William Brand

The Watch Dog

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"There, sah." Mister Badger pointed, handing William the glass. They had been searching for the Navarra for almost ten full minutes, and had finally sighted her, if only briefly. They could only guess at her condition, being so far away as she was and appearing as but a shape against an almost equal darkness.

Mister Greene came up then, and by the look of him he had news. "Mister Greene. What report?"

"Little if no water from above, other than what's expected, but she's taking on water aft."

"Is it threatening?"

"No, Sah. Not...threatening...but..."

"Yes, Mister Greene?"

"I believe we have some reminder of that battle which proceeded me, Sah. That strike upon the Quartergalley."

"Ahh." William returned, nodding. "The Elephant come back to haunt us."

"Aye, Sah. The hit has weakened a filling transom or two against the cant frames. Not so much that she takes in any sea to o'erwhelm us, and the powder stores are fine above the leak, but..."

William smiled, for he understood the man's frustration then, for it was personal and professional both. "And how are your quarters, Mister Green?"

"Wet, Sah. Wet through."

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Dorian made his way below deck checking with his own eye and hands the stores. While the deluge continued outside, he was pleasantly surprised that things remained as dry as they were tucked away in the hold of the Lucy. Several of the crew had found him working about and apprised him of updates on the ship and weather from the officers above. The Captain also received message that Preston had been looking for him. Dorian nodded a slight thanks each time he was told and continued about his self-appointed duty. He had heard the weather outside steadily growing while the ship plunged into each successive wave. Dorian wanted to gage the weather himself and needed to sit with Mister Whitingford. He returned to his makeshift cabin to retrieve his oilskins and then went above.

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As duty called she made her way with the others to the rail tugging her protective gear closer to her to keep from getting too wet. She slipped once as a large swell seemed to come from nowhere and looked up into Alan’s face and searched his blue gray eyes as he captured her wrist. “Careful.” He muttered before pulling her behind him towards the rail where Ciaran stood waiting. Argus tried to settle at her feet but with the sea so wild and the rain stinging she sent him back below so he would not be washed overboard. There was much news and she was quiet listening as Alan and Ciaran filled her in on what had happened above during the fight and since and soon she replaying her own events as she had been below.

Questions of the prisoners arose and she reported on what she knew of them though it was not much. Nay that was untue..she knew quite a bit about them but she was not at liberty to spread details unless the Captain approved, and as she was not one to carry tales it was best to claim little.

It was also why she favored fellowship with Ciaran and Alan, they accepted her as one of them and understood her claim even though they both knew that she knew more than they would learn till she was ready. With nods they continued to scan the seas though there was not much to see with the wind and rain. Only flashes of lightning showed the angry discord of the sea. It never failed to amaze her..the sea, it was calm and complacent at times, playful at others and then this. The raw power, the danger, man against nature. Was she the only one that felt the pull of it or is this why men escaped to the sea, the sea their mistress? It thrilled her, amazed her and terrified her to see such beauty turn so destructive and seemingly so quickly. A part of her longed to run and hide, another part of her the wilder part relished whatever came. The thunder broke nearly overhead and rumbled loudly over the sea seeming to build in noise before echoing then fading. She lifted her head and watched the bright light fork and flash overhead nearly touching the main mast, she gasped and looked worriedly over the masts to make sure none had been touched before turning back to tell Ciaran and Alan who both nodded grimly and the trio once more turned their attention to the writhing sea.

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Robert Elmer and Gabriel Edward stood at the capstan, shoulder to shoulder in a rain that neither of them seemed to mind. This was the first real storm of any size that the two had know since their lives aboard the Carolina. Gabriel was in the midst of regaling Roger with one if his many 'Tales of Caslte Combe' when another good wave crested the bow of the frigate. He had been right in the middle of the phrase 'drowned a priest' when they were both pressed back by the white-capped wall. The men recovered well enough and even laughed, too content to be at sea again to care much about waves or rain.

