Pirate Ophelia, Part 4
Chapter IX: Captain Ophelia
Ophelia and the crew of the HMS Honeysuckle had been quite profitable over the past several months. She felt the need to prove herself as a capable privateer, and so they had taken almost every Spanish merchant ship they spotted. Always dreaming of the life of a pirate, Captain Ophelia made sure to keep a good supply of rum on board for both herself and the crew to consume. Any extra was sold at various ports for profit, of which a percentage was reserved for the king.
The last merchant ship they took was carrying nothing but sugar and wool, which Ophelia knew could be easily sold in Kingston, their next stop. They had been away for over six months and Ophelia felt the need to report to the governor. She also feared being attacked by pirates, thus wanting to unload the excess gold on board before it was plundered by someone else. She had not heard from Janneke since they first parted ways when leaving Kingston and wondered when they would meet again. She hoped her crew had been as profitable as the HMS Hydra but doubted herself. Janneke was a seasoned privateer—surely she would beat Ophelia without even trying.
The HMS Honeysuckle sailed into the port of Kingston, coming to a smooth halt next to one of the docks. Captain Ophelia, Bosun Erik, and the blacksmith Edward left the ship and headed toward the governor’s mansion, leaving the rest of the crew to guard the treasure within. As they approached the manor, they could see Celia sitting on the front porch reading a book. She looked up and a smile appeared on her face.
“Captain Ophelia!” Celia shouted in excitement.
“Celia?” Ophelia asked, confused. When they left, Celia was only to stay in Kingston for a month before returning to the HMS Hydra. That was almost seven months ago. “What are you still doing here?”
Celia hugged each of them in turn. “The king wished me to stay longer to help the governor. Kingston was in far worse shape than what we initially thought. Things here are much better now.”
“What about Janneke? Have you heard from her lately?”
Celia’s smile disappeared, her face suddenly somber. “We’ve received word that she has turned against us,” she said gloomily, almost in tears.
“That can’t be right,” Erik interrupted. “She would never turn on her friends.”
“She attacked an English ship just off the coast of Barbados. She has partnered with a murderer. A traitor to the crown known only as Captain James.”
“Are you sure that is accurate?” Ophelia questioned. She could hardly believe her ears. The Janneke she knew would never betray them, especially not to join a criminal.
“The soldiers who returned to Barbados told the governor there exactly what happened. Apparently Janneke and another woman brutally slaughtered most of the men on the English ship. They said the few who returned were lucky to be alive.”
“I cannot believe this nonsense,” Edward whispered in disgust.
“What will happen to Janneke?” Ophelia asked.
“Well, the governor here has been ordered to send bounty hunters after her.” Celia seemed upset when she spoke, yet Ophelia noticed she remained calm, as if she believed every word of the story and thought Janneke deserved whatever fate became of her.
“Maybe we should find Janneke and try to figure out what really happened,” Ophelia suggested.
“Oh no,” Celia replied. “The governor of Kingston has forbidden it. He said you are to avoid Janneke and the crew of the HMS Hydra at all costs. It is for your own safety.”
Ophelia refused to believe any of the story was true. She knew Janneke. If the HMS Hydra attacked a ship, they were provoked into fighting and had no other option. Janneke wasn’t a bloodthirsty pirate. She was compassionate and tried to find non-violent solutions. Ophelia decided she would agree to follow the governor’s orders but would do as she pleased once they left port. She had to find Janneke and learn the truth.
* * * * *
The governor did not seem to trust Ophelia to obey his orders. Everywhere they turned, guards followed them. Celia said it was for their own protection, but Ophelia knew better. She could not believe Celia would go along with the lies, though she wondered if Celia really understood what was happening. The girl was still young and naïve—it was possible she thought the governor’s word was always truthful.
They had unloaded all of the excess cargo and the gold for the king the next day. The HMS Honeysuckle needed some repairs, which would take less than an afternoon to complete. Ophelia, Erik, and Edward returned to the ship, claiming that they needed to oversee the repairs. They knew it was the only place where the guards would not follow them, or at least where they could find a place to talk privately without the governor’s ears listening.
