BONUS SHORT - "Salty Dog"

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BONUS SHORT - "Salty Dog"

Postby Sterling on Fri Apr 20, 2012 4:09 pm

Salty Dog

1677, Somewhere in the Carribean

---

He was quite used to and comforted by the steady rocking of the sloop now as the Scott’s Revenge sliced through the waves. It late afternoon and the steady chorus of the shanty that the crew sung to keep time with the daily routines drifted down from the deck to the hammock in the cargo area where he dozed.

“Haul on the bowline, homeward we are goin’!
“Haul on the bowline, the bowline Haul!
“Haul on the bowline, before she starts a-rolin’!
“Haul on the bowline, the bowline Haul!
“Haul on the bowline, the captain is a-growlin’!
“Haul on the bowline, the bowline Haul!
“Haul on the bowline, to Tortuga we are goin’!
“Haul on the bowline, the bowline Haul!”

It was an easy song to doze to, as most of the working shanties were and one to which he’d become accustomed. He even mouthed the words, singing along in his mind, as the men above worked.

Being Third Mate on a ship was not a bad occupation, nor was being a pirate, especially for him. The lawless seas of the Caribbean were just the kind of place to take in men from all over the world and swallow them up into complete anonymity. It was why he’d come and the reason most of the crew had come as well; A fresh start, riches, adventure. It was all promised in the maritime new world.

As Third Mate he had duties at night, the third watch, and also doubled as Boatswain or Bosun in charge of the non-officer crew. His relations with that crew were good and strong bonds had formed between him and several of the men and officers in the months he’d been on the Scott’s Revenge, especially with captain Slick Mike who’d made him Mate and Bosun after a particularly bloody fight over a spice frigate that had left the position open and earned him one of his names; Iron John.

Taking a bullet or blade had never been a problem, or anything more than a mild inconvenience, for Sterling for a very long time. He usually managed to avoid being shot or stabbed through his supernaturally keen senses or speed, but on this occasion he’d taken a cutlass across the chest and a blast from a pistol and come away with no visible wounds other than his old scars. The captain had said that he must be made of Iron. The name had stuck. Slick Mike had also noticed that he was at his best at night, as had most of the rest of the crew (pirates were sometimes ignorant but rarely stupid), which was why he’d put him on that watch.

Not wishing to deceive the men he’d come to know and depend on he’d told the captain and crew part of what he was one evening after a long spell of carousing and drinking in port. Though drink never effected Sterling the men were quite well drunk and he figured they might not remember in the morning. They all did, especially after he’d shown them his wolfish form. He didn’t tell them about the vampirism, for sailors in general and pirates especially were a very superstitious and suspicious lot, but for some reason they considered having a werewolf on board as both good luck and a potent asset. Again, Slick Mike was not stupid and knew something of the supernatural. So he’d picked up another name; the Sea-Wolf.

The list of monikers he’d acquired over the long years at times seemed endless.

There was a shout from above. One of the lookouts had spied something.

“Ship ho, cap’n! A bark, alone, flying Spanish colors.”

“Heave to and pursue!” Slick Mike’s voice sounded from farther away.

Time to work, Sterling thought as he rolled out of his hammock.

---

The sea air on deck was cool and crisp with in the warmth of late afternoon and the spray from the bow cutting fast through the water as they chased the Bark rained across his face refreshing him. “Bella Maria” was stenciled across the back of the craft. It would be easy prey.

As the Scott’s Revenge came up behind the vessel there were puffs of smoke followed after a second by loud reports from two small swivel guns mounted on the back rail. The small projectile balls spun toward the bow of the Scott’s Revenge but were poorly aimed and landed both to the port side of the ship with white splashes.

“Heave to and surrender!” called Crazy Roy, a short and well-muscled man with a close cut shock of bright orange hair. He was bare to the waist, wearing only striped pantaloons and no boots. He was swinging an infantryman’s war-hammer round his head as he yelled, the weapon he carried with him always instead of a cutlass or rapier. He was almost always second aboard in any boarding fight right behind Sterling. “Surrender ya dogs and we won’t kill the lot of ya!”

Two more puffs shown from the back of Bella Maria, the reports faster as the distance had closed, and these were better aimed. Sterling watched as one of the balls flew toward him, his supernatural senses slowing the perception of time down to a lazy crawl. He leaned to the left, a very small movement that would barely be seen, and the ball flew past over his right shoulder. There was a smack as it struck the mast center but it was too small a shell to do any real damage.

