Stories Hub / Sci-Fi & Fantasy / Setting Sail on a Black Sea Ch. 01

Setting Sail on a Black Sea Ch. 01

by Tefler 05/03/16

The year is 1702, and the turn of the century has brought even greater conflict to the troubled waters of the Caribbean. The war of Spanish Succession rages in the old world, and glorious England is at war with France and Spain once more. When French and Spanish ships sail through the Caribbean sea, they keep a wary eye on the horizon for Royal Navy ships, and for Pirates...

***

"Load the grapeshot if you please, Mr Kinney!" The rakish Captain bellowed to his master gunner, as he leaned over the wooden balustrade of the quarterdeck.

"I still think we should burn 'em out, Cap'n," the grizzled man at his side grumbled under his breath, as he scratched at his eye patch irritably.

"Not now, Mr Hastings. I'll have no part of your need for senseless destruction. Besides, I'd rather not unduly damage our prize!" the Captain said, with a gleam in his eye.

He pulled aside the silver brocaded lapel of his dark blue jacket, and reached into the inside pocket, before withdrawing a brass coloured cylindrical object. With a quick flick of his wrist, the spyglass snapped out to full length, and he raised it to his eye, so that he could better study his quarry.

It took him a moment to refocus on the frantically fleeing ship that they were pursuing, and he could clearly see the name 'Santa Maria de la Rosa', embossed on the name plate affixed to the stern. He tilted the spyglass higher, so that he could study the aft-castle of the merchantman they were chasing. He looked around the billowing red and yellow flag that was hanging at the back of the vessel, and saw the Spanish Captain frantically yelling orders at his crew.

"You and I will soon be having words, my dear Captain," he said quietly with a smile.

He lowered the spyglass, collapsing it once more, and stowed it away in his jacket. He looked up at the Caribbean sky, seeing an endless blue expanse, save for one large cumulus cloud that drifted slowly above them.

"More sail Mr Dennings, and have quick about it!" he yelled to the swarthy sailor standing with him on the quarterdeck.

The bearded fellow nodded immediately, and began barking orders at the sailors below, who quickly began climbing the rigging to unfurl additional sails. The expert sailors soon had the sails snapping tautly in the wind, and the ship surged forward, as if eager to close with the Spanish ship. The fierce equatorial sun shone brightly off the nameplate on the prow of the ship, with the word 'Fortune' written in flowing lettering and etched in brass. The smaller ship began to rapidly catch up with the significantly larger, but much slower, merchant vessel, and it was soon time to bring the chase to a close.

"Hard a port, Mr Hastings, then bring us alongside for a broadside!" the Captain said exuberantly to the surly helmsman.

"Aye, aye, Cap'n," the man muttered, before bringing his left hand down on the Fortune's wheel and turning their vessel, so that he could execute the Captain's orders.

They quickly began to flank the merchantman, and the Captain could clearly see the crew of the enemy ship as they ran about the deck. He noticed the telltale glint of steel coming from behind the wooden sides of the ship, and he realised the Spaniards must have a compliment of marines aboard.

"Open fire on their foredeck, Mr Kinney!" he shouted to his Master Gunner on the deck below. "Let's see if we can encourage them to strike their colours!"

The heavy set man nodded, grinning up at his Captain, before setting about his deadly work. With a rapid series of barked orders, the gunnery teams repositioned the cannons, before lighting them with long torches. The Fortune's weapons roared angrily as the gunpowder ignited, sending the clusters of iron balls blasting into the front of the merchant ship.

The grapeshot tore through wood and flesh alike, devastating the front of the merchantman, and the squad of Spanish soldiers that had been hiding out of sight. Screams of pain could now be heard emanating from the enemy ship, and the Captain knew it was now time.

"Bring us alongside her, and prepare to grapple!" he yelled to his men, as he placed his right hand inside the basket hilt of the sword at his side.

He drew the long, elegant rapier from the scabbard at his waist, and the razor-sharp steel glinted brightly in the noonday sun. He strode over to the starboard side, and waited patiently while the two sailing ships drew ever closer. He could see the fear in the eyes of the enemy sailors now, they were that close, and there was a rapid exchange of musket fire from both sides.

