Her Majesty's service

 

Chapter 15

In her majesty’s service

 

The Fortuna set out for Jamestown. The Captain Enrique Velasquez had for a time been increasingly concerned about Cousin Phoebe’s safety in Jamestown. We sailed there as fast as the sails could carry us – I think that if it had helped to get the men out and push, the Captain would have ordered it done. Once arrived the Captain disembarked and left Jean Luc the part of captain.

 

As the Captain had for a while seemed absent on board the part did not fall difficult to Jean Luc. He seemed a natural leader and the men respected him. He named me new first mate and otherwise kept people in their well known places. I had gained the men’s respect by then and though I had to set some examples they were few and of no consequence.

 

While in Jamesport we tooke time to repair damage to the ship, hire more men, restock the cargohold with ammunition, gunpowder, food and water, extra sails and stuff plus purchase a few extra guns. But before we could commence on all this we had a visitor from the cutter The Indestructable; the 1. lieutenant Jamesson sailing under Captain Clockston. As the Fortuna was a privateer she could be called into service to the Crown as Her Majesty the Queen saw fit, and now She saw fit to put the Fortuna to the task of finding the Codorian missing fleet! We were told that most of the Codorian fleet had been boxed in at Port Royal, while we were away, but that some of her supply ships had blown out of course, and was no where to be found. I wanted to go to the backside of New Davinshire to see if the fleet was trying to get supplies to their comrades through the jungle, but Jean Luc decreed that we should sail due south and see if we could find the missing ships going south of the islands. The lieutenant Jamesson was puzzled to find me acting as first mate – he claimed that I was wanted by the crown, but we brushed it off saying it was all a misunderstanding… Actually I kind of hoped that if I did the goode bit for the Queen maybe my tresspasses would be forgiven. I really would not enjoy hanging, it’s so… undignified!

 

Three days after we left Jamestown we had the Vanilla Isles in sight, and the day after that we caught sight of a carvintian flute named St. Josephe out of Pissoria…

 

Personally I don’t trust the carvintians much more than I do the codorians, though the codorians singlehandedly take the title of ‘scum of the earth’ (the Captain excluded off course – he was a decent enough fellow). I suggested we should bring her up. Jean Luc wanted to wait and see if they were actually hostile, but a carvintian vessel at the Vanilla Isles? They are hostile, believe me! In any case we readied ship, loaded canons and sat ready. If you don’t know the Vanilla Isles I’ll tell you this; the place is riddles with reefs and shallow sailing. Only a captain who knows the place should tempt the waters there. And the carvintian captain should not have tempted them; he hit the reefs.

 

We headed towards his starboard side with ready guns on our portside. He opened 4 gunports and did not back down as we hailed him. Soon after we spotted a dozen codorian marines with muskets, and now all doubt vanished; this fellow certainly wasn’t friendly! Then Lafitte called down to us from topside; a sloop was close by and would come upon us within half an hour! Half an hour is plenty of time to mess up a ship seriously, so we set about the task and gave her a broadside!

 

We blew an enormous hole in her side! One of her guns blew up before she could fire back on us. But she did return fire, and we tooke some light and one serious casualty (he later died). We tooke no real damage except to the bulwark. Hawke suggested we’d send her one of the flaming cannonballs, and that kept her busy while we engaged with the sloope St. Sophia. Every god and spirit of war must have sided with us that day. Two broadsides and some pretty clever maneuvering on Jean Luc’s part sent her running away. She was badly damaged, but still too fast for us to catch up.

 

Meanwhile the flute had surrendered – they had lost the will and capacity to fight. Jean Luc sent me and Hawke along with 21 men over to the St. Josephe to take her for a prize. The codorians seamen we put in irons right away. No reason waiting for them to cause havock, which they would’ve given half a chance. We sent the codorian captain and 8 surviving marines to the Fortuna after making them lay down their arms. They were furious! Asking those guys to lay down their arms is similar to asking any other man to strip naked. Well, I couldn’t really care less about their tender feelings on the matter… The carvintian crew seemed docile and hard working and was put to task right away.

 

As previously arranged Jean Luc and I then went our separate ways for a while. I was to take the St. Josephe with Hawke sailing as 1. mate to New Stevensport to register her as a prize, while Jean Luc tooke the Fortuna to Jamestown to report on our catch and our sighting of enemy ships. Where there were two, there were sure to be more!

 

We arrived at New Stevensport and registered the prize at £1.000. We had discovered that St. Josephe carried loads of guns, gunpower, cannons cannonballs, harnesses for horses, provisions for a lot of people for at long time and a chest full of silver. This was a very valuable prize to be sure! A hard blow to the enemy to have lost it. Some of the stuff was carried to shore; the handguns and the silver.

 

For the next couple of days we kept lookout for Jean Luc and The Fortuna and on the fourth morning we did indeed spot a ship on the horizon, but coming in from the south, not the north. And it was not the Fortuna… It was the codorian galeon El Mirador – the most fearsome ship on the seven seas! As they moved closer we could see 15 gunports on either side! There was no doubt as to what they were doing here; they had come to take back St. Josephe – well, I was not going to let them!

