Chapter XVI: Martinique
Captain Ophelia sat with Liam outside the tavern in Martinique. They watched the ships in the harbor, waiting impatiently for any sign of Janneke, James, and Elise. The remaining ships had arrived without issue, with Jack being the last to show up. With each passing hour Liam and Ophelia began to worry more.
As it began to grow dark, Ophelia spotted two ships approaching the town. Once they were close enough, she recognized them immediately as the Hydra and the Conquistador. She scanned the area looking for any sign of the third ship but saw no other sails on the horizon.
Ophelia, Liam, and Erik met Janneke, James, Edward, and Rose on the dock. Ophelia could tell something was wrong by the look on Janneke’s face. “What happened?” she asked.
“Celia,” Janneke replied. “She attacked us. Elise is dead. Celia sank her ship.”
“Are you sure it was Celia?” Erik asked, a look of shock on his face.
“Definitely,” James grumbled.
Ophelia looked at Janneke. She knew that Janneke was sad about Elise, but also that she felt much grief over what had become of Celia. “What are we going to do?” Ophelia asked.
“She killed one of us, so…the next time we come across her, we sink her,” James said with anger in his voice.
Ophelia continued to look at Janneke. Though James was trying to protect them and their cause, she doubted Janneke would want to kill Celia. They had far too much history together.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” Janneke said quietly.
“How can you say that?” James continued. “She killed Elise!”
“Celia was my friend. I can’t just kill her. She is being used by the crown. I doubt she wants to kill anyone.”
“That’s not what it looked like to me!”
“James,” Janneke began, giving him a look of frustration. “You weren’t there. You don’t know what it was like before. Celia isn’t a killer.” She turned her back to him and started to walk away, then paused. “You don’t know her like I do,” she said without turning around, then continued on her way.
James glared at Ophelia. “Celia will kill us all.”
“No, she won’t,” Ophelia said before she too left, Erik and Edward following behind her, leaving James, Liam, and Rose standing on the dock.
* * * * *
Very few lights shown in the town of Martinique that night. Ophelia stood on the deck of the Kraken staring at the open ocean in the distance. She felt at home on the ship. At peace with the world. Even with all the troubles they faced so far and the ones they had yet to overcome, she still loved the idea of being a pirate. It was freedom. Freedom to go where she wanted and do what she wanted. She could have abandoned Janneke and forgot about her fight for freedom, but Ophelia hadn’t even hesitated to help her. There was no point in freedom if there was no one to share it with, and her friends meant everything to her. Rather than be free and alone, she opted to help those who needed her most—to try to save what was left of her seafaring family.
She stared at the stars above her, so clear in the dark sky. To her, they seemed like they were floating in another ocean out in space. A distant world yet to be explored. The ship swayed the tiniest bit in the harbor, but it was enough for Ophelia to feel under her feet. The subtle movement calmed her, giving her a feeling of serenity. She closed her eyes and opened her other senses to the world. There was a cool breeze blowing from the east and she could smell the salt of the ocean. She heard the waves crashing against the shore and the wood of the dock creaking with every movement of the water. She heard footsteps on the dock, getting closer and closer. She opened her eyes and saw James walking toward the ship. He stopped before coming aboard, clearly waiting for her permission.
“Come on board, James,” she said loud enough for him to hear. He stepped onto the Kraken and slowly walked toward her, looking around the ship as he approached.
“This is a nice ship,” he commented.
“Thank you,” Ophelia replied. “It is the only ship I have ever served on. It’s my home.”
“She’s very lucky to have you then,” he said with a smile.
“Is something wrong?” Ophelia asked.
“Well,” he started. He leaned on the side of the ship and looked out across the ocean. “I’m worried about Janneke.”
Ophelia stared at him as he watched the waves in the distance. She suspected there was more to his outburst earlier that evening. He didn’t seem to be the type who wanted to kill people, yet he was so insistent that Celia needed to be dealt with, one way or another. “If there’s one thing I know, it’s that Janneke is very capable of taking care of herself,” she told him.
“Oh I know. It’s just…” he hesitated, debating if he wanted to say what was on his mind. “I love her,” he said after a minute.
“I thought so.” Ophelia had suspected this for a while. She couldn’t help but notice the way that James looked at Janneke—a look of admiration and respect. He adored her and took extra steps to ensure her safety.
