Birds of a Feather

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A Choice made in one man's greed bound life affect so many others. A pirate's life for sure.

Submitted: October 08, 2015

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Submitted: October 08, 2015

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This story could be about "Red Jack" and his pirate crew, but it's not.

This story could be about navel battles, cannon blasting, and swords flashing in the light of the noonday sun; but it's not.

More than anything else, this story is about the wisdom it takes to make the right choices. 

 

Sailing aboard the gun laden Brigantine, "Black-Moon" was a group of pirates and their able captain, Red Jack Sanders.

The ship was a smartly trimmed two-master. She had a reputation for speed and agility among land-lubber and sailor alike.

She was fitted heavy with deck guns, fore and aft, port and starboard. Her duel swivel guns were rightly mounted for clean shots of 60 degrees across the horizon; perfect for firing on upper decks and cannon placements.

Below deck she sported a 12 cannon array, cleaned and at the ready when needed for plunder.

Now, Red Jack Sanders, called RED by most, was the most untrustworthy man to ever have sailed a pirate's circle. Even as a boy, he was not to be trusted.

When he was a boy, Red's own Mother would not send him to the marketplace to buy food; she feared that he would keep the coins and never return.

Now Red had an uncle, Shyless Parkhurst McBracken, his mother's half brother.

One rainy day Shyless came by their cottage and offered to take Red and send him to school.  He wanted the boy taught reading, writing, and numbers, so he could keep books for McBracken's business. In return, Shyless would provide the boy with employment once his schooling was complete.

Shyless had built a fine business by building his own version of a Long-Boat, a Jolly, and Standard Cutters.

Shyless had no children to take over the business when he passed on, and he was not getting any younger. So he thought it only proper that a family member should continue after his departure.

Shyless lived above his boat shop, this was his home, design studio, and model shop combined; he was a hard worker and a true craftsman of his day.

Shyless also owned a set of docks and slips that he had built over the years. He anchored them to his section of land along this seaport, and they brought a steady income to aid in the off season. Shyless had a wife, Murine, and she managed the docks and kept the books as best that she could, but she was not good with numbers.

Red started out fine; he admired his uncle's skills and respected his Uncle Shyless as a man among men.

Red liked working with wood and building boats, but the book learning was not soaking in fast enough for him, and he became impatient.

On the way to school one morning, Red saw a dinghy with fishing pole and a bait bucket within; it was calling him.

There and then, Red decided to cut class and he stole the dinghy to go fishing.

Well, Red got caught by the owner and the man gave him a few welts with his belt. Then when Shyless heard about what Red had done, well, he gave him another Lick'n for bringing disgrace upon the family.

The next day Red found a cargo ship that had need of a cabin boy, and left his family behind.

 

Chapter II

“A New Beginning”

 

Pirates, in general, are not the most trustworthy lot, except under certain conditions. One of those conditions would be that pirate ships need supplies to operate at sea for long periods of time, but all the experience and planning in the world sometimes fails. At those times pirates have to rely on islands and the natives to trade with, for fresh water, meat, and any fruit that they can come by.

It's all about survival, really, if you piss-off the natives by cheating them then you may get supplies from that island once, but they will be ready for you the second time 'round. On the next visit you may leave empty handed, or maybe short a few crews members. And if you really pissed them off, then you may not leave at all, ever; so smart pirates trade fairly with them.

Red was no different, he learned the hard way in the Philippines; six crew members and a Long Boat were lost over a small sack of salt and a cast iron pot.

 

 

Merchant ships, cargo freighters, and their crews often surrendered without a fight after sighting the Jolly-Rodger flag. If the ship didn't surrender after warnings, the pirates readied for boarding and then they would fire upon the sailor at the ship's wheel. Most times they were successful and the pilot-less ship drifted aimlessly. As a ship drifted, the pirates would snare it with grappling hooks and pull it closer, then leap aboard.

When an attack ended aboard a merchant ship the pirates would take the crew and passengers hostage. They would ransack cabins looking for coins, gold, silver, and jewelry. If a cargo freighter, then they took whatever they could sell. And that was the situation one windy afternoon:

Red Jack Sanders fired one musket, then another; two men fell on the deck of an Indian Freighter. Then Red jumped across to the freighter's deck, fought his way to the freighter's captain, who was a-top the Poop-deck; two clangs of the swords and Red ran the captain through.

At that point, all was lost for what was left of the freighter's crew and they surrendered.

Red rang the ship's bell and swore to all that could hear, he would spare any crew member that would sign on with him. They all did and each was given a penny.

Just about that time a muscular young lad appeared on the freighter's Poop-deck. He sported a knife in one hand and a loaded musket in the other; which was aimed at Red.

