters for the times he was not within Rike’s, a bleak existence for any man to endure. The doors to his chamber were secured each night and no man was allowed within the cannon quarters of the vessel during those hours. The majority of the nights that past there was nothing but silence, though others the stray captain’s night terrors would haunt him and cause the crew to whisper his name amongst the gangways of the vessel. ‘Twas the strangest of times I can ever recall.

Despite being treated as a prisoner, the thought of freedom upon reaching his home appeared to keep Lupino focused upon reaching our goal: Finding the isle of Davey Jones and discovering untold wealth in its mysterious treasures, though what we would come across on its mysterious land was to be far more unexplainable than the treasures we were promised we would uncover.

8.

 

As the time passed us by doubts of the existence of the captain’s hidden isle grew greater. We had been at a constant sailing south at a western bearing, keeping as accurately on course as the poorly illustrated map allowed us. It was with great fortune that we had not been pursued by further Spanish vessels upon our voyage for what was left of Sollertis’ inventions he had insisted were useless to us without the use of a bamboo cannon shaft. With such a great focus upon our destination and with such grief seen within the past weeks of our lives no man aboard ship had the spirit nor the heart to endeavour another death plagued encounter.

No man could have predicted what we were to come across in the following days of our voyage, ‘twas most abruptly that the stranger’s hidden isle came upon us, as surprised and stricken as we each were at its very existence. ‘Twas in the midst of the day that, almost identically to that which had occurred before we succeeded in plundering the Martona, and making the event somewhat more sinister and eerier than it had been before, mists began to line the ocean’s surface. This time the crew reacted not just with suspicion but with terror.

“Sailor sir, please, let us turn back before it be too late!”

“There be more fog ‘pon the ocean, first mate! This aint natural, sir! We should never ‘ave left the ports o’ Royal.”

Seeing the seas stir as they did was enough to put a man on edge, however being surrounded by a crew of men on edge speaking their mind is enough to generate mass paranoia.

“Sollertis,” I called over to the boatswain who was sat at his chessboard focused intently upon defeating his opponent. He looked once at me then once out towards the ocean, yet this time he did not become angered by the crew’s suspicions, he stood up and approached me.

“They have just began to rise, Harvey?” He asked running his hand over his unshaved chin.

“Aye, bos’n, the crew ‘ave just noticed.” Sollertis stared all about the ship and then up into the sky.

“I have not seen residue upon the ocean in such conditions, a peculiar anomaly indeed. Still, it is merely a fog, Harvey, I have no explanation for its source however nature can be quite surprising.” He turned to walk back to his chessboard board but I reached out my arm to grasp his sleeve.

“So there be nothing to fear?” He looked back at me and raising an eyebrow shook his head repeatedly. The commotion had caused Rike to come from his quarters and masses of pirates to come up from the orlop to look upon the mist which had within the brief instance become thick enough to block out the sun.

“Sailor, be sure the crew be lookin’ out for all signs o’ danger. Bastard fogs be an ‘assle in these seas. Sollertis, wadd’ye make o’ this.” Having just retaken his seat the boatswain stood up with a look of frustration upon his face.

“It is a fog upon the sea’s surface, Rike, there is little else to it.”

“These mists be cursed, cap’n! They be followin’ us ‘pon the sea!” Liner burst in yet was ignored by both men.

“You recon we should sale ‘er through? Or take another route?”

“Straight ahead, captain, we are in deep seas there is nothing we could possibly collide with unless another ship has happened to become lost in the very same fog.” As though the sea itself was waiting for Sollertis to finish speaking before it revealed its secrets, suddenly from the crow’s nest Fox’s voice rang out.

“Land ahoy! Sailor matey, if Samuels don’t drop anchor we’ll collide with the land!”

In an eruption of excitement and surprise the crew moved to the portside of the ship to look over in the direction Fox had pointed out land, with haste I had Samuels drop Roselyn’s anchor and in disbelief, through the fog we stared out at a scarcely distinguishable coast line. Though it was so close to us, the fog barely allowed your eyes to view it.

“Be she secure, Samuels?” The captain called out from the portside of his vessel.

“Aye, cap’n, she be goin’ nowhere!” With those words said the captain ordered us to lower all the paddle boats which rested upon Roselyn’s gangways.

“I cannot believe it, Rike, where does the map say we are supposed to be?”

“Somewhere in the midst of Jamaica and Honduras, Sollertis.” The captain began to mockingly laugh at Sollertis who shook his head as we hauled the boats towards his cables and pulleys.

“Should I inform Lupino, cap’n?” I asked quietly, and without saying a word the captain nodded at me. By the time I had returned to the upper deck with Lupino the boats were upon the ocean and half the crew was aboard.

“Sailor lad,” the captain called out, “you and Lupino be with me, Sollertis too. Come.” With excited minds we stepped down into the small vessels, and all at once we were on our way. Samuels and Fox stayed on vessel with a number of deckhands, yet the majority of us made our way with haste across the many feet of ocean that separated us from the stranger’s hidden isle.

The fogs did not reside the closer we got to the land, nor did the ability to see through it onto the shores of the island, it was with silence that my own boat reached the shoreline. As we jumped out of the vessel and into the shallow water ‘twas incredibly eerie, the fog became so thick the closer we got to the island that we could not see the other paddle ships carrying the crew, yet they were just feet behind us. ‘Twas with the greatest care we at last stepped out of the water that surrounded the land, and as though by some foul trickery, the very moment we stepped upon the land the fogs were no more. To look back out upon the ocean however, up to the point of the very shallowest sea water the impenetrable mist rose leagues up into the sky. ‘Twas too with an abrupt shock we saw lined all upon the golden beach of the place masses of huge black beasts of the ocean, some of them still attempting to gasp for air from the gaping holes upon their heads.

“What be this?” The captain exclaimed, yet even Sollertis had no answer for his captain, we were speechless. The land mass herself was a beauty to behold, just beyond the beautiful beach lay a dense jungle of bright green flora, the air was calm within the fog and the sun shone brightly, ‘twas truly unbelievable, and as tranquil as it was, its deathly calm made it incredibly unnatural.

As more and more of the crew washed up upon her shores in the paddle boats we began to gather up and each stare dumbfounded at what we saw about us.

“How can this be?” May whispered under his breath.

“What do you make o’ it, Lupino matey?” Rike turned his gaze upon the stray captain.

“I know not, Rike, I ‘ave only ‘eard stories o’ the treasure that lay within the ‘ighest o’ its caves. We could make way for ‘em immediately if you be keen to be gone, though everyone ‘ere know, that for all the stories I ‘ave ‘eard, it be said that silence be needed upon the isle if you do not wish to be taken by the fetid spirits that ‘ave gathered upon its shores.”

“This aint the time for your stories, matey.” I quickly silenced the man before the crew became further distressed than we already were at the very sight of the colossal animals that lined the coast.

“Shall we take some o’ ‘em back for food, cap’n?” A deckhand asked Rike yet Sollertis spoke before he could.

“These whales have likely thrown away their lives for a reason. Risking the crew’s health on eating potentially infected carcasses is not wise.”

“Maybe they got lost in the fog.” Liner whispered with a ridiculous grin on his face, a few of the crew laughed lightly as the captain nodded at Sollertis. As the entirety of the crew that had stepped into the vessels arrived upon the islands shore the captain stepped aside to make a decision. With little time spent thinking he addressed us, quietly, as Lupino had advised.

“We’ll be takin’ a small excursion into the jungle to see what the situation be, if there be anythin’ suspicious lookin’ within we’ll be waitin’ it out ‘til we find a decent solution. Now, quiet, as Lupino ‘ath said, and we tread slow.” Nodding at the crew we began a slow ascent towards the enticing tree line. ‘Twas an eerie silence as we marched across the sand, no winds seemed to stir within the fog, which expanded and withdrew from the land with the coming and going of the washing tide.

Just beyond the tree line lay incredibly dense vegetation, ‘twas near impossible to freely walk amongst the balk of the rising trees and thick bushes that lined the ground, nor had we long encroached far past the first trees when, hearing a sudden scream of fear, the entire crew froze.

Rike!” We heard one of our men yell out from some distance across the jungle. With a gaze of panic which I had rarely seen the captain exhibit he looked about erratically through his crew mates.

“Where be Liner and Lupino, ‘arvey?!” The entire crew began to move towards the sounds of the screaming and with a troubled step we made our way out of the jungle and along the beach that lined it. Suddenly, out from the foliage sprang Lupino dragging with him Adam Liner who I feared was dead.

“Back to the ship, cap’n! They’ll be stirred!” The stray captain yelled out.

“Draw your rapiers, men, and be back to where we beached.” All forty men ran with pace back towards the ships that were becoming engulfed by the tide, some had even disappeared into the deep fog. As Lupino reached the rest of the crew he dropped Liner who fell upon his knees breathing heavily in a fit of panic.

“It were a monster, Rike. There were somethin’, in the bushes, I swear it.” Rike looked up at Lupino.

“A trick o’ the mind I’m sure, cap’n.”

“It were no trick, you bastard!” Liner yelled out. “There were somethin’ ‘mongst those trees, it were ‘orrid!” With eyebrows raised Lupino looked back at the captain, as we stood in silence the tree line began to crack and the leaves which concealed its secrets began to pour with what appeared to be people. They walked with lumbering strides and their skin appeared fetid, there was no alertness about them.

“Let us go back to the ship, cap’n!” A deckhand whimpered, yet Rike was not so easily scared.

“Let us see what they be wantin’ first, lad.”

“We should return, Rike,” Lupino interrupted “there be no chance o’ agreement with the dead.” The captain glared at the stray captain with fury in his eyes.

“I ‘ath ‘eard enough o’ your stories, you bastard! You think it be a game to rile mi crew up?”

“This be no game, cap’n, what be upon this isle aint for the livin’. You shall regret approachin’ the cursed souls o’ the locker.”

“There be masses o’ ‘em, cap’n, are you sure this be a wise choice?” I shouted out myself for looking at the jungle, for as far as my eyes allowed me to follow its line the lumbering entities were encroaching upon us. Shaking his head the captain turned about towards the thick fog upon the ocean.