Henry Jones was also there, listening to Gabriel's stories and yet not listening. He was posted at the larboard rail to watch the progress of the storm as a lookout, though what he might report in such darkness he couldn't say. Anything he might sight would change the progress of the 'Dog very little, for if any ship should come upon them now, then he would but mark it. Enemies seldom if ever tangled with one another in bad weather, their cannon being too much a danger to themselves in such seas. Still, he watched.

In the galley the cook's mate was trying to make what use of herself as she could, content at that moment to watch John Stares as he explained the finer points of rendering a good keech. "Tis a good life, i' tis. A chandler c'n put up co'n in winter when all else are hungry."

"But you smell of fat..." James Standiford observed from where he sat scrubbing pots in the corner.

"Aye." John agreed. "The smell tis but a shingle o'er your head. Brings business. Brings co'n." He reached out with one trunk of an arm and ruffled the lad's hair. Then, leaving his hand firmly clamped upon the crown of Jame's head he pointed his finger at the lad's chest. "Fat for cooking. Fat for candles. Fat for life."

James smiled, of course, but contented himself with ideas much larger than tallow and pots.

These were but a few of the little interchanges had about the ship as men worked through the night, some maintaining and some standing ready to maintain.

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As another wave slammed against the side of the Dog water splashed ever upwards and struck her in the face. Coughing she gamely lifted one hand from the rail to wipe at her face before clutching it as the ship bucked wildly. It was like being on the back of a wild horse, that twisted and dropped only to rise again and repeat the process. Except this horse had no mane to cling to nor did one's legs wrap around the barrel of the beast to keep seated. Alan managed to lift the glass to his eye but could see nothing even with the lightning illuminating the pitching seas.

A large wave rushed them and already tired from the brutal fight to stay standing and the heavy drenched oil cloth they all wore, Ciaran lost his balance, his foot tangling with Treasure's legs as he was swept quickly towards the other rail. Shouts were yelled and those at the opposite rail managed to keep him from being swept overboard. A wicked drop on already unstable legs had Treasure hitting her knees on the hard deck with a grunt of pain and she quickly rose. Alan and several others struggling to retain their footing and hold as the sea rolled beneath them. Ciran managed to make his way back and grab hold of the rail his heart thundering at his near fate.

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"SAH," called Geoffrey clutching his small wool cap , "Mister Pew is . . ."

Dorian held his hand up against the increasing wind and nodded, now becoming somewhat annoyed. He walked the deck quickly rechecking everything that had been doubly secured. Returning to the quarterdeck, Nigel reported the storm was increasing in severity, but that he and Logan were well suited to ride it out. Dorian patted him on the back, sighed, then made his way to the ward room. He gave one last glancing look about the deck and nodded an approval to himself.

Preston did not look up when Captain Lasseter entered the cabin. He was seated at the table thumbing through the list of those men that had perished aboard the encounter with the snow.

"How's th arm?" Dorain asked matter-of-factly.

Preston rubbed the crimson stained bandage on his forearm, but said nothing.

Dorian removed his oilskins and hung them against the larboard bulkhead. He ran his hands through his wet hair and pulled it back tightly. The Captain could see Preston looking through the log book. "Aye, a few men lost." He stood over Preston now, reading the list over his shoulder. Preston's gaze narrowed a bit at the names of Brenton Coles and Nicholas Trodd. "Most lost 'n th' gunn crews, some in the boarding," Dorian said. He talked of the crew lost and those whom may not make it through their injuries. Dorian moved to the small table, pulled a glass and then turned back to Preston as he held up a second glass. The former ship's master nodded. The captain pulled the cork from a non-descript bottle and poured the amber liquid into the two glasses.

He returned to the table and sat the glass in front of Preston. He raised it slightly, pronounced "to your health," and took a slight sip.

Preston mirrored the Captain, took a sip then held the glass in his lap. The sea was raging outside and the men were doing their best to keep their liquids in their cups.

"What 'appened?" asked Preston bluntly. He coughed sharply then rasped, "I've heard much talk."