“We are leaving at dawn,” Ophelia whispered. “We need to find Janneke before she’s killed.” Erik and Edward nodded in agreement. “I will tell them we will be leaving early so our departure doesn’t seem suspicious. I don’t want them chasing us, and I definitely don’t want to lead them to Janneke.”
“I’ll oversee the repairs on the ship and make sure we’re ready to go in the morning,” Edward stated, a bit of anger in his voice.
“I’ll round up the crew,” Erik added.
“Good.” Ophelia led them out onto the deck, looking around at her ship. “I will meet you back here at dawn, and then we will head out.”
Ophelia joined the governor and Celia for dinner that evening. The three discussed financial matters as well as supply shortages in Kingston. Ophelia had provided them with some sugar, though they still needed more to keep the citizens happy. Celia had mapped out supply lines and nearby ports that she suspected had plenty of sugar, suggesting that Ophelia take any Spanish ship she spotted in search of more sugar. Ophelia agreed, and later excused herself, explaining that she wanted to leave early the next morning to get started on their plan.
As the sun rose over Kingston the next morning, the sails of HMS Honeysuckle were lowered and the anchor raised. The ship slowly left port, her crew prepared for whatever challenges lay ahead. Captain Ophelia stood at the back of the ship, watching the distance between her and the city grow larger. Celia was standing on the shore with her feet in the water, as she often did, waving a farewell to the HMS Honeysuckle. She had expressed interest in going with Ophelia, but both the governor and Ophelia thought it was a bad idea. The governor still needed Celia’s help and could not spare her for more than a day. Ophelia was unsure where Celia’s loyalties truly lay, so she did not want to lead her to Janneke for fear of her reporting back to the governor or the king.
Now that they were at sea, Ophelia was unsure where to look for Janneke. She was wanted in Barbados, so was likely not in that general area. Janneke was Dutch, and there were several Dutch towns in the Caribbean. Perhaps she had sought refuge in one of them and was waiting for everything to die down—or was waiting for help. Erik had suggested they sail southeast to the town of Curacao, a small Dutch town on its own island. He remembered they had stopped there once and Janneke commented how much the place reminded her of home. Having no other leads, this was their best option, and so they set a course for Curacao.
As they sailed, Ophelia still insisted that they take ships. Kingston was in dire need of sugar, and if they returned with a good amount on board, the governor and Celia were less likely to suspect any deceit. They had only been sailing for a few hours when they came across a disabled brig with an English flag atop its main mast. Captain Ophelia gave the order to approach it and offer any help if needed. When the HMS Honeysuckle was close enough, Ophelia could see the ship’s captain giving orders to his crew from the ship’s helm. He had his pistol in his hand, wary of the HMS Honeysuckle.
“We too are English,” she shouted to him. “Do you need any help?”
“No,” he shouted back, still unsure if he wanted to accept help.
“What happened?” Ophelia asked.
“Pirates! Flying an English flag!”
“Did you catch the name of the ship?”
“Aye. The HMS Hydra.”
A gasp escaped Ophelia when she heard the name. Janneke had attacked another English ship. Something must have gone horribly wrong for her to resort to such actions.
“Which way did it go?” she asked, her excitement growing.
“Don’t worry sir, we’ll get them,” she called out in a reassuring tone. She needed to maintain her good relations with the crown, but also needed to find Janneke. She gave the order to turn back toward Kingston, hoping they would catch the HMS Hydra before it was too late.
Chapter X: The Admiral Returns
The HMS Honeysuckle was sailing as fast as it possibly could, yet Captain Ophelia could still see no sign of a ship on the horizon. They were almost to Kingston. She hoped they would not be too late—the English would likely hang Janneke if they thought she was guilty of piracy. Ophelia was still sure there had been some sort of miscommunication. Janneke would never brutally attack another ship, especially not a friendly ship.
