The Voyages of the Waved Albatross
Author's note: This is only the first two chapters of a longer book, which I am in the process of making, if you... Show full author's note »
Flight of the Albatross“The fleet arrived at midday, weighing anchor just outside the bay. After receiving permission to enter, two men in a longboat rowed into the harbor and met with the foremost pirates of Nassau. After a few minutes, they rowed back, and a messenger was sent across Nassau to inform everyone of this: the King of England was offering a pardon to any pirate willing to give up his way of life and settle down. Murmurs of disquiet rippled through New Providence, and they weren’t as defiant as I would like to have said.
“‘They dare offer a pardon!’ Jack roared from behind the counter of the Lucky Ace barroom. ‘I shall cut my eyes out before I accept a pardon from those greedy, fickle dogs!’ I was the only one in the room besides him, he had had to order everyone out; all of the patrons were at the point of blows on account of the opposition that had broken out amongst the sailors of Nassau.
“‘What do ye propose we do, Jack?’ I said from a chair positioned beside him.
“‘I be for making a barricade in the town, and rebelling against them!’
“‘Has yer mind been addled? We couldn’t hold this port for a week! I wish I could say otherwise, but that is not the solution!’
“‘You’re talking like Benjamin Hornigold!’
“‘Do not ye think for an instant that I would let my resolve against England falter because of this! To hell with them! I will stand with ye as I always have: silent and steadfast. But we will die if we stay here. Let us continue to rebel against the Crown while we are alive, eh?’ This seemed to pacify Jack a bit, though he still remained convinced that we should stay in Nassau.
“It was then that Chauncy burst into the room. His scant hair was wild, and his hazel eyes burned with untamed excitement. ‘Avast and belay there!’ He said, panting. ‘Been looking everywhere for you I have! Heard ye lived here, so I came right over. Almost every pirate in New Providence has decided to take the pardon, and Woodes Rodgers is moving in to crush the scant bit of resistance he has to deal with. If you want to join us in our escape, we’re leaving now; the Waved Albatross we moored at the point of Paradise Island,’ (which is the strip of land forming Nassau Harbor), ‘Hidden from sight by a shallow inlet.’
“Confused thoughts filled my head, and I did not know what I should do. I knew that I had to leave, but I could not bring my decision into action. ‘Be it one way or the other, wait for me a while by the jollyboats.’ To put it simply, I may or may not come, but I have not yet decided, so wait for me. Chauncy pulled at his mustache, pondering my statement.
“‘We shall wait ten minutes, no more,’ he said finally. With a nod to Jack, he stepped out the door. I stared at my hands resting on the table, trying to decide what course I should take. I knew what I must do, but I did not know where my decision would take me, much like navigating.
“‘So ye will leave me now?’ Jack said from the counter. ‘When I need you most, you will leave?’ I looked up into his steely eyes, hardening my face into a stormy countenance.
“‘No. I wish for ye to go with me as well!’ Jack stared at me, dumbfounded. ‘And I do not care if I have to force ye out at pistol-point!’
“Instead of rejecting my words with a sneer and angry retort, as I thought he might, Jack’s eyes welled with tears, which he wiped away quickly, setting his face in a fierce snarl. ‘Aye. I will come with you my friend! And we will give those English bastards a fight to remember!’ His enthusiasm assured me that the way to go was indeed, with the Waved Albatross. Standing, I went and got my flintlock pistol, cutlass, and a few other items of mine that had escaped the pot of the gambling den. Placing my tri-corner hat with its flamboyant red feather lining the brim, (it was not the one I wear nowadays) on my head, I swaggered downstairs to find Jack packing his sea-chest full of his belongings. When he finished, I slapped him on the shoulder good-naturedly, and, with the chest hefted over Jack’s shoulder, we left the Lucky Ace Inn and made our way around the town, down to the beach where Chauncy and a few others were readying two jollyboats for departure. I was happy to see Geert among them, for I had taken a liking to him already.
“When Chauncy saw me, he grinned with satisfaction, and two of the other men handed him a few coins.
“‘Well met, Mr. Bones!’ he said with a wink. ‘These three mates is Benjamin Salt, Milan Lange, and “Windy” Yeboah, the carpenter’s mate.’ He noticed Jack finally, and looked to me questioningly.
“‘This be Jack Barker, he’s comin’ along with me.’
“‘Welcome, Mr. Barker! Happy to have an extra hand! Now show a leg, mates! Let’s shove off!’ Chauncy leaped into the jollyboat and we all eagerly followed his example. I manned an oar alongside Benjamin Salt, with Jack and Geert Visser in front of us. Chauncy and Yeboah handled the tiller, while Milan Lange stood at the bow, ready to warn us of any impending danger.