“I don’t want to lose her,” James spoke quietly, as if saying the words would bring harm to the woman who owned his heart.
“Have you told her how you feel?”
“James,” Ophelia said, grabbing his hand to reassure him, “you need to tell her.”
“I’m afraid this connection with Celia will bring about her death,” he continued. “There has to be a way for this to end peacefully. If she continues down this path, she will die. I can’t lose her. She means too much to me.”
“James, go to her and tell her. She deserves to know the truth.”
“I suppose you’re right.” He continued to stare across the ocean without moving. “You should do the same…with Liam.” He turned and left the ship, leaving Ophelia to ponder his words. She had never considered her true feelings for Liam. She had missed him for so long, but that was more of a longing for a lost friendship. She looked back across the water, pondering the idea James had put into her head. Did she really love Liam, or was James seeing something that wasn’t there?
The moon was high in the sky, giving light to everything below. Ophelia left her ship and walked down the dock, heading nowhere in particular. She stopped when she reached the Morrigan. She could see the Hydra in the distance and saw James enter Janneke’s quarters. She felt happy that he took her advice to heart. He and Janneke seemed like the perfect match. She thought of their possible future—a nice farmhouse surrounded by fields, children, a peaceful life far away from the dangers of being a pirate. Sadness soon began to creep into her heart. There was little chance for the future she envisioned. Janneke and James would be hunted forever and would never be able to escape the crimes for which they were charged.
“Ophelia?” Liam spoke from behind her, startling her a bit. “What’s wrong?” he asked as she turned around, tears welling up in her eyes.
She took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. “I’ll be okay,” she said.
“Tell me. What happened?”
“I just…I can’t see a way for this to end without losing someone I love.”
Liam pulled her into a hug in an effort to reassure her. “Everything will be okay,” he said as he squeezed her. She still wasn’t sure of her feelings for him, but she knew, at that moment, she felt safe. She felt as if everything would be okay.
* * * * *
It was almost noon when all of the captains had gathered in the tavern to plan their next course of action. Now that they had regrouped, they would sail to Barbados as a fleet and attack the town together. The city was well guarded, but they were heavily motivated to succeed. If any of Janneke’s crew was still alive within the city, they would find them.
James and Janneke were the first ones at the tavern, waiting for everyone else to join them. Ophelia noticed that the two seemed to be closer. She hoped that meant that James had taken her advice and told Janneke how he felt.
“Okay,” James began. “Now that everyone is here. We are going to attack Barbados. It is mostly a rescue mission, but…well…”
“Revenge is sweet,” Liam added.
“True, but also…if we are going to be hunted like pirates, then we should act like them.” James paused as everyone voiced their approval of this notion. “This isn’t going to be easy. The city is heavily guarded and they won’t give up without a fight.”
“The bigger the fight, the more the riches,” Jack laughed.
“Generally speaking, yes,” James replied. “But we also are looking to rescue anyone that remains of Janneke’s crew. They are likely being held in the jail, if any of them are still alive.” James looked at Janneke and squeezed her hand. She clearly still felt guilty that her crew had been left behind. “There was nothing you could have done,” he said softly to her. “If you wouldn’t have left, we’d be dead. You, me, Rose. We would have been executed.”
“I still feel guilty.”
“That’s because you are a good person,” James said. He smiled at her before turning to address the captains again. “I’m not going to lie. This isn’t going to be easy. It should be worth it though, in the long run. I’m not going to tell you all that you have to fight with us. Anyone who wants to leave is welcome to. So who’s in?”
Every one of the captains agreed to join the fight, whether for the chance at riches or just for the thrill. They had a tough battle ahead of them, but they would stick together. James dismissed the group and they all started heading back to their ships. James and Janneke remained seated while everyone else left.
“Ophelia,” Janneke called.
Ophelia had just reached the door with Liam when Janneke called. “I’ll be along shortly,” she told Liam as she headed back. James stood up from the table and joined Liam, waiting for the two women just outside the door.
“You talked to James?” Janneke asked.
“I did. He came to me last night.”
“If we survive this, James and I are planning to retire.”
“I think that sounds like a great idea,” Ophelia said with a smile. Her vision of the two of them living on a farm returned to her.