As they approached Kingston, Ophelia could see five ships docked in the harbor. Two were smaller ships, likely nothing more than sloops. One was a brig flying Dutch colors, and the other two were frigates, both of which had French flags. Wherever Janneke was headed, it wasn’t Kingston. She gave the order to continue sailing west, hoping that they would eventually catch up to the HMS Hydra. It was getting dark, making it harder to see great distances, but Ophelia had faith in her crew. They wouldn’t let her down.
* * * * *
Light was shining through the windows of the captain’s cabin. Ophelia jumped out of bed, hurrying to get dressed. She needed to know if the crew had spotted anything in the early hours of the morning. She rushed out to the deck and nearly ran into Edward in her haste.
“Anything yet?” she asked hopefully.
Edward had been staring out across the sea. He did this often, claiming that it helped him think and inspired him in his blacksmithing. “Maybe,” he said under his breath, as if he dared not get his own hopes up. “There seems to be something in the distance.”
“Ship ahoy!” came a call from the crow’s nest.
Erik appeared on deck with a spyglass, peering into the distance off the larboard side of the ship. “Yeah, there’s definitely a ship there,” he said.
Ophelia grabbed the spyglass and looked through it, wanting to see for herself. She gave the order to alter course, sailing southwest in order to get closer to the ship sailing just to the south of them. She continued to watch through the spyglass as the ship grew closer, willing herself to spot anything that told her whether it was the HMS Hydra or not.
“It’s a frigate!” came another call from the crow’s nest. “Flying English colors!”
The ship seemed to be coming closer at a fast pace. Ophelia could see there was some sort of serpent figurehead at the front of the ship. She looked through her spyglass again, hoping the ship would be close enough soon to see the captain. As she scanned the ship, she noticed that the figurehead was not just any serpent. It had multiple heads. It was a hydra. There was no mistaking it—this had to be the HMS Hydra.
The ship was close enough now that they were in range of its cannons. Ophelia had a second of worry. If Janneke had turned against them, they were now in danger. The ship continued to sail closer to them without any sign of a threat. Ophelia looked through her spyglass again. She could see the crew on the deck. A woman was looking back at her through her own spyglass, gesturing and speaking to someone at the helm of the ship. As Ophelia moved her spyglass to see the ship’s helm, she saw her—Janneke was steering the ship and waving at her. She motioned for Ophelia to raise her sails. The sails on the HMS Hydra were raised, to which Ophelia commanded her crew to do the same. The two ships began to slow down, still drifting toward each other.
As the ships began to slow to a stop, they were nearly on top of each other. Both had to alter course in order to avoid a collision, sailing side-by-side. Admiral Janneke approached the starboard side of the HMS Hydra and shouted for both ships to drop their anchors. The two crews obliged, and both ships came to a halt. Janneke connected the two ships with a board, then walked across it onto the deck of the HMS Honeysuckle.
“Ophelia!” she shouted as she stepped onto the deck.
“Admiral!” Ophelia shouted back. “We were hoping to find you!” The two embraced each other as Erik and Edward approached them.
“Ah, Bosun,” Janneke exclaimed when she saw Erik, patting him on the shoulder. “And Edward…how are you?” He simply grunted.
“What has happened?” Ophelia asked, unable to hold in her questions any longer.
“What have you heard?”
“Well, they say you attacked an English ship. And that you are travelling with a murderer.”
“It’s a long story. Yes, we attacked an English ship, but it was a defensive move. Come, let us eat and I will tell you all that has happened.”
* * * * *
Ophelia was torn after dinner. Janneke had told her the events that had happened and introduced her to Captain James, the man she had been told was a murderer and a traitor. She knew Janneke wouldn’t lie to her, at least not on such an immense scale. She wanted to remain neutral as long as possible in the hopes that the situation would resolve itself. Janneke agreed, though more so she could have a source of information still friendly to the crown. She didn’t want a confrontation but would fight to defend herself and her crew. Ophelia agreed to provide her with any useful news, with the two deciding to meet regularly in the small town of Curacao. Just as Erik had said, Janneke liked the town, and it was under control of Holland, who was currently at peace with England.