"You tell me," Dorian replied just as blunt.

The former ship's master took another sip then grimaced as the rum burned on it's way down. "I dinnot know Dorian," he gruffed.

Dorian sat across from Preston, crossed his legs and lightly placed the small glass on his lap. He looked Preston in the eye and told him of what he, Dorian, knew.

The story began when the snow had called for quarter; Preston was seen leaving the deck angrily. Dorian did remember relating the sound of a pistol shot or two below deck. Robert Jameson had reported later on what he thought was the ship's master, with a dagger in each hand, covered in blood and that he had nearly shot him upon investigation. Johan Stadtmeyer also thought that shadow was Preston when he saw a man appear in the dark, but wasn't sure. Someone had called to them that there were none surviving. When they checked the narrow passage they found Preston along with Nicholas Trodd and Brenton Coles lying lifeless.

Preston had stared at Dorian incredulously throughout the story. "If'n I was t' b' dead, then who called to them that there were no survivors?"

He took another drink from his glass. A fog began to burn off in Preston's head. While he did not remember killing anyone below deck, he did remember going below. The snow had surrendered and he had gone below to find any remaining officers with Brenton Coles and Nicholas Trodd. He thought quietly as Dorian stared at him. Preston went back through those minutes. He, Coles and Trodd had gone below to search for anyone remaining alive aboard the King's Fury. Brenton's pistol suddenly fired in the darkness and brought up a flash. He then remembered being hit from the side. Nicholas and Brenton could not have died during the engagement.

Someone else had been below.

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As Captain Lasseter finished telling the tale of what he had known of Preston on the Snow in wake of the call of quarter given, he watched as the Ship’s Master became very still in thought and action. The Lucy pitched about, causing the hanging candles to cast strange shadows about the room and across both men’s faces. Even with al that, Dorian noticed something about Preston that had been lacking in the past day. He appeared to be of sound mind again. Dorian also noted that he was dripping wet and surmised that his officer had taken the liberty of a walk on deck in the deluge pouring from the sky above without foul weather gear. Maybe he was not so sound of mind… At that moment Preston licked his lips and drew in a breath, held it a moment before speaking.

“If… But they… Dorian… I don’ remember killin’ b’low decks on tha’ ship… I jus’… I’m no rememberin’, but I wouldn’t… not after quarter…”

Dorian saw the look of anguish on Preston’s face as he tried to sort out what had happened in his mind. In some way he was actually relieved, as he was quiet afraid that his most trusted officer had gone mad. The Captain watched as his man continued to work through what had happened, in some ways reliving it in his mind and still coming up short.

“Preston, ‘s’alright lad… We’ll sort this out in time, not to worry. I’m pleased with… I’m pleased yer feelin’ more yerself now, but I think ye still need ta rest easy… And ye need dry clothes, again… slog ‘em soppin’ bits off an we’ll get ye dry an dressed. Come now, it’ll come back to ya, just need more rest…”

Dorian stood again and Preston’s eyes focused on his face. Lasseter gave Preston a side-long smile before walking with slight difficulty to the sideboard and found a large cloth for Preston to use to dry off some. He called out for one of the powder monkeys and young Liam appeared. Dorian sent him to the Master’s cabin to fetch up more clothes for him and Liam was set to task.

“Drink up Preston, not th’ time ta get a chill…”

Again Dorian smiled some as he held out the cloth to the Ship’s Master.

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Briar was ill by degrees, for the ocean had never heaved so much and the closeness of the surgery proved a bit suffocating. Everything was sealed up tight, so that the place proved the very opposite of the upper rooms of her last apartments. She tried not to think about the darkness outside as the few greasy lanterns of the place swayed back and forth on low beams. She also tried not to think about the way everything made her itch.

She scratched her head for the fifth time since the last bell, her eyes shut up tightly. She was scratching all of the time tonight, and it made her irritable. Still, she scratched, but this time something came away on her finger. It was almost imperceptible, appearing as just the tiniest of creeping dots in the dim light.