“Maybe we’ll go to Curacao. I’ve always loved that place.” Janneke got up from her chair and walked with Ophelia to the door where James and Liam rejoined them.
“I hope this goes well,” James said as they walked down the street toward the harbor.
“Well, if it doesn’t, at least we stood for what we believed in,” Janneke spoke proudly. “Justice and freedom.”
“Freedom!” Ophelia said loudly.
“Aye, freedom,” Liam added.
Rose, Erik, and Edward awaited them on the docks along with Catarina, Liam’s bosun. The sea in the distance looked peaceful and the sun shone brightly in the sky.
“Everything ready, Catarina?” Liam asked.
“Aye. We are fully stocked with ammunition and ready to go.”
“How are we doing, Edward?” Janneke asked.
“The same goes for the Hydra. We are ready for this battle.”
“As is the Conquistador,” Rose added.
“And the Kraken,” Erik voiced with excitement.
“If Celia shows up, do what you have to to survive,” James said to Janneke and Ophelia.
“Agreed,” Janneke replied, more so to Ophelia than James. “I am not losing any more of this family.” She hugged Ophelia and then headed toward her ship. James stopped her and pulled her close. He kissed her before wishing her luck and then heading off to his own ship. Ophelia and Liam exchanged smiles, both happy that James and Janneke had allowed their stubborn sides to waver enough to acknowledge they cared about each other. The two were very much alike, and Ophelia hoped more than anything that they would be able to retire to Curacao like Janneke wanted.
Ophelia took the helm of the Kraken and gave the order to set sail. She looked around at the fleet they had formed and felt a surge of pride. It was hard to believe that not long ago she was just a swabbie mopping the deck. Now she was leading her own crew and heading off with a fleet of pirates to attack a city—not just for riches, but to rescue some of their own. She smiled as the frigate reached full speed. She was truly where she belonged.
Chapter XVII: Return of the Sparrow
The sun had begun to set the previous evening over the town of Saint Kitts, its peaceful shores prepared for a night of rest. Two merchant ships had sat in the harbor awaiting their return to the sea the next day. In the distance, a frigate approached—the HMS Sparrow. The loss of a mast and the holes in the sails had slowed its speed.
As the frigate approached the harbor, Celia had breathed a sigh of relief. The ship had been heavily damaged in their battle and she was worried they would not make it to port. Saint Kitts was the closest English town, and so they had set out for it right after the battle. Celia hoped the ship could be repaired quickly—she knew in her heart that Janneke was headed for Barbados and she didn’t want to miss the opportunity to catch her.
Before they had even reached the dock that evening, the harbor master had come out to greet them. He happened to see the ship during approach and knew his services would be needed. The ship slowed to a stop near the dock. Celia and Miguel had left the ship to meet with the harbor master, insisting that he fix it in a hurry.
Celia had ordered Miguel to stay with the ship and the crew to oversee repairs before she headed into town. She wanted a good night’s sleep, though she had a feeling she would not get it. Her mind had still been going over the events that had happened earlier that day, her heart still racing from the excitement. Her first battle might not have been a complete success, but she held her own against three ships. Part of her felt sad for the loss of those aboard the ship she sank. She had never killed anyone before, and while she didn’t directly kill them, they were gone because of her actions. But they were pirates, she thought, criminals who were guilty of crimes. She told herself that they would have faced the gallows and died anyway. This way they were saved from a humiliating death, dying the way they lived instead.
After finding a place to stay the night, Celia had struggled to sleep. She was haunted by dreams in which Janneke kept appearing…taunting her. She felt a mix of anger and sadness, along with a feeling that she had lost something important. She needed to prove her worth to everyone, including herself, but at what cost? She awoke shortly after sunrise that morning, still feeling tired from a night of restless sleep.
Celia headed to the harbor and scanned the area for any naval ships. Two Man O’War ships sat in the harbor, their sails raised and their crew relaxing. She knew she needed help taking on the pirates—help in capturing Janneke. She spoke with the captains, both of whom were willing to aid her in her quest. She was forming her own small fleet. This time she would not fail.
