Book 3 of The Voyages of Queen Anne's Revenge
(Please note, this teaser is currently un-edited. There can be grammar and spelling mistakes, and some things might change for the final release. I appreciate your patience.)
1. I'm Coming For Him
William's forehead was slick with sweat. The sun was approaching high noon above the clear skies of Bodden Town, and the heat forced his body to react accordingly. It didn't help that he had been digging up dirt all morning.
William held a sharp spade in his hands, his exposed muscles taut from work. He slammed the spade into the ground and ran his fingers through his wet hair away from his eyes. The men he was working with were slowing down, and even he was tiring.
"What say we break for noon, men?" William asked.
The men let out sighs and some even dropped their spades and bodies to the ground, taking great heaves of air to regain their strength. Keeping at William's pace since early morning took it's toll on them.
William turned to one of the Bodden's attendants. "Fetch us some food and drink, would you?"
The young man nodded and then ran off towards the Bodden's home not far from where they were.
William sat down on a pile of wood which was standing by for use after they laid the foundation. His eyes gravitated towards the harbour where ships of all sizes were entering and leaving. He couldn't see the bustle created by the ships, but he could imagine the multitude of characters arriving and leaving as the locals did business with them. He imagined the smell of the glistening fruits, the rich vegetables, and the various cured and cooked meats on display in the market. Though William was not one for fine dining—food is for sustenance, not pleasure—he could not help by enjoy the scents dancing from his nose to his palate, and often enjoyed walking the market for that reason alone.
"When's the captain due to return?" One of the men asked.
William turned his attention back to the men with him. They were breathing heavily and wiping the sweat from their brows as they talked. Some of them nearby looked at William, anticipating his answer.
"Our captain is set to dock in a few day's time, should their prospects hold true," William replied.
"I wonder what the captain'll bring back this time?" The same crewman questioned.
"I pray for some spices. Old Liz from the Boar's Hat says spices have been too expensive for them to buy, and the food's bad enough as it is without something to mask the taste," another of the Queen Anne's Revenge men commented.
"It's yer own fault if ye keep eatin' there when ye hate the food."
"Boy's, it's simple: he ain't there for the food and drink. He wants to wet his other whistle." The men chuckled at the implication.
"Hey now, Elizabeth is warming up to me. Only a matter of time a'fore I bed her."
"Not if the owner has anything ta say about it!"
William let the voices of the men fade from his consciousness as he began meditating. He tried to clear his mind, but his thoughts lingered on his captain, Edward Thatch, and his charge, Anne Bonney, whom he promised to protect. He volunteered to stay and help build new houses for Bodden Town while the majority of the crew left to secure a cargo ship, but he couldn't help but think he made the wrong decision. As the days turned to weeks of them out to sea, William couldn't shake a feeling of foreboding as if there was a lasting gooseflesh in his mind.
The captain will protect her. There is nothing to worry about.
The sound of footsteps approaching forced William's eyes open. The Bodden's attendant round the bend with a tray of food—light sandwiches, dried meat, and cheese—and a pitcher of water in his hands.
William allowed the other men to dine first, then approached the young man who carried the tray. He took the tray and pitcher from the young man. "Thank you. That will be all for now, so you may rest." The young man thanked William, then ran off back to the Bodden's.
William set the tray down on some timber nearby, and, despite their protests, proceeded to fill everyone's cups. With the other men looked after, William took some of the food for himself and sat back down to eat.
The men continued to talk about various affairs: when they would sail again, how long they would be working for, what tavern they would attend in the eve, and which women they would court from the local brothel and otherwise. The steadfast William was not the type to engage in such talk, so he stayed to the side as he ate, not paying them any heed until one topic caught his attention.
"What do you think that ship is doin' out there?" one of the men commented.
William peered to the harbour as he chewed on a tough piece of spiced meat and soft cheese. He spotted the ship the other crewman was talking about. The ship seemed to be circling the edge of the harbour, and, if William's memory served, he recalled seeing it earlier.
The ship piqued William's curiosity. "Perchance is anyone carrying a spyglass?" he asked.
"Here you are, William," one man said, removing the tool from his belt and handing it to his mate.
William took the instrument and beheld the harbour through magnified gaze. He could see the ship was a lighter class with no gun deck, but a compliment of thirteen cannons on its main deck. Perhaps it was the foreboding feeling William had been having, or boredom, but he could not take his eyes off the ship despite seeing nothing out of the ordinary. He continued to watch the ship and the men manning it as he chewed his leathery meat until the men were ready to return to work.