What did get his attention was the sickening “thud-shrack” sound as the ball ricocheted and cut off Jimmy Simms’ leg below the knee before bouncing over the railing to splash into the ocean below.

A loud roar went up from the forty or so pirates assembled on the deck and several shots rang out from pistols aimed toward the Bella Maria. Now the fight was personal to much of the crew.

“Now ya gotta die you scurvy scum!” Crazy Roy shouted at the Spanish crew.

“Prepare to board!” shouted Slick Mike. “Grapples to the front!”

Tommy and his crew of grapplers strode forward, each of the five men carrying a large iron grappling hook and coils of rope. Sterling drew two pistols out of his brace as the bow of the Scott’s Revenge came even with the stern of the Bella Maria. The crew was still trying to reload the swivel guns on the rail. Sterling shot, each pistol blast dropping a crewman to the deck as the grapplers flung their ropes forward to the mid-rail of the Bark.

The crew of the Bark reacted immediately, rushing forward to try and throw off the grapples with axes and pins. Tommy and his grapplers dropped to a knee each and hauled on the ropes to tug them home as musketeers stepped up behind them to fire at the crew trying to remove the iron hooks. One rope was cut by an axe before the crewman was shot and fell over the rail, another rope was severed by a shot from the rifles, but three held. The next wave of Tommy’s grapplers threw, five more lines, four of which held as the ships pulled even with each other, their rigging tangling above them as they were hauled together.

Another loud roar went up from the pirate vessel, this one answered by the Spanish crew, and the shooting began in earnest.

Muskets, blunderbuss, and pistols sounded on both sides. Sterling shot and discarded pistols in rapid succession, seven in all, before drawing his rapier and gauche and leaping onto the deck of the other ship. The deck was scattered with sand; the crew was expecting a fight. Pirates poured over the rail behind him.

The crew of the Bella Maria put up a fantastic fight, resisting until they were whittled down to a few less than thirty men. By the time it was over the deck was awash in blood, the sand the only thing giving one’s boots purchase on the slick wood.

It wasn’t without reason that the crew had resisted so well for this Bark wasn’t just a trade vessel or freighter of normal cargo; the Scott’s Revenge had captured a payroll ship that had lost its escort in a storm three days prior and was loaded with gold coin. Thousands of pieces of eight.

By evening they’d secured the prisoners, some of which would join the crew to recoup the losses they’d suffered, some of which would be sold as slaves at Tortuga adding to the haul from the sale of the captured ship and treasure. The crew was singing again as they went about their duties, securing the ship to return to their original course and destination while Sterling stood watch at the tiller. He joined them, leading the round of verses.

“Our boots and clothes are all in pawn.
“Go down ye blood-red roses, go down.
“And it’s mighty drafty around Cape Horn.
“Go down ye blood-red roses, go down.
“Oh ye pinks and posies.
“Go down ye blood-red roses, go down.
“You’ve had your advance and to see ye must go.
“Go down ye blood-red roses, go down.”

---

Two days later the Scott’s Revenge pulled in to Tortuga to a heroic welcome. They might not be the most famous ship on the seas, nor have the most famous captain and crew, but they were on of the most generous with their haul and money. The life of a pirate is much the same as a mercenary; spending every penny for drink and entertainment for the next day could likely be the last any of them saw. The noose of the Spanish fleet was tightening as of late and the English were not looking favorably on the pirates and privateers they’d once hired with they favor they’d used to before.

Still this night would be one to remember, if they could recall from their drunken state the next morning or week from now when they’d all recovered.

Sterling sat with Slick Mike and his first mate, Bad Breath Bob, in a large booth at the tavern they favored; a smoke-filled place called “The Lazy Lubber”. The booth was located in a far corner under the overhanging inside balcony beneath the “rooms” for the other trade of the tavern, a position that let them see both the front and rear entrances to the place in addition to being the most comfortable seating available. In the common area pirates and townsfolk were playing dice and other games as well as eating and drinking liberally.

Mike took a long swig from his drink his sea blue eyes fixed on Sterling the entire time. His raven-dark hair was slicked back over his head with oil ending in a short ponytail bound tightly behind his neck. His overcoat was deep gold, a souvineer from a Spanish captain that he’d taken about a year prior. Bob looked just like anyone else, or everyone else if you’d prefer, a skill which had served himself and his captain very well on numerous occasions in the past.