The repairs on the HMS Sparrow were completed early in the afternoon. Celia had returned to the ship shortly after recruiting help in the hopes that the ship would be ready to sail. She waited patiently as the harbor master and his crew did their best to erase all signs of the previous day’s battle. The ship wasn’t perfect, but it was ready to go. Ready to fight again.
“Is everyone on board?” Celia asked Miguel.
“Aye. Boarded and ready to set sail.”
“Let’s finish this then,” she said as she gave the order to raise the anchor and lower the sails. The frigate left the harbor and began its course south, leaving Saint Kitts to return to its peaceful tranquility, the two Man O’War ships following her lead.
“Do you think we’ll find them?” Miguel asked.
“I hope so. I want this to be over.”
“Will you kill her?”
“If I have to.” Celia thought on her words. She remembered a time when she and Janneke were very close. A time when she never would have thought they could ever hate each other like they did now. She still wasn’t sure how it had come to this—a fight to the death. There were times when she questioned her own motives. Was she really doing this for the sake of justice? Or was it more for her own benefit? A way to prove that she was not just some kid.
More than once she had considered the idea of joining Janneke and becoming a pirate. She liked the idea of freedom and not having to follow orders from the crown, something that often felt like a body-less entity that made demands from some mythical place. She didn’t feel as loyal to the crown as she once had, now feeling more loyalty toward her own beliefs and her own crew. She understood now why Janneke worked so hard to protect her crew—they were the ones she relied on for survival while at sea. If the crew didn’t do their part, the ship was useless. If the crew was unhappy, they worked less. But most important was that a good crew looked out for one another. They always had each other’s backs and were always there when someone needed help. Though she had a good crew, they were not the same as those she sailed with on the HMS Honeysuckle. This crew was not as close, seeming less like a family and more like a military environment. Celia dreamed of the day when she could have that type of crew for her own ship. A crew that felt more like a family than just a leader and subordinates. A crew with loyalty to one another. Though she didn’t have Janneke’s charisma and leadership abilities, she believed she had the potential for those traits within her. Janneke had told her on many occasions that she had faith in Celia’s ability to lead…one day…when she was ready.
This began to stir some anger within Celia. She loved Janneke, but it always hurt when she was told she was too young or inexperienced. She felt she could do the job just as well as one who had been leading for years, regardless of her experience. She might have more to learn, but the basic ideas were the same. This was why she felt the need to prove herself to everyone. She was not a child—she was a captain, and she commanded her crew with confidence.
“Captain,” Miguel called from the deck.
““We are coming up on Barbados.”
“Thank you Miguel.” Celia strained her eyes toward the shore, looking for any sign of the Hydra. She spotted several ships in the distance, all headed toward the city. “There!” she cried out to Miguel, who hurried up into the crow’s nest to get a better look through his spyglass.
“Nine ships in total, all sailing together,” he shouted down to Celia. “One galleon, six frigates, and two brigs.”
“It’s Janneke,” Celia said out loud to herself. She debated what to do while she waited for Miguel to climb back down and join her.
“What are your orders?” he asked.
“Raise the sails and drop anchor. We will wait until they have split up before we attack. Signal for the Man O’War ships to stop.”
“Captain? Are we leaving Barbados to fend for itself?”
“We have been commissioned to stop Janneke, not to defend well-guarded cities.”
Some of the crew looked around at each other, quietly sighing in relief. They had feared that Celia would charge into battle, regardless of how many ships they were up against. However, much of the crew was made up of English soldiers who felt as if they were going against orders by not assisting Barbados in the attack.
“Are you sure about this, Captain?” Miguel asked quietly.
“Aye. We will not rush into a battle we cannot win. Barbados will have to fend for itself. We will wait for the right moment to strike.”
Chapter XVIII: The Rescue
The fleet could see Barbados on the horizon, its English flag flapping in the gentle breeze. Several ships sat in the harbor. Janneke squinted through her spyglass to see them better. Most appeared to be merchant ships, though there were at least three that could have been smaller naval vessels, all of which were smaller than a frigate. She breathed a sigh of relief. She had been concerned that Celia would suspect they were returning to Barbados and beat them there. She wondered how damaged the HMS Sparrow was after the battle and if Celia had sustained any injuries. She really didn’t want to hurt the girl, but they were enemies now and she would not hang for anyone.