“Back into your boats, lads, ‘urry along.” With great haste we rushed back into the small paddle ships and with a hurry returned back into the thick fog, however we were in as much turmoil upon the ocean as we were upon the land, for we could see scarcely many feet in any direction.

“They be followin’ us into the waters, captain!” With those words I began to row our paddleboat with a new found vigour, for I could not see the deckhand who had cried out, yet it was enough to cause my mind to expect those lumbering things to rush out of the fog at us.

Finding Roselyn became a considerable task as the crew began to desperately call out to Aran Fox. In a brief period of time that seemed to last forever for the gripping fear, we found our way, everyone worked together to drag their crewmates back aboard Roselyn and with immediate haste we prepared for combat. Upon vessel there was a strange atmosphere, we were each on edge and knew not what we had truly just witnessed. Liner went straight down beneath the orlop. Whatever he had seen had shocked him into a state of near paralysis.

“‘urry aboard, lads!” The captain called out to the few remaining crew aboard the paddleboats, “be ready with rapiers drawn, if you should see anythin’ that aint o’ the crew aboard then butcher it where it be stood! Samuels, raise ‘er anchor, matey, and be turnin’ ‘er about starboard, get us some distance away from this rock then re-drop ‘er anchor.”

“Can’t we just return to Royal, cap’n? This place’ll be the death o’ us all.” The deckhands continued to plea with the captain though I knew once his mind was set upon something he would not let it rest until he had attained his goal.

“Lupino, Sailor, Sollertis, with me, lads.” We followed the captain as he made his way towards his chamber.

“What of Achilles, Rike?” Sollertis asked curiously.

“‘e ‘ath been chained down beneath the orlop until we are rid o’ our guest. The crew be fearin’ ‘e’s gonna start eatin’ ‘em all after Lupino’s little charade within ‘is chamber.” Shaking his head with frustration, Rike opened the door to his quarters and we each stepped inside.

“I ‘ope you shall start talkin’, Lupino. Who were those people, and ‘ow can a man walk to these caves that you speak of for the jungle be denser than any that I ‘ath ever seen. No more lies or I’ll leave you ‘ere to suffer the fate o’ that we just steered clear o’. An’ what the ‘eck be wrong with Liner!” Rike slammed his hand on the great table which held his collection of maps. Sollertis seated himself down and I remained standing with Lupino, I recall feeling almost sorry for the man at times, for all that he was, he was not a bad person.

“Whatever Liner saw, cap’n, it were most likely nothing more than ‘is imagination. People would say, there were somethin’ in the air o’ the place, that’d affect only a few, yet those which were would be driven to death for their own imagination. The isle’ll do that to a man.”

“Lupino, it seems you know more about this isle every time the subject is brought to attention. Do you make up all things as you go along, or do you simply know a lot more than you are leading us to believe you do?” Lupino looked over to Sollertis.

“I know only that which I ‘ave been told, stories o’ the place, did that which you just witness not convince you that this place be unnatural?”

“Most certainly not, there is a rational explanation to all things which man can see, to suggest otherwise would be ludicrous. This is certainly a place of wonder, however there is a place for the suggestion of unnatural oddities upon the earth’s surface, and that is within myths and legend.”

“What o’ the treasures, lad?” Rike interrupted, “if you be tellin’ n’out but stories be we wastin’ our time ‘ere? Do not test mi patience.”

“There be pathways spoken o’ amidst the trees, they lead all about the isle ‘owever the caves o’ Davey’s ‘oard are said to lay ‘midst the very centre o’ the isle, amongst steep ‘ills and cliffs. For all the unbelievable things I thought I wouldn’t see mentioned upon the isle, if the dead truly walk ‘ere, I would bet mi life upon the fact that the treasures be layin’ ‘ere too.” As Lupino spoke Rike walked to his chair and sat slouched in it. He gazed at the walls of his chambers and for some time we each fell silent.

“The dead,” Rike huffed, “‘ow ridiculous. Sollertis, what ‘appened to the days when the strangest thing we knew o’ was a band o’ volunteerin’ cannoneers that ‘ad never fired a cannon in their lives.” The boatswain smiled and laughed lightly before Lupino spoke up.

“If you wish, cap’n, I shall scout the land come nightfall and search for any signs o’ pathways or anythin’ else which may ‘elp us upon our way. You said you shall let me free once we ‘ath made it to me ‘omeland, the least I can do is ensure you be findin’ your ‘oard before we part ways.” Exhaling a great sigh Rike replied to the stray captain.

“Nay, lad, we’ll go together, less o’ us, I’ll only take the crew who ‘ave the courage, those who will not panic for sight o’ an imaginary beast. We’ll wait for a few days off the coast ‘owever, with any luck those that we saw walkin’ upon the coast shall ‘ave dispersed. You shall no longer be treated as a captive upon ship, lad, you ‘ath kept up your end o’ the bargain.” The two men nodded at each other and with a suggestive slump back into oblivion the captain dismissed us. Stepping back out into the mist was most strange, ‘twas so thick, yet ‘twas warm, as though hot water and air was flowing over your skin at every breathing moment.

“Lupino, come, I have yet to test your wits at my table.” Smiling, the boatswain rested a hand on Lupino’s shoulder and escorted him towards his chessboard. For all that I could see aboard ship the crew had lined both the portside and the starboard with rapiers drawn, ‘twas as though they were expecting those who we had seen walking upon the land to begin climbing our vessels woodwork, and neither did I blame them for being so alert. I can recall being stricken with shock at that which I saw upon the isle, and though I knew Lupino’s words could not have been the truth, the bodies which lumbered towards us did not look natural. I have never seen men walk in such a fashion.

The following days past with haste, daylight was bleak for the fog, and night time was truly terrifying, the crew took shifts thirty at a time patrolling all entrances and exits of the vessel in the case that we should come under siege. For all I have seen these were possibly the worst times of my life. I have with intention walked aboard many an enemy vessel with the knowledge that my life may cease at any moment, however laying restlessly aboard a ship with a constant fear in your mind of intruders was enough to drive a man mad. Liner himself did not recover from his experience, he spent his days beneath the orlop laying upon a hammock whispering to himself that he had seen a monster, he alone put many of the crew into a state of paranoia, why the captain had chosen to return to the isle I simply could not fathom.

Throughout our time spent off shore Rike had Achilles brought up to his chamber and each day would have Lupino within the quarters with him, for the first day it sounded as though he had unleashed Achilles upon the man, for the dog was unrelenting in its aggression towards him. Within the passing days however the sounds resided from the chamber, and by the end of the second day, out from Rike’s doors stepped Lupino, alone with Achilles, the colossal dog treating him as though he were any other man of Rike’s crew, ‘twas an impressive sight to see.

Whilst he was not within Rike’s quarters the stray captain spent his time with Sollertis at his chessboard, unbelievably the boatswain had lost every game of chess he had played against the man, repeatedly he was defeated in quick succession though he appeared to be thriving upon the defeats.

Again!” Sollertis would yell, I had not heard the word used so often in all my time, his burning manic eyes focusing with greater intent with each passing loss. With what had occurred upon the island the crew too seemed to have laid a trust in the stray captain, he had earned their respect for saving Adam Liner from whatever he believed he had seen, and they had began to treat him as one of their own, many of them enjoying the sight of him defeating Sollertis at the game which they themselves could not.

Upon the evening of the third night anchored off shore of the isle the captain announced to the crew that at mid day the next day we would once more venture upon the land, and upon attaining the treasures that laid beneath its earth we would leave the place and never return. So too he swore, he would never bring his crew on another endeavour such as this again. Upon that evening which I feared might be my last alive I went to the captain’s quarters, stepping inside, I felt a slight disappointment at the sight of him sat in his chair sipping mead once more. Achilles rested beneath his seat taking deep powerful breaths.

“Cap’n” I nodded, taking a chair.

“‘arvey. What do you recon, lad? Should we turn about?”

“Aint mi call to make, cap’n, whatever your decision be you shall ‘ave your crew behind you, if there be treasure ‘ere, then it be ours.” Rike nodded for a few moments in silence.

“You shall make a fine capt’n some day, Sailor, you ‘ath grown to be a fine lad, your parents would’ve been proud.” ‘Twas a rare moment to catch the captain being sentimental though the words warmed me nonetheless.

“Thank you, cap’n,” I spoke quietly, “‘twould indeed be fine for mi parents to see me now, ‘tis possibly the only thing in life that I might have to complain about.” Rike shook his head at my words.

“The majority o’ people shall never know o’ the struggles you ‘ath seen, lad, people complain about near anythin’ that they ‘ath words to talk about.” At that moment Rike fell silent for some time swigging at his mead, I knew he wished to speak of something that was troubling him so I remained quiet whilst he thought. He released a heavy sigh before he spoke up once more. “Ever since we plundered the Martona, I keep ‘avin’ this dream, lad. I wake up in this chair, and the ship be ablaze, I can ‘ear the crew callin’ out to me, the dead, the prisoners o’ the Martona, though I can’t see them. I can’t get up from mi chair, the ship be bein’ torn apart by cannon fire and I’m ‘elpless to act.” Rike put his head in his hands, “I can’t shed the thought o’ those prisoners from mi mind, ‘arvey, I fear they’ll ‘aunt me to mi grave.”

“When we’re safely away from this place capt’n, may I suggest you take a decent amount of time away from sea? Aint there no one that you could wish to see again? Anyone you left behind?”

“I ‘ath never left anyone behind in mi life, lad,” he sighed once more, “‘ath only been left behind. You’re the closest thing I’ll ever ‘ave to a son, ‘as truly been a pleasure to watch you grow to the man you are today. Sollertis be the finest o’ friends a man could ask for, and this ship embodies the only woman I truly ever wished for in life. Being upon the ocean, upon this ship, with this crew is all I know and desire.” I could not refrain from welling with tears as Rike spoke, staring into oblivion. The thought of what interest he truly had in pursuing treasure maps after saying what he had filled my mind.

“Why are we ‘ere, capt’n?”

“Because life doesn’t stop, ‘arvey , when you’re old and feeble and ‘ave nothing but your memories to keep you company, would you not like to look back at these things and know you ‘ave seen and experienced them, or would you rather sit and listen to the next man who tells you things that you would not believe. We’re ‘ere because we’re ‘ere, matey. We’re ‘ere because we’re ‘ere.”