"Noooo..." She whispered aloud as her eyes went wide with wonder, horror and a kind of appalled violation. The sea was proving very uncomfortable.

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The sea was a writhing monster! That was her one and only thought for a long while, her eyes stung from all the water that continually abraded her face choking her as she gasped for breath, Her lungs felt on fire! Her short nails were torn further still as she clung to the rail to keep from being washed over, or tossed when the ship dove deep into a trough only to come back up as quick as it went down. Her legs shook violently as did her arms as muscles were violated continuously from the fight. Time seemed to stand still as lightning flashed showing the sea dropping away only to rush back towards them. A muffled shout to her left showed that someone else along the rail had also seen the huge wave but she dared not turn her head nor take her eyes from the wave as it slammed into the Dog. She slipped on the deck as Ciaran lost his balance toppling into her and she into Alan. Ciaran gave a yell as he was flung backwards, his hands now free of the rail seeking purchase on anything that would stop his roll towards the sea. Just as Ciaran grabbed at her ankle Alan managed to right her, suddenly Mr. Franklin was there along with Claude Marchande , Robert Hollis and Gavin Montgomery. Hard hands steadied her and others lifted Ciaran to his feet, who insisted he was not injured and would remain at his post. Treasure badly shaken by the close mishap prayed that all would survive and that the storm would soon pass for she was not sure how much longer any of them could take the beating they were receiving.

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William considered an order for lifelines forward, but said nothing. He also considered retiring, for the sea was not very forgiving in regards to his sore back. He reproved himself again for not being more careful aboard the snow, for while he had remained somewhat untouched, but for a fall, he had exerted himself without care in the rescue of goods.

"A cripple for a cask of beans." he muttered to himself. The men at the helm looked over, but William made no explanation. "Steady on."

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As Preston reached out to take the offered cloth, the Lucy was buffeted by a rogue wave that sent a shudder through the small ship. It was hard enough that it caused Dorian to have to take a step to keep his balance. A frown appeared on the Captain’s face.

“That, did not feel good… Pray, dry yourself and dress when young Liam returns. Stay put if you please, I will return in short order…”

The Captain handed off the cloth to his Ship’s Master and took up his oil skins and was soon topside. Mr. Brisbane was the first of his officers he found. He did not need to ask for a report, for as soon as Nigel was within ear shot, he began telling of what had just happened.

“Cap’n, rogue wave found us for’ard on th’ larboard bow, Tuck says it fractured th’ cathead, can’t say wot else’s amiss yet, sah!”

Dorian squinted against the spray and thought he might step forward to see, but decided on another tac.

“Thankee Nigel!, Gonna head b’low an see if there’s much amiss there! Do me the honour o’ doublin’ th’ men on th’ pumps!”

“Aye, Sah!”

With a nod, Dorian headed to the scuttle and below. He made his way forward and into the lower areas. Just as he was about to duck into the cable tier, Master Wenge appeared. He did not need to speak as the look on his face told all.

“How bad?”

“Captain… She’s sprung two planks… We’re takin’ on – are the pumps working full and by?”

Dorian just nodded and placed a hand on Alder’s shoulder.

“Do your best, man… We’ll make it ta port.”

Alder knuckled his forelock and headed aft in search of some timbers to shore up the damage. Dorian headed topside to see about taking some pressure off the larboard bow and signaling the other ships that they were in trouble. He did not truly believe the reassurance he had given to Alder.

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Everything below deck changed within a few short minutes. Men who had been asleep were awakened to the danger of precise shouting. While much of the berth was still dry, the unmistakable sound of water rushing into spaces not intended for the medium caused more than a few heads to raise from hammocks. The sound came like a hiss and a spray in the near dark, belying the pressure of seawater coming in at seams and small spaces. Men so recently freed from prison listened to the sound so many of them had heard in capture, if not before. The youngest lads, with no name to give the sound, stared about for any answer that might come, but all the able seamen not already employed above and below listened in attentive silence.