“The Navy had positioned themselves on either end of Paradise Island, but to give you a good idea of the predicament we were in, I shall have to give a better description of the island: New Providence itself has two pointed ends, one facing east, the other, west. Just north of the island is Paradise Island, which is thin, and it points the same two ways. In between New Providence and Paradise Island is the bay of Nassau. The Navy had berthed their ships at either end of Paradise Island, making it impossible for anyone to leave the harbor. They probably had watchmen watching the space in between the two pieces of land, ready to shoot and kill anyone trying to cross to Paradise Island. But we had to get across one way or another, even if it was at risk to our own lives. We were traversing over the middle of the bay to avoid as much as possible the prying eyes of the enemy, planning to travel on foot to the east end of the island after landing. A salty breeze was blowing gently from the west, tousling our hair with invisible fingers, while above us; seagulls swooped low, gawking at our progress with curious eyes.
“‘Have ye spotted any watchmen or enemy ships?’ Chauncy said quietly from the helm.
“‘Nay…not a soul,’ answered the thin, swarthy Dutchman.
“‘That, certainly, is odd,’ Geert observed in front of me. ‘You would have thought a cannonade should have been fired at us by now.’
“‘Aye, it’s as silent as a booby-trapped treasure-vault,’ said I through gritted teeth. The shore was closer now, not a mile distant. Unsettled by the quiet, I began to paddle faster, my oar splashing noisily in the water.
“‘Belay there!’ Chauncy whispered. ‘Row slower, absolute silence!’ With an effort, I made my arms settle, and the racket died down. The passage to land went by so excruciatingly slow, that it felt to me as if an entire day had passed, though in reality it took us only about thirty minutes to come close to the small island. It was then that a shot rang out, and a bullet pierced the side of the jollyboat beside me, but doing no real harm. Another shot reported, followed by a bloodcurdling scream.
“‘Row faster, lads!’ Lange bellowed. The tempo of our strokes quickened, and we raced toward land as fast as we dared. As soon as the hull touched sand, Lange jumped from the boat and tied it fast to one of the many juts of honeycombed rock on the pure-white beach. I primed and loaded my pistol, and the others did the same after me.
“‘Follow me, mates.’ Chauncy started off at a brisk pace to the right, keeping just within the fringe of trees at the edge of the beach. Our nerves were as raw as a skinned knee, ourselves inclined to jump at the slightest crunch of leaves, or the lightest rustle of wind in the trees. The dappled pattern of sunlight slanting through the trees painted our faces with green, transparent tattoos that made us appear fierce. Our teeth were bared in grotesque, maniacal grins, and our eyes were wild with fear. Our anxiety heightened when we found the lifeless body of a Navy Marine, his red coat stained even redder with blood from the pistol-shot wound in the back of his neck.
“‘Did a pirate shoot him?’ I wondered aloud.
“‘Nay, there be no pirates on this island at the moment except for our boys on the Waved Albatross, and they all agreed to stay with the ship until we arrived.’ Chauncy relieved the man of his weapons and distributed them amongst us all. I ended up with his musket, (which was still warm from recent use), Mr. Salt got his pistol, and Jack ended up with a naval short-sword.
“‘We be close.’ Chauncy took the lead once more, guiding us a bit deeper into the forest. When the sun was only inches from the horizon, Chauncy stopped and dove to the ground at the foot of a shallow hill. Instinctively I followed suit, as did Salt, Lange, Yeboah, and Jack. The moist, black earth smelled fresh and alive, invigorating me in a strange way.
“‘What is it?’ I whispered.
“Instead of answering, Chauncy crawled up the hill and pushed the branches aside, letting us view the beach as it curved back into a smooth line after finishing around a peninsula, like a white scimitar. On the beach were two groups of men, one group colored in the blue and red-coats of the Navy, and the other in the mismatched, scruffy garb of the buccaneers of the Caribbean and the Bahamas, the latter company looking like a congregation of colorful tropical birds gathered to the scene of a monumental disturbance.
“They appeared to be arguing with each other, though it was hard to tell from that far away. Now what could they possibly be up too? I wondered. The man in the lead of the pirates, (as they appeared to be), was a strong-armed man of middling height, with a long red beard that he had tucked into his belt, which held up brown canvas pantaloons that were cut short at the knees. Covering his torso was a short-sleeve, white linen shirt, and a long black waistcoat. On his head was a tri-corner hat similar to the one I now wore. They had raised their voices now so that we could hear the words they spoke.
