Pirate Ophelia, Part 2
Chapter III: The Crew
Ophelia was finally happy on the ship. The horrible captain was gone and the crew was in a much better mood. They had unanimously voted Janneke to be the new captain, which she tried to decline several times before accepting the position. Unlike the previous captain, she asked for the crew’s input before making decisions. She also appointed Erik to her previous position of bosun, which he gladly accepted and took pride in his new responsibilities.
Janneke had been the captain for only a month, but they had already taken at least a dozen merchant ships. To avoid angering the crown, she insisted they stick to privateering and only attack ships bearing the flags of the crown’s enemies. Even though England was at war with both the Dutch and the Spanish, Janneke was of Dutch ancestry and had said it felt wrong to attack their ships. Besides, the Spanish had plenty of cargo to plunder, and sometimes their ships carried a lot of gold.
Janneke also insisted that excessive use of violence would be punished. They had only been attacking merchant ships—they didn’t often have a lot of defenses and rarely put up much of a fight. Some of the crew disagreed with this idea, but they still followed their new captain’s orders. Ophelia now had a sudden admiration of Janneke. They were committing acts of piracy, yet were remaining chivalrous and following a code of ethics. While some of the crew voiced their opinions that Janneke was only acting this way to stay in good relations with the crown, Ophelia could tell they were wrong. It wasn’t the letter of marque that made the new captain so considerate of those they were attacking—that little piece of paper only allowed them to legally perform acts of piracy. Luckily the letter of marque had been tucked away somewhere in the captain’s quarters rather than on their pervious captain at the time they abandoned him. Ophelia knew Janneke was not a violent person, preferring to persuade enemy captains to hand over their cargo rather than kill them and take it. Janneke could be intimidating, making threats that Ophelia doubted she would ever actually follow through with, though she rarely had to resort to using fear to get what she wanted.
The crew had given Edward a space to set up a basic blacksmith work area. Although he was limited in what he could do on the ship, it was evident that he was much happier on board than he had been in the tavern. Janneke had designated a fraction of the hoarded alcohol to be available for consumption by the crew. Ophelia, Erik, and Celia would often sit with Edward late in the evening and drink while sharing stories, bonding with each other as extended families often do.
Erik had always lived at sea. His parents sailed, as did his grandparents. The ocean was in his family and was the only life he ever knew. His parents were merchants and, as far as he knew, were still alive and well, sailing around the world. Erik had decided the life of a merchant was not for him, so he joined the English navy as soon as he was old enough. Years had passed and he was transferred from ship to ship, until eventually he ended up on the HMS Honeysuckle. He confirmed that the ex-captain was the worst captain he had ever served under and was immensely glad to be rid of him.
Celia had grown up outside of London. Her great grandmother had moved there from Greece after meeting her great grandfather while visiting London with her family. Celia left home when she was just fifteen, wanting to see the world. She happened to be in the right place at the right time—the ex-captain was searching for crew and reluctantly agreed to take her on board. The two did not like each other from the start, with the captain only seeing Celia as a body to have in a place and not worth much of anything. Janneke was the one who saw potential and took it upon herself to train Celia. They quickly became very close, almost as if mother and daughter.
Edward was not willing to share his entire story with the others, but he did tell them a bit about himself. He had left home in search of work and ended up at the port where they found him. He enjoyed crafting swords, though he was rarely commissioned to do so. Most of his work included shoeing horses, ship repairs, and creating tools for the locals. He frequented the tavern simply because there was nothing else to do. While rare, there were times when someone interesting would sail into town—it was mostly just merchants in need of supplies or repairs. Ophelia asked if he had ever met a pirate and he quickly changed the subject.
Captain Janneke even joined their discussion one evening. She told them that she had been sailing for years with the English, but she originally sailed under Dutch colors. She had been a farmer and had sailed more than once with a friend to visit England. One time their sloop suffered extreme damage from a storm, leaving them stranded just off the coast in the North Sea. A Dutch merchant ship rescued them and Janneke discovered she really enjoyed being on a ship, offering to sail with the merchant for an extended period. After a couple years, the merchant ship was taken by an English frigate—the same ship that she now commanded. She willingly agreed to join them so long as they spared the lives of everyone on board the Dutch ship. Just like Janneke, the captain at that time did not like excess violence, and so he agreed without hesitation, taking much of the cargo and sparing the crew and leaving the ship intact. Janneke had been on the HMS Honeysuckle ever since.
