Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Best Of: "Arms Aching"

This story was one of the rare out of body writing experiences that I have had-

Arms aching...and if they fail? The best I can hope for is a token trial, followed by a hanging in the town square of San Jose de Oruna. I am one of the few Courlanders that venture onto this island, outside of tradesmen and merchants. The Duchy of Courland is a fiefdom of Poland and Lithuania. Neither of the home countries nor the Duchy itself were willing to fund my ambitions, and the Spanish have repelled both secret and overt Courland opportunism to expand out of Tobago.

I am a "privateer," or at least, that's what the British call it and they have provided some of my means, but I have provided my own methods. They started me out with my first crew of fifteen men. The original crew were mostly Irish men, but all of them were people that the British wanted to be as far away from England as possible and all of them were granted their freedom on the condition that they never return to Europe. All that serve under me, do so of their own free will or I won't have them on my ship, I will not be betrayed by my own for the wrong reasons.

Unlike true "privateers," we weren't granted a "Letter of Marque and Reprisal." It is a commission that would've allowed us to seize everything and anything of any merchant ship that wasn't British, on behalf of England. I had convinced a British go-between, Nathaniel, that I knew every square inch of Trinidad well and that I could wreck enough economic havoc in two years that the entire Spanish Armada would have to shift their attention southward.

My short term goal was to plunder every non-war Spanish ship that came within eighty square miles of Trinidad. My long term goal was to free the Amerindian Natives who were enslaved by the Spanish and have them rise against their Latin masters. I would trade their lives, freedom and land back to them in exchange for the vast amounts of gold that the Spanish kept on the island for trading and commerce.

Nathaniel questioned the soundness of my plan, but he said that England would invest in me. Simply because they couldn't afford to concentrate as much of their fleet this far south as they wanted to and any campaign however successful, could help turn the tides.

My crew fought hard and they fought well during their first battle, using nothing but a few row boats to seize a three-masted merchant galleon that was anchored, unawares. We took the same galleon (which we renamed "Wilhelmina") to Tortola, where we were to be out-fitted with cannons. We were given cannons so that this dog of a ship would have a bark, but no shot or powder to give the dog a bite. So many of our earlier campaigns were carried out with guile rather than brute force and barring that, we had to flee like a dog with her tail between her legs.

This left a taste in my mouth worse than the rations that remained after twelve days at sea, including the mold and the maggots that accompanied them. In a small tavern outside of San Jose de Oruna, I complained to Nathaniel about our weaponry being even being less effective than the weakest rum in the Caribbean, though it seemed that his mind was made up before we even sat down to parlay. He claimed that they would not provide powder because we had become too successful and due to the fact that most of my crew held grudges against the British, they were worried that we might branch off into raiding British ships.

The three crewmen that I brought to this meeting and myself, `said nothing as we simply stood and turned to go, but we were ambushed. The British Navy sealed both doors and the four windows with every available sailor in the area, almost two score. I had anticipated that Nathaniel would attempt some treachery, but not until we were under way. So my crew were at the ready, but anchored out of range of the British guns and of no use to me now.

The one thing working in the favor of we four in the tavern was that the British had only twelve rifles between them and that my father had taught me well in dealing with being outnumbered. He always said to go after the tallest and if they're all the same size, the strongest. If not the strongest, then do your worst to their leader.

I raised my flagon of rum to Nathaniel and motioned for a toast. He stood at the ready, his hand on his scimitar. "Would you not grant a man in my position, the courtesy of a toast and a drink to women?"

His face twitched, unsure if I would be as duplicitous as he. I thought it over...he wouldn't partake of women...or of men. His pleasure in life came from doing his absolute worst, to as many as possible. "Well then, if not to the fair company of women, how about to the British Empire?"

He relented his grip on his sword, reached for his flagon and our cups met. I took a shallow sip, then flung the rum at my adversary. I heard the hammers of a dozen rifles cock back as I reached for the candle on the table and threw it at Nathaniel. I knew that initial fiery scream would provide a good distraction, having seen the same thing done to someone else in Kingston some five years before.

As he spun like the embers from a burning sail and let out a chilling cry, my men and me did what we could to take advantage of the confusion, sending eight of them to the cracked British teapot in the sky. We dispatched another two before the fusillade began, the British getting the worst of it as Nathaniel and three of his own men were killed by their own, compared to one of mine.

The surviving rifle men were at us with their bayonets and one of my men took one of their rifles and became like a hurricane unto them. Steel upon steel, until it was ringing like wedding bells from a church. The screams of the dying and the screams of fear disguised as howls of intimidation, it was deafening.

All of this raged until there were ten of them and I was alone, except death and the devil in my corner...which is where I stand now. Arms aching, wanting to feel the sea breeze caress my face just one last time. They toy with me, they're too scared to come closer and seem content to just wear me down.

A cutlass in each hand, my shoulders and arms are cramped and stiff. My will to live is all that's left to fuel my limbs...


The End

You'd think that I would remember to post this during "International Talk Like A Pirate Day," but something always comes up and I wind up forgetting to. At any rate, there is a sagacious man in Texas that the Internet and hopefully, the world eagerly awaits his return. JJ's starter sentence was "arms aching."

7 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

So weird. My husband is reading a book about pirates, we got my son-in-law a pirate ship for his birthday. They must be in the zeitgeist.

Doc said...

What a wonderful tale! I can sympathize with the aching arms. I just returned from a long canoe trip.

Doc

Cormac Brown said...

Patti,

Pirate culture is embedded into our current culture, especially on Wall Street.

Doc,

Thanks and I can hardly wait to read about your exploits.

Freaky Jewelry said...

Amazing story! Wonderful detail.

Cormac Brown said...

Honey,

And it's so good that you don't even remember editing it?
>; P

Paul Brazill said...

Almost misssed this, me hearty. Very nice, indeed.

Cormac Brown said...

Pirate D. Brazill,

Arrrgh, thank ye for the hearties and for scrollin' this far down the page, when most arrrr too scared to.