His men began to spin grappling hooks at the end of sturdy ropes, rotating them in the air to gain momentum before the throw. He looked up at the aftcastle, his eyes searching for the enemy Captain, and it didn't take long to find the man, dressed as he was in a shining steel breastplate and a red plumed Morion helmet. The Spanish Captain was bellowing orders at his men, desperately attempting to rally them in readiness to repel boarders, and had drawn a golden hilted rapier of his own.

There was a clang of metal, mixed with dull thuds, as his men cast their grapnels over to the other ship, and they bounced off metal cleats, or dug into the wooden hull. The ships creaked loudly as the two vessels were drawn together, their wooden hulls groaning in protest as they were tied together in preparation for the boarding action.

"To arms, men! For Queen Anne, and for England!" the Captain called out in a strong and vibrant voice, which was joined by an eager roar from his crew.

English sailors began to leap across the narrow gap from the Fortune to the Spanish merchantman, and soon the ring of steel could be heard as men duelled one another in a deadly melee. The Captain backed up several paces, and then tensed the muscles in his legs in readiness. He could see his target leaning over the wooden balcony of the aftcastle, shouting orders at his men below, as he tried to keep the panicked sailors from routing.

The Captain sprinted full tilt towards the crevasse between the two tall ships, and sprang up so that his buccaneer's boot landed on the balustrade of the Fortune, then used the extra height to launch himself through the air. He sailed across the gap, and then grabbed at the rigging on the merchantman, using it to slow his momentum, and bring him to a graceful landing on the deck of the enemy ship.

The Spanish Captain looked up in shock, his eyes widening as the Englishman pulled a flintlock pistol smoothly from his belt, and cocked the weapon before pointing the loaded pistol towards him.

"Pleasant greetings to you, good sir! My name is Captain Matthew Taylor, and if you would care to strike your flag, we can bring this unpleasantness to a close."

The Spaniard was about to respond, when a Spanish marine charged up the steps to the aftcastle, musket in hand. The soldier snarled in anger, and began to raise his weapon, aiming for the bold Englishman who was threatening his commander. Matthew was faster however, swinging his flintlock pistol in line with the marine, and then pulling the trigger. The shot rang out and his aim was true, striking the Spanish soldier in the chest, and making him stumble backwards. The wounded man toppled over the wooden railing behind him, and with a terrified scream, plunged into the deep blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.

"It looks like matters are not yet decided between us after all, Capitan Taylor," the Spanish Captain said with a strong accent, as he brandished his sword.

"In all fairness, I must warn you that I'm undefeated with a blade. Why not be a good fellow, save us this bother, and just surrender?" Matthew requested with a cocky grin, as he shoved his empty pistol back into his belt.

"We shall see, Capitan Taylor, we shall see. I myself trained in Madrid for ten years, and you will find me to be a most worthy adversary," the Spaniard replied confidently.

Before the Englishman could reply, there was a flash of steel in front of his eyes as the Spanish Captain lunged to attack, thrusting his rapier towards Matthew's face. The man was certainly fast off the mark, and Matthew had to step back to bring up his own sword in a lightning fast parry to avoid being struck.

"Not bad, Sir," Matthew complimented the other man, as he twirled his blade with a flourish. "How about you try this on for size?"

Matthew stepped forward, and his sword was a blur as he attacked, forcing the armoured man onto the defensive as he parried and blocked the rapid slashes. Their blades rang out as they clashed, steel ringing against steel as they moved in their deadly dance, each man trying to force the other into making a mistake. The Spaniard certainly was a fine swordsman, but as Matthew parried and riposted, he smiled confidently, as he realised that his skills surpassed those of the other man.

He forced the Merchantman Captain back towards the staircase that led down towards the lower deck, knowing that their duel would soon be done. The Spaniard had also realised that he had met his match, and Matthew could see it in the fearful man's eyes.

Matthew stepped back and raised his rapier in a jaunty salute. "There's no need for this to end badly. Surrender, and I'll return you and your men to Port Royal as prisoners of war. You'll be back in Madrid within the year," he said with a smile and a respectful nod.

The Spanish Captain looked relieved, and lowered his own blade. He smiled in return, and was about to speak, when there was the horrible shriek of metal on metal. The man looked down in horror, and then tipped forward, clutching at his chest. As the man fell to the floor, Matthew could see that a cutlass had been driven through his back, with Robert Hastings holding the hilt of the sword and grinning evilly.

"Hurry up Cap'n, stop messin' about," the grizzled man said with a wicked smile, as he yanked the bloodied blade from the Spaniards back.

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