Ophelia had joined in the discussion and told them her story, though she hesitated at first. She was afraid to tell them she dreamed of being a pirate but felt very comfortable with the little group. They were like family now, and so she told them her goal. To her surprise, none of them thought it was weird at all. In fact, they seemed to like the idea, especially Erik. She noticed that both Janneke and Edward were very quiet whenever the subject of pirates came up. She knew there had to be more to their stories…a reason they never spoke of pirates. However, rather than risk damaging their friendships, she kept her questions to herself.
* * * * *
Months passed and the crew remained quite content with their new leader. Captain Janneke took their suggestions and requests into consideration, including when to sail into port and when to just enjoy the ocean view, either from the ship or from a quiet, sandy beach. She had taken many ships during her time as captain, providing plenty of food, alcohol, and even some gold for the crew. They were lucky enough to once take a payroll ship that was bound for a Spanish town, loaded with gold for the town’s soldiers’ pay. Much of the gold was reserved for the crown and Janneke kept some for ship repairs, but the rest was split among the crew.
Ophelia hadn’t been this happy in a long time. Not since her and Liam had built that boat many years ago. She always wondered what happened to him—did he become a farmer like his parents? Or did he become a sailor like he wanted? She hoped that someday she would run into him again, but knew that was very unlikely, especially now that she was sailing away from her home town. Still, there was always the possibility of finding him in some remote village or on a ship that they were capturing. Ophelia hoped that he didn’t meet his fate at the end of a sword. She loved pirates, or at least the idea of pirates, because, in reality, they weren’t as chivalrous as Janneke was to an enemy’s crew. They wouldn’t always spare everyone, and Liam could be out there on a ship that was being taken by pirates at that very second. Suddenly her dream of becoming a pirate didn’t seem so fun. There was real danger…death…sometimes innocent people got hurt.
Ophelia was startled back to her current surroundings by Janneke. She had appeared next to her on the stern of the ship, staring across the ocean at the very back of the ship.
“Have you seen a ship behind us?” Janneke asked quietly.
“I didn’t notice one, but I wasn’t really looking,” Ophelia replied.
“Lost in thought, huh?”
“Yes. I was remembering my childhood best friend Liam. We grew up together. I haven’t seen him in many years and I was just wondering where he might be.”
“I can understand that,” Janneke said. She smiled at Ophelia. “I too had a childhood best friend and wonder what ever happened to him. I imagine he’s out there somewhere, hopefully with a family and a good job.”
“I hope the same for Liam,” Ophelia said quietly while gazing across the ocean. The sun was setting on the larboard side of the ship.
“Keep an eye out for a ship in the distance,” Janneke uttered quietly. “I think we are being followed.”
Chapter IV: Old Enemies
Ophelia spread the word to Erik and Edward about the ship. Neither of them had noticed another ship in days but agreed to pay attention to anything they saw on the horizon. Janneke had already discussed it with Celia, who was instructed to spread the word to most of the crew. Some thought the captain was just being paranoid. Ophelia knew better. If the captain was concerned, there was likely a reason for it, and the rest of the crew would be affected by the outcome.
Days passed and there was no sign of a ship following them. Erik thought he saw something one day, though it turned out to be just a whale in the distance. They came across ships, but none that seemed suspicious or that were traveling the same direction. Ophelia was starting to wonder if maybe it was just a coincidence—perhaps another ship had been going the same direction for a while before changing course. Perhaps the captain was just being extra cautious.
And then she saw it. A large ship off in the distance behind them. It was so far back that it was barely visible, and surely not at all if the weather wouldn’t have been so clear that day. She watched it for a while before Celia approached her.
“There is a ship behind us,” Ophelia stated.
“I know,” Celia replied. “The captain just saw it. She said it’s the same one she saw following us the other day.”
“What are we going to do?” Ophelia asked, trying to hide the uneasiness in her voice.
“Captain said to just watch it and alert her if it gets closer.” Ophelia could hear fear in Celia’s voice—she was scared.