Just as they had done months earlier, the HMS Hydra and the HMS Honeysuckle parted ways, sailing in opposite directions. After her run in with the English ship near Kingston, Janneke had decided to avoid the harbor entirely. The ship had opened fire on them, their actions telling her all she needed to know about her current relations with England. They had been on their way back to Vera Cruz to reunite Captain James with his ship and continued that course. Ophelia headed back toward Kingston in search of sugar, just as she had promised the governor, and where she would listen for news of the hunt for Janneke. She only hoped that any hunter pursuing Janneke would never find her.
Chapter XI: The Pirate Hunter
Captain Ophelia could see Kingston in the distance, its harbor full of ships. They had managed to nearly fill the cargo hold with sugar in a short amount of time using the information Celia had given them. The ship docked and Erik went ashore to retrieve help unloading the sugar. Celia soon came down to greet them, eagerly accepting Ophelia’s offer to come on board.
“It’s been so long since I have been on a real ship,” she said as she stepped onto the deck. “I forgot how much I miss it.”
“When will you return to sea?” Ophelia asked.
“Soon I think. Now that Kingston has some sugar, I will hopefully be free of this city. Don’t get me wrong, I like the place, I just miss the feel of the ocean. The sway of a ship.” She stood still, hoping to feel movement from the water, but the harbor was too shallow to create enough of a wave to move the large ship.
“What will you do, now that you can’t sail with Janneke?”
“Well, either I will sail with you, or…there is talk of giving me my own ship.” Celia smiled at the thought of this, a glint in her eye at the thought of power, reminding Ophelia of Janneke when she named her ship. The two were very much alike, though Celia was not as mature nor as experienced as Janneke.
“When will you find out?”
“I do not know. Hopefully soon. Come. I’m sure the governor would love for you to join us for dinner again.”
As the two walked up the street to the governor’s house, Ophelia began to feel depressed about the situation. Janneke was a good friend who should have been there with them. If she wouldn’t have taken that bounty hunt and gone after Captain James, she probably would be there, walking up the street to have dinner with the governor. She shook off these thoughts, realizing that she needed to pay attention to anything that could be helpful to Janneke. If she could clear her name, they could be reunited into the happy, seafaring family they once had been.
The governor was happy to see her and was surprised that she had returned so soon with their much-needed sugar. Ophelia liked the governor, though she could tell he did not have much nautical knowledge. When he traveled with them from England, he spent much of the time in the captain’s quarters feeling seasick. He had an appreciation for the sea and those who sailed on it, but much preferred to stay on land.
After dinner they retired to the governor’s lounge to discuss business. The sugar Ophelia had brought would greatly help their situation, providing a supply until they could establish a good trading route. Celia already had merchants working on this and hoped the problem would be resolved in less than a week.
“Now that our sugar problem seems to be almost behind us,” the governor started, “I have a new matter to discuss. Celia, it is time for you to return to the sea.” Celia smiled, glad at the thought of going back to the life she loved. “The king has a special mission for you. There is a new frigate in the harbor. It is to be your ship.”
“What…?” Celia gasped. “I don’t even know what to say. Thank you!”
“Yes, the HMS Sparrow. You are to hunt down the crew of the HMS Hydra and bring them back for trial.”
Celia and Ophelia shared a look. While Celia seemed to believe the story surrounding Janneke’s supposed betrayal, she clearly was unsure about actually hunting her down.
“Hunt them down?” she asked.
“Yes. Honestly though, the king is more concerned with the ship than bringing the crew in for trial. However, he said if needed, sink the ship and rid us of the criminal presence on board.”
“Okay…” Celia appeared to be torn between her duty to her country and the love she had for Janneke. “I will do as you ask,” she hesitantly stated.
It took all of Ophelia’s focus to appear calm and unbiased. She knew the true story, and now it was obvious that the king would do anything to protect his story. She was disappointed that Celia would betray someone she claimed to love so much just to follow an order with which she didn’t seem to completely agree.