For many an hour into the night we sat speaking and with each passing jug of mead Rike’s speeches would lead from one subject to the next, ‘twas always a pleasure to hear the words he spoke.

As the night became late I bid farewell to the captain, he informed me that in the early hours of the following morning I was to gather the crew upon Roselyn’s gangways. He wished to determine who would be willing to venture back onto the isle hidden within the mist, and so with excited mind I made my way down beneath the orlop to rest for the final night of what our crew had come to know as existence.

9.

 

I erupted from the orlop hatchway onto the top deck of Roselyn woken by the screams and whimpering cries of my crew. The fog was so thick I could scarcely see a few feet in any direction on deck, blood washed across the gangway and suddenly Rike cried out to me.

“‘elp, ‘arvey!” I rushed to his voice as all about me shrieking deckhands moaned in pain.

Through the fog I noticed Rike slouched against his quarters, chained to him was Lupino and Sollertis. I suddenly fell to my knees and cowered as unseen beings lurched at me from the fog and gripping my limbs they dragged me back along the deck towards the orlop hatchway. The captain and Sollertis called out to me yet I could not hear their words. Dropping me through the hatchway I fell the twelve foot descent and crashed upon my back. Davey’s chained up door began to crash about as the metal locks flailed wildly. With one last mighty bang the door swung wildly open and I screamed out in terror as the fog gushed out from the open way.

I have since had recurring thoughts and dreams of those event that were those of my imagination whilst in deep sleep. I fell from my hammock upon that morning and the shock of the nightmare caused me to scream out not just in my dream but before each of my crewmates who were present within the resting chamber.

“Sailor? Are ye okay, sir?” Reid knelt by my side and rested a hand upon my shoulder.

“Aye, lad, ‘twas just a bleak dream.” He nodded at me and helped me up though the thoughts of the vision gripped me into an immediate state of shock.

Upon the morning of our forth day resting off the shores of the stranger’s island Rike called the crew meeting, with assistance I had our entire party gathered on the top deck of the captain’s beauty. In the absence of Rones I stood myself at Rike’s side upon his quarters with Achilles. Many of the crewmates looked mighty miserable, the fear and paranoia had caused many of them sleepless nights, and the constant thought of an assault had kept all of us on edge.

“This be the day lads! Today we’ll be returnin’ to the isle, if you do not wish to be amongst those who step back aboard our paddlin’ vessels I shall not say no word about it. Yet know that that which occurred upon our last excursion shall not be ‘appenin’ again. If any man upon that isle dare come at us, with no word said ‘e shall be cut down on the spot. Lupino ‘ath already promised us that silence be the way to walk upon its earth without trouble. Now come, lads, who of ye shall stand by your cap’n and walk to treasure and riches?”

“I’m with you, captain!” Aran Fox immediately called out, and the entire crew cheered, many of them stepped forward as though they were volunteering themselves to the captain. With no more doubt in his mind he knew that although his crew might fear the mist and the isle itself, they were willing to stand by his side and walk once more amongst its cursed jungle.

“Then let us prepare, lads!” The captain called out jumping down from his quarters, throughout the following hours we organized many materials and supplies for our journey for no man, not even Lupino, knew how long or perilous the journey would be, and though I did not say it, the simple thought of what we would encounter upon our trek made my insides wrack.

‘Twas a guess we took upon finally deciding ‘twas mid day, for ‘twas when the fogs were at their lightest, though the thickness of them never seemed to reside, and so we could never truly tell where the sun was in the sky. The captain had chosen to travel back to the isle when the sun was the highest in the sky because of the thickness of the jungle, what we had seen of it was barely accessible. Travelling at first light or dusk would have been truly foolish, though I knew not his plans for us as the light would fade throughout the day.

The moment the crew dispersed from Rike’s gathering Samuels began steering Roselyn back towards the isle, raising the anchor we set sail once more for the strange land. Once we were all prepared we waited with anxious anticipation for the light to reach its peak.

“Down you go, lads,” Rike walked up the deck already speaking in whispers to his men as we stepped down into the ship’s paddle boats. Before we did not know what to expect, but this time we already had fear within us. Although Aran Fox had been the first man to step forward amongst Rike’s crew and inadvertently spurred the crew’s courage, Rike asked him to remain upon deck and keep an eye out as best he could upon the vessel’s crow’s nest.

The slow approach to the island’s land was as gripping as our previous venture, and with Lupino and a few deckhands in my boat we trawled the vessels up onto the island’s gleaming beach. As the fog resided this time I was stricken to see that the beasts which had lined the shore upon our previous endeavour were no more, completely gone without a trace. This alone put some strange thoughts into my mind for if the tide had failed to sweep them away before, what had Liner disturbed that had caused them each to vanish.

Ship after ship was dragged up the shore until nearly the entire crew stood looking about as confused as myself at the lack of animals on the island’s coast.

“Where’d they all go, bos’n?” Austin asked with confusion, Sollertis shook his head and shrugged.

“I could only assume the beasts were taken by the tide, Austin.”

“They were bein’ washed ‘pon before, bos’n, ‘nd the big bastards dint even move!” One of the deckhands confirmed to the boatswain my own beliefs.

“Well what do you suggest then, Arthur? What else could have possibly moved something of such weight and so many of them other than the sea?”

“What if it were the dead, bos’n?”

“Lupino says they be walkin’ all ‘pon the isle, don’t ‘e?”

“I’ll bet the dead could’ve moved ‘em, bos’n.” As a number of the deckhands became involved in theories about how the enormous whales disappeared from the coast I noticed one more vessel break through the sea mist being dragged by Captain Rike, he was alone, I thought, however standing within the paddle ship rested Achilles. The dog’s striking blue eyes were looking wisely out upon the tree line, as though he were assessing the island himself, without a sound the animal jumped lightly down from the boat and stood proudly by his master’s side. It brings rage to my heart to think about my last moment looking upon the dog, such a magnificent beast he was.

“Was it wise to bring your pet, Rike?” Sollertis asked, for the first time seeming to show some weariness of his surroundings.

“I would trust this dog over anyone upon this earth, bos’n.” Sollertis raised an eyebrow and looked away as Rike made his way to the front of the crew.

“‘ow will we find our way back to the ship if we be walkin’ ‘bout in the jungle, cap’n?” Shaking his head Sollertis reached inside his waste coat and briefly withdrew an ancient looking compass from one of his pockets.

“Cap’n, look ‘bout, the beasts be all gone, sir.” Still quarrelling, the deckhands already seemed nervous, ‘twas beginning to seem as though such numbers had been a mistake to bring back to the island, yet it would prove to be a great blessing in disguise as we began to make our way amongst the enticing jungle.

“That be no concern o’ mine, don’t let no foolish stories nor ideas that ‘ath been put amongst your thoughts trouble your mind. Lupino shall be leadin’ the way, lads, if I ‘ear a sound from anyone of you then I shall abandon you ‘ere, you ‘ear me? And any one of you that dear fire your pistols for any reason without mi say so shall be gettin’ ‘is bollucks cut off.” Rike glared over us all with authority and falling quiet the entire crew nodded at him, he then turned to look at Lupino, signalling to the stray captain. With that Lupino took the lead, keeping close and silent we began to walk along the golden beach in the finest sun I had ever known, not a shell nor a stone disrupted the endless beauty of the island’s coast, ‘twas truly an undiscovered gem hidden upon the earth’s surface.

I know not for how long we trekked across the beach of the place, ‘twas not a great amount of time, though looking back I could no longer make out our boats for the heat waves which lined the ground. From the front of the crew Lupino abruptly stopped raising a hand up to signal we each pause.

“What’s up, lad?” Rike whispered, joining him at the front of his men.

“There,” Lupino pointed at the tree line, “it looks like an openin’ ‘mongst the trees, cap’n.”

“Wait ‘ere whilst I look upon it.” And with those words the captain went ahead, a brief moment later he turned about to us and nodding we each made haste to join him. ‘Twas indeed a pathway leading amongst the trees as Lupino had told us of. With a hand gesture the captain suggestively allowed Lupino return to lead his men amongst the dense trees of the jungle. As we began to make our way between the foliage I noticed the trees stood incredibly tall. Their leaves were thick and glowed the brightest of greens, the sun burst through them with such intensity that it appeared as though a great artistic mosaic was spread out above our heads, ‘twas truly stunning.

For some time we trod through the endless green jungle, the clearing which cut right through its trees allowed us to step in near silence across the ground. Never a moment passed however when it was possible to relax amongst the undergrowth, every pirate with whom I stood held their rapier tightly, and each man glanced about constantly with a look of fear on his face. The atmosphere too became increasingly nerving when the trees took a sudden turn from life to death. The canopy above us no longer blocked out the sun, the leaves wilted with a lifeless brown, so too did the ground beneath our feet become soft, the bark of the trees in these parts of the jungle were grizzled and dead. A number of the crew pointed out at regular intervals enormous carvings upon some of the desolate bark, it seemed as though enormous claw marks had been shred through the wood.

For some time it seemed we were making good progress amongst the ever decaying trees of the jungle until all at once we were brought to a halt by the captain and Lupino. I made my way to the front of the crew to discover why we had stopped yet I had no need to ask, the pathway split into two directions, though neither looked more promising than the other for bringing us to the centre of the island.

“Shall we split up, cap’n?” Lupino asked without hesitance.

“Nay, lad, we’ll do no such thing. Come, we ‘ath not time to waste. Choose a pathway and be done with it.” Lupino nodded at Rike and without pausing to think he took the right side of the opening ways. The very moment he began to walk every man of Roselyn’s crew bar Lupino ducked and cowered. Through the dense hot air of the island a staggered call echoed out like nothing I had ever heard in my life. Stricken with fear I looked across at Lupino who had the same relaxed look on his face that he always expressed. He lifted a finger to his mouth and signalled us all to be silent, then, slowly lowering himself he gestured we follow. Breathing heavily I watched the captain shake his head, copying Lupino’s gesture, we began with terror to creep along the forest pathway, I can recall upon hearing the call from the jungle wishing I was back amongst the colourful streets of Port Royal.