* * * * *
As the hours passed, the unknown ship followed them. When they rounded an island, so did the ship. When they sped up, the ship increased speed too. There was no doubt now: the ship was following them.
More time passed and the crew switched shifts. There were usually less sailors needed most nights, but everyone on board was aware of the strange ship looming in the distance. It was still very far off, making it nearly impossible to tell if it was gaining on them at all.
Ophelia could barely keep her eyes open and reluctantly retired for the night. She dreamt of Liam and the boat they had built. They were both laughing as the boat took on water. They knew that they were close enough to the shore and could easily swim to it once the boat sank. But then the dream changed—Liam was on the ship in the distance. Somehow she just knew it. The ship was gaining fast and was soon right beside them, ready to fire its cannons. Ophelia grabbed a rope hanging from the mast and swung over to the enemy ship. She landed at the foot of the enemy captain and looked up. It was Liam. He gave an order and the cannons fired. Ophelia heard a gunshot from behind her and watched as Liam fell to the deck, killed instantly. She looked back at the HMS Honeysuckle. The enemy cannons had ripped it apart, killing everyone on board. The ship was sinking fast. She dove off of the enemy ship, hoping to find anyone of her crew still alive, but it was too late. The Honeysuckle and its crew had already been claimed by the sea, leaving only debris floating on the surface where it had been only moments before. She was alone in the ocean, clinging for life to a piece of the sunken ship.
Ophelia woke up covered in sweat. There was light peaking in through the portholes on the ship. It was morning. For a moment, she was not sure where she was or if her nightmare was real or not. Then the previous day came back to her—the ship in the distance and thoughts of Liam. She stood up and shook off the dream, hoping that news on deck was that the ship had disappeared in the night.
It had not.
Ophelia could see the ship much clearer now. It had gained on them while she slept. Janneke was at the helm of the Honeysuckle, debating what to do. The crew was uneasy. The mysterious ship would catch them before long and everyone would have to fight. It was much larger than the HMS Honeysuckle and likely had many soldiers on board. Ophelia approached Janneke.
“It’s going to catch us,” Janneke said. The gap between the ships was closing fast. The ship would soon be upon them.
“What are we going to do?” Ophelia asked, her feelings of dread being overtaken by bravery.
Janneke looked around at the crew. Ophelia knew the captain wanted to make a stance and fight but was afraid much of the crew would give in to fear.
“I will rally them,” Ophelia declared in a confident voice. Janneke nodded to her in agreement.
Ophelia gathered all of the crew on deck around her. She knew they needed someone to encourage them, and somehow she found the strength to prepare them for the upcoming inevitable battle. Erik and Celia stood by her side.
“We need to prepare to take a stand,” Ophelia began. “We may be outnumbered, but we will not give in. We will not give up our ship! This crew has been though a lot, and we are not going to let some cowardly ship terrorize us! We can win this, and we will plunder whatever they have! Gold, rum, food—we will take it all!” The crew cheered and grabbed their pistols and swords, ready for battle.
Janneke was pleased to hear her crew was prepared to fight. She always thought Ophelia had a fire in her, it had just never surfaced until now. She yelled to the crew to prepare for battle as she turned the ship. They were going to be the ones to fire first, not the other way around.
As the HMS Honeysuckle turned, the canons were loaded and ready to fire. The large ship was closing fast—they would only have enough time to get one volley off before it reached them. Janneke gave the order to fire as soon as the Honeysuckle reached the right angle. Every cannonball struck the enemy ship, breaking wood and sending large splinters flying. Some of the enemy crew were hit by the debris. Janneke turned the ship again in order to prevent the enemy ship from ramming their larboard side. The Honeysuckle turned enough that the enemy ship scraped the side as it reached them.
Ophelia could see the enemy crew on their ship. They were armed with muskets and swords. She saw several gathered around a group of barrels and fired her pistol. The barrels exploded, taking out all of those surrounding it. She had a good feeling about this battle. They may be outnumbered, but the enemy crew couldn’t be very smart—why else would they stand around barrels of gunpowder?
The rest of the Honeysuckle crew cheered as the barrels exploded. Erik could be heard giving orders from somewhere on the ship. The crew opened fire on the enemy ship, killing several more men on the deck. Janneke gave the order to board the ship. Ophelia didn’t hesitate. They had taken many ships in the past, but this was the first time they were in a real battle.
