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The Privateer

by Nicholas R Yang 11 months ago in fiction
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A broken man finds a new beginning.

The Privateer
Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

“Oh, the year was 1778 How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now! A letter of marque came from the king

To the scummiest vessel, I'd ever seen. God damn them all! I was told we'd cruise the seas for American gold. We'd fire no guns-shed no tears Now I'm a broken man on a Halifax pier The last of Barrett's Privateers...”

“Shut it, Ash!” A woman called from inside the old wooden alehouse. “You’ve been singing that song for hours and you’re scaring away customers!”

“Oi! You Shut it, Molly! I was a Privateer you know! You should show me some respech…” Ashley McGuinness passed out in the middle of his sentence.

Molly the bartender rolled her eyes and shook her head as the rain started to patter steadily on cobblestone pavement out front of the old pier-side shack where an unconscious Ash sat upright against the building. His bearded and gaunt face nestled into his chest. He wore an old, grungy, and tattered blue, white, and gold British Royal Navy uniform. His old bicorn hat fell to the ground as he slept away his drunkenness.

“Oh my… look at the quality of man the old British Navy contracted.”

Molly heard three men talking out front of her tavern laughing with each other. She came to the door just as the tallest one kicked Ash’s booted foot aside like some sort of refuse.

“Good evening Sirs, welcome to Molly’s Seabreeze Tavern and Inn. Did your lot just come off of HMS Victory? I heard that you were all making port this evening.”

The tallest of the three approached the doorway with his hat in his hand and one arm under his blue coat.

“Yes Madam, we are indeed from HMS Victory. We happened to pull into port a short while ago. Acting Captain Avery Hubbard at your service.” The man bowed slightly. His two lackeys stood fast.

“Tell me, Miss Molly. Do you have many vagrants here in Halifax? And does this one normally hang out in front of your establishment?” Captain Hubbard pointed to Ash with his bicorn, a disgusted look on his face.

The rain began to pour, slamming into the tavern’s roof. Captain Avery put his hat back on his head to shelter from the rain.

“Captain Hubbard. Ash is a good man, he was a Privateer. He fought for the King just like you all do, you should show him some respect. His ship went down fighting the Americans, he’s the only survivor. Poor soul drinks his sorrows away.”

Hubbard looked at the passed-out sailor a second with a grimace.

“Yes, well… Privateers... Miss, do you have any beds for the night? We would all like some good night's rest, food, and drink after being out to sea so long. We have money and will pay.”

Molly nodded and stepped aside allowing the three sailors into the building. Ash woke himself up with a loud snore and broke back into song, standing up and stumbling towards the entrance.

“...Oh, Elcid Barrett cried the town. How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now! For twenty brave men, all fishermen who would make for him the Antelope's crew, God damn them all! I was told we'd cruise the seas for American gold. We'd fire no guns-shed no tears, now I'm a broken man on a Halifax pier The last of Barrett's Privateers!”

Ash found Molly blocking his way.

“Molly, is that you?” He leaned closer to her and squinted.

“Ash, you need to come back later. The Royal Navy has men here. I don’t want any trouble.”

Ash stood a moment and laughed, yelling into the Tavern.

“Royal Navy! Those blokes have nothing on us Privateers. They were armed to the teeth and still couldn’t stop the Yanks! Bunch of blowhards!” Ash yelled over Molly’s shoulder.

A few sailors pushed by, sending him falling off the stairs and into the wet street next to his old hat. Molly hurried out of the door to help him up, people from inside laughed and mumbled some sort of abuse towards the old Privateer.

“Ash, honey, please go get some rest… Once they start drinking...” she begged him as she pulled him up from the mud. “Go on now…” she ushered him away. Ash turned and yelled,


Then he began to stumble through the rain out onto the piers, singing at the top of his lungs at the storm clouds above. Great wooden ships bobbed up and down lightly knocking into each other with the wind.

“The Antelope sloop was a sickening sight, How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now! She'd a list to the port and her sails in rags And the cook in scuppers with the staggers and the jags! God damn them all! I was told we'd cruise the seas for American gold. We'd fire no guns-shed no tears... Now I'm a broken man on a Halifax pier, the last of Barrett's Privateers!”

As Ash sang, he walked. He began the next verse grabbing a bottle of what looked like rum that was sitting atop a pile of supplies. He ripped the cork off with his teeth and took a long drink.

“Ah, England’s finest.” He laughed, drinking down another gulp. The brown, semi-sweet liquid burned as it went. “On the King's birthday, we put to sea, How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now! We were 91 days to Montego Bay, Pumping like madmen all the way…”

Ash stopped mid-song, looking drunkenly at a giant blue and white ship, emblazoned with HMS Victory upon the side. He turned to face it and snapped to attention, almost falling over.

“Able…” he sniggered, “Seaman Ashley McGuinness reporting for duty your grand Majesty of Majesties. Onward to the Indies!”

The drunk man marched haphazardly towards the gangway stopping at the end and turning. At the top stood two uniformed men with muskets guarding the entrance. Ash began marching up the wooden platform, the guards met him with muskets crossed.

“Royal Navy personnel only. I’ll have to ask you to leave, sir.” one of the men said coolly. Ash looked at him a moment, his head swimming. He took another drink from the bottle of rum and replied mockingly.

“Royal Navy Personnel only, I’ll have to ask you to leave. Blah blah. Blowhards… I was in the Royal Navy. A Privateer mind you. I fought the Americans. What have you done? Hmmm? You fought Americans?” Ash pointed a finger into one of the guards' chests, wobbling a bit.