"Who be you?" The Lad demanded of Red.

"Cap'n Red Jack Sanders is my name! And who be you?" Red replied.

The lad smiled and said, "I am known as Rakish to my friends, and sometimes as Smart-Boy, but my master called me Sam."

Red laughed and questioned further, "Smart Boy?!? Why would they call the likes of you, Smart-Boy?"

Rakish explained with a smile, "I read and write in two languages, Indian and English. I speak limited amounts of Arabic and some Oriental dialects, as well as Spanish, and French. I have been taught numbers and book-keeping of ships stores. I am a skilled navigator, as well as a dam good sailor."

Red was surprised, and so being he asked, “And who be your master?"

"The former captain of this ship, Sir, I was his Cabin-Boy and also his step-son by his first wife, but seeing the outcome of this battle, well, it seems that I am free to seek employment.

So, according to your word, kindly tell the Bosun to pay me a Penny!" With that said Rakish put away his weapons and gestured a waving bow towards Red.

Red laughed a salty Pirates roar and declared the lad his cabin boy.

Then Red did something he had never done before, he made a dire promise to his crew, old and new alike, "This lad may be our way to safe passage in foreign waters, so protect him with your life or I'll have your head on a plate!"

The crew sounded off, "Aye Cap'n!"

 

The freighter was not the favored booty that the crew had hoped for. It carried fine pottery, stone works, and marble stone slabs for the building of stately buildings.

It did, however, just leave port and had provisions that the Black Cloud needed; fresh water, hard tack, fruit and even vegetables were in its galley.

There was a strong-box, but it held mostly jewels that fetched little in the ports. Unlike coins of silver or gold, which had a marked value, the jewels did not and few merchants traded in them unless they were schooled in them.

There were some prizes; a cache of weapons hidden away had three beautify made and etched long-rifles among the others. These weapons were being transported, illegally, by the captain, so said the Cabin-Boy, to be sold to royalty for big game hunting. He told Red that they were called "Elephant Guns" and that they were worth their weight in silver, in the right ports of call.

Of course, Red had to try one out and the Cabin-Boy showed him how to load it properly. He warned Red, "She kicks like a mountain-goat," but Red paid no mind.

The gun made such a racket and punched such large holes in the freighter's hull, that the crew called them, "Cap'n Cannons".

And as for Red, it knocked him on his barnacle-encrusted butt the first three times that he fired it. But he wouldn't give up, he fired each of them, and he kept firing until he could stand, fire each, hit his target, and stay standing.

 

The Indian Freighter was so badly damaged she could not sail, so after she was scavenged and her shore boats removed, they set her afire and sent her to a watery grave.

As the Cabin-Boy put it, "Evidence is never something that you want floating around."

 

Chapter III

“The Storm”

 

A week or so after the freighter went down, Red and his crew was overtaken by a brutal storm. They had a terrible couple of nights and one really bad day of it; they lost two crew members and a dinghy.

The storm had taken its toll on the Black Moon as well, She single sailed into an island cove to make repairs.

Red Jack stood on the Quarter Deck of this Brigantine as the Bosun sounded off, "Strike sails me lads, furl the Spanker and make fast while you’re at it." 

Crew members were scurrying all around the decks when another order was sounded by the Bosun, "Lower the Sounding Line and call out the depth!"

When the depth was told the Bosun yelled, "Aye, drop anchor!"

Red knew this island fairly well. He and his crew had first visited there three years earlier and had been back once more for water and fresh meat.

On the first visit they waited a few hours aboard the ship to see if natives would come out of hiding, but none did.

Red sent a sailor up into the crow’s nest with the spyglass to see if he could see anyone inland, passed the foliage that lined much of the beach. No one was seen on the hills and in the clearings.

At the morning's sunrise Red sent a scouting party on shore to have a look-see, but they found no humans.

They were also told to gathered fresh water, fruit, and bag some wild game if possible.

Wild boars were found to be abundant near the beach, which was unusual, so they killed as many as they could use.

There was a fresh water lagoon not far from the beach, so that made things even faster.

As crew members were loading the last of the boar, trouble struck, a very large male Tiger raced out from the bushes and confronted the surprised crewmen. As they ran the Tiger grabbed a boar by the neck and dragged it back into the jungle.

No one objected.

Bengal Tigers are not native to these islands and the explanation seems to come by way of a story. The story was told to Red a few months after this encounter.

He heard the tale from another Pirate who called himself Henry Morgan; they were having a meal of Calaloo, Salt-fish, Dumplings, and God only knows what else was in that stew. They were washing it all down with flasks of Ale at "The Scurvy Dog"; a pub on the docks of a Pirate's port.

