All Quarrels Be Settled Ashore - Chapter 1

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I haven't gotten much feedback on this elsewhere, but now that I'm back here, this seems like the perfect place for it.

He awoke, bleary eyed, to the sound of the ships bell ringing. Lying in his hammock, his eyes focused upon the wood planking above him.

"Welcome to the waking world, Jack."

To his right, his friend Colton was sitting on his sea chest, slipping on his boots. His boarding axe was sitting next to him.

"Not exactly nice to be here." he replied groggily.

Colton laughed a bit, "Too much rum last night?"

"No such thing" he insisted, as a faint smile flashed across his face.

"You've picked a fine day to sleep late!" Martin said, chastising Jack as he approached. He opened the chest beneath his own hammock and pulled out an old machete. "A ship's been spotted on the horizon."

"Shit." Jack said, sitting up abruptly. He got out of his hammock, and opened the chest that sat underneath, in which all of his earthly posessions were stored. Grabbing his baldric, he looped it over his shoulder, so that his cutlass swung at his side, just within reach should he need it. Then, he too slipped on his boots.

"You know, you may not even need it." Martin suggested, gesturing to Jacks cutlass, "They may surrender at the mere sight of us."

"I doubt it, I think last time was a bit of a fluke." Jack countered. "Who knows thought, maybe the crew of this ship will play it smart...."

"We're not that lucky," Colton sneered, running his finger along the blade of his axe"... and I doubt these merchantman are that smart. They'll fight back. Hell, I kind of want them to ."

The sun shone brightly on deck, and the Marauder was running with a crisp wind from the North. Jack pulled his long blonde hair back, and tied it behind his head . Nearly the entire crew was on deck, milling about. Some were sharpening their cutlasses, others were measuring out powder for their pistols, while still others were loading the ships cannon. The merchant vessel was much closer now, their ship having already closed half the distance between them. They were catching up to their quarry.

Jack took a seat on the side of one of the longboats tied down to the main deck. He pulled a small bottle of oil out of the satchel on his side, and applied it to the cutlass. Pulling out a small whetstone, he began working over the edge of his blade.

"How much longer do you think before we take them?" Colton mused aloud.

Jack looked up, over the ships port bow. "Shouldn't be long now."

"Let me see that when you're done" Martin said, gesturing to the stone.

When Jack was satisfied with the edge on his blade, he passed the tool to Martin, who began sharpening his machete.

"You know, you should really get yourself a cutlass." Jack said, "You're liable to get your fingers cut off without a guard on that thing."

"Maybe", Martin allowed, "but I know how to handle this. I know what it feels like to swing it. The day I find a cutlass that has the same weight and feel to it, that's the day I put down the machete."

"Fair enough" Jack conceded, putting his hands up in gesture of mock surrender.

"There's Harlow." Colton said, nodding in the direction of the poop deck, to their stern. Jack turned his head to look. The Captain was wearing his characteristic green frock coat, which had been faded by years of exposure to the sea and sun. His tricorner hat was planted firmly on his head, and he had a spyglass to his eye.

"Run up the colors!" The Captain shouted, taking his eye off of the merchant ship, his voice clearly audible even over the sound of the sea. A large, black flag was hoisted to the top of the main mast, a white skeleton emblazoned on a black background. In its right hand, a spear, stabbing a heart, and in it's left, a cutlass, raised above an hourglass. The message was clear enough to those that spoke the language : Fight us, and your time is up.

After readying their weapons, the trio headed to the rail, where much of the rest of the crew was waiting. Jack jumped up on the rail for a chance at a better view, grabbing some of the rigging to steady himself. Before long, they had gained enough ground on their quarry that the details of the flag were becoming apparent. A red shield, topped with a gold crown, on a white background.

"She's Portugeuse" someone in the crowd offered.

"The Gazela!" Jack called out, reading the name on the ships stern.

"Well men, these bastards have decided they're going to run from us!" Captain Harlow shouted from the quarter deck. "I'd be willing to bet that they're even going to try to fight us, too!"

Everyone had turned from the rail, and was looking up at the Captain.

He paused. "What a bunch of fools!"

The crew erupted in a roar of cheers.

On the forecastle, near the bow of the ship, sat Quinton Atwood and Marcus Hurst, two sailors who had been crewing the Marauder for years.

"He always knows just what to say to get them ready for battle." Marcus noted, as he poured a bit of black powder into the pan of his pistol, from the horn he wore on his belt.

Quinton wasn't paying much attention to the ruckus on the main deck. He had his hand to his chin, stroking his handlebar mustache with his thumb and forefinger. His eyes were focused on the three newest crew members, two standing by the railing, and one upon it.

"Quinton?" Marcus asked, realizing he wasn't paying attention. "Quinton?"

