DISCLAIMER: While this Uber Fan Fiction does not specifically mention any of the characters from either Hercules: The Legendary Journeys or Xena: Warrior Princess, which are the sole property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures/Studios USA, a debt of gratitude for their inspiration is surely in order and I do so acknowledge one here.
This is the story of a vicious female buccaneer and her transformation into a heroine of the Spanish Main, thanks in large part to her friendship with a gentle former tutor to the son of the Governor of Port Royale. There's violence, romance, sex, and subtext of many shapes and persuasions. But none of it is graphic or gratuitous.
Well, most of it isn't.
This is rated: PG14
KIND HEARTS AND CROSSBONES
IT IS THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1676. In Europe, things are relatively peaceful. Louis XIV is the King of France. Charles II is King of England. Another Charles II, son of Philip IV, is King of Spain. And William III is the Stadholder of the Dutch Republic. Plague is still a threat, but at least the Old World is recovering from the horrors of the Thirty Year's War, which had ended in 1648, but whose effects are still keenly felt by nobles and peasants alike because of the drain on resources.
IN THE NEW WORLD, however, things are quite a bit different. England and Holland are engaged in a bitter economic war, with Spain, once the mightiest power in the New World, and France, thanks in no small part to the "Sun King's" poor international policies, reduced to minor players. All four of the major powers, however, make ample use of the many pirates that prowl the Caribbean like wolves circling a sheep pen.
MOST OF THE PIRATES are loyal, or at least have sold their loyalty, to one of the colonial powers, and are, in effect, agents of that country, sharing the profits from their raids with their "masters." A few, however, are renegades, having either turned on their former country, or never pledged allegiance to any in the first place.
THIS IS THE STORY of one such pirate, Captain Elizabeth "Bloody Beth" Sable.
The crisp salt air filling her nose, Captain Sable stood on the forecastle, surveying the peaceful waters. She was a striking woman, standing unusually tall at nearly 6', with piercing blue eyes, long dark hair, and a curvaceous figure which concealed a very well-muscled form. At the moment, she was clothed in her usual captain's attire: A white satin shirt, black leather breeches and boots, and a blood red vest made of crushed velvet. A well-worn cutlass hung at her side and, in addition to the obvious dagger in her belt, a small handgun, two more daggers, and a bola were concealed on her person. She gazed admiringly around her ship, the Argo, named after the legendary ship of Jason and the company of the Golden Fleece from Greek mythology. She had always been fascinated by the old stories of Gods and Goddesses, heroes and heroines, and the monsters of every size and shape which they overcame. Once, long ago, she imagined she might even become a heroine herself, but Fate had dealt her a far different hand, and, if anything, she had become more like one of the monsters.
But, that was in the past and there was little or nothing she could do about it. And besides, today wasn't the time to look back and mourn. No, today was going to be special. Today she would set in motion the plan that would result in her name being written in blood across the whole of the Caribbean by destroying the legendary pirate hunter Addison Harcourt. She knew he was in these waters from speaking with the locals at a nearby town. And she also knew that his womanizing right hand man, Ralston Smithers, was due to pick up supplies from the island of St. Kitts, which was just off her port bow at present.
And he was the key to her whole plan.
Just to be sure, however, she went over the important parts with her First Mate, Thadius Crowe.
"Now, you're sure you know what to do?" she inquired when she'd finished.
"No worries, Cap'n," he grinned. "Me and the lads will do this up right." He was a bit older than Beth, but not nearly as experienced at sailing and he had never commanded any craft larger than a dinghy. But, he'd been with her for several years now, and proven himself to be loyal on more than one occasion. Besides, she'd been enjoying his skills in non-nautical areas in her cabin for months, and she knew she could count on him not to do anything which might result in that privilege coming to an end.
"Take good care of her," she nodded, patting the ship's railing affectionately.
"You'll only be gone a few days at most, Cap'n, she'll be fine," he promised, smiling at her concern.
"Don't patronize me, Crowe," she warned, pulling a dagger and whipping it to his throat before he knew what was happening. "I went through bloody Hell to get this ship, and if anyone but me sinks her, they'll go through bloody Hell at my hands. Understood?" She pressed the blade tightly against his throat, drawing a small trickle of blood.
"Aye, Cap'n!" he exclaimed, carefully saluting. "I'll treat her like she was me own flesh and blood!"
"I'd hoped she'd fare better than that," Beth said with a chuckle as she removed the knife from his neck and placed it back in the sheath on her belt. She then moved to where some of her men had lowered a skiff with which she would make the journey to the island itself in preparation for Smithers' arrival. While the Argo wasn't as yet a very famous, or infamous, ship, Captain Sable was taking no chances that someone as well-informed as Harcourt hadn't heard of it.
The same could be said of the captain herself, in regards to her fame, or lack thereof. That was the reason for this bold move against Harcourt; to increase her fame and thereby lessen the number of battles she needed to physically wage. Since the more infamous a reputation a ship or captain had, the more likely lesser manned, and therefore lesser armed, ships were to simply surrender upon encountering them. And she knew better than most that the true key to being a successful buccaneer wasn't winning battles, but avoiding them and still claiming the spoils.
Without another word or a backward glance, she climbed down into the tiny craft and began rowing for the island in the distance.
Y N Y N Y
Ralston Smithers arrived in St. Kitts aboard the Golden Hunter, the smallest ship in Harcourt's fleet and his own personal vessel, as was indicated by the small red and white checked flag flying below the Union Jack. He was a short, but well-proportioned, man with long blonde hair, tied up in a pony tail, a neatly trimmed goatee, and bright blue eyes the color of a clear Summer sky. He was wearing a light shirt made of blue silk, brown leather boots and breeches, and had a sturdy saber hanging from his belt and an odd, bronze charm suspended round his neck. Almost before the merchantman had docked, Smithers had bounded off and onto the dock with nothing but "See to it she's fully loaded and ready to sail with the morning tide" to his first mate, an old sea dog named Barton Gower.
The old man scowled, knowing full well where his captain was headed.
The weathered wooden sign above the door proclaimed that the tavern was called "The Wooden Leg," and, if one couldn't read, there was an actual wooden leg hanging above that to make sure you knew where you were drinking. Smithers grinned and entered. He'd been here before, dozens of times, and knew what to expect.
The main bar was small, dark, and crowded with men who looked like they'd run you through for the price of a glass of rum and women who'd do something considerably more enjoyable for considerably less money. It was his kind of place.
"Ho, there, Smithers!" called the fat bartender, sparing a moment to wave a hand at the blonde seaman.
"Ahoy, Matthew! Set me up with a stiff one, and don't spare the bottle! It's hotter than Hades' cauldron out there today!" he replied, stepping up to the bar and handing over a coin.
"Aye, me lad, that's true enough," nodded the barkeep sagely, setting a large glass on the bar. "But I've got to admit it does wonders for me business. Now, if I could only persuade some of these sea scum to head down to the cape and bring back an iceberg..."
"Still scheming at ways to make even more money than you do now, I see," laughed Ralston, taking a gulp of his rum.