From a curving corner, someone could be heard to mutter a half remembered psalm.

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As the Captain came topside, his face was set in a grim mask. Men were attending to the ship and already word had made it somehow to those on deck of the situation below. Dorian strode purposefully aft and as he reached the break in the deck gave commands in a loud voice.

“Dowse all sail and put her nose inta th’ wind! Mister Johnson! Load a double shot inta Badbh and fire when ready! We need ta get William’s attention!”

Those who were not in action before were now moving with all haste. Cut-throat and Mister Aretineson lept to the task of loosing the forward most starboard gun while sending others to fetch powder and shot. It would not be an easy task in this weather, but between the two master gunners, it would happen.

Once the sails were in a heap on the deck and sprit boom, the Lucy slowed in the water, easing the pressure on the damaged bow. As a point of fact, they were now making stern-way with her nose into the wind. The ship bobbed in a slightly uncomfortable fashion now, but they would just have to bare it until things could be set to rights. Looking through the rain and spray, it was noted that a tarp was being held over the number 2 gun so as to keep her and her powder as dry as possible to facilitate her firing. Johnson was seen to run hunkered over to the fore hatch and disappear for a moment, the reappear and run in the same fashion back to the gun. A shout was heard and all those near the gun backed away just in time to be clear of her recoil as the brass 6 pounder barked out a loud report. Dorian smiled grimly and did no more than look toward where he has last seen the Watch Dog.

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William had resigned himself to go below and rest his hurt a little, and he was just in the midst of an order almost too obvious for the effort, when the report came back on the wind. William turned his head so suddenly that he felt his own neck pop.

"What the devil...?" Everyone on deck not doused with water or buried too tightly in their own oilskins heard the lonely, muted roll of the discharged gun. Small as it was, it carried all the weight of a broadside. William was already moving even as the sound registered among the others. He ascended the starboard ladderway almost too fast, but the Watch Dog was rolling with him as he took the stairs by twos. Jacob met him diagonally across the deck as they rushed forward.

"Make way! Make way!" Jacob called as William went before him. A wave almost carried both of them into the stairs forward and William was obliged to let the sea carry him along the deck in a move that seemed strangely rehearsed, though he thought differently of it himself. He was all adrenaline and trepidation and he could feel and just see the eyes of the many prisoners kept forward as they marked his progress. He had enough time to question himself about keeping them there before going up the ladderway. He found Petee Youngblood there, holding the pipe that he had failed to light some eight times.

"What do you see?" William asked as he scanned the black on black landscape.

"One o' Lasseter's bells." Petee returned, for the report of the brass had sent a discernible ring on the tail of the crack. Pete was following the Lucy with his arm at full length and pointing. "Somewhere there, I think."

"I heard but one report."

"Aye, Cap'n. One and one only."

William brought up his glass but found it useless in the spray forward. Badger was just at his elbow as he passed it off, turning to find any of the lookouts. Ciaran's voice called down from part way up the mizzen shrouds, and while he hung there hooked in the rigging, he sent down all that he could make of the cutter's progress.

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As the report of the gun faded, sounds of mallets being put to task were heard by those near the bow as the Carpenter and his mates tried to staunch the flow of water filling the bilge. On the quarterdeck, two men fought with the tiller to keep the ship from rolling too much as the rest of the crew topside did what they could to keep their feet and relieve those men on the pumps. Captain Lasseter continued to stare into the spray and rain in the direction of where the Watch Dog had been, waiting to see her reappear. The gun crew had lashed up Badbh to keep her from straining her lines, but not as firmly as the rest of the guns were, not just yet. Half a glass had run through and there was still no sign of the frigate or their charge. Dorian wiped the stinging water from his eyes again.

“Any sign o’ th ‘Dog?”

All those on the lookout for her replied in the negative, so the captain called out to the gun crew.

“One more time lads! Fire when ready!”