“‘Tis’ our duty,’ said the man at the lead of the Navy. ‘And we shall not disrupt it to satisfy the wishes of a covetous cutthroat.’
“What the red-bearded man answered was imperceptible, as he said it under his voice. But it obviously did not please the Navy Commander, and he drew his sword, pointing it at the red-bearded man.
“‘We will do as we are commanded!’ He bellowed. ‘I knew that Rodgers had made a mistake when he offered employment to you lily-livered bastards!’
“‘Traitors!’ Jack whispered. We watched as the pirates disembarked from the Navy and rowed off in a jollyboat that they had run aground on the beach. The Navy Captain issued a few brief commands, and the group scattered, no doubt searching for us, or the inlet where the Waved Albatross was hiding. As soon as we were sure that they were well away, we got up, and, in a low crouch, crept to the beach where once they had stood. I didn’t bring up the conversation we had just overheard, nor did they.
“The shore appeared safe enough, nothing stirred to imply of any danger, and so we rose to our full height and walked freely across the sandy beach.
“That was when the shot rang out, if memory serves true. It hit Benjamin Salt full in the chest, and he fell to the ground in a bloody heap. Turning quickly, I saw four Marines emerge from the trees, muskets in their hands and swords at their hips. Their scarlet attire was blood red in the last rays of the sun.
“‘Run like the fires of hell are at yer back!’ I cried, coming about and running down the beach with my comrades beside me.
“‘They must have been left to mind the beach!’ said Jack, drawing the sword he had recently acquired. I nodded, and pushed myself to the limit of my strength, running faster than I ever have in my life. A bullet hit the ground a foot to my left, spraying sand into the air. At least now they could not use their muskets, as they would take too long to reload. I dared to glance backwards, and saw that the Marines were just within a stones’ toss away from us, and gaining ground, inch by inch. They had drawn their swords, and had them brandished over their heads, while they called loudly for reinforcements. Chauncy was in front of us now, leading us towards our destination.
“After rounding a corner, we came to a tall hill of white rock, which jutted out into the ocean, blocking our path. On top of it was growing many twisted trees that had taken root on the barren rock, their roots stretched out across it and then flowing over the edge to the ground where we stood.
“‘Swim?’ I asked frantically, looking out to the sea.
“‘Nay, climb.’ Chauncy grabbed one of the thick roots and began to scale precipice as fast as his arms would allow. I followed as quickly as I could, Jack, Geert, and the other two men behind me. Another shot reported, and a chip of stone flew off of the rock-face above me. More Marines had joined the original four that were chasing us. Up above me, Chauncy pulled himself onto the top of the bluff, and reached down to pull me up. Turning, I lowered my hand down to Jack, and pulled him up beside me. Jack did the same for Milan Lange, and Lange for Yeboah. Chauncy led us across a stretch of the rock, where it ended at an enclosed inlet that probably couldn’t be found unless you already knew where it was.
“It was empty.
“‘Plague and fire!’ Chauncy bellowed. ‘Damn their eyes! They was supposed to wait here for us!’ A bullet hit the tree next to him, and I turned my head, seeing that several of the Marines had made it to the top, one of them holding a still-smoking pistol brandished in his hand.
“Not knowing what else to do, I took off to starboard, or right, and everyone else followed me, seeing no other exit. I didn’t really know where I was running; all I could think to do was get away from our pursuers. We were skirting the edge of the trees now, heading more or less eastward, towards the Point of Paradise Island.
“A high hill was before us, and at the top we could just see the fort the pirates of New Providence used to guard that end of the island. We’ll be trapped if we go up there, I thought, turning aside. More red-coated Marines had sprung up on either side of us, so there was no alternative but to climb to the top of the hill. As I veered to do so, Jack and Milan Lange raised their pistols and fired at the red-coats behind us, only one of their bullets meeting their mark. They then turned to lope up the hill with the rest of us.
“The fort was built out of rock slabs held together by mortar, and was basically a tall tower, with two platforms extending off of it in the middle, and the top. There were magazines of gunpowder, cannonballs, and an old canon up at the top platform. It was into this place that we had been driven. The Marines were closing in on either side, and Chauncy had ordered us all into the tower, to the top floor. I went first, grabbing a bag of gunpowder from the storeroom at the bottom and then taking the steps that wound up to the first platform two at a time. It was very dark, but there was torches every so often, giving the sandy-colored rock a pleasant ruddy glow. I heard the sound of metal clashing against metal down behind me, and then a door open in front. The Navy Marine came upon me before I even had time to draw my cutlass, kicking the gunpowder from by hands, and stabbing me once in the shoulder. Frenziedly I drew my cutlass and swung at my attacker, clipping him in the elbow.