“Sir, you will have to leave. You can’t be here.” The other man said, stepping forward a bit and putting a hand on Ash’s shoulder. “We don’t want any problems here. Thank you for your service to the King. Please, just go before Captain Hubbard comes back.”

Ash laughed, “Service to the King. Like I had a choice. Like any of us had a choice!” The two guards snapped to attention.

“What have we got here?” a gruff voice from behind him spoke.

Ash turned around taking a drink of the rum he had. Seeing the man's stripes he came to attention mockingly.

“Able Seaman Ashley McGuinness. Reporting for duty.” he chuckled at the end, taking another drink.

Captain Hubbard stared silently.

“Did you steal that bottle of rum from his majesty?” Hubbard pointed at the bottle with a gloved hand.

“So what if I did. It’s the least his Majesty could do for me.” Ash responded crossly.

There was a loud crack and a plume of white smoke. Ash felt a pain in his chest as he fell to his knee. He looked down as blood poured from his torso, then looked back up at the Captain, confused.

“Filth…” the Captain pushed Ashley aside, watching as he fell into the churning ocean below. “Enjoy the abyss, wretch.”

Captain Hubbard strolled onto the ship and out of sight without another word.

Darkness… cool, calming abyss.

“Ashley…” a voice called from far away.

“Am I dead?” Ash responded. His voice bubbled and floated away to the surface. The wall of sleep overtook him once again.

“Ash… Avery Hubbard, John Abner, Rachelle Karmine, Richard Foley…” a list of names rolled through his head over and over again, repeating as he slept.

“Ash, wake up.” The voice was loud this time, Ash opened his eyes. The water was murky and dark, but it seemed he could see for miles.

He thought for a second, “Avery Hubbard…” off he swam into the depths, it was like a beacon calling to him. Ash moved incredibly fast like he was some sort of sea creature that had been swimming its whole life. After what felt like ages, Ash arrived at the hull of a blue and white ship. He climbed the side planks with his hook and knife entering a porthole in the wall. An older gentleman sat behind a desk, not noticing Ash had entered his room.

Ash spoke after a long silence.

“...The bottom of the ocean ain’t no part of this world. I sank so deep, there wasn’t an up or a down. There I sat… suspended in the abyss. So quiet down there… Then she came and whispered to me a list of names… I awoke from the darkness, renewed, and started to swim. I swam for so long, not sure where I was going. Then, I ended up here. On your ship, and in your cabin. I wonder why that is...”

The Ghoulish spectre stood, seaweed draped about its body, its tattered red and white sailors clothing steadily dripping on the cabin floor in front of Captain Hubbard. The ghoul's skin was a cold hue of blue that rivaled even the deepest parts of the lightless arctic oceans.

The Ghost turned to him, a rusted fishing hook and chain clutched in its rotting hand, and continued to speak in his gurgling, eldritch voice,

“I don’t remember you, though. Avery Hubbard. You are on the list. That means your time is up.” the beast seemed to smile from the side of its open cheek. Its teeth were gnarled green and yellow. “Don’t worry friend, everyone’s gotta sink sometime…”

The Drowned Ghoul walked to the massive oaken desk Captain Hubbard sat behind. It pushed the maps and charts aside, slamming the hook into its wooden flesh. It stood for a moment, staring through the Captain with his glowing blue eyes.

The ghoul snapped out of its trance and grabbed the two crystal tumblers from a tarnished silver tray that sat on the corner of the desk next to an old browning globe. It reached for the paired decanter, pulling the stopper from it. Liquid drained into the glasses and the ghoul slid one over to Avery with a boney finger.

“Why are you on the list, Captain Avery Hubbard…” It asked flatly, standing menacingly over the cowering and seemingly shocked old man, taking a sip of the alcohol. “Ain’t no one here but you and I…”

“By God, leave me, Devil. In the name of Jesus Christ. Leave here!” The Captain pushed himself back and scrambled to his feet, pulling his cutlass from its leather sheath. His hand trembled terribly as he held his sword. “I am a Captain in His Majesty’s Royal Navy.”

The Ghoul chuckled, “God… there are no Gods. There is only the

Deep Ones. Your royalty cannot save you.” It finished its drink, throwing the glass at the Captain.

Avery moved aside as the Ghoul vaulted across the desk, ramming its hook into the man's neck with an unnatural force of speed.

The Captain’s eyes went wide as the Spectre dragged him through the double doors that lead to a small balcony at the aft end of the ship, much like a butcher dragging a hunk of meat. Up over the railing, the Ghoul went, diving into the depths. Avery watched in horror as the chain sang its metallic song, following the drowned spectre into the depths.

Avery yanked and pulled at the large hook desperately trying to free himself. Not caring that he was bleeding out. Then the world began to fade into blackness as he fell to his knees, his hands still grasping the rusted iron links. Over the edge and into the deep darkness, he went. The Ghoul continued to swim, dragging the Captain behind him.

“Some will fight, some will bargain. Take them all Ash, until the list is empty.” A voice spoke to the Ghoul from somewhere,

“Will I be free then?” he replied, light disappearing from around him. There was no response. “Onto the next then…” he said, yanking its chain from Captain Avery’s body. Ash turned and watched as the body sank to the depths out of its sight.

“Welcome to the abyss, Captain Hubbard...”


About the author

Nicholas R Yang

An Archaeologist and aspiring Doctor, I am a part-time writer from the East Coast of Canada. Written multiple plays, poems, and short stories.

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