For some time we made haste keeping low amongst the jungle’s decaying foliage. Not long after we had heard the horrific sound call out from the trees, and as the sun which had guided us this far began to climb away across the horizon, the ground beneath us began to rise at a considerable rate. The pathway began winding and it became a struggle for the crew to keep up a fast pace of movement. With determination we marched on however, we had come this far without any physical signs of trouble though we had been spooked out of our wits by that terrifying sound, it seemed as though the journey could not have gotten any worse.

As the sunlight began to fade in the sky we trailed the climbing pathway with an ever increasing resolve yet suddenly, in a moment of great confusion the entire crew once more fell to its knees. Another overwhelming sound reverberated throughout the jungle and this time even Lupino cowered. With a resonance I did not know him capable of, Achilles howled, his head reaching high up into the sky, and looking up myself I noticed that the moon was incredibly large and bright, so much so I recall being truly stricken by the sight. Rike grabbed the dog and silenced him with his hand and as I tensed my grip upon my rapier I looked over to Lupino. It was not the sound of the dog that struck me with panic, nor the memory of what had occurred the last time one of our crew had called out into the jungle, but the sheer look of terror upon Lupino’s face. He turned his head, and looking at Achilles the man swallowed in fear.

Quickly.” He whispered, and we each upped ourselves and began to move towards the stray captain, as abruptly as had occurred before however, the jungle erupted into life, as though a mere sound within it caused the entirety of its inhabitants to appear at the root of its cause.

“Be ready at arms, men!” Rike called out.

“Keep movin’ forward, their numbers shall not reside!” Lupino’s voice sounded strange, bursting from the foliage the lumbering humanoids came, masses of them, and as we tried with trouble to move along the climbing pathway we were attacked from all angles. Hacking and slashing the troubles of my mind disappeared as the spur and lust for combat overtook me, ‘twas possibly the greatest blessing the crew could have received at that very moment. In all the commotion I witnessed for the first time the rabid strength of the captain’s loyal companion, Achilles fought with great ferocity with any of the cursed beings that approached the captain, who fought himself with impeccable skill with his rapier.

“Faster!” Lupino cried out once more, and following his voice we fought our way along the pathway. Horrific whimpers echoed out across the jungle as some of the crew succumbed to the sheer masses of the enemy. They did not cry out themselves when they were chopped down however, in fact they made no sound at all. ‘Twas most disturbing to see Everett dragged away amongst the trees. The unrelenting things did not for a moment let up their assault.

With numbers diminishing and an unknown distance still to travel the crew became truly frantic, many of the less nerved crew mates cried out screaming with desperation, some men in the fright broke the captain’s orders and began to fire their pistols whilst others simply gave up fighting all together and ran in all directions outwards into the consuming jungle.

Rike!” We heard Lupino cry out from a long way up the winding path, “come quick!” We were moving as quickly as we could however, the fetid beings that were relentlessly upon us showed no signs of quelling their aggression, the stray captain was right, they wished to take our lives though with an unyielding fervour we fought them back. Stumbling into a clearing the crew gathered together and with rapiers drawn we turned about against a rocky outcrop to make our last stand.

“‘as been an honour, lads! Fight to your last breathe, do not give these bastards no moment o’ pleasure. You be pirates o’ Roselyn. Stand by your capt’n to the death!” Rike roared out to his men with might though before we were completely over run by the cursed beasts Lupino called again.

“In ‘ere, cap’n, ‘urry!” The stray yelled to us and what was left of our crew rushed to his voice, I had not noticed it before but there was a large hole in the face of the mountain’s stone surrounded by large boulders and rocks.

“Inside, go.” Lupino himself fought the lumbering bodies off with great zeal and with haste we gathered into the cave opening, Rike was the last of us to step into the entrance and as he made his way Lupino grabbed his arm.

“Follow the light within the ceilin’ o’ the place, cap’n. Ignore all that which you ‘ear, for this place aint what it seems. Be sure to follow the light.”

“‘ow do you know this, lad?” The captain hurriedly replied stepping into the cave with the rest of us though Lupino did not respond. Suddenly, and most unbelievably the stranger grasped a humongous circular shaped rock and with no visible struggle dragged it across the face of the cave opening to enclose us within. We each stared with disbelief at the feat though as the gap between the stone became narrow Achilles dashed between it and made his way out between the lumbering bodies and beyond into the jungle.

Achilles!” Rike called out, trying to follow his dog but the stray captain blocked his way.

“It be too late, cap’n, good luck.” We each heard Lupino speak to the captain between the incredibly narrow gap, though only Rike saw him, as he uttered those two last words our captain leapt backwards from the opening, and looking bewildered fell upon his back. He hastily forced himself backwards with his hands and feet until he collided with the cave wall behind him without a moment passing that he did not gaze fearfully at where the small opening in the cave entrance had been.

Suddenly from beyond the stony boulder that now completely concealed the cave entrance a number of horrifying sounds resonated out in the air within the cave and beyond. ‘Twas the exact sounds I had heard coming from Davey’s room many moons past though this time with a much greater ferocity, the entire crew gathered at the back wall of the cave with the captain and we all huddled together staring with terror.

“I wish Davey were ‘ere now.” A deckhand whimpered.

“Indeed, it would be most settling.” Sollertis quietly replied.

For much time no man dared say a word. We listened to the deep horrific growls and snarling that echoed in the air, one of the deckhands had been reduced to tears at the event, I myself shook uncontrollably for whatever was occurring at that very moment was truly terrifying.

“What did you see, cap’n?” I whispered to Rike. He was still breathing erratically and would not allow any man to rest their hands on him. He closed his eyes and for some time leaned against the wall of the cave, we each glanced between him and the cave entrance not knowing what to do or say. I recall being stricken by fear at the mere sight of Rike acting in such a way, very little tested his nerves, yet at this moment in time he seemed as though he had glimpsed his own death. ‘Twas not for some time after the ferocious sounds outside the cave had died down that any of the crew dared to move, in silence I crept towards the boulder that kept us safe, and listening as best I could for any sounds still stirring outside the cave, I held my ear to the stone. After a moment I looked over at Sollertis and shook my head, the boatswain turned to look at Rike who still appeared frozen in horror.

“What did Lupino say, Rike?” Sollertis this time tried to get a response from the stricken man.

“Achilles,” he whispered at last, “‘e ran off into the trees.” Rike sat slouched and with a sorry look stared at the ground, ‘twas as if at the loss of his dog he had lost a part of himself.

“I know, Rike, I am sorry. The light fades rapidly however, we cannot afford to rest here if we are to make it back to Roselyn before we are lost in the darkness of this island. What did Lupino say to you?” The captain drifted his gaze up to look at Sollertis however their eyes did not meet; the captain seemed to stare into oblivion, beyond us all.

“‘e said to follow the light in the gaps o’ the cave ceilin’. That be all, Sollertis. That be all.” Sollertis moved close to the captain and kneeling by his side he rested his hand upon his shoulder, this time Rike did not resist.

“Come, I wish to get away from his place as much as any man here, but you are our captain, we cannot go where you do not lead. Stand up, Rike, get us away from this place.” He hooked his arms around the body of his old friend and with a struggle lifted him to his feet. The captain stood with a dreary look in his eye, whatever had scared him had truly caused him some trouble, he had seen what we had all heard, and I dare not to think upon what it might have been.

“Can you walk, Rike?” Sollertis went on.

“Aye, Sollertis, I’ll be fine. We’ll make our way through the caves, ‘e said follow the light and that’s what we’ll be doin’, ‘e knew more than ‘e were lettin’ on, no surprise, let us just ‘ope the light shall lead us to an exit.” With a nod, and seemingly much calmer than he had been in the passing moments the captain signalled we begin our descent into the darkening cave in hopes that whatever Lupino’s last words were would save us from this dreaded place.

10.

 

For the first time within the cave I looked about our surroundings. ‘Twas a dank place and now the excitement of the moment had passed I noticed how chillingly cold it was within, however the air was almost a pleasure to breathe in so fresh it was. The sun light that seeped through the gaps that lined the ceiling of the cave was fading rapidly and with a troubled mind I began to fear we would never make it away from the place.

“Come.” Rike called out to his crew as he made his way amongst us, “we must make haste.”

Whether the captain chose to ignore what we had just experienced or had truly overcome the sudden burst of horror he had been stricken with, he stepped once more to the front of his crew and began to lead us into the darkening cave. There was only one route as we first made our way amongst its rigid walls. The light guided us as Lupino had promised it would, though for not near as long as we had hoped it would, so too did it reveal something within the cave that the crew could have done without seeing. The floor of the cave was parted by a slim stream of water that I suspected ran from its source to the cave’s exit. ‘Twas upon the verges of the water however that we came across, from time to time, the bones of what was either animals or humans, for there were no skulls left on the cave floor for us to distinguish what we were looking at.

Already troubled by the sight of the bones that lined the cave’s floor, the crew would become increasingly agitated for ‘twas not long into our descent that the light of the sun faded so greatly that our vision of anything within the cave would have been lost.

“What’ll we do?” Austin whispered, however Sollertis was already moving amongst us towards Rike.

“Rike, have you any gunpowder?”

“Aye, Sollertis.” The captain withdrew his pistol and handed it to the boatswain who took apart the weapon with surprising speed and skill. Without stopping to think for a moment Sollertis removed his waistcoat and grasping one of the bones from the ground of the cave wrapped his clothing at one of its ends. Laying the bone down he delicately sprinkled a small amount of the powder upon the material and then, grasping two stones he smashed them together. Upon contact a flurry of sparks flickered from the stones and those that touched the powder lined linen flared brightly causing the waistcoat to burst into flame.

“All of you that have spare clothing wrap whatever you can find as I have just demonstrated. We will make our own…” The boatswain suddenly lost interest in speaking to the crew. He glared at the black walls of the cave. They were lined with white etchings from top to bottom, and seemingly for as far as the cave wall stretched, invisible to us in the feeble light that the sun had offered.

“What they mean, bos’n?” A deckhand gawped. We each stood gazing at the unreadable symbols.