The governor offered Ophelia the guest bedroom for the night. She politely refused, stating that she wanted to set sail first thing in the morning. She needed to discuss this with Erik and Edward, and they needed to find Janneke and warn her. As she walked back to her ship, she stopped in the tavern and found much of her crew, including both Erik and Edward. They cheered when they saw Ophelia walk in.
“I have some news,” she began, her face sullen. Erik and Edward leaned in closer. “Celia is being given her own ship.”
“Well, that’s great news!” Edward shouted, raising his mug of ale.
“She has been commissioned to hunt down Janneke.”
At this, Erik, Edward, and a few crew within earshot stared at her, shock in their faces.
“She’s not going to do it, is she?” Erik asked.
“Yes.” Ophelia watched as her news spread among the crew in the tavern. Edward appeared to take the news the hardest. Ophelia knew he and Janneke always got along really well, though she didn’t realize he also felt close to Celia. The man had no family, and now the ones who felt like his family were being torn apart, forced to fight each other.
“What are we going to do?” he inquired, his expression full of anger mixed with sadness. “If we continue to help the Admiral, we will eventually be charged with piracy too. If we don’t help her, either she or Celia will die.”
“I don’t know,” Ophelia whispered.
“Perhaps we should put it to a vote,” Erik suggested.
“Good idea,” Ophelia replied. “Let’s return to the ship first.”
“Agreed,” Erik and Edward said in unison.
Once the crew had all returned to the ship, Captain Ophelia gathered everyone below deck. She wanted to keep their discussion as secret as possible, and there was no telling who was listening near the docks.
“We are faced with a tough decision,” she began. “Many of you sailed under Admiral Janneke before me.” She paused while some of the crew cheered. “The king has placed a bounty on the Admiral’s head. He is sending Celia, our former shipmate, to hunt her down in a frigate named the HMS Sparrow. We know that Janneke has not betrayed the crown, and neither has Captain James. We must either stand with Janneke against the crown or leave her to fight on her own. All those who stand with her could face the charges of piracy and a hangman’s noose.”
Ophelia paused again, letting the crew think about their choices. The decision they made and the actions that followed could cost some of them their lives. “Anyone who wants to stay in Kingston is free to leave,” she continued. “We will not judge you for wishing to save your lives. Now, who wants to stand with Janneke?”
To her surprise, everyone on board volunteered, cheering and shouting their agreement. Some of them had never sailed under Janneke but seemed to like the idea of going against the king, whether in the name of justice or for the chance at more plunder since it would no longer be shared with the crown. Either way, they had a crew and had made a unanimous decision. Rather than take their chances, they decided to set sail under the cover of darkness, leaving Kingston and their privateering days behind them.
Chapter XII: Piracy
The HMS Hydra had been docked for several days at the port of Curacao. Though they hadn’t been scheduled to meet Captain Ophelia for a few more days, Janneke felt compelled to visit the town and stay until after their meeting. She liked the small town and wanted to spend some time on land. While she loved the sea, she also enjoyed the scent and feel of grass, the chirping of birds, and the sound of the waves crashing against the shore.
Janneke stood on the beach as the HMS Honeysuckle approached. She watched the ship slow to a stop in the harbor, and then headed toward it as Captain Ophelia appeared on the dock. Though they had just seen each other recently, they were both happy to be reunited again.
“I bring news,” Ophelia said, her expression grim.
Janneke chuckled. “Bad news I’m guessing.”
“They are sending someone after you with the instructions to focus mostly on saving the ship.”
“We’ll be ready for them. What kind of ship is it?”
“It’s a frigate. The HMS Sparrow.”
“Okay. What do you know of the captain?”
Janneke froze, her expression a mix of shock and anger—anger over betrayal. She considered Celia to be one of her closest friends, yet Celia was now going to hunt her down. Celia had become a bounty hunter for hire, just as Janneke was before she realized the lies surrounding the orders from the crown.
“My crew and I have decided to stand with you,” Ophelia continued. “We voted and it was unanimous.”
“Absolutely not!” Janneke exclaimed. “I will not take you down with me!”