Janneke looked through her spyglass again. She noticed many people on the docks—innocent citizens who would soon find themselves under attack. She felt a sudden urge to call a halt to their plan. She had never attacked a city before, and she had never considered what would happen to anyone caught in the crossfire, innocent or not.
“Edward,” she called.
“There are people on the docks. Innocent people who could be killed if we attack. What do you think?”
Edward took the spyglass Janneke handed to him and gazed at the shore. “Sometimes there are casualties,” he said after a minute.
“But you and I have lost loved ones because pirates did the same thing.”
“We aren’t like them. Not one among us would take an innocent hostage, and all of us will take caution to avoid excess killing.”
“But the English won’t.”
Edward walked next to Janneke and placed his hand on her shoulder. “That is not your fault. You have to do this. We have to do this. For justice.” He paused for a moment and looked toward the city again. “If any of your crew are in there, we will find them and save them from that English hell.”
“Aye,” Janneke whispered. She watched as Edward returned to his position on the deck. She had grown very fond of him over the past several months. They had become quite close and were very much alike. She loved James, but she felt a different kind of love for Edward. She knew that he had great respect for her and turned to her when he needed someone to talk to, and she felt the same about him. It was as if they were meant to find each other in order to guide one another to their correct path. Edward had found purpose on the ship, and Janneke turned to him for strength. She hoped that they would both live through the battle but wished more that he would survive and someday find the peace for which he was searching.
The distance between the fleet and Barbados was closing. With every second they grew nearer to their destination—a place that every one of them hoped would not bring about their deaths. Janneke could see the fort overlooking the city, its cannons waiting for anyone to attack.
“Prepare for battle!” Janneke shouted as they came within range. “Ready the cannons!” She raised her spyglass again and looked around at the rest of the fleet. She saw all ships were preparing just as they were. Every man and woman was ready for this fight.
Once the city was within range of the cannons, Janneke gave the order to fire. Shortly after, the rest of the fleet opened fire upon the English city. People on the docks ran for cover, screaming in terror as cannonballs ripped through the town. Part of the wall of the fort crumbled, debris and English soldiers falling into the sea below. The dock and several ships in the harbor took damage. Any ship that was still able to sail quickly lowered its sails in an attempt to escape the oncoming invasion. The three ships Janneke suspected to be English Navy fired back at the pirates, striking a few ships in the fleet, though the damage was not bad.
The pirate fleet continued to fire at will, producing a barrage of cannonballs that ripped the shore apart. Most of the ships’ cannons aimed at the fort if they could, with the remaining cannons aiming for the English Navy ships. The fort fired back with superior precision, striking at least one of the ships in the pirate fleet almost every time. Janneke hoped they would all make it to the shore. Any incapacitated ship could be left behind once the crew was safely aboard another ship, as long as the ship could reach land. Any ship left floating idly in the water would be an easy target for the English.
Janneke looked back to see Angelika’s brig take a direct hit from the fort. The main mast fell to the deck and the ship slowed greatly. Another cannonball passed through the ship’s hull and it began to take on water. Janneke watched, feeling helpless, as most of the crew dove into the water as the ship quickly began to sink. She breathed a sigh of relief when Victoria’s frigate passed nearby, her crew throwing ropes in an attempt to save all who they could. She didn’t know how many survived, but knew it was better than what had happened to Elise and her crew.
Once the fleet was close enough, they split up to each find a suitable place to go ashore. Several of the docks had been destroyed, though Janneke managed to find one that remained mostly intact. The crew of the Hydra charged off the ship, swords and pistols in hands, and toward the center of the city. Most of the rest of the crews joined them along the way, fighting guards along the way. James and Rose appeared behind Janneke and Edward as they fought their way through the city.
Before long, the pirates reached the governor’s mansion, with Janneke and James at the head of the group. Ophelia, Liam, Erik, and Catarina joined them shortly after. Janneke wanted to ask how many casualties they had so far but knew there wasn’t time for that. She ordered her men to break down the governor’s door. More guards appeared, these tougher than the ones they had fought in the city—the governor’s guards were the highest ranking of the English Navy on the island. Once the door had split in half, Janneke, James, Ophelia, Liam, Edward, Erik, Rose, and Catarina entered the mansion.
“I’ll watch the front door,” Catarina exclaimed.