William tore the spyglass away from his eye and rose to his feet. As he turned to present the glass back to its owner, he had to do a double take.
He noticed two other ships join with the first out of the corner of his eye. William turned back around to review the harbour again, and it was unmistakable that the three ships were approaching Bodden Town.
He put the spyglass up to his left eye once more, and he could see the crews of each of the ships hailing the other as they prepared their cannons. At the same time, each ship raised another sail, a flag. The flag was black with a red trim, and in the middle there was a large skull with crossed cutlasses beneath it.
"Warn the citizens. Prepare for battle!" William shouted over his shoulder.
The men's jaws dropped and some snorted a nervous laugh before questioning William's statement.
"Pirates are attacking. We must evacuate everyone we can and prepare for a counterattack."
William's words stunned them still, but when their eyes took in the harbour, and the ships approaching, they were swift to move.
William began running towards the Bodden's to warn them and rally the militia, but the roar of cannon fire hit his ears. There was just enough time for him to glance down the hill and see the wave of destruction sweeping towards them.
The walls of the houses near him exploded as cannonballs tore through the wood and stone. William jumped and landed on his stomach in a nearby alley with his hands covering the back of his head as wood and stone rained on him from above. Chunks of cobbled stone hit his arms and legs, and jagged pieces of wood fell on his back.
When the wood and stone hail subsided, William uncurled his body and rose to his feet. He surveyed the area to see his crewmates in varied states of turmoil amidst the wreckage of recently built homes, upturned earth, and billowing dirt.
William closed his eyes and took a breath. "Move men!" he shouted. "Someone get to the Bodden's and ensure their safety, the rest of you gather weapons. We won't take this assault lying down."
One of the men headed up towards the Bodden's, and some moved in the other direction to the militia's office, while a few stayed behind for a brief moment.
"Where are you heading, William?" One of the men asked.
"I'm taking the fight to them," he replied.
William exited the alley and rushed down the dirt residential street. All around him, the houses had been blown open from the cannon fire, and men and women of all ages were running in the opposite direction as him. He had to push past them and weave his way through the crowd trying to escape the mayhem.
Wide-eyed and frightened parents carried screaming and crying children, and the elderly tried to keep pace with the young. Some had minor injuries like cuts and scrapes, and many were covered in dirt and debris from the cannonball's upheaval.
William could hear the faint sound of battle above the din of screams and frightened shouting around him. The smell of gunpowder hit his nose and reminded him of bitter, cruel days of fighting aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge. Despite his lothe for bloodshed, his body knew the sensation and reacted by invigorating him, readying him for what was to come.
Another wave of cannonfire swept over the town as the sound of the cannons met William's ears mere seconds before the carnage began. The crowd around him ducked in response to the sound, an automatic response that only the battle-hardened could prevent. William had the sense to stand his ground this time, and he watched as the cannonballs ripped the feeble houses to shreds. Pieces of the former shelters flung at those it had previously protected.
Dust and dirt and debris forced William to cover his face with his arm as he pushed through the cowering citizens. After passing through the dense throng he could run more freely.
As William ran he could see some stragglers in a slow advance up the town's street. The closer he got to the harbour the more injured the people. He couldn't stop to help them, as he was more use at the coast.
"Help! Help please!" A voice in a nearby home cried.
William's paced slowed, but he didn't stop.
"Please, someone help my baby!" The voice called to any brave soul that would listen.
He glanced in the direction of the voice, then to the harbour where he could see rising smoke and the clang of metal clashing. He gritted his teeth in frustration, but headed to the poor woman begging for help.
William followed the screams to a half-demolished home. The building was falling apart before his eyes, as cannonballs had rent some support beams in twain. Another blast and the whole house could come toppling down.
He entered the house and made haste to the back where a woman was trying to lift pieces of wood from a fallen corner. When she noticed William out of the corner of her eye, she flew to him as though he were a lifeline during a storm. She was nigh on the verge of tears and her eyes filled to the brim with fright. Her hands gripped his arms in a desperate vice, as if she felt he would leave and she had to keep him there.
"Please, please, my son, my boy, he's trapped beneath the rubble. You must save him, sir, I beg of you."