"You'd be surprised at how little profit I actually turn here," Matthew said with a sad expression.
Smithers looked about at the men and women drinking, eating, laughing, and fighting, all spending more money than they could afford for drinks which were probably watered down and definitely overpriced, and just shook his head, smiling wryly.
Suddenly, he heard the sound of a woman in distress, indicating a more serious disturbance than usual, and, looking for the source of the scuffle, spotted a beautiful woman with long black hair being accosted by three men who looked like they'd just washed up in the afternoon tide after being passed through the bowels of a whale: Pirates.
Now, while Smithers was basically a gentle man, he did have a particular loathing for pirates. He reluctantly acknowledged that they had their uses and knew that the English crown and the local Governors, his Majesty's representatives in the New World, made ample use of them in their frequent wars with the Dutch, French, and, of course, the Spanish, but he still thought they were essentially drunken seagoing thieves and he had no love, nor use, for them.
Besides, the woman they appeared on the verge of raping was a real beauty, and one he'd never seen before.
"Gentlemen, and I use that term in its most loose sense, I assure you," he added, drawing his sword and approaching the trio, "I don't think she's interested in your proposition. Is that not right, my lady?" He bowed low, holding her eyes in his own.
Before the lady could respond, however, one of the men, a big brute with a nasty scar running the length of his left cheek, turned and snarled, "Little man, I think it best if you mind your own business, before my mates and I tender a proposition to you...with the points of our swords!"
Ralston mockingly shook his head. "A pity that all you pirates seem to understand is violence," he remarked. Then, he adopted a fencing pose as the nearby patrons cleared their tables away in preparation for a duel.
The three men looked at each other and then suddenly charged forward. Smithers expertly parried all three thrusts and even landed a blow with his fist on the face of the scarred leader. The bar's patrons cheered encouragement and the blonde paused and bowed, while keeping his adversaries at bay with more superb swordplay. When all three thrust at him simultaneously, he not only avoided their blades by leaping up and over them, but he also kicked the three villains in the face, knocking the pirates to their backs.
"Have you boys had enough, or must this turn even less gentle to get you to see the error of your ways?" he asked, holding the point of his saber to the chest of the leader.
The scarfaced man glanced over at his companions, who were just getting to their feet, and sharply shook his head. "She's not worth the effort anyway," he growled, looking back up at Smithers. "We're done...for now."
"I'll try to act properly frightened by that threat when I have time," the blonde man grinned, swatting the trio on their arses as they scrambled from the bar as the other occupants cheered and pelted them with food and drink. "But, at the moment, I've more pressing concerns." He turned to the dark-haired woman and, flashing a dazzling smile, bowed low and took her hand and gently pressed his lips to it. "Ralston Smithers, my lady. My sword, and my heart, are yours to do with what you will."
"Elizabeth Sable, and I'm in your debt, sir," she replied, blushing ever so slightly. "I fear those rogues had something less than noble intentions for me."
"I would venture to say that's putting it mildly, I'm afraid. I'm glad I was here to preserve your honor. Are you new to St. Kitts? I ask because I'm a frequent visitor and I've never seen you before."
"I'm fresh off the boat from England," she lied, batting her eyes. "I thought I'd had my fill of pirates aboard ship. I never dreamed I'd run into any on land."
"Oh? You had trouble in this area?" Ralston asked, his professional curiosity aroused.
She nodded as they both sat down and the other patrons returned their tables to their previous positions and resumed their personal activities. "We encountered a pirate ship just off the coast of Antigua, but our captain was able to outrun it. It did fire a few cannon balls our way, though, which gave me quite a fright, but that was the extent of it, thank God."
"Did you see the ship yourself" Smithers inquired, sipping thoughtfully at his rum.
"No, but I overheard some of the crew talking and they remarked how we were lucky to have escaped with our lives from Captain Roberts."
"Roberts?! Bartholomew Roberts? Black Bart?" he sputtered.
"They simply referred to him as Captain Roberts, Ralston," she replied, helplessly shrugging her shoulders. "Is he famous?"
"The man's a menace! He's reported to have captured over 200 ships and his brutality and cunning are practically legendary," the blonde explained, his eyes drifting upward as he thought how pleased Addison would be to learn the infamous Welshman was in the area.
"I suppose you have to go now, then, huh?" Beth asked with a pouting frown. She leaned forward, affording Smithers a better view of her enticing cleavage, and placed her elbows on the table.
"My ship won't sail until morning," he said with a smile, his eyes focusing once more on the lovely woman seated next to him.
"Oh, you have your own ship?" she inquired, gazing adoringly into his eyes. "I had no idea you were a captain."
"I'm a pirate hunter," he said proudly, drawing an excited gasp of surprise from Beth. "In fact, I'm the right hand man of Addison Harcourt, the most famous, and successful, pirate hunter in the Caribbean."
Beth once more shrugged her shapely shoulders. "I'm sorry. As I said, I'm new to the area. I've never heard of your friend."
"That's all right," grinned Smithers, secretly grateful that he didn't have to compete with his friend's long-reaching shadow for a change. "Do you have any friends here?"
She shook her head. "I have a job waiting for me as governess to the children of the Douglas family, but it doesn't start for another week--We made better time than expected on the Atlantic crossing," she explained.
"Do you have any place to stay in the meantime?" he asked, reaching over and taking one of her hands into both of his.
"I suppose I'll just rent a room in a local inn with the money left over from the advance the Douglas' sent me for the voyage," she sighed. "You seem familiar with the area, do you have any suggestions?" She looked up and batted her eyelashes coyly.
"Indeed I do," he grinned. "And, after we've had dinner, I'll take you there personally. You can't be too careful, you know?"
"I do. And will you tuck me into bed as well?" she asked so sincerely that Smithers nearly choked on his drink.
"What?" he gasped, wiping the rum from his chin with the back of his hand.
"Well, those men you ran off told me that was the custom here," she explained with a cheeky wink.
Ralston chuckled and then adopted a very serious demeanor. "Well, if that's the custom, I suppose I'll have to, won't I?"
"I should think it only proper. Then, maybe you can fill me in on other local traditions over breakfast, hmmm?" Beth reached over and meaningfully squeezed his knee beneath the table.
"I'm looking forward to it," he grinned, wondering just who had seduced who, but only in a detached and purely academic sense, since the answer didn't really matter one way or the other to him.
Y N Y N Y
The sun had barely peeked over the horizon, just beginning to bathe their room in a rosy hue, when Smithers awoke with Beth in his arms. He kissed her on the forehead, both eyelids, and her nose before moving to her mouth and waking her with a deep, sensual kiss.
"Rise and shine, my dear," he said, gently shaking her shoulder. "It's dawn and I must soon be off to catch the morning tide." He sat up and began to put on his boots and breeches.
Beth opened one blue eye and her lips crinkled with a half-formed scowl. "Must you go so soon, Rally?" she inquired sleepily, trying to drag him back into bed.
"I'm afraid I must, my love," he replied, taking one of her beseeching hands and kissing it sweetly. "But, I'm often in this area, and I promise to visit you each time I'm on the island."
