A brutal fantasy tale of piracy, friendship, romance and revenge on the high seas…
Meanwhile Santa Hosefina had crowded on all sail and was making for the mysterious spot on the map – which just happened to be Hell’s Maw and its adjoining coral atoll – as fast as was possible. Don Esteban stood at the bow with his feet braced against the roll of the ship. His overlong hair streamed around him snapping and slapping in the freshening wind, but he was so focused on meeting Tall Jack that he heard and saw nothing except the beating of his own blood in his ears.
“Faster. Faster,” he cried as the sailors coaxed every ounce of speed from the sleek galleon.
A voice from the crows nest broke into his reverie.
“Ship ahead. Making way very slowly. Looks like she’s lost her rudder. Can’t see who she is yet. But might be our quarry.”
Don Esteban put his powerful telescope to his eye and scanned the horizon. For a moment he saw nothing, but he reined in his rage and looked more carefully. Then he saw the stricken ship and managed to hold still enough to read the nameplate on her bow. It was indeed Midnight Runner limping through the blue water like an old lady in too tight slippers.
“There’s our quarry,” he bawled, “break out the oars.”
Gobshite was in the Runner’s crows nest. He wasn’t the most intelligent of beings, but he was perpetually alert and he had very good eyesight. “Black galleon heeded our way Cap,” he shouted. “Seems like he’s in a bit of a hurry.”
Jack raised a clenched fist. “Hear that boys, we got company coming. Let’s make sure we are in exactly the right spot when she gets here shall we?”
There was a grunt of assent and the speedy little clipper began inching her way along the coral reef that protected the calm waters of the bay known to pirates as the Name of God. Progress was painfully slow as it was necessary to give the impression of being floundering, while retaining precise control of every move the ship made. The teeth of the coral reef were so close to the port side of the ship that Jack was sure he could hear the corals speaking to each other in squeaky little voices.
He turned his head to assess the speed of the approaching galleon. She was coming at the sort of pace that was injudicious even in open water, the intent of her captain was obvious. He meant to strike the Runner amidships and run the smaller ship aground with his superior size. Only he wasn’t going to catch his prey as easily as he thought. Jack’s helmsman started counting out loud.
“Five, four, three, two, one. Hang on for your lives.”
He swung the wheel with all his considerable wiry strength as the men hidden in the rigging adjusted the sails. The Runner swung hard aport and for an instant Jack closed his eyes. But he couldn’t be seen to be such a coward and he forced himself to look as the boiling waters around the reef seemed to part in front of his gallant little ship. Thirty seconds and they were through, bobbing in the calm waters beyond the rocky teeth.
Twenty pairs of oars began pulling the ship through the gently shoaling waters towards the white beach.
Behind them there was mayhem aboard the galleon.
“What is the madman doing?” Don Esteban screamed.
“He’s beaching her for repairs.”
“Get after him then.”
“There is a reef señor. We will wreck the ship if we do not have care.”
“Don’t be a coward, man. Follow him through the reef. Where one ship can go another can follow. Fifty thousand pieces of gold if you catch him.”
For a moment prudence warred with greed, but avarice won. “Who marked where he went through?”
A voice floated down from the crows nest. “Three points to starboard.”
The helmsman made a delicate adjustment, but the galleon didn’t abate her breakneck pace.
“Half a point to port.”
In the lagoon, Jack and his crew watched the approaching behemoth with appalled fascination.
She barrelled towards the gap in the reef. For a second it seemed like she would make it through, but then, with a sound almost beyond sound, she jammed herself onto the sharp rocks. As she came to an abrupt halt, her own speed broke her back and her death throes deposited a selection of crew and mercenaries overboard into the killing sea.
There will be more from Bony Mary and her crew next week…
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