Again the gun crew and master gunner worked their magic, however just as the shout to have a care was given, the gun was swamped and the match carried away. The indignant shouts that erupted from master Johnson when he was back on his feet was nearly loud enough that Dorian guessed William might hear him, where ever the Watch Dog might be. Direction was given to load the number 4 gun, Lugh, as Badbh, was no friable now. More powder and shot was brought up and a new match procured. This time the sea did not win out and a second report sounded from the wounded ship. Again all eyes turned to where they hoped their consort lay, hoping to see a masthead appear in the driving rain.

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They all saw it then. It was but a flicker in the darkness ahead, but the report came back as clear or more so than before.

William turned a little to the Master Gunner without taking his eyes off a fixed point on the horizon. "Mister Youngblood."

It was all that he said or had to say. Petee turned on his heel and saluted in one movement. Then, stepping to the belfry he called down to the main deck. "I'll 'ave a gunn'ry crew to 'is Grace! Loooook liiivelyy!"

"That should answer the Lucy an' wake the Navarra both." Badger remarked and William nodded, his eyes never leaving the unseen Lucy.

A crew was scrambling to release the 12 pounder, so carefully tucked beneath the rail to Starboard. They did this with a practiced precision, and with the care required for the weather, but Petee gave his advice and instruction as he was wont to do. He reminded the men that the guns were 'his' and 'his' guns were to be moved and handled and treated with no less respect than a man might treat a child of the Master Gunner. Powder was sent for and retrieved in such short order that it was there before the gun was set to use it. Two men stood hard by shielding the third man who bore the powder like a hidden purse in unknown company.

Above, Ciaran was still sending down things as he could perceive them. It was scant stuff, but for the position of the cutter in relation to the frigate. William listened to it all, but he also had the presence of mind to post Treasure aft to watch for their unseen charge, the Navarra.

"Ready, sah."

"Thank you, Mister Youngblood. Fire as you will."

Anyone left asleep on the frigate woke up then. "That wer'n't thunder..." said a lone voice among the many swinging heads below.

Of course he meant the phenomenon of weather, not the eight pounder forward, but this didn't stop one man from answering, "Were 'is Grace!"

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As the report of a great gun was heard from the Watch Dog, it was as if even the Lucy gave a sigh of relief. In that moment some levity can forth from some of the men, as the master Gunner, Boatswain, and Coxswain lightheartedly argued which gun the ‘Dog had fired.

“Had ta be Sofia…”

“Nay, twas ‘is Grace.”

“Ye both be wrong, proper proty-col they woulda fired Jeanie er Havoc!”

They went round a couple times on this bend until Styles shouted out that he’d seen the frigate. All eyes turned to where he pointed and hollered. Dorian saw nothing at first, but when the rolling sea put them in the right position he saw her.

“Ah, there ye be…”

Now that she was in sight, mostly, the Captain gave command to stow the guns tightly. With more fire in their limbs the gun crew did just that. Men clung to rails and lines, watching as the Watch Dog came closer. As this slow ballet drew out, Dorian just wondered exactly what they might be able to do in the rolling seas around them. Would it be possible to transfer some of their cargo to lessen the burden? Would they even dare to put men in the boats to see what could be done? The best, or worst that he hoped for was that the Watch Dog would stay close incase the Lucy foundered so she could pick up the survivors.

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Aboard the Lucy

The first shot fired from the Lucy had troubled one of Maeve's dreams. The second had awoken her enough to look about and wonder that she should hear hammering from somewhere aboard ship. The final, distant report, smothered by the sounds of her surroundings, but of a cannon not of the Lucy had her upright and wrapped in a shawl, listening.

Aboard the Watch Dog

Gage listened, not because the canon alarmed him or set him ill at ease, but that the use of a great gun in storm belied something more ill than good. The last time he had heard canon in an unfriendly sea, he had found himself alone on it but for a few other castaways as companions.

So...he listened.

Aboard the Navarra

"It's nothing." One sailor said to the another, shrugging. "Thunder."