She pulled her hand away with a derisive snort. "And how many other girls in other ports have you said that exact same thing to, hmmm?" she asked, raising an eyebrow questioningly.
"Jealous already?" scolded Ralston, playfully swatting the covers where her backside lay beneath them. "As a matter of fact, I've never said those exact words to any other girl."
"Really?" Beth asked suspiciously.
"Cross my heart and hope to drown," he said solemnly, placing a hand over his bare chest and raising his eyes Heavenward. "I always vary the speech a bit." He snickered and reached for his shirt, but she grabbed his long hair and pulled him backwards, until his head was resting on her naked chest.
"I've a good mind to refuse to ever see you again," she said poutingly, releasing his hair and attempting to turn her back to him.
But he rolled over on his side and pulled her face around until he could kiss it passionately. She resisted a bit, just to make him worry for a few seconds, before wrapping her arms around him and returning his kiss.
When their lips finally parted, he smiled at her and said, "I really am quite taken with you, Miss Sable. But, unfortunately, I also really do have to get going or my ship might very well leave without me."
"And would that be such a bad thing?" she asked coyly.
"Today, it would. Addison's been after Roberts for months and this is the first solid lead we've had as to his whereabouts. We've got to make the most of it before he disappears again," he explained, standing up and putting his shirt on.
"What is that thing?" she asked, pointing to the curious bronze charm hanging from a cord around his neck.
"Just something my father gave me," he replied, letting his fingers linger on the keepsake. "It's supposedly been handed down in my family for generations dating back to the time of Christ." He laughed and placed it inside his shirt. "I'm not sure if I believe that, but it is old."
She nodded. "It's very interesting. The only thing my father...forget it," she said suddenly.
But Ralston saw something in her eyes, a look that said there was more she'd wanted to say. "What about your father?" he asked.
"Nothing. I said to forget it. I barely knew him anyway," she added.
"Then, we have something in common," he nodded. "I barely knew my father, too. He was killed in the Anglo-Dutch War when I was just a boy. Now, what were you going to say about your father?"
Beth sighed, regretting that she'd let something real about her slip out, but at the same time seeing that she could use it to seal Ralston's sympathies. "You really want to know?" she asked.
"I wouldn't have asked if I didn't," he smiled, his eyes twinkling with concern.
"I was just going to say that the only thing my father ever gave me were slaps on the face," she said, sitting up and drawing the sheet around her upper body. "And he was far too generous with those."
Ralston immediately moved around the bed and took her in his arms. "I'm sorry," he whispered, kissing the top of her head and stroking her hair. "I shouldn't have pried."
"It was a long time ago, Rally, and he's been dead for years now, so there's no point in making a fuss," she said, smiling secretly as she pressed her face into his chest. "I'm a big girl and I can promise you that no man will ever slap me again."
"I'd no idea you were such a little spitfire," he chuckled. "Maybe you didn't need my help with those pirates last night, after all, eh?"
Beth just smiled.
"A woman of mystery. I like that," he grinned, kissing her briefly on the lips. "I really must dash, darling, but I'll call for you at the Douglas estate the next time I'm in port." He grabbed his coat from a chair and bolted out the door.
"I'm looking forward to our next meeting already," she called as the door closed.
She waited a minute, to be sure he was really gone, and then quickly slipped into her captain's outfit and slipped out of the inn and made her way to the deserted cove where the three men who had "assaulted" her, and five others, were waiting for her in a pinnace. She jumped aboard the tiny vessel and gave the order to cast off.
"You did an excellent job, Ben," she told the large man with the scar as he guided the ship out into the open sea. "And so did you two. Now, get me to my fleet before Harcourt arrives, and I'll see that you're suitably rewarded."
The men nodded eagerly and set to work adjusting the sails to take advantage of the easterly wind.
Y N Y N Y
Addison Harcourt was an imposing figure of a man, standing at well over six feet with a barrel-like chest and bulging biceps that threatened at any moment to tear through his silk shirt sleeves. But, he had gentle, blue eyes that seemed lit from within and a kind mouth which looked out of place when it did anything other than turn up in a warm smile. His long hair was the color of fine Jamaican rum and a green ribbon kept it tied in a neat pony tail. He was clean shaven, except for a thin mustache that sat above his upper lip like a misplaced string from his jacket or shirt. His cannonball calves and powerful thighs were encased in fine breeches made of expertly cured and crafted leather and his black boots were polished to a high gloss. A silver-bladed saber hung from his waist and a pair of single-shot pistols were tucked into his green sash.
He had been commissioned by King Charles himself to seek out and destroy those privateers who were working in the service of foreign powers, attacking English towns and ships without mercy and then hiding in friendly ports, thanks to the Letters of Marque they had purchased from local Governors, and he had not disappointed his Majesty thus far.
In his youth, he had served in His Majesty's Royal Navy and earned some distinction in several campaigns against the hated Turks in the Red Sea and along the Barbary Coast which had resulted in his gaining his own commission and transfer to the New World. The King was concerned that the Dutch, and, to a lesser extent, and of less concern to England, the French and Spanish, were secretly employing unsavory freebooters to unfairly tip the balance of power in the Caribbean, and he had sent Harcourt to put a stop to it.
When the lookout reported that Ralston's ship was approaching at a fast clip, Addison immediately sensed that something was wrong. As he stood at the railing of his ship, the HMS Son of Thunder, he was at least relieved to see the familiar figure of his blonde friend standing proudly near the smaller ship's helmsman. As the merchantman approached Harcourt's frigate, however, Ralston moved to the railing himself and shouted through cupped hands, "I've learned that Black Bart was near Antigua yesterday! Are you feeling lucky, Addy?"
"Indeed I am, my friend!" he shouted back. "I'll try to save some of him for you!"
"Hold on and I'll take a skiff over to your ship!" Smithers called back.
"No time for that, I'm afraid!" Addison replied, shaking his head. "I fear time is not on my side if I want to bring that elusive rascal to justice. Make the best speed you can and I'll meet you on Antigua for drinks of either celebration or commiseration, my friend!"
"Hopefully the former!" Ralston shouted, his grin visible even across the open sea which separated the two ships.
"Wish me luck!" Addison cried. He then turned and bellowed out orders to raise anchor and hoist the sails to his eager crew.
"Good luck, Addy, and God's speed!" Ralston said too softly for his friend to hear, yet knowing he would get the message regardless.
As the frigate sped off to the east, Smithers retired to his cabin to get some much needed sleep, seeing as how the previous night had been anything but restful.
Gower watched him go below and smiled knowingly.
Y N Y N Y
Beth climbed aboard the Argo and nodded approvingly at the small fleet of pinnaces and jachts her men had captured for the coming battle. While they weren't as large or as able to carry as many guns and men as her barque, which was itself smaller than Harcourt's frigate, they were fast and maneuverable, and she hoped they would be able to out sail the pirate hunter's vessel and send it to the bottom; much like wolves bringing down a bull elk.
"I'm glad to see you didn't sink her, Crowe," she said with a slight smile. "Did you have any trouble getting those?" She pointed to the four smaller ships.