Ophelia jumped across the narrow gap between the ships. She saw Erik and Edward do the same behind her. The three fought back-to-back, forming a triangle and taking out any enemy who approached. Ophelia couldn’t believe how easy the battle was—surely they had more advanced soldiers somewhere on board. She glanced around as she fought, paying attention to her surroundings. She saw Janneke board the enemy ship and run straight toward the ship’s captain. Ophelia thought he looked familiar, even though she could barely see him. She broke free of her little group, running toward the two captains. The dream was still fresh in her memory. Had she imagined what she saw? Surely from that distance she wouldn’t be able to tell. Surely the captain wasn’t Liam.
Ophelia reached the stairs where the enemy captain was standing. Smoke made it hard to see clearly. It wasn’t Liam that she saw. She knew he looked familiar at a distance, but her mind was playing tricks on her. It wasn’t Liam. It was the old captain. She could hear him talking to Janneke.
“After you left me, I gathered a new crew and took a ship,” he was saying to Janneke. “I knew you were behind the whole thing, and I am going to kill you and take my crew back.”
“This is your crew,” Janneke yelled as she gestured around toward the enemy crew. “Why come after me? You have a bigger ship now and your own crew. You should have just let it go.”
“I always hated you!” the old captain spat at Janneke. “The only reason I didn’t kill you before was because I knew some of the crew liked you, and I couldn’t have a mutiny on board. The king would have been angry.”
“You never cared what the king thought, so why let that stop you? No, you knew the crew liked me better because you treated them like dirt.” The two circled each other with their swords drawn. Janneke had one in each hand. Some of the enemy crew stopped fighting to watch the fight.
“It doesn’t matter. You were always protected! They never would have let me continue to be captain if they knew I killed you. They always liked you better! But that doesn’t matter anymore. Now I WILL kill you!” At this, the old captain lunged forward with his sword. Janneke side-stepped and kicked the captain in the rear, causing him to fall to the deck. He rolled over onto his back and found Janneke standing over him, one of her swords at his throat.
“Kill me then,” he exclaimed through gritted teeth. “Or are you too much of a coward?”
“It isn’t cowardly to not kill someone, especially one who has been defeated.” Janneke looked around as she spoke. “Anyone who wishes to join us is welcome. Your captain has been defeated.”
“They will not join you!” the enemy captain said. “They want to serve on a real ship.”
“It looks like most of them are willing to join us,” Janneke replied with a smile. “Perhaps they are tired of such poor living conditions with no pay and little luxuries. The crew of the Honeysuckle is perfectly happy now that you are gone.” Janneke removed her sword from the captain’s neck, delighted that she had defeated him so easily.
“That’s what you think,” he whispered while raising his pistol. Ophelia saw it first. Janneke’s back was turned. Ophelia lunged toward Janneke, pushing her out of the way while throwing her sword at the captain. Erik and Edward saw it too, but they had been too far away. Ophelia’s sword plunged into the captain’s chest. He fired his pistol, striking her in the arm, then the enemy captain’s arm fell to his side. He was dead.
Janneke applied pressure to Ophelia’s wound as Celia rushed to her side. Ophelia could feel someone wrapping the wound tightly before being lifted by Edward and carried back to the ship. She saw the familiar sails of the HMS Honeysuckle above her before she passed out.
Chapter V: A New Beginning
Ophelia was fishing with her father. She had caught the biggest bass she had ever seen. She knew it would be enough to feed her whole family, but she let it go. As she watched it swim back across the pond, she heard a voice in the distance. A familiar voice.
Ophelia awoke in unfamiliar surroundings. She saw two people standing at her side. As her eyes adjusted to the light, she looked around. There was a desk with books and quills nearby and an open chest filled with gold and jewels. She was lying on a bed surrounded by green velvet curtains. Janneke and Celia stood beside the bed. She was in the captain’s quarters.
“We were afraid we would lose you,” Celia spoke with worry in her voice.
“Nah,” Janneke said softly, “I figured it would take more than a bullet to the arm to stop this one.” Though she tried to hide it, she too seemed a bit worried.
“Is everyone okay?” Ophelia asked.
“Mostly,” Janneke answered. “We had several injured, but only three casualties. It’s always a shame. They were new recruits. Ones that the old captain brought on board.”