It seems, as the story was told by Morgan, that there was a cargo ship loaded with Ivory.

The ship, known as the Sea Maiden, crashed on the island's reefs during a violent storm. That happened about three years ago.

The reefs tore the ship apart and as it did it released the ships other cargo, exotic animals and birds.

Morgan said that he had heard of the animals from other captains that sailed those waters; captains that had lost crew members to the big cats.

It seems that after that shipwreck the natives on that island no longer came to their ships to trade; supposedly they were all killed, or sailed to other islands. That, according to Morgan, is why no one lives on that island anymore; and sailors who know the tale don't drop anchor in its coves.

Red believes the story, because the last time he and his crew was there they killed one African Lion and drove off two more females with a Swivel Gun blast from the ship, but they saw no Bengals during that visit.

Needless to say, if Red and his crew must stop there now, they have their muskets at the ready and they don't venture into the jungle with less than a party of ten well armed sailors.

 

After dropping anchor, in the rather large crescent shaped cove, Red told the Quarter-Master to break out provisions and a cask of rum, no one had eaten in days.

He then ordered the Boson to set the watch and to make ready to start repairs.

The Black Moon had some damage to the rudder and to one sail; there was railing to be mended or replaced, and some rigging to be restrung. The sail could be stitched and the rigging restrung with what they had aboard ship, but the rudder and railings were another matter.

The last time Red was at the island he decided to cruse by the wreckage, if he could find it, and see what condition it was in. He hoped that the ship was above the water line enough to salvage its cargo of Ivory.

Red did find the ship and all that was visually remaining was the aft sticking out of the reefs and above the surf. So Red figured the cargo was lost.

Thinking back on that sighting, Red decided to see if they could salvage needed parts from the aft of the "Barque" cargo ship.

Red gave orders to his Quarter-Master, as to what was to be done, then while the Bosun and the crew was busy working on the Black Moon, Red departed. He took three of his most able bodied seaman and they rowed their Longboat north, along the coast.

The reefs and what was left of the Sea Maiden were not far from the cove, just about three miles past some cliffs that protrude over the water. The cliffs help to form the northern edge of the cove and shielded it from heavier surf.

After arriving near the remains of the ship, Red found a stretch of beach free from most rocks and heavy surf; they put to shore there.

Climbing the rocks wasn't too bad, due to low tide and the waves were mild.

Red found that the rudder and some iron fittings from the Basque could be adapted to his ship. He was sure that they would aid and hasten the temporary repairs. Once done, they would sail the Black Moon to a friendly port and proper outfitting.

Also, there was railing still intact that could be substituted for the damaged railing, which was a plus.

Two men had to take loads of wood, rails, and fittings, back to the Black Moon; there wasn't enough room in the Longboat for one load. So Red and one crew member waited on the beach until the two returned.

It wasn't long before Red became bored and decided to explore the beach, about one and a half miles long. Both men, heavily armed with muskets and sword, headed along the shoreline.

As Red bypassed some boulders he saw an elephant tusk just above the reach of the tide. It looked as if it had been there for some time. Both the salt water and Sun had left it in bad shape.

Red looked around, there were furrows worn in the earth, above the sandy beach. There was damaged vegetation in a large area, under some trees.

"Well lookie-here mate, I'll wager that someone, most likely that sly Cap'n Morgan, salvaged these tusks and stacked them here, out of sight," Red told his crewman.

The man just nodded in agreement.

Red made the assumption that it wasn't a storm that did the cargo ship in, rather, Morgan's ship may have run them onto the reefs during battle. In a bad storm, such mistakes happen. If that was so, Morgan would have to wait until the storm was over to fetch his booty.

Most likely Morgan went ashore with a scouting party, just like Red did.

Red figured that after locating the ivory, and whatever other cargo that could be salvaged, the heavy ivory was stacked in the bushes for safekeeping, just as Red would have done.

After taking Talley of the booty, Morgan may have realized that he couldn't carry them all, so he left to get whatever he needed to retrieve them. Why else would he leave them behind?

Red went down to the water's edge and watched as the tide went out. After a while he went out into the water and started feeling around in the sand, below the waterline.

Red gowned as he lifted another tusk from the sand.

"Look Lad, there is more here to be had. I'll wager that they are all in bad shape, but still worth a fist full of gold," he said with a smile on his face.

The next day Red took the long-boat and three of the strongest crew members and headed back to the beach where the tusk was found. Red and the crew members dug around the beach for hours and found 19 more tusks. If there was any more, surely they had washed out into deeper water.