"Nothing worth mentioning, Cap'n. We did lose a couple of men to cannon fire, but we pressed some of the survivors into service to bring our numbers back up to fighting strength," he replied, gesturing toward a group of nervous looking men standing on the main deck.
Beth nodded and then walked towards the men, fixing them each with an icy glare before speaking. "I know you didn't really have a choice in this, it was either join my crew or join the fishes, but I give you my word that if you're loyal to me, you will be rewarded the same as if you'd sailed with me for years. Fail or betray me, however, and you'll wish you had chosen the realm of Poseidon instead. Is that understood?" she demanded. The men nodded vigorously. "Excellent. Welcome to my crew. Unfortunately, there's no time for the customary toast, as I've a mind to sink a certain preening cock before the sun sets. But, when Harcourt's ship and the man himself lie rotting at the bottom of the Caribbean, there'll be plenty of drink to go around, my lads! So, set to and prepare to transfer to your new homes."
A few of the men looked apprehensive as they moved toward the jack-ladders suspended from the railing that lead to the dinghies waiting to take them to the smaller vessels, which, ironically enough, they had recently served on anyway.
"A moment, Cap'n, if you please," said Thadius, walking up to her as she headed for her cabin.
"What is it, Crowe?" she asked, noting the unusual look in his brown eyes.
"I've served you faithfully for over two years now, Cap'n, and in all that time I've never once asked for anything," he said, drawing courage from God knew where. She nodded, urging him to continue. "But, if it please, Ma'am, I'd very much like to captain one of the ships I captured in the coming attack."
"I'm sorry, Crowe, but I'm afraid I need seasoned sailors commanding those vessels, peppering Harcourt with continuous cannon fire while I keep him occupied, and you just don't have enough experience to handle the difficult and split-second maneuvering that will be required," she said, laying a hand on his shoulder. "When this battle is over-"
"Begging your pardon, Cap'n, but I've proved my loyalty time and again, and, by capturing those ships in your absence, I feel I've proved not only my leadership abilities, but my skill as a sailor besides," he blurted.
"Are you questioning my authority, Mr. Crowe?" she asked threateningly, her voice dropping to a menacing whisper.
"Never, Cap'n!" he said quickly. "I'm just stating my case in the hopes you'll have a change of heart."
She smiled at his audacity and his ingratiating smile. "You're a good man, Thadius, but you're just not ready for this. After we've dealt with Harcourt, I'll catch you any ship you want for your own, but for today, I need you on the Argo, keeping the men in order and making sure our powder is dry and the gunners' aim is true," she stated. "Now, alert me the moment Harcourt's ship is sighted, okay?"
Without waiting for a response, she turned and made her way below deck to her cabin.
Crowe watched her disappear and then made his way to the railing and proceeded to climb down into one of the waiting dinghies.
Y N Y N Y
"Ship ahoy!" cried the young man from the crow's nest.
"Where away, Harry?" shouted Addison, removing a spyglass from the pocket of his jacket.
"Two o'clock off the starboard, Cap'n," the lad called back, pointing to a white blot on the horizon, just off the eastern coast of Antigua.
Harcourt placed the glass to his eye and focused until the solitary ship came into sharp relief. "What the Devil?!" he muttered. "That's a barque. But, last I heard, Roberts' flagship was a galleon. Something's not right here, Sawyer."
Sawyer Williams, his First Mate and a mean sailor in his own right, nodded and pointed behind them, where five small ships had emerged from a half-hidden cove and were closing fast. "I think someone's laid a trap for you, Captain."
"Well, laying a trap and catching your prey are two entirely different matters, old friend. Obviously, the captain of the barque expects us to concentrate on his ship, leaving our stern relatively unprotected," he mused aloud.
"Shall I give the order to come about and fire on the smaller ships, sir?" asked Williams with a wolfish grin.
"Of course," laughed Addison. "But, keep an eye on that barque and move one or two of the guns aft to deal with her, should she come sniffing around our backside."
The sound of cannons going off awoke Elizabeth from her catnap and she sprang out of her cabin and was up on the deck before the reverberations had died away. Spying Harcourt's ship with her stern facing the Argo, she looked around for Crowe, bellowing, "Why the bloody Hell didn't someone wake me?! And where in the Nine Hells is Crowe?"
"Begging your pardon, Cap'n, but Mr. Crowe went aboard one of them," a young man said, pointing meekly toward the ships that were engaging the frigate. "He said it was at your orders, Cap'n."
Elizabeth ground her teeth in frustration and then barked out, "Ready the cannons and make sail for that damn frigate! Step lively or I'll slit your gullets and have your guts for dinner, you pack of sea rats!"
"Here she comes, sir," Sawyer said, gesturing behind them to the fast approaching barque. "It looks like all the noise woke her up, and in a foul mood to boot."
Harcourt turned his spyglass toward the barque and his mouth dropped open. "Sink me if that isn't a woman at her bridge!" he exclaimed. "And you're right about her being in a foul mood."
"Shall we come about and engage her, sir?"
"And leave these sea dogs snapping at our heels?" Addison questioned. "I think not. Fire a shot across the lady's bow, and, if that doesn't deter her, fire a round of chains at her main mast. That should make her think twice, or at least slow her down."
"Aye, aye, Captain." Sawyer saluted sharply and headed for the aft guns.
"Why the Hell doesn't he come about?" Beth demanded, pounding a fist on the railing of her ship.
Suddenly, a cannon ball sailed over the Argo's bow and splashed into the sea, sending up a small stream of hissing steam.
"Why, that arrogant, cocky bastard!!" she exclaimed. "Change heading and show him our broadside, helm! Gunners, prepare to fire!"
The barque swung about and all twelve guns belched forth their payloads.
"Now, maybe that swaggering dog will take me seriously," she grinned.
Several iron balls slammed into the frigate, doing very little structural damage and wounding only three men, who were crushed beneath a collapsing yard, but not harming any of the other 200 men.
"So, the kitten has claws, after all," Addison said grimly. "Fire the chain shot when she shows her stern!"
"Is that wise, sir?" Sawyer inquired. "She's carrying a fair load of guns. Wouldn't it make more sense to sink her and be done with it."
"Just fire the chains and I'll thank you not to question my orders in the future, Mr. Williams," Harcourt returned crisply.
"Aye, sir. Fire when ready, lads," the worried First Mate said.
"Chain!" shrieked the lookout as he dove from the crow's nest into the sea seconds before the scattered shot tore into the mainsail, ripping it to shreds, and then going through to practically topple the mast itself.
"Damn you, Addison Harcourt!" Elizabeth swore as her ship suddenly slowed with the loss of the large sail. "Man the oars, you craven slugs! We're not out of this battle yet!"
Meanwhile, despite his decision to engage the smaller ships directly, they were still proving to be more than just a nuisance as they fired cannonade after cannonade while circling around him in a complicated pattern, effectively preventing him from landing a single direct hit on any of them. The largest of the vessels had no more than ten guns, but, when all five ships fired simultaneously and from every point of the compass, it meant that his beloved frigate took no fewer than forty strikes. And that was quickly decimating his ship, as well as his crew.