“So what did ye want ta talk about John?” Mike asked. Bob looked the question at him as well, his dark eyes hard and unreadable.

There was a cry of “CHEAT!” from the common room, then a shot. One of the crew of another ship fell to the ground with a dagger through his gut while another collapsed from being shot through the chest. A great cheer went up at the commotion followed by a general shout and then a fight between five or six members of the opposing crews had at each other over the deaths and disagreement. Soon enough the bar toughs had wrangled them out the door to settle their differences in the street and dragged the bodies to be tossed out behind them.

Sterling shifted in his seat, discarding the last bones of a meal of beef that he’d ordered. It was an expensive meal but any of the crew could afford such for the next foreseeable while. It wasn’t that he was afraid of Mike in any way, it was that he had grown to hold him as a close friend and genuinely regretted what he had to say. He ran a hand over his head, covered in a forest green bandana that hid his ears. He wore no coat, only a simple shirt and trousers with a green sash, so his brace of pistols and rapier were bare to sight.

“Well Mike,” he said at length. The officers and men were all on first-name basis in the ship. “It’s that I’m going to have to be leaving you. This was my last tour. I have to go.”

Mike didn’t react immediately but Bob did, baring his rotted teeth and banging a fist on the table as he started to rise.

“Knew it!” he bellowed. “I knew ye’d run out on us as soon as ye told us yer ‘secret’. One lucky score and ye cut out. Nuh-good flea-bitten...”

Mike calmed Bob with a hand on his shoulder, sitting him back down in the booth, and looked Sterling over appraisingly. He did not appear to be surprised.

“Why ye leavin’, John?” he asked calmly. “An’ why now of all times? We gettin’ successful, maybe famous even. Be a good time to sign on not get out.”

“An ye be gettin’ plenty o’ boys to sign on I expect,” he replied. “More than enough ta replace me.”

“Ye know we can’t replace you,” Mike countered.

“I know. But better me than the whole ship an crew. Like you said, Mike, we’re gettin’ successful, maybe famous. Fame doesn’t work for me. There’s people, Mike. People and other things that want me either captured or dead. They won’t even blink at killing the lot of you to get it. Hell you knew I was wanted even before you took me on.”

“Aye, aye I did.”

“I can’t say where I’m going, I can’t say if I’ll come back, and you can’t tell anyone that I was ever here. If they know you know they’ll get the information from you one way or another. Just say Iron John disappeared on leave, was killed in a battle, or wend overboard one night, maybe just plain vanished. It’s safer that way.”

There was a moment of silence passed between the three of them, a moment of understanding. Even Bob had been quelled by the explanation. Neither of the two humans wanted to know what would come after a creature like Sterling, human or otherwise and they had no doubt of the truth of his words that they’d kill anyone in their way easily as Sterling killed other pirates and veteran navy men of Spain. At the last, though, Mike smiled and so did Bob.

“One last night of carousing then before you go?”

“Sure, Mike. Sure. One last night. I’ll take only the gold I can carry,” he held up his hands in a calming gesture, grinning at the shocked look on Bob’s face. “Ok, no more than a normal man can carry, and go tomorrow.”

Slick Mike thumped the table with his fist.

“There ya go ya Salty Dog! One last night. Wench!” he was grinning hugely at the double-entendre as bellowed toward the main bar. “Ale and women! We’ve a celebration to get going.”

Sterling smiled wide as Bob did as five very comely wenches separated from the bar to bring themselves and the ale with them to the table. One of them was very pale, shorter than the rest, with dark black hair.
~
Sterling

"Naive wishing for peace is the surest possible way to invite an aggressor."
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Re: BONUS SHORT - "Salty Dog"

Postby Sterling on Fri Apr 20, 2012 4:17 pm

The songs included in this story are actual shanties.

Haul on the Bowline:
Here on YouTube

and

Blood Red Roses:
Here on YouTube

There are a few versions, so the lyrics aren't exact between all instances. These are the best quality videos I could find for them.
~
Sterling

"Naive wishing for peace is the surest possible way to invite an aggressor."
User avatar
Sterling
Shifter Darkly
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Posts: 88
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 2:41 pm
Location: Always where you least expect me.



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