Red called it quits when he heard musket fire coming from the direction of his ship. They quickly loaded what they could, aboard the long-boat, and headed back to the Black Cloud.

Chapter IV

“Hungry Cats”

Red was not prepared for what he was about to see, as they entered the cove.

One of the ship's dingy was bobbing around in the shore tide and a crew member was being eaten by a Male Lion on shore. Three female lions and a cub was sharing two other sailors further up the beach.

Aboard the Black Moon was his Bosun, standing on the deck with a torch in one hand and a sword in the other, thrusting one and then the other at two Bengals that had him pinned between a cannon and the ships railing.

There were a few hungry Tigers roaming the deck of the Black Moon, some stained red with the blood of crew members. And there were more swimming from the shore toward the ship.

"BLAST," said Red, "I thought cats hated water!"

Red could hear some of the other crew members calling out, it seems that they were hold up below deck and others were in the captain's cabin.

Red could hear musket fire, from time to time, and the sound agitated the Tigers, but didn't drive them off the ship.

Finally the Bosun managed to stab one Tiger, but the other Bengal took the opportunity to attack, and it was over quickly.

"Poor Percy," Red commented, "he was a proper pirate and a good Bosun; may he rest in peace."

Red pulled a long rifle from under the boat's seats.

It was one of the three guns he had acquired in the raid on the Indian Freighter. Red keeps one in his cabin, one locked in a locker on the Poop-Deck, and one under the seats of his Longboat.

Red proceeded to load the beast and told his sailor to sit on the seat in front of him.

"Cover your ears, or you ain't gonna hear anything for a week or two," Red told the sailor.

The seaman did what he was told, quickly.

Red laid the rifle stock on the sailors shoulder and took aim at the male lion on shore; the third shot was the charm.

When the lion fell it attracted the attention of two younger Bengals that were nearby; they went after the dying lion right away.

The female lions became alarmed and retreated into the jungle with their cubs.

"Ell-of-ah shot Cap’n!" remarked the sailor.

Red loaded the gun again and swung the Longboat around. This time he aimed at one of the Tigers on deck, which was a much closer shot.

It went down.

The Sun was setting so Red thought it best to clear the ship's deck of Tigers, at least enough of them where his crew could come out of their holes and run off the rest. So Red broke out two Stink Pots that were kept in the Stern of the Longboat.

Red questioned the sailors in the Longboat, "Any of you got a good arm for throw-in?"

"I cap'n!" was the reply from one.

"Well toss these Pots aboard when I give the word, and mind you, don't toss it on the Poop deck." Red laughingly replied.

(The Poop Deck is right above the Captain's Cabin.)

"Aye cap'n, not on the Poop Deck!" was the reply.

With that, Red ordered the rest of the Longboat crew to row toward the ship.

Red, having put away the rifle, pulled two muskets from his waistband and readied them to fire.

As they neared the ship a Tiger appeared above them, (Bam!), Red hit him in the neck and the big cat disappeared from view.

"Let her fly!" Red yelled at the sailor.

With that, the pot was tossed on deck, mid-ship, starboard side. After a bit of maneuvering of the Longboat, the second pot was tossed on the Bow.

Most of the big cats abandoned ship due to the smell, and those that didn't were soon driven off, or killed, by the crew.

It went well from there on out, except, of course, for the lingering smell.

As dawn broke, all hands were swabbing the decks and cleaning off the blood soaked wood. Three crewmen were assigned by the new Bosun to stand watch with Swivel Guns. They were ready and fired every time they saw a Tiger on shore. They actually hit one! Yuck, what a mess.

Shortly after that Tiger was hit, the two female lions came out and quickly pulled what was eatable into the jungle.

Chapter V

“The Conclusion”

 

A few more days passed before the ship was ready to set sail and even though she was Jury-Rigged she was thought to be sea worthy.

Longboats were taken to retrieve the rest of the tusks and they were stacked on board.

Red gave the order that they would weigh anchor at dawn, and retired to his cabin.

 

"AHOY, --- Black Cloud!" was heard from somewhere above the ship.

The Bosun went to the captain's cabin and informed Red Jack that they were being hailed by unknown persons.

"Shall I hoist the Jolly Rodger Cap'n?" was the question presented.

Red replied, "Not yet, let's see who we'd be dealing with first."

Red went up on the Poop Deck and looked around.

"AHOY, --- Black Cloud!" was heard, again.

To the north was a man standing on the cliffs that protruded out and over the ocean.

"Who be you, Able Seaman or Land Lubber?" was Red's question.

"Able Seaman and captain of the Sea Maiden, I am Captain Brown," was the reply! "Who be you, Merchant or Pirate?" was the next question to Red.