“How in Davey’s Locker should I know? It is most certainly a scripture of some kind though it is not worth pondering upon, it will get us nowhere.” Sollertis stepped forward and handed Rike the light he had just crafted, nodding at one another the captain turned back about to lead his crew into the darkness of the eerie cave.

‘Twas for some time we walked, the cave’s single way was becoming increasingly narrow, and the strange writings on its walls had not broken for the entire distance we had travelled. No man spoke, however I am sure that every man amongst my company had bizarre thoughts in his mind concerning the bones, and etchings on the walls. There was a great tension in the air and each of us moved with a careful step, on edge for our unfamiliar surroundings.

Most abruptly the crew came to a halt, as I made my way to the front of the men I realised Rike had stopped us for the cave split into three routes.

Bastard.” The captain muttered under his breath as Sollertis joined us to look outwards into the darkness of the cave walkways.

If only we had reached this separation amongst the cave whilst the light was still there to guide us, for we were truly unprepared for the events which were to occur as we made our choices within the forsaken cave. The tunnel which lead straight ahead of us ran into an incredibly narrow tunnel, no markings lined its walls nor did it appear as though any bones lined its floors. To the left of us the cave turned an abrupt corner and little could be seen up it, the walls of this route however were lined with the writings which had up to this point been constant within the cave. To the right the water flowed and the dark walls of the place appeared to remain at a constant width, neither were there etchings upon its walls. ‘Twas for this reason we first decided to take the route.

“I am confident the water will run to an exit, Rike, without the light to guide us it is our best hope.” The boatswain spoke with confidence to the captain, however I could see Rike’s hesitance as he himself had no real idea of what to do at this dilemma. After some time thinking in silence he nodded at Sollertis.

“Not a word lads, tread as lightly as you can manage, do not so much as disturb a rock or bone on the ground, you ‘ear?” Gazing back at the crew they each nodded to the captain, and with one more hesitant glance at the other two cave routes the captain began to lead us into the right hand passage of the cave.

As we made our way the cool air which had managed to keep myself somewhat relaxed quickly resided and the air became thick and humid. The fires which burned through our torches did not help the heat as the sweat poured from every man that I could see. ‘Twas not long into our trek down the first passage way that we quickly became aware of a quiet sound constantly resonating far away down the cave’s passageway. At first hearing this sound Captain Rike slowed us up, bringing his crew to a quiet halt so that we might decide just what it was we could hear.

“Sollertis, what do you recon it could be?” Before the boatswain could answer, May spoke up.

“Sounds like fallin’ water, captain.”

“Indeed I think you are right, Arnold, with any luck it is another opening allowing the water free fall.” Sollertis whispered as the captain tried desperately to look down the pitch black route.

“‘ow far do you recon it falls, May?” Rike squinted in the light which our torches offered.

“It sounds as though it’s not a vast drop, captain.” Repeatedly nodding it seemed those words were enough to convince Rike to move on. Signalling, we began a slow pace towards the sound that we hoped would lead us to our freedom.

The closer we got the louder the water echoed throughout the cave, at last we could make out the verge of its fall through the fire light and Rike began to walk faster towards the sight. The closer we got the more excited we became, and the efforts to keep quiet were forgotten, we trampled across the cave’s floor and almost running collided into one another as Rike abruptly halted our movement.

Shhh!” He turned about to us with his finger across his lips, and at that moment the staggered curdling call that we heard in the jungle echoed out with great resonance throughout the cave’s passageway. Every man immediately ducked to his knees. The sound was so close and loud that it shred a shiver through me just to hear it, ‘twas like nothing I had heard in all my time. Rike pulled a most peculiar look at Sollertis who himself seemed stricken with fear. The verge of the waterfall was just feet away from us yet for the moment we were all frozen.

The deafening call staggered out again before the sound of what must have been a large boulder was heard being struck against something. Again the sound called out and this time something was thrown at the verge of the waterfall and Rike immediately signalled we make our way back down the passage.

“Should we not inspect first, Rike?” Sollertis queried.

“Nay, matey, I ‘ath lost too many men upon this excursion already. There’ll be no more death whilst these men remain under mi command.” At that time it was comforting to know we would be taking no more risks. We turned slowly, and rose even slower to our feet, then with a steady step attempted to silently move back down the way. As quickly as we began two more calls rang out with a deafening pitch through the cave and all thoughts for care were lost. We broke into a sprint and every one of us ran for our lives spurred by the others’ paranoia. I was sure as we ran we were being chased and my imagination got the worse of me spurring my speed as the mass of footsteps echoed through the cave’s walkway.

We did not stop until we reached the split in the passageways and on arrival every man either leant against the walls of the place or laid down upon its floor to gather his breathe.

“Whats you recon ‘em were, cap’n?” A wheezing deckhand asked.

“I’d rather not know, lad.” With rapier drawn the captain leant his clenched hands upon his knees to catch his breath as we all rested breathing heavily.

“How do we know that sound was not just some undiscovered harmless bird, and that in fact that route was the way out?” Sollertis stood with his hands rested upon his head.

“A bird that ‘urls boulders, bos’n? If you wish to take a look down that waterfall, Sollertis, go ahead.” The boatswain shook his head and looked at the rest of us.

“It could’a been a monster, bos’n, like that what Liner seen.” A deckhand blurted out. Sollertis released a great sigh rubbing his eyes with his fingers.

“Oh yes of course. And what does a monster look like, Roberts?”

“They be big an’ ‘airy wi’ teeth!”

“Some o’ of ‘em be big an’ wi’ fish fins. Wi’ teeth, I ‘ave seen ‘em in pictures, bos’n. who could ‘ave drawn ‘em if they ‘adn’t seen ‘em first?”

Well you do have me there, I guess it must have been a monster.” At Sollertis’ words the deckhand’s face turned to a look of dread.

“Really, bos’n?”

“Yes, we will all most certainly be eaten by something big and hairy, with teeth!” He looked at me and raised his eyebrows looking up at the ceiling of the cave. No matter how dire a situation was, Sollertis’ sarcasm had always put a smile on my face, slightly calmed I turned to look at Rike. For all the time we spoke I noticed he had been staring down the passage we had just returned from in silence, looking out into the blackness.

“Shall we split up, capt’n? There be only two ways left to search.” Attempting to get Rike’s attention I called out to him across the cave. He shook his head and slowly turned around.

“Nay, best we stick together, and there aint no such thing as monsters, lads, don’t let your imagination be the end o’ you. Come, we’ll try the left route this time the other looks as though it runs to a dead end. Sailor, keep your eyes on our back.”

“Aye, capt’n.” I nodded and with the order given Rike made his way to the head of the crew to lead us through to the passageway where the walls, ceiling to floor of the cave, were completely covered in some unknown white carvings.

The cave floor rose steadily upwards as we made our way, we marched for much time, the floor of this pathway was covered with bones, they were far more numerous than the cave’s initial passageway however there were still no skulls to be seen. We stopped briefly at moments throughout the tunnel to light further torches and simply listen and look out for any signs or sounds of life.

This route was deafly silent bar the sound of what was left of the crew’s scuffling feet. I kept watch at the back end of the men for whatever Rike had heard down the last passage had obviously troubled his mind. Whatever he had seen too as Lupino had shut the cave door had put him on edge. I had never seen him spooked as he was in that cave, I shudder at the thought of what might have been down there.

After what seemed like an endless trek up the never ceasing rise of the cave’s walkway the captain at last brought us all to a halt. I ordered a deckhand to continue watching the crew’s back and made my way amongst the men. Captain Rike was stood next to Sollertis, both men had their torches held high in the air. I immediately noticed that the cave opened out into a small chamber. It was most chilling to see that within the centre of the circular room rested a great mound of skulls, no other bone particles rested on the stone floor. Looking to the walls, it was also unsettling to see that the ancient scripture had finished and the entire ceiling, all the way down to the floor, and the floor itself had strange figures drawn all over them.

The crew stepped into the stone chamber and we stared about in amazement at that which we saw. There were drawings of men who stood with the bodies of animals, most frequently the pictures displayed men with human heads carrying spears fighting men who stood with the heads of what could only be described as Achilles. They appeared to have great claws and large jaws with protruding teeth. Much of the pictures displayed both sides of the combatants with great numbers of their people laying down bloody. There were many images of the strange humanoid animals being cast off of the island as the armies of the two different people clashed.

As the cave wall circled the chamber so the story went on. The humans with the heads of wolves were outnumbered and butchered. Their leaders were gathered up and their treasures amassed together, they were dragged away and beheaded before all the people on the island. When the last of their kind was slain a display of ghostly entities was drawn to be leaving the body of the animal and infecting every last body that remained standing. In a torrential outburst the waters that surrounded the island rose up imprisoning all that remained living or dead on the isle. With the rest of the human kind laying down the few that escaped from the event were drawn dragging a large treasure chest away with them with the remains of the dead animal people.

“By God, what do you make o’ this, Sollertis?” I addressed the boatswain though I was truly just talking my thoughts aloud. When no one replied I looked about the small chamber, Sollertis was stood with his mouth wide open simply staring in amazement at the walls.

“Liner were right, cap’n. ‘e really did see a monster!” Captain Rike stood himself in silence looking all about the cave clearing. He stopped after some moments and turned to look at the masses of skulls in the midst of the room. Clutching one, he lifted it up to inspect.

“This be no ‘uman ‘ead.” He whispered to himself before Sollertis took the skull from his grip. Looking over it himself he did not say anything, his insane gaze simply focused on the bone, turning it all about to see it from all angles. After some time looking he shone his burning torch over the rest of the mysterious skulls.

“They have no teeth,” he quietly mused “none of them.”

“This place aint right, cap’n. Why did we ‘ave to come back?”

“Calm down, Caleb, the bones appear to be some sort of animal, there is no reason to believe otherwise.” Sollertis rested the skull lightly back down on the pile before turning back to look at the cave’s walls, “even ancient man had an imagination.” The boatswain spoke with hesitance, he swallowed, staring dreamily across the drawings. I was sure that even he, at that very moment, wanted to believe that there truly were things that existed in life that were beyond a man’s imagination.

