Walter's First Act

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Sir Walter Raleigh's first command requires strong will and leadership.

Submitted: December 09, 2007

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Submitted: December 09, 2007

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The bluish light from the moon washed over the 75-foot ship, everything dark, but a single lit window. Inside that room, two unshaven men in their early 20s sat at a lantern-lit table drinking stale beer from metal tankards.
 
“I’m proud of you, Walt. Captain of the Falcon, your first command,” said Humphrey. He took a drink from his beer and scowled at the tankard.
 
“The Queen wouldn’t have given it to me if you weren’t here,” Walter said with a smirk. The way this journey’s going, you would have been smart to stay home.”
 
“She likes you…please her and you never know where that might take you,” replied Humphrey.
 
Walter mulled this one over. He was hopeful to become an explorer, a conqueror, and he knew that the queen would have little tolerance for failure. Both men looked up as they heard a man yelling in another part of the ship. “So far, it looks like it’s taken us both to hell, Brother. Come!” Walter grabbed the lantern off the table and Humphrey deftly swept a machete off the wall as they rushed out the door.
 
Walter and Humphrey arrived below deck in the dark food hold near the galley. The floor was slippery from grease and humidity and the room smelled like rotting potatoes. 
 
“I got you, you bloody bastard!” yelled a shipman, the sweat on his yellow pallor glistening by the lantern light. He was holding a knife to another man’s throat. “Captain, I got the thief!”
 
The thief’s hands were back against the wall, in his left was a piece of bread. His eyes were wide open behind strands of long greasy hair.  He was breathing hard.  “Just a cut of weevil-infested bread, Sir!” he choked while looking into his captor’s eyes.
 
Humphrey walked briskly up to the thief and put his machete to his chest. “I got him. Roust the others on deck…now!” he growled.
 
On the top deck, 50 solemn men stood. They were a weathered bunch, having been through storms and disease for the past 26 days. Two men were holding the thief up against the main mast with Humphrey still holding the machete to his chest.
 
Walter jumped up on a wooden crate near the thief. “The Queen has entrusted us to seek new lands…to beat the Spanish at their own game.” He paused to look into the gaunt faces staring up at him. “No one said this would be easy. But it’s a mission that we must pursue with vigor and integrity. When one of us shows a lack of these virtues, we must take action, or that lack of fortitude could kill us all.” 
 
Walter jumped down and grabbed the bread out of the thief’s hand. “This man has stolen bread from our stores. This may not be his first time, but it will indeed be his last!”
 
Walter nodded to Humphrey and hastily departed. A young mate handed Humphrey a nail and a hammer while the men holding the thief propped the back of the left hand against the mast. The wimpering of the thief grew more audible as the nail was positioned and Humphrey took his swing of the hammer. The deep thud of the nail on wood was followed by a guttural scream that made even the most seasoned of crewmen wince. 
 
As the thief sunk down with his arm raised as if to say, “I did it,” Humphrey withdrew his machete from his belt and with a single motion severed the hand at the exposed wrist. The double thump was barely perceptible as the blade broke through the bones of the wrist and cut deep into the mast.
 
Down below, Walter looked out his window at the moon’s reflection off the slight swells of the glassy sea. The thief’s screams of agony broke the serenity of the scene again and again. In the distance, far behind the ship, lightening struck on the horizon.


© Copyright 2017 Stephen Ames. All rights reserved.

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