Sunday Serial – The Pirate and the Don – 10

A brutal fantasy tale of piracy, friendship, romance and revenge on the high seas…

It had begun before dawn when a rough-looking type tapped on the door of the only smart house in town. When the door opened a crack he spoke in a hoarse whisper.
“Word has it there’s folk in here as would pay well for news on the whereabouts of Tall Jack Stainless.”
The door opened further and he was hustled inside. Within ten minutes he was speaking to an unshaven hidalgo who wore only his nightshirt.
“Do you tell me you know where I may find Stainless?”
“I do.”
“So why have you not brought me his head?”
“Two reasons. One. I’d need a ship, and I don’t have one. I’m only a ship’s carpenter. Two. I’d like to keep me own head attached. Bad enough selling his whereabouts if anyone finds out what I’ve done.”
Don Esteban eyed him with contempt. But he still unrolled a map and weighted its corners with bags of gold. “Show me.”
“Money first. I been cheated before.”
A bag of gold having changed hands, the informant put a stained finger on the pristine parchment. “Yesterday he was here. By my reckoning he will be about here by now. And if you leaves on the tide, you should meet up with Midnight Runner about here.”
Don Esteban scoffed. “Do you think me a fool man? He could be anywhere by now.”
He made to snatch back his gold only to find himself looking down the barrel of a duelling pistol.
“One thing I never mentioned. His ship is floundering like an old bathtub. He has a broken rudder.”
“Oh. I see. How inconvenient for him.”
Even as the arrogant hidalgo started shouting orders his informant slipped away into the misty early morning never to be seen again.
The three black ships from San Sebastián were anchored out in the bay and crewed by a mixture of professional sailors and mercenary soldiers. It wasn’t a good fit this mix, and by the time Don Esteban got wind of his quarry there had been sufficient desertions to mean that there were only enough men left to properly crew two ships. The argument about whether to leave a ship behind or not raged for so long that they almost missed the tide. In the end, even the hidalgo was brought to understand that he couldn’t sail out after a notorious pirate without fully crewed ships. As the two galleons finally slipped their anchors and turned towards the open sea, Don Esteban stood at the bow of the Santa Hosefina vowing to make examples of all the deserters as soon as he had dealt with the bastard who killed his brother.
The Santa Anna followed the lead ship at a respectful distance, with its captain more than a little displeased by the unflattering things the arrogant hidalgo had called him during the argument in the harbour. He wasn’t at all happy about being called a spineless poltroon, or a cowardly moron, so he fumed inwardly and stared at the blue horizon with unseeing eyes. His thoughts only returned to the job in hand when he heard the unmistakable sound of canon fire and his ship lurched to port. A cry from between decks had him rushing to the companionway.
“Dios ayudanos, capitán. We are hit and taking on water.”
“How much water, cretino?”
“Very much.”
It was indeed ‘very much’ and even a fool, which nobody aboard was, could see that the ship was damaged beyond repair and sinking rapidly. A hail from the starboard side alerted the crew to an approaching square-rigger. For a moment they thought themselves saved, then they realised she flew the Jolly Roger, and had the mouths of a dozen canon pointing at their ship. They abandoned all hope. To their surprise the ship came alongside and held station with the stricken galleon. When nobody dared approach, a villainous looking gent in a frock coat peered shortsightedly across at them.
“We can’t hang on forever, chaps. Not when your boat is sinking fast. Just hop over here and we’ll ferry you back to San Christo. You’ll be fine as we’re being paid to see you safe.”
Whether it was the pirate’s words or the gurgle and sickening lurch from the sinking ship, but the crew of the Santa Anna suddenly found their courage and leapt aboard their saviour.
The Blood Boar dipped her oars and pulled strongly away from the sinking galleon, only just in time to avoid the vicious undertow as the once proud ship sank.
“Right chaps. I have a word of advice.” The pirate captain barely raised his voice, but every Spaniard hung on his words as if their life depended on paying attention. And by the time he finished speaking every man jack of them realised it did. It was their captain who found his voice first.
“If I have this right, señor, once you get us back to land we have two hours to persuade our colleagues on the Santa Francesca to victual up and be ready to leave on tonight’s tide.”
“That’s about the size of it. You would appear to have worn out your welcome.”
“And what happens if we cannot persuade them?”
The pirate ran a single finger across his own throat. “Zzzzzzzzittt,” he said.
“I think we can promise to be ready for the tide.”
The pirate smiled. “I knew you’d see it my way.”

Jane Jago

There will be more from Bony Mary and her crew next week…

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