After some time mesmerized by our surroundings Rike finally spoke up and broke our dreariness. “This be a dead end, lads, we can’t be standin’ ‘ere all night. There be only one route left to search, assumin’ the first we went down weren’t the exit then we aint far from gettin’ away from this bastard place. Come, let us make ‘aste.” Every man stood to attention and looked at Rike as he spoke, the moment he finished we all nodded and he made his way to the head of the crew to lead us back down the second passage we had traversed.

It was much easier to return down the walkway as we were no longer walking against the slope. After some time we arrived back at our starting point, tired and weary. Rike stood for a moment before the parting ways, and nodding, as though to reassure himself, walked forward down the final passageway of the cave.

This route became immediately frustrating as the walls became narrower the further we walked. At first it was not so bleak for a good four or five men could walk side by side, however after some many hundred feet the cave became so narrow that just a single man could scarcely slide his way through with both his chest and back pressed against each side of the pathway’s walls. Captain Rike went first as the cave became its narrowest.

“‘arvey bring up our back, Sollertis remain with ‘im. I shall go first. Do not ‘ave fear in you, men, no man likes a cramped space, and this be truly foul, ‘owever we must step on. Give the man be’ind you plenty o’ space for you do not wish to be burnin’ ‘im nor be receivin’ no such thing. Come, lads!” Again Rike nodded to us and turning about began his descent down the ever narrowing walkway.

Although the ceiling of the cave remained high up despite the tightening walls it did not change the feeling of being enclosed in a breathless trap. To stand at the back of the men too made me paranoid for the fear of whatever we had previously heard in the cave, the sound was still echoing in my mind. The images on the walls of the cave’s chamber put my mind in a further state of alarm, I would happily have never seen those drawings for at that very moment, being stuck between two walls in the midst of a pitch black cave filled my mind with ridiculous thoughts of monsters rushing out of the darkness to drag me away.

I held the torch away from Sollertis and stared out constantly into the blackness. The sound of the crew heavily breathing and the fire of the burning torches licking the air was suddenly broken by the hideous staggered cry of the unknown beasts of the island.

Go.” I desperately whimpered to Sollertis whose own face, at the moment the call echoed throughout the cave, fell to a look of dread.

“Quicker, men!” He shouted out and grasping the sleeve of my coat began to drag me faster through the endlessly tight passageway. At every moment I sidestepped between the walls I expected something to leap at me through the darkness as the pitch black played tricks on my mind. With an ever faster step the crew hurried its way through between the narrow pathway and before I knew what was happening we were free once more of the terrifying grip the cave’s walls had upon us.

I stumbled to the ground. The cave opened out into another chamber. The crew were each stood staring at something. Unable to avert my gaze from the narrow passageway of the cave, for the sound that had just reverberated throughout its primordial openings, I simply heard the captain mumble quietly.

“Of course,” he huffed “‘twould be the last way we go.” I turned about to see Rike shaking his head, and to my complete and utter disbelief he approached an ancient looking chest with great caution. Its wood work seemed to be rotting away however the golden seals that held it together gleamed brightly under the firelight.

“Careful, cap’n.” Everett whispered though I could see the captain’s intrigue had gotten the better of him. He briefly checked over the chest and without attempting to open it up he stared into oblivion.

“Grasp one end, ‘arvey.” He addressed me yet looked at no one, “I can’t believe the bastard’s words were true.”

“Lupino?” A deckhand asked.

“Aye, lad,” Rike nodded, “Sollertis lead us through the way, this’ll ‘aveto be the route for there be no way this chest got in ‘ere through another.” With torch in hand, Sollertis walked through the only other opening in the chamber, it was wide and with a sigh of relief I clutched a handle that was hooked to the golden frame on one side of the chest. With a struggle, myself and Rike lifted the chest from the black floor of the cave and with a slow step began to make our way through to the next corridor of the place.

‘Twas not but a few hundred feet on that we came to what first appeared to be a dead end for the way was completely covered over with rocks and wood and other debris. We dropped the chest and without even a word having to be say by any man we each began to work together to drag the stones that blocked our path out the way.

With a great burst of energy we were spurred on and in little time at all the fresh air of the island began to flow through the gaps in the blocked way. Together we made a hole big enough for us to drag the chest through and with the greatest feeling of relief I crawled myself out of the cave, through the ruins that concealed its entrance and onto the jungle floor. I lied back exhausted and stared up into the skies. It was cloudless, the air was fine and cool and the sound of the breeze flowing lightly through the leaves of the trees brought calmness to my shaken mind and body.

The relief of the moment did not last long, for the very moment I had settled I remembered we were still lost on the island with little but Sollertis’ compass to guide us to safety. We had six rapiers between us and fewer than thirty men. Even if we had escaped from this dreaded place we would have had the thoughts of our losses on our minds until the end of our days.

The very earliest rays of the sun’s light were beginning to brighten up the darkness of the island. I recall being stricken by the thought that we had been lost in the cave for so long. In silence we dragged the aged chest out of the tunnel. The moment we were all in the open Sollertis gestured to us. We left our torches inside the cave as they would have certainly attracted attention in the darkness. There was a clearing in the trees and a pathway lead into the jungle. We followed Sollertis and kept low to the ground. As we trekked between the dense foliage nothing seemed to stir. Other than the sound of our light footsteps and the wind amongst the leaves there was utter silence.

The walkway sloped downwards and was relatively straight allowing us to see far into the distance despite the still dark skies, the further we walked the lighter the skies became and by the time we reached the beach it was possible to see quite some distance ahead of us. Sollertis continued to lead the group. The further we walked the more my fear of the place resided. It seemed Lupino was correct when he said that utter silence was the only safe way to traverse the island. We moved along the shoreline next to the thick mists that seemed never to reside, I wondered how long the island had been as it was and more so if the pictures upon the walls of the cave could have possibly been true.

All of a sudden Sollertis stopped the crew and for a brief moment I thought something more was to trouble us, he turned about with an excited look on his face and we gathered up with haste.

“The boats are just down the beach” he whispered, “make your way to them, do not make a sound. Get on board and sail away, together. We do not want anyone getting lost now.” Sollertis nodded at Rike and he returned the gesture, with pace we began to make a dash towards the small paddle boats which were indeed vaguely visible in the faint light.

In the moment of excitement everyone abruptly cowered at the sound of the jungle stirring, we glared in horror expecting the lumbering bodies to begin pursuing us once more, yet instead a flurry of powerful barks called out in the air. Achilles burst from the foliage running with great speed towards Rike who upon realising his dog was alive released the handle of the chest he carried letting it crash to the ground with a mighty clank and jingling of metals.

With a scrunched face that I am sure was to refrain himself from falling to tears, the captain turned about and fell onto his knees embracing the excited dog who with anxious whimpers licked at his master’s face. ‘Twas pleasing to see the beast had survived the events, though we would never know what he had been through to return to us, nor how he knew where we were. The animal was incredibly intelligent however, I am sure of that. With a great struggle Rike lifted his companion up in his arms who continued to nuzzle the man with a wild enthusiasm.

“Let’s get away from this damned place, lads.” In a rush a deckhand grasped the other handle of the great chest and with a desperate effort we dragged ourselves to the small paddle boats. It was with as much relief as it was dread that we returned back into the dark fogs that engulfed the island. Although the very dimmest lights of the morning had guided us back to our boats, amongst the fog the faint rays were as good as useless as they failed to penetrate the dense mist.

“Stay close!” We heard our captain call out, “we ‘ath come this far, not one more man shall fall upon this excursion!” With a new burst of courage instilled in us by our captain the crew rowed on through the waters with a grand intent, to return to the safety of the captain’s princess and escape from this cursed place for good.

11.

 

I had forgotten just how thick and bleak the fog was as I struggled to push my paddleboat containing the ancient chest out to sea. In the darkness of the morning, and due to all that I had just witnessed it was with the greatest caution that I slowly began to row out into the ocean. To the left of me, Arnold May, who I was pleased to know had survived the assault of the lumbering natives, rowed his own boat. In silenced we ensured we did not leave each other’s view, and with a troubled effort tried to keep in close contact with all the survivors of Roselyn.

We paddled out for some time into the deep fog, yet there was no sight nor sound of our ship. After some time the crew became hysteric for Roselyn was not where we believed we had left her. The moment it became certain that the captain’s beauty was not where we had anchored some of the surviving crewmates began to call out to Samuels and Fox, others simply began crying aloud as the overwhelming sadness of the recent events caught up with them.

“Samuels!” Captain Rike yelled out himself in efforts to find his beloved vessel yet there was simply silence amongst the eerily deep mist. All at once we seemed to have given up. We floated through the fog without putting any effort into our movement. I recall feeling drained of passion, as though nothing in life mattered any more, ‘twas the strangest sensation.

For much time we floated lost in the endless mist, huddling our boats together we attempted to stay close, it helped us keep somewhat composed amidst the direness of the situation. ‘Twas not until the crew had seemingly given up all efforts to return home to their ship that a faint voice was heard drifting across the sea.

“I think I ‘ear Samuels, sir!” Adams called out through the fog from behind the group of boats though I could not see the man or his vessel.

“From which direction, lad?” Rike yelled back, his voice was wild.

“South West I believe, sir!” With those words heard, with guidance from Sollertis and his compass, we began to turn our boats at a southern bearing yet I recall feeling no stimulation at the thought of our escape, ‘twas as though the fog was draining our souls with each passing moment, as if we were losing our enthusiasm to leave the place. I feared that any longer upon the isle or amongst its mist and we would have become permanent inhabitants of the horrific place, ‘twas as though it was trying to claim us.

“Over ‘ere, lads!” I at last heard the voice of Aran Fox yet with no amount of pleasure. After some time we sailed into view of the captain’s princess, and as though it was only possible to feel suffering, I winced at the sight of her. Her woodwork looked as though it had been resting upon the bottom of the ocean for a thousand years, ‘twas haggard and worn, derelict looking. I thought it was a trick of the fog as we first approached however the closer we got the worse the great vessel appeared.

“What ‘as become of ‘er?” The deckhand that shared my vessel was as stricken as the rest of us upon sight of Roselyn. At last we washed into the waters closest to our vessel and the crew formed a queue ready to be lifted back up to the gangways, one after the other. Samuels and Fox made immediate haste to hoist myself and the heavy chest up onto Roselyn’s deck, and with undivided attention we did not rest until every last man had been hauled aboard. Although the air had drained us of our pleasures it could not prevent the crew’s loyalty to one another.

