I’ve long wanted to write a story about pirates, and I finally sat down and whipped off 5200 words in two days. That’s pretty good speed for me. I tend to write slowly, but it must have been percolating, because it flowed like water down a hill.
The story is finished and will be posted here in sections until complete. To keep it from dragging on too long, I’ll often post more than one section at a time.
To those of you who might be squicking over Wiley’s age, please note: I researched this, and it wasn’t uncommon for young boys to be sexually active in the 17th century. First, lives were shorter then. Second, boys (and girls) had to grow up much faster than nowadays. Third, there were few laws in place to protect kids. I am in no way advocating sex with minors. But I hope never to be so politically correct I can’t write an historical story without including the facts as they were at that time.
Copyright © April 2017 by Theo Fenraven
A Pirate’s Tale
Captain Cager didn’t look up from the desk when Wiley came in with his dinner. “Set it down somewhere.” He was studying a map with great intensity.
“Aye, sir.” Wiley, ship’s boy, was getting used to Cager’s brusque ways and took no offense. He had only been on the brigantine a few weeks and was trying his best to fit in. What a fool he’d been, thinking pirating would be an adventure. Hard work was what it was, and plenty of it. He wished he was back in Nassau, lolling in the sunshine and eating fresh fruit. The food on the Black Hunter wasn’t always good.
He set the tray on a small table near the bed, as the desk was covered in paper and other trifles. It contained the best of the victuals Manny, the cook, could scare up. Stores were running low; they had been at sea since Wiley had snuck aboard. “Should I straighten the cabin, sir?”
Before Cager could respond, Quill, the quartermaster, opened the door and marched in. “Are you still determined to do this blasted thing?”
Wiley shrank back into a shadowy corner and squatted, making himself small. Quill scared him. He was equal to the captain in authority, and unless they were in battle, the crew reported to Quill. If Wiley didn’t measure up, he might be put ashore somewhere inhospitable or tossed overboard for the sharks.
Cager gazed at him calmly. “Military presence in the Caribbean has become untenable. They mean to squash us.” He tapped the map. “We will head west, to New Spain. Granada, perhaps. I have a hankering to keep my head and my fortune, and not dance the hempen jig.”
Wiley pictured the captain hanging from a noose and shuddered, then thought about the treasure in the hold. It was making everyone aboard cranky and nervous. They wanted to return to the Bahamas, where it would be safe.
“And landing on Spanish-controlled territory will keep us safe?” Quill spit. “The all-holy Christians make the place unsuitable.”
“I was a farmer once. Did you know that?”
Quill looked amazed.
“I wouldn’t mind having a smallholding again. Have a few cattle and chickens.” He smiled. “I do like fresh cackle fruit for breakfast.”
Quill shook his head. “You never cease to surprise. You? A landlubber? Why not pirate up and down that coast?”
Cager spoke quietly. “We’ve discussed this, Quill. I have a feeling in my bones—”
“A passing mood.” Quill rounded the desk and laid a hand on Cager’s shoulder. “Hunter can still outrun anything on the water.”
“We lost too many men during our last engagement. We’re running light.”
Quill stroked Cager’s shoulder-length hair, which had been loosened from its leather tie, then bent and pressed his mouth close to an ear. “You need distraction, Micajah.” His other hand went down under the desk, and Cager gasped.
Wiley stuffed a hand in his mouth to stop an exclamation from escaping. He hadn’t known they were Sodomites, though it wasn’t uncommon on ships, or so he’d heard at the tavern. Weeks at sea at a time… a man had to have some relief.
Cager pointedly removed Quill’s hand. “We barely escaped the blockade. It was fortunate we got away. We owe a debt to Vane for distracting the Royal Navy with his fire ship, but consider it a warning. We’d be fools to return.”
Quill turned the chair so Cager faced him. “I don’t disagree with your plan to find a place to lay up a while, but let’s take a ship on the way. Fatten our takings.”
“If we run across a likely target, we’ll go after it, same as always.” Cager’s new angle offered him a glimpse of Wiley, who paled as their eyes met. The captain pushed Quill aside. “Come here, boy.”
Swallowing hard and trembling, Wiley got to his feet and moved slowly forward, halting out of reach of both of them. He wanted a piss really bad of a sudden. Clenching his muscles, he waited.
“You heard and saw?”
Wiley nodded, eyes round.
Quill smiled. “You’re the stowaway. Fancied being a pirate and seeing the world, didn’t you. Your timing was bad, boy. Times were better a few years ago.”
Cager beckoned, and Wiley crept toward him, expecting harsh words and fists, but Cager touched him gently on the chin, turning his face this way and that. “You’re a comely lad under all that dirt. How old are you?”
“Fourteen, sir.” His voice shook.
“What say you, Quill?”
“He’s pretty enough, if you like blue eyes and fair hair.” He laughed. “And don’t we just?”
Cager smiled. “Drop those ragged pants. Let’s see what you’ve got.”
Wiley was figuring things out and relaxed a little. He untied the string around his waist and let the pants fall around his bare feet. That left him naked, as he wasn’t wearing a shirt.
They looked him up and down, then Cager turned to Quill. “What think you?”
“He’d make for good sport, but he needs to remove a few layers of filth first.”
“Agreed.” Cager fixed him with a hard eye. “Go wash, then return.”
Wiley nodded, anxious to escape. He pulled up his trousers and ran out, their snickers following him down the passage and up to the deck.
Manny hailed him as he trotted past. “Oy! Where you off to in such a hurry?”
He picked up a bucket on a rope and tossed it overboard, then hauled it up. “I’m under orders to wash.”
“About bloody time. You stink worse than week-old fish in the sun.”
Wiley paid him no mind. Manny was always teasing him. He cleaned his face, dropped his pants again, then used a convenient rag to rub salt water into his pits and between his legs. He finished by dumping the bucket over his head.
Below again, he hesitated before rapping hesitantly on the captain’s door.
“Who is it?”
“Wiley. Uh, ship’s boy.” He wasn’t sure they knew his name.
He opened the door and stopped in surprise. Cager and Quill were in the narrow bed set under the wide bow window, naked, their skin glowing in the light that came through the isinglass.