William nodded before moving closer to the collapsed area of the home. He could see the young child, possibly no more than two years of age, crying in the middle of pieces of timber and stone with a few gashes on his forehead and arms. One of the support beams for the side of the house was leaning almost on top of him, holding up parts of the roof just over the boy's head. There was no way to grab the boy from where he was at the moment.
"I'll lift the beam, and you must grab your son. You must move quickly, for I don't know how long I can hold it."
The woman nodded and thanked William profusely while holding back tears.
William stepped over jagged pieces of wood and rough stones, cautious as he made his way to where he could lift the beam. He positioned his legs as best he could to give himself the support he needed when lifting, then wrapped his arms around the fractured beam. He looked over to the mother, and she nodded to him with a determined, yet still anxious look in her eyes.
William lifted up with his legs, and forced his already strained muscles to work. The beam and bits of roof were heavier than he expected. He grunted as he pushed with his legs and pulled with his arms. His taut muscles bulged with the effort. He took in and released short breaths as sweat bead down his face, cheek, and chin. With each breath, the beam inched upwards, and it became both easier and harder to continue lifting. Easier because momentum was helping him, harder because the grip he had on the beam became awkward.
William's fixed his eyes on the child, and his only thought was on saving the life of the innocent in front of him. The thought gave him strength, and helped him maintain his shaky grip on the beam.
When the beam and bits of roof were high enough off the remaining rubble, the mother crawled her way over to her child and grabbed him in her arms. The sobbing boy wrapped his tiny arms tight around his mother's neck. She crawled back out and back to safety, allowing William to gradually let the beam down.
"Thank you, thank you so much, sir." The woman repeated over and over, the tears she held back streaming down her powdered cheeks.
"We must take our leave of this place before it comes down upon us," William warned. "Once free, run inland and do not look back until you can no longer hear the sound of the cannons."
The woman nodded with a renewed look of urgency on her face, and the two headed outside.
The sounds of battle were all around them, closer inland than it had been before. William glanced down both ends of the side street they were on, and could see more people running from the harbour, but this time there were people with weapons chasing after them.
"You must move, quickly." William urged. He guided her away from the center of town.
Before they could make it to another street leading inland, one of the pirates attacking the city turned around one of the bends. The pirate stopped on his heels when he noticed William and the woman and her child.
"Well, whut do we have 'ere? A precious family too slow on their feet, eh?" The pirate mocked.
"Get behind me," William commanded.
The woman shielded her son as she cowered behind William's back.
"Aww, ain't that sweet. Too bad it'll do ye no good, missa. First, I'll have my way with ye, then I'll have my way with yer missus." The pirate brandished his cutlass and licked his foul lips in sick anticipation of butchery.
William, though he held no weapon, raised his fists and steeled himself for the fight.
The pirate howled a ghoulish laugh as he rushed towards William. He slashed with his cutlass, aiming for William's shoulder. William punched the pirate's wrist, and the man's hand opened involuntarily. The cutlass fell to the stone street with a clang that echoed around them. William punched at the rogue's throat, but he deftly dodged and darted out of the way before jumping back.
"Hoo, yer better than I thought," the pirate said with a toothy smirk.
William's thoughts echoed the pirate. He tensed as he got a glimpse of the man's skill. He was no normal pirate.
"Alright, les' have a friendly fist fight then." The pirate raised his hands in the air and balled them into fists.
William hunched down and readied himself for the next assault. Just as he was about to go on the offensive, he felt something hard touch his hip. He instinctively glanced down to the location of the sensation, leaving himself open.
The pirate didn't miss his opportunity and barreled towards William and threw a punch his way. Before the fist made contact, the pirate stopped in his tracks. The meaty thunk of a cutlass hitting flesh echoed in William's ears.
"Sorry, I've no time for a fist fight," William commented.
The pirate looked down to see his own cutlass embedded in his stomach. He lurched back a few steps with his hands on the blade, looked at William and chuckled as blood gushed out his mouth, and fell to the ground with a thud.
William turned around to ensure the woman was alright. "Thank you for passing me that sword. It made that fight easier."
"I should be thanking you, you save us once again."
"It's not over yet. You must get to safety. Do you feel you will be able to make it on your own now?"
"I hope so, sir," The woman said as she tip-toed her way past the dead pirate. "Thank you again, sir." The woman took a brief moment to wave back to William with a smile.
For the third time, the sound of cannons firing washed over the island. The sound was quicker than the doom it ushered, but not by much.