“I suppose we’re lucky that the old captain just took anyone who wanted to sail,” Celia began. “It made the battle rather easy. I mean, if he would have had a decent crew, we surely would have lost more.”
“Very true,” Janneke said. “Besides, if not for his lax recruiting techniques, we might not have our master gunner here.”
“What?” Ophelia asked, her head still sore from where it hit the deck of the enemy ship when she pushed Janneke out of harm’s way.
“Well,” Janneke replied with a smile, “we need a master gunner, and I think you’ve proven you can handle battle situations without much trouble.” Celia nodded in agreement.
“I won’t let you down!” Ophelia exclaimed, her excitement overwhelming the pain in her head.
“But first you must rest,” Janneke stated. “We can’t have an injured master gunner now. Rest and get better. We’re almost to England where we will find you a real doctor to patch you up right.”
Ophelia shook her head in agreement. She was a permanent part of the crew now and couldn’t be happier. Shortly after Janneke and Celia left the room she fell back asleep, dreaming again of fishing with her father.
* * * * *
The ship docked in London only two days later. Ophelia was feeling well enough to walk by herself. Still, Celia and Erik accompanied her to a doctor. Her arm had mostly healed already, thanks to the surgeon on board, but he advised her to check with a doctor in London just to be sure her arm was healing fine. Janneke and Edward stayed behind to oversee the transfer of the cargo and gold on board. The king had received word about what had happened on the ship and insisted on a meeting with Janneke. She had met him briefly only twice before and was confident he would not object to her taking control of the ship.
Ophelia did not completely share in Janneke’s certainty. Part of her was afraid Janneke would be imprisoned or executed for usurping the previous captain. Erik and Celia shared these fears, though they insisted that the king would be pleased with the job Janneke did, bringing him plenty of gold and alcohol. They stuck to this notion, trying to convince themselves as much as Ophelia.
* * * * *
Several hours later Ophelia, Erik, and Celia returned to the ship. Ophelia’s arm was healing well. The doctor wrapped it in fresh bandages and insisted she wear a sling to prevent movement. The three then stopped at a local pub to grab a quick bite to eat before heading back. Edward was waiting by the ship, a mug of ale in his hand.
“Any news yet of the captain’s meeting with the king?” Erik asked.
“Nothing yet,” Edward answered, staring in the direction Janneke had gone with an escort of soldiers. The three stood next to him, waiting with anticipation.
They had not been waiting long when they saw soldiers approaching. Ophelia felt her heart in her throat. Surely they were going to be arrested. Why else would soldiers be approaching the dock? She looked at her companions, their hands near their weapons, ready to fight. She motioned for them to stand down. There was no need for violence. Not yet at least.
Then they saw her—Janneke was walking with the soldiers, talking with a man they could not see through the crowd. Ophelia felt a wave of relief. Janneke appeared to be in a good mood. As the group approached the ship, they could see the man talking with Janneke. He was tall and dressed as if he was important, with a white wig upon his head.
“Hello,” he said happily as he approached the four crew members. “I hear you have been through quite a bit,” he continued. “I am the new Governor of Kingston. We will be traveling there together where there is a new ship awaiting your arrival.” He walked past the crew and entered the captain’s quarters as if it was a normal thing to do. Janneke waited to approach her crew until after he had closed the doors behind him. The soldiers then began to board the ship.
“How is the arm?” Janneke asked Ophelia.
“The doctor said it should heal up perfectly within a month,” Ophelia replied, confusion on her face. “What happened with the king?”
“Well,” Janneke began, a smile across her face. “He was quite pleased with the loot we brought back. He said it’s more than triple what the previous captain took in his entire career. He wants us to escort the governor and these soldiers to Kingston, where apparently there is a better ship in need of a captain.”
“We can’t just abandon our ship!” Ophelia exclaimed.
“I know,” Janneke continued. “But it did take a lot of damage during that battle.” Janneke looked at the damage on the ship. They were able to repair most of it, making it safe enough for travel. However, she wasn’t sure how well it would hold up in a battle with another large ship. “Everything will be fine,” she added when she saw the look of doubt on Ophelia’s face.