"A ship for Hire!" was Reds reply.

Then the man shouted, "Are you sea worthy and ready to take passengers and cargo?

Red inquired, "How many passengers?"

The reply came, "20!"

Red could not believe his luck, he was 12 men short of a full crew. Some of the Sea Maiden's crew would sign up with him if persuaded properly, Red was sure of that. And those that didn't would walk the plank with their captain.

As far as the cargo, that would be well gained Booty.

Red Replied, "Aye!"

 

There was silence for a while. Captain Brown walked away from the ledge, but soon returned with a thin rope made of vines. He tied one end of the rope to a bush and he tied something else to the other end, then he lowered it until it was just above the water line. 

There was a message attached to the end of the rope so the quick and agile Cabin Boy jumped in a Dinghy that was tied to the ship’s stern and he fetched it.

The Cabin Boy read the letter to Captain Jack; "Given the danger from the Tigers and Lions, no one will rescue us.  We hope that you are not afraid and will rescue us for a handsome profit.

This is our proposition to you. Help us carry Ivory tusks and other valuables to your ship. Give us transport and you shall have half of all trades, paid in gold.

If you agree to these terms, fire one musket blast, if not, fire two."

One Musket was fired.

The rope was raise and again lowered with another letter attached. Once again the cabin boy retrieved and read it to Red and the crew.

"Attached to this letter is a map showing a well marked trail to our location. To carry all cargo down from this hill, in one trip, will take the 18 men I have here and those in your crew; save seven to guard your ship.

If you start your ascent at dawn, we should be ship-side before sunset.

If this is acceptable to you, signal one musket blast, if not, two."

One Musket was fired.

 

The next morning at sunrise the Black Moon's two Long-Boats, three Jolly's, and two dinghy's were on shore. The ship's seamen and Red Jack stood vigilant on the beach.

Red had fired cannon blasts on the beach, inside the jungle brush, and along the area that they would be traveling. He had done this for a hour before sun-up, hopefully to drive the big cats away.

Captain Brown, who was standing on the cliffs, waved at Red as he started into the jungle.

Aboard the Black Moon were the cabin boy, the Bosun, and six crewmen. Three were manning the Swivel Guns and two made rounds of the ship's decks every quarter hour; everyone was watching the shore as well.

Two hours went by, then three; the Bosun rang the ship's bell marking mid-day.

In the jungle, there was constant danger. Animals attacked the party several times, but most were driven off and a few were killed. They also killed a bear and two Hyenas.

It was slow going up that hill with that many sailors in tow.

As the Bosun sounded the bell, on the half hour, a wet figure slipped up behind him and put him down quickly.

Ten others came aboard and took some crew members by knife-point, others were cold-cocked. They all were bound and gagged, and together with the cabin-boy they were locked below.

When Red Jack reached the cliff there was a letter hanging from a bush, near the vine-rope.

The letter said that Captain Morgan and his crew had found what remained of the stranded crew, Captain Brown was dead. They moved the Elephant's Tusks onto the beach and into a hiding place, covered with foliage.

Captain Morgan's ship was too small to carry that much cargo.

The letter, signed by Morgan, said that he was sorry for the deception and for leaving them stranded, but he needed two ships to get the Ivory off the island.

And, after all, they were all pirates and everyone knows that pirates cannot be trusted.

Still, Morgan felt badly about leaving them to be eaten by Tigers, so he left them three sail-fitted Long-Boats, beached and tied on the other side of the island.

The letter said that all they had to do was follow the directions written on the letter to the well marked trail. The trail would lead them to the Long-Boats and to safety.

But Red Jack could not read the letter that was in his hand. The cabin-boy, Rakish, was the only soul in the captain's crew that could read.

Red walked out onto the ledge of the cliff and saw the last of the Ivory being loaded aboard the Black Moon. He heard the sound of a Bosun giving orders to weigh anchor and he watched as the Long-Boats and Jolly's were being tied down; the Dinghy trailing behind.

Yes, I'm sure Red Jack did feel a tinge of sadness as he watched the Black Moon's sails unfurl, he might have even shed a tear as he watched her come about and head out to sea.

As he watched the Black Moon, Jack saw another ship, a fine looking Schooner, and she was well fitted for battle. She moved away from the shoreline and out to sea, heading in the direction of the Black Moon.

Red opened his spy-glass and looked to the deck of that ship. And he wasn't very surprised to see Captain Henry Morgan standing on the deck; a deck loaded with Ivory.

 

JEF / D. Thurmond 08-2015

 


© Copyright 2017 D. Thurmond, aka, JEF. All rights reserved.