William's eyes went wide. He shouted "run!" just as another wave of cannonballs peppered the houses.
The woman didn't have William's reflexes, and she could only pull her son in tighter and squeeze her eyes closed as the speeding iron cracked the corner beam of a house at the foundation. The house gave way, and the roof fell to the side towards the woman and her child. She opened her eyes just as the roof collapsed on top of her.
"No!" William screamed.
He ran over to the wreckage, but it was no use. There was no doubt that the woman and child were dead. Her upper body was completely covered in the heavy tile roof and wooden beam and siding, and her legs had twisted in an impossible contortion. Bone jutted out from her flesh in several places, and blood pooled beneath her, trickling towards the harbour like dark red treacle.
William's hot, heavy breaths made his cheeks flush as he watched the pool make its way through the cracks of the stone. His fist tightened and his shaking fingers dug into his palm near to the point of drawing blood. He pulled the cutlass from the pirate's dead body and turned around in one swift motion. He stalked towards the main street where most of the pirates were invading.
On the main street, William could see men and women still yet running from the continued onslaught, and no organized militia as there should have been to drive the devils out. Further down the street he thought he could see pirates carrying women slung over their shoulders to shore, or attacking those not quick enough to run.
The town was, at best, in shambles. The new town square was torn to bits, the fresh cobblestone ripped apart by the rolling cannonballs, and the square's shops and architecture destroyed. Homes and businesses along the main street were halfway to demolished, and throughout the town smoke and dirt wafted and swirled in the wake of the pirates attacks.
William was able to see one man fighting against the horde, and he rushed to join his comrade in arms. He ran over to a group of pirates set upon his friend, slicing one in the back, and another in the gut. After another second, his mate dispatched the others with two mighty thrusts of his spear.
Pukuh, the Mayan warrior, turned around to face William, ready to strike, but when he saw the face of his friend and crewmate he smiled. "You join the hunt, brother?"
"Yes, and by the looks of it we're on our own for now." William said, glancing down the main street with pirates running towards them.
Pukuh grinned. "Too bad for them," he said as he spun his spear between his fingers.
William couldn't help but smirk before he readied himself for the next wave of enemies.
Five pirates stormed at them with various sharp blades in hand, their one time use weapons evidently spent closer to the harbour. Three charged the one-armed Mayan, while the remaining two went after William.
The two after William immediately attacked at the same time in coordinated strikes. One man swung his blade horizontally, while the other thrust forward in case William decided to jump backwards. William kicked the second man's hand, knocking his blade away and at the first man mid-swing. The blade spun and nicked the first man in the leg, forcing him to stop and take a step back. William stabbed the pirate with no weapon in the chest as the other swung at him again. He clashed blades before grabbing the pirate's arm and pulling him forward to slice his neck open. The pirates were no amateurs, but William was the superior fighter.
Just as William was about to head to help Pukuh finish off his remaining two enemies, the glint of another sword hit him in the eye. He pulled his head back just in time to see the blade flash in front of his face. He jumped away and slapped the blade with his own before he took sight of his opponent.
The man in front of him had two inches on his five foot eleven, and enough bulk for two William's. He wore cotton print clothing, and his face was clean-shaven. There was a scar that went from his right eye down to his mouth.
Calico Jack! William thought as he took in the giant before him.
"Where is Blackbeard?" He asked in a calm, yet forceful voice.
William's answer was to slash at the pirate captain in front of him. Jack Rackham, better known as Calico Jack, swung his blade to counter William's. There was a brief clash where the sound of metal ringing echoed off the buildings before William felt no resistance on his end.
William looked down to see his cheap blade split in two. It was then that he noticed Rackham had a blade made of a golden metal. It reminded him of Edward, his captain, and the golden cutlass he owned, which was made of a mysterious and unbelievably sharp alloy.
Before William could recover from his shock, a large hand gripped his throat. Rackham picked William up off the ground, and slammed him onto the cobblestone on his back. There was a loud snap as several of his ribs broke, and knocked the wind out of his lungs. It felt like a hand was gripping him on the inside, not allowing him to breathe. As he struggled on the ground, Rackham rose up to his full height.
William could hear Pukuh running towards them, but he stopped short. William looked over, and Pukuh's eyes were wide with what he thought was fear. It looked like Pukuh had seen a ghost.
"Tell Blackbeard I'm coming for him."