 

I borrowed a dingy and rowed my way out to the St. Josephe, and while El Miradors young captain with his fancy manners and white flag hailed the mayor and other notables on shore, I quitely rigged St. Josephe with all the kegs of gunpowder I could find, so that if this young peacock tried to take St. Joe, it would blow up in his face! I watched the rest of the negociations, as I peered over the rail. I could tell by the ‘notables’ bodylanguage that they were quite willing to hand over all their worldly belonings including their virgin daughters if only he would let them live – gutless chickens the lot of them! Well, I climbed down to my fuses, waited for the sound of footsteps on St. Joe’s deck and lit them all. Then I ran as fast as I could, up the stairs passing a startledlooking soldier on the way, and over the rail the same second an enormours BOOM! shook the air. I tell you; I was deaf for the next half hour, but at least I survived it! Splinters and bits and pieces of the completely destroyed St. Joe flew around me, a bit of a mast hit me on the head and made me see stars. I paddled to shore where I lay panting for a while before I rose to behold my heroic deed. St. Joe was completely gone – sunk with cannons and all.

 

I saw El Miradors captain sail across the debris looking very straightbacked and calm – though I could almost see the steam coming out of his ears! He entered his ship and moments later they opened all gunport and started firing upon New Stevensport! The sore looser shot New Stevensport to bits and pieces! One of the foreposts of the city shot back for a little while (I later learned that that was Hawk’s doing), but then El Mirador shot that to pieces as well. When nothing was left standing soldiers swarmed to shore plundering and stealing everything they could carry, including my chest of silver! Surprisingly they didn’t kill, maim or rape anyone as far as I know. That young captain was something else, I tell you! Coincidently; the brief climpse I had of him I thought for a second that he was Captain Velasques! He moved exactly like him, and looked a little like him as well. But it wasn’t him off course, though the resemblance was uncanny. Hawk told me later that he had observed the same; an uncanny likeness to our Captain.

 

After they had left I ventured into the ruined city to find Hawk. I found him badly wounded in the chest. I wrapped him up a bit. Though he looked terrible he still had spirit enough to jest a little. He’s a funny guy that one; sometimes you think he’s got a pole up his *** and then he says something hilariously funny to completely contradict the stiff upper lip.

 

Early next morning the Fortuna sailed into the harbour. I was extremely glad to see him! I mean them… (She actually made this slip of the tongue. I decided to leave it in so the readers could make their own judgement of the meaning, J.W.). We left the city right after, and I have never been back. I believe they rebuild the place and called it ‘The Even Newer Stevensport’. Evil tongues have it that they put a prize on my head for blowing up St. Joe – ungreatful wretches!

 

Jean Luc brought new orders with him; we were to join the fleet at Port Royal. They had let the codorian fleet out, and the time for the historical battle had come. I won’t bore you with details of the actual battle. I wasn’t in the brunt of it, and I’m sure thick books had been written on the topic already. We were only in a smallscale battle; a couple of our chasers (Captain Clockstons cutter being one of them) fought a couple of their chasers in the afternoon of a blistering hot day, and we gave them a good thrashing. We had them where we wanted them untill that **** Mirador showed up! She started shooting us to smithereens, and when she stopped her cannons only the Fortuna and one of the codorian ships were still above water. I had been bording the codorian ship and returned just in time to wittness Jean Luc surrender as El Miradors captain had demanded. I know now in hindsight that it was the proper thing to do; I was just not in the habit of surrendering (because that usually means hanging instead of fighting to your death in my line of business). I guess I’ll never really learn the fancy and proper way of doing those things. Being an educated man Jean Luc is so much better at it; knowing when to call it quits and when to fight on, how to surrender honorably and that kind of stuff. Mamasita used to tell me that the flexible palmtree bends in the storm while the hard oak breaks. Well, I’m as much oak as the boards under my feet and I hate bending! Even when it’s the clever thing to do.

 

The captain of El Mirador, who still looked an awfull lot like a younger version of Captain Velasquez, invited Jean Luc over. He demanded (or actually asked nicely as I understand it) that if we left the battle and fished the wounded out of the water and tended to them, then we could go free. You can say a lot about that captain, but he was Hell of a guy! If I had been one of those low scum dogs of a codorian, I would have been proud to sail under him!

 

Well, the rest is history; two days later the battle was over. The codorian fleet – or what was left of it – limbed home to more friendly ports, while the Islander fleet celebrated their terrific victory.

 

Three weeks after that, while Fortuna lay in dock to be repaired through and through, we were invited to a victory ball at Lord Cavendish’ palace. Cecilie helped me make me looke my best. The very loud Mr. Baird – a friend of Jean Luc and Hawks – of dubious reputation and awfull manners (even I could see that) greeted us as we came in. Jean Luc told me that Mr. Baird was well connected, so while we danced I asked him if he could help me with the regrettable order of arrest that was hanging over my head. Since I had now done favours to the queen and fought on her side in the victorious battle, I thought it would be a nice gesture on her part, if she pardoned me. He promised me he’d look into it. I must admit I doubted he would remember any of it by morning, as he got drunker and drunker as the night got longer. I must say that balls are all right. The food and drink is definitely better than at the normal tavernparty. But I still prefere taverns; it doesn’t matter how polished your manners are at a tavern, and no one lookes at you sideways if you swear because some great oaf has walked all over your feet! Fortunately Jean Luc knew exactly when to save me from all the la-di-da festivities, and we retired to our room in a hotel nearby.