"I'm afraid that we'll have to retreat before long, Captain," said Sawyer sadly as another round of shots shook the mighty vessel. "Otherwise we haven't a hope in Hell of outrunning these scurvy swine."
"Unless a miracle happens, my friend, I fear you're right," replied Addison resignedly.
Then, their miracle happened.
The largest of the five ships, a Dutch jacht, veered slightly off her course. But, that tiny deviation was enough to cause her to crash into one of her sister vessels, striking it amidships and breaking it cleanly in twain. Then, in an effort to correct her course, though, tragically, far too late, she swung about too extremely and banged against another of her sister ships. Neither vessel was seriously damaged by the collision, but it did leave them dead in the water as their remaining two ships closed on them from opposite directions after coming around the wounded frigate.
Too late, the other two captains realized that the two ships in their path weren't moving in the directions they should have been, and both veered off course to avoid colliding with them. Unfortunately, one captain swung to the port, and the other steered starboard. And, since they had been heading directly at each other at the time...
"The poor sods rammed each other!" Sawyer crowed happily as the bows of the two ships pierced each other and they began taking on water at an alarming rate.
Meanwhile, the ship which had caused defeat to be snatched from the jaws of victory in the first place separated itself from its sister and made all speed back toward the barque, leaving the remaining ship to face the guns of the frigate alone.
Foolishly, or valiantly, that captain fired a last round at the Son of Thunder before the frigate blew her to pieces with a full broadside.
"Stand aside, men, I'll fire this one myself," Beth ordered, pushing the gunners out of her way and adjusting the cannon's trajectory. "No one defies my orders, Crowe!" She then lit the charge and the cannon ball flew as straight as one of Cupid's arrows and struck the approaching jacht amidships, igniting a powder keg in the cargo hold and destroying it in a fiery blast that shook both her ship and Harcourt's.
She walked to the railing and looked over at the damaged frigate. It was in bad shape, to be sure, but the Argo wasn't much better off. Besides, Harcourt now not only had more guns, but he had more maneuverability. She glared across the roiling water at the unmistakable figure on the bridge and silently vowed that they would meet again.
"Cap'n!" shouted a voice from below her. "I'm badly wounded! Throw me a line! I can't climb up the jack on my own."
Not believing what she was seeing, her blue eyes glinted icily and she unwrapped the bola from around her waist and deliberately swung it around her head before letting it fly at her First Mate.
The three balls attached to thin cables, slightly thicker than piano wires, whizzed through the air, circling each other until they wrapped around Crowe's throat.
"Liz..." he murmured. And then Thadius Crowe sank silently below the waves, his head neatly severed from his neck.
"She killed her own man," Sawyer said unbelievingly. "Should we go after her, sir? We still out gun her, and with her mainsail all torn to bits, we're faster to boot."
"I've had my fill of battle today. Besides, the sun would likely set before we could catch up to her anyway. No, let's head to port so the men can get their wounds tended and I can get some answers from Ralston," he sighed, folding the spyglass and putting it back in the pocket of his jacket. He walked toward his cabin, shaking his head sadly.
Y N Y N Y
Ralston knew that things had not gone well from the look on his friend's face as he made his way through the crowded tavern to where the blonde man was sitting, working on his second bottle of rum.
"Missed him, huh?" Smithers asked, pouring Addison a drink.
"I don't think he was ever in this area. Who did you get your information from?" Harcourt asked, downing the rum in a single gulp.
"A woman who just arrived from England aboard a ship that managed to escape from Roberts near here," he replied, puzzled.
"Don't tell me, she was tall, with dark hair and piercing blue eyes, right?" Addison suggested with a bemused expression.
"That's right! How the Devil could you possibly know that, Addy?"
"She's a pirate, Ralston. She used you to set a trap for me, one that nearly succeeded, too."
"A pirate?! You're wrong. She's a governess for the Douglas family on St. Kitts."
Addison sighed heavily and poured himself another drink. "Did you verify her story with the captain of the ship she supposedly came in on?"
"It was late when I met her, and I didn't have time in the morning."
"I don't doubt that. Do you know which ship she arrived on?" he asked. Ralston shook his head. "Well, there can't have been more than one or two at the most that arrived from England yesterday. When we get back to St. Kitts, I'll check them out while you check out her story about being the Douglas' governess."
"What do you mean? Would you rather talk to-"
"I mean, no, I won't do any ‘checking out her story.' I'll talk to her. Plain and simple."
"You're not thinking clearly, Rally. She won't be there. She's a pirate. Accept it, and help me bring her to justice before she's responsible for any more deaths."
"Deaths?" Ralston inquired, his eyes focusing on his friend's face.
Harcourt nodded. "I lost close to two score men, and she lost easily that many when her fleet was sunk."
"I'm sorry to hear about the men, Addison. I know how it tears you up to lose any members of your crew. Maybe you're the one who isn't thinking straight."
"What do you mean?" asked the other man suspiciously.
"A lady pirate? Really, Addy, whoever heard of such a thing? And, to suggest that my Beth is the one you encountered...Well, it just staggers the imagination, don't you think?"
"Not if she planned it that way. And when exactly did she become ‘your' Beth?"
"You know what I mean."
"I'm sure I do. How did you meet her? Was it you who initiated the meeting, or did she approach you?"
Ralston grinned triumphantly. "Ha! There you go, it was me who approached her. In fact, I saved her from the unwanted attentions of three pirates. So, she couldn't very well be one herself, now could she?"
"She set you up, Ralston. Those were probably her own men."
"Is it so bloody hard to think that, for once, a woman is genuinely attracted to me? For me, and not because I sail with the great Addison Harcourt? Is it?"
"Of course not, my friend. But, that's not what's happened here. Not this time."
"We'll see about that when we talk to her in St. Kitts tomorrow," Ralston said, gulping down his rum and then standing up. "Good night, Addison." Without another word, he walked out of the tavern and headed for the docks, leaving his friend more than a little worried about him.
Y N Y N Y
"You're taking an awful chance, Captain," said Brett Matelas, her new First Mate. "I'm sure that Harcourt got a good look at you with his spyglass."
"I'm counting on that very fact, Matelas," she replied with an enigmatic smile as she slipped into a red dress and applied make-up to her face.
"I still don't like it, Liz," he said, placing a hand on her shoulder.
She casually reached up and grabbed one of his fingers and bent it back sharply, causing the startled man to cry out in pain. "I don't give a tinker's dam what you like or don't like, Matelas. I'm the captain, and I'm the one giving the orders. Got that?" He nodded, biting his lip to keep from crying out. "And, just so we understand each other, I am to be addressed at all times as ‘Captain,' until I tell you otherwise. Is that clear, sailor?" She bent the finger back even more, until she could feel the bone starting to give and Brett nodded furiously.
"Yes, Captain," he whimpered, tears streaming from his eyes.
Elizabeth released his finger and he jerked his hand from her shoulder, moaning softly as he forced the digit back into its natural position.