The strangest moments past as we dragged our crewmates over the woodwork of the captain’s beauty, no man spoke, many that returned were crying without control, others simply fell to the their knees holding their heads in their hands.

The last man to leave his boat was Captain Rike, he had us lift Achilles aboard ship before he himself was raised to the boat’s upper deck. He looked around with a look of such sorrow on his face that no man knew what to say him.

“Bill, Reid,” I turned to face the remains of our crew, “‘ave the chest delivered to the captain’s chamber.” Rike himself had begun to walk about aimlessly. His loyal companion tracked his every footstep as he stared about without saying a word in sheer disbelief.

“‘ow did it ‘appen, Samuels?” I asked. The stocky navigator shook his head with a look of grief.

“It just began to change, Sailor, three o’ the crew mates took their own lives whilst you were away, and Liner’s still beneath the orlop doin’ nothin’ but cryin’ durin’ is wakin’ hours. I ‘ave felt nothin’ but sadness these last two days.” He continued to shake his head, “we can’t be ‘way from this dreaded place quick enough, sir.”

“Indeed, matey, raise the anchor and get us out o’ these cursed mists.” He nodded to me and went on his way. I looked across the deck, and over the ruined woodwork at the crew who sat lifeless across the boat’s gangways. There was not an area of woodwork that did not appear rotten. It seemed as though the entire vessel could have completely fell apart at any moment. I looked up at Roselyn’s masts and even her sails were ruined, holey and moulding. I shuddered at the unexplainable sight, looking once more at my disheartened crew.

“If you wish to rest, men, I suggest you do so. We’ll be clear o’ the fog soon enough, go, let sleep clear your mind o’ your troubles.” As I spoke I saw Rike enter his chamber leaving Achilles to guard the door, he had not spoken a word since he had seen the condition his ship was in. I could not imagine why but the strange fog was destroying the will of every man on deck.

“Fox, ‘ow do you fair?” I approached the young male who stood to attention at the vessel’s primary crow’s nest.

“I haven’t felt well, sir, strange things have occurred on deck, I thought the sight of the crew returning would lighten my spirit, yet I feel nothing.”

“Aye,” I nodded “I fear we all be feelin’ your troubled mind. Will you keep a close eye upon our surroundings, matey? I’ll be briefly checkin’ in upon the capt’n.”

“Aye, sir.” Fox nodded and immediately began an ascent to the top of the crow’s nest, I myself made way to Rike’s chamber. Achilles set himself aside as I approached the quarters. I stroked his head as I knocked upon the woodwork and he licked at my hand and wheezed looking up at me with a strange intensity to his gaze, as though he had some gravely important news to tell.

After a brief moment Rike acknowledged my entry and I stepped inside to see a most distressing sight. Tears rolled uncontrollably from the great man’s eyes though he tried to cover his face with a shaking hand, to see him crying was possibly the worst feeling I could recollect since the passing of my parents, ‘twas most unsettling.

“Capt’n,” I paused, I truly did not know what to say. “The ship’ll be clear o’ the fogs soon enough. We’ll get ‘er ‘arboured and clear ‘er up. She’ll be fine, sir.” Rike nodded repeatedly in silence before speaking.

“This ship be mi life, Sailor, to see ‘er like this…” He did not finish his words and I was sure whatever misery the crew was under was responsible for his state.

“Aye, sir.” I left the chamber feeling as though any further time spent within was degrading to the captain’s dignity. Stepping out onto the upper deck, I noticed the majority of the men had taken my advice and retreated beneath the orlop. The fog was still thick though I could see across the entire deck and quickly realised Sollertis was not at his chessboard nor anywhere to be seen. Out of curiosity I went down the hatchway into the orlop and found him resting upon a barrel on his own, on the starboard of the orlop.

“Sollertis?” He slowly turned to me and pulled a face as though to ensure me he was ok. “Do you mind if I join you?”

“Of course not, Harvey, come, sit.” With a heavy sigh I pulled up a barrel and rested against the woodwork of Roselyn’s starboard. Sollertis was looking out at the fog through the cannon holes in her woodwork.

“Do you know what could cause such a thing, bos’n?” He shook his head slowly, still staring drearily out into the mist.

“I would rather have never known this place existed, Harvey. It makes no sense to a rational mind, I don’t know why I am here, I am no pirate, I cannot kill a man, I’m an inventor. I should have stayed in Port Royal with Damien,” he huffed “for all the good that would have done me.”

“Why did you come, bos’n?” He stared for a moment into oblivion before answering.

“It is rare in life that you come across people whom you lay the trust of your life in. I sail the sea with Rike because he is like a brother to me, and where he goes I follow, but this island, this is like nothing I have ever known or seen, nor would I wish to see again.” He turned about to rest his back against the ship’s starboard before the faintest smile appeared on his face. “When my wife and I were young we had a beautiful little house that sat upon a corroding cliff face on the sea’s shore. In the summer we would rest outside, and in the evenings the colliding temperatures would cause mists to gather across our small piece of land. We would sit in silence staring out at the setting sun, just enjoying the moment.” The boatswain released a quiet sigh, “how I miss her.”

‘Twas most warming to hear Sollertis’ story, yet what was for a brief moment more relieving was to see that as he spoke, the mists abruptly resided and the sunlight of the morning poured most magnificently in through the cannon holes in the orlop. It immediately felt as though the draining grip of the mist loosened as a great mirth surged through me, an enormous smile appeared on my face and I looked at Sollertis who himself without reason began laughing.

As I sat with Sollertis seemingly unable to control myself from smiling, I heard faint eruptions rip out from some distance away from Roselyn, or so I thought. The boatswain’s heavy laughter concealed the blasts as I hastily lifted a hand to capture Sollertis’ attention, yet he was oblivious. In a moment of horror that caused me to duck to the floor of the orlop a cannon ball burst through the derelict woodwork of Roselyn’s starboard striking Sollertis to the back of the skull. I am sure his head nearly became detached from his neck as blood and bone sprayed out across the orlop deck. I hunched up on my hands and knees and threw up at the sight, what was left of him fell limply to the deck of the orlop, no longer recognisable.

It sounded as though an infinity of cannons erupted in that brief moment and I still become lost in woeful thoughts of how the boatswain was taken from us, ‘twas most horrific. As the cannon balls began to splinter and burst through the wood of Roselyn I heard cries from Aran Fox coming from above.

“We’re under fire! To your stations, lads! There’s five of them upon us!”

‘Twas sheer misfortune that the very place we should sail clear of the consuming fog would be where the Spanish galleons were waiting. I crawled to the hatchway that lead to the sleeping chambers and lifted it with a struggle.

Lads! Be up an’ ready! We be under siege! ‘urry to your stations!” Breathing heavily I lifted myself up from the deck of the orlop, though I ducked to the floor again as another flurry of cannon balls thundered into the captain’s beauty causing splinters to spray out in the air and the sound of cracking wood to resonate throughout the ship. The sounds of the black pearls striking the sides of her body echoed within the orlop and in disbelief I looked out through a portside cannon hole. I could see three Spanish galleons and nothing but open ocean where we had left the mist of the island, the smoke of their cannon fire was still rising into the sky above the great blue.

We were surrounded, yet I nor any man aboard ship was going to let the captain’s princess fall without a fight. I lifted myself up from the woodwork and rushed to the hatchway of the upper deck. Many of the bewildered crew had begun to emerge from the lower decks and with caution the cannoneers began readying themselves to return fire.

“Be wary, men!” I yelled as yet another torrent of cannon fire thundered away across the tranquil Caribbean Sea. “Sollertis!” I called out instinctively, though as the realisation of his death struck me I immediately felt lost and alone. I rushed to the helm of the vessel as a few of the crew prepared the cannons for fire on top deck. “Samuels, steer us towards one o’ the bastards. If we be goin’ down we certainly ain’t goin’ alone.”

“Aye, sir, where be the capt’n, sir?” Yet another roar of cannon hail exploded into the air surrounding our vessel and every pirate I could see ducked for cover, I laid upon the deck’s surface and crawled with haste towards the captain’s chamber. As I made my way I saw the orlop hatchway lift open and as it did it was abruptly stricken by a black pearl causing the woodwork to spray across the deck, the head of Austin, which after some moments of hesitation cautiously appeared from the hatchway was missed by an immeasurably short distance. Rising up from the now open gap he made eye contact with me.

“We be ready to fire, sir!” He cried out though his voice was drowned by the sound of roaring cannons.

“You do not need mi permission! Fire all that you can!” He disappeared and it was momentarily relieving to hear our own cannons begin firing, though the pleasure was certainly not a great one.

I pushed Captain Rike’s chamber door open. Splintering wood hailed over the lady’s upper deck. Attempting to prevent it from raining down upon me I squatted in the captain’s doorway, he was sat staring lifelessly at the walls of his quarters, despite all the cannon fire that showered down around him and his ship.

Captain, we need you, sir!” My words did nothing to capture his attention though briefly after I spoke an almighty crash shook the ceiling of his chamber and he slowly stood up from his chair.

“Go, lad, I shall be behind you.” We nodded to one another and I turned about to leave the quarters, keeping low I rushed back to the orlop hatchway and made my way beneath to assist the crew in returning fire however our efforts appeared useless. The cannons of the Spanish vessels had by now scarcely left any of Roselyn’s woodwork untouched as their pearls fell like hail, and as I looked about in disbelief I heard a heavy thud at the hatchway opening to the upper deck. A hand sprawled out lifelessly across the gap where the hatch had once been and I immediately made haste to discover the identity of another lost crew mate.

I climbed the ladder and pulled the corpse of Aran Fox down into the orlop, as I looked about ship I saw Captain Rike walking up the starboard gangway of his wreckage’s upper deck, ignoring all the dangers of the Spanish galleons endless bombardments. Another spray of cannon fire ripped through the centre of our vessel and what was left of the small paddle boats were propelled into the air. I jumped up through the gap and rushed towards Rike who walked aimlessly without care seemingly in a dream. I did not notice it at the time yet the more I recollect the clearer it seems to ring out in my mind the voice of Austin calling out to Adams to bring him the remaining bomb from Sollertis’ chamber.

