The Pirate Heroes
The next two days were spent refitting the Specter for its next journey. Melisande worked hard to make sure that she won the acceptance of the crew. She served the meals promptlyand then helped clean below decks. She made sure to help out anywhere that she could, but made sure that no mug was empty when in the hands of a crewman. The crew appreciated the speed with which the drinks were served and refilled.
One late evening, she listened to two of the crewmen on deck arguing like they did the day she came on board. One she recognized as Melchior, the first mate. The other she had met a few days earlier. She didn’t know his name, but everyone just referred to him as the quartermaster. Judging by the sound of their voices, they weren’t happy.
“Two days it’s been.” Melchior yelled. “Where the hell be the captain!”
The quartermaster shrugged, “Last I hear tell of him, a woman had him tied up on land.”
Melchior rolled his eyes with a chuckle, “Literally or figuratively?”
“I don’t ask questions.” The quartermaster replied, “It be unsightly. That be what I was told and that be all I wanted to hear. This woman he be looking for apparently be something special.”
“She best be an angel.” Melchior replied. “If the captain be wasting all our time on this.”
The quartermaster nodded, “Heard he saved her from a gang a few days ago, he did. Now he be smitten.”
“Poor fool…” Melchior replied.
Melisande’s eyes widened as she listened in. Oh dear God, it can’t be…
An hour went by as Melisande tended to her chores. Papi was barely talking to her, still angry by her refusal to return to shore. It weighed heavily on her that the man she knew and loved may never look at her the same. Her thoughts were interrupted when she heard the boson’s whistle piping all hands on deck.
Melisande quickly dropped what she was doing and ran up on deck with the rest of the crew. She turned to the man closest to her as she watched the gangway, “Gilles, what is going on?”
Gilles, the helmsman, was a short man with no beard and thick black hair. When he turned to face her, it was as though his whole body moved, “Captain be comin’ aboard.”
Melisande’s eyes widened as she watched and waited. Suddenly, across the walkway, she saw a man dressed in a red tunic and black trousers step on to the deck. She could not make out his face as his head was turned, but she was certain that she knew who it was.
Melchior saluted, “Welcome home Captain. Was your business on shore profitable?”
“In some ways,” he responded, “I managed to pump a little information out of one of the innkeepers about a Spanish merchant ship heading this way.”
“Feel free to spare me the details.” Melchior replied. “Be not interested in where ye got the information. I be more interested in the information itself.”
“Aye,” The captain replied. “We’ll discuss this at dinner tonigh. I’ll tell you all about my exploits on land.”
Melchior rolled his eyes, “And ye wonder why I be wearing thin.”
“Ah, but tis a good look, and much healthier my friend.” The captain chuckled as he turned around. “So what do we have here Melchior?”
Melisande sighed when her fears were confirmed, “Oh no…”
“The crew be assembled Captain La Fuente,” Melchior replied. “We weren’t able to find many replacements at this lousy little port, but we got enough to make do.”
Baltazar smiled, “Very good.”
Melisande did the best she could to keep out of sight as Baltazar looked over the group of men that made up his crew. He then stepped off the aft deck and walked the line, looking at each crewman.
Melisande tried to hide her face without seeming obvious. Baltazar stopped in front of Papi. He looked the old cook over for a few moments, “Good to have you back, Mr. Clement. I’ve been greatly missing your morning biscuits.”
Papi smiled and nodded, “I have a fresh batch cooking for you in the galley. You’ll have them before the day is out.”
“Good man.” Baltazar replied as he patted Papi on the shoulder.
Baltazar moved further down the line, inspecting them men. He stopped in front of Melisande and looked down at her face. She kept her eyes narrow to prevent him from seeing her tell tale pupils while mentally saying a prayer that her disguise would fool him.
Baltazar had an odd look on his face as he watched her, “Do I know you from somewhere?”
She shook her head, “I can’t say as your face is unfamiliar to me… sir.”
“You wouldn’t be related to anyone I owe money to, would you?” He asked.
“I wouldn’t think so…” She replied.
“Good.” Baltazar said through a sigh of relief. “Would this be your first voyage, boy?”
Melisande did the best she could to alter her voice, making it sound like that of a boy’s, “Aye sir!”
“What say you then?” He asked in a stern voice. “Are you prepared to serve, life or death, so help you God?”
Melisande nodded, “Aye…”
Baltazar smiled, “Good lad.”
He then turned and headed back to the helm, “Melchior, we sail at 8 bells! Get the ship ready!”
Melchior nodded, “Aye sir, everyone to your stations. Move it you dogs!”
The crew scattered across the deck. Each man headed to his station as everything came together. Baltazar watched suspiciously as Melisande disappeared below deck. He stood at the helm and turned to his first mate, “Melchior, what do you know about our new crewman? Where did he come from?”
“No idea, I’m afraid.” He replied. “We saw the boy looking lost on the docks and asked if he be looking for a ship to sign on with. He seemed anxious to sign once he came aboard. What’s more, he actually knows how to read and write.”
Baltazar nodded, “There is something familiar about that boy… keep an eye on him.”
Melchior nodded, “Aye sir.”
Melisande was below deck when she heard 8 bells chime. Baltazar stood at the helm barking out orders, “All watches on deck prepare to make way, shorten and cable. Men to the yards, aloft with you! Hands to the braces, weigh anchor, let fall the sails!”
Melisande nearly fell backwards as the ship lurched forward. She quickly found her feet and continued working. Once she finished setting the captain’s table, she ran up on deck and leaned over the railing. The cool sea breezes passed over her face and the ship began to pick up speed. Within moments, the Specter exited the harbor.