“It doesn’t matter what you say. This is what we decided, and we are sticking to it.”
“You could all die.”
“Then we die. I’d rather live a short life of freedom than one full of lies.” Ophelia could see tears in Janneke’s eyes. She was overjoyed to have such loyalty in friends, even when it meant risking their lives.
“We sail together then,” Janneke stated, her calm demeanor returning. “Captain James will be meeting us in Tortuga, along with a few others I have recruited. Come, let’s set sail!”
“To Tortuga!” Ophelia shouted. The two women boarded their ships and set sail, with the HMS Honeysuckle following the HMS Hydra.
* * * * *
Along their journey to Tortuga, they came across three English brigs travelling together that had open-fired upon them. Ophelia hesitated before giving the command to fire back, realizing that there would be consequences for their aggressive actions. But the crew had decided, and so she gave the command, assuring their position among those hunted by the crown, accused of piracy. The enemy ships were no match for the two frigates, especially with the added cannons on the HMS Hydra. Rather than board and take the English brigs, Janneke simply disabled them and continued on her way. Ophelia followed, though every part of her wanted to board and take the brigs for herself. Her inner pirate was surfacing, wanting to plunder any ship she could. However, they had to stick together and needed to meet Captain James in Tortuga.
When they reached the island of Tortuga, several ships sat in the harbor. The HMS Hydra docked and Janneke left the ship. Ophelia followed once the HMS Honeysuckle was docked, taking Erik and Edward with her. Janneke had Rose accompanying her.
The group entered the tavern—a place very lively with pirates and their crew. Janneke found Captain James sitting at a table with seven other people.
“Captain Ophelia, meet the rest of my crew,” Janneke said as she gestured toward the group sitting with James. “Every one of them is captain of a ship under my command. You know James of course. He has agreed to sail under my command in the hopes to free his name.”
Ophelia glanced around the table. She had no idea Janneke had created her own fleet. The fear within her suddenly lessened. They stood a better chance with more ships on their side.
“Captain Ophelia,” James said as they approached the table, “this is Victoria, Gregor, Frederick, Jack, Elise, Angelika, and—”
“Liam?” Ophelia gasped.
“Ophelia? Is that really you?” The man rushed to Ophelia and embraced her. “It’s been so long!”
“Yes it has.” Ophelia had tears of joy in her eyes, which she tried hard to hide from everyone at the table. She had wondered for so many years what ever happened to Liam, hoping to run into him again someday. She couldn’t believe she had finally found him. “How did you end up here?” she asked as she released him.
“Captain James and I have known each other for years. I stopped by Vera Cruz and saw his ship in the harbor. A few men in town had been part of his crew and were waiting for him to return, keeping an eye on his ship. I wasn’t there long when James returned. We joined each other in the tavern and he asked me to join the cause. I was never fond of the English. Not after what happened back home. I’ve been sailing under Dutch colors for years.”
“What happened back home?”
“I’ll fill you in later,” he spoke as he looked around. “We have a lot of catching up to do, but now is not the time for that.”
“We are glad to have your help,” Janneke said as she shook his hand. “All of you actually,” she added as she looked around at the other captains. “The English have set bounties on both Captain James and me.” She paused and looked at Ophelia. “And probably you now too, Ophelia.” She turned back to the captains sitting at the table in front of her. “We don’t intend to take on the entire English Navy, but we won’t go down without a fight. We will side with the Dutch, the French, and the Spanish and take refuge in their towns.” She noticed that everyone in the tavern seemed to be listening to her speech, even those who were not part of their group. “Our days of English privateering are behind us. Now is the time to decide our future!” She had increased her volume so everyone could hear her clearly. “It’s time to vote: shall we run in fear for the rest of our lives, or do we take the fight to them? Are we cowards, hiding in foreign towns?” She paused to allow the booing to quiet down, the crowd now listening to her every word. “Or are we pirates!?”
At this the crowd erupted into cheers, with almost everyone shouting “Aye” in agreement. Ophelia had waited her whole life for this moment—the moment when she knew she was finally a pirate.