"They had better be focused on the task at hand." Quinton said, talking mostly to himself.

"Who ?" Marcus asked, following Quintons gaze as best he could.

"That Jack Stifler kid, and his cronies." he replied.

Marcus rolled his eyes. "Are you still on that?"

"You're damned right I am. You know as well as I that they don't know what in the hell they are doing, the lot of them!" Quinton barked back, "Yet we are expected to fight alongside them in battle, and what ? Hope that they will be there should we need it? I don't think so! Besides that, let's not forget that our shares are smaller with them aboard! Yours included!"

Marcus sighed a quiet sigh of exasperation, having long ago tired of this conversation. "The Captain seemed to think they were valuable enough when he let them join."

Quinton scoffed at the suggestion. "Marcus, even the good captain makes mistakes."

Marcus, smirking, had a realization, " You know what I think?"

"What's that?" Quinton snarled.

"I think you're still sore with ol' Jackie boy for getting the best of you the night they came on board!"

A few months prior, while sailing in a small dinghy they had stolen, Jack, Colton, and Martin had come across the Marauder at anchor during the night. They climbed aboard, thinking her a merchant vessel. Quinton had been on watch, and Jack surprised him from behind with a knife pressed to his throat. It became quickly apparent, however, that the Marauder was no merchant, and before they knew it, the three of them were surrounded by the ships crew. Captain Harlow, however, was impressed with what he viewed to be a brave deed, if perhaps a foolish one. He had given them the choice to sign the ships articles, rather than killing them on the spot.

"He did not get the best of me." Quinton shot back. He took a deep breath, and started again. "Anyway, that's what I'm saying though. They boarded us! They probably meant to kill us all in our sleep."

"They didn't though, Quinton, and they've had months since in which to do it, were that their goal. Get off it!"

" I don't trust them. I don't know how you, or anyone does. With any luck, they'll fall in battle, and that will be the end of it."

As the Marauder closed the gap with the Gazela, the sound of firing pistols from aboard the Portuguese pinnace filled the air. Jack heard the buzz of a speeding metal shot off to his left. He followed the sound with his gaze a moment later, and saw Titus, the bosun, fingering a brand new hole in the brim of his hat.

"Son of a bitch" Titus exclaimed, seemingly more upset about the hole in his hat than his close brush with death.

"I think they're just firing randomly in our direction. We're too far away for them to hit with any accuracy, right ?" Jack asked.

Titus put his musket to his shoulder, aimed, and fired, a puff of white smoke rising from the guns pan, and barrel. Jack looked to the Gazela just in time to see one of its crew fall overboard, dead.

"Too far for them, maybe." Titus smiled, and sat down to reload his weapon.

His eyes wide, Jack looked at over Colton, who mouthed "Wow".

Before long, the Marauder had come abreast of their quarry. Jack, Colton, and Martin, as well as many others, sat with their backs against the rail, heads down, waiting for the chance to board. The cracking sound of gunfire filled the air as the crew of both ships tried to end the engagement from a distance. Up and down the deck, the pirates grabbed their grappling hooks, and one after another they threw them out into space.

"This is it!" Martin exclaimed.

"Are you guys ready?" Jack called out over the noise.

"Yeah!" Martin yelled back, a mad smile on his face. Colton looked Jack in the eyes, gripped his axe with both hands, and nodded.

Just a few feet down the deck from them, a fellow pirate named Seth was one of many helping to pull the Gazela in close via the grapples. Jack could just see him through the smoke when he heard a series of explosions. Suddenly, Seth wasn't there anymore. The railing exploded in a shower of timber, and various bits of what had been Seth a fraction of a second earlier, rained down on deck. The Gazela had opened fire with all seven of their starboard cannon, and the damage on deck was apparent. As a frigate, however, the Marauder was a much bigger ship, and outclassed the Gazela in almost every way, including firepower.

The ships master gunner, a blond, bearded man by the name of Roger Travers, stood on the main deck amid the blood and debris, and gave the order. "Fire all!"

The Marauder let loose a volley from her port sides thirty guns. The entire ship groaned and creaked with the exertion, and thick white smoke filled the air. All gunfire from the direction of the other ship ceased. The pirates on deck continued pulling the ships together. Jack stood up, and looked out over the water at their battered foe. Through the smoke, he watched as the Gazelas main mast, shattered by cannon fire at its base, snapped, and collapsed into the ocean on the ships far side, taking with it it's tattered sails and a tangled mass of rigging .

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Hi there,

I am not the greatest at critiquing quite yet, so I will let someone else do that.

However, I will say that I enjoyed reading this - it flows beautifully and your descriptions are excellent - you know how to put the reader right in the world!

Thank you for sharing, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

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