“Okay,” Liam replied as he ushered the others to move forward. “She might seem like such a sweet woman, but don’t get on her bad side,” he laughed as they hurried down the hallway. They stopped at the end of it in front of matching ornately carved doors.
“This must be the governor’s office,” Erik said.
Janneke kicked the doors open and the group entered the room. A man sat in an arm chair in the corner while three English guards attacked them. James, Edward, and Rose quickly defeated the guards as Janneke walked over to the man. She grabbed him by the neck and forced him to stand up.
“Several weeks ago your men tried to attack my ship in the harbor while most of my crew were in town. Where is my crew?!”
“Five of them are in jail,” the man said in an arrogant manner. “The rest must have run for it when you abandoned them. Such a coward you must be.”
Janneke tightened her grip on her sword and pressed it to the man’s neck. “I should just kill you for all the trouble you’ve caused.”
“Come on,” James said as he grabbed Janneke’s arm. “Let’s go get your men.”
She looked at James and paused. “You’re not worth the hassle,” she spat at the governor as she pushed him aside. She turned to leave with the rest of the group when a pistol fired in the room.
“No!” James yelled and grabbed Janneke.
“I’m not hit!” she yelled back at him, both irritated and comforted by his concern. She looked back and saw the governor fall to the floor—a bullet wound in his forehead.
“Who…?” Liam asked, completely perplexed.
“Me,” Edward spoke from the corner of the room, his pistol still raised.
“Edward?” Janneke questioned, unsure as to what happened. “Why?”
“He was the one—the governor my wife worked for when she was killed. He’s the reason she’s dead.”
At this, Janneke pulled him in to embrace him. She hoped the man’s death would bring Edward some closure and allow him to move on with his life. “Let’s go,” she said as she let go of Edward. She noticed everyone else appeared to still be quite confused, except James, who seemed to be a bit jealous.
The group encountered more guards when they reached the back entrance of the mansion. Having spent time in Barbados with Rupert, James knew that there was a path that led to the fort from the back of the large house and figured it would be the easiest way in. As they entered the fort through the back entrance, they could hear fighting within. The rest of the pirates had infiltrated the fort from the front and were working their way to the jail cells. James led them the quickest way to the prisoners.
“Admiral?” one man gasped from his cell when the group arrived. “The admiral has come to rescue us!” he shouted, getting the attention of the other inmates.
“I couldn’t leave you to rot here forever, now could I, Michael?” Janneke said with a smile. “I’m sorry it took so long.”
“We thought you’d forgotten about us,” another man said.
“Never,” Janneke replied, feeling terrible that her crew had to wait so long for help. “I got held up. It’s a long story and I’ll fill you all in later.” She looked around the jail at the other cells and noticed three men locked in one. “What are they in for?” she asked Michael.
“Them? They’re pirates.”
“Free them,” Janneke said to the others. “We need all the help we can get,” she began as she approached the cell. “Will you join us?”
“Aye,” the men spoke in unison, eager to be released from confinement.
“Good,” Janneke said. “Now,” she continued, “we got what we came for, so let’s get off this island.”
“Aye,” James replied while the others nodded in agreement.
They joined up with the rest of the pirates in the fort, helping them to defeat the remaining guards. Janneke gave the order for everyone to return to their ships and set sail, to which the pirates obliged.
Once everyone was on board a ship, the fleet left the city, though not without a few final shots at the fort. Janneke wasn’t thrilled about the idea but allowed it in order to remind the English that they would not go quietly without a fight. As they sailed farther away from the island, the cannons stopped, allowing the calm of the sea to be heard again.
Janneke was quite pleased with how the battle had gone. She knew they lost many crew members, though she wasn’t sure of the total yet. She had seen a few of her own crew lying lifeless as they returned to the ship. She felt a great sadness for them but knew that they hadn’t died in vain. They had rescued her crew and made a statement. She looked across the way to the Conquistador. James and she had both made it—they could retire from the life, just as they had wanted. It was over.
And then she saw the HMS Sparrow and two Man O’War ships appear on the starboard side.
About the Creator
I am a gamer, a geek, a writer, an entrepreneur, and a gardener, among many things. I have a lot of knowledge and opinions to share with the world, along with creations from my chaotic mind.