“Because of the enclosed space, my opponent could not maneuver his sword very well, while my cutlass was perfectly suited to fighting in close-quarters.
“Trapping the man’s sword against the wall with my cutlass, I curled my hand into a fist and brought it down on his jaw, sending him crumpling to the ground at my feet, unconscious. Leaping over my fallen adversary, I engaged two more men who had followed the former down the stairs. One of them was killed by a bullet from Chauncy, the other I fenced with up the stairs, pushing him back to the first platform. Cutlasses are not meant for fencing with an enemy, but I could not get past the Marine’s sword to deal him a fatal blow. Behind me, I could hear Jack dueling with the Marines following us, shouting every insult he could think of at them.
“I had reached the first platform, and with a final slash, I forced the Marine through the door, myself following a moment after. The man had lost his balance when he stepped off the stairs, and I made him pay for it dearly. Knocking his awkward sword aside, I jumped up and kicked him backwards, sending him tumbling over the balustrade that wound around the platform, and down to the sea below, (because the fort was stationed at the very tip of a small-ish cliff that plunged to the battering ocean). Then, without a backwards glance, I began to climb the second flight of stairs to the top platform. It went uneventful until I reached the oak door that separated me from my destination.
“It was locked. I took my pistol and aimed it at where I knew the lock was on the door, and fired. The door opened immediately, and as I stepped through the entryway, there was a shot, and I clutched my leg as a burning pain ran up it. The terrible sensation of being shot is like someone took a red-hot stick of metal and pressed it to your flesh, pushing it as hard as he could. Tearing myself away from the overwhelming abyss of pain, I took my cutlass and killed the first Marine where he stood, and then watched as the second fell to the ground, killed by Milan Lange’s blade.
“‘How many men be on our trail?’ I asked as I bound my leg with a strip that I tore from my shirt.
“‘A dozen at least,’ he replied. ‘Mr. Visser! Come help me move this cannon in front of the door!’ As the two Dutchmen hurried to move the 8-pounder, I primed and loaded my pistol, afterwards shoving it into my belt.
“‘Plague and lice!’ Geert swore. ‘The blasted cannon is bolted down! We’d need a-’
“‘Ahoy there!’ A voice shouted. Turning around and looking down on the sea, Chauncy gave a cry of surprise. The Waved Albatross was headed towards us, carrying every yard of canvas and getting a nice cross-wind to push her along at around 10 knots! At the helm was a man around my age, perhaps a little older, with a short, wispy beard that was the same color as his greasy yellow hair that was bound to his head by a fluttering green bandana. It was he, I suppose, who had shouted.
“The crew was out on the yardarm of the topgallant and down below, tending to the rigging and sails as she maneuvered next to the fort, minding the great rocks that jutted out of the sea like the jaws of a hungry sea-beast.
“They weren’t going to make it in time; I could hear the soldiers coming up the stairs. An idea struck me suddenly, and I called Jack over to help me roll a large barrel of gunpowder to the door. I then took the fuse from the cannon and stuffed it into the small hole in the barrel, leaving one end hanging free. I shot the bullet out of my pistol, and then cocked it and held it near the fuse.
“‘Open the door, Chauncy!’ I cried. Once it was open, I pulled the trigger, and a spark leapt from the flint striking the steel, which lit the fuse immediately. ‘Let ‘er go!’ I and Jack pushed the barrel down the stairs as fast as we could, and we could hear the Marines, when it reached them, exclaim: ‘What in the world is that?’ And then the explosion went off. It was larger than I anticipated, and the blast reached us before we could react.
“I found myself, suddenly, hurdling through the air over the sea, my head pointing downward, and my feet to the sky. Head over heels I went, until I was stomach down, the yawning gulf before me. No longer did I feel that this death would give me life, and a scream built in my throat, until it erupted, coming to a crescendo as my head came down, and I was once again in my former position. The terrible feeling of weightlessness overwhelmed me, and I closed my eyes tightly, waiting for the splash that would mark the end of my life.
“Instead, I landed on something soft, and it was lowered quickly just as I hit it. I sat up, and saw that I lay in a sheet of canvas, a spare sail by the looks of it.