"Much better, Matelas. Now then, you know what to do?" He nodded, his handsome face still twisted in agony. "I hope so. I'd hate to have to find another First Mate so soon." Brett visibly paled, his pain forgotten for the moment as fear for his life took the forefront of his concerns. "Oh, and I'd suggest you soak that in some water," she added conversationally as she straightened her hair, combing it down from its usual wild mane to something more in keeping with what the the ladies of the time were doing.
"Aye, Captain," he nodded, backing away and then sprinting from her cabin.
Elizabeth finished her preparations and then made her way topside. A few of the men who hadn't been with her for that long actually had the nerve to whistle as she walked across the deck toward the railing. She thought about keel-hauling them, but then decided that she was already short-handed enough as it was. And besides, she didn't have time for such pleasantries at the moment. So, she merely fixed the offenders with an icy glare, to let them know she knew who they were.
No one else made a sound as she hiked up her dress and climbed over the railing and down into the waiting dinghy below.
Y N Y N Y
Both Addison's and Ralston's ships docked in the port of St. Kitts, leaving the remaining two vessels, both barques used mainly for hauling the food and supplies required by the large crew of the frigate, to patrol the harbor. Harcourt had tried to convince his long time friend to sail with him, but Smithers wouldn't even consider it. The dock master was surprised to see the Golden Hunter again so soon, and even more surprised to see the Son of Thunder, as Harcourt only docked when his ship needed repairs. And that was a very rare thing indeed.
"I was beginning to think I'd done something to offend you, my friend," smiled Jonas Kilkarney, the shipwright of St. Kitts, as he walked up and extended his hand to the big sailor.
"I've just been lucky is all...'til now, that is," Addison replied, gripping the forearm warmly. "It's good to see you again, old friend. How has life been treating you?"
"Oh, better than some, not so good as most. You know how fickle she can be," he added with a wink. "I see you've had some trouble. I suppose you'll be wanting me to fix her up for you."
"I do indeed. How fast can you have her ready?"
"Expecting trouble?" asked the old salt, rubbing the whiskers on his chin and fixing Addison with a steely gaze.
"Always, you should know that, but, let's just say I want to be prepared in case the rogue who did this comes back to finish the job."
At that moment Ralston walked up and extended his own hand. "Jonas, sorry I missed you last time I was in port," he said.
"I noticed the Hunter was in here overnight, but I also figured you'd be quenching your thirst at a certain tavern, so I didn't bother keeping any of me fine stew for you," he grinned, embracing the blonde man's arm.
Ralston looked suitably crestfallen. "I don't suppose Molly will be making any more soon, will she?" he asked hopefully.
"She might, and then again, she might not. She's me wife, not me slave, and I'll be sunk if I know what she's planning half the time," he chuckled. "But, you just come round a'fore you go and I'll see if I can't persuade her to fix some for you both."
"We'll do that," Smithers promised.
"I'm going home to tell Molly what you said this very minute, and I'd hate to be you if you break that word, Ralston Smithers," he said with mock solemnity. "And, Addison, I should have the Thunder back in shipshape condition by tomorrow evening."
"Thank you, Jonas. Tell Molly we'll see her soon."
The shipwright nodded. "God be with ye both."
"And with you, my friend," replied Ralston.
Then, Jonas headed for his home and the two seamen walked quietly towards the town.
They hadn't really spoken since the other night, other than to discuss the question of whether or not to bring both their ships into port. And this was unusual for them. There had been good times and bad times, many triumphs, along with some devastating defeats, but, through it all, their friendship had given them strength to survive the losses and made the victories that much sweeter. And that was because they had always been able to talk to each other, no matter what. Until now.
Addison realized for the first time that Ralston was truly jealous of his prowess as a sailor and his fortune in life. At least, on a subconscious level. The news troubled him, but he had no idea how to reconcile things between them. Especially if Smithers refused to talk to him about what he'd said the other night. For the first time since they'd become friends, the blonde man was treating him like a stranger.
Or like he had when they first met...
As they headed up the dusty path that lead from the docks to the town, Addison thought back to the day he'd met Ralston at the Bixford School for Boys and how they hadn't gotten along...at all. In fact, they had practically been enemies. But, as they got to know each other, mutual respect developed and a friendship blossomed and grew into something the likes of which he'd never had with anyone else. And he was damned if he was going to lose it over a pirate's plotting.
Just as he opened his mouth to initiate their reconciliation, however, a familiar figure turned the corner and bumped right into Ralston.
"Beth!" he exclaimed, pulling her into a tight embrace and kissing her hard on the lips. "I'm so glad to see you!"
"I'm glad to see you, too, Rally. And quite surprised. I thought you were off to catch a pirate?" she asked, pulling back and looking him in the eyes accusingly.
"Cut the act," Addison sighed, folding his arms across his massive chest. "You know darn good and well that you lied about that just to lure me into a trap. I saw you. It's no good denying it."
"What is he talking about, Ralston? And, who is he anyway?" she asked, feigning confusion.
"This is Addison Harcourt, the, uh, man I told you about," Smithers answered carefully.
"Oh, your friend, the famous pirate hunter," Beth filled in.
Ralston scowled slightly, but nevertheless nodded. "He thinks you're a pirate."
"Me?! A pirate? He must be joking!" she exclaimed.
"I'm not and you know it. Why don't you tell Ralston the truth. How you used him to get to me," he said, glaring at her.
"Get to you? Why would I want you when I have him?" she said playfully, gazing lovingly into the blonde man's eyes. Then, she noticed that Addison wasn't laughing. "Oh my, you're being serious, aren't you? You really do think I'm some sort of lady buccaneer."
"I know you are."
"That's enough, Addison," Ralston said with an edge in his voice. "You were obviously mistaken. Now, if you've no plans for the evening, Beth, I would be honored to have the pleasure of your company for dinner."
"No plans at all," she smiled. "Will you be joining us, Mr. Harcourt?"
"I don't think so. I've suddenly lost my appetite," Addison scowled.
"Another time, perhaps..." Beth said, her eyes icing over when Ralston looked at his friend, shocked at his rudeness.
"Count on it," Harcourt said, his eyes locking with hers. "Be careful, Ralston. I don't know what she's up to, but-"
"That is enough! I think you owe Beth an apology, Addy. In fact, I demand one," he said, looking up at his friend and setting his jaw determinedly.
"Not in a million years, Rally. I'll see you tomorrow," he said as he turned to walk back toward the docks.
"Now, Addison!" stated the smaller man, grabbing Harcourt's jacket and pulling him up short. "Right now."
"You don't want to do this, Ralston. Not now, and certainly not over her. She's not worth--Unh!" His head snapped back as Ralston's fist smashed into his chin.
"I said to apologize to the lady." Ralston's eyes blazed with indignation and his right hand was gripped tightly around the hilt of his sword.
Addison wiped the blood from his lip with the back of his hand and shook his head. "She's no lady, Ralston. You'll realize that sooner or later on your own, I hope. I see now that I can't force you to." He shook Smithers' hand free of his jacket and walked slowly away.
"Aren't you going after him?" Beth asked anxiously.
"And do what? Hit him again? Run him through? He's my friend, Beth."
"He insulted me. He insulted you, too," she pointed out.