As I rushed towards Rike and pushed him to the ground to prevent harm from coming to the man a thunderous flare louder than anything I had heard in my lifetime erupted violently from beneath the upper deck. I recall the outburst rip fire upwards from the ship’s interior with such force the entire woodwork of the deck violently jumped upwards causing the primary mast of the ship to be torn away from the woodwork and cogs that held it secure to the deck.

As I fell to the floor with Rike my memory turned to blackness. The blast knocked me unconscious and most certainly killed what was left of our crew. The entirety of Roselyn’s orlop was blown apart and her primary mast would have without a doubt collapsed her in upon herself. The very weapon that had saved us not so long ago had destroyed us in an identical event of violence that I truly do not understand how I survived.

 

I awoke to a heavy weight pressed on my chest and the heat of the sun burning my face. I opened my eyes to find a large male pushing a large boot into my upper body, my arms were bound in chains and I was surrounded by men in dark blue uniforms that looked quite unlike anything a pirate of my crew would wear.

The male who held his foot to me bent over blocking the light of the sun out with his head, he stared at me with his small eyes whilst his hand played with an enormous moustache that looked most ridiculous on his cowardly face. He did not say a word to me, but stared into my eyes for some time. At once he released his foot and said something in a language I did not understand, however five of his men unlocked my chains and grasped me, placing some material over my head, I did not struggle for it would have been futile to resist.

They dragged me down into what I quickly assumed to be the orlop of the ship which was considerably larger than Roselyn’s, as they removed the cloth from my face I glimpsed outside the room to the far end of the deck. There were three doors at the other end of the ship, they each had small gaps in them through which steel bars ran. A man dressed in the same blue uniform as the other men on ship stood clearly guarding them and awaiting orders.

‘Tis within the very chamber the men left me that I currently reside, what I have seen since I awoke upon this ship puts my mind in a doubtless state that my life is finished, though I know not of any other of my crew’s fates other than that of my captain’s.

Whilst I am not spoken to a wooden blockade is put over the bars of the room’s primary light source, the only other light that enters the room is through very slight cracks in the galleon’s woodwork. In the evenings I am made to sit in complete darkness without food nor water. I know not how much time passed before I was first taken back to the upper deck of the vessel, however every time I am removed from the room a linen material is placed over my head to restrict my vision.

The first time I was taken from the cell I was placed in a chamber sat with Captain Rike to my left, the male who had pinned me with his foot was stood before us and within the room were many of the blue uniformed men.

“Tell me who you are.” He spoke at last, and although his accent was different it was understandable. The man removed his blue hat revealing a finely kept head of hair, joined by sideburns that lead down to a well kept beard, though I could not refrain from focusing more upon his moustache than anything else.

“Captain Rike, owner of Roselyn, and you are?” Immediately after Rike asked his question one of the vessel’s crew struck him with an open hand, the captain burst from his seat and grasped the male’s throat forcing him back into the line of men that surrounded us. I scarcely had a moment to react before the male with the moustache pulled a pistol upon Rike and he was pushed back into his seat by a number of men.

“I am Captain Ignavus,” he smiled, “and you are enemies of the Spanish navy. We searched the wreckages of your vessel for riches, yet there were none. Tell me, captain, what did you do with them?” Rike huffed with disgust at the male and looked up with a bitter scowl.

“Those treasures were cursed. I threw the chest over board before you bastards overcame us.” The men stared at each other whilst Rike spoke, however the moment he finished Ignavus burst into laughter.

“Those ingots were Spanish property, captain, you made the greatest mistake of your pathetic existence when you sunk our trade fleet and the galleons which kept them secure. Cursed.” Shaking his head the captain looked at his men with a smile on his face and I suddenly realised what he spoke of.

“We didn’t sink your fleet of trade ships, matey, your own did that.” He looked at me and then slowly moved the aim of his pistol to face me.

“We saved many of the survivor’s of the Martona, imbecile, you were reported long ago, to insult us by destroying a further two of our finest naval ships caused outrage in Spain. Tell us where the treasure is, Captain Rike, and your death will be swift.” My heart sunk as I heard the Spanish captain speak, the entirety of this situation had come upon us so quickly that I had not had the time to comprehend it. “How you crept up on us as you did was far more stupid than it was impressive. The hoard on those ships was more valuable than anything your kind could ever imagine. Now,” he turned the weapon back to face Rike, “you have one night to inform me of the whereabouts of my gold, or I promise you this, captain, you will know a death like none that you could ever wish upon your worst enemies.”

Ignavus gave more orders to his men and they roughly escorted Captain Rike from the chamber, though he did not have me removed. When the captain was gone the Spaniard put the pistol down upon a table and sat on the woodwork looking at me.

“You must be Harvey Sailor?” I nodded. The man clicked his fingers and one of his crew brought forward an enormous book that I immediately recognised to be one of Captain Rike’s vessel logs. “You wrote all of these books yourself, first mate?”

“Aye.” I nodded again, unwilling to make any sort of conversation with the captain.

“You have a very impressive skill with a pen. It seems there were some very special men amongst your crew. Your captain alone seems like a most impressive individual, it shall be a great shame to watch him die.”

“You don’t have to kill him.”

“Oh but I do, orders are orders. You however could possibly save your own life, and have some time with your captain before his head is placed upon a pole and paraded from Spanish harbour to Spanish harbour.” He reached once more for his gun and picking it up with his right hand rested the barrel facing down upon his knee. “I wish for you to re-write these logs with my own name instead of your captain’s. I will have them translated into Spanish and have some small details changed, in return, I promise you will leave this vessel with your life, and I will grant you a day with your captain to say your goodbyes.”

“How long will I have?” I asked, looking up at his smug face.

“I will give you a week to work on your writings, and if they are to a satisfying standard I will allow you more time to continue. You will see your captain in two days time, and that will be the last you see of him.” Upon hearing these words I looked down feeling ill at the knowledge that my captain’s life was so near to its end. “What do you say, Harvey?” Shaking my head, and with a heavy sigh of frustration, I had no other choice but to agree with the Spanish man’s offer. Although I had no intention of rewriting Captain Rike’s logs it was the only way I thought I would get to see him again.

I was given a large, untouched book, and a number of writing utensils and was escorted once again back to the festering prison cell aboard the galleon. This time the gap in the door’s woodwork was not covered over, and though it was bleak, a small amount of light allowed me some sustained time periods each day to begin working upon the last piece of writing I fear I shall ever have the pleasure of undertaking.

‘Twas some days ago now, that I began writing this final journal to chronicle the events of my captain’s life aboard his beloved princess. The Spanish coward did not keep to his word, for ‘twas yesterday I was taken from my chamber once more and dragged this time without a cover over my eyes up to the top deck of the vessel. Standing in chains amidst the grand gangways of the ship was Captain Rike. I was dragged myself to the doors of the chamber in which the captain of the vessel resided, there I was forced upon my knees and bound in chains. To my great surprise Achilles was being restrained to my right by a blue uniformed deckhand who yelled at the enormous dog attempting to keep him held in a single place, ‘twas not until this moment that I knew the dog was alive.

In front of Rike stood a great number of men, each holding pistols and rifles, aimed at my captain. Ignavus stood in front of them and stared at Rike with a grave focus, fiddling with his moustache.

“We know you destroyed our trade fleet, captain, now, this is your final chance.”

“It was not us!” I yelled out and was abruptly stricken by the rat who held me pinned in chains. The Spanish captain did not pay any attention to me.

“I can make this easy on you, and on your first mate, and on your dog.” He smirked before turning to look at me. “Did I not promise you a last day with your captain, Harvey?” I shook my head at the man as his gaze returned to Rike. “I have read much about you and your crew captain, you are not a silly man, come, all I want to know is where the treasures of the Martona are, and perhaps a confession of your treachery.” He took a stride towards my captain and with a mighty swing struck him across the face with the back of his hand. Rike did not react to the blow as it violently caused his head to turn, he merely spat on the surface of the vessel’s gangway before turning to look back at the Spaniard.

“Tell us of the treasure or my men will tear the skin from your body with pistol fire. You will be unrecognisable.” Rike stood in silence. The line of men held their pistols and rifles aimed at his head and body. “Well then, any last words?” Still playing with his moustache, Captain Ignavus turned to his left and waited for Rike to speak. I stared at the man who I looked to as a father. He took a deep breath, turning his head he looked at Achilles, the dog wheezed erratically and for a moment they gazed upon each other before Rike looked back towards the Spanish crew with his dark, despair filled eyes.

“Fire away.” He whispered. The Spanish captain released a heavy sigh of frustration. He stepped to the side of his crew and made a hand gesture, and with it the gunshots began, for what seemed an eternity the bullets hailed my great captain as he fell first to his knees, then backwards as the torrent of fire that tore him apart forced him upon his back. He did not make a sound as he fell, he did not utter a single curse upon the men who took his life, they would never know who they had killed that day, nor what knowledge they had stripped from the earth with their actions.

The deckhand restraining Achilles released him and the poor beast ran to his owner, licking his lifeless face the dog whimpered before barking at the unresponsive corpse. The sight of this brought tears to my eyes for the animal did not understand his master’s fate, yet his unending loyalty would not allow him rest until he saw the captain call his name once more.

“Take that beast below and serve it to the crew.” As the bastard spoke I thrashed about in my chains in protest, Achilles struggled with great desperation to remain by his master’s side as one of the deckhands dragged him beneath the vessel’s orlop. I am sure the world will not see an animal as magnificent as he again.

“Take the first mate back to his cell, you have three days left, Harvey, then I will see your work.” I was lifted to my feet by the same man who held me on my knees and dragged back to my prison cell. As I have spent my days recounting my crew’s final moments upon this dreaded earth instead of erasing my captain’s name from history, I am quite certain that my life is as good as finished. As a standing captain I will certainly not go quietly as Rike did, I will most certainly curse these bastards to succumb to the dreaded horrors of Davey Jones.

 


Entry 8: 1670

  • ISBN: 9781370886845
  • Author: D S S Atkinson
  • Published: 2016-12-31 17:50:14
  • Words: 47698
Entry 8: 1670 Entry 8: 1670