“I was aboard the Waved Albatross. The crew had held up a sheet of canvas for me to fall in, and just in time too! The man who had been at the helm was standing in front of me, grinning at me not with his mouth, but with his sparkling green-blue eyes. He was dressed in brown breeches, a long yellow sash, and a white-linen long-sleeve shirt, topped with a crimson waistcoat with brass buttons, which were all undone. A lengthy strip of blood-red silk cloth with silver tassels on the ends came over one shoulder, fell sideways across his chest, went under the other arm, came around again and then was tucked into his sash, leaving a foot of it hanging loose. As previously described, he had a short yellow beard, golden hair, and a green bandana.
“‘Ahoy, mate!’ He said cheerfully, with a thick English accent. His voice had an odd, high note in it, as if he were about to break out singing. ‘Bonsoir, Monsieur! Lucky fer you, the Waved Albatross is nimble on the wind, and shallow on the draft.’
“‘And you are?’ I asked, still a bit dazed by the fall.
“‘Javed Hunt,’ he replied, as if that summed up his whole personality, and position.
“I raised an eyebrow enquiringly.
“‘I’m the captain…not much of one, but a captain I am.’
“‘Aye, I have met yer quartermaster, Mr. Chauncy.’
“‘Splendid fellow, isn’t he? Here he comes now I believe, you had better move.’
“Without even looking up, I rolled off of the canvas, just before Chauncy landed heavily on it. Glancing upward, I saw Jack leap from the fort, and fall through the air, only to land on the spare sail with a grunt. Windy Yeboah came next, followed by Milan Lange and Geert Visser.
“‘Mr. Visser!’ Captain Hunt cried. ‘Man the tiller and set a course east nor’-east! Mind the rocks! Close-haul those sails ye idlers! Chauncy! The deck be yours! Bamidele! Take charge of the men aloft!’
“I had been forgotten as the captain issued commands to the swarming crew, so I leaped over the bulwark, and climbed the ratlines into the sails. Trying not to get in the way of the men climbing through the sails, I made my way to the topgallant, where I planted one foot on a halyard, and another on the yardarm, allowing me a grand view of the west side of Paradise Island as the Waved Albatross came about. I lifted a hand and pressed it to my sailor’s jacket, feeling the bulge in the hidden pocket that I had had sewn into the inner lining. Reaching into my jacket, I pulled out a shiny brass spyglass, the only other possession of mine besides my cutlass, pistol, compass, and dagger that I had not gambled away. I ran my first two fingers reverently over the faded initials: MB, that were scratched on the ring of the lens. This was the one thing that I treasured of my few possessions, but also one that I hardly dared to touch. Lifting the glass to my eye, I looked towards where I knew the rest of His Majesties Navy was moored. Something very interesting was going on at the harbors’ mouth. Jack had climbed out beside me, and I glanced at him over my shoulder, my eyes gleaming.
“‘Take a look, mate,’ said I.
“‘May I borrow your glass?’
“I pressed it to my chest protectively. ‘No, ye have one yerself.’ Scowling, Jack looked out in the direction I indicated. It was then that it struck me. ‘You had to leave yer sea-chest behind when we climbed the stone-hill!’ How could I have been so thoughtless! I said to myself.
“‘Aye, I wasn’t able to take anything that I had in the chest…there wasn’t enough time. But enough of this, tis far better to enjoy what I now have than groan about what has been left behind.’ Jack clapped me on the shoulder, grinning. ‘Now what is it ye wanted me to see?’
“‘At the mouth of the harbor…’ I began, putting the spyglass back to my eye. ‘A small French sloop is sailing out towards the fleet, though I can’t see anyone at her helm, or in the rigging. She’s drawing near them now…she be right in their midst. Good God!’ I didn’t need to describe any further. The sloop exploded in an inferno of splinters and flames, destroying many of the ships around her, and wounding the rest.
“Milan Lange had joined us on the topgallant, and handed Jack a spare spyglass.
“There was a clear path through the fleet, and the whole Navy was in confusion. Another sloop appeared around the corner of Paradise Island, carrying every sail she could, and bearing the black flag of a pirate. She sailed quickly through the convoy, and out into the open sea. Through my spyglass, who should I see at the bow of the sloop? Charles Vane himself, grinning like a satisfied dog.
“‘All onboard the Albatross were cheering now as the Navy spotted us, and sent out two brigantines from amongst them, while two more pursued Vane. Now I don’t know, but knowing Vane, that sloop was probably stuffed to the gills with all the treasure of New Providence that could be fit aboard.
“But besides our escape, this was a sad day: That was the end of New Providence as a pirate stronghold.”