"I know, but he had a bad day yesterday, lost a lot of men in a battle, and, for some reason, he blames you. If I didn't know him better, I'd say he was jealous of my having finally found someone worth settling down with," he said, gazing longingly into her blue eyes as he took her hands in his.
"Awww, Rally...I don't know what to say. I'm touched. Honestly. And, I feel the same way about you," she added, pulling him close. "What do you say we just skip dinner and head back to my room for a bit of dessert?"
He grinned. "I'd say that sounds delicious."
Y N Y N Y
Addison was sitting on the dock near his beloved frigate, letting his feet dangle over the edge, thinking back to his childhood, about how simple life was then (even though it didn't seem like it at the time), and pondering how complicated things had gotten. He was so absorbed in his reflections that he didn't even notice the approaching figure until it was practically on top of him.
"I thought you and Ralston were going into town?" Jonas pointed out, sitting on a nearby box and lighting his thin ivory pipe.
"We were, but things didn't work out. Do you know anything about a lady pirate, Jonas?" he asked suddenly.
"Lady pirate, eh?" he mused, puffing thoughtfully. "Can't say as I do."
Addison scowled. Maybe he had just imagined her. "Have any ships arrived recently from England?"
Jonas nodded. "The Dover put in the other day. Left this afternoon, though, bound for Port Royale. Why do you ask?"
"She didn't have any trouble with pirates, did she? No close calls or anything of the sort?" Addison inquired.
"Well, I didn't talk to many people myself, but I haven't heard anything like that. What are you getting at, Addison?"
"I don't know. Beth claims to have arrived on a ship from England that had a run in with ‘Black Bart' Roberts near Antigua, but, when I went out to see if I couldn't catch him, I sailed right into a trap. And who should be in command of the flagship of the fleet of pirates that ambushed me but Elizabeth Sable herself."
"Elizabeth Sable..." Jonas said slowly. "That name's familiar. But, where do I know it...Merciful saints, preserve me! ‘Bloody Beth' Sable! I thought she was dead."
"You know her?" Addison asked.
"I know of her, my friend, but I've never met her, and, may it please God, I hope I never do!"
"Tell me about her. It's important."
Jonas nodded and puffed intently on his pipe a few times before removing it and beginning to speak. "Well, I don't know much about her early life, except that she sailed with Henry Morgan for a while. But, that was before she sold out her country and started working for the French. Or maybe it was just for Jean-David Nau, better known as L'Ollonais." Harcourt's face revealed his shock and disgust at the mention of the infamous French buccaneer. "Yep, she was with him back in '66, on the successful raids of Maracaibo and Gibraltar--That's where she earned the nickname ‘Bloody Beth,' due to her torturing of prisoners during the sacking and looting that lasted a good fortnight. And she was on that last fatal voyage from Tortuga to the Honduras. Rumor has it that she was the one who lead the mutiny against him when the plunder proved so slight."
"And then Nau, with what few men had remained, went inland in search of food, since his fleet had taken all of it when they deserted him, and desperately raided Indian villages. Then, when they were attacked by vengeful natives, the rest of his crew deserted him and he was beaten to death with clubs after being filled with poisoned darts," Addison finished.
"Aye, lad, not that he didn't deserve to dance at the end of a rope for his crimes, but no civilized man deserves the death he got," Jonas said sadly.
Harcourt nodded. "But, the fact that Beth was with Nau is news to me. Why hasn't her name been recorded in the official records of his exploits?"
Jonas frowned and fixed him with a squint-eyed stare. "Well, Addison, me lad, that would be the doing of the local Governors at the time. You see, they were loathe to believe that a woman could be responsible for the things Beth was, let alone have them noted for posterity. So, they all had themselves a fancy gathering and decided it best if the Old World never heard the name of Captain Elizabeth ‘Bloody Beth' Sable. And there you have it."
"Amazing. In this day and age, mere men think they can play hide and seek with the truth. I hope our descendants are more forthright. But, all this business with Nau was ten years ago. What happened to her after that?"
"Well, now, this is where we truly enter the realm of speculation," Jonas said, setting a match to the bowl of his pipe and puffing thoughtfully. "Some rumors say that her ship was lost in a storm on the way back to Tortuga. Others that she herself was captured by Indians on another foraging expedition. Some say she just disappeared from her cabin one night as her ship was anchored off the Mosquito Coast. And still others that she was murdered by the ghost of poor L'Ollonais. The fact of the matter is that no one but herself knows the truth of where she's been these past ten years, but it's certain that she hasn't been in these parts or I'd have known it. I just wonder why she's chosen this point in time to return..."
Addison scowled and nervously fingered his slight mustache. "One thing's for sure, she's up to no good. And that means Rally's in danger! I have to go and make him listen to reason, or at the very least get him away from that sea witch, no matter what the cost," he said, his blue eyes blazing with determination. "Thanks for the information, old friend."
"It was my pleasure. I only hope it didn't come too late," Jonas called after the pirate hunter as he raced towards the town.
Y N Y N Y
After a quick dinner, Ralston and Beth had retired to her room at the inn and quickly climbed into bed. They made love even more passionately than they had the other night and then lay talking quietly as the light from the moon shone in through their window.
"Your friend doesn't really think I'm a pirate, does he?" Beth asked, snuggling close to the blonde man. "That's just crazy."
Ralston shrugged. "I know it is, my love. But, I also know Addison, and he definitely believes it for some reason."
"You don't believe it, do you, darling?" she asked, looking at him with piercing blue eyes.
"Of course not. You're no more a pirate than...than this is really almost 700 years old," he laughed, indicating the odd charm he wore around his neck. "Just forget about it."
"But, what if he comes for me? What if he tries to take me away and lock me up for things he thinks I did? What then?" she asked desperately.
"I won't let him. I swear to you that will never happen. I'll fight him if I have to, but I won't let him take you."
"No matter what?" she pressed.
"No matter what," he promised, kissing her hands.
"I feel much safer now," she smiled, laying her head on his chest.
Suddenly, the door flew open and Harcourt charged in, his saber drawn.
"Are you insane?!" demanded Ralston, scrambling from the bed and snatching his saber from where it lay on a chair with the rest of his clothes. He might have looked a bit ridiculous, standing there in his long johns, but the look in his eyes was anything but comical.
"She's dangerous, Rally, and deadly. Her nickname is ‘Bloody Beth.' Go and ask Jonas if my word isn't good enough for you," Addison said. "But, stand aside, because I'm not leaving here without her in my custody."
"Then, you'll have to do it over my dead body, Addison," Smithers said solemnly. He raised his sword and adopted a fighting stance.
"I'm not going to fight you, Ralston." Harcourt lowered his own weapon. "Don't you see that's just what she wants us to do? When she failed at killing me herself at sea, she figured out this scheme to get you to do her dirty work for her. Put down your sword, Rally. Don't let her win."
"You really are pathetic, Addison. I don't know how your mind became so deluded as to think Beth is this monster you claim her to be--Maybe you've been out at sea too long? But, you're not taking her anywhere while I'm alive to protect her. So, either leave us in peace, or defend yourself."