"I don't know...maybe."

"I saw nothing."

"Perhaps a cannon...?"

"Perhaps is as good as nothing."

They both kept their misgivings and apathy to themselves, respectively.

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Now more than wide awake she felt a rush of energy bolt through her veins and quickly tugged a forelock as William gave her new orders. “Aye sir!” That said she lsowly made her way across the pitching deck, down the ladderway and across the ship heading aft. Weaving around others she had to stop as another wave crashed over and she lost her footing falling hard to the deck. Luckily she did not travel far and quickly managed to right herself and managed to make the rest of the journey to the ladderway aft in some safety.

Climbing as quickly as she could she crossed the deck and positioned herself at the rail and looked out. She could see nothing but inky darkness, raising the glass she knew she would still see nothing but she had to at least take a look, perhaps she would see light from the Navarra. Raising the glass to her eye it was just as she feared, there was nothing but dark sea and suddenly brilliantly lit skies.

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Preston knew that the first cannon fired was a signal of trouble, but the reply followed by a second report meant more than that. They were in need of dire assistance. Whitingford peered out the stern windows staring into the darkness trying to see any sort of light to flicker across the foamy sea. He thought he saw a vessel on the approach but couldn't tell if it was the Navarra or the Watch Dog.

He paced across the small room. The former ship's master coughed a bit of blood and could taste the iron once again. It was hard to decide if he was feeling better or worse. Preston quickly apprised his own situation; forearm raw, coughing blood, and a bit worse for wear. He returned astern and sat as best he could at the stern windows and placed his head in his hands. The Lucy pitched and scended wildly and more than once did Preston have to grab the bench to keep from being tossed. Liam knocked quickly and entered. He set a small pile of clothing on the table.

"Liam," Preston asked, "fetch me a set o' oilskins an' 's many lanterns 's you can muster."

"Sah, th' Cap'n said . . . ," Liam tried to protest.

"Cap'n's a bit busy eh? He'll need 's many hands 's he c'n muster topside. Now 'urry along lad," Preston urged. He climbed to the table and dressed quickly. The former officer grabbed a bottle from the cabinet and took a long pull. He coughed roughly again and breathed deeply.

It was going to be a long night.


Navigation Log of the Lucy:

Direction: E, ship on the wind, making stern-way with her nose into the wind

Speed: 6 knots and slowing, into the wind, mounting sea, 4m high with foaming crests

Wind: Near gale conditions, from the ESE

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"Bill Flint's the Devil 'imself an' he's sent this squall ta send us to the bottom!" Jonas McCormick exhorted his nearby mates.

"Down below laughing at us he is" someone else agreed

" 'S not natural him up and about like he is" said a third

Suddenly Jonas was struck with inspiration.

"Fetch Flint to the deck, tell him the Cap'n wants to see him". Jonas smiled

"Wot's in yer head?" one of the men asked.

"I was just thinking, wouldn't it be a cryin' shame if the good Master-a'-Arms were swept over the side in this blow?"

"Aye that it would"

and McCormicks smile spread among them.

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Too awake to sleep, and feeling too insufficient to stand about while others worked, Maeve took herself to the side of the wounded. She was ignored and observed in equal portions, and found that she preferred being ignored, especially when it came to some of the looks which...lingered. There was no true surgery aboard the Lucy, so Maeve felt as though she were tending to the men on a badly lit street corner. Observed. Exposed. Cheapened somehow. It was a passing thought and a self pity she put away with an effort.

This feeling was soon replaced completely by the calculations of habit and her trade. She changed bandages. She redressed wounds. She tinkered, pressed, examined and peered at all manner of damaged muscles, joints and skin. She tried to find some reason in the wounded, and tried harder still not to be ill as the Lucy barreled forward through a dense rush of sea.

At last she came to Flint, who was half awake. The man looked pained, not so much from his injuries, but from a pressing need to be above and working. She smiled sympathetically enough, though she couldn't stop shaking her head after the redressing of each new mark in the man.