* * * * *
The crew spent most of the trip gambling with the soldiers. There was concern over the heavy influence of the crown on board the ship, but the soldiers were keen on the idea of taking it easy for the duration of their journey. Time seemed to pass quickly to Ophelia. It was as if they had left London only the previous day when they docked at Kingston. The governor was escorted off the ship and to his new home by the soldiers on board. He insisted Janneke go with him as they still had matters to discuss.
Ophelia, Erik, Edward, and Celia spotted a ship anchored a short distance away. It was another frigate, though in better shape than their own. Undoubtedly this was the ship in need of a captain. Ophelia felt a conflict within her—she both loved and hated the other ship.
Janneke returned quickly. She looked happy and yet stressed at the same time. There were several people following her, most of them carrying weapons. Ophelia was sure that these were going to be additional crew members. She felt discouraged. They had enough crew and didn’t need more from some random town. Janneke boarded the Honeysuckle with the new crew and called for whoever remained of the old crew to join her on the ship.
“We have been given an opportunity,” Janneke spoke loudly, looking around at the different faces on board the ship. Ophelia tried to hide her disdain. “The ship anchored there,” Janneke continued as she pointed at the other ship, “is now ours.” Some of the crew applauded, though many felt the same way as Ophelia and voiced their anger. “Let me finish,” Janneke interrupted. “The king has decided that there will be a new captain.”
At this much of the crew began grumbling. They liked serving under Janneke and did not want a repeat of the previous captain. Janneke began to grow angry at the crew as she tried to speak over them. Ophelia motioned for everyone to quiet down. She was impatient to hear what the captain had to say.
“As I was saying,” Janneke began again, “there will be a new captain. Both ships are ours now, and, as the newly appointed admiral, I will take one as my own.” She paused for a moment until the news of her promotion sunk in. The crew applauded with excitement. “The other,” she continued, “will be under the watch of Captain Ophelia.”
The crew applauded again, some patting Ophelia on the back. She couldn’t believe her ears. How was she the one chosen to lead a crew? Her own crew on her own ship. Tears of joy began to well up in her eyes. She saw Janneke approaching her.
“That is of course,” Janneke said happily, “if you will accept the position.”
“Yes, of course I will!” Ophelia exclaimed, jumping up and down uncontrollably. Janneke let out a laugh.
“Good,” Janneke said. “Now, which ship do you want?”
“Honeysuckle,” Ophelia said without hesitation. She felt at home on the ship and couldn’t imagine leaving it.
“Excellent,” Janneke replied, a grin across her face. “I will take the other one as my own and name it…” She paused as she thought for a moment. “…the HMS Hydra.” Ophelia could see a sparkle in Janneke’s eye as she voiced the name. A glint of power and freedom. A hidden pirate within. “Bosun Erik and the blacksmith will stay with you,” Janneke stated. “Celia will be staying on the island for a short time, under order of the king. The new governor needs help fixing things. Apparently the last governor was about as good as our last captain,” she said with a laugh. “Stock up on whatever supplies you need. We set sail at dawn.”
* * * * *
Ophelia barely slept. She was too excited to rest. True, she was a bit nervous to be on her own, but she knew deep down that she could handle it. She wanted this, and she was going to prove that they made the right choice in promoting her. The sun began to rise, shining through the stained glass of the captain’s quarters—her quarters. She got up and exited onto the deck.
Janneke was standing at the base of the main mast, gazing around as the crew prepared to set sail. As admiral, the ship and its crew were still under her command. The choice was hers, and she chose Ophelia. She had faith in her and could see the determination in the woman. She nodded to Ophelia before leaving the Honeysuckle, heading back to the new ship—her ship—the HMS Hydra.
The two ships lowered their sails almost in unison and began to depart in separate directions. Celia stood on the dock watching them leave, tears welling up in her eyes. She knew it was an honor to be chosen to assist the governor, yet she wanted to be with her crew…her family. She already missed them all so much. She had sailed with Janneke for so long. They had never been apart for more than a day since they met.
Celia heard the governor call her name in the distance. Her feet remained planted on the spot. She wanted to watch them until she could no longer see them. Her family at sea was almost out of sight. She knew it was only temporary, but she already felt so alone. The ground was solid—there was no movement, no waves. She could no longer see either ship in the distance. She began to cry.
She was alone.