"You won't hurt me," Addison said, walking to the bed and reaching out for Beth's arm. "I know you won't."
Ralston suddenly lunged forward, thrusting the tip of his saber into Harcourt's shoulder. "You obviously don't know me as well as you think you do if you think for one minute that I'm not deadly serious, Addison."
Harcourt jerked back in pain, holding one hand over the wound and drawing his saber with the other. "Oh, but I do know you, Rally. And it sickens me to see how completely this siren has played upon your noble nature and turned you against me."
"Are you going to talk all night, or fight?" Ralston sighed, waving the tip of his sword impatiently.
"If I have to fight you to get you to realize what she's done to you, then so be it," he nodded.
"Finally," said Beth quietly.
Ralston lunged forward, but Harcourt easily parried his blade, yet made no move of his own in return. Rather, he adopted a purely defensive tack, contenting himself with simply blocking his friend's assaults.
"This is crazy, Rally. We shouldn't be fighting each other," Addison said sadly, knocking aside yet another attack.
"I'd hardly call what you're doing fighting," Smithers shot back. "Why don't you do something besides block my strikes?"
"Because you're my friend and I don't want to hurt you, even accidentally," he replied.
"Stop treating me like an inferior, damn you, and fight back!" Ralston cried, renewing the ferocity of his attacks and forcing Harcourt to give up ground as he retreated out of range.
"That's not what I meant, Rally. You're twisting my words just as she's twisted your mind," Addison countered, backing out into the hallway.
"You're the one who's twisted, Addison. Twisted into believing that your rank and wealth make you better than everyone else! But, you bleed the same red blood as I do, and you'll bleed more of it before the sun shows his face again," Smithers returned, driving past his defenses and stabbing the saber's tip into his right thigh.
"Now, Beth, while he's down, make a run for it!" he instructed her when Harcourt dropped to one knee.
Beth nodded and, grabbing up her clothes and bag, bolted from the room and down the stairs.
"You're letting her get away," Addison snarled, forcing himself to stand up despite the pain. "I can't lose her now. God only knows what she'll do next time!" He attempted to follow her, but Ralston sprang in front of him, blocking the stairs. "Out of my way, Rally. No more playing."
"Playing?! Is that what you think we're doing? How about now?" he asked, plunging the blade toward Harcourt's chest. Fortunately, Addison managed to deflect it so that it pierced his forearm, instead of his heart. "Still think this is a game?"
"No." Addison grimaced as he pulled back, freeing his arm from the saber, and then lunged forward, slamming bodily into Ralston and sending both of them tumbling head over heels down the stairs.
Before Ralston could get to his feet, Addison kicked out and caught him in the chest with both feet, sending him flying across the lobby. He then quickly stood up and painfully made his way over to where Ralston was struggling to rise and kicked him again, landing a solid blow to his ribs that knocked the wind from his sails and again sent him flying.
This time, out into the street.
He staggered after him, prepared to finish the fight if necessary, only to pull up short when he saw Beth standing over him, dressed in the outfit she'd been wearing when they'd first met at sea. Behind her were a dozen armed men, all scowling grimly as they waited for word from their Captain.
"Beth?" Ralston queried. "Then, it's all true? You really are a pirate?"
"You should have listened to your friend, Rally dear, he was right about me all along," she laughed. "Not that it would have made a difference, since you're both going to die as planned anyway. Kill them."
Addison charged forward, driving the startled pirates back, and reached down and yanked Ralston to his feet. "Are you all right?"
"I think a couple of ribs might be broken, but, other than that, I'm good to go. Shall we teach these sea snakes a lesson?" he asked, his eyes twinkling.
"I'd say they're long overdue for one," grinned Harcourt.
The two friends stood with their backs together and kept turning around, swords held at the ready, as the pirates surrounded them. The fourteen men stood silently for a moment, their weapons glinting in the light of the half moon, and then Beth's men attacked.
Harcourt and Addison worked together, fending off the pirate's blades and striking out with their own, constantly rotating with their backs protected by the other, and it was obvious they'd been in many battles before. When the villains paused to regroup, Addison reached around and looped his arms around those of Ralston, then, when a pirate rushed in, Smithers kicked out with both feet and sent him crashing through a shop window. Harcourt then began to spin around, knocking the rogues in the face with Smithers' feet and sending them sprawling.
"There's only two of them, you useless pigs!" shrieked Beth. "Kill them!"
The battered pirates rushed forward again, only to have Addison lean to the side and lower Ralston's feet to the ground, letting the smaller man bear his weight momentarily. He kicked out, driving his boots into the faces of two men and hurling them backwards into the faces of several of their companions. Then, Addison released his arms from Ralston's and the two men engaged the few pirates who were still on their feet in single combat.
"Just like old times," grinned Harcourt, kicking one opponent in the stomach and then grabbing him, spinning him around, and tossing him into one of his companions.
"It feels good to be fighting with you again," nodded Ralston, jumping up and looping his legs around the neck of the man he was fighting. He then proceeded to punch him in the face until he toppled backwards. At which point, Smithers leaped from him and threw himself into two men behind him, who had been waiting for an opening. He quickly struck them in the face with the handle of his saber, knocking them out.
As he and Addison turned to face the last few men, Sable drew her pistol and aimed straight for Harcourt's heart. Fortunately, Smithers called out a warning and the pirate hunter grabbed one of the men he was fighting and whirled him around so that the ball struck him instead.
Realizing that her plan had disastrously backfired, Beth made her escape. She ran past the brawling men and headed for the cove where she had told Matelas to anchor the Argo.
"She's making a break for it!" Ralston cried, dropping down and mule-kicking his opponent into the wall of the inn. The pirate slumped to the ground, unconscious.
"Let her go. We've cost her her fleet and most of her crew. She won't be bothering anyone for a while at least," Addison said as he shrugged off a punch to his face and replied with one of his own that left his opponent missing a few teeth and out colder than the Devil's heart.
"We can't let an opportunity like this pass us by!" Smithers shot back, racing after her, holding his side and breathing raggedly.
"Oh, sure, now he wants to bring her to justice," Harcourt sighed, limping after them.
By the time he caught up to Ralston, he was leaning against a tree, gasping for breath and watching helplessly as Beth rowed out to her waiting ship. The lady buccaneer climbed aboard and then turned and waved to the two men on shore and her laughter echoed across the still waters to them, cutting them more deeply than the wounds they'd both sustained in all their fighting.
"This isn't over, Beth!" shouted Addison. "We'll see you hanged yet!"
Beth just continued to laugh as her ship slipped out into the Caribbean.
Suddenly, they heard a thunderous explosion and the whistle of an incoming cannon ball.
The two men looked incredulously at each other and then threw themselves into the water just as it struck the tree they'd been leaning against, utterly destroying it.
When their heads broke the surface of the water, Addison laughed and said, "I'll say this for you, my friend, you sure know how to pick'em."
Ralston nodded and then grimaced and held his ribs tightly as they crawled back onto the shore. "Next time, just do me a favor and run me through. At least it will be quick and relatively painless," he chuckled.
Addison smiled and the two friends leaned against each for support as they made their way back towards town.
End of Part One