Baltazar turned one point to starboard as they reached open water. He stared out at the horizon and smiled, “Let’s have some fun.”
He used the coordinates that were given to him and navigated toward where this Spanish ship would be. Melisande decided to make herself useful and helped swab the deck as the rest of the crew prepared for action.
She saw Gilles pass by as they were priming the deck cannons, “Hey, any idea where we’re going?”
“Hunting,” Gilles replied with a smile, “we’re going after a Spaniard who will hopefully be carrying riches from the new world.”
A worried look came over Melisande’s face, “What happens to the crew?”
Gilles stopped working and thought for a moment, “Our captain is weird about that, he offers their crews a chance to join us, if they don’t, he sets them free in thier own ship’s longboats.”
“So he doesn’t kill them?” She asked.
“No,” Gilles replied, “not unless he has to.”
Melisande nodded as she finished working and went below. Papi had the captain’s next meal ready to go. He looked up at her as she entered the room, “Have fun on deck?”
Melisande nodded, “What do you know of Captain La Fuente?”
“Good man,” Papi responded, “good pirate. No one knows much about him. He avoids questions about his family and his past, but he’s quick with a joke and enjoys spending time with his crew. He gives each of us our fair share, but the odd thing is that he takes the rest of the plunder and what he doesn’t use to refit his ship, goes to the poor people and the church of whatever city we stop in.”
“Is that so?” She asked, surprised. “So he’s not like the cutthroat pirates that I’ve been reading about.”
Papi laughed, “No, he seems to be a man on a mission, but you would do well to stay away from him. His debaucheries on land are famous.”
“I know,” She replied, “I’ve met him before.”
“What,” Papi asked as a combined look of worry and surprise appeared on his face, “when?”
She lowered her eyes, “A group of ruffians attacked me as I was making my way to the docks. He stopped them.”
Papi stepped forward and took her hand, “Were you hurt?”
“No,” she replied, “he got to them before they laid a hand on me.”
Papi nodded, “He has my thanks, even though I can’t tell him.”
Melisande helped clean off a few dishes as Papi finished preparing the meal, “How long have you served him?”
Papi thought about it for a few minutes, “About five years. I served the captain before him. Captain La Fuente organized a mutiny when he was only 15. He took over command, treated his men better, and I decided to stay on.”
“I see,” she said in a rather disappointed tone, “so a scoundrel, a thief, and a mutineer.”
Papi smiled, “Yes, but an honorable one of each.”
Papi pulled the last plate out and placed it on a tray, “Bring this to the captain’s cabin. He’ll be expecting it.”
Melisande nodded as she took the tray. The boat rocked back and forth and it was difficult for her to keep everything on the tray, but she managed to make it on deck and then to the captain’s cabin. There was a strong wind blowing, but she was determined not to screw things up.
Once Melisande reached the cabin door, she placed the tray down, opened the door, and brought the tray inside. Baltazar was working on some sort of pistol as she set his tray on the nearest table, “What is that, Captain?”
Baltazar looked over at her, “Ah, Cabin Boy Mel, thank you for bringing my food by.”
She nodded as Baltazar held up the pistol so she could examine it. The hammer wasn’t like the pistols she’d seen before. Usually those had a lit match on the end. This one appeared to have a small rock wedged between a vice on the rear hammer. In front of it was a bent lever that fed down into a pan where the gunpowder would go, “I’ve never seen a pistol like this before.”
“Fascinating, isn’t it?” He asked. “We stole a box of ten of them off the last merchant ship we ransacked. The captain said they’re called ‘flintlock’ pistols. Look…”
He pulled the hammer back, pushed the lever into position and pulled the trigger. Yellow sparks flew from the contraption as the lever sprung into its open position. She looked in amazement, “So if I understand this correctly, whatever that stone is, when it strikes the metal, it creates sparks that cause the power to ignite! In other words, it can fire even in bad winds!”
Baltazar nodded, “Very good… how did you know that?”
“I…” She realized too late that she had said too much. “My father was a blacksmith. I understand these types of things.”
Baltazar crossed his legs as he began picking through the food, “Is that so? Tell me about your father, what was he like?”
Melisande shook her head, “No disrespect sir, but my family life is personal, they all died when I was very young. I don’t know much more than that.”
“I’m very sorry,” Baltazar replied, “forgive me.”
She nodded as she saluted, “It’s quite alright sir, but if I may be excused, I have other duties.”
Baltazar nodded, “Okay, you may go.”
Melisande turned to leave as Melchior walked in. She moved quickly to the side avoid bumping into him and saluted, “Excuse me sir.”
He nodded as she passed by, “Mel.”
Baltazar looked up at his first officer, “Melchior, what can I do for you today?
“Sir,” Melchior replied, “we’ve spotted a storm coming in off the port bow. I don’t think we’re going to reach the Spanish merchant tonight.”
“Bad?” Baltazar asked.
Melchior nodded, “It looks like we’re in for a squall.”
Baltazar looked out the window at the dark clouds on the horizon. He closed his eyes as the wind passed over his skin. To Melchior, it almost seemed like he was trying to read what the weather would be like from the sound of the wind.
After a few moments, Baltazar reopened his eyes, “We’ve got a few hours left… order full sail for about 90 minutes. Once it starts getting dark, drop all canvas, batten down all hatches, and go to storm procedures. I want this ship secure, mister.”
Melchior saluted, “Aye Captain, it will be done.”
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