"I should thank you..." she began, waiting for him to come back from his thoughts while she removed a bloodied bandage at his shoulder.

Bill turned his head a second or two after. "I'm sorry?"

"By accepting the better share of the fight, you've spared me some five or six other wounded." She smiled, hoping the dark humorous observation might engage the man.

Bill did smile and then he went away again. He fixed his gaze at point on the deck, in his mind and in his past. "Aye", was all that he said, and Maeve left him to it.

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All that were topside on the Lucy watched and waited. The frigate was closer as each wave rolled and revealed her location and yet it felt like hours had passed since she was first sighted. Captain Lasseter stood in the waist, watching both the progress of the Watch Dog and the deck of the Lucy. As the frigate came into view he would stare at her a moment before directing his attention to the deck, occasionally giving a command to his officers if necessary. Lines had been run fore and aft for safety, and at one point a batten had come loose on the main grating and had to be reset and wedged in tighter. At one point Dorian had just sighted the frigate and was turning back to the deck when master Wenge was suddenly there. Dorian hoped the man had good news.

“Aye master Wenge, wot say you?”

“Sah! We shored up all we can with wot we got! She’s still letting water pass, though much slower!”

“Aye! Will she hold if we add some sail?”

Wenge took several moments of time to calculate what he knew in his head before turning his eyes back to the Captain.

“With calmer seas I’d trust her ‘round th horn, but as we be right now, this storm on top o’ us, the hold is still filling…”

The captain nodded once and was silent, taking his own time to think what else might help the situation. He shook his head some before making an offering.

“We c’n fother a sail over th’ bow if ye think that’ll slow it more.”

Alder half shrugged then nodded slowly.

“Very well, we’ll have a sail over th bow, Keep me appraised of an changes.”

“Aye sah!”

The master Carpenter headed below again as the order was given to break out the spare topsail and rig it to be fothered over the bow. Dorian continued his watch as the crew continued to do what they could. He prayed that the pumps would not give out as he watched another set of hands trade places on the worn handles.

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William watched the cutter, made suppositions of her condition, recanted his assessments and began anew many times upon approach. The Lucy was rolling against the sea in a way most unpleasant to watch by so little light.

"She's dressed too little for such weather!" Jim all but screamed into William's ear. "They'll be breaking their backs at the tiller!"

"AYE!" William yelled back. "We'll require a boatheader..." William began, but didn't finish the thought. He was moving to meet the Bosun's Mate as he came up to the quarterdeck.

Mister Roberts snapped off a smart salute that sent water arching through the air. "Mister Greene sends his compliments, sah!"

"How does she fair astern?" William returned, a little anxious to find the cutter in distress while the 'Dog took on a water, no matter how little.

"He's found the leak and the means to set it aright! He's about the business now, sah!"

"Thank you, Mister Roberts! Have him report as he can, the Lucy may require him!"

Jack looked out over the sea and was long time peering into the dark before he turned about again. "Aye, sah!" He turned and went down and below again.

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Fothering a sail was not an easy task in the best of conditions, but the sense of urgency made for quick hands. Tucker and Goddon had plunged below and had gathered what hands they could to sew with the sail needles and yarn to prepare the sail. It still took nearly a turn of the glass to cover an area of the sail to Tucker’s satisfaction, but once it was accomplished they hauled the canvas on deck and called for the Carpenter for direction. The Captain smiled as he watched his men in action and didn’t really seem concerned when the Ship’s Master appeared at the rail next to him.

“They’s doin’ a fine job Preston… Lets hope we live to give ‘em all a fine reward!”

Preston coughed roughly before answering with a nod and a horse ‘Aye, sah!’ Dorian turned to him and was about to chide him for disobeying his request to stay below out of the weather when he noticed all four of the boys aboard standing beside Mister Whittingford encumbered with nearly every lantern that was not already in use on the Lucy.

“Wot’s